We’re baaaaaack. After a bit of a hiatus, Almost Varsity Sports is finally back in the internet spotlight. While soaking up win after win in our football picks, we brought home a boatload of $$$ for our readers. As usual, looking back through last year we reaffirmed that we know our stuff. So let’s give it a whirl with our 2017-2018 college football preview…
American Athletic Conference
Champion: South Florida (over Houston in AAC Championship)
I’ve been high on South Florida for a few years now, mostly for the HC, but also Quinton Flowers. I just love what Quinton Flowers can do. I see him as a sleeper Heisman player, but most likely not a winner. The schedule is too easy. But that’s where I see this team winning 11 or 12 games. I just can’t find a game they lose on the schedule.
I love Charlie Strong and think his style just didn’t fit in Texas. He’s became a Florida guy with on the Gators staff. With the shakeup in Florida college football, I expect this team to buy-in immediately.
Sleeper Team: SMU
We’ve all seen what Chad Morris can do on offense. A few years under his belt to get his system guys in there will be huge for this team. They stayed close in a bunch of games last year and I see a ball or two bouncing their way.
Sleeper Player: Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
Let’s be honest. Kevin Sumlin f’d this one up for the Aggies. I don’t think that’s a question. A top recruit out of high
school joins up with the OC under Tom Herman, Major Applewhite, who turned Greg Ward Jr into a star.
AAC Game of the Year: Houston at South Florida (11/4)
Atlantic Coast Conference
Champion: Clemson (over Miami in ACC Championship)
It comes down to defense. Clemson will have the best defensive line in the entire country. Christian Wilkins moves back to the interior of the line where he and Dexter Lawrence form a formidable inside tandem. 4 and 5 star young LB recruits back them up. I hear national writers talking up this secondary, but I don’t buy it. They will, however, look great because of that D-Line.
The questions come on offense. Can you replace Watson, Williams, Scott, Gallman, and Leggett? At first glance, no way. However, Clemson has an unbelievable receiving core still and my favorite player in the ACC, RB, Tavien Feaster. Milan Richard has been getting rave reviews in camp at the TE position. Kelly Bryant will have a ton of weapons to utilize and one of the best offensive lines in the country to protect him.
Most importantly, Clemson gets FSU at home. This team will slip up once this year, but wins over FSU and Auburn will put them right back in the final four.
Sleeper Team: Virginia Tech
I love Miami, but I don’t think they fall into the sleeper category, Virginia Tech will be ready to play under 2nd year Miami HC, Justin Fuente. Fuente had the offense over achieve last year and Bud Foster runs one of the most consistent defenses in the country. I expect an early win against WVU on the way to a 9-3 year.
Sleeper Player: Max Browne, QB, Pittsburgh
Max Browne got beat out in LA, but transferred in to take over for NFL QB Nathan Peterman. I expect Browne to show why he was the top QB recruit out of high school a short time ago.
ACC Game of the Year: Florida State at Clemson (11/11)
Big 10 Conference
Champion: Ohio State (over Wisconsin in Big 10 Championship)
Urban Meyer has this one in the bag, right? This team gets Penn State at home and plays Michigan on the road (down on Michigan this year). Other than those two games, I don’t see any road blocks. JT Barrett and Mike Weber lead the attack on offense. Four stud defensive lineman in Sam Hubbard, Nick Bosa, and Tyquan Lewis, and Michael Hill will anchor this defense.
Like I said earlier, the schedule is extremely favorable. They avoid Wisconsin in the crossover games and get a very good Penn State team at home. I think the Buckeyes roll on their way to another playoff berth.
Sleeper Team: Wisconsin
The schedule is a joke. Vegas seems to agree. The total in Vegas is now 10.5. The Big 10 West stinks (I don’t buy Northwestern or PJ Fleck turning around Minnesota – yet).
Sleeper Player: Rodney Smith, RB, Minnesota
Rodney Smith has put up great numbers in his career at Minnesota. PJ Fleck set offensive records at Western Michigan and I expect that to carry over into Minneapolis.
Big 10 Game of the Year: Penn State at Ohio State (10/28)
Big 12 Conference
Champion: Oklahoma State (over Oklahoma in Big 12 Championship)
I’m all over Oklahoma State this year. While in Las Vegas a few months ago I spent an hour in the MGM sportsbook talking up Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and this OSU offense. I cannot begin to tell you how upset I am as national “experts” jump on this Oklahoma State train. It makes me feel unoriginal. But guess what, I was here first (Check the dates of the title and Heisman tickets I have). The defense is a Big 12 defense. In reality, it just needs to make a few stops a game. The problem is the interior. The lines will not be able to stick with the college football blue bloods in the playoff.
Mike Gundy knows this is his chance to shine and T. Boone Pickens will be ready to complain to the university if they can’t win with this team. I see OSU favored in 10 games with two coin flip games. Mason, take us to the promised land.
Sleeper Team: TCU
I went all in on my man Gary Patterson last year and you guessed it; I’m doing it again. 17 returning starters and a great coach – I’ll take it.
Sleeper Player: Kyle Hicks, RB, TCU
I’m high on TCU, but not on QB, Kenny Hill. I think TCU moves the ball on the ground most of the year and utilizes the play action to cover up the average QB play.
Big 12 Game of the Year: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (11/4)
Pacific 12 Conference
Champion: Washington (over USC in PAC 12 Championship)
I just can’t buy the USC hype yet. Washington has 13 returning starters on a team that tasted the College Football playoff last year. Jake Browning is still an elite QB in college football. He showed the lack of ability on the big stage, but the talent is there. I believe he’ll break through this year. The offense will still be potent, despite the loss of speedster, John Ross. Despite losing a few defensive starters to the NFL, the defense will be just as talented. They avoid USC in conference play and could be 11-1 or 12-0 going into the PAC 12 title game.
Sleeper Team: Oregon
I’m just all-in on Willie Taggart. I absolutely loved what he did with USF (and WKU before). He brings a hard-nosed edge to a finesse team that didn’t have grit last year. Expect Oregon to be much better and possibly knock off some heavyweights in the PAC 12 (and Nebraska OOC)
Sleeper Player: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Christian McCaffery out. Bryce Love in. Talented O-line and an offensive that focuses on controlling the game.
PAC 12 Game of the Year: Washington at Stanford (11/10)
Champion: Alabama (over Florida in SEC Championship)
Alabama is simply churning out talent. With a last second loss to Clemson in the national title game last year, Saban will have this team ready. Another year of experience for Jalen Hurts will be huge for confidence. He looked poised and talented in the game against Clemson. The RB core with Scarbrough, Harris, and Emmons will be one of the best in the country. With all the defensive talent Saban continuously brings in, losing 7 starters won’t hurt.
Alabama has another extremely favorable schedule as the SEC West has another below average (for the SEC) year. Expect this team to push for an undefeated year and, regardless of the outcome of the Florida State game, push for another national title.
Sleeper Team: Florida
Florida doesn’t have any questions on defense and that unit will keep the team in games throughout the season. Getting LSU at home and only three true SEC road games leaves Florida a great opportunity to win 9+ games this year and contend for the SEC title.
Sleeper Player: Jake Bentley, QB, South Carolina
Bentley showed flashes in his first year under center. A confident QB with a live arm will help this SC team stay in a bunch of high scoring affairs this year.
SEC Game of the Year: Florida vs Georgia (10/28)
Other Conference Champions:
Conference USA – Western Kentucky
MAC – Toledo
Mountain West – Colorado State
Sun Belt – Appalachian State
Sleeper Final Four Contenders:
1) Oklahoma State
3) South Florida
Top 5 Heisman Trophy Candidates:
1) Sam Darnold
2) Saquon Barkley
3) JT Barrett
4) Baker Mayfield
5) Lamar Jackson
Top 5 Sleeper Heisman Trophy Candidates:
1) Mason Rudolph
2) Derrius Guice
3) Shane Buechele
4) Quinton Flowers
5) Bryce Love
The AVS Final 4:
2) Ohio State
4) Oklahoma State