College football picks: Predicting winners for Power 5 games

If you’re like me, August is the longest month of the year. It has nothing to do with the weather, just that college football is so close you can practically feel Ralphie running onto the field in the Rocky Mountains or the various renditions of “Tiger Rag” across the Southeast hears trumpeting.

Ten years ago, to get through this month, a friend who shares my disgust with August teamed up with me to determine the winner of every single Power Five soccer game. No matter how much we disagreed on a game, we had to come to a consensus and play along. It was a way to check each other out and, we hoped, come to a better understanding.

Well, after a few years we stopped doing that. Life went on. I got married and honeymooned in August. The next year my wife and I gave birth to our daughter in August. (Those are definitely two recommended ways to get through this month if you’re so lucky).

But then in 2019 my friend Sam and I decided it was time to (of largely erroneous predictions) get the band back together. Georgia won the national championship — hey, we were only two years away.

Here’s our prediction for the 2022 season and which two schools will face off in January’s College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, second from right, takes the field with his players.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, second from right, walks onto the field with his players prior to the 2021 Cheez-It Bowl against Iowa State.

(Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press)

The biggest storyline in the ACC is evident: Can Clemson return to the dominance that defined his streak of six straight conference titles from 2015-2020? We expect Dabo to respond to Swinney’s program and reclaim the league crown, but the Tigers will just miss the playoffs. The ACC Atlantic division should be a lot more competitive than it has been in recent years — North Carolina State, Boston College, Wake Forest, Louisville and Florida State could hang out with Clemson on any given Saturday, and three of those are on the way. Also, the Tigers are playing at Notre Dame, where they lost in 2020. Based on what we saw from St. John Bosco High product quarterback DJ Uiagalelei last year, we just don’t see 11 wins on the schedule.

ACC Championship Game

Clemson (11-2) defeats Miami (8-5)

Big Ten Conference

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud is looking to make it in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Utah.

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud is looking to make it in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Utah.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

For the first time in a decade, Ohio State suffered a full offseason loss to Michigan. And with the 2020 game canceled due to Covid-19 issues in Michigan’s program, faithful in Columbus will be downright rabid over Thanksgiving weekend when the Wolverines come to town. That should be another top-five showdown, but it’s hard to imagine Michigan winning at Ohio State for the first time since 2000, when the Buckeyes were set to boast one of the strongest offenses in school history, led by Rancho Cucamonga quarterback CJ Stroud . Who does Ohio State meet in the Big Ten title game? We have Nebraska, who is having a great year under the embattled Scott Frost but falls in the season finale in Iowa to agree with Wisconsin.

Big Ten Championship Game

Ohio State (13-0) defeats Wisconsin (9-4)

Big 12 Conference

Oklahoma State's Stephon Johnson Jr. catches a pass in practice.

Oklahoma State’s Stephon Johnson Jr. catches a pass in practice.

(Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Baylor blew up the Big 12 last year and became one of the greatest stories in college football. Will Oklahoma restore order in its freshman year under Brent Venables, who left as Clemson’s longtime defense coordinator to return to Norman to succeed Lincoln Riley? The Sooners will be good, but the Big 12 have enough teams rightfully chasing them to put together a playoff resume. We have a three-way tie at the top with Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State, with the Cowboys winning a “Bedlam” rematch at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Big 12 championship game

Oklahoma State (11-2) def. Oklahoma (9-4)

Pac-12 Conference

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham lifts the Pac-12 championship trophy after beating Oregon December 3 in Las Vegas.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham lifts the Pac-12 championship trophy after beating Oregon December 3 in Las Vegas.

(Pursuit Stevens/Associated Press)

The hype surrounding Lincoln Riley’s USC first team is justified. Sure, there are questions about the Trojans’ defensive prowess, particularly up front, but the star power of offensive transfers from Caleb Williams, Jordan Addison, Mario Williams and Travis Dye bring enough positive vibes to believe this team can claim a conference title could win. But it won’t. USC will be just good enough to start 6-0 and turn Utah’s ultimate win in Salt Lake City into a top 10 win that puts the Utes in playoff discussion. Utah has the best team in the league, and Kyle Whittingham can focus the Utes from week to week. The Pac-12’s five-year playoff drought will finally end in 2022. As for USC, the Trojans will start 9-1 but end up disappointing in their last two games against rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, showing Riley still has a lot more work to do to bring USC back to the top of college football bring to. The Bruins have a shot at 10 wins but will screw it up in California, which will vent its anger at UCLA’s Big Ten move and take sweet revenge.

Pac-12 Championship Game

Utah (12-1) defeats Oregon (9-4)

Southeast Conference

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young runs with the ball against Cincinnati on December 31 at the Cotton Bowl.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young runs with the ball against Cincinnati on December 31 at the Cotton Bowl.

(Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press)

Alabama and Georgia remain on a different level than the rest of the SEC. Crimson Tide return quarterback Bryce Young, a Heisman Trophy winner, has something to prove after losing to the Bulldogs in the national championship game. Loaded on both sides of the ball, Alabama will also have a Heisman competitor on defense in edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. Georgia is losing 10 of its top 15 tacklers from its historically dominant defense, but the Bulldogs are quick to load for ball this side of the ball and the schedule feels perfect for another unbeaten regular season in Athens.

SEC Championship Game

Alabama (13-0) defeats Georgia (12-1)

independent

Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner passes against Toledo in September 2021

Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner passes against Toledo in September 2021

(AJ Mast/Associated Press)

The winner of Notre Dame-Brigham Young on Oct. 8 in Las Vegas will have an outside shot at a playoff berth. We think BYU will win this one, but the Cougars’ schedule is tough. If they somehow get to 11-1, they’re probably in.

Alabama coach Nick Saban watches quarterback Bryce Young warm up before a game against Mississippi State in October.

Alabama coach Nick Saban watches quarterback Bryce Young warm up before a game against Mississippi State in October.

(Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

Alabama and Ohio State will be the top seeds, and the committee will seed Utah and Georgia to avoid a replay of the SEC championship game in the national semifinals. Alabama will diplomatically end Utah’s dream season, and Ohio State will defeat Georgia and field a matchup of Southern California quarterbacks Young and Stroud dueling at SoFi Stadium. Young will lead the Crimson Tide to Nick Saban’s seventh national championship in Alabama and eighth overall.

semifinals
No. 1. Alabama defeats No. 4 Utah
No. 2 Ohio State defeats No. 3 Georgia
final
No. 1 Alabama defeats No. 2 Ohio State

National Champion: Alabama

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-08-26/college-football-picks-2022-predicting-winners-power-5-games College football picks: Predicting winners for Power 5 games

Emma Bowman

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