Preseason Predictions Are Futile … So Here Are Mine!

Jon Joseph Editorials

Let’s pause a moment to consider the irrelevant, shall we?

Among things that are not in the least bit relevant: the price of pet rocks up for re-sale on eBay, being accepted for admission at USC, the backup QB battle at Oregon State, Steve Spurrier’s coaching record in the AAF (RIP), the doings of the “Kardashian Krew,”  “Chip Kelly’s Guide to Recruiting,” the best restaurants in Newark, New Jersey, what to do when in Wichita, my golf handicap and college football’s top 25 rankings.

I mean seriously, what purpose does a preseason top 25 serve, especially when, more often than not, the final top 25 ends up looking a whole lot different? And not that I have read it cover to cover, but to the best of my knowledge, the NCAA Rulebook tome has nothing to say, positive or negative, as to the rankings of any sport in which student-athletes engage. Preseason rankings are nothing but indulgent diversions that give spoiled fanbases reason to brag and deprived ones more to dread.

From Video

ESPN must love the ratings that its weekly top 25 show provides.

And while preseason rankings provide fodder for some rather colorful discussions before, during and at the end of the season, they have been neutered by the CFB playoff and the stated mission of the playoff committee (aka The Gurus of Grapevine). Yes, at the behest of its Disney/ESPN minders, the committee does release a weekly top 25 at CFB’s mid-season and weekly thereafter. But prior to us CFB fans being graced with the committee’s final and only meaningful poll, the weekly releases are, except for putting more coin in the shorts of “The World Wide Leader,” irrelevant.

And one has to inquire, in light of its mission, why does the committee even bother with ranking 25 teams?

At season’s end, the Committee is taxed simply with naming Alabama and the other three Final Four participants, and also designating the Group of 5 representative (G5) that will appear in one of the so-called New Years Six (NY6) bowls. Yes, every season, 12 teams, including the G5 representative, play in the NY6. However, the Committee’s influence on naming those participants is limited by a given bowl’s contractual agreements.

For example, in 2019, the Rose and Sugar Bowls are the CFP semi-final sites. But every two out of three years, the Rose Bowl is contractually bound to feature a representative from the Pac-12 and the B1G conferences, with the representative being the respective conference champ, unless one of them is in the CFB playoff. In theory, in non semi-final seasons, both the B1G and the Pac-12 champions could finish outside the top 12 and still play in the Rose Bowl. The Sugar Bowl has the same type of agreement with the Big 12 and the SEC. And the ACC champ, unless in the playoff, is contracted to play in the Orange Bowl.

From Video

Paul Finebaum has plenty of angry callers who are way too invested in meaningless top-25 lists.

So, except for coaching staffs that may get a bonus for a top-25 finish, the fan who is delighted that his school finished 25th and not 26th, and the media scribes and talking heads who in this day and age need material 24/7, who gives a whip?

Other than, of course, guys like ‘The Cruiser,’ calling into the Paul Finebaum Show from Bum Fork, Alabama, to voice his discontent with the committee’s initial rankings.

“But Pauuulll, how can these morons not have 12 SEC teams in the top 10? And how in the name of Bear Bryant can all 14 SEC teams not be ranked? Who put all of dem damn Yankees on the committee, anyways?”

It is no doubt irrelevant, but here’s my best guess at the matchups for the 2019 NY6.

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Georgia

The Pac-12 is currently carrying the stigma of being Power 5 conference number five. But take the Clemson Tigers out of play, and the Pac-12 top to bottom is superior to the ACC. Wunderkind QB Trevor Lawrence is back, as is much of the offense. Lots of big time d-line guys are heading to the NFL, but lots of young studs, including former five-star recruit Xavier Thomas, are ready to step in. Plus, not a single assistant coach left town.

If it gets by a tricky Texas A&M team at home in the second game of the season, Clemson should cruise right into the ACC championship game and the playoff. Although a game at Syracuse could be a tough one. The Orange have given them fits the past couple seasons.

Georgia gets Notre Dame at home, doesn’t have to face LSU, gets Auburn “Tween the Hedges,” has Jake Fromm back, and in general has more talent than Dan Mullen at Florida. If Coach Kirby Smart gets smarter (see what I did there) when it comes to fake punt calls,  I see another Dawgs-Tide matchup in the ATL, with Saint Nick, armed with Tua Tagovailoa and an improved D, taking the Dawgs to the kennel.

Nevertheless, UGA moves on to the playoff with a strong enough resume.

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

I see a rematch of last season’s semifinal game and a delicious battle between Tagovailoa and former Bama QB Jalen Hurts.

In bringing Bama back against UGA in the 2018 SEC champ game, Hurts came off the bench and exhibited a much improved passing game. I think the young man, the ultimate stay-with-it teammate, will continue to improve under QB whisperer Lincoln Riley. Tom Herman’s Horns are another big recruiting year away from having the talent to win the Big 12, and the addition of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will do wonders for a lacking Sooners defense. (Granted, I also believe Judge Judy could improve that defense …)

From Video

Tagovailoa vs. Hurts? Yes please.

As for the Tide, behold its illustrious 2019 menu of out-of-conference, Dunkin’ Donuts-like, cupcake opponents. First comes Krispy Kreme Duke, with the game being played at a “neutral  site” in Bama’s second home, Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Tide then has to battle New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi and Western Carolina — all at home in Tuscaloosa.

If I were a Bama fan, I’d prefer to attend the Spring Game.

The Tide gets LSU at home and then faces manageable cross-over opponents in Tennessee and South Carolina. Because the game is in College Station, facing the Aggies might be a test, and of course, the Iron Bowl is a big-time rivalry game. But this schedule is as easy as it gets for a playoff run. And even if it drops a game it shouldn’t, Alabama’s still a lock to make it because the Committee loves them some Tide. And many the SEC squad, despite mixed bowl results, will again be overrated.

For the title, I see another Rocky sequel of Bama vs. Clemson. The Tide blew out Clemson in 2017, and the Tigers returned the favor in 2018. I expect this champ game will be DeShaun Watson-to-Hunter Renfro-like close, but I think the Tide (barely) rolls.

The Rest of the NY6

The B1G and Pac-12 face a host of obstacles. They are both full of solid, good-not-great contenders with a nine-game conference schedule. Usually, Ohio State would be the safe bet, but with Urban Meyer skipping town, I see both conferences being left out of the dance.

Cotton Bowl: Texas vs. Oregon (Although, if the Ducks lose to Auburn, and the conference in general underperforms out of conference, I can easily see a B1G team here.)

Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Washington (Sorry, but I see Washington in the faux Rose Bowl. Too many tough road games for the Ducks.)

Orange Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Florida

Peach Bowl: LSU vs. UCF (The much less entertaining Rocky sequel.)

To close, and to prepare us for the football-less drought ahead, I’ll leave you with this. In the excellent movie Darkest Hour, the King inquires of Winston Churchill, “How do you manage drinking during the day?”

“Practice,” responds Winnie.

Our Ducks will hopefully be practicing other things this summer. But practice they must, especially if they hope to crack the playoff once again. It all starts with the big one in Arlington. Mark your calendars, weather the long offseason, and — most importantly — brace yourself for a bunch of unnecessary top 25 lists along the way.

Jon Joseph 
Georgetown, Texas                                                                                                                                                                                          Top Photo From Video


Phil Anderson, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.


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