By: Denery Noone
*Adam Burns of Betonline released an early version of college football win totals for the 2019 season for some of the major programs in college football. Here are some of my predictions for his totals.*
Alabama (11) - Over: This is easy. I mentioned it in my way too early college football playoff predictions, Alabama should roll through their schedule in 2019. If last years' results say anything about their opponents in 2019, they really won't be tested at all throughout the regular season. Over the past few seasons, Alabama has opened the season with difficult non-conference matchups such as Florida State in 2017, USC in 2016, Wisconsin in 2015, Michigan in 2012, and so on. That is not the case in 2019. They face a Duke team that from a talent standpoint has no business sharing a field with the Tide. With the should-have-been Heisman Trophy winner Tua Tagovailoa returning, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and Jaylen Waddle returning, and Najee Harris taking over the reigns at running back, they should have no issue replicating the record-breaking offense from a year ago.
Clemson (11) - Over: As much as I would like to go under here as an avid South Carolina fan and Clemson hater, I simply wouldn't be objective in doing so. They were loaded last year and they will be loaded again this year. The losses of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clelin Ferrell will hurt, but young guys like Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry should step in seamlessly. Getting Trevor Lawrence back also doesn't hurt, seeing that he is the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and maintains tremendous room for improvement from a year ago. Their schedule continues to be such a joke, they truly might win every ACC game by double digits.
Georgia (10.5) - Under: I'm kind of going out on a limb here considering how difficult it has been to best the Dawgs the past two seasons under Kirby Smart. It may be even more bold with Jake Fromm returning for his junior season after boasting a 24-5 record in his first two years with two of those losses against Alabama in the National Championship and SEC Championship games respectively. Georgia has only lost two regular season games with Fromm under center. With that being said, and despite landing exceptional recruiting classes each of the past two seasons, Fromm will have to overcome losing his top three receiving targets. Georgia's schedule is also quietly difficult, with a non conference showdown with Notre Dame, improving Florida and South Carolina teams, and pairings with Auburn and Texas A&M out of the West, there are plenty of opportunities for the Dawgs to slip up here and keep them under the 10.5 total.
Oklahoma (10.5) - Over: Oklahoma has one legitimate test in 2019, October 12th against Texas. Outside of this game, they face the typical underwhelming bunch that makes the up the rest of the Big 12. While Jalen Hurts may struggle to match the Heisman numbers of his two previous predecessors, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, he will still pick apart the porous defenses in that conference. I will continue to pick Texas to win that game until given a reason not to, but they should still roll through the remained of that schedule despite their own defensive deficiencies.
UCF (10) - Push: If you're also exhausted by the UCF storyline, please raise your hand. Please, just stop, I'm tired of hearing about it, and so is everybody else outside of Orlando. They want recognition as one of the nation's best while they beat up on nobody programs claiming the power five schools are scared to schedule them, and then when a team like Florida tries to schedule a '2 for 1' with them, they run away with their tails between their legs. They scheduled Stanford this year who in all reality should have no trouble shutting them down as Mackenzie Milton no longer sits under center. Along with Stanford, I think one of Pitt, Houston, Cincinnati, or South Florida can knock them off leaving them with 10 wins, saving the rest of the nation from the insufferable "UCF deserves to be in the playoff" conversation.
Ohio State (10) - OVER → BEST BET (Part I): Ohio State at 10? Really? Put the house on it. It's absurd Justin Fields received immediate eligibility, but he did, which puts the rest of the BIG 10 at a serious disadvantage. This kid is a serious baller. He possesses J.T. Barrett's running skills and Dwayne Haskins throwing skills all in one, and it would be foolish to believe that Head Coach Ryan Day won't maximize those abilities schematically. There is a serious argument to be made that both Penn State and Michigan got worse with key play makers moving on to the next level, meaning the BIG 10 is Ohio State's for the taking. Over. Over. Over. Pound it.
Texas (9.5) - OVER → BEST BET (Part II): I swear we are going to get to some unders, just not here. Once again, POUND IT. Even if they lose to LSU and Oklahoma, which they probably won't, who else is beating them? Texas is back folks, for real this time. Tom Hermann is building something serious in Austin. Sam Ehlinger was great last year and should only improve on those numbers playing in a conference where defense ceases to exist. With consecutive top-three recruiting classes, the talent is going to be there, especially on the defensive side. They are the best-equipped team in their conference to receive actual production on the defensive side of the ball. Book it.
Michigan (9.5) - Under: This is another really tough one. Michigan was so good last year for so much of the season, but they are losing so many critical members of that defense. With Devin Bush, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary all leaving for the NFL, combined with the fact that they recruited pretty poorly in 2018 for their standards, I have a tough time seeing them get to 10 or 11 wins this season. For BIG 10 standards, they have a pretty brutal schedule. They travel to Wisconsin and Penn State, they get Notre Dame out of conference again this season, although that is in Ann Arbor, and with Justin Fields gaining immediate eligibility, the don't have much room for error at all. With the defense undergoing major transformations, Shea Patterson is going to need to step up and light the world on fire, and if you are relying on Shea Patterson to do such a thing you're in trouble.
Florida (9) - Under: This is another relatively easy pick when it really comes down to it. Florida overachieved tremendously a year ago in Dan Mullen's first season in Gainesville. Victory's against undermanned South Carolina and Florida State teams to end the regular season combined with a lopsided win over a Michigan team more interested in making New Years plans than playing a football game in the Peach Bowl has forced everyone to quickly forget just how bad Felipe Franks was throughout most of the season. There is a reason fans were calling for his usurper, he's not a good quarterback. Their schedule is a gauntlet in 2019. They open with Miami, travel to Baton Rouge and Columbia, S.C., they host Auburn and Florida State, and don't forget about the annual meeting in Jacksonville with Georgia. It is entirely plausible they lose most, if not all of those games in 2019 after enduring major personnel losses, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Notre Dame (9.5) - Under: Talking about gauntlet schedules, Notre Dame's schedule in 2019 is quite possibly the epitome of such a thing. They travel to Georgia, Michigan and Stanford, and host USC, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Louisville. The Irish are going to be tested week in and week out in 2019, which may not be great as they attempt to replace Julien Love, Te'von Coney, Drue Tranquill, and Jerry Tillery. Those four players were the driving force behind Notre Dame's most talented and dominant defense quite possibly this century, a major reason why they finished 12-0. While they remain quite successful on the recruiting trail, they don't replace talent the way in which teams like Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson do, especially defensively. Nobody does, that's why they are the top three teams in the country and have been for several years. Ian Book does return for the Irish, but he must overachieve greatly for them to really contend in 2019. I have them right at nine wins.
LSU (9) - OVER: If my Way too early college football playoff predictions were any indication, it is clear LSU should hit this over with ease. I had them right on the outside looking in in 2019, a position they have grown familiar with over the past few years. However, with one of the best recruiting classes in the country to go along with the return of a productive quarterback for quite possibly the first time this decade, LSU is a serious contender in 2019. They have the opportunity to avenge last year's inexcusable loss to Florida at home in Death Valley, but they do have a few road tests to be wary of. Alabama is obviously the most striking game, due to the fact that they are Alabama and rarely lose in the regular season, almost never at home. The big one for them will be a week two matchup in Austin against the Longhorns. Right now I have Texas as my preseason favorite to come out of the Big 12 into the College Football Playoff, but I do think this is an extremely winnable game for LSU. That game will be a true indicator of whether or not Texas is ready to hang with the big boys. With that being said, outside of those two games, and maybe the trip to Auburn, there really aren't many games LSU won't be favored to win.
USC (8.5) - OVER: This is an interesting one, because while I think they will go over, I still think they will be in the market for a new head coach at the end of the year. It is so clearly obvious Clay Helton is not the right man for the job. He is unprepared, manages the strength and conditioning program horribly, and is an underachiever both in game and on the recruiting trail. With the success USC has had throughout its history, there is no plausible reason why they shouldn't have a top-five recruiting class annually, especially considering how much of a football hotbed the state of California is. USC will get to 9-3 this year mostly because of how good J.T. Daniels is and how explosive and talented his receivers are. Outside of road matchups with Notre Dame, Washington and a home game against Oregon, they should be able to simply outscore their opponents. Expect a monster year from Daniels, making him one of the headliners for the 2021 NFL Draft, and a new coach come this time next year.
Auburn (8) - Push: While I don't think it will be the right decision, this will probably be Gus Malzahn's final year on the plains. Auburn is uber-talented, extremely athletic, but also really young. They landed one of the premier quarterback recruits in the country in 2019 in Bo Nix, the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix, but he is going to be thrust in to action from day one. with Jarrett Stidham heading to the NFL, Nix is the best option under center for the Tigers, and while he is really good, he is also 18 and will inevitably struggle against teams like Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M. Freshman rarely have success in the SEC, and the pressure of playing to save Malzahn's job may simply be too much for the freshman to handle. Eight wins seems just right.
Texas A&M (7.5) - OVER: Seven and a half wins seems rather blasphemous if you ask me. This is a really good football team with a great head coach, one of the best home-field advantages in the country, and surprisingly one of the better quarterbacks in college football. The development that Kellen Mond made from year one to year two under Jimbo Fisher was jarring. His ability to run was always obvious, but his progress throwing the football was arguably the most significant of any quarterback in the country. Add that to a top-five recruiting class and a serious culture change, Texas A&M is going to be tough to beat going forward. The trip to Clemson early in the season will obviously be tough, and playing Alabama, LSU, and Auburn is never easy, but there is no reason this team shouldn't exceed this 7.5 win total.