Before the first official weekend of the college football season begins, all seven members of the Bettor Take Cover staff made their predictions for the season. We picked our national champions, our four playoff teams, our Power 5 conference champions and our Heisman winners.
See how our predictions match up with your own, and revisit this page later in the season so you can see how accurate we were. We’d also like to hear your own predictions for the season.
College Football Playoff Picks
TJ Daugherty: Ohio State (-125), Auburn (+500), Alabama (-230), Oklahoma State (+650)
Sam Johnson: Ohio State, Alabama, Stanford (+1300), Florida State (+160)
Cody Jinnette: USC (+150), Auburn, Penn State (+450), Florida State
I’m a firm believer that you need a good quarterback to win at a consistent level in this college football landscape. I think all of my top four teams have great quarterbacks and will have the firepower to win their conferences. This should be a fantastic year for quarterbacks, so Oklahoma, Washington, Louisville and Ohio State will also be sniffing around their conference championships and the College Football Playoffs due to fantastic quarterback play.
Brock Little: Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC
Chance Cassidy: Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Florida State
Lance Barton: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Stanford
Cole Frederick: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson (+550), Washington (+350)
The College Football Playoff system has been in place for three seasons. Alabama has appeared in all three, while Ohio State and Clemson have made the four-team field twice each. Those three programs have been the most consistent in college football over the last several seasons, and I trust those three coaches to make it back this year. Picking the same four teams from last year might not seem creative, but it’s not like I’m picking straight chalk here. Washington isn’t favored in the Pac-12 this year, but I think Chris Petersen gets the Huskies back in the playoffs in 2017.
Power 5 Conference Champions
TJ Daugherty: Auburn (+635), Ohio State (-120), Clemson (+400), Washington (+310), Oklahoma State (+445)
Cody Jinnette: Auburn, Penn State (+600), Florida State (+105), USC (+110), Oklahoma State
Sam Johnson: Alabama (-160), Ohio State, Florida State, Stanford (+750), Oklahoma State
Brock Little: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, USC, Oklahoma (+115)
Chance Cassidy: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, USC, Oklahoma State
Lance Barton: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Stanford, Oklahoma State
Cole Frederick: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Washington, Kansas State (+950)
TJ Daugherty: Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (+2350)
I have decided to take a sleeper as my Heisman winner this year. Stidham will receive his first snap in two years on Sept. 2 when the Auburn Tigers face Georgia Southern. I believe Stidham has one of the strongest arms in the country, and he also has pinpoint accuracy. He has an abundance of talent at wide receiver to help fill the stat sheet each week, and he is also a threat to pick up yards on the ground. My major concern for Stidham’s Heisman campaign is that Auburn has been a run-first offense in the past. For the most part, that’s been because the Tigers have had average QB play, but that won’t be the case this season. If Stidham can get Auburn past Clemson in Week 2, I think they will run the table until the Iron Bowl. At that point, all eyes will be on him, and a win would confirm his ticket to New York.
Sam Johnson: Saquon Barkley, Penn State (+1175)
Saquon Barkley burst onto the scene last year, and he was fantastic in the thrilling Rose Bowl. Barkley is the most dynamic back in the nation and will put up plenty of yards with quarterback Trace McSorely taking on much of the offensive load. Barkley will win the Heisman if he stays healthy and if Penn State can compete at a high level.
Cody Jinnette: Deondre Francois, Florida State (+2050)
Other finalists: Saquon Barkley, Penn State; Sam Darnold, USC; Jarrett Stidham, Auburn; Jake Browning, Washington.
Brock Little: Jalen Hurts, Alabama (+1750)
Chance Cassidy: Jalen Hurts, Alabama (+1750)
Lance Barton: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (+1200)
There are many who are sleeping on J.T. Barrett this year because of the way he finished last season. The Buckeyes’ offense was subpar at the end of the regular season, and they were shutout by Clemson in the College Football Playoffs. Because of that, Urban Meyer went out and made a home run hire by hiring former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as his new offensive coordinator. The last time Barrett had a game changing OC during his freshman year in 2014 when Tom Herman was calling plays. Barrett scored a gaudy 45 touchdowns in 12 games that season, and he was well on his way to being invited to the Heisman ceremony until he went down with a season-ending injury. I believe Barrett will flourish this season in Wilson’s system. Meyer has said that Barrett is undoubtedly the leader of this team. I like Barrett to put up huge numbers while leading the Buckeyes right back into the playoffs.
Cole Frederick: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (+1200)
I discussed Barrett’s candidacy in depth during my Big 10 preview, and I believe he will be the architect of a vastly improved Ohio State offense. As Lance mentioned, the addition of Kevin Wilson will help Barrett tremendously, and I think he will edge out Jake Browning, Lamar Jackson, Saquon Barkley and Quinton Flowers for the Buckeyes’ first Heisman winners since Troy Smith in 2006.
TJ Daugherty: Ohio State Buckeyes (+570)
Sam Johnson: Ohio State Buckeyes (+570)
The Ohio State Buckeyes were embarrassed in the College Football Playoffs last season against Clemson, who went on to win the national title. The problem that keeps history from repeating itself for Ohio State is that virtually everyone is back. Seriously, this team should not have made the playoffs last season. And the fact that they did and now are back to try again? That’s terrifying for the rest of the country. Fifteen total starters will return for the Buckeyes, including the entirety of an absolutely terrifying defensive line. J.T. Barrett is back for his fourth season at quarterback, and this Buckeyes team is loaded and out for vengeance after the way they ended the 2017 season.
Cody Jinnette: Penn State Nittany Lions (+2200)
Brock Little: Alabama Crimson Tide (+240)
Chance Cassidy: Alabama Crimson Tide (+240)
Lance Barton: Alabama Crimson Tide (+240)
I know this isn’t really stepping out on a limb, but why wouldn’t I go with the team that has been to three consecutive College Football Playoffs, back-to-back national title games, and has won four national titles in the last eight years? I also believe this could overall be the easiest schedule the Tide has had in Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama. Their two toughest games are by far against Florida State in the opener and at Auburn for last game of the year. Even if they split those two, they will still make the playoffs because I don’t see another loss on their schedule. The defense will once again be one of the best in the country. Defending SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts should be even better this year. The offense overall should be dynamic with the weapons Hurts will have around him and an experienced offensive line protecting him. I like the Tide over Ohio State in another Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer showdown for the national title.
Cole Frederick: Ohio State Buckeyes (+570)
Urban Meyer has only lost three bowl games during his coaching career. After the first two, his team came back and won the national title the following season. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent, including a ferocious defensive line and an experienced quarterback in J.T. Barrett. Their two toughest games against Oklahoma and Penn State are at home, and while they travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan, Ohio State will still be favored. Even if the Buckeyes slip up once in the regular season, they will still make the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. I have Ohio State knocking off Alabama in the title game to bring Urban Meyer within one national championship of tying Nick Saban.