2018 College Football Predictions: Champions, Cellar-Dwellers, and CFP
Rounding up the winners and losers.
The Bracket Yard’s 2018 college football predictions will answer not only the winners of each conference, but the big losers.
They say that if you ain’t first, you’re last, but we will predict who will actually be last. That seems like a lot of pressure and ten opportunities to open ourselves up to November ridicule. Whatever, we do what we want.
From the Atlantic (Coast Conference) to the Pacific (12), someone is going to hoist the trophy at the end of the regular season. A few of them will also make the College Football Playoff. You already know how we feel about each conference as the 2018 season launches. Now, armed with our best football intuition (or, at least, our best football intuition *right now*), submitted for your approval are our rash conclusions about a season which has yet to begin.
Finally, we will give in just this once and make our 2018 College Football Playoff predictions. If we get one of the four correct (Alabama, most likely), it would be an achievement.
2018 College Football Predictions: American Athletic Conference
Is UCF, otherwise known as the University of Central Florida, still the best team in the American?
Scott Frost left a good team behind for Josh Heupel, though probably not another “national championship” sort of season lies in store. For things to come together the way they did for the Knights last season was extraordinary. This is not to say it is irreproducible, but it’s very difficult to go 13-0 again when your school isn’t located in Tuscaloosa, AL. UCF is across the board a strong contender within the AAC, and should enter as the favorites to win it again. The Knights will probably not have serious competition in the AAC East, though South Florida could surprise and Temple is not a bad team. Hey, we all thought USF was going to win last year.
Memphis is another team that will compete for the title, but may come up short of what UCF accomplishes. The AAC West isn’t quite theirs for the taking, because Navy and Houston both looks better than average, but to me the Tigers have the slim edge as the team to beat. When UCF and Memphis play one another on October 13, that could decide a few things about the complexion of the American this season. If UCF repeats, they would be the first team to do so in the AAC.
When it comes to picking the worst team, we have options. East Carolina was awful last year with the worst defense by far; UConn was the second-worst team. Those are the two main challengers for AAC ignominy in 2018. We have no reason to believe either one has improved, or will improve. ECU, however, has a coach on the hot seat who may manage to beat UConn in the decisive game. Just like the Four Horsemen could appear over Greenville, NC (or East Hartford, CT). Maybe it will be a tie. Our 2018 college football predictions aren’t that specific.
2018 AAC Champion Prediction: UCF Knights
2018 AAC Worst Team Prediction: Connecticut Huskies
2018 College Football Predictions: Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC is Clemson’s conference to lose, until it isn’t. They’ve been pushed in recent past years (with a notable exception of last season) by Florida State. It’s hard to contend for a division and conference title when your team quits in Week 1, now isn’t it. Last season, it was Miami that shot out of a proverbial football cannon and made a run at the Atlantic Coast Conference crown, but even they fell short.
Clemson looks as good as it has each of the last few years. For them to NOT contend for the College Football Playoff would be a surprise. Miami seems as though it’s a double-digit win team again in 2018. Florida State is a wild card: they should have been a lot better than they actually were in 2017, and perpetually have the talent to win 9-10 games. Some college football pundits like NC State, but I believe llike most that they are running for second place. Likewise, Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division is doing the same unless Miami hits a slump. Schools like Boston College and Georgia Tech could have decent years, but are not looking like divisional contenders. Getting to first place in an ACC division requires several massive achievements in succession, in addition to beating all (not some) of the pip squeaks on the schedule.
As for ACC flop contenders in 2018, it’s very easy to pick on Syracuse. The case is obvious: they were the worst team in the ACC Atlantic last year and do not appear to have leapt forward. Look at the other teams in their Atlantic Division. Clemson is great; Florida State and NC State can be good; Boston College is trending up with AJ Dillon; Wake Forest isn’t the pushover they used to be. The only other team we’ve yet to mention in the Atlantic is Louisville, sans Lamar Jackson and sans defense. I would not put it past them to have a middling sort of year, but the worst in the ACC? That would be a stretch.
On the Coastal side, Virginia is our mark for biggest 2018 dud. Bronco Mendenhall will be in some trouble if the Hoos don’t get their shinola together this year. The 2017 college football season was a titanic cluster for Virginia, and while I’m sure they hope 2018 will be different, that requires winning football games, which they demonstrated last season they cannot. The 2018 college football predictions do not include projecting which coaches will get fired, though it’s an ambitious project for future seasons.
2018 ACC Champion Prediction: Clemson Tigers
2018 ACC Worst Team Prediction: Syracuse Orange