I don’t remember my first-ever prediction, much like Michael Jordan probably doesn’t remember his first-ever made jumper. When you’re the best at what you do, the hard work kind of just blends together. While each sport has an offseason, there is no such time off for predicting. It’s a year-round thing, and if there isn’t constant honing of the craft, the craft will move on.
Do you think I would be as great as I am in the fall if I didn’t also predict during the summer? Anybody who tells you they don’t need to work at it is either lying or better at this than I am.
There is a two-fold benefit to year-round predicting. One, I get better at it; and two, you get to know what’s going to happen before it actually does. In other words — like everything else I do — I’m doing this as much for you as I am for me.
We are now 99 days away from the first college football game, which makes this a perfect time to let you know what’s going to happen in a few of the games on the first full weekend of action this year. Warning: There are spoilers ahead. Don’t read any further if you want to be surprised. Actually, it’s over three months away, so there’s no way you’ll remember any of this by then.
1. Three lower-division B1G teams will have an opportunity for big wins, but none of them will come away with a victory.
Rutgers hosts Washington on Friday September 1. The Huskies are going to come into New Jersey ranked in the Top 10. The last time Rutgers beat a Top 10 team was probably under Greg Schiano a decade ago. (I’m very scientific.) Washington quarterback — and Heisman candidate — Jake Browning threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-13 win over Rutgers last year. He might do the same thing again this year. Purdue and new head coach Jeff Brohm will host Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals. It should be a pretty high-scoring affair, but I don’t see the Boiler defense being able to contain Jackson and the rest of the Cardinals. The third game on this list pits two former Urban Meyer assistants against each other, as D.J. Durkin and Maryland travel to Austin, Texas to face Tom Herman and the Longhorns in Herman’s UT debut. There’s no way Tom Herman is losing his first game as the head coach at Texas.
2. Wyoming and Heisman candidate quarterback Josh Allen will win at Iowa.
You may not know Josh Allen, but you will. As a redshirt sophomore for Wyoming last season, he threw for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns (with 15 interceptions) last season. Those numbers are okay, but it’s everything else that the NFL apparently loves about him. He’s big — 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, can obviously throw the ball, but he can also run it as well (523 yards and seven touchdowns). If he had come out last year, he would have likely been a first-round pick. By returning to Wyoming, he’s on track to possibly be a Top 5 pick. Iowa, meanwhile, returns eight starters on defense and will be as well prepared as they can be for somebody like Allen. The problem, however, is that Iowa losses to “lesser” programs early in the season are almost a tradition for the Hawkeyes. In 2016 it was North Dakota State, in 2013 it was Northern Illinois, and in 2012 it was Central Michigan. Directional schools are the worst. The only thing Iowa has going for them in this game is that they aren’t playing Northern Wyoming.
3. J.T. Barrett will account for at least six touchdowns against Indiana.
There are two converging middle fingers here and they’ll both marry into a huge game for J.T. Barrett against the Indiana Hoosiers. The first emphatic bird, obviously, is former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson now being the Ohio State offensive coordinator. While there are still plenty of his own players on the IU roster, there’s going to be a desire to prove some folks in Bloomington wrong. The second middle finger is from Urban Meyer and his team. The Buckeyes have had to hear all spring long from fans and media about how underwhelming J.T. Barrett is. There will be a desire there to show everyone how wrong they are. Assuming, of course, that they were actually wrong.
4. New Notre Dame starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush will emerge as a Heisman candidate after one week.
Notre Dame opens with Temple, so it’s not like they have a huge opponent, but the Owls have done enough over the last five years or so to warrant some eyeballs. Brandon Wimbush is a redshirt sophomore who sat out last year and watched the Irish offense fumble through an absolutely terrible season. As a high school recruit, he was one of the most sought-after quarterbacks in the nation. He’s not the biggest guy — around 6-foot-1, but he’s athletic and has a huge arm. He’ll be tested by an experienced secondary, but the front seven of Temple may have some trouble tracking him down. He should be one of the more entertaining quarterbacks to watch this season.
5. Michigan will beat Florida at JerryWorld.
Yeah, Michigan lost 27 starters on defense, but they’ll still be better on defense than Florida will be on offense. Do you know the last time Florida finished in the Top 50 scoring teams in the nation without Urban Meyer at the helm? 2004. He’s been gone for six years and the best offense the Gators have mustered in that time is No. 56 in 2014. The last two years they have been No. 100 and No. 107, “respectively.” In fact, if you add up the rankings of the Florida offenses in Meyer’s first five years, you’d still come in under 100 (97, to be exact). The Michigan defense, meanwhile, returns defensive coordinator Don Brown, who looks at Florida’s offense and questionable quarterback play and politely asks the waiter to bring him more A-1. Even Meyer’s two worst years — his first and last — had the Gators ranked inside the Top 50 scoring offenses. Maybe it’s time for Florida fans to give him more credit than they have, because it is beginning to look like this iteration of Florida football is the norm, and not the outlier. Meyer and Steve Spurrier, on the other hand, now look like the outliers.
Bonus: Somebody will lose the Alabama vs. Florida State game, but nobody will be hurt by it.
If Florida State loses this one — especially if the game is close — it’s almost seen as half a win because it’s Alabama. If Alabama loses, they just need to win the SEC and everything is cool again. And anyway, the voters know that for somebody to beat the Tide, they have to be really good. So Alabama losing isn’t really even a punishable offense because they must have been beaten by the best team in the nation, right? Sure, some of that is sarcasm, but ultimately you can’t punish the losers of these games too harshly or else it will discourage programs from scheduling them in the future. Nobody wants to be subjected to South Carolina on opening weekend ever again, right? That’s what I thought.