We’re now about a month out from college football. The 2019 season kicks off as Miami takes on Florida. To celebrate, we laid out some bold predictions for what should be a fun year.
Michigan finally beats Ohio State
If there was one question I’d ask Jim Harbaugh: if not now, when? Ohio State is the betting favorite to win the Big 10, but Michigan has a much more veteran team and should finally take down the Buckeyes. Quarterback Shea Patterson has a new offensive coordinator in Josh Gattis who fits his playstyle a lot more. In short, this is the year!
Harbaugh has been fairly successful overall at Michigan, his job is nowhere near the hot seat, and he should end his winless 0-4 record against the Buckeyes this season. As far as the bowl games are concerned, a win against Ohio State would be a good sign. Although Michigan has gone to three-straight bowl games under Harbaugh, the Wolverines have lost two straight, with their only win coming in Harbaugh’s third year. Dominating the rival Buckeyes will help everyone forget about that.
Utah, Oregon rise toward the top of the Pac-12
It feels like it’s been a while since someone other than USC, UCLA (sometimes), and Stanford stood out in the Pac-12. Just a few years after Oregon and Washington made their BCS playoff debuts, it’s now time for a new Pac-12 star to shine: Utah. Yes, Utah. The Utes. Get to know them. The Utes had the country’s fifth-best run defense, racked up 37 sacks in 2018, and should build upon that performance this season. Their schedule should help matters as well.
Speaking of the Ducks, senior quarterback Justin Herbert should show that he improved from his breakout junior year, He’ll be a Heisman hopeful and Oregon could make a lot of noise in the Pac-12 in 2019. By “improve,” we really mean toss for like 500 more yards, throw maybe five more touchdowns, and push his 59.4 completion percentage north of the 60 percent mark, a very feasible possibility. He would have been one of, if not the best QB in the class had he decided to enter the draft this year. He’ll step up and make Oregon a serious threat while earning a high draft slot this season.
Clemson builds their dynasty with Trevor Lawrence leading the way to a second-straight national title and undefeated season
Clemson has been one of the country’s best teams since Dabo Swinney took over, and have been outstanding this decade. They’ve recorded 10+ win seasons in every year since 2011, including winning two of the last three national titles (2016, 2018), reaching it in three of the last four years. With a face of the franchise-like quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, not only will Clemson’s dominance continue in 2019, but they will repeat as undefeated national champs, the first since Alabama in 2011-12 and just the third team since 1970 to do so.
As for Lawrence, he has proven he can perform in the big games last season as a true freshman, throwing forever 325 yards in both the national semifinal and championship with a 6-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s only going to build on that in 2019 with an even bigger, Heisman-like campaign.
Adrian Martinez makes Nebraska relevant again
Welcome back, Nebraska Cornhuskers! While the last two seasons were forgettable, Nebraska is primed for a breakout season, led by their electric sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez. After their 0-6 start to the season and a switch to the spread offense, Nebraska finished the 2018 campaign 4-2 in their final six games, improving their scoring output from 23.3 points per game in the 0-6 stretch to 36.6 PPG.
Scott Forst also has a solid history of successful second seasons. In his second year at UCF in 2017, he led the Golden Knights to a 13-0 season and a win in the Peach Bowl after going 6-7 in 2016. Expect history to repeat itself. Nebraska will be a steady presence in the Top 25 all season.
Oregon’s Justin Herbert Will Upset Tua, Lawrence for the Heisman
The Heisman race that is supposed to be between both Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Lawrence has a new challenger – Oregon senior Justin Herbert. Herbert had a breakout junior season in Eugene and is expected to improve on a 2018 season that made him a draft darling.
With 10 starters returning to an offense that averaged just over 40 points per game the last two years with him under center, Herbert will improve on his individual numbers from his junior season (3,151 yds, 29 TDs, 59.4% comp), which he should do anyway with another year under his belt, especially as NFL scouts will make their way to Eugene almost weekly. Bumping the completion percentage will be especially important, and a few highlights here and there won’t hurt. A strong showing in the Ducks’ opener against Auburn certainly helps the cause. Herbert won’t run away with it, but he’ll end up posing by season’s end unless Lawrence or Tua shatter passing records in their own respective campaigns.
Rutgers Chris Ash will be the first coach fired this season
Rutgers was terrible last season and hasn’t even been close to good under Chris Ash. The surprising part was that, somehow, he earned a contract extension after going 7-29 through his first three seasons, and took many steps backward in a 1-11 season last year.
If the struggles continue, as they’re expected to, Rutgers may finally move on from Ash and start over once again. There are a good number of other candidates who face a lot of pressure to succeed this season, but a slow Rutgers start will lead directly to Ash’s departure.