A slate of games Thursday night got the 2015 NCAA Football season underway.
The #2-ranked TCU Horned Frogs were able to outlast the Minnesota Gophers for their first victory of the season, while the Michigan Wolverines fell to the Utah Utes in Jim Harbaugh’s coaching debut.
With Friday and Saturday hosting a jam-packed schedule of the remaining games from the season’s first weekend of action, let’s get to some predictions for the NCAA Football season ahead:
1.) Only four of the six PAC-12 teams in the Preseason Top-25 will be ranked at season’s end.
- When Conference play begins and the likes of Oregon, USC, and UCLA begin facing off against one another, one thing is for certain- someone has to lose. With Arizona, Arizona State, and Stanford joining those three as the PAC-12 teams currently ranked in the AP Top-25, it stands that in all of these inter-conference meetings, at least a team or two from that group has the potential to lose three, even four games. The two teams who will not finish the season in the Top-25? Arizona and Arizona State.
2.) The American Athletic Conference (AAC) will see a team ranked in the Top-25 at season’s end.
- One of the four conferences without a ranked team last season, the AAC boasts two teams who could make a run at a Top-25 finish this year- the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Temple Owls. For Temple, that task will be more difficult, as they face a tougher schedule, matching up with #11 Notre Dame during the season, while Cincinnati faces no teams that are currently ranked. Their strongest opponent will be the Miami Hurricanes. If Cincinnati can knock off both Miami and BYU, they should march unimpeded to an undefeated record and a Top-25 berth.
3.) Ohio State will go wire-to-wire as the AP #1 and finish the regular season undefeated.
- With a fairly pedestrian Conference schedule, and a toughest opponent of #5 Michigan State, the Ohio State Buckeyes should have little trouble running the table this season en route to an undefeated record. Head Coach Urban Meyer is keeping his cards close to the vest, yet to name a starting quarterback, but no matter who is under center- J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones- both quarterbacks gave the Buckeyes quality play last season. Whether they win the National Championship in consecutive years or not is up for debate, but there should be full expectation that Ohio State goes undefeated this season.
4.) Ohio State will not be alone as an undefeated team in the regular season; the Marshall Thundering Herd will also finish the regular season undefeated.
- Members of Conference-USA, Marshall finished 2014 at 13-1, suffering their only loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a 67-66 OT shootout. This season, Marshall has the 3rd-lowest Strength of Schedule, according to ESPN, and will close their regular season against those very same Hilltoppers. With a schedule lacking too many challenges, watch for Marshall to knock off Western Kentucky in their season finale in 2015, and finish the year undefeated, and with that 12-0 record, find themselves among the AP Top-25.
5.) Speaking of Marshall, running back Devon Johnson will be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
- The former tight end, converted to running back, Devon Johnson was 6th in the nation running for 1,767 yards last season. A knee injury held Johnson out of one game and a shoulder injury limited him to just 7 total carries across the final two games of the regular season. Without the injury trouble, he likely would have topped 2,000 yards on the ground, which would have placed him in the top 3 with Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman. Now in his senior year, look for Johnson to top 2,000 yards rushing, score 20 rushing TDs, and contend for not only the Maxwell Trophy for best running back in the country, but the Heisman as well.
6.) Another running back who will be in the Heisman discussion this season? Georgia’s Nick Chubb.
- Remember last season when Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended indefinitely? Fear spread that Georgia’s season was over. Gurley returned after missing four games, but tore his ACL in his first game back, ending his season. In Gurley’s absences, freshman running back Nick Chubb allayed everyone’s fears, proving to be a monster out of the backfield. He racked up 1,547 rushing yards and 14 TD’s, posting a season-high 266 yards in the Belk Bowl to lead the Bulldogs to victory over Louisville. With Gurley now a member of the St. Louis Rams in the NFL, Chubb will head Georgia’s rushing attack. Expect the sophomore to post monster numbers in 2015 and be a candidate for the Heisman trophy.
7.) Vanderbilt will finish 4-4 in Conference play
- A season removed from going 0-8 against Conference opponents, the Vanderbilt Commodores will finish .500 against the rest of the SEC. With just 11 seniors on the roster, Vanderbilt fields a very young squad in a tough Conference. The Commodores will play the 5th hardest schedule in college football this season, much of that based on their SEC opponents which include Georgia, Ole Miss, and Missouri. Missouri will be one of the four teams Vanderbilt defeats in Conference play- the other three being South Carolina, Kentucky, and a regular season finale at Tennessee.
8.) California QB Jared Goff and USC QB Cody Kessler will each throw for over 4,000 passing yards, 32 TDs
- Jared Goff, now entering his junior year with the Cal Golden Bears and his third season starting under center, ended 2014 with the 3,973 passing yards, 5th most in the nation. USC senior QB Cody Kessler tossed the 11th most yards in the nation last season, slinging for 3,826 yards and 39 TDs. Each with another year of experience under his belt, the two PAC-12 gunslingers will both eclipse the 4,000 yard-mark passing, and for a second consecutive season, both throw at least 32 TDs.
9.) Georgia Tech will win the ACC; Florida State will be upset by Boston College
- Georgia Tech opened their 2015 season with a dominating 69-6 win over Division I-AA Alcorn State Thursday.13 different players combined to rush for 476 yards, led by freshman running back Marcus Marshall who averaged 23.0 yards per carry on just 8 rushes. Even against more steadfast competition, the Georgia Tech running game looks poised to bowl over opposing defenses. Following an 11-3 2014 campaign, Georgia Tech will knock off division rivals Clemson and Florida State en route to a 2-loss regular season and a Conference title in 2015.
10.) There will be controversy surrounding the College Football Playoff Selection
- This, honestly, could be a prediction made for this season and any season moving forward. In 2014, at the end of the regular season, Ohio State finished at #5 in the AP Poll, but was ultimately selected to appear in the College Football Playoff over #4 Baylor and #6 TCU. The controversy surrounding OSU’s selection revolved around the fact that TCU fell from the #4 ranking to #6, despite a convincing 55-3 win in their last regular season game. Ohio State, Baylor, and TCU all finished with 1 loss, but in the end it was the opinion of the Selection Committee that Ohio State deserved the final place in the playoff. Ohio State proceeded to win the National Championship. A very similar situation could play out this season, and no matter what, it’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy, so some fans will always disagree with the committee’s selections.