2016 College Football Predictions for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC
by Bob, College and Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
The time is upon us! The 2016 College Football Season is just a couple of weeks away. We saw the Alabama Crimson Tide win yet another title last year when they took down the Clemson Tigers in the title game. Will Nick Saban and company win yet another championship, or will a new team be the kings of the land come early January?
Here is my breakdown for each of the power five conferences as well as my pick to head to the final four and title game.
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE (ACC)
ODDS TO WIN THE ACC CHAMPIONSHIP:
Many experts believe that the ACC is a two team race between the Clemson Tigers and Florida State Seminoles. Clemson won the ACC title last year and went all the way to the title game before coming up just short to Alabama. The key to this season, just like last season, is the Clemson/FSU game which will take place on Saturday, October 29th, in Tallahassee. The winner of this game will more likely win the Atlantic Division and move on to the conference title game. The rest of the Atlantic Division is pretty much a bunch of middle of the road teams just hoping to play spoiler in the division. With the exception of the Louisville Cardinals, there is no other team that I can even pick to be a dark horse. As for the winner of this division, I think Clemson was a flash in the pan. Don't get me wrong, the Tigers are still a great team that I believe will be ranked in the top 10 all season, but when the smoke clears, I think the Florida State Seminoles will be the team representing the Atlantic Division in the ACC title game.
On the other side of the ACC, in the Coastal Division, the North Carolina Tar Heels appear to again be the team to beat. UNC won the Coastal last season and then lost to Clemson in the ACC title game. This division, just like the Atlantic appears to be a two team race also, but I do not think the two teams picked to be atop the Atlantic are that close. UNC and Miami are in my opinion the two best teams in this division, but Miami is entering a new coaching regime. This could be either good or bad…you never know. Mark Richt, who was fired from the University of Georgia after years of failing to meet the fans expectations is now home and coaching his alma mater. Miami has loads of talent but are they as talented as North Carolina? Also, how will they react to an entirely new staff? I like North Carolina to win this division. As for the rest of the Coastal Division, there is always that threat of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech making some noise, or at least pulling off some wins that could spoil it for a top contender. Again, I still like North Carolina to win this division, but there are a few teams that I truly think could make a move to play for the title.
So, my official prediction for the ACC Title game is Florida State and North Carolina. If this becomes the match up for the championship, I like the Seminoles to not only beat UNC, but I believe that the ACC title and a solid overall record will be enough to boost Florida State into the Final Four for the College Football National Championship.
BIG TEN CONFERENCE (Big 10)
ODDS TO WIN THE BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP:
The Big Ten is always a very competitive conference. With some of the most celebrated programs in the history of college football, this conference gives us not only some great rivalries, but in the last few seasons, a Big Ten team has been in contention for a national title all the way til the bitter end. Just two seasons ago, the Ohio State Buckeyes won the very first ever College Football Playoff, beating Oregon for the title. Last season, Michigan State was the representative in the Final Four, but they were dominated by the eventual national champion, Alabama.
Coming into this season, Ohio State and Michigan are who most experts are picking to be the teams to beat. Ohio State is the obvious pick seeing as how they have been fairly dominant over the last decade or so in the conference, but Michigan? Yeah, Michigan is talented and yes, Jim Harbaugh has them on the map, but isn't it a tad too early to be picking them to win the Big Ten? Lets take a closer look at the conference and pick our champ.
The Big Ten East Division is by far one of the best divisions in college football top to bottom. With Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State all in the same division, you could have two of the top three teams in the entire conference not even qualify for the title game. I do believe the conference committee should consider some sort of realignment because right now, this is just insane.
Ohio State returns a lot of talent, but they also lose a ton. Ezekiel Elliott is gone from the running back position, and quarterback JT Barrett will also need to get on rhythm with his young receiving corps seeing as how the Buckeyes have also lost Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, and Jalin Marshall, who accounted for 17 of Ohio State's 19 touchdown catches in 2015. Big shoes to fill! The Ohio State defense will be stout, but can this young offense withstand the pressure and stress of the Big Ten East schedule? Time will tell.
As for the other two true contenders in the Big Ten East, Michigan and Michigan State, both teams come in with high expectations and both believe they can and will win this division and make a college football playoff. Michigan State must play better offensively if they plan to make another run and not only that, their secondary on the defensive side of the ball needs to tighten up as well. The schedule plays into their favor this season but trust me, Michigan is out for revenge after what could have been the biggest and most unlikely of wins in the history of football. I like this Michigan State team, but I am not sure they have the fire power to make it all the way to the top of the division.
And now…The Michigan Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh has these guys believing they are one of the top teams in the nation. Not only does his team believe it, most of the experts and media agree. Michigan is preseason top five in many of the polls. I am not saying that they aren't, but I do think the hype is a little much right now, but hey, maybe they can prove to be that good. The key to this season for Michigan is to continue playing good defense. They are already a good unit, and now, Don Brown, will be coming over to make them even better.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Wolverines must and I repeat, must run the ball better. Many times last season, the Michigan run game was held under 100 yards and this could be the cause of a defeat, especially against the other big boys of the Big Ten. If the Wolverines can get a run game going and keep up the hard-nosed defense, this could be a very special year for them.
Well, for my prediction... As much as I like all three of these teams, I have to go with the horse that usually wins the race. I am taking Ohio State to somehow and some way be the representative of the Big Ten East at the end of the season. I do not think any of these teams escape unbeaten, but I like the Buckeyes to be the last man standing from the Eastern Division.
Whew…that was a lot of talk about one division, well, now to the Western Division. The West is typically the weaker of the two divisions and usually it comes down to Wisconsin, Iowa, or Nebraska. Iowa was the champ last season and they nearly made a run to the Final Four of college football before losing to the Spartans of Michigan State in the Big Ten Title Game. This Iowa team will not be as good. I really like Wisconsin to be the team to beat in 2016. The Badgers do have a lot of question marks this season however. A new defensive coordinator, an unproven passing game, and a run game that has the challenge to continue the success its had over the years. With all that said, I just like this team. It will not be pretty, I could see Wisconsin going 9-3 in 2016 yet still winning the division.
Now, the Big Ten Title game. Ohio State vs Wisconsin. Ohio State wins and wins big. I like the Buckeyes to win this conference but I think it will be a waiting game to see if they are one of the four teams called to be in the playoff.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE (Big 12)
ODDS TO WIN THE BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP:
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The Big 12 will play one final season without a conference championship game, but in 2017, the game will come back for the first time since 2010. The conference has taken a lot of heat and gets little love when it comes to choosing a team for the Final Four due to the lack of a title game. Oklahoma is the defending champion of the conference and they got all the way to the college playoff last season before losing to Clemson in the semi finals. Experts again believe that the Sooners are the team to beat in the Big 12 and many believe this team can make another run to the playoff and potentially a national title game. The key to Oklahoma's season will depend on the play of the defensive front which will have some new faces. These kids must find a way to pressure the opposing quarterbacks in the pass-happy Big 12. The offense of Oklahoma is in good hands with Baker Mayfield leading the charge and Samaje Perine carrying the load at running back. The offense should not miss a beat, but in the Big 12, EVERYONE can score...Oklahoma needs to find a way to slow down the rest.
As it appears that Oklahoma is the clear cut favorite to again win the conference, TCU and Oklahoma State are not far behind. TCU has a lot of key parts to replace including quarterback, Trevone Boykin. It looks as if Kenny Hill will take over as the Horned Frogs quarterback. Hill is a transfer from Texas A&M who at times looked like a Heisman type talent, but his play was diminished and his time at in A&M ended when he decided to walk away. The key games on the Horned Frogs schedule this season is at home against Oklahoma, who we already determined is the Vegas odds favorite to win the whole conference and then a game at Baylor in November. If TCU can handle business in the games they "should win," and get through one or two of the games I just mentioned, they could potentially pull it off and get themselves a Big 12 title.
Other than Oklahoma and TCU, Oklahoma State has a tiny shot to make a run but in my opinion they do not have the fire power to make it through the entire schedule. The Cowboys have games in 2016 against Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, and then a tough road game in Manhattan against Kansas State. I just see no way that the Oklahoma State Cowboys get through this season with less than two or three conference losses.
Okay, on to the pick. I have determined that the Sooners, Horned Frogs, and Cowboys are the only three teams that could potentially win the Big 12. My pick will be the fave....Oklahoma. I do not think Oklahoma will go unbeaten, but I think they finish the season 11-1 or 10-2 but win the right games and are in line to take home the conference title when its all said and done.
PAC-12 CONFERENCE (Pac-12)
ODDS TO WIN THE PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP:
I believe that along with the SEC which we will discuss last, the Pac-12 could give us one of the most exciting championship races all season. There are four or five teams that have the potential to win the Pac-12 and I truly see no true clear cut favorite to win it. Vegas has Stanford as the slight favorite over UCLA, but one thing we know about the Pac-12, it is full of scoring and upsets. This conference is truly anyone's for the taking.
Stanford will come into 2016 as the conference defending champ and they have done so in three of the last five seasons. The Cardinal may have the best player in the country in Christian McCaffrey. Last season, McCaffrey rushed for over 2,000 yards and many thought if he was an east coast player, he would have won the Heisman Trophy. Obviously, Stanford is set at the running back position, but now, for the first time in nearly a decade, they are entering a season with a question mark at quarterback. Andrew Luck held it down for some time, then Kevin Hogan. Now that Hogan is gone, the Cardinal has a competition going between Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst. Not only will Stanford have questions at QB, they are also replacing two of their biggest targets in Austin Hooper and Devon Cajuste. The talent is still there, but the work load will be asked of guys who have yet to prove they can carry the team. Schedule-wise, Stanford has a tough one. In-conference they play Oregon, UCLA, USC, and play at Washington which is never an easy task. Speaking of Washington...watch out! This could be one of the most dangerous yet least talked about teams in the nation. Out of conference, they take on Kansas State on the road and also their annual rivalry game against Notre Dame. If Stanford somehow, some way gets through this gauntlet, they will not only be the best team in the Pac-12 but I could see them in the Final Four.
Other than Stanford, the favorite, I like a few other programs to make things tight in the Pac-12 race. UCLA, USC, and Oregon are three teams that I could see being a contender come late November. Also, I am not going to be one to sleep on Utah either. Not many experts are high on this team, but I refuse to act as if they are a pushover. The Utes are a team that even if they are not in contention, they are the ones who could ruin 2016 for a lot of the big dogs in the conference.
The Pac-12 South Division is the one that I think will be the most interesting. USC, UCLA, and Utah all play in the south with Arizona and Arizona State always being good for an upset or two through the season...then there's Colorado...yawn. The South race is gonna come down to head to head match ups and who can hold off the competition in the end. The key games will be the showdowns among the top three teams (USC, UCLA, Utah). Any of these three teams that can go 2-0 against the others, I think wins the division. The out of division games that are most important will the be games between USC and Stanford, UCLA and Stanford, and Utah and Washington. These three contests, I promise will have bowl and Pac-12 title implications for each team involved.
Now for the picks... This is crazy to even try to predict. Last season I was high on the UCLA Bruins. I still like them a lot but I just do not trust them to get the job done long term. Coach Jim Mora will have his hands full this season replacing quite a few skill players so for the South division, I like the USC Trojans to come out on top. Their fan base and alumni have waited quite a few years to get themselves back on the national radar, and this season could be their time to shine.
The North Division in my opinion will come down to Stanford and Washington. The Washington program is primed for a breakout season, The winner of that game will win the division and move on to the Pac-12 Title Game. My gut tells me to take Stanford here. I like the Cardinal to win enough conference games against the right teams to sneak into the Pac-12 Championship game.
And now...the Pac-12 Champion of 2016. I choose the USC Trojans! Don't get me wrong, no matter who wins this conference will in no way be selected to the College Football Playoff. I predict that the Pac-12 champ will have three losses on the season and will have to be satisfied with playing in one of the major bowls just out of the Final Four.
SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE (SEC)
ODDS TO WIN THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP:
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And last but certainly not least, I give you...The SEC. The defending National Champion, Alabama Crimson Tide plays in the SEC and this conference alone has claimed nine national titles since the year 2001. Of course, the media, experts, fans, and probably players would give the nod to the Crimson Tide being the favorite in 2016, but I think this could be a fun race to watch just like the Pac-12.
Lets start in the SEC East where it is anyone's to win. Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida are the three main contenders in 2016 with Florida being the defending division champion. There has been some shake up in the eastern division however. Mark Richt was fired by the Georgia Bulldogs and replaced with Kirby Smart, long time student under Alabama's Nick Saban. Smart has already changed the culture in Athens to a "win first" personality, something Richt never did but this season for the Dawgs will depend on the health of Heisman hopeful, Nick Chubb, and the eventual true freshman starting QB, Jacon Eason (Son of former NFL QB Tony Eason). The favorite to win the east in most tabloids, predictions, etc are the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols have been rebuilding for what seems to be 20 years, but head coach Butch Jones may finally have the team to get to the SEC Title game. Just last season, the Volunteers were a good team and if not for a monumental collapse against the Florida Gators, Tennessee may have won the division. This season will be no different. They again play the Gators then travel to Athens to take on the Bulldogs in Georgia. Oh, and lets not forget they also play Alabama in the regular season. If Tennessee escapes and wins the east for the first time under Butch Jones, it will be well earned. The third team in the mix in the east are the Florida Gators. Florida will probably field one of the top defenses in all of the nation, but their offense has been a huge question mark. If Florida, under head coach Jim McElwain, can keep up the defense but also add in some fireworks on offense, they may not only win the east, but they may be the first team to win the SEC from the eastern division since Florida did it in 2008. The rest of the east is comprised of South Carolina who will also have a new head coach in Will Muschamp, then Missouri, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks could be considered a dark horse, but I think Muschamp has two or three years before this team will truly be a contender again.
In the east, I like Georgia. I know it may seem crazy but if everyone stays healthy, the schedule is well in their favor. Their only true test outside of Athens, Georgia will be a road game at Ole Miss. Georgia has not lost to Ole Miss since the 70s or something crazy like that. Georgia has owned the Rebels in recent history. Other than that, Georgia gets Tennessee at home and Florida at a neutral site. I don't think Georgia runs the table but I think they can get the right wins and some help from other teams to allow them to get into the SEC Title game.
The western division has been considered the best division in college foots for the last five to six years. Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas, and Texas A&M is a tough division. Lets also not leave out Mississippi State who just a couple of years ago for a short time was ranked in the nations top three. Obviously, Alabama is the team to beat, but Les Miles always has LSU ready, Ole Miss considers themselves a true contender after upsetting Alabama each of the last two seasons, and Auburn is always a wild card. You never know if the Tigers will go 11-1 or 6-6...complete wild card. Along with those teams, Arkansas has claimed to be getting better and better over the last three or four years and are now going to find ways to win close games.
The west in going to be fun and even though I like Alabama a lot, I have a feeling things are about to change this season. The way the schedule falls and how the teams are looking on paper, I think this is a year that Alabama will be great, but not catch the breaks they will need to get back to the SEC title game. I am taking LSU. Les Miles and the LSU Tigers will find a way to get themselves back to the SEC Title game and they will have the record needed to use the title game against Georgia as their playoff to get into the Final Four.
I, myself am a Georgia Bulldogs fan. Born and raised. But as much as I want to pick them because I truly think that new coach Kirby Smart is bringing a new attitude that is much needed with the talent here in Georgia, I just cannot pick them yet. LSU will win the SEC Title game over the Georgia Bulldogs and find themselves not only a top the SEC but in the Final Four.
The college playoff has been great so far. I truly wish they would take all five conference champions with an at large and make it a six team playoff with the top two teams getting a BYE. However, it is not my call. So for now, we only get four teams. In 2016, my final four (in order of final rankings) are:
1- Ohio State
2 - LSU
3 - Oklahoma
4 - Florida State
FINAL FOUR PREDICTIONS:
Florida State 23 - Ohio State 21
LSU 27 - Oklahoma 19
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
LSU Tigers 26 - Florida State Seminoles 21
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS 2016
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Good luck to all of your teams and have a great college season!
Editor's Picks - Each weekend our very own in-house All-American Editor makes his NCAA point spread predictions in an attempt to force fumbles, sack and intercept your bookie!
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Underdog of the Week Pick - We sort through it all and find out which University is getting "too many points" this week. If there was a Heisman Trophy for picking underdogs, we'd be a frontrunner. Expect a 57%+ winning percentage with these picks as we've got a keen ear for loud barking dogs.
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Trends - Despite what you have been told or read on tout sites, the trend ain't your friend. We however turn the tables and fade the almighty trend for what should be some great profits over time.
2016/2017 College Football Predictions - Bob gives his picks to win each major conference. At the end, he gives his prediction on who thinks will win the 2017 National Championship game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9th.
2016 Heisman Trophy Predictions - DeShaun Watson is favored to win the award at +575 with Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey (+575) and LSU RB Leonard Fournette (+850) close behind. However, the real value may be with Oregon Ducks RB Royce Freeman at 40/1.
2016-2017 College Football Championship Predictions - NCAA football experts have the National Championship as a 4-horse race which includes Bama at +665, Clemson +725, LSU +900 and Ohio State +1075. Teams on teh bubble include Oklahoma at +1200, Michigan +1300 and FSU at +1350. Jay gives his pick to win it all along with how his top 15 rankings for season's end. Get your bets in early before your favorite team's line drops!
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Heisman Trophy Betting Odds - Clemson QB DeShaun Watson will have the ball in his hands a TON and he plays on a good team so he's the obvious favorite to win the award this year at +575. Leonard Fournette at 8.5/1 looks like he could play in the NFL right now. Bama WR Calvin Ridley brings experience and big-time playmaking ability and will be featured on National TV a bunch, giving him a legit darkhorse shot. It's unlikely to happen as offensive players usually win this honor, but Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers (75-1) and Texas AM DT Myles Garret (110-1) could be in the running as well. It might be a good year to bet more than one prediction!
Odds to Win the 2016 College Football Championship - The Alabama Crimson Tide are favored to be repeat winners of the National Championship this year at +700 followed by Ohio St. at +750 and Clemson at +800. Things drop off a bit with the Michigan Wolverines, LSU Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners all coming in at +1200. Check out your favorite school's odds here!