On the Fourth of July, the great Atlanta sports tradition involves the Peachtree Road Race. On or around Memorial Day, the not-so-great Atlanta sports tradition involves reading these long-range college football predictions and reacting with anger and scorn. Never let it be said that I don’t do my part to spread a little holiday dyspepsia.
A brief word of warning: Contrary to urban legend (not to be confused with Urban Meyer), I am not always wrong. When last we conducted this exercise, I picked Georgia to go 11-1, which it did, and win the SEC, which it didn’t quite; I also picked Georgia Tech to play for the ACC championship, which it did, albeit with a bit of help. And we begin again:
Tech will go 8-4 and finish second to Miami in the Coastal Division. The four losses: At Miami, BYU and Clemson; to Georgia in Atlanta.
Tech will make its second consecutive appearance in the ACC title game when the NCAA hits the Hurricanes with long-simmering sanctions. Miami will huff and puff and file lawsuits by the bushel, but the ACC will rule that a team on probation — even a probation that’s the function of a bungled investigation — can’t play for the conference championship.
Clemson will beat Georgia on Aug. 31. The Tigers’ rally against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl will have a transforming effect. The program that couldn’t win a big game is now poised to win more. A Georgia defense minus eight starters won’t stop Tajh Boyd. (Nor will Clemson halt the Bulldogs. Final score: Clemson 45, Georgia 42.)
Clemson will enter its final regular-season game undefeated and ranked No. 2, putting it in prime position to play for the BCS title. Then it will lose to South Carolina in Columbia. The Tigers will, however, beat Tech for the ACC championship.
Ohio State will finish the regular season unbeaten and ranked No. 1. Fun fact: Urban Meyer has had more unbeaten seasons than Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier have managed combined — and neither of Meyer’s came at Florida. Putting the nation’s second-best coach in the fourth-best conference is patently unfair.
Alabama will lose a game. That loss will not come at Texas A&M on Sept. 14. The Tide will beat the Aggies and the Heisman-holding Johnny Football, who famously upset Bama last November, by 17 points. Alabama’s loss will come against LSU on Nov. 9, for the crazy reason that Les Miles’ teams — and this won’t be nearly his best — do crazy things.
Alabama will, however, win the BCS title. Because it’s Alabama. Because he’s Nick Saban. Because one loss might prove disqualifying to another program, but never to this one. Final score of the title tilt in Pasadena: Alabama 42, Ohio State 21.
Louisville will finish undefeated, but will be shut out of the BCS title game. Because it’s Louisville. Because this isn’t basketball. But mostly because it’s not in the SEC. (Come 2014, the Cardinals will be in the ACC.) The four-team College Football Playoff cannot arrive soon enough.
The aforementioned Texas A&M will go 11-1 and be shut out of playing for any championships. The Aggies have the sort of schedule Georgia had in 2010 and 2011 and South Carolina will have this time: They won’t play any of the three best teams from the East. Trouble is, neither will Alabama.
South Carolina will go 11-1 and still won’t crack the SEC Championship game. Because that loss will come against Georgia in Athens on Sept. 7.
Florida will lose five games. The Gators won 11 games with defense and special teams and sometimes with mirrors last season. Eight starting defenders are gone. The offense will remain substandard. The losses: at Miami, at LSU, at South Carolina, to Georgia in Jacksonville — Mark Richt owns Will Muschamp — and to Florida State in Gainesville.
The battle for best rookie SEC coach will be won by Auburn, which will beat Arkansas on Nov. 2. The Tigers, who hired Gus Malzahn, will finish 8-4. The Razorbacks, who hired Bret Bielema, will go 7-5. Kentucky, which hired Mark Stoops, will finish 5-7 after beating Tennessee, which hired Butch Jones and will go 4-8.
Georgia State will show tangible improvement in Year 1 in the Sun Belt and FBS. Last year, under Bill Curry, the Panthers won one game. This year, under Trent Miles, they’ll win two.
Georgia will again go 11-1 and win the SEC East, and again it will be undone in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs will be one of the five best teams in the land, but they won’t be quite as good as a year ago. This time they’ll lose to Alabama in less riveting fashion, and for the next century Bulldog Nation will rue that their beloved program’s best post-Herschel shot was lost on a batted ball.