NCAA Football Early Bird Top Ten

NCAA Football Early Bird Top Ten

Terry Johnson

NCAA Football Early Bird Top Ten


Who’s going to play for the national championship in 2018? Terry Johnson offers his Early Bird Top 10.


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Now that spring practice is underway, every college football fan wants to know how their team will do this fall. With that in mind, I’ll make a way-too-early prediction about the 2018-19 campaign. Here’s a look at what my top 10 would look like if I were voting today:

10. TCU

Yes, the Horned Frogs lose some key performers this fall – including quarterback Kenny Hill – but they welcome back six starters from a defense that ranked fifth nationally against the run last year. They also have a relatively favorable schedule, with a “neutral” game in Arlington against Ohio State, along with home tilts against top contenders Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

9. Virginia Tech

Most media polls think that Miami is the top dog in ACC Coastal, but I think that the Hokies are the team to beat. Tech returns seven starters from an offense that averaged over 400 yards per game last year. Although the defense isn’t nearly as experienced, it’s hard to imagine that a Bud Foster-coached D won’t finish the season in the top 20. If quarterback Josh Jackson continues to improve, this team could make it to the College Football Playoff.

8. Washington

The Huskies had one of the best defenses in the nation last year, ranking eighth in total defense, fourth in run defense, and fourth in yards per play. It was especially tough in Pac-12 play, limiting foes to just 282.7 yards per game and 4.32 yards per carry. On the other side of the ball, UW has plenty of weapons, including Myles Gaskin (1,380 yards, 21 TD’s) and Jake Browning (9,104 career passing yards, 78 TD’s). With so much talent on both sides of the ball, I expect Chris Petersen’s squad to win the Pac-12, and return to the playoffs if it beats Auburn to open the season.

7. Michigan State

As noted in a few other pieces, Sparty knocked Ohio State out of the national championship game in 1998, 2013, and 2015. With 19 starters returning from last year’s 10-3 squad, some experts think that they could do it again this season. After all, MSU only plays four road games this fall, and has the luxury of playing both TTUN and OSU at home. Regardless of where they play, the Spartans will be a tough opponent because they’re tough on both sides on the ball.

6. Wisconsin

I can already hear some of you giving the Badgers the Jimmy McMillian Award since you think they are ranked too darn high. All kidding aside, don’t underestimate Wisconsin. As we saw last season, the Badger D overcame numerous obstacles and injuries, ranking second national in total defense. Considering that Jonathan Taylor (1,977 yards) returns to run behind one of the better offensive lines in the country, UW is a heavy favorite to return to the B1G title game.

5. Alabama

No, that’s not a misprint: I left the Crimson Tide outside of the top four to start the season. Don’t get me wrong: Alabama will field a top 10 defense again in 2018. However, the offense is learning a new offense for the third straight year, and still doesn’t have a clear-cut starter at quarterback. While the Tide could always change my mind – especially with former Illinois OC Mike Locksley calling the plays – I’m not convinced that they’re one of the four best teams in the country right now.

4. Oklahoma

With a little bit of luck (and some better clock management at the end of the first half), the Sooners could have played for the national championship last year. Even with the loss of superstar quarterback Baker Mayfield, I think they have a chance to do so this season. Lincoln Riley is one of the top offensive minds in college football and will have no trouble adapting his attack to take advantage of all of the talent that Kyler Murray brings to the table. That will be more than enough to keep the Sooners in the CFP discussion.

3. Georgia

The Bulldogs nearly snapped their national championship drought last year, dropping a heartbreaker in overtime to Alabama. Despite losing both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, UGA’s ground game will be even better than it was last year, with D’Andre Swift and a plethora of other talented running backs returning. On the other side of the ball, the Dawgs will reload on defense rather than rebuild, giving this squad all of the makings of a championship team. Look for Georgia to repeat as the SEC champion.

2. Ohio State

Because the Selection Committee opted give Alabama a “do over” last year, we will never know whether the Buckeyes would have won the national championship. Regardless, we do know that this season’s team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Assuming OSU escapes a “neutral” site game against TCU in Arlington, TX early in the season, it would earn the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.

1. Clemson

Brent Venables is undoubtedly the best defensive coordinator in college football. Over each of the last three seasons, he’s lost considerable talent up front. Despite these losses, he continues to field some of the more disruptive units in the country. Last year was no different, as the Tiger D led the nation in sacks and finished sixth in TFL. With another top-notch defense leading the way, Clemson will go as far as its quarterback will take them. If Kelly Bryant has a strong second season (or one of the talented newcomers beats him out), the Tigers will find themselves playing in the national championship game for the third time in four seasons.

 

Contact/Follow @BuckeyeWire for continuing coverage, news, notes and opinion for Ohio State.

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