2019 PROJECTIONS VERSUS REALITY
November 1, 2019 | View PDF
As the last five weeks of the college football season unfolds, let’s look at my pre-season projections for 2019. My choice of Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan and Clemson was looking good until Michigan lost its second game to Penn State 28-21 on October 26. Their chance of getting back is zero. Also there was quite a surprise on the same day when mediocre Kansas State beat Oklahoma 48-41.
With one loss, Oklahoma can climb back into the top four by winning out, and by getting help from Ohio State and Alabama. Ohio State must eliminate Penn State. Alabama must eliminate LSU with a decisive win. Georgia eliminated Florida in the “outdoor cocktail party” in Jacksonville. With those wins and with impressive wins by Oklahoma, the Sooners could get back in, especially since Oklahoma made a miraculous comeback behind quarterback Jalen Hurts in the Kansas State game. Trailing 48-23, Hurts led Oklahoma to two touchdowns, a two point conversion and a field goal in the fourth quarter. Only a botched on-side kick kept the Sooners from having a good chance of tying the game in regulation. It was an impressive performance by Oklahoma. I had Oklahoma number 2 pre-season. The voters are sometimes influenced by a one loss team that exhibited a furious comeback to come with one play of possibly winning. An 11-1 Oklahoma will look fairly good even with a less than difficult schedule. Also, Kansas State can beat Texas, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State and finish with a record of 10-2. Oklahoma only dropped to 10 after the loss.
Ohio State has replaced Michigan and has an excellent chance of finishing 13-0 with a win at home against Penn State and a win at Ann Arbor against an improving Michigan team still ranked 14 with 2 losses. They must also win the Big-10 championship over a somewhat weak field in the Western Division. Look for Ohio State to remain in the top four instead of finishing 6th as in my projections.
Going into the LSU game, Alabama had slipped to 2nd as LSU had an impressive win over Auburn. Alabama had an average game over Arkansas with Mac Jones at quarterback. “Tua” comes back to face number one LSU in Tuscaloosa. This game will have more effect on the playoffs than any game of the year. President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend. A close game could put both in the top four provided Alabama beats Auburn. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow could be the player of the year in the SEC and a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy. A win over Alabama could do it for the transfer from Ohio State. Tua Tagovailoa versus Joe Burrow! It can’t get better than that.
I had Clemson at number 4 even though the national polls had them at number 1. It was my belief that Clemson lost too many defensive players to be a great team in 2019. They are good but they are just hanging on to number four by the hair of Coach Dabbo Swinney’s “chinny, chin, chin” and he doesn’t even have a beard. Clemson could be challenged by Wake Forest and South Carolina. They must continue to march.
My number 5 Georgia went to sleep on October 12 and lost to a struggling South Carolina team that is playing the toughest schedule in the nation. Coach Will Muschamp is built for tough games but not this many. The Gamecocks may not even make a bowl this year. Coach Kirby Smart must diversify his offense and get more out of the passing game. He has an NFL bound quarterback in Jake Fromm. Maybe Jake has some suggestions! Georgia is poised at number 6 just waiting for some help.
I had Texas rated too high at number 8. They lost to LSU, Oklahoma and TCU. With their playoff chances shattered, Coach Tom Herman’s Longhorns are fighting for a second level bowl game with Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech straight ahead.
I missed badly on two teams, Baylor and Penn State. My top 50 did not include Baylor and at this writing they are 8-0 ranked number 11. However, I don’t think they can get through TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Still they will be going to a bowl. Penn State is now ranked number 5 with an 8-0 record. They must negotiate an undefeated Minnesota which also was not listed in my top 50. Also, the Ohio State game will be played in Columbus. Penn State or Ohio State will probably not make the playoffs.
Minnesota has had an easy schedule, which explains their 8-0 record. But, Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin will dispense with the Golden Gophers. Ohio State and Penn State are the best of the Big-10. It would be sad to see either not get in.
My number 9 team, Michigan State has been a total flop. It is very unusual for Coach Dantonio’s team to be dominated by Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State. With a road game with Michigan left, the Spartans will finish at 7-5 or worse. Their defense showed up but the offense is missing in action. They will drop from my number 9 to out of the top 25. My worst pick!
Florida is an interesting team. I had them number 10 with a 10-2 record. That could happen even with the loss to Georgia in Jacksonville. They end with Vanderbilt, Missouri and Florida State. They are 7-2 and ranked number 10 at this writing. Coach Dan Mullen has coached a team with average talent into an excellent team headed for a New Year’s Day bowl. I think that he is the second best coach in the conference.
My number 11 team, Washington, has been a big disappointment. With Georgia reject Jacob Eason at quarterback, Coach Chris Peterson seemed to be in position to win the PAC-12 title. It ain’t gonna’ happen. The have already lost to California, Stanford, Oregon and Utah.
Utah had a bad loss to USC, but has climbed back up to number 8 after a big win over Washington. Arizona and Colorado stand in their way toward an 11-1 regular season record. They will most likely play Oregon for the PAC-12 Championship. I had the Utes at number 12.
Notre Dame, as usual, was overated. I had them at number 13 with a 10-2 record. They dropped to number 15 after a come behind one point win against Virginia Tech in South Bend. Coach Kelley just can not get the Irish back in the hunt.
Some thought the Auburn Tigers were poised for another playoff appearance. With the best defensive line in football, Auburn was expected to hold teams down while freshman quarterback Bo Nix gained valuable experience. The offensive line featured five returning seniors as well. To go along with the freshman QB, Auburn had five pedestrian running backs to go to. None caused fear in the minds of other SEC coaches. The wide receivers were at best average, even with speed at the position. Auburn faced one of the toughest schedules in the country, having to play Oregon, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. That’s a tough row to hoe even if you had a good hoe. Coach Gus Malzahn does not have a good hoe, especially when Auburn gets to the offensive “red zone”.
I consider the red zone starting at the 25 yard line. Coach Malzahn is under the allusion that “his” zone read offense with one running back can score touchdowns on a regular basis in the red zone. Quarterback Nick Marshall seemed to validate Malzahn’s theory in 2013 and 2014. However, the success Marshall had was because of Marshall’s athletic ability. Without that talent, Malzahn’s red zone offense has been a joke. Go back to 2015 through 2019 and see how many times Auburn has failed to score a touchdown in the red zone. Often Auburn has lost yardage which made a field goal try difficult. From a coaches standpoint the impotence of Malzhan’s theory is alarming. From an Auburn standpoint it is embarrassing. Auburn could not have beaten Florida and LSU with Malzahn’s system. Unless he and his coaching staff learn to make first downs in the red zone, Auburn can not beat Georgia or Alabama. It is revealing to look at Gus Malzahn’s record against SEC opponents in seven years as Auburn’s head coach. I had Auburn at number 14 at 9-3.
Oregon recovered from the “lucky” pass play at the end of the Auburn game, to be on the fringe of the playoff. Only Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State stand in their way to the PAC-12 championship game. At press time Oregon was rated number 7. I had them below Auburn at number 15. We will stop our comparisons at number 15. No team will climb from number 16 to national relevance. Also, we have limited space to devote to this story.
The Associated Press Poll, The Amway Coaches Poll and any other poll matters not after Tuesday, November 5. On that date the College Football Playoff Selection Committee releases its first official poll. That is really the only poll that matters.
I have been doing these pre-season college football projections since 1979. Some years have been very accurate. Some years have been acceptable. Some years have been not as good. However, among the leading affiliates that do pre-season college football polls, I will put mine up against them all. Nobody is very good at it. You can do your own in 2020. The 2019 college football projections will be my last. I plan to travel more, play more golf and write more hit country songs!
It has been fun!!