Bold Predictions for 2023: Conference Champions, Heisman Trophy, College Football Playoff

After an off-season full of silliness — from another wacky coaching carousel, to an NIL bonanza, to even more wacky conference reschedules — it’s game time again.

Talking season is over. Thank God.

An entertaining week 0 is in the books, and now we’re getting games galore for the next three months – starting with a loaded slate on Thursday night. So it’s time for some final predictions.

This is the second in a two-part series of bold preferences. Part 1 was a random set of predictions for 2023, in homage to Peter King style 10 Things I Think, I Think. Part II is my pick for conference champions, the Heisman Trophy, the College Football Playoff, and the national title winner.

So flame me for a lot of wrong predictions. You have the receipts. Debate gone.

Clemson wins the ACC for the eighth time in nine years

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I understand the rush around the state of Florida this year. I’ve also seen the development of Jordan Travis from a sideshow transfer to a Heisman contender. I buy that Mike Norvell flipped the program and got the Seminoles back on the podium as a national contender.

I just trust Dabo Swinney more.

The Tigers are not without questions. There are legitimate unknowns about how quickly Garrett Riley can pull off an offense that can’t make for an explosive play, and if it does Cade Clubnik can live up to its 5 star billing. And yet this is still a program that knows how to win.

In a “bad year” in 2022, Clemson still won the ACC, winning 4-1 against ranked teams. Without division, Clemson and FSU could face each other twice this fall — but there’s no guarantee the Seminoles will make it to Charlotte with all of their toughest conference games on the road (at Clemson, at Pitt, at Wake Forest).

Michigan beats Iowa for its third straight Big Ten title

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By both his actions and his remarks, Jim Harbaugh has put the chips all in for the Wolverines in 2023. There’s a title or bust feeling in Ann Arbor this fall.

Will they break Georgia’s record of NFL Draft picks? Is JJ McCarthy the next Josh Allen? I am skeptical that Harbaugh’s predictions are true, but I do believe that Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten again and will be Ohio State for the third season in a row. Penn state?

It will be another year before the Nittany Lions. At least that will be the post-season story in Happy Valley.

The Wolverines will fall Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes in the final year of divisions in the Big Ten. I believe in the future of Wisconsin Luke Fickell. But is there too much change in Year 1?

Texas ends up winning 10 games under Steve Sarkisian with a victory over Texas Tech in the Big 12 Championship

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The Big 12 this fall will resemble the Anchorman newsreader battle — just a backyard brawl every weekend with a bunch of random teams battling with their version of pitchforks, hammers, and knives.

As much as I like Texas talent, are the Longhorns really going to go 9-0 or 8-1 in conference in this competitive 1-12 (apologies to West Virginia and Houston)? I do not see it. But Sarkisian will win ten games for the first time in his career with a victory in the Big 12 Championship, saddening Brett Yormark by driving to the SEC after defeating Joey McGuire and Texas Tech.

A pack of Ducks proves more powerful than a band of Trojans. Oregon wins a wild Pac-12

Oregon Spring
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I’m competing in Oregon and Bo Nix in 2023. Dan Lanning has a deeper roster in Year 2, and while the Pac-12 will be a six-car pileup with very top-heavy competition, the Ducks (battered, bruised, and likely with two losses) emerge as champions.

Caleb Williams takes USC to the title game for the second time in a row, but is once again let down by the Trojans’ defense. Washington has another strong season Kalen Deboer but loses the tiebreaker. UCLA doesn’t have enough.

November 5, 2022;  Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban watches on against the LSU Tigers during the first half at Tiger Stadium.
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We’ve officially gone around the world with Alabama’s 2023 expectations. The offseason kicked off with many in the media questioning whether Nick Saban’s The Dynasty was dead, and now, on the eve of Week 1, the Tide are suddenly the fashion choice to win the SEC and the National Championship.

And I don’t hate it. It’s a bet on raw, pure talent. The Tide has more four- and five-star prospects than any team in America.

Alabama’s quarterback discomfort is real, and it could be the bugaboo that has been chasing the Tide all fall.

But the Tide will be better defensively in 2023 – even without it Will Anderson. The OL are nastier, and I’m not as disappointed with their skills as others. Alabama gets LSU at home, and that’s the difference in SEC West. In Atlanta, Alabama catches an undefeated (and untested) Georgia team not quite ready for prime time, with the master getting a little revenge on his mentee Kirby Slim.

UTSA wins the AAC, plays for a New Year’s Six bowl game and Jeff Traylor turns the season into a Power 5 lane

top 300 most impactful college football players of the 2021 season
(Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The Roadrunners are making the jump to the AAC this fall, and while I could see them lose in the regular season finale at Tulane, they bounced back and defeated the Green Wave in the conference title game the following weekend.

Frank Harris Jr. appears to have been in college since the Obama administration, and the seventh-year quarterback remains one of the best in the G5. Although he lost his top target to Ole Miss, UTSA still returns the next three top targets plus four starting offensive linemen.

Jeff Traylor is 30-10 at UTSA, and with a third straight double-digit winning season, he’ll have a chance to get a Power 5 appearance.

Hello Houston?

Marvin Harrison Jr. takes home the Heisman Trophy

With the Pac-12 cannibalizing itself, Caleb Williams won’t repeat as a Heisman Trophy winner, even though he will likely have 50+ touchdowns again in 2023. Drake Maye will have lost too many games while JJ McCarthy, Cade Clubnik And Carson Beck can all get invites, but won’t win because voters don’t see them as the best player on their team.

That’s why I did that Marvin Harrison Jr. becoming the second wideout in five years the Heisman wins. The former five-star player could get close to 100 passes this fall as Ohio State will force-feed America’s top playmaker.

The final four-team playoff field consists of No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Georgia

Kirby Smart, Carson Beck, Georgia Bulldogs

And the national champion is…Georgia

I’m not trying to get cute with my choices here. I see Georgia – a team that is so deep, talented and well-coached – lose twice in 2023. For the second time in three seasons, the Bulldogs lose in Atlanta but win the College Football Playoff.

Don’t tell me the committee would omit a 12-1 Georgia team that would clinch back-to-back national championships. Folly.

Winning a third consecutive title is nearly impossible – as history shows – but this fall is all about a weird and wild season with a predictable ending.

Alabama’s revenge tour ends with a loss to Ohio State.

The Dawgs beat Michigan (again) in the semifinals to win another instant classic against the Buckeyes in the title game.

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