ESPN Coastal’s 2019 College Football Predictions
The talking is over. The pads are on. College football is here.
On August 24th, when Miami and Florida meet in Orlando for the Camping World Kickoff, the race for the College Football Playoff will be on. The predominant programs, Alabama and Clemson, are still the poll leaders. Ask most folks and they’ll tell you that every other team will be fighting for the 3rd and 4th spots. Can teams inside of Bama and Clemson’s own divisions shake up the entire race?
Trevor Lawrence, fresh off a 347 yard – 3 touchdown National Championship Game, is the Heisman favorite. Could his teammate Travis Etienne push him for the honor?
We put these questions down, and got the thoughts of our ESPNCoastal.com team.
Kevin Thomas – Host of Three & Out
Ben Troupe – Co-host of Three & Out
Jim Johnson – Editor of SouthernPigskin.com
Christian Goeckel – Editor ESPN Coastal
PJ Zucco – Host of High School First Look
Cody Queen – NFL Writer ESPN Coastal
What teams are the biggest threats to Georgia and Alabama in the SEC?
BJ – The depth of the league is what stands as a very real macro-challenge to the conference heavyweights. What makes the SEC the SEC is that every week is a challenge; correspondingly, there are enough teams who meet the minimum talent threshold to stay in the mix should a slip-up happen. LSU and Texas A&M out west and Florida and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Missouri, could be the beneficiaries of potential upsets. There are clear and obvious favorites atop each and division and, though I wouldn’t expect great volatility, the league’s infrastracture is always capable of producing an outlier.
Kevin – Texas A&M – They play both Georgia and Alabama. So while the Aggies may not quite have the depth to win the SEC, they can directly affect who does. If not for the brutal top to bottom schedule, the Aggies may have been a pick to win the West and are certainly building in that direction.
Ben – The biggest threat to both Georgia and Bama is Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M
Jim – No one. I like Florida’s long term outlook, but a small step back this season wouldn’t be a surprise. I don’t trust LSU’s offense, either. Ed Orgeron preached at SEC Media Days that they wanted to be 50-50, but he said the same thing last year and they were about 60-40 run-pass. Simply changing their offensive alignment, moving to a spread, does not dictate philosophical change. Even as good as their receiving corps is, it’s going to be hard to take carries away from that aforementioned group of running backs, and it’s not like they haven’t had plenty of talented pass catchers before. The problem has always been the quarterback play. They’re saying all the right things, but they always say all the right things. They say they believe in Joe Burrow, but actions speak louder than words. Maybe I’m jaded, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Auburn will have a first year starter at quarterback and Texas A&M is getting punched in the face by its schedule, so no one.
Christian – This completely comes down to the schedule with me. Alabama and Georgia are better than every team they’ll play, until they eventually meet in Atlanta. LSU and Texas A&M are the trendy picks, and both teams can beat either of these teams on any given Saturday, but neither have the depth to truly challenge all season. For those reasons, give me Florida. The Gators can absolutely beat the Dawgs in Jacksonville, and if they can hold on with a tie-breaker over Georgia, they’d have a chance against Bama.
PJ – Texas A&M. (But really, we all know it’s Mississippi State)
Cody – Florida.
Can anyone threaten Clemson in the ACC?
BJ – For a program that has made four straight College Football Playoff appearances and won 58 of 62 games overall, complacency is the only challenger at this point. The Tigers defeated each one of their final ten opponents by at least 20 points last season, Alabama included. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and receiver Justyn Ross all back, among others, no league team, arguably no team nationally, has the offensive talent that Clemson does. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are on an absolute roll, a pace that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Kevin – Most may say it’s Syracuse, as the Tigers have lost to the Orange in the recent past and dodged some near losses at the hands of the Orange. In 2019, the only thing I see derailing the Tigers is a complacent attitude as they are the overwhelming favorite to win the league and not one veteran player on the roster knows anything other than ACC titles and playoffs. While this may be the biggest threat, it too doesn’t seem to be a big one.
Ben – Syracuse. More realistically, injuries.
Jim – Also no one. Virginia if you’re making me choose, but I’m not sure that an all-star team comprised of the rest of the ACC would beat the Tigers.
Christian – Syracuse is the last ACC team to beat Clemson, taking down the Tigers back in 2017. Clemson makes the trip back up to the Carrier Dome, and will be double digit favorites, but this matchup could be tricky. For one, it comes just seven days following a home game against a Texas A&M team that took the Tigers down to the wire in 2018. If the Orange can somehow upset Clemson, and only lose one conference game, they’ll represent the Atlantic in the ACC Championship.
PJ – Miami, but really we know it’s not even a team, it’s injuries.
Cody – If I have to pick a team, it would be Syracuse.
BJ – Alabama
Kevin – Alabama
Ben – Alabama
Jim – Alabama
Christian – Georgia
PJ – Alabama
Cody – Alabama
Upset watch: What potential upset has the best chance to happen?
BJ – Vanderbilt over a ranked opponent (Georgia, LSU, Florida, Missouri)
Kevin – Oct 12th – Alabama @ Texas A&M. Aggies have 2 weeks to prepare for Saban and the Tide.
Ben – Georgia at Vanderbilt to start the season.
Jim – Auburn over Georgia. The Bulldogs have lost two regular season games the last two years, the only two road games they’ve played in truly hostile environments during that stretch. With the rest of Georgia’s most challenging games taking place in Athens, if they’re going to lose this season, it’ll be at Auburn.
Christian – Week 3 – Michigan at Wisconsin. Jim Harbaugh is 8-10 against ranked opponents at Michigan. Following a home game against Army (potential upset too?), the Wolverines head to Camp Randall for a noon kick against 2,000-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin. Everyone is pointing at the Ohio State game at the end of the season, but Michigan would be fortunate to leave Wisconsin unscathed.
PJ – Ohio State @ Nebraska (Keeps Ohio State out of playoff)
Cody – Texas actually winning the BIG 12 Championship Game.
Regular Season Win Totals: Over/Under
BJ – Trevor Lawrence – Clemson
Kevin – Jalen Hurts – Oklahoma
Ben – Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama
Jim – Justin Fields – Ohio State
Christian – Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama
PJ – Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama
Cody – Justin Herbert – Oregon
Game of the Year
BJ – Texas A&M at Clemson
Kevin – Ohio State at Michigan
Ben – LSU at Alabama
Jim – Ohio State at Michigan
Christian – Alabama at Texas A&M
PJ – Texas – Oklahoma
Cody – Florida – Georgia
College Football Playoff Picks
* – National Champion
BJ – Alabama*, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma
Kevin – Alabama*, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma
Ben – Alabama*, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma
Jim – Alabama*, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma (Georgia should get in as one of the four best teams, but won’t because the committee is disingenuous about their goal)
Christian – Georgia*, Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama
PJ – Clemson*, Alabama, Texas, Oregon
Cody – Alabama*, Clemson, Ohio State, Texas