Give me ten minutes of your time.
I, the Miss Cleo of College Football, have looked up into the heavens and learned what is going to happen this season.
In this final part of the series, I preview the SEC, the Sunbelt, and the independents.
Championship Game: Alabama 35 Georgia 31
1. Georgia: The Bulldogs are laden with talent at every position. D’Andre Swift will be the next great Georgia back. He’s got the Bulldogs’ best offensive line in years clearing a path in front of him. Jake Fromm looks to build on his fantastic freshman campaign. While the Bulldogs lost plenty of defensive talent to the NFL Draft, they still have a cadre of game changers protecting their goal line, most notably corner Deandre Baker.
2. Kentucky: Mark Stoops has taught this bunch how to win. He has steadily upgraded UK’s roster and remade this into a physical football team. The Wildcats’ consecutive 7-6 seasons are proof that they can play in the SEC. In 2018, this club is going to challenge for an SEC East crown. Benny Snell is the best running back in college football. He is a between-the-tackles sledgehammer who will flourish even further this season behind the Wildcats’ experienced, robust offensive line. Kentucky has a veteran secondary and plenty of talent on their defensive front, especially pass rushing specialist Josh Allen. Expect this team to go into the Swamp in Week 2 and knock off the Gators. Expect the Wildcats to ground and pound their way to a 10 win season. Expect Benny Snell to win the Heisman Trophy.
3. Missouri: Barry Odom’s Tigers are going to break through in year three. Heisman Trophy candidate Drew Lock is one of the country’s premier passers and he has the privilege of playing behind an all-veteran offensive line. The Tigers have several talented wide receivers including Johnathan Johnson and Emanuel Hall. Missouri’s defense isn’t exactly the ’85 Bears but they do have a solid cluster of linebackers and battle-tested corners in DeMarcus Acy and Adam Sparks. This is going to be a fun team to watch in 2018. With a few lucky breaks, they could find themselves in the SEC title game.
4. Florida: You got some vacay time in North Florida? After you watch the Gators have a disappointing 2018 season, head on over to the Butterfly Rainforest, Gainesville’s silver medal tourist attraction. That’s where I go to experience exotic bugs, vibrant birds, and cascading waterfalls in a lush tropical garden.
5. South Carolina: “Columbia is as known for its First Friday Block Parties as it is for its football Saturdays”- a dubious claim I came across in the 2018 Richland County Visitor Guide.
6. Tennessee: Next year’s champions will have the post-championship year hangover but without the whole championship part. The bar will be set low after a 4-8 campaign last year. I expect the Vols to post a similar mark in 2018 as Jeremy Pruitt begins to rebuild this program.
7. Vanderbilt: Quarterback Kyle Shurmur is considered a leading Rhodes Scholar candidate.
1. Alabama: I’m a Jalen Hurts guy. He has been a strong starting quarterback for two years. Don’t go looking for hamburgers when you’ve got steak at home.
2. Mississippi State: This year will be the culmination of several years of strong recruiting in Starkville. New head coach Joe Moorhead will bring his flexible offensive model to State, which will benefit its strong starring cast. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will likely end up in the Heisman conversation. He has a fine group of wide receivers (Kenny Mixon, Reggie Todd, and Stephen Guidry) from which to choose and a solid, veteran running back in Aeris Williams. The Bulldogs have four returning starters on the offensive line. On defense, Mississippi State is led by sack machine Montez Sweat and a quintessential War Daddy in Jeffrey Simmons. I see this team finishing the season in the Top 10.
3. LSU: A highly talented team that features Fighter Hayabusa, Giant Panther, Kin Korn Karn, King Slender, Starman, and the Amazon.
4. Auburn: Last week, I saw a guy in a War Eagle t-shirt riding a Harley Davidson trike. His Jordache jeans were beautifully creased and he rode down the highway with a panache like the high, lonesome harmonies of Bon Jovi.
5. Texas A&M: “College Station is as known for its downtown boutique shopping as it is for its college football”- a dubious claim made in the 2018 College Station Visitors Guide.
6. Arkansas: My old friend Chad Morris is in rebuilding mode in Fayetteville. He will figure things out though and have this team back in the hunt within a couple of seasons.
7. Ole Miss: Rebels coach Matt Luke recently won the bronze medal in the FBS coach pillow fighting contest held last evening in Clayton’s dreams. Gold medalist: Barry Odom, Missouri. Silver medalist: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State.
Championship Game: Georgia State 45 Louisiana-Lafayette 42
1. Georgia State: Georgia State wide receiver Penny Hart is the most exciting man in Sports Entertainment. If the Sunbelt was ECW, then Penny Hart would be its “Franchise” Shane Douglas.
2. Appalachian State: Located right on the App State campus, the George M. Holmes Convocation Center is the ideal location for your next corporate event, unless that event is a demolition derby. If you are planning a demolition derby, my cousin’s got this piece of land where anything goes pretty much. He lives in a town that has even fewer rules than Outback Steakhouse.
3. Troy: Hofbrauhaus in Troy, Alabama offers southern hospitality with German style right heart of downtown. Authentic live bands play Bavarian music 7 nights each week. This place has up to 700 seats available for any party or corporate event. How about that?
4. Coastal Carolina: Head coach Joe Moglia returns to a Chanticleers team that looks to improve its win total in year two as an FBS program. Running back Alex James, who had a solid freshman campaign, looks to break out in 2018.
5. Georgia Southern: In the process of rebuilding after a long 2017 season.
1. Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns’ offense averages more yards per play than UConn does per game.
2. Louisiana-Monroe: Caleb Evans is one of college football’s most exciting quarterbacks. He is a genuine dual-threat. The junior signal-caller will guide the Warhawks to their first bowl bid since 2012.
3. Arkansas State: The Red Wolves have been some steady eddies in the Sunbelt Conference but their loss of defensive talent will prevent them from posting a strong season.
4. South Alabama: In Canada, if you have one hit or critically acclaimed record, they turn you into a national treasure. You end up on a list of folkies next to Gordon Lightfoot and you lose your juice. You never do anything again in your career other than be known for being a national treasure.
5. Texas State: Why do people go hiking?
1. Notre Dame: As usual, Notre Dame has a murderer’s row of a schedule but this team is, as usual, loaded with talent. Despite the first round losses on their offensive line, Notre Dame has a beastly group protecting Brandon Wimbush. Guard Alex Bars and center Sam Mustipher are among the best in the country at their positions. Questions about the Irish’s receiving corps and Wimbush’s ability to win with his arm hang over the team as they enter the 2018 season. Notre Dame’s defense is strong and features a pair of All-Americans: defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and cornerback Julian Love.
2. Army: Headed to West Point for a football game? You might as well go into the city and check out the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens. It is America’s largest Victorian glasshouse and it features both seasonal and permanent exhibitions. If you like exotic orchids, this place is your jam. If you like vibrant tropicals, come on board. If you like activities for the whole family, you are in the wrong place. Children are not welcome in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory because they eat too many flowers. You must go instead to the Everett’s Children Adventure Garden, also locate at the New York Botanical Gardens. For $7.99, children can purchase an all-you-can-eat flower package featuring succulents, azaleas, begonias, and selections from last year’s rock garden.
3. Liberty: Expect another winning season out of Turner Gill’s well-financed, well coached program. This will be a team to reckon with in the coming years.
4. New Mexico State: The Antique Gas and Steam Exhibition, which features old time plowing, antique engines, trucks and tractors, and a bunch of other boring things, happens every June in Las Cruces.
5. BYU: Insufficiently caffeinated to focus on Kalani Sitake’s increasingly complex playbook.
6. UMass: Would make the Pioneer Valley a lot handsomer if they hired Bob Diaco as head coach.
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