Pick 6 Predictions: Risers, fallers, a playoff dark horse
Before we start this, you should know something if you already do not. I suspect you might.
I picked Auburn to make the College Football Playoff last year.
I was one of the many members of the media who bought into the Jeremy Johnson hype, the new defensive coordinator (Muschamp!) and those stellar recruiting classes and decided that, yes, the Tigers coming off an 8-5 season in 2014 would indeed be one of the four best teams in the country in 2015.
Auburn started the season ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 , and then finished it 7-6.
So, yeah, not great.
The 2016 AP preseason poll was unveiled Sunday and the majority of the voters, many no doubt still stinging from Auburn, took the safe route and declared defending national champion Alabama No. 1. No team in the top 10 had less than nine victories last season.
Now it is time to put that Auburn debacle behind me and try to have a little fun forecasting the coming college football season. Part of what makes predictions fun is taking a flyer on a dark horse or two. Maybe even picking against Alabama again. And unlike Tigers coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s rotten season did not put me on the hot seat with my bosses.
Though I know some of you are keeping score.
1) Three unranked teams most likely to be ranked at end of the season.
Nebraska, Boise State, Miami.
2) Three ranked teams most likely to be unranked at the end of the season.
No. 23 Baylor, No. 20 Southern California, No. 11 Mississippi.
3) Top-10 team most likely to pull an Auburn-esque flop?
No. 5 LSU. The Tigers look loaded, but poor quarterback play can doom a season. Brandon Harris completed 54 percent of his passes last year. When the ship goes off course in the SEC West it is very hard to avoid the rocks especially when the rumors start swirling about the head coach getting fired. A lot riding on this season for Les Miles. No. 8 Stanford is the second choice here and No. 3 Oklahoma has a recent history of flopping when starting highly ranked.
4) Team outside the top 10 most likely to make the playoff.
No. 15 UCLA. The Bruins have the most talented quarterback in the country outside of Clemson in Josh Rosen and a defense that could start eight seniors and two juniors. UCLA edges out No. 13 TCU in this category.
5) Conference champions
Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic: Florida State
Champion: Florida State
East: Ohio State
Champion: Ohio State
American Athletic Conference
East: Western Kentucky
West: Southern Miss
Champion: Southern Miss
West: Western Michigan
Champion: Western Michigan
Mountain: Boise State
Champion: Boise State
Champion: Appalachian State
6) New Year’s Six
Oregon vs. Michigan
LSU vs. TCU
Notre Dame vs. USF
Clemson vs. Tennessee
Ohio State vs. Alabama
Florida State vs. UCLA
Florida State vs. Alabama
Heisman Trophy finalists: Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson, Josh Rosen.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP