All posts by Matthew Dixon

FBS And FCS Changes For The 2018 Season

The Idaho Vandals will drop down from the FBS level to the FCS starting with 2018. ( Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America)

FBS And FCS Changes For The 2018 Season

August is here, which means college football is right around the corner. Below we detail the conference changes in Division 1 football (FBS and FCS) from last season.

FBS Changes

Idaho will move from the Sun Belt Conference to the much more suitable geographical conference of the Big Sky. This also means going from the FBS to the FCS, which makes them the first team to make that move. The Vandals are familiar with the Big Sky as they were part of that conference from 1965 to 1995.

New Mexico State is another team that is leaving the Sun Belt Conference, but they will remain in the FBS as an independent team. They have a scheduling quirk this year as they face Liberty twice in 2018. The first game will be October 6 at home and the matchup will be November 24 at Liberty.

Speaking of Liberty, they made the jump from the FCS’ Big South Conference to be an independent in FBS. The Flames will be a full FBS member in 2019, which will allow them to become bowl eligible. Liberty is an interesting team because they had to petition the NCAA to have the move approved.

One final note about the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference is they split the remaining 10 teams into two divisions. The East Division has Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, and Troy. The West Division has Arkansas State, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, and Texas State. 

The Sun Belt will also hold a championship game for the first time in 2018 with the winners of the East and West Divisions meeting at the home of the higher-ranked team to decide the Sun Belt Champion.

FCS Changes

Liberty was already mentioned above going from the Big South to being a FBS Independent.

Idaho was discussed earlier under the FBS changes going to the Big Sky Conference. There is another change involving the Big Sky, which is North Dakota becoming an FCS Independent for 2018 and 2019. North Dakota will ultimately become a member of the Missouri Valley Conference in 2020. North Dakota’s games will still count in the Big Sky standings for UND’s opponents.

Campbell has moved from the Pioneer Football League to the Big South Conference. Campbell was part of the Pioneer Football League from 2008 through 2017 after they had no team from 1951 to 2007.

Hampton is moving from the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference to become a FCS Independent. They will end up in the Big South Conference starting in 2019. North Alabama is moving up from Division 2  and they will also end up as a member of the Big South Conference in 2019 . They will compete as a FCS Independent member this season.

10 Winners And Losers From The 2018 Group Stage

Russia were big winners during the group stage of the 2018 World Cup (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images Europe)

10 Winners And Losers From The 2018 Group Stage

48 matches have been played thus far at the 2018 World Cup and there have been plenty of winners and losers. We take a look below at ten winners and losers from the group stage.

1. Winner: The viewers – Anyone who has followed the 2018 World Cup, even from afar, can see there has been quite the amount of drama. Late goals, spectacular performances, shocking upsets, this tournament really seems to have had it all. There was only one scoreless draw (France and Denmark) and every team scored at least two goals in the group stage. What could the knockout stages hold for us?

2. Loser: Pre-tournament favoritesSpain, France, Argentina, Germany, and Poland (at least to get through Group H) all had some hype around them. Instead, Germany and Poland were eliminated in the group with Germany being so for the first time. Argentina needed a late Marcos Rojo goal to finish second. Spain and France have not looked convincing even if they did both win the group. That does make for good drama worth tuning in to.

3. Winner: Peru – Peru were very unlucky to have failed to qualify for the Round of 16. The missed PK against Denmark will haunt them as had that been converted and ended as a draw they would have gone through. Nevertheless, they won a lot of fans for their exciting style of play and would have been deserving of progressing.

4. Loser: Germany – Not to pile on, but this really was a disaster. The 2014 World Cup Winners were eliminated in the group stage, which has happened to four of the last five World Cup Winners. However, this was the first time Germany failed to make it out of the group stage and they did it spectacularly by finishing last.

The only real inclination of possible problems was the lead up to the tournament. The Germans stumbled in their friendlies and looked terrible, but those were just tune up games. They made the semis of Euro 2016 and won the 2017 Confederations Cup, which built up their hype to potentially repeat in 2018.

5. Winner: Russia – The lowest ranked team entering the World Cup started with back-to-back crushing wins to book their place in the Round of 16. Russia had a chance to win Group A had they at least drew with Uruguay, they were outmatched and finished second. Their reward is playing Spain, but the Spaniards have not looked dominant, Russia will have the crowd behind them, and this tournament has produced a few shockers.

6. Loser: Referees – While this author thinks that VAR has been solid, the real issue with its use is down to the referees and length of review.  Whenever VAR is used, it has seemed to take far too long to make a determination. In addition, there are some clear cut calls that could be made on the field, yet referees defer to VAR to bail them out. While VAR is well intentioned and has worked decently, the human aspect needs a bit more fine tuning.

7. Winner: Fox’s commentators and analysts – Everyone has their preferred commentators when they watch sports, but Fox’s roster has been very solid. Anchored by JP Dellacamera and Derek Rae, all the commentators have done a good job calling the games and the analysts have been fantastic to listen to as they break down plays. Stuart Holden has been a bright spot from the viewpoint with his specific breakdowns for the viewers.

8. Loser: United States – Watching Panama and Costa Rica crash out after two games must be bothersome. Seeing Mexico move on to the Round of 16 must hurt more. But the worst part has to be the chaos that has erupted with the upsets and lack of a dominant team. Had they just drawn Trinidad & Tobago, they could be part of this carnage. Then again, who says the US would have advanced to the knockout stages? Overall, the US will be better down the road even if this is tough to watch now.

9. Winner: The last 16 teams – In most years this would be a cliché of “anything can happen.” Well, in 2018, this really is true for the last 16 teams left in the World Cup. There has not been a truly dominant team or any group of teams that have separated themselves. The favorites look vulnerable and upsets that few envisioned are actually happening (see South Korea v Germany). If a 16 can beat a 1 in the NCAA Basketball tournament during 2018, why not a surprise WC winner?

10. Winner: Asian Confederation – Four years ago, the four teams from AFC combined to play 12 games and finished with three draws and nine losses. They scored nine goals, gave up 25 goals, and all four teams finished last in their group.

Flash forward to this year and it has been a different outcome. Five teams qualified with Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Korea, and Japan all recording victories. Only Australia failed to win a game as they finished last in their group. Japan qualified for the Round of 16 as second place finishers in Group H. It has been a much better performance all around from the AFC.

Bonus: Own Goals/Penalties – This could go as a winner or loser depending on your point of view. There have been 9 own goals in Russia, 24 penalties given, and 18 of those penalties have been converted, which are all World Cup records. Some may complain too many penalties have been given, while others may say they were correctly given.

Let’s hope the last two weeks are as entertaining as the first two weeks have been. Enjoy the knockout stages!

10 Predictions For The 2018 World Cup Group Stage

Lionel Messi leads Argentina into the 2018 World Cup. How will the magician continue his majestic ways this summer? (Paul Gilham/Getty Images South America)

10 Predictions For The 2018 World Cup Group Stage

The FIFA World Cup begins on Thursday, June 14 when Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in Moscow to open the month long tournament. We will take a stab at some predictions for the tournament starting with the group stage.

Below, we will make a prediction for each of the eight groups (A to H) and then also make two general predictions for the group stage.

1. (Group A) Uruguay will win all three matches – The first group is a favorable draw for Uruguay against Russia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Uruguay is favored to win the group, but this calls for them to sweep their way to nine points. The biggest threats are Russia and Egypt who will presumably be battling for second.

For Uruguay, they will have to deal with combination of Mohamed Salah and the awesome story of Essam El-Hadary, the 45 year old goalkeeper for Egypt. Salah is nursing an injury going into opening game for the Egyptians, which is against Uruguay. Even without Salah, the challenge is going to be difficult. Then there is Russia playing at home which will give them a boost. Still, Uruguay is in position to not only win Group A, but win all three matches.

2. (Group B) Spain defeats Portugal and wins Group B – Barring a 2014-like collapse, this group is down to Spain and Portugal. No offense to Morocco and Iran for not giving them a chance, but they were dealt a horrendous draw.

This game is on match day one, which means the winner of this game will have one foot in the knockout stage. This matchup between the two neighboring countries will go to Spain as they roll into the tournament looking to avenge the disastrous campaign four years ago.

3. (Group C) France does not win the group – This French team is getting a lot of hype to win the World Cup. They have the talent with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, and N’Golo Kante among many others.

What is worrying about France is their desire and ability to finish games. The Euro 2016 Final against Portugal is exhibit A while poor results against Colombia (lost 3-2 after holding a 2-0 lead) and the United States have not looked good. The latter was particularly striking as the French towered over a young squad and yet only came away with a 1-1 draw.

Les Bleus take on Australia, Peru, and Denmark in this group, which seems like it would be favorable to them winning the group. However, Denmark will be a tough test and the longer France lets Australia and Peru hang around, the more confidence the underdogs get.

France can surely quell the unease with statement wins against all three, but there is something about this team that lingers. We still think France reaches the knockout stages in the end (and probably makes a deep run), but we predict they do not win the group.

4. (Group D) Group D will feature the most entertaining matches – Lionel Messi and Argentina lead this group, but that is not the only reason for this prediction. Nigeria has an odd way of testing Argentina. The Super Eagles have split the last four games against them and all four games featured at least four goals including the 2014 World Cup match Argentina won 3-2.

Then there is Iceland. Iceland has given up at least two goals in their last four international friendlies. This team can also score goals to provide some more excitement including at the end of games (see Euro 2016 against Austria).

Croatia, who got hammered 3-1 against both Brazil and Mexico at the 2014 World Cup, has two players embroiled in a scandal going into the 2018 Finals. One of them is Luka Modric, a man heavily relied upon for the team. Will that negatively affect their play? We shall see, but overall, this group should be fun to watch each match day.

5. (Group E) Costa Rica will get back to the Knockout Stages – Now this would be a surprise. Then again, what they did in 2014 was also a surprise. The Ticos not only made the knockout stages four years ago, but they won Group D by defeating both Uruguay and Italy while drawing with England. 

This year features a group of Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia. Getting past Brazil will be tough, but the Ticos can get past the duo of Switzerland and Serbia. Keylor Navas will be in the net, but also returning are the four players who scored for Costa Rica at the 2014 World Cup: Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte, and Marcos Urena.

This group already knows how to defy the expectations placed upon them. They also know how to handle the pressure of being at the World Cup. We like Costa Rica to get past the group stage once again.

6. (Group F) Germany drops a point – The reigning World Cup winners tower over this group. Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea will be fighting for second. They key for all three is if they can steal a point (or more) from the Germans. On paper, this seems like a stretch. However, if we go back to 1998, only once has Germany won all three games in the group stage. That came in 2006 when they hosted the World Cup. Below is a look back at each game Germany has failed to win at the World Cup since 1998.

2014 – 2-2 draw vs Ghana

2010 – 0-1 loss vs Serbia

2006 – Won all three games; WC played in Germany

2002 – 1-1 draw vs Republic of Ireland

1998 – 2-2 draw vs Yugoslavia

Another reason for this prediction is the lackluster performances from Germany leading up to the World Cup. They survived 2-1 against Saudi Arabia, lost 2-1 to Austria, lost 1-0 to Brazil, and drew 1-1 with Spain. Germany has their weird way of turning it on once they hit the field, but not without a bump in the road. Expect one of those in Group F though the Germans will still cruise into the knockout stages.

7. (Group G) Belgium score at least 10 goals – We really find Belgium’s Group G matchups favorable, aside from the England game. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, and Kevin De Bruyne should create plenty of chances against Tunisia and especially Panama.

This team looks ready to pour in the goals and they finish the group stage against England with the winner of the game most likely to take top billing. A couple goals against England could put this prediction over the top.

8. (Group H) Senegal Finishes Top Two – This group features Poland, Colombia, and Japan so the work is cut out for Senegal to advance. It is crucial they take points from Poland and Colombia (a win against either and a win against Japan should suffice). Sadio Mane will be the focus for them as the Liverpool man is coming of a 20 goal campaign.

Outside of Mane, they have the talent to compete and move past the group stage. Kalidou Koulibaly will be worth keeping on eye on as well. The last game is against Colombia is likely decide which team goes through and which team goes home.

9. (General Prediction) The group stage will see at least 125 goals scored – Let’s be honest: We want to see goals. And a lot of them. That does not mean a 0-0 contest is boring or not entertaining. They most certainly can be, but we are going based on what has historically happened.

Since the World Cup expanded in 1998, there has been an average of 122 goals scored in the group stage. Three have featured more than 125 goals and we look for the same. This is not guaranteed though. Back in 2010, only 101 goals were scored in the group stage thanks to an abnormally low 25 goals on match day one. 2014 saw that total nearly double to 49 for match day one. 2014 was also the highest scoring group stage at 136 since 1998. Let’s hope this continues at the 2018 World Cup.

10. (General Prediction) Asia and Africa have a 2014 repeat – Let’s clarify what we mean here. In 2014, Africa had two teams to make the knockout stages while Asian teams were shutout. In fact, no Asian team recorded a win in 2014. We are predicting that two teams from Africa will go to the Round of 16 while no Asian team will advance to that point.

Let’s start with Africa: We have already called for Senegal to make the knockout stages, but there are other opportunities for the continent. Egypt could slip through Group A with Salah; Morocco has a tough Group B draw; Nigeria might also sneak through if results against Iceland and Croatia break their way; Tunisia faces a daunting task against Belgium and England.

That gives Africa three plausible knockout choices in Egypt, Nigeria, and Senegal. The same cannot be said for Asia. Saudi Arabia is in group A, but considered a serious longshot. Iran is in Group B with Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. Australia has a chance though they need results against European sides France and Denmark. They also face Peru, which will not be easy.

South Korea is in Group F with Germany, Mexico, and Sweden. With the Germans, that realistically leaves one spot open and the Koreans will need results from the other two games. Japan faces a similar dilemma against Poland, Colombia, and Senegal. All five Asian sides are considered the longest shot in their respective group to win.

We expect a good fight from all five Asian countries. However, given their draws, this looks like another World Cup without an Asian side making the last 16.

That concludes our 10 predictions for the 2018 World Cup Group stage. Enjoy the start of the 2018 World Cup!

Florida State Captures First NCAA Softball Title

The Florida State Seminoles won their first softball championship after defeating the Washington Huskies 8-3 on Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of NCAA Softball on Twitter).

Florida State Captures First NCAA Softball Title

The Florida State Seminoles won their first NCAA Softball Championship after sweeping the Washington Huskies in the Women’s College World Series Championship Series.

For the Seminoles, Tuesday night capped off an incredible WCWS run by winning six straight games following their opening day loss. By doing so, Florida State became the first division 1 team to accomplish the feat of winning the title after losing their opening WCWS game.

Florida State also became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to win the championship. It was well deserved for a team making their 10th WCWS appearance. FSU was on the cusp of the title following Monday night’s 1-0 game one win via Meghan King’s complete game shutout. That game also included this defensive gem from Jessica Warren.

Game two started much differently as the Huskies took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. The nervy beginning by Seminoles aided the Huskies, but the bottom of the first saw them cut the deficit to 3-2 via Anna Shelnutt’s two run homer.

The Seminoles then put themselves in front for good with a three run second inning. Elizabeth Mason’s single to right field and fielding error by the Huskies gave FSU the 4-3 lead. Jessica Warren made it 5-3 with an RBI single after two innings.

The Huskies had a big chance in the top of the 4th inning as they loaded the bases with 2 outs, but a grounder ended their threat. The Seminoles made them pay for not capitalizing with two home runs. Mason hit a two run blast followed by Warren’s solo shot and the Seminoles were on their way to the coveted championship.

The final three innings saw Washington only put 1 runner on base. Meghan King once again went the distance with 7 innings pitched, allowing 5 hits, no walks, and striking out 4. King threw 34 1/3 innings, allowed one earned run, and recorded 4 wins and one save at the WCWS. She also set a new ERA record of 0.20 in the WCWS with at least 10 innings pitched. The Seminoles ended the season with a record of 58-12.

The drought continues for the Pac-12 in softball after dominating the early landscape of the sport. Arizona State remains the last team from the conference to win a national title as they did so back in 2011. Washington, who won their only title in 2009, finished the season at 52-10.

2018 Women’s College World Series Schedule

Oklahoma is back to go for their third straight national title in 2018 (Sue Ogrocki – AP)

2018 Women’s College World Series Schedule

The 2018 NCAA Division 1 Softball season is down to the final 8 teams who will be playing for the chance to win the Women’s College World Series. An updated bracket can be found here. Each game of the 2018 Women’s College World Series will take place from ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The 8 teams will compete in a double elimination format until only two teams are left. The last two teams will then play in a best of three championship series to determine the 2018 National Champion.

The Oklahoma Sooners are the two-time defending National Champions after winning in 2016 and 2017. Should the Sooners complete the trifecta, they will join the UCLA Bruins from 1988 to 1990 as the only teams to win three straight National Titles since 1982. Speaking of UCLA, they too are in this year’s WCWS for the 28th time in school history.

All eight schools in the Women’s College World Series have previously made an appearance in Oklahoma City. Of the eight teams, Arizona State has had the longest absence since their last appearance in 2013. The below table shows the eight teams taking part in the WCWS along with their last appearance, record, conference affiliation, and all-time WCWS appearances.

SeedTeamLast WCWSRecordConf.WCWS
Appearances
1Oregon201752-8Pac-126th
2Florida201755-9SEC9th
3UCLA201755-5Pac-1228th
4Oklahoma201755-3Big 1212th
5Washington201749-8Pac-1213th
6Florida
State
201652-11ACC10th
7Georgia201648-11SEC4th
8Arizona
State
201348-11Pac-1212th

The Women’s College World Series will get underway on Thursday, May 31 with four games scheduled for the opening day. The entire schedule can be found in the table below with the Championship Series located in a separate table.

The tables below will be updated with final scores as the games go final each day. Please note all times listed below are Eastern.

DateGameTime (EST)
TV
Team #1Team #2ScoreNotes
5/31/18Game 112 PM
ESPN
#8 ASU#1 Oregon6-11
5/31/18Game 22:30 PM
ESPN
# 5 Wash.#4 Okla.2-0
5/31/18Game 37 PM
ESPN2
#7 Georgia#2 Florida3-115 Innings
5/31/18Game 49:30 PM
ESPN2
#6 FSU#3 UCLA4-7
6/1/18Game 57 PM
ESPN
#1 Oregon#5 Wash.2-6
6/1/18Game 69:30 PM
ESPN
#3 UCLA#2 Florida6-5
6/2/18Game 712 PM
ESPN
#4 Okla.#8 ASU2-0ASU
Elim.
6/2/18Game 82:30 PM
ESPN
#7 Georgia#6 FSU2-7Georgia
Elim.
6/2/18Game 97 PM
ESPN
#2 Florida#4 Okla.0-2Florida
Elim.
6/2/18Game 109:30 PM
ESPN
#6 FSU#1 Oregon4-1Oregon
Elim.
6/3/18Game 111 PM
ESPN
#4 Okla.#5 Wash.0-3Okla.
Elim
6/3/18Game 123:30 PM
ESPN
#3 UCLA#6 FSU1-3Possible
Elim
Game
6/3/18Game 137 PM
ESPN
Game 11 WinnerGame 11 LoserElim
Game
6/3/18Game 137 PM
ESPN2
#6 FSU#3 UCLA12-6UCLA
Elim.

The schedule for Championship Series is shown below.

2018 Women’s College World Series Championship Series

DateGameTime (EST)
TV
Team #1Team #2Score
6/4/18Game 17 PM
ESPN
#6 FSU#5 Wash.1-0
6/5/18Game 28 PM
ESPN
#5 Wash.#6 FSU3-8
6/6/18Game 3
(If Necessary)
8 PM
ESPN
#6 FSU#5 Wash.

Reviewing Our 2017 College Football Predictions

Tua Tagovalloa led Alabama to a second half comeback to win the 2018 National Championship. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Reviewing Our 2017 College Football Predictions

Prior to the start of the 2017 College Football season, we made 26 predictions for the season. Those can all be found here. Below we will list and then review how each prediction turned out.

Predictions 25 Through 21

25. Appalachian State will win the Sun Belt – This was correct as App State went 7-1 and tied with Troy for the Sun Belt.

24. (Sun Belt) New Mexico State’s bowl drought will extend to 57 years – We were wrong on this and NMSU not only got back to a bowl, they also won it. Congrats Aggies!

23. (C-USA) The four teams wearing green will not win 25 games combined – Marshall won 8 games, North Texas won 9, UAB won 8, and Charlotte won 1. The biggest surprise was UAB who made a big statement after not playing football for 2 years. Bill Clark did a phenomenal job of getting UAB ready for football.

22. (C-USA) Both FAU and FIU will make a bowl game – Both teams did make a bowl game and FAU really made noise with Lane Kiffin at the helm. The Owls went 11-3 and won the C-USA Title while FIU went 8-5.

21. (Independent) Army will reach a second straight bowl game – Army not only reached a bowl game for the second straight year, they defeated Navy again, and also won a bowl game again. The Black Knights made it back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1984-85 when they also won both bowls.

Result: 3 out of 5 predictions were correct.

Predictions 20 Through 16

20. (MAC) Akron will win the MAC East – This was correct as Akron went 6-2 in the MAC. The Zips did not fare well to end the season as they lost to Toledo in the MAC Championship and FAU in their bowl game. They finished 7-7 on the season.

19. (MWC) Boise State will lose at least three games – This was correct, but it looked bad for most of the season. A regular season finale loss to Fresno State got this over the top, but the Broncos exacted revenge on the Bulldogs with a victory a week later in the MWC Championship. Boise State went 11-3.

18. (MWC) Air Force will reach a bowl game – The Falcons were unable to overcome a 1-4 start and three straight losses to Army, Wyoming, and Boise State made this an incorrect prediction.

17. (AAC) 9 teams will make a bowl game – This was short by 2 teams as only Tulane came up a game short of bowl eligibility.

16. (AAC) – South Florida and Memphis will play in the AAC Championship Game – This was half-right. Memphis took care of business in the West while South Florida’s instant classic against UCF saw them come up just short. UCF went on to win the AAC Title along with the Peach Bowl over Auburn in a great year for them.

Result: 2.5 out of 5 predictions were correct. The running total is 5.5 correct out of 10.

Predictions 15 Through 11

15. (Big 12) Oklahoma State will lead the Big 12 in points scored – Oh was this a close one. The Cowboys averaged 45 points a game. Their rival Oklahoma outscored them by 0.1 points per game. So close.

14. (Big 12) TCU will win the Big 12 Championship – TCU made the game, but failed to seriously threaten Oklahoma in either the regular season or Big 12 Championship matchup.

13. (Big 12) Iowa State will reach a bowl game – The Cyclones really hit the map with wins over Oklahoma (on the road) and TCU (at home) in the span of three weeks. Iowa State went on to make the Liberty Bowl and win it 21-20 over Memphis.

12. (Pac-12) Washington State will reach double digit wins – Another prediction that was close, but ultimately wrong. The Cougars listlessly played against Washington and Michigan State to end the season with back-to-back losses and finish at 9-4.

11. (Pac-12) Colorado will reach a second straight bowl game – The Buffs went 3-0 to start the season and then subsequently went 2-7 in Pac-12 to miss a bowl by a victory.

Result: 1 out of 5 predictions were correct. The running total is 6.5 correct out of 15.

Predictions 10 Through 6

10. (Pac-12) Washington will win the Pac-12 – The Huskies went 7-2 in the Pac-12, but losses to Arizona State and Stanford prevented them from competing in the Pac-12 Championship.

9. (ACC) Lamar Jackson will not win the Heisman – This was likely due to the sky high expectations and in the end it was Baker Mayfield who won the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

8. (ACC) North Carolina State will win at least 10 games – This was yet another close call that ended on the wrong side. NC State had 9 wins with their losses to South Carolina, Notre Dame, and Clemson.

7. (ACC) Florida State will win the ACC – This was over before the Alabama game even finished. The Seminoles struggled all season after Deondre Francois went down against the Tide. FSU finished 7-6.

6. (SEC) Missouri will have the SEC’s highest scoring offense – This one came through thanks to Alabama’s last 2 games in the College Football Playoff. Missouri ended the season with 37.5 points per game and Alabama finished with 37.1. Of course, the Tide do not care about stats because they won the National Championship.

Result: 2 out of 5 predictions were correct. The running total is 8.5 correct out of 20.

Predictions 5 Through 1

5. (SEC) A 2nd year head coach will win the SEC East – This was spot on as Kirby Smart led Georgia to the SEC East and SEC Championship. The Bulldogs made the National Championship game, but lost a 26-23 thriller in OT to Alabama.

4. (SEC) Auburn will win the SEC West – Another correct call as Auburn upset Alabama in the season finale to win the SEC West. The Tigers ended the season with losses to Georgia in the SEC Championship and Central Florida in the Peach Bowl.

3. (Big 10) Northwestern will win at least 9 games –Northwestern did one better winning 10 games in a very good season for the Wildcats. Their losses were to Duke, Wisconsin, and Penn State as they went 10-3.

2. (Big 10) Michigan State will miss a second straight bowl game – The Spartans made this look awful as they went 10-3. We still like the Spartans to be a Big 10 and College Football Playoff contender for the 2018 season.

1. (Big 10) The Big 10 will win the National Championship – No Big Ten team even made the College Football Playoff to give this one a shot. Both Ohio State and Wisconsin were on the outside looking in. The SEC monopolized the National Championship with Alabama winning over Georgia.

Bonus: At least 10 FCS teams will defeat FBS teams – It is fitting the bonus prediction was like a lot of other incorrect predictions: just missed. 9 FCS teams upset FBS opponents as no late season FCS surprises could see this one come true. As an aside, congrats to North Dakota State on their 6th title in 7 seasons after beating James Madison in the FCS Title game.

Result: 3 out of 6 predictions were correct. The final total is 11.5 correct out of 26 for 44.2%. In 2016, we correctly made 30.5 out of 55 predictions for 55.5%.

We look forward to the 2018 season!

Badger Thoughts 2017: Game Two Victory Versus Florida Atlantic

Jonathan Taylor had an excellent rushing game against Florida Atlantic with 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)

Badger Thoughts 2017: Game Two      Victory Versus Florida Atlantic

The Wisconsin Badgers have opened the season 2-0 after a 31-14 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday afternoon. Like the opening game versus Utah State, there were bright spots and some concerns. We provide our notes and takes on both this game and the 2017 season.

1. Jonathan Taylor makes his case to be starter going forward – Taylor got the start against FAU after an injury sidelined Bradrick Shaw and Taylor showed the coaches the decision was an excellent one. Taylor showed both his power and speed on his two first half touchdown runs.

Taylor finished the game rushing for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries. His backup, Chris James, also showed some good rushes after a tepid first game. James finished with 101 yards on 16 carries and the Badgers averaged 6.6 yards per carry. There are plenty of positive things to say about Taylor and his touchdown runs have been great to watch over and over again.

A few things that are worth bringing up:

  • Taylor is just a freshman, which is great for the Badgers if he continues at this pace. However, solid production from a healthy Shaw and James will be key to keep Taylor fresh at the end of the season.
  • The first two games were against Utah State and Florida Atlantic, teams the Badgers should dominate and look good against. The competition the rest of the season will be much stronger.
  • Injuries and poor quarterback play could make it an uphill battle for the entire rushing attack. Taylor lost a fumble as well in the third quarter, which, at this point, appears to be more of the exception.

Based on what we have seen in two games, Taylor should be the starter at running back with Shaw and James getting plenty of touches as well. It is a long season and three different options behind the offensive line will help the entire offense.

2. Alex Hornibrook struggled to see the field – It was clear that Alex Hornibrook was not having a good day. The timing was not there as he constantly threw behind his receivers and then there was the horrendous interception. On that particular play, he was going backwards with a defender in his face and he forced a throw without even seeing the defender that made the interception. It was a throw that should not have happened and it led to a touchdown for FAU.

Late the second quarter, Hornibrook threw another pass on an out route to the sideline that was woefully short and nearly picked. Luckily for him, it was dropped, but another example of his timing and arm strength being not good enough.

Overall, Hornibrook has to get better if he wants to stay the starter. The timing, precision, arm strength, and general awareness all are a concern though he is just a sophomore. There is time for improvement, but how long does he have before Jack Coan is called on for a bigger role?

3. The secondary gets torched – Florida Atlantic had 142 yards passing, yet it felt like it was far more. FAU’s DeAndre McNeal had catches of 35 and 63 yards with the latter going for a touchdown. There was also another 35 yard pass play to McNeal in the third quarter following Taylor’s fumble, but that was negated due to a holding.

Given the memories of 2016 when Penn State moved up and down the field on the Badgers at will in the Big 10 Championship, it is worth watching this unit to see how they respond going forward.

4. Injury concerns are mounting – The defense was already short due to the losses of Jack Cichy and Zack Baun for the season. During practice on Wednesday, Chikwe Obasih suffered a knee injury that will keep him out for a few weeks.

Now, the offense has some injury worries with Shaw ruled out and then right guard Beau Benzschawel left the game in second quarter and did not return. There is currently no news on the severity of the injury, but the loss of a starter on the line does not bode well.

5. The overall performance felt mediocre – The Badgers dominated this game on offense with 564 yards compared to 248 yards for FAU. They had just one penalty and held the ball for over 38 minutes. However, it was an inefficient game.

The Badgers turned the ball over twice, were stopped three times inside the two yard line early in the second quarter, several passes were dropped, and even Rafael Gaglianone missed a 37 yard field goal. The first half against Utah State and most of this game was nothing like the Badgers we expected to see in 2017. The entire team will have to improve quickly because the non-conference schedule ends next week with a road trip to BYU.

Next week’s game at BYU will be at 3:30 PM Eastern Time and can be seen on ESPN. The Badgers will have a bye the following week before starting Big 10 play against Northwestern at home on September 30.

Badger Thoughts 2017: Game 1 Win Versus Utah State

The Wisconsin Badgers visited the end zone frequently in the second half against Utah State. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)

Badger Thoughts 2017: Game 1 Win     Versus Utah State

The Wisconsin Badgers opened the season with an emphatic 59-10 victory over Utah State. While it was not very attractive in the first half, the ninth ranked Badgers cruised to an easy win with a suffocating second half performance. Below are some thoughts, and observations noticed in the Friday night win.

1. The offense starts slow – If you happened to read this column in 2016, one of the constant worries was the offense starting slow. Well, 2017 started no different as the offense needed nearly 2 full quarters to even get points on the board. There were fumbles, drops, penalties, sacks, and mistakes that are not typical of Wisconsin. That begs several questions:

Was this performance just first game jitters? Did the Friday night lights play a role? Is the offense too predictable in the early stage of games?

We are leaning to the fact it was the first game where timing can be an a bit off. It is unwise to make a conclusion based on a single game, but this is worth keeping an eye on to see if this trend becomes a mainstay as it did in 2016.

2. Jonathan Taylor has a breakout game – He is only a freshman, but a good one at that if this game was any indication. Taylor showed speed and the ability to keep the legs churning. He finished with 87 yards on 9 carries and a touchdown.

It was an impressive showing and it never hurts to be running behind an offensive line that the Badgers typically employ. Continue to watch the progression of Taylor as he splits carries with Bradrick Shaw (84 yards and 1 TD on 18 carries) and Chris James (5 carries for 16 yards).

3. Scoring production was evenly spread out – The Badgers had 8 touchdowns against the Aggies. And 8 different players scored a touchdown. How about that for spreading the production around? Shaw, Taylor, Garrett Groshek, and Austin Ramesh provided the rushing scores. Troy Fumagalli, Quintez Cephus, and Zander Neuville had receiving scores as Alex Hornibrook had a highly efficient passing game going 15 for 23 with 244 yards and the 3 touchdown passes.

The penultimate score was probably the most fitting. Joe Ferguson, grandson of current Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown.

4. The defense rose to the occasion – Utah State had a strong start with 88 yards on offense and a 10-0 through one quarter. After that, the Badgers defense imposed their will. While many will point to the ejection of Utah State’s Jalen Davis as the turning point, this defense was hitting their stride about the same time and it is usually devastating for opponents when that happens.

While the Badgers gave up 304 yards (219 passing and 85 rushing), nearly half of those came on the final three Utah State drives when the game was no longer in doubt. The Badgers forced 4 turnovers including interceptions on back-to-back Utah State drives to end the first half and start the second half. That led to a tie game at halftime and then a two touchdown lead early in the third.

The most noticeable part of the defense was their hunger to keep the Aggies to only 10 points. They stopped the Aggies once on downs in the third quarter, then they had the pick six midway through the fourth quarter, and finally ended the game with a pass breakup in the end zone.

This Badgers defense, despite the loss of Jack Cichy for the season, looks just as good as the defenses of the previous few seasons. Keep in mind that the Badgers are on their third defensive coordinator (Jim Leonhard) in as many seasons.

Wisconsin will play at home next Saturday against Florida Atlantic. The game is scheduled for 12 PM Eastern Time on the Big Ten Network.

25 Predictions for the 2017 College Football Season: 5 Through 1

Wisconsin and Penn State met in the 2016 Big Ten Championship game. Could they meet again in 2017? (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America)

25 Predictions for the 2017 College Football Season: 5 Through 1

The 2017 College Football season is starting this weekend and that means it is time to finish up predictions for the upcoming season. Despite what Nick Saban says about predictions, they are fun to make and see how they play out over an entire season. We will do something different than last year. In 2016, we made 5 predictions for each conference for a total of 55 predictions. The final total was 30.5 predictions correct for 55.5% hit rate.

This year we will make a total of 25 predictions with five each week until August 23. The predictions will range from conference winners to team win totals or bowl games to individual player performances. We will start with the mid-major conferences (predictions 25-16) before ending with the predictions for the Power 5 conferences (predictions 15-1).

This is the fifth edition and we will finish predicting the Power 5 Conferences. Below is the schedule for the 25 predictions.

Predictions 25-21: July 26 (Sun Belt, C-USA, Independents)

Predictions 20-16: August 2 (MAC, MWC, AAC)

Predictions 15-11: August 9 (Big 12, Pac-12)

Predictions 10-6: August 16 (Pac-12, ACC, SEC)

Predictions 5-1: August 23 (SEC, Big 10)

Predictions 5 Through 1

5. (SEC) A 2nd year head coach will win the SEC East – To be clear, this prediction is referring to a coach in his second year at his current school. Three coaches actually fall under this one with Kirby Smart at Georgia, Will Muschamp at South Carolina, and Barry Odom at Missouri. We mentioned Missouri in our last article (we really like their offense going into 2017) so our main focus will be on Georgia and South Carolina.

Georgia went 8-5 last year in Smart’s first season. This year he is armed with seven starters back on offense and 10 on defense. One would expect improvements on both sides of the ball, but more so on defense given Smart’s background. The Bulldogs gave up 24 points and 327 yards per game, which is respectable, but another step forward would make them an even tougher opponent. It is very difficult to see this group getting worse.

On offense, Georgia has Jacob Eason (2,430 yards with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions) back at quarterback. Also returning are Nick Chubb (1,130 yards and 8 TDs) and Sony Michel (840 yards and 4 TDs) to form a formidable backfield duo. The offense put up 24.5 points and 385 yards per game in 2016 and those numbers are likely to climb this season.

The key is the schedule and Georgia’s toughest games are versus Tennessee (away), Florida (in Jacksonville), South Carolina (home), and Auburn (away). Yes, three games are away from home, but this team can win all of those and claim the East.

South Carolina is interesting heading into 2017. Muschamp has been around the SEC a long time and his second season in charge at Florida resulted in his best result with the Gators. They went 11-2 overall and 7-1 in the SEC as Florida tied Georgia for the SEC East crown, but lost the head-to-head matchup to the Bulldogs. Things went downhill quickly for the Gators after that season, but one thing that remained was a very good defense.

Like Smart at Georgia, Muschamp has a strong defensive background. South Carolina allowed 26.5 points and 412 yards per game in his first season. Six starters return on that side of the ball and a step forward is expected from this unit.

On offense, the Gamecocks put up 20.8 points and 348 yards per game in 2016 with a quarterback carousel. 2017 sees 10 starters return including sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley (1,420 yards with 9 TDs and 4 interceptions after playing only 7 games). The top two running backs and top five receivers return, which should mean a vast improve in the performance of the offense. Of course, the big concern is if the offense does improve given some of the struggles Muschamp had at times in Gainesville.

South Carolina’s toughest SEC games are against Texas A&M (away), Arkansas (home), Tennessee (away), Georgia (away), and Florida (home). They too can win both games versus West opponents and a 2-1 split of the other games would go a long way to being the surprise in the East.

Both Georgia and South Carolina are set up for big moves in 2017 though Georgia looks a bit more ready to make the jump thanks to their offense. However, sometimes an excellent defense can carry a team, which may be what South Carolina needs in 2017.

4. (SEC) Auburn will win the SEC West – Let’s start by saying that Alabama is the team to beat in the West and entire SEC, but why make a prediction like that? We take a shot with the Auburn Tigers.

On offense, Auburn returns 8 starters though one of them will not be at quarterback. That will go to Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham who won the starting role earlier this month. He will have the luxury of Kamryn Pettway (1,224 yards and 7 TDs) and Kerryon Johnson (895 yards and 11 TDs) to run the ball. The passing attack should improve on the numbers of the last two seasons of 169 yards per game in 2016 and 174 yards per game in 2015. Stidham give this offense a boost and makes them even more potent.

The defense returns 7 starters from a unit that allowed 17.1 points and 362 yards per game. The top three tacklers and six of the top seven tacklers return to lead the defense. Keep in mind that 2016 was only the first year under defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. In theory, the second season should be even better if the schemes are truly cemented into the players’ heads. Overall, this unit should allow similar numbers to the 2016 squad.

As usual in the SEC West, the schedule is tough with three straight road games at LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M. There is a bye between the Razorbacks and Aggies, but that is still a brutal stretch when you consider that Georgia comes to town after the game versus Texas A&M. The final game is the Iron Bowl against Alabama and that comes at home, which should help the Tigers. It will be difficult for Auburn to defeat Alabama as well as win the West, but the Tigers are more than capable of doing both.

3. (Big 10) Northwestern will win at least 9 games – 2017 will mark the 12th season of Pat Fitzgerald in charge at Northwestern. In that time he has posted three seasons of nine or more wins (two of those were 10 win seasons). This year’s squad is loaded to give the Wildcats a shot at one of their big 9+ win seasons.

The offense will rely heavily on Justin Jackson and rightfully so. Jackson has 4,129 yards rushing in his career, which is already second best in Northwestern history. A 1,500 yard season would put Jackson at #2 all time in the Big 10. Also returning with Jackson are 7 other starters including quarterback Clayton Thorson (3,182 yards with 22 TDs and 9 interceptions). Thorson has come a long way since his 2015 season when he struggled at times. He will be missing his top target from last year in Austin Carr (90 catches for 1,247 yards and 12 TDs). The one to watch out for in 2017 is Jalen Brown, a former Oregon Duck.

The defense also returns 8 starters and this group did well in 2016 as they allowed 22.2 points and 404 yards per game. The front four and secondary return seven of the eight starters, which makes for a weaker linebacking group. Good thing they have a head coach in Fitzgerald who knows a thing or two about that position. In 2015 when Northwestern had 8 starters back they allowed 18.6 points and 319 yards per game. An improvement to those numbers in 2017 would make this team very dangerous.

Northwestern opens with three games they should win: Nevada (home), Duke (away), and Bowling Green (home). After a bye week, the Cats face Wisconsin (away) and Penn State (home) to start Big 10 play. The rest of the Big 10 schedule could result in wins: Maryland (away), Iowa (home), Michigan State (home), Nebraska (away), Purdue (home), Minnesota (home), and Illinois (away). Nebraska is the toughest of those games especially away from home, but 9 or 10 wins is definitely realistic.

2. (Big 10) Michigan State will miss a second straight bowl game – Between 2013 and 2015, the Spartans won the Rose Bowl and played in two Cotton Bowls, winning one. Then 2016 happened when they slumped to 3-9 winning just one game in the Big 10. The defense allowed 27.8 points per game, the most under Mark Dantonio. 

2017 sees four starters return on each side of the ball. Th offense loses quarterback Tyler O’Connor and top receiver RJ Shelton. LJ Scott does return after rushing for 994 yards and 6 TDs last year. Scott may burden a big load early in the season as new starters all over the field go through the learning curve. In 2016, the offense also had four returning starters and put up 24.1 points and 395 yards per game.

The defense has four starters back from a group that allowed 27.8 points and 365 yards per game. The biggest concern is the defensive line that allowed 159 yards rushing per game in 2016 and have just one returning starter after off the field issues saw two others dismissed. Similar numbers are expected, but with Dantonio the defense could surprise to the good side.

The schedule for the Spartans is filled with tough games. After a bye on September 16, they will face Notre Dame (home), Iowa (home), and Michigan (away) in three straight games. The end of October and beginning of November is another brutal stretch: Northwestern (away), Penn State (home), and Ohio State (away). The margin for error is small this year for Michigan State especially with the inexperience and off-season turmoil.

We will be honest, 2018 looks like it could be an exceptional season for Michigan State. Assuming that all the 2017 non-senior starters return, there would be 20 starters back in 2018 (10 on each side of the ball). That could be a team to watch next season.

1. (Big 10) The Big 10 will win the National Championship – There are three main contenders to win the Big 10: Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. And as we saw in 2016, you do not need to win your conference to make the Playoffs.

Ohio State had just 6 starters back in 2016 yet went 11-2 and made the Playoffs. Now they have 15 starters back and once again are the Big 10 favorites with all the firepower returning on offense an defense. Ohio State has three tough games in 2017: Oklahoma at in week two, Penn State at home at the end of October, and at Michigan to end the regular season. Expect the Buckeyes to be favored in all their games in 2017 barring some serious trouble.

Penn State is another contender to win the Big 10 after their awesome 2016 season. They went 11-3 while winning the Big 10 and made numerous comebacks in the second half of games throughout the season. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley make a dangerous backfield combination that is up there with any other backfield QB/RB duo in the country. Just imagine how good the Nittany Lions might be if they decide to not spot their opponents points in the first half.

Penn State has a brutal four game stretch over a five week span: Northwestern (away), Michigan (home), Ohio State (away), and Michigan State (away). The Spartans should not pose a serious threat, but given the game is after back-to-back games against the Wolverines and Buckeyes, there is the slight chance for a let down.

The third top contender is Wisconsin, who has an incredibly friendly Big 10 schedule. They do face BYU on the road September 16 before a bye week. The Big 10 schedules opens with Northwestern at home and Nebraska on the road. In November, they welcome both Iowa and Michigan to Madison while playing Minnesota in the finale. The Badgers have a good shot of going undefeated where they will probably meet up with either Ohio State or Penn State.

There are two dark horse contenders in Michigan and Northwestern. We discussed the Wildcats two predictions above and concede that they are a very long shot to even reach the Big 10 title game. Michigan will be in year three under Jim Harbaugh, but the losses are severe. Just four starters are back on offense and only one starter returns on defense. They have a brutal schedule of Florida (in Arlington, Texas), Penn State (away), Wisconsin (away), and Ohio State (home). The Wolverines are capable of getting to the Big 10 Championship and even the Playoffs, but it does not look likely in 2017.

It it tough to project the four teams in the College Football due to the multitude of matchup possibilities. Ohio State is probably the best of the trio mentioned above and loom as the Big 10’s best chance to win the National Championship. However, do not underestimate Penn State or Wisconsin from reaching the Playoffs where anything can happen.

That concludes our 25 predictions for the 2017 season, however, we will give one bonus prediction below.

Bonus: At least 10 FCS teams will defeat FBS teams – Does it seem like FCS teams upsetting FBS teams is happening more often? If so, that is because it is happening more often. Between 2004 and 2009, FCS teams averaged 4.3 wins per year against FBS teams with a high of 9 in 2007. Since 2010, that average has more than doubled to an average of 9.6 wins per season. 2013 saw the most FCS upsets with 16 and each of the last five seasons have produced at least 8 FCS wins against the FBS.

Here is a link to all the FCS versus FBS matchups in 2017. There are 98 matchups featuring FCS against FBS teams, which means roughly 10% of the games will require an upset for this prediction to be correct. With FCS teams becoming more and more competitive, it makes sense they would defeat FBS teams more often. Let’s hope that is the case in 2017 as well.

You have reached the end of our predictions. We hope you enjoyed reading them and hope you follow along  to see how they turn out for the 2017 season. Enjoy the start of the 2017 season!

25 Predictions for the 2017 College Football Season: 10 Through 6

Lamar Jackson won the coveted Heisman Trophy in 2016. Will he do so again in 2017? (Michael Reaves/Getty Images North America)

25 Predictions for the 2017 College Football Season: 10 Through 6

The 2017 College Football season is starting in less than two weeks and that means it is prediction season. We will do something different than last year. In 2016, we made 5 predictions for each conference for a total of 55 predictions. The final total was 30.5 predictions correct for 55.5% hit rate.

This year we will make a total of 25 predictions with five each week until August 23. The predictions will range from conference winners to team win totals or bowl games to individual player performances. We will start with the mid-major conferences (predictions 25-16) before ending with the predictions for the Power 5 conferences (predictions 15-1).

This is the fourth edition and we will continue predicting the Power 5 Conferences. Below is the schedule for the 25 predictions.

Predictions 25-21: July 26 (Sun Belt, C-USA, Independents)

Predictions 20-16: August 2 (MAC, MWC, AAC)

Predictions 15-11: August 9 (Big 12, Pac-12)

Predictions 10-6: August 16 (Pac-12, ACC, SEC)

Predictions 5-1: August 23 (SEC, Big 10)

Predictions 10 Through 6

10. (Pac-12) Washington will win the Pac-12 – Last year we said Washington would not win the Pac-12. Well, we were way wrong and felt like the 2017 would be the breakout season for Washington. The Huskies arrived a year earlier than we expected, but we still like them in 2017.

The offense has seven starters back led by Jake Browning (43 touchdowns against 9 interceptions) and running backs Myles Gaskin (1,371 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Lavon Coleman (852 yards and 7 TDs). The offense loses John Ross (leading receiver with 1,150 yards and 17 TDs), but there are a ton of weapons on offense to ease the burden. After putting up 41.8 points and 457 yards per game in 2016, the offense should be just as powerful.

The defense has done very well the past two seasons. 2015 saw the unit allow 18.8 points and 352 yards per game with four starters back. In 2016, the defense did even better allowing 17.7 points and 317 yards per game. Six starters are back including four in the front six and four of the top five tacklers. They may not match last season’s numbers, but they will still be one of best in the Pac-12.

The Huskies have a very favorable schedule to make a second straight Pac-12 Championship game. They have road games at Colorado, Oregon State, and Arizona State in the front half of their conference schedule. Their final five games include four at home with their one road game at Stanford. They also avoid USC out of the South, a team they could easily face for the Pac-12 title. The Huskies are primed for another big season.

9. (ACC) Lamar Jackson will not win the Heisman – Let’s start by saying this: Lamar Jackson is more than capable of winning a second straight Heisman. He is an electrifying athlete, but he lost a lot of pieces around him and the expectations are sky high.

Louisville’s offense averaged 42.5 points and 533 yards per game in 2016, but loses its top three receivers and top running back. Jackson was easily the top rusher with 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns. The loses along the offensive line (three starters) will hurt as well. Overall, the offense will be potent, but will be hard-pressed to equal their output in 2017.

The other part of the equation is expectations. Archie Griffin is the only two time winner of the Heisman (1974-75) and the 9 returning Heisman winners since have largely seen a drop off in stats. The link here shows the stats for each returning Heisman winner going back to 1945. That is probably the biggest hurdle to winning a second straight Heisman and the supporting cast does not look as strong this year (though still very good).

8. (ACC) North Carolina State will win at least 10 games – 2017 is the best season to date for Dave Doeren to breakthrough with North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have 17 starters back and their opponents have some serious concerns.

On offense, the Wolfpack return nine starters led by Ryan Finley at quarterback (3,059 yards with 18 TDs and 8 interceptions). The biggest question is at running back after the loss of Matthew Dayes (1,155 yards and 10 TDs). The offensive line returns four starters, which should help cushion the loss of Dayes. The top four receivers return and this unit should eclipse the 2016 numbers of 27 points and 417 yards per game.

The defense returns 8 starters from a group that allowed 22.8 points and 353 yards per game. Three of the top five and six of the top eight tacklers are back including the front six that allowed just 109 rushing yards per game. That group will need to be just as good and the defense overall should put up similar numbers to 2016.

The schedule starts with South Carolina in Charlotte followed by back-to-back home games against Marshall and Furman. The next four games are all against ACC foes: Florida State (away), Syracuse (home), Louisville (home), and Pittsburgh (away).

The season closes out against Notre Dame (away), Clemson (home), Boston College (away), Wake Forest (away), and North Carolina (home). It will not be easy to reach 10 wins, but with both Louisville and Clemson at home, they might sneak in an upset to give them confidence and put 10 wins in reach.

7. (ACC) Florida State will win the ACC – The Seminoles look like the standout team in 2017. The offense has six starters back from a unit that put up 35.1 points and 466 yards per game. They lost Dalvin Cook (1,765 yard and 19 TDs) as well as the top two receivers. However, they return quarterback Deondre Francois and three starters on the line. The running back spot will be key to develop, but the talent is immense on depth chart for that position.

The defense took a step back in 2016 giving up 25 points and 349 yards per game. Compare that to 2015 when they allowed 17.5 points and 337 yards per game. Nine starters are back including eight of the top nine tacklers. This group should get closer to 2015 numbers and will be the key to how far the Seminoles go.

Florida State opens with the massive game against Alabama in Atlanta. Their ACC schedule is very kind as they face Miami, NC State, and Louisville at home. They face Clemson away in their last conference game of the season. Florida State looks set for another big season, which we think will culminate in an ACC Championship at the very least.

6. (SEC) Missouri will have the SEC’s highest scoring offense – This prediction will be based on the points per game over the entire season. Missouri made a gigantic improvement from 2015 to 2016 on offense. The Tigers put up a horrid 13.6 points and 281 yards per game in 2015, which ended up being Gary Pinkel’s final season in Columbia.  2016 saw them go up to 31.4 points and 501 yards per game and that happened with a new head coach (Barry Odom) and only three returning starters.

2017 will see 10 starters return on offense and their lone loss was at tight end. Drew Lock is back to lead the offense after throwing for 3,399 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Damarea Crockett (1,062 yards and 10 TDs) and Ish Witter (750 yards and 6 TDs) are also returning in the backfield with Lock. The top four receivers also return: J’Mon Moore (1,012 yards and 8 TDs), Dimetrios Mason (587 and 3 TDs), Johnathon Johnson (435 and 2 TDs), and Emanuel Hall (307 and 2 TDs).

The offense looks wonderful on paper and they open with four straight home games versus Missouri State, South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn. The offense may need to be even better because the defense was very porous last year (31.5 points and 480 yards per game). In addition, the Tigers averaged only 22.6 points per game in SEC play, a mark that will need to go up if the Tigers want to contend for a bowl game.

Teams like Alabama (38.8 PPG in 2016), Texas A&M (34.8), Auburn (31.2), Arkansas (30.3), and even Kentucky (30) pose a threat to score more (especially the Tide with their main pieces returning). However, Missouri’s offense returns nearly intact and should fare even better in the second year under Odom.

That concludes the fourth set of five predictions for the 2017 college football season. Check back next week for the final five predictions, which will include two predictions for the SEC and three for the Big 10.