By Craig Carroll
The best time of year is finally here. It's college football season and that means the GameDay Cup is up for grabs once again as myself, Brad Carroll, Glenn Carroll and everyone else who sends us their picks in the fan forum battle it out for supremacy as the expert of all college football experts. But before we get to previewing and picking games against the spread each and every week, here is our breakdown of the major conferences and who will end the season as the champion in each.
This is also the first season where the BCS system gives way to a four-team playoff tournament to decide college footballs national champion and we have those picks as well. It only makes to sense to start with the conference that gave us last year's champion:
Florida State looks to not only repeat as ACC champions, but as undefeated national champions. On paper, with the return of Heisman winning quaterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles should easily get through the conference. But not so fast. Winston lost two major contributors to the offense, with Kelvin Benjamin and Devonte Freeman both playing on Sundays now. Winston will have to play better than he did last season if the Seminoles want to repeat. Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech and even Duke will all be alive to ultimately unseat Florida State. Last year I went with heart over head and picked Miami to win the ACC. This year I'm not going do the same. Look for Florida State to take the ACC title and to be one of the four teams competing for the National Championship at year's end.
Craig's ACC Champion: Florida State
Brad's ACC Champion: Florida State
Glenn's ACC Champion: Florida State
This is a two horse race between Alabama and Auburn. Both teams lost key players from a year ago, but with Nick Marshall returning as quarterback for the Tigers and T.J. Yeldon leading the way for the Crimson Tide, I expect both teams to be undefeated when the two meet in Tuscaloosa at the end of the regular season. At home, I see Alabama getting its revenge from last season and punching its ticket to the SEC title game against either Georgia or South Carolina. Alabama should roll in that championship game.
Craig's SEC Champion: Alabama
Brad's SEC Champion: Alabama
Glenn's SEC Champion: Alabama
The Big Ten has undergone a drastic change in the last week, with front-runner Ohio State losing star quarterback Braxton Miller for the season with a shoulder injury. Before the injury, you could have put it in the books as Ohio State's conference to win. Now that has all but closed and it has opened the door for Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan or Nebraska to take the crown. Ultimately, it will come down to Michigan State or Wisconsin. Can Michigan State, known for its defense last year, make up for the loss of several top defenders? Can Wisconsin continue its dominance as a ground-and-pound football team? Wisconsin will ride running back Melvin Gordon and become the best team in the Big Ten.
Craig's Big Ten Champion: Wisconsin
Brad's Big Ten Champion: Michigan State
Glenn's Big Ten Champion: Michigan State
With a host of legit title contenders, the Pac-12 will be the most exciting and quite possibly the best conference in college football this season. Out of a talented pack, I see Oregon and UCLA as the two teams who will play for the conference championship. Oregon and UCLA boast two of the best quarterbacks in college football in Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, respectively, and the Pac-12 title game should be an instant classic. This one is the hardest choice to make, but move over Oregon, there's a new top dog in town, and it's the Bruins of UCLA.
Craig's Pac12 Champion: UCLA
Brad's Pac-12 Champion: Oregon
Glenn's Pac-12 Champion: Oregon
After decades of dominate programs, the Big 12 just isn't up to par with the conferences above and pose no real threat to winning a national championship this year. Baylor, which returns quarterback Bryce Petty, should have the edge at repeating. The Bears' stiffest competition will come from Oklahoma, who could top the conference if quarterback Trevor Knight looks as good as he did in the Sugar Bowl last season against Alabama.
Craig's Big 12 Champion: Baylor
Brad's Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
Glenn's Big 12 Champion: Baylor
American Athletic Conference
The AAC is a lot worse this year with the departure of Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten, not to mention defending champion Central Florida losing star quarterback Blake Bortles to the NFL. That has left the conference wide open with the top teams UCF, Cincinnati, Houston and East Carolina all with a chance to take the title.
Craig's AAC Champion: Houston
Brad's AAC Champion: Cincinnati
Glenn's AAC Champion: Central Florida
College Football Playoff
Final Four: Florida State, Alabama, UCLA, Wisconsin.
No. 1 Florida State beats No. 4 Wisconsin
No. 3 UCLA beats No. 2 Alabama
National Champion: UCLA
Final Four: Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon
No. 1 Florida State beats No. 4 Oregon
No. 2 Alabama beats No. 3 Oklahoma
National Champion: Alabama
Final Four: Florida State, Oregon, Alabama, Michigan State
No. 1 Florida State beats No. 4 Michigan State
No. 2 Oregon beats No. 3 Alabama
National Champion: Oregon