It’s officially August. Fall is approaching, and we all know what that means — football. We’re just a couple weeks away from high school football starting and me roaming the sidelines and feeling like a kid on Christmas. We’re also less than two weeks away from the 2021 college football season that’s set to begin Aug. 28 with an opening Big 10 matchup between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Illinois Fighting Illini.
I now live in SEC country, but I grew up in Big 10 country. Since it would likely take me a very long time to do a full college football preview, I'm going to pick the teams I believe will win each of the Power 5 conferences and explain my reasoning.
The Clemson Tigers lose a lot of key players, one of them being quarterback Trevor Lawrence. But while I believe Clemson is a national championship contender year-in and year-out, I think it has more to do with the ACC conference as a whole. They don't have any really bad teams, but none of them are great. Other than the North Carolina Tar Heels football team with legendary coach Mack Brown and star quarterback Sam Howell, I can't see any other team really competing with the Tigers.
With the recent announcement of the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns moving over to the SEC in 2025, the Big 12 already seems like it’s less important. I picked the Sooners because of quarterback Spencer Rattler. In just his sophomore season, he was 213-317 for 3,031 passing yards with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Iowa State, under head coach Matt Campbell has been on the edge of capturing a Big 12 title, and I don't believe they're that far off. But as long as the Sooners are running the show in the Big 12, and the Big 12 still exists, I don't think much is changing.
Ohio State Buckeyes
People who follow me and who have gotten to know me know my dislike for certain teams, particularly in college football. Ohio State tops that list of teams I dislike by quite a large margin. But I'm well aware that the rest of the teams in the Big 10 are no match for OSU. They replace quarterback Justin Fields, but they bring back stud receivers Chris Olave, Julian Fleming and Garrett Wilson. The starting quarterback hasn't been confirmed yet, but they just got Quinn Ewers, the No. 1-rated quarterback in the country, according to 247sports.com, to reclassify and become a Buckeye this season.
Penn State had a down year last season, and I expect them to bounce back. The Wisconsin Badgers have sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz back, who has a really great arm. Oh, Michigan. I love them, but they just have too many unknowns. The quarterback position, while the starter seems to be settled with Cade McNamara, has just been a position of too many inconsistencies. The coaching staff looks very different from last season, and whether that makes a positive difference remains to be seen.
As a fan of the university and the city of Ann Arbor, if things don't go right this season under Jim Harbaugh, or at least move in the right direction, he likely will be shown the door.
If I were choosing college campuses to win the PAC-12, I would pick the Colorado Buffalos. I have never been, but I follow a lot of college football reporters on social media, and they all seem to rave about it.
If I were picking the team based on stadiums, USC or UCLA would be my choice to win the PAC 12. I have been to the Rose Bowl. If you're a fan of college football, it needs to be on a bucket list.
As far as the team I believe takes home the PAC-12 championship, Oregon gets the nod from me. They have one of the best defensive ends in the country in Kayvon Thibodeaux. They have a senior quarterback with plenty of experience in Anthony Brown, who began his career at Boston College.
They have a new offensive coordinator in Joe Moorehead, who has had success everywhere he has been. The Ducks face the Buckeyes in Week 2 of the college football season, but fortunately for them, that's not a conference game.
Alabama Crimson Tide
I suppose none of the picks have been shockers, so this one will be even less of a shock. I'm not picking a national champion at this time, but if I were to pick one, it would be the Crimson Tide. They replace Mac Jones with Bryce Young, who according to many college football reporters is a star.
They lose a lot at the receiver position with Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith being replaced, but they bring John Metchie III back, who averaged 16.7 yards per catch last season. He had six touchdowns and a total of 916 yards.
He was the third receiver on the depth chart, but on paper, they all could have been number ones. Henry To'o To'o, a transfer from Tennessee, comes in at linebacker and may have been one of the best linebackers in the country last year. The rich get richer. Oh, and by the way, Nick Saban signed an 8-year extension.
—Devlin can be reached at email@example.com