2022-08-31 08:10

Hey, you are back!

Don't worry, this text here will be likely the last one being sooooooooooooooooooooo long as the week before. Afterwards I will focus on the games and some small changes, but those previews are just crazy, since whoever was in charge did let so many teams play on the same level. Tstststs.

The Week 1 matchups are quite interesting, they might lack the blockbuster game, likely depends on your personal preferences.

Last week for Week Zero I did preview all group of 5 conference and the independent teams.
What's left are the teams in the Power 5 conferences.

The sorting is based on my personal feeling regarding strength and importance.

I put in the PAC-12 as the weakest this season, since they did play quite bad compared to the other conferences, finished with only 5 bowl teams (granted, UCLA should have played also, but the Holiday Bowl was canceled, since the Bruins had Covid-issues on the team, but the ACC lost 3 bowl games because of that stuff) and they lost all 5 games. Utah did almost win against Ohio State and Oregon did also play OK against Oklahoma (hence those teams were the only 2 in the final TOP25 rankings) but in total the conference did not perform well.
This year the conference will be stuffed as in the past few seasons, but they did scrap the division setup. The future is right now not so nice with USC and UCLA declaring to leave to the BIG10 and with the PAC-12 still trying to figure out, what the next move for them will be. They lose a big market, the lose big teams, they lose reputation, and they might lose even more teams.
It's totally open right now.

No divisions means they will have more or less the same schedule, but the best 2 teams will play for the Conference Championship.
The best 2 teams will be likely the ones who did battle for the conference title last year, Oregon and Utah.
Let's start with Oregon, which is under new HC Dan Lanning, former DC of Georgia. Last year’s HC of the Ducks bolted for Miami and left a team, which is able to repeat (or even become better), with 14 starters returning and an easy schedule avoiding USC and having Utah at home. Biggest concern might become the CIVIL WAR game against the Beavers in Corvallis at season finale. This might give the final push for a championship game spot or the final setback.
Utah is very likely to repeat their trip to the Championship game, since HC Kyle Whittingham in his 17th season has his starting QB and other standouts back and will field a very competitive team. Beside the trip to Eugene to play the Ducks, the schedule inside the conference looks quite OK, so no reason to believe they will attack.
From here on, it becomes a bit of guessing. USC has their new star HC, Oregon State did improve over the past few seasons, UCLA has their star HC since some years, and everyone waits for the LA-version of the Quack-attack and the dominance of such and Washington should also face a big turnaround also.
I go with Oregon State 1st here at #3, since they did surprise many in the past season, winning 7 games. They did lose some grip in the final weeks and lost some close games. Jonathan Smith is in his 5th season and has several starters back, including the QB, and has a mixed schedule, which might allow them to come out with a few more wins. Hardest game will be likely the road trip to Utah, but they have USC and Oregon at home. Next season USC will likely be better suited, but in this transition year, the Beavers might have a good chance to win and Oregon on last gameday is open.
USC did make some noise, hiring Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma to USC. That did hurt in Norman. I ask myself, how many in Sooners-country do think that this ungrateful Brat, who got all the confidence of the fans, when he took over at early 30s, did betray them heavily. Well, looks like your contract are not that tight as you liked to have it and California just was more appealing. He takes over a USC team, which needs some rebuilding or just some repolishing. The team did play bad, and it did not help to fire the HC after 2 games. The talent should be there (including some transfers) and Riley did show he can bring out the most of his talent, but I think in the 1st season the team will have some tough games where the transition will not be enough to win those games. Oregon State on the road, early, Utah on the road and UCLA also on the road. We will see, how fast Riley will turn the team around.
I pick UCLA next, under Chip Kelly’s watch in the 5th year as HC. Last year they won 8 games and it seemed the team did finally go into the direction everyone expected it to go under Kelly. The team does feature the returning offense backfield, but there are some concerns on defense. If Kelly can solve this, or at least having the numbers dropping a bit, the team should win even more games. Biggest test will be the road trip to Oregon roughly mid-season.
Washington did hire Kalen DeBoer as new HC, the former HC or Fresno State, who did turn the team around in 2 seasons. With Washington the tasks might take longer. Last year’s HC did not manage to keep the quality level on top as his predecessor and was fired after 2 seasons. Whether Washington just needs some better coaching, or a roster makeover is open. The talent should be there, but they need to click. The schedule is OK but does not give much room for errors also. I guess they will drop some games they better should win.
Jake Dickert had last season only half a season to make the Washington State team his own, and did deserve to become the permanent HC, when his team did overcome the firing of the HC based on his anti-vaccination-status and finished strong including a strong win against rival Washington. Expectations are there to develop this further. Offensive line is a concern, defense should improve most. The schedule will likely limit them a bit, since it is a bit rough, facing all the tough teams.
We are getting into the dungeons slowly, with Arizona under Jedd Fisch in his 2nd season. They had just 1-win last year, but hopes are high, the team will improve with strong recruits and transfers and will increase the win total heavily. The schedule is brutal, so don't bet too much on a bowl spot. However, I think they will make some noise and will eventually steal some games.
David Shaw did guide Stanford through some very successful times, only the past 3 seasons were bad. Now in his 12th season, the question is, whether the team will jump back into the PAC-12 elite or not. Many have them at the bottom of the conference, but I think Shaw did manage to win games at Stanford, why should the team now suffer an eternal slump? They have several returning starters, including QB and O-Line, so, all signs to point for an improvement. The tough schedule will eventually limit them for a bowl run, but this team can go everywhere, if Shaw makes the roster play in harmony.
Cal is next, Justin Wilcox in his 6th season, returns just 7 starters and do have several transfers to be integrated into the roster. Also, a team, which can go to a bowl, or can just lose and lose games, likely close ones.
Arizona State has a lot of issues. Herm Edwards is in his 5th season with the team and was at least at some point last year almost fired. But the team did at the end win 8 games and the investigations on recruiting violations are so far not linked directly to Edwards, hence he is right now back. The out-going players were substituted with in-coming-transfers and the stuff, likely responsible for the violations, was exchanged. What will happen, if the whole distraction will lead to a slow start is open. The schedule is not in their favor, except maybe the non-conference games (still AT Oklahoma State will be tough, too) so, maybe we will see some changes, maybe not. This team will likely not go all the way, but so far did Edwards always get a good portion of wins.
And at last Colorado under 3rd season HC Karl Dorrell. His team won 4 games each season so far, but dropped last year 8, while in covid-year only 2. The team is a bit in rebuilding mode and has a quite tough schedule for the whole season, so don't expect wonders. I doubt a bowl season, but maybe we will see something happening. Wouldn't be the 1st time in Colorado.

Best bet for the playoffs is Utah and Oregon, but it will depend heavily on, how many games they win. Perfect seasons are almost for sure a lock, every loss will cost the PAC-12 heavily.

Next for me this season is the ACC, which had a quite bad season last year, fielding only 6 teams in the bowls (but lost 3 spots, because of game cancelations, so had 9 in optimal conditions) and worse, they won only 2 of those.
Their record during the season against other power 5 conference teams were also not great.
Hope is of cause, that several teams do get over the down season hole and win more games.

The Atlantic Division is dominated by Clemson, but they had their streaks snapped of winning the conference and getting into the playoffs since 2015, thanks to a stuttering offense and some close games they lost. NC State and Wake Forest will likely challenge them for a return to the conference championship game.

Dabo Swinney is in his 15th season with Clemson and won it all, but last season was some sort of setback, still the team managed to win 10 games. The team lost both coordinators to HC gigs and did promote from within to fill the positions. The offense should be OK, if all do make a step forward and had the issues which did cost them some games last season, worked on and solved. The defense has the potential to bring them into the playoffs. Their schedule is easier than last year, in total, all signs do point for a better season.
NC State was very close to win the division last season. Dave Doeren is in his 10th season with the team and had built a very competitive team over the years. In total 4 points in difference in 2 games did lead to 2 conference losses and a 2nd place finish. The Wolfpack does have the most returning starters of all conference teams with 17, including the playmakers on both sides of the ball. Games at Clemson and North Carolina might again limit them, or they will just solve those 2 challenges and will march into the playoffs.
Wake Forest won the division last season surprisingly but fell to Pitt in the conference championship game. Dave Clawson is in his 9th season and had last year the best ever at Wake Forest under his watch with 11 wins in total, and did match that way the record high of 2006, when the team became ACC champ. He has his QB back and they have hired a new DC to solve the defense issues. In theory the team can repeat, the schedule is OK, toughest game on the road is against NC State, so Wake Forest can go all the way, or drop a few.
Mike Norvell is in his 3rd season and the Seminoles will likely want to see some more steps forward. Last year they won 5 games, but that is of cause not enough for such a team. Their non-conference schedule is hard, which might mean, they have to get the wins mostly inside the conference, which will depend on how the roster did mature. In best case the Seminoles will challenge the best teams already, realistic is likely some missing pieces and some losses. A Bowl trip should be possible and eventually it is also a must to secure the job of their HC. His predecessor had only 2 seasons.
Some could argue that Jeff Hafley has Boston College on a stable foundation, winning 6 games in each of the 1st 2 seasons, but basically last season during the mid-season the team collapse based on the QB injury by losing 4 in a row after a good start. The QB is back healthy, but the O-Line is more or less new, and the team needs to protect the QB, otherwise another bad season comes. Their schedule is fine, if they want more wins, they need just to win the games.
Louisville under Scott Satterfield, now in his 4th season, had ups and downs and he might need to progress further to secure the job. A returning QB and some transfers are a good start. Most problem might become the tougher schedule to get more wins than last season, which were 6. It's open, how this will turn out, Cardinals fans can only hope that the roster clicks and wins some games, they are not supposed to win.
Dino Babers won in 2018 10 games with Syracuse and 2020 just 1. Last year they won 5 and missed a bowl invite. He is in his 7th season and does face a tough season with a tough schedule and a mixed roster. The hot seat discussion will only vanish, if the team performs, but we might see a late season down spiral thanks to the schedule and we then maybe see a change.

The Coastal Division is likely a 3-team race, but overall, the conference is wide open, as could be seen last season, when Pitt just stormed in and defeated enough opponents to get into the Conference Title game and winning also that one. Miami is likely a bit better this season and Pitt and North Carolina can try to spoil their ambitions.
Mario Cristobal is the new HC of Miami, and the expectations are high on the former Oregon HC. H takes over a 'U'-team, which had their last good season several years ago and that should have been only the start, but neither of the 2 HC before Cristobal was able to get Miami a Conference Championship or a spot on the playoffs. The roster looks fine, the schedule has some obstacle, which will likely cost them at least a playoff spot, maybe the division. But the other teams have to perform better and even if Miami loses the 1st game against Clemson doesn't mean they are chanceless in a potential rematch in the championship game.
Pitt lost their start QB and had a great season last year, so chances are high they will drop a bit in performance. Pitt is usually playing hard football, so don't underestimate them, even they play the 2 likely toughest division rivals on the road. Pat Narduzzi in his 8th season will likely not win double digits this season, with avoiding the heavy teams of the Atlantic division they might still sneak into the big game.
And then there is Mack Brown in his 4th season on his 2nd gig at North Carolina and the overall performance does point more downwards than upwards. The talent level should start to pay dividends on the roster strength, hopes are high the team starts clicking and the new DC will bring the defense out of the cellar and the team simply does perform better. They play 2 of the tougher teams of the Atlantic, so likely this will lead to some losses and the team will not win as many games as wanted.
Brent Pry is the new guy at the helm of Virginia Tech, which did part ways with the last one after 6 seasons. This is a bit new for the Hokies, but granted they had before that a coach so long that in modern days durations those 6 years do look fine, for Hokies this looks like after a short period. Pry was prior the DC of Penn State and made a good job there. The hopes are high that VT will get back into the winning teams list fast, just it will not happen this season. The transition will take at least a season I guess and the other teams are just a bit more settled.
And the next Virginia team with a new HC, Tony Elliott, former Clemson OC, takes over a rejuvenated Virginia team, which lost some steam in the past 2 seasons. The HC did quit, and Elliott was taken based on his reputation. Offense should be fine, especially with the QB, but defense will be the main area where he has to turn the ship around. A quite soft schedule will eventually lead to more wins, than other teams in the conference will get, overall, the team will likely need some seasons to be really competitive.
The 2nd to last is Georgia Tech under Geoff Collins, likely on a very hot seat already in his 4th season. The team won only 3 games each of the 3 last seasons and that's far from the results his predecessor had with the run-only-approach. The transition should be over, the 4th year means also 4 recruiting classes and so on, so no excuses left. The roster returns only 4 starters so, either the next in line will now step up or the team will against finish in a bad shape and the coach will likely look for a new job. The schedule will not help, it's brutal to the bones.
And at last Duke with also a new HC, Mike Elko comes from Texas A&M and does take over a Duke team which had some great seasons under the last coach, basically one of the best they ever had, but suffered also since 2019 on losing seasons. The clocks are ticking different at Duke, winning is not the 1st priority and the program just has not the appeal to bring in top talents on football. I expect a major transition season.

Overall, the conference will eventually have some national head shakers, but then a lot of teams grinding out wins and losses against each other which will not help them to rise in the ranks. Clemson is the favorite to win it all, we will have to see, whether this will happen.

BIG 12
Next up is the BIG 12, which had last season an OK run, had 3 teams in the final TOP25, 7 teams in the bowls and won 5 of those games.
More problematic for the conference are the overall performance regarding playoffs (no team in the mix), the so-so-mid-level teams with no real punch and of cause the overhaul of the conference, once Oklahoma and Texas as gone.

The whole league is in shake-up-mode with coaches changes, roster rebuild or reload, and gaining steam on some projects in the makings since 2+ seasons.
There are a lot of teams with could-be-great-or-not-markings, which can lead to a great season where all teams can win the conference, but without any chance to have an impact in the playoffs, or it can bring a dominant team, which does separate itself from the rest.
Which one this can be is open.
Baylor as defending champ can be that team, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Texas and even Kansas State might sneak into the mix.
I can only sort them based on my gut feeling, KNOWING already that the reality will be different.
Baylor did win it all in the BIG 12 last year under 2nd year HC Dave Aranda. That was really an impressive achievement. Now the team needs to repeat and this season they might get back into the championship game with a likely a bit softer team on defense, but you never know. The team is loaded, but the conference games are not all in their favor with tough road trips, so maybe they will not finish with just 2 losses and will still get into the championship game.
That's because Oklahoma for example should be equally competitive but with a great overhaul on coaches staff and on the roster. Brent Venables is the new HC, the former Clemson OC, and did inherit a team which has just 9 returning starters from last season’s underperforming team, the only season the last HC did NOT win the conference championship in his era. That means the change will eventually also bring change for the better. They lost some QBs on transfer but brought in some QB on transfer and in total the whole teams will live and die on Venables skills to make the team a TEAM. The schedule is OK, with Baylor and OSU visiting and Texas as always on semi-neutral ground.
Mike Gundy is back as Oklahoma State HC in his 18th season, and they were close to win the conference, but Baylor had more luck or the better team. Whatever suits you best, the Cowboys will have a hard time matching the 12 wins of last season, since their defense is shattered, which usually means they can score as much as they like in crucial games the defense gives up more points. Maybe I'm overdoing this, but fact is, the offense might become better this season with a returning QB, but the defense lost several key players and that will likely hurt. The conference schedule is not in their favor, at lot of tough teams on the road, the non-conference games look like a scrimmage. Bowl for sure, championship game not sure.
Texas is next in line with some big questions. Steve Sarkisian is in his 2nd season and will likely improve from last season’s 5 wins, but how far this will go, is open. Texas has all the resources a coach can dream of, so why the program did suck so many seasons since the last few seasons of Mack Brown is a mystery. Will the defense still give up big plays? Will the incoming QB take the starting spot and will he be an improvement? Will the team match up with their talent level? If those questions get answered in favor of Texas, the team can not only get to a bowl, but it can also be BACK. But I have doubts that all question marks will be solved that way in this season, so they will drop some games. The schedule might help them to win some more games than in a different constellation, but I would bet, that some game, in which they are favored, maybe even big time, will turn the other way.
Chris Klieman had Kansas State at 8 wins last season and the team might become better and by that challenge the other teams for a spot in the conference title game. It's still Kansas State, but they have some great tools to work with and the Wildcats did play with passion last year. Summed up I doubt they will win all games but will challenge every team and the mixed schedule will likely lead to some more losses than good for them, if they want to play in the title game. Still, with a bit of luck, they might play there.
Iowa State is no longer a 'W' marked into opponents’ calendar long prior the game starts. Matt Campbell in his 7th season now has the team on the edge of getting into the championship mix on a annual basis. Even if the team did not win it all since he took over, the team is tough to play and even the team will only bring in 8 starters, the hard recruiting and Campbells talent to bring out the best of the talent on the roster should at least make the Cyclones a team you don't want to play, since you can always lose. If the Cyclones get their tendency to lose surprisingly in supposed to be easy games under control they could get to the top, but likely they will again stumble on the way.
The last 4 spots are also hard to predict, since we have quite different teams in this, of which same have the potential to get instantly into bowl win categories or they will have a hard season, thanks to coaching changes.
Neal Brown is the HC of West Virginia and has the team stabilized on 6 wins in the last 2 seasons, but the team does lack the push forward so far. Whether this will change is open. The defense is basically new to be built, with only 3 starters returning. The offense looks more promising, but whether the new incoming transfer-QB will really carry the team is to be seen. The O-Line is back as it seems, so hopefully that will bring some room to play for the new QB. The schedule is quite brutal, my expectations are, the team will not go to a bowl this season.
You can toss a coin for the next team. I pick TCU, which is now under a new HC, after Gary Pattersons left the program in his 21st season. Sonny Dykes got the gig, the former HC of SMU, Cal and LT. His work at SMU, which made the program a winner again, did bring him to Fort Worth, and we will likely see a quick return of TCU to a respectable level of strength. The transition will take some time and it is expected that the defense will improve fastest, the offense will (or not) follow. A bowl seems like a far stretch, especially with likely easier games in the earlier season, when the team is maybe still trying to get in sync.
Texas Tech has also a new HC, Joey McGuire, former Baylor assistant HC and LB coach, took over after the last HC was let go with less than 3 seasons of bad results. The program does aim at least for bowls each season, whether this is realistic or not, and the new HC will have to improve the team fast. It seems the coach tries to implement a stingy defense and an explosive offense. Whether the roster can deliver is open, the coordinators at least will try their best. As always is the schedule under such conditions not good, I personally hope even the FCS game at season start will not lead into a failure.
At the last team is as so many seasons before Kansas. Last time Kansas was NOT last place in the BIG 12? 2014, because the Cyclones were winless in that season. Last time the Jayhawks had more than 1 win inside the conference? 2008 under fall from grace HC Mark Mangino. Since then, did Kansas switch HCs every 2 to 4 seasons and accomplished nothing. Lance Leipold is now in his 2nd season with the team and won 2 games last year, 1 inside the conference, surprisingly on the road against Texas. This season they will try to get better of cause. The offense is ready to improve, the QB returns and some other starters, the defense is more a work in progress, but some transfers might bring the level a bit up. They can win more games, but likely not enough for a bowl game. But honestly the school would be likely relieved if the Jayhawks would finally win more than a single game inside the conference and THAT is absolutely possible.

The BIG 12 looks fine this season but a bit in transition, which fits with the conference realignments coming. The future is unsure right now, likely the conference will need some time to figure out their standings in the long run. This season they can hope for 3 to 4 teams crashing into the TOP 25, and maybe even a playoff spot, but on that I have doubts.

The BIG10 had an existing season last year, and Michigan did finally get the Conference Championship under their HC they wanted since 7 seasons, then. They lost in the Semi-Finals for the National Championship, still the school was for sure happy. This season the Est division looks quite competitive inside, so a lot of teams do have the chance to come out on top, of cause the familiar names are more favored to do so. The West looks still a bit weaker, with likely Wisconsin being the team to beat.

The East Division is Ohio States to lose, with Ryan Day in his 4th season. The Buckeyes are loaded on Offense and a bit less, but still talent wise very well, loaded on Defense. The question will be, whether they will eventually drop a game or two against conference rivals, as they did last year, when the loss against Michigan did cost them the spot in the Championship game. Toughest game could be the road trips to Michigan State and Penn State late October, early November. All signs are pointing towards a very successful season, but that has to earned.
Jim Harbaugh is in his 8th season, and can a bit relax, thanks to the conference title his team did win last year. But of cause the coach is judged based on the current season results and Michigan will have a weaker defense, thanks to some important starters are gone and the DC also. The offense will be good, if not great, so likely the team’s success will be limited by the defense unit and how they will play. The schedule will help, only THE GAME against OSU is a hard road trip, the rest looks manageable.
Michigan State made a huge, surprising step last year, when they finished with 11 wins, including a bowl win, and lost only 2 games, on the road. Mel Tucker is in his 3rd season and got a huge contract extension with 9.5 mio per season salary. Bam! That's how the world of the BIG10 will look like fast in the future. If the team can bring in some great RB again and makes the defense not THAT soft against the pass, the team has all the chances to finish at #1.
Penn State had 2 mediocre seasons in the past 2 seasons and James Franklin in his 9th season has some work to do to get the Lions into the top field again. Last year they started strong, but then lost a lot of conference games, which is of cause not the standard the school wants to see. Overall, the talent is there, but needs to mature and gets better, including the starting QB. The schedule looks OK, the trip to Michigan will not be nice, but it could be worse. I have some doubts regarding the overall willingness to concentrate on the games ahead of them, so likely they will drop a few and will only go bowling again.
Maryland won 7 games last year under Mike Locksley, the best results since he came, and in his 4th season its open, whether the team will get better, or take a step backwards. The returning starter on offense on defense should help and especially their offense should improve here. I have the feeling the team will more likely will take a sidestep, but that's up to see. The schedule is tough inside the conference, non-conference should boost them to a bowl.
Greg Schiano is in his 3rd year of 2nd stint with Rutgers and the team does improve, slowly. This season they might take a step back, with only a couple of returning starters on both sides of the ball and those were not really the best players also. But ... you never know who will step up and in 3rd seasons, sometime an explosion is coming. Non-Conference-games could help to seal the deal on a bowl game, but I have doubts, looking on the remaining games.
And at last place inside the conference, I have Indiana. 2019 did look great with 8 wins, 2020 even better with 6 but a shorter schedule and a better win percentage. But in 2021 the team did drop dead and won only 2 games. Now in Tom Allens 6th season, all do wonder whether the old losing Indiana is back, or whether Indiana will become dangerous again, like in 2019 and 2020? Coordinators where changed, some players came in as transfers, now the mix just has to click and learn to play together. The schedule is hard, even non-conference games will be tricky, except the FCS game, so I doubt we will see them bowling at the end of the season.

The West is wide open, with Wisconsin likely the team on top of the close group of favorites. They have only 8 returning starters, but a deep talent pool and everyone expects a strong defense keeping them in the games. The only real question marks are, will Paul Chryst in his 8th season with the team find ways to tackle on of the toughest conference schedule, with trips to OSU, MSU and Iowa.
The next is a coin toss and I pick Purdue, based on their quite soft schedule. Jeff Brohm had the best season last year in his so far 5+ seasons. But getting again 9 wins and competing for the division title will be hard. Toughest games are against Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road. ´Returning starters do include the very good QB and some defense players, which gives hope for both sides of the ball.
And Iowa under Kirk Ferentz in his 24th season is still playing on a high level. They won the division last year and might do this again. But concerns on offense and having Michigan AND Ohio State from the other conference will likely not help. But it might turn out, that most teams will drop a few games and at the end the direct compare will be the essential tie breaker. If they can beat the contenders inside the division, they will likely return to the big game.
P. J. Fleck was sooooo close in 2019 to become immortal, but the Gophers had to share the division title and Wisconsin went for the title game. Since then, the results were never as good again. Still, last year they won 9 games (2019 had 11) and in Flecks 6th season we will likely see .... some mixed results. Offense will likely improve, and defense will likely become worse, thanks to departing players. The schedule is OK, still some tough division rivals played on road trips. This will be a very interesting season. Could be everything between 4 wins and 10+.
To be fair, last week I would have put Nebraska next, but their game against Northwestern did me re-think the decision. Illinois has also all the tools to be here or better and they did so far not suck. Bret Bielema took over last year as HC and I think he will bring the team back into bowl strength, if not better. In the past few seasons was Illinois not really a team to beat, but with Bielema, this might change. The program will have a hard time to become a real contender, since recruiting and so on will be tough to be sold, but step by step they will grow. A team to watch and a team which will (hopefully) annoy a lot of teams by just not giving up.
Then there is Northwestern, in Pat Fitzgeralds 17th season. For the Wildcats the wins are not THAT important and Pat Fitzgerald did deliver some great seasons. After the 1st game it looks like the offense will be shaky, the defense looks better than anticipated. Likely a negative season is coming, but the team might surprise a few teams, which already happened against the Huskers.
And now Nebraska. My 1st reaction on that 1st game loss this season was, that Scott Frost, now in his 5th season, is toast, but firing a coach after week zero might be bad, so we will have to wait, when the official announcement will come. I'm very convinced the coach will not coach until the end of the season. He would have needed a GOOD season to save is job, 8+ wins, a bowl. Something which proves that the whole process of 4 bad seasons under his belt were worth it. Well, after the 1st game meltdown I think he needs something epic. I don't believe in a major turnaround, so the team will finish with a negative record and will look for a new coach.

The conference will battle it likely out in the East and the West will try to play spoiler. It will be interesting to see, how the conference will work with USC and UCLA coming in, but that's future talk.

And of cause the SEC is again the top conference. Last season’s results were a display of dominance when the rematch of the SEC Championship game, featuring Alabama and Georgia, was the National Championship game. That did never happen before. Only 2 times before did the SEC-Champ play another SEC team for the National Championship, but both times it was not the SEC-Championship opponent, 'just' another high ranked team. In ALL cases did the SEC-Champ lose the National Championship game. Tough luck.
The reigning National Champion is Georgia, the reigning SEC Champ is Alabama.
Right now, I see only 3 teams in contention and with a realistic chance to get to the SEC-Championship game and the playoffs.
Georgia in the East and Alabama and Texas A&M in the West.

Let's start with the East. Georgia won the National Championship the 1st time since 1980. With just 10 returning starters it does not look THAT good for Kirby Smart in his 7th season, but he did lean some tricks of his former mentor Nick Saban and it's very likely that the very loaded recruiting classes of the past few years will simply fill out the spots with equally talented players. The rest will be up on how the team will get in synch and a bit of luck is also needed. Last season for example the team did play only 10-3 against Clemson on season opener and if they would have lost that game, the season would have shaped out differently. This season the crucial games are against Oregon this weekend and of cause against Florida the rivalry game. The rest looks solvable, and it might come down to a final display of strength or weakness in the SEC Championship game.
Next in line is surprisingly Kentucky. Mark Stoops is in his 10th season with the Wildcats, and he looks like a gift for the program. Of the more modern era coaches (still reaching back to the 40s) he is already the 3rd successful coaches of all at Kentucky. 1st is of cause Bear Bryant with the lone National Championship 1950, Blanton Collier came after Bryant and had an OK winning percentage of 0.531 and then there is already Stoops right now at .527. He is 1 win short of tying Bryant for total numbers of wins, and he already owns the record for most games coached in Kentucky history. And there is no slowing down. Sure, there are some holes to fill, but the offense should be OK, if not even better than last season and the schedule is quite easy. They might win double digit games and will only because of Georgia and maybe Tennessee not finish 1st.
Tennessee next, even they might drop dead on that tough schedule playing Alabama and at LSU. But Josh Heupel in his 2nd season has the chance to turn the ship further around and might manage to squeeze out a few more wins. Non-Conference is almost a walk in the park, so it all comes down, whether they are able to challenge Georgia (likely not) and Kentucky (could be, at home). Those 2 West games might kill their standings anyhow.
Then there is Florida with a new HC. Billy Napier had great success at Louisiana and got the gig at Florida, which is a huge step for him. He will have to sort out the things at Gainesville and why the team did suck so many times under so many seemingly good coaches in the past few seasons. Talent level is high, it just needs to be brought together and made click. The West games are not nice, but they might win the home game against LSU, which would give them a good position against other teams, see Tennessee. Still, they need to win against the contenders to get to the top, which I doubt as result of season 1 of Napiers reign.
South Carolina fans were happy last year when Shane Beamer took over as HC and won 7 games, including a bowl game. It stopped the downward spiral of his predecessor, and the fans do of cause dream of more wins. Some transfers are supposed to bring in some offense power, which will be needed, since the schedule is not nice, featuring a trip to Arkansas, a home game against Texas A&M and the rivalry game at Clemson. A bowl is likely possible, but more has to be earned the hard way.
Next could be Vanderbilt. I would have picked them last before the week zero, but their display at Hawaii does at least hope for the best and Missouri does also not look that goods, so who cares. Clark Lea is in his 2nd season and will likely shatter the 2 wins of last year. Whether the team will get to a bowl is up to see, but the potential is there. Most games on the schedule are not easy, also not the non-conference games except the FCS game. The West games are tough, so likely we will see only 3-5 wins.
Missouri does not look good so far. Eliah Drinkwitz is in his 3rd season and won so far 5 and 6 games. Transfers are supposed to stabilize or improve the team, especially on defense and QB. An easier schedule compared to other teams will likely boost a bit the win stats, but whether the team will excel or just suck is open.

Right now it looks like Alabama and Texas A&M will battle it out in the West.
Alabama is the favorite, thanks to having likely the best coach in modern era of college football Nick Saban in his 16th season on board and a Heisman Trophy winner as QB. Don't forget the always strong recruiting classes, so any left talent is usually substituted with an equally talented players. Saban said last year was a reloading year (maybe an excuse losing against Georgia in the Championship game ...) so expectations are high to make it better than the SEC title and the lost National Championship game. Hmmm ... what could that look like? The schedule is quite mixed, but what could you do in that position? Making the schedule even harder by just scheduling supposed to be tough opponents? Well, all signs to point towards 8th of October, when A&M comes to Tuscaloosa and the division will be battled out.
Which brings me to Texas A&M. The team did splash into the coach market several seasons ago and grabbed Jimbo Fisher only for one purpose, making A&M a national contender. Now in his 5th season the results are mixed. Yes, A&M has won 8+ games in every season, but also zero SEC Championships and of cause also zero National Championships. This season they might have a chance to leapfrog Alabama, if they manage to win basically all games. Their schedule is from my point of view a bit softer than Alabamas, but the road trip to Tuscaloosa will be THE test. Still, I think they need to win it all to have a chance. Talent level was built up, Fisher did play also the transfer portal, now the team just has to perform. Just to stop a bit the high and higher feeling, Fishers Florida State did win the National Title in 2013, but he was unable to answer Clemsons rise in 2015 and later, with only a 5 win season in his last year, with all the talent you can wish for at FSU. So ... he has something to prove.
Sam Pittman took over a sinking or even sunk Arkansas team and made it a winner in the past 2 seasons. Now in his 3rd season, will be see an even better team, or a setback? With several returning starters, including the QB, it is likely the setback has to wait. Arkansas did play fearless last year, and I expect the same this season. They have a quite hard schedule, so maybe we will see 'only' as many wins as last year, but we might see some upsets nobody had on the list and then some losses also nobody expected. This can go anyway, hard to predict, but my pick is they will find ways to win.
The next is ... well, which one? The natural pick would be LSU, but they have a new HC in Brian Kelly, former HC of Notre Dame, and even he did stabilize Notre Dame on a high level, this is the SEC and inside the SEC I think his team would never have played for a National Championship. The main question is, whether he can do something at LSU, he was not able to do with the resources at Notre Dame. Sometimes coaches need the right place at the right time. Overall, it's hard to believe that in his 1st season the team will just switch to winning mode again. So I have doubts LSU will finish 4th. Their SEC-schedule is not so nice.
Which brings me to the more likely 4th place finisher, Ole Miss. They lost some starters, including their QB, but Lane Kiffin in this 3rd season will work hard on a replacement. His mindset is offense, and the team did play very well last year and under his reign. He seems to mature as a coach, which is likely a good sign. Their schedule is quite easy, so if the team does click, double digit wins in total are possible, inside the SEC is open, how many wins they can get there.
Mike Leach has always created winners, with Texas Tech and Washington State and now he is at Mississippi State. He seems to have a heart for exotic teams, but he never won a conference championship. At MSU he is now in his 3rd year and that might lead to a breakout season. With 17 starters back the experience is there, talent level might be a bit under the average of the SEC, but getting the most out for talent is Leachs 2nd nature. Having Georgia AND Kentucky from the West will NOT help on the record, so the team will likely play better, but at the end might have even less wins inside the SEC.
And at last Auburn. Bryan Harsin did create some fine distraction with his anti-vaccination-attitude and Auburns administrations did not the best to get things solved. Harsin was soooooo close getting fired (like the Cougars HC) because of no vaccination certification until a certain date, but at the end it did turn to dust, thanks to some judgements on other cases and as far as I know some change in the laws. However, Harsin is back in his 2nd season and maybe he has to start over again. The team will play Georgia from the east inside the west it will be tough anyhow. Talent should be there, the team just has to find together and then has to execute. Whether Harsin can manage that, is open.

For sure the SEC will bring in at least a team into the playoffs, maybe even 2 again. I'm really curious, how the conference will look like when Texas and Oklahoma will join, but that's future stuff. Most curious thing for me this season is indeed, whether Kelly can fix LSU ... or not.

So much for the previews, I promise the next entries will be shorter.


Sat. Aug 27
North Texas @ UTEP
The 1st half was open, the teams did split with UNT 1 point ahead.
But in the 3rd and 4th quarter it was all North Texas.
UTEP did just not get anything done, once they were 2 scores behind, thanks to a sloppy start in the 2nd half, a fumble and another bad defense drive.
It seems UNT is continuing the trend of last season, UP, as does UTEP, going down.
North Texas 31 @ UTEP 13 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 0-1

Nebraska @ Northwestern
And here is the result which made me mad.
The Huskers did look OK in the 1st half, but thanks to a fumble and some soft defense late in the half, Northwestern did lead 17-14 at the half.
No concerns, solvable.
Nebraska did play good in the 3rd, scored, forced a fumble, scored again, now leading 28-17.
And then did the self-declared National Championship coach decide to do an ONSIDE KICK and the team sucked and Northwestern did score. Huskers still up 28-24.
The mojo was gone both teams did play 3-and-out, but the Wildcats recovered and marched over the field, MISSED a field goal try.
Nebraska did throw and INT and Northwestern did score to take the lead. 31-28.
The Huskers got the ball and again nothing. Lucky for them also the Wildcats did manage nothing.
But after a few drives, Nebraska ran out of time and tried to force things, the player did let the ball slip through his fingers and the Wildcats defender said THANKS!
As said above, I think Frost is toast, regardless the next results.
Nebraska 28 @ Northwestern 31 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 0-2

Vanderbilt @ Hawai'i
Oh man, Hawaii needs some rebuilding.
They lost 63-10 against Vanderbilt?
Blame the early start and hope for the coming weeks.
The Commodores might be tougher than expected, or Hawaii was too weak and too bad.
This game did not help, for both teams.
Vanderbilt 63 @ Hawai'i 10 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 0-3

Other (or better all remaining) interesting (or not so interesting) games:

Sat. Aug 27
UConn @ Utah State
Big surprise also here, but still the expected win for the Aggies.
Only I did expect a 70-0 or so results and Utah had a hard time scoring regularly, needed a big 2nd quarter to turn the game and did at the end only secure the win, but did not enhance the margin. At the end they won 31-20.
UConn did play competitive in 3 quarters, so maybe we will see some lasting and quick changes on the team.
Jacks interesting games Score: 1-0

Nevada @ New Mexico State
Another closer game, even the margin was 11 points.
Nevada did win 23-12 and needed also a big 2nd quarter to gain the lead, but the remaining time to secure the win.
Since those Aggies are likely to be bad, what does that mean for Nevada fans?
Jacks interesting games Score: 2-0

Wyoming @ Illinois
Illinois did win in a very convincing way 38-6.
Wyoming was just not able to do much.
That makes me optimistic for Illinois and pessimistic for Wyoming.
Jacks interesting games Score: 3-0

Charlotte @ Florida Atlantic
FAU won 43-13, that's a bold statement in the conference.
All signs now at FAU for BIG expectations and at Charlotte .... we will see.
Jacks interesting games Score: 4-0

So that's it for week zero. Week one will feature already some cool matchups, which will be interesting to see.
They will eventually or hopefully show where the respected teams’ strengths or weaknesses are and what to expect in the games to come.
Most of the time I will have ranked vs ranked games here and you have to remember that the rankings will at the end determine the playoff spots.
Not directly, but for sure no unranked team will get into those precious 4 playoff spots and the only difference between the rankings and the playoff seating might be 1 or 2 spots and in the sorting. An early defeat can be made up with a great season afterward, but it just puts so much pressure on the team, that usually the teams do not survive this.


Sat. Sep 3
#11 Oregon @ #3 Georgia
The pressure is on Georgia as reigning national champ here.
If Oregon pulls and upset here, on the road, the Ducks will be all the talks for at least a week.
But Georgia is valued by Vegas with -17.0 points, so it's not expected that the Ducks under new management will get this done.
Still, I hope for an interesting game and hopefully a close one.
Bulldogs win.

#23 Cincinnati @ #19 Arkansas
Vegas says Arkansas -6.0, which is quite close, if you think that Cincinnati is the American Champ, but Arkansas plays at home and is an SEC team in the rise.
Alabama did win easily against the Bearcats in the Semis last season.
But that was Alabama.
I think, if Arkansas plays as last year, they have a good chance to win big.
Whether Pittman manage to prepare them accordingly, we will see.
Razorbacks win.

#5 Notre Dame @ #2 Ohio State
I don't see Notre Dame at 5 right now, so this matchup looks more interesting as it likely will be.
The visit a loaded Ohio State team on the 1st gameday under a new HC.
No wonder Vegas line is OSU -17.0 points.
I would love to see an upset, but my mind just can see one.
Buckeyes win.

Other interesting games:

Thur. Sep 1
West Virginia @ 17 Pittsburgh
Pitt is favored by 7.5 points here, likely based on the home game advantage and that West Virginia was not really in good shape last year, while Pitt won the ACC. Right?
Right, but of cause the players did change and we might see a much closer game as expected.
All will depend on how the teams did prepare and get the new QBs going.
My bet is on Pitt still, since also West Virginias defense was not really great last year.
It's the 1st game, on the road.
I have to pick the home team.
Panthers win.

Sat. Sep 3
#24 Houston @ UTSA
UTSA did play great last year, won the CUSA and is right now only a 4.0-point underdog in this game.
And they play one of the hottest teams in the American, Houston.
I'm not sure Houston will really play a close game this weekend, but the potential is there.
For the fans of the Cougars, it's clear they need to win here and all signs do point into this direction.
UTSA will need to play hard to win this.
Cougars win.

#7 Utah @ Florida
A great measure for Florida fans, where their rebuilding / reloading team is standing under the new HC.
Utah should be working like a machine (even on day 1) with the team and their coach, while Florida has several coaching changes in their belly, the latest last winter.
I don't think the new HC did leave his mark already, so Utah should be in charge here.
Only SEC talent, a bad start and/or luck can give Florida the win.
Utah is favored by 3.0 points, I guess the margin will be higher.
Utes win.

Utah State @ #1 Alabama
Before the week zero games, Utah State did look like an interesting opponent for Alabama, where they will have to invest something on a hungry team.
But the Aggies needed much more effort to beat UConn than anticipated, so no wonder the reigning Mountain West Champ is a 41.5 underdog against the Crimson Tide.
Nothing to add, for sure Alabama will win, open is, how much margin will there be.
Crimson Tide win.

'Til next time

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