When it comes to this season’s national title race in college football, don’t expect any surprises.
My projections for the Power Five conference races in 2022.
Championship: Clemson (11-2) over Miami (10-3)
*I’ll include Notre Dame here. I put the Fighting Irish at 9-3 when all is said and done.
*Clemson seems likely to hit a malaise in the near future with the brain drain from the Tigers coaching staff. I still see Dabo Swinney’s team as the class of the ACC for now. CU will have possibly the best defense in the country, and the coaches should have a better handle on how to manage the quarterback position.
*I’m not a huge buyer on Mario Cristobal, but he’s inheriting a solid roster and a promising QB in Tyler Van Dyke. Let’s roll with the Hurricanes to win the Coastal division.
*When is Florida State going get out of this cul-de-sac?
*Scott Satterfield seems to be walking on thin ice in Louisville, but I see the Cardinals outperforming expectations. Add in UL’s surprising strength on the recruiting trail at the moment, and he should get another year at the helm.
*Geoff Collins? He’ll make a good defensive coordinator somewhere next year.
*My number for North Carolina caught me by surprise. I’ll take plus odds on the Tar Heels going over 7.5 wins this season.
Championship: Ohio State (13-0) over Iowa (9-4)
*New coordinator Jim Knowles probably isn’t transforming Ohio State’s defense into a top unit right away. It won’t make a difference in 2022 – the offense is just that good. Look for the Buckeyes to put a particularly gnarly beating on Michigan this year after suffering last year’s indignity.
*Sparty comes back to earth a bit.
*I’ve got Iowa taking down Wisconsin in Iowa City this season, giving the Hawkeyes the tiebreaker in the West division.
*That’s correct: Nebraska goes undefeated out of conference. You know what that means.
Championship: Oklahoma (11-2) over Texas (8-5)
*I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had OU lined at about 9.7 wins this year, which means a 9-3 or 10-2 record. I went with the higher number after looking at how the schedule sets up – drawing Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State in Norman gives Brent Venables a forgiving introduction as a head coach.
The bad news is that the Sooners will play two teams in their first six games that desperately need wins over OU. Nebraska’s Scott Frost has some of the most tenuous job security of any coach in the country. Beating NU’s former rival would send the Cornhuskers into conference play with the confidence needed to get back on track.
Meanwhile, the Red River rivals have been playing such close games in recent years that Texas will eventually get another W soon enough. I suspect the Longhorns bring home the Golden Hat from Dallas, setting the stage for the Sooners to get revenge at the end of the season in the conference title game.
*Not sure how much longer Neal Brown will get with the Mountaineers if this keeps up.
Championship: Utah (12-1) over Oregon (10-2)
*Even with the Pac-12 scrapping their divisions this season, I still see a North-South matchup for the league crown. The Ducks will end the Utes’ undefeated season on Nov. 19 in Eugene. Just like the Big 12, however, Utah will settle the score a couple weeks later in the Pac-12 title game.
*Bookmakers must love the cash rolling in on USC futures for the national championship. Frankly, 9-3 for the Trojans actually feels a little optimistic. The Pac-12 just isn’t that strong, though.
*UCLA, on the other hand… The Bruins may be my favorite dark horse in any conference race this year. Put another way, if Chip Kelly’s team doesn’t build on the success of last year’s 8-4 campaign, it may never happen.
*Washington made a great hire in nabbing Kalen DeBoer from Fresno State. Honestly, though, just about anyone could top Jimmy Lake’s short stint with the Huskies.
Championship: Alabama (13-0) over Georgia (12-1)
*The Crimson Tide will be angling for a defensive renaissance this year. The O will allow Alabama to run most of its opponents off the field during the regular season, but getting the D right will be imperative for the offseason.
*We can officially say Bama and Georgia have reached an entirely different level in college football, along with Ohio State. The Bulldogs can’t match the Tide behind center, which gives Alabama the nod for the conference crown. If UGA gets a second shot at the Tide, the outcome could be different. (Essentially, a replay of the 2021 season.)
*LSU is the shakiest projection here, in my opinion. The Bayou Bengals hired a great coach, even if Brian Kelly sticks out like a sore thumb around Baton Rouge. The program has gone through so much upheaval since winning the national championship that a throwaway season shouldn’t shock anyone. Eight wins still seems doable to me.
*I’d love to not buy into the hype on Tennessee, a team everyone seems to be talking about right now. The schedule just feels like it sets up well for the Volunteers, including an open date in early October before taking on an LSU squad getting acclimated to a new coaching staff.
College Football Playoff
Peach Bowl: No. 1 Alabama over No. 4 Utah
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State over No. 3 Georgia
Championship: No. 1 Alabama over No. 2 Ohio State
Yes, Utah is something a little different. This is still so, so boring.