By Ron Johnson
So last year, we had yet another SEC team claim the National Championship, proving without a doubt that the SEC is the most dominant conference in the country. Everyone else had figured this out, even other conferences figured that out. There is a reason why Texas and Oklahoma are coming to the party.
So why is it that college football ‘experts’ are turning into desperate Dallas Cowboys fans???
Despite the proven dominance of Georgia last season, which included a straight up mugging on the TCU Horned Frogs, the Bulldogs are still not getting the respect they deserve from those very same ‘experts’ who are still trying to sing the praises of Ohio State. Granted, the Buckeyes showed some major promise in their clash with the Bulldogs in last January’s Peach Bowl, losing 42-41. But eventually everyone has to start eyeing other options when it comes to the Big Ten Conference.
End of Four; Start of 12
This upcoming college football season will feature a final curtain call for some, but it will also feature a curtain call to the old CFP format of the Final Four. After getting approved prior to the National Championship, this year will mark the end of four as the CFP will be expanded starting in 2024 to 12 teams. This would mean that teams who fell short over the years and who rightfully deserved a shot at the National Championship will no longer have any excuses if they fall short again.
Big 14 Becoming Big 12 Again
This college football season will not only mark the end of the CFP Final Four Format, but it will also mark the final season in the Big XII Conference for Texas and Oklahoma. Effective at the start of the 2024 campaign, the Longhorns and Sooners will take residence with the one conference that has beaten, victimize and conquered them for decades: The SEC.
At its current setup, the conference has 14 teams all vying for the conference title and potential berth in the College Football Playoff. “For the first time since the Conference went to a divisionless format, Texas was picked atop the Conference’s 2023 preseason poll as voted on by media representatives.” (Big 12 Sports, 2023)
While Texas and Oklahoma may be leaving the conference after the upcoming season, they are picked to finish first and second respectively. As for last year’s runner up, TCU is picked to finish fourth in a stacked field of 14 teams. According to Athlon Sports, “The Horned Frogs must replaced a handful of key contributors on offense, including quarterback Max Duggan, running back Kendre Miller and receiver Quentin Johnston.” (Lassan, 2023)
Is the Pac-12 Heading Back to Primetime?
It may look like a play on words, but this upcoming season promises (on paper at least) to be one of the most exciting seasons in the Pac-12 Conference. While Utah is eyeing a three-peat as conference champion, there are a plethora of teams that can be listed as true title contenders heading into the season.
Straight out the gate, USC gets the pick for top team in the conference followed by Washington, Utah, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA. The bottom half of the 12 is led by a surprising Washington State Cougars team that has shed any remnants of the old coaching staff and adopted to the coaching style of second year coach Jake Dickert.
And while USC may get the fanfare, the most surprising pick off this list is Colorado at 11th in the conference. It may because the Buffs have to adapt to the coaching style of rookie head coach Deion Sanders. While the Buffs may be slated to finish 3-9 or 4-8 in Prime’s first year, they do provide the most intrigue due in large part to a never-ending transfer portal that has seen players come and go from the program.
Where’s the love for the ACC?
When I was viewing the ocean of college football predictions, there was at least power five conference that was not getting much love in regards to the College Football Playoff. It is hard to believe that the ACC, who once boasted a few very formidable teams like Notre Dame and Clemson, are now considered an afterthought in discussion of the Playoff.
There were some significant changes to the conference this season though: “With the two-division setup gone, the top two teams will now play for the ACC Championship.” (Lassan, ACC Football 2023 Predictions, 2023)
While Clemson has been the team to beat in the conference for the past few years, it does appear that a new champion is set to be crowned this year. The irony is that while this program is known for its rowdy fans, there will be no Bobby Bowden sighting on the sideline as Mike Norvell looks primed and ready to unseat Clemson from atop the ACC. This may explain why they are picked as the team to win the conference with Clemson falling to number two.
Did we forget to mention that there are two well-known basketball programs in their top five in the form of The Tobacco Road Rivalry (North Carolina and Duke)?
Big Ten Aims to Drop the Mic in 2023
There have been many pretenders over the years out of the Big Ten Conference. But no one could have predicted the cluster known as last season. The College Football Playoff ended with four teams last season, and out of those four teams, two represented the Big Ten Conference: Ohio State and Michigan.
What is even better is that those two teams will meet up next season with potentially the Big Ten Title and CFP Berth on the line. “The race to win the Big Ten Conference in the 2023 season starts where it ended the last two years.” (Lassan, Big Ten Football 2023 Predictions, 2023) While other conferences are abandoning the divisions, the Big Ten is fully intending to keep it going into the upcoming season.
It appears Michigan and Ohio State are picked to finish first and second in the East with Wisconsin and Iowa finish one and two in the West. Either way, expect fireworks out of this conference, but enough with stating that this is ‘Ohio State’s year’ when they still have to figure out the mystery of why the teams in this conference seem to always fall short against our final Power 5 Conference.
Will the SEC continue to be in G.O.D. (Greatness On a Different Level) Mode?
“The path to a 2023 college football national championship and SEC title once again runs through Athens.” (Lassan, SEC Football 2023 Predictions, 2023) To say the least, all the pressure will fall on Georgia this upcoming season. After winning back-to-back championships, Georgia looks to run it back for a third. Kirby Smart has his Bulldogs playing for more than just a championship as they will also be playing for their fallen fellow Bulldogs killed after last year’s championship run.
In its final season with the divisions, the SEC looks to continue the dominance that Georgia and Alabama have displayed over the years. Tennessee is getting back to its winning ways, while Alabama and LSU are tops in a West Division that could once again come down to the final week of the season.
The most intriguing team this season has to be Texas A&M. After being the first Big XII team to make the move to the SEC, the Aggies have been a threat to any and all teams in the conference eyeing a CFP berth. After falling short a few years ago and failing to launch last season, the Aggies believe they have the winning formula in the form of two gurus looking to continue repairing their on and off field reputations:
Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino. Now Petrino has not really been muttered in a while in the college football world in a positive light due to his shenanigans off the field as well as on it (Louisville, Arkansas, Atlanta Falcons, etc.).
So what better way to start repairing your reputation than by joining up with the guy who brought us such great NFL talent as…Jameis Winston? 12th Man, get your whiskey ready. It might be a long season for you guys.
Over the next few weeks, we will be previewing the conferences outside of the Power 5 Conferences, making bold predictions about the College Football Playoff Semifinals and even finding out who will walk away with the Heisman Trophy at season’s end.