2018 College Football Forecast – Final FBS predictions

With the start of the 2018 college football season on Saturday, we will be publishing a detailed set of forecasts for all 10 conferences and 130 teams in FBS college football, using our patented ELO-Following Football rating system to forecast the probable outcome of every single game in Division 1, for all 130 teams in the FBS division! (Soon, we’ll finish this series with the end of season results for the 125 FCS teams and 13 FCS divisions.)

We’ll also provide an expected win probability as well – not just who will win each game, but what the chances are of a close game or an upset. So, a game in which one team is basically guaranteed to win (and we’ve learned that when a team is favored by more than 20 points in our system, they virtually never lose), they’re listed as having a 100% chance of winning (and the other team a 0% chance). We haven’t gone hogwild with the differentials, but there are games that we see as 100/0, 98/2, 95/5, 90/10, 85/15, 80/20, 75/25, 70/30, and 60/40, depending on how disparate the difference between the teams might be. And under circumstances where the home field, back-to-back travel, and the like balances out the original difference in the teams, the game is listed as 50/50, and rather than split the difference or flip a coin, we’ve listed them as ties for the purpose of our forecasts. Obviously, they won’t be tied – college football plays overtimes until a winner is decided – but we’re not going to be arbitrary about the winner. Better you should see how close and competitive the game is. 

The Following Football rating system has been predicting both probable outcomes and point spreads for several years now, and is now refined to a point where it’s proven to be more accurate than the Las Vegas betting odds (unfortunately for us, not enough better to make any real money on it yet!). Please remember that for that reason (among others!) we don’t recommend using our numbers to invest in the punting game where it’s legal.

Okay? Here we go! We’ll be presenting each team with their starting ELO-FF rating, their likely record in their conference and overall, and their “Pythagorean probability” (we’ll show how that works soon enough). For some readers, it might be useful to have a game schedule handy to compare these results to; our weekly predictions have been over 75% accurate over each of the past three seasons, although predicting a December game in August is definitely more of a shot in the dark. We plan to continually update our predictions throughout the season.

POWER FIVE CONFERENCES

ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) – Atlantic Division

                                               Conference           Overall                         Pythagorean probability

  1. Clemson (10)                   8 – 0+                     12 – 0*                                   10.25 – 1.75
  2. Florida State (16)            6 – 2                        10 – 2*                                    8.10 – 3.90
  3. North Carolina State (21) 5 – 3                        9 – 3*                                      8.00 – 4.00
  4. Louisville (21)                   5 – 3                        8 – 4*                                     7.38 – 4.62
  5. Wake Forest (24)              3 – 5                        6 – 6*                                      6.65 – 5.35
  6. Boston College (23)         2 – 6                        5 – 7                                        6.75 – 5.25
  7. Syracuse (35)                  1 – 7                        2 – 9 – 1                                  3.65 – 8.35

Let’s stop and look at what those numbers mean. The ratings, in parentheses, indicate the relative strengths as we see them of the teams, and they’re remarkably straightforward to understand: If Clemson has a 10 and Florida State has a 16, that means that on a neutral site, with no other factors playing into the situation, we expect Clemson to be about six points better than Florida State – a game between the two teams would, on average, be a six-point victory for the Tigers. Many other factors can affect a game-day prediction – home field, travel situations, player availability – but that’s the gist of it.  

 

We looked at every single game each of the 255 teams will play this season, took those likely factors into consideration, made a percentage forecast for every game as described in the introduction, and weighed out the possibilities. In Clemson’s case, they’re favored (as of right now) to win all twelve games they’ll play. However, they’re not 100% certain of winning – for example, we have them as having just a 60% chance of defeating Florida State when they play. The records (conference games only and the overall, 12-game season) reflect the game-to-game predictions of winners only. The “Pythagorean probabilities” add up all those percentages to take into account the idea that while Clemson may be favored in every game, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance in most of them that they COULD lose. So the probabilities suggest that they “should” win about 10.25 of their 12 games this season – which one or two will they lose? We don’t know. But that gives you an idea how likely an undefeated season would be for them, or how strong a team is overall, in a way that just the digital yes/no of the records can’t tell you.

 

Finally, notice that Syracuse is projected as having a 2-9-1 record overall. That’s because in their week one game on August 31 at Western Michigan, the numbers suggest that each team has about a 50% chance of winning. Rather than try to split hairs with our bludgeon of a forecasting tool, we’ve chosen to leave such games as ties – obviously they won’t be, since all ties are played out no matter how many overtimes it takes, but we want you to realize how close the game should be.

 

Oh, and the asterisk indicates teams we expect to become eligible to play in a post-season bowl game, while plus sign indicates the expected overall conference champion. 

Moving on –

ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) – Coastal Division

                                       Conference           Overall                                   Pythagorean probability

  1. Miami – FL (15)             8 – 0                       11 – 0 – 1 *                              9.60 – 2.40
  2. Virginia Tech (19)          6 – 2                        9 – 3 *                                     8.20 – 3.80
  3. Georgia Tech (25)         3 – 4 – 1                  5 – 6 – 1 *                               6.00 – 6.00
  4. Pittsburgh (26)              3 – 4 – 1                  4 – 7 – 1                                  5.40 – 6.60
  5. Duke (24)                      3 – 5                        6 – 6 *                                     6.15 – 5.85
  6. North Carolina (29)        2 – 4 – 2                 4 – 6 – 2                                  5.95 – 6.05
  7. Virginia (36)                  0 – 8                        2 – 10                                      3.80 – 8.20

If North Carolina misses a bowl game again this season, here’s a prediction that they’ll be looking for a new head coach for 2019. And Miami’s success last year was just a start – Mark Richt is an outstanding coach who builds programs for the long haul.

 

Big Ten Conference (“B1G”) – East Division

                                   Conference                  Overall                              Pythagorean probability

  1. Penn State (11)         8 – 0 – 1 +               11 – 0 – 1 *                              10.05 – 1.95
  2. Ohio State (9)            8 – 1                        11 – 1 *                                    9.28 – 2.72
  3. Michigan State (17)   7 – 2                        10 – 2 *                                    8.90 – 3.10
  4. Michigan (15)             5 – 3 – 1                  7 – 4 – 1 *                               8.55 – 3.45
  5. Maryland (34)           3 – 6                        5 – 7                                         4.57 – 7.43
  6. Indiana (31)              2 – 7                        5 – 7                                         5.35 – 6.65
  7. Rutgers (40)             1 – 8                        4 – 8                                         3.35 – 8.65

We think Penn State, at home, has a 60% shot at defeating Ohio State and taking the division; we also favor them slightly over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.  Similarly, Michigan State should defeat their cross-state rivals because of their home field advantage.

 

Big Ten Conference (“B1G”) – West Division

                                 Conference           Overall                                   Pythagorean probability

  1. Wisconsin (11)        8 – 1                        11 – 1 *                                    10.18 – 1.82
  2. Iowa (20)                 7 – 2                        10 – 2 *                                   8.05 – 3.95
  3. Northwestern (21)    5 – 4                       7 – 5 *                                     7.55 – 4.45
  4. Purdue (27)            3 – 5 – 1                  4 – 7 – 1                                   5.55 – 6.45
  5. Nebraska (30)        2 – 6 – 1                  5 – 6 – 1                                   5.22 – 6.78
  6. Minnesota (32)       2 – 7                        4 – 8                                        5.00 – 7.00
  7. Illinois (40)             0 – 9                       1 – 10 – 1                                  3.00 – 9.00

I won’t be surprised if Purdue exceeds this prediction – notice they have a probability expectation of almost 50-50 for the season.  Also, if you get to watch an Iowa home game, make a point of seeing what they do between the first and second quarters: the stadium adjoins the university’s new children’s hospital, and at the first break every fan in the stadium turns to the kids watching the game from the top floor of the hospital and waves at them. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in sports.

 

Big Twelve Conference (“XII”)

                                Conference              Overall                               Pythagorean probability

  1. Oklahoma (10)      9 – 0 +                    12 – 0 *                                   8.90 – 3.10
  2. TCU (17)               7 – 2                        9 – 3 *                                     8.45 – 3.55
  3. Texas (17)             7 – 2                        10 – 2 *                                   8.35 – 3.65
  4. Oklahoma St (18)  7 – 2                        10 – 2 *                                   8.33 – 3.67
  5. Iowa State (21)      5 – 4                       7 – 5 *                                     7.13 – 4.87
  6. West Virginia (20)  4 – 5                       6 – 6 *                                     7.20 – 4.80
  7. Kansas State (22)  3 – 6                        5 – 7 *                                     6.58 – 5.42
  8. Texas Tech (26)    1 – 7 – 1                   4 – 7 – 1                                  5.60 – 6.40
  9. Baylor (31)           1 – 7 – 1                   3 – 8 – 1                                  4.65 – 7.35
  10. Kansas (45)           0 – 9                        0 – 12                                      1.33 – 10.67

Fearing they were “missing out” on something (that undefinable ‘something’), the Big Twelve decided they needed to have a championship game. This year, that second-place team could be any of those three teams: TCU, Texas, and Oklahoma State. But the only reward for the “prize” of coming in second will be a second loss to a powerhouse Oklahoma team, and therefore a lower-tier bowl because they’ll have one more loss and will drop a few spots in the polls before the bowl selection decisions. Or, they’ll knock Oklahoma out of the unbeatens, and possibly out of the four-team playoff bracket.

Remind me again what the advantage of having a championship game is again?

 

Pacific-12 Conference (“PAC-12”) – North Division

                                   Conference           Overall                                   Pythagorean probability

  1. Washington (11)       9 – 0 +                    11 – 1 *                                    9.70 – 2.30
  2. Stanford (14)            8 – 1                        10 – 2 *                                   8.95 – 3.05
  3. Oregon (19)             5 – 3 – 1                  8 – 3 – 1 *                               8.50 – 3.50
  4. Washington St (27)  3 – 6                        6 – 6 *                                     6.05 – 5.95
  5. California (27)          3 – 6                        6 – 6 *                                     6.30 – 5.70
  6. Oregon State (44)    0 – 9                       0 – 12                                      1.35 – 10.65

Pacific-12 Conference (“PAC-12”) – South Division

                                                Conference           Overall                Pythagorean probability

  1. USC (Southern Cal) (16)      7 – 1 – 1                 9 – 2 – 1 *                          8.70 – 3.30
  2. Utah (19)                              6 – 2 – 1                  9 – 2 – 1 *                         7.55 – 4.45
  3. Arizona (23)                         5 – 3 – 1                  8 – 3 – 1 *                         7.90 – 4.10
  4. UCLA (26)                           2 – 6 – 1                  4 – 7 – 1                            5.25 – 6.75
  5. Arizona State (30)               1 – 6 – 2                  2 – 8 – 2                            4.30 – 7.70
  6. Colorado (33)                      1 – 7 – 1                   3 – 8 – 1                           4.50 – 7.50

Like Kansas, Oregon State is outclassed by everyone else in their conference. Neither team has any realistic chance of winning a conference game. On the other end of the scale, Washington is the class of the league and gets Stanford at home this year. USC has several difficult games this season: playing Utah on the road is a 50/50 game, while Stanford on the road will be a loss in conference. Meanwhile, they’ll also hand Notre Dame their only loss of the season in the final week of the season, and possibly knock the Irish out of the CFP. 

 

SEC (Southeastern Conference) – East Division

                                                  Conference           Overall                    Pythagorean probability

  1. Georgia (10)                           8 – 0                       12 – 0 *                                   10.30 – 1.70
  2. South Carolina (21)                6 – 2                       9 – 3 *                                     8.05 – 3.95
  3. Florida (22)                             5 – 3                        8 – 4 *                                    7.60 – 4.40
  4. Missouri (23)                          4 – 4                       8 – 4 *                                    7.37 – 4.63
  5. Kentucky (30)                       1 – 6 – 1                  4 – 7 – 1                                  5.30 – 6.70
  6. Vanderbilt (35)                       1 – 7                        4 – 8                                       4.45 – 7.55
  7. Tennessee (33)                     0 – 7 – 1                  3 – 8 – 1                                  4.65 – 7.35

 

SEC (Southeastern Conference) – West Division

                                                Conference           Overall                         Pythagorean probability

  1. Alabama (7)                       8 – 0 +                    12 – 0 *                                   10.71 – 1.29
  2. Auburn (13)                        6 – 2                       10 – 2 *                                   9.35 – 2.65
  3. Mississippi State (17)         5 – 3                        9 – 3 *                                    8.35 – 3.65
  4. Texas A&M (20)                  4 – 4                       6 – 6 *                                     7.48 – 4.52
  5. LSU (Louisiana State) (18) 4 – 4                       7 – 4 – 1 *                               7.50 – 4.50
  6. Ole Miss (28)                    1 – 6 – 1                   4 – 7 – 1                                  5.78 – 6.22
  7. Arkansas (31)                   1 – 6 – 1                   5 – 6 – 1                                  5.07 – 6.93

Georgia and Alabama are just waiting around for the league title game, expecting a rematch a few weeks later in the CFP. Barring injuries rivaling Greater Western Sydney’s this season, neither team has a truly threatening game this season – ‘Bama and Georgia both get Auburn at home, and we see them both as 65% chances of victory, the closest game either team has this season.  Tennessee’s in for another rough season.

 

Independent teams

                                                         Overall                                   Pythagorean probability

Notre Dame (15)                               11 – 1 *                                    9.03 – 2.97

Army – West Point (33)                     8 – 4 *                                    7.95 – 4.05

U Mass (Massachusetts) (41)           7 – 5 *                                     5.55 – 6.45

New Mexico State (46)                      6 – 6 *                                     6.30 – 5.70

Liberty (48)                                        4 – 8                                       4.40 – 7.60

BYU (Brigham Young) (38)               3 – 8 – 1                                  3.87 – 8.13

 

The six teams in the FBS without conference affiliations play extremely varied schedules. Notre Dame, the grand matron of college football, can play virtually any team they choose – and this season, that 11-1 record may get them into the CFP (we think they have a 60/40 chance of losing at USC). On the other hand, New Mexico State and Liberty had so much trouble putting their schedules together that they’re playing each other TWICE this season, almost unheard of outside of a championship game.

 

GROUP OF FIVE CONFERENCES

AAC (American Athletic Conference) – East Division

                                          Conference           Overall                      Pythagorean probability

  1. Central Florida (19)        7 – 0 – 1 +               11 – 0 – 1 *                              10.05 – 1.95
  2. South Florida (27)           7 – 1                        11 – 1 *                                    9.05 – 2.95
  3. Temple (33)                      4 – 4                       6 – 6 *                                     6.45 – 5.55
  4. Cincinnati (43)                 2 – 6                       3 – 9                                        4.10 – 7.90
  5. East Carolina (48)           1 – 7                        2 – 10                                      2.02 – 9.98
  6. U Conn (Connecticut) (48) 0 – 8                    1 – 11                                       2.75 – 9.25

 

AAC (American Athletic Conference) – West Division

                                    Conference                       Overall                        Pythagorean probability

  1. Memphis (22)               7 – 0 – 1                  10 – 1 – 1 *                              10.06 – 1.94
  2. Naval Academy) (30)     6 – 2                       10 – 3 *                                   6.95 – 5.05
  3. Houston (27)                  6 – 2                       8 – 4 *                                     8.40 – 3.60
  4. Tulsa (39)                      3 – 5                        3 – 9                                        3.52 – 8.48
  5. Tulane (41)                    3 – 5                        4 – 8                                        4.45 – 7.55
  6. SMU (39)                       2 – 6                       3 – 9                                        4.32 – 7.68

UCF was the darling of last year’s “Group of Five”, but with a new coach and quarterback many think they’re destined to sink back into the pack. We disagree. On the other hand, many are seeing Houston as that break-out team this year; we disagree with that, too.  Memphis, however, is the West team that will challenge UCF – we have the Memphis/Central Florida game as a 50-50 proposition. The championship, however, won’t be in Memphis: it’ll be in Orlando, where UCF will win easily.

 

Conference USA (CUSA) – East Division

                                            Conference                Overall                       Pythagorean probability

  1. Florida Atlantic (FAU) (22) 8 – 0 +                    10 – 2 *                                   9.55 – 2.45
  2. Marshall (33)                      7 – 1                        9 – 3 *                                    7.60 – 4.40
  3. Middle Tennessee St (35)  6 – 2                        7 – 5 *                                     6.90 – 5.10
  4. Western Kentucky (43)      4 – 4                       6 – 6 *                                     5.15 – 6.85
  5. Florida Int’l (FIU) (44)       2 – 5 – 1                  3 – 7 – 2                                  5.10 – 6.90
  6. Old Dominion (47)            2 – 5 – 1                  3 – 8 – 1                                  3.60 – 8.40
  7. Charlotte (53)                   0 – 8                        1 – 11                                       2.10 – 9.90

Alas, Charlotte’s due for a fallback this season, and Marshall’s due for a rise back up towards their normal position in the upper half of the football hierarchy. But Lane Kiffin’s forming a mini-dynasty at Florida Atlantic, and shouldn’t have any trouble with any team in Conference USA.

 

Conference USA (CUSA) – West Division

                                              Conference                  Overall                    Pythagorean probability

  1. North Texas (37)                   6 – 1 – 1                    9 – 2 – 1 *                               7.75 – 4.25
  2. Louisiana Tech (34)              6 – 2                           8 – 4 *                                    7.05 – 4.95
  3. UAB (AL-Birmingham) (40)   5 – 2 – 1                   8 – 3 – 1 *                               7.07 – 4.93
  4. Southern Miss (40)                 4 – 4                       6 – 6 *                                     6.40 – 5.60
  5. UTSA (TX-San Antonio) (44)  3 – 5                        4 – 8                                       4.70 – 7.30
  6. Rice (53)                                1 – 7                        2 – 10                                      2.85 – 9.15
  7. UTEP (TX-El Paso) (54)        0 – 8                        0 – 12                                      2.10 – 9.90

Incredibly, UAB is fast becoming a perennially strong team at the C-USA level, after a two-year shutdown. Keeping their coach in place over those two years had a great deal to do with that.

 

MAC (Mid-American Conference) – East Division

                                               Conference                 Overall                    Pythagorean probability

  1. Ohio University (30)              8 – 0 +                    12 – 0 *                                   9.58 – 2.42
  2. Buffalo (40)                           6 – 2                        7 – 5 *                                     6.55 – 5.45
  3. Miami – Ohio (39)                 5 – 3                        6 – 6 *                                     6.50 – 5.50
  4. Akron (43)                             3 – 5                        4 – 8                                       4.60 – 7.40
  5. Bowling Green (48)               1 – 7                        2 – 10                                      3.17 – 8.83
  6. Kent State (53)                      0 – 8                       1 – 11                                       2.12 – 9.88

 

MAC (Mid-American Conference) – West Division

                                               Conference             Overall                       Pythagorean probability

  1. Northern Illinois (32)            8 – 0                       9 – 3 *                                     6.70 – 5.30
  2. Toledo (31)                         7 – 1                        9 – 3 *                                     8.60 – 3.40
  3. Western Michigan (38)        4 – 4                       6 – 5 – 1 *                               6.55 – 5.45
  4. Eastern Michigan (42)        4 – 4                       5 – 7                                        5.15 – 6.85
  5. Central Michigan (44)          2 – 6                       4 – 8                                       4.45 – 7.55
  6. Ball State (52)                    1 – 7                        2 – 10                                      2.50 – 9.50

The MAC has a better marketing division than it does a football program. They use their willingness to play on weekdays to get on television, and if you get to see two of the top teams, it’s worth the time. But even Northern Illinois, which we’re projecting to go 9-3 with several close wins (including over Toledo, everyone else’s favorite), has a probability win level of less than seven wins. Ohio University has the horses this season under veteran coach Frank Solich, but that 12-0 projection has only a nine-and-a-half win probability.

 

Mountain West Conference – West Division

                                            Conference              Overall                         Pythagorean probability

  1. Fresno State (27)             7 – 1                        10 – 2 *                                   8.65 – 3.35
  2. San Diego State (26)       6 – 2                         9 – 3 *                                     9.06 – 2.94
  3. UNLV (NV-Las Vegas) (43) 4 – 3 – 1                6 – 5 – 1 *                               5.47 – 6.53
  4. Nevada (UN-Reno) (42)   2 – 6                        4 – 8                                        4.77 – 7.23
  5. Hawai’i (49)                      1 – 7                        3 – 10                                      2.65 – 9.35
  6. San Jose State (53)         0 – 8                        0 – 12                                      1.67 – 10.33

Two really good teams – Fresno and San Diego State – and four really mediocre teams (Hawai’i is always a challenging road trip, but not because of the team).

 

Mountain West Conference – Mountain Division

                                             Conference                   Overall                   Pythagorean probability

  1. Boise State (18)                 8 – 0 +                       11 – 1 *                                  10.51 – 1.49
  2. Wyoming (35)                      5 – 2 – 1                  7 – 4 – 1 *                               6.43 – 5.57
  3. Utah State (36)                    5 – 3                        7 – 4 – 1 *                               7.10 – 4.90
  4. Colorado State (38)             4 – 3 – 1                  5 – 5 – 2 *                              5.97 – 6.03
  5. Air Force Academy (40)      3 – 4 – 1                  4 – 7 – 1                                  4.25 – 7.75
  6. New Mexico (46)                 0 – 8                        2 – 10                                      3.42 – 8.58

Full disclosure: we are based in Idaho, so we know more about Boise State than we do other schools. But we see them as the best team in the Group of Five without question; we do think they’re a 60/40 chance to lose at Oklahoma State on September 15th, which will probably doom them not to make a New Year’s Day bowl game. But nobody in the MW will give them any challenge.  

 

Sun Belt Conference (SBC) – East Division

                                                Conference           Overall                      Pythagorean probability

  1. Appalachian State (31)         7 – 1                        10 – 2 *                                   9.53 – 2.47
  2. Troy (33)                               7 – 1                        9 – 3 *                                     8.73 – 3.27
  3. Georgia State (47)               3 – 4 – 1                  3 – 8 – 1                                  3.45 – 8.55
  4. Georgia Southern (46)         2 – 5 – 1                  3 – 8 – 1                                  4.65 – 7.35
  5. Coastal Carolina (49)           1 – 6 – 1                  2 – 9 – 1                                  3.67 – 8.33

Sun Belt Conference (SBC) – West Division

                                                 Conference           Overall                      Pythagorean probability

  1. Arkansas State (31)              8 – 0 +                    10 – 2 *                                   8.63 – 3.37
  2. ULM (LA– Monroe) (44)      3 – 4 – 1                  4 – 7 – 1                                  4.80 – 7.20
  3. Louisiana (UL-Lafayette) (48) 3 – 4 – 1              5 – 6 – 1                                  4.02 – 7.98
  4. South Alabama (47)            2 – 5 – 1                  3 – 8 – 1                                  3.97 – 8.03
  5. Texas State (UT-San Marcos) (52) 0 – 7 – 1      1 – 10 – 1                                 3.35 – 8.65

There is no great set-up for a ten-team conference, it seems. (The Missouri Valley Conference in the FCS begs to differ.) In the Big Twelve, they feel the need to have a title game but no division split. Here in the Sun Belt, there will be divisions for the first time. The problem is that there are only three good teams in the conference – Troy, Appalachian State, and Arkansas State. Since Arkansas State gets freedom from having to face either of the other two challengers until the title game, we see them taking care of business in the week following AppState’s victory over Troy in Week 13.

 

Bowl games

 

We have 73 teams projected as bowl-eligible*, some of those rather optimistic projections. But there are 78 slots to fill in 39 bowl games (plus the national championship game, following the Cotton and Orange Bowls). In the past, the NCAA has fixed this insipid problem (there are just too many bowl games – delete the ten money-losers and move on) with a brilliant solution. Since the teams generally need six wins to be bowl eligible, the NCAA allows the required number of five-win teams to join the bowl parade, selecting them by graduation success rate. So (in our hypothetical case) the five schools with five wins and the best graduation rates get those extra practices, that one extra road trip for its fans and students, and all the perks of going to a bowl game. (And historically, they often win. It could be that they appreciate the opportunity more.)

 

College Football Playoff

 

We see the four top teams as Alabama (12-0, 10.71 Pythagorean wins), Georgia (12-0, 10.30 wins), Clemson (12-0, 10.25 wins), and either Oklahoma (12-0, 8.90), the Penn State/Wisconsin winner of the Big Ten title game, Notre Dame (11-1, 9.03 wins), or Washington (11-1, 9.70 wins), in that order or likelihood. The three southern schools are head and shoulders above the rest of the FBS; the fourth team will depend on which team happens to go undefeated, or look the best towards the best toward the end of the season. Penn State’s supposed “tie” is at Michigan, in a trap game between Iowa and Wisconsin on November 3; if they win that and go undefeated, they could very well be the obvious fourth candidate. If Oklahoma’s the only other undefeated team, they’ll be hard to overlook.

 

As for the New Year’s Six bowl games, you’ll have the rest of that list (OU, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Washington), and our projections are Miami-Florida, Auburn, Ohio State, and the Group of Five representative. Who will that be? The most probable to be undefeated is the winner of the UCF/Memphis games (plural), if the same team wins them both. It might be that Boise State wins in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and runs the table, in which case they’ll be the most obvious candidate. The dark horse is the MAC favorite, Ohio University, which doesn’t face a real likely challenger to deter them from an undefeated season; that lack of challengers will more likely keep them out of a major bowl.

 

Who wins it all?

We credit Alabama with the best rating to start the season, so it’d be hypocritical to pick anyone else but Nick Saban and the Crimson Death Star to take another national title.

 

This week…

There are four games involving FBS teams in Week Zero, playing this Saturday: The one conference game is in the Mountain West, where Colorado State has a 14-point advantage over Hawai’i. The other game between two FBS teams sends Wyoming to New Mexico State as eight-point favorites. Elsewhere, we like Massachusetts by nine over FCS Duquesne, and Rice University, recent visitors to Sydney, are three-point favorites over Prairie View A&M, a historically black college about 50 miles away from the Houston campus.

 

So far this season: (0-0)

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