By Carter Gibson Hunt, Sports Editor
*Important notice: I strongly suggest reading Greg Peterson’s preview of Furman Football before this article which focuses solely on the FBS season.
College football is entering its third year of its charming four-team playoff and it would not seem ill-advised to call it a success. With Alabama looking to defend its title, Clemson hoping to become a regular in the national conversation and Michigan’s Harbaugh out to prove that his shenanigans in Ann Arbor are actually for a purpose, 2016 looks to be another wonderful year for the sport.
Every preseason presents a slew of storylines that become meaningless almost the instant the season starts, but how can we distinguish what matters and what will not just a few weeks into the season? The following is a list of predictions on the 2016 season, most of them could be way off but if I am lucky enough, a few of these hunches might be spot on.
The Big Ten misses the playoffs: Conference affiliation seems to have only taken off with the implementation of the four-team playoff. The reason? It is a four-team playoff and there are five power conferences so at least one team will get left out. The biggest Big Ten contenders will be Ohio State and Michigan, both are in the preseason top ten but neither seems to be so dominant that they could make it through the season unscathed and at a better record than 10-2.
Clemson goes Clemson-ing: Don’t get me wrong, I actually think that Clemson enters the 2016 season as the title favorite, and I think it is the best team in college football. I even think that DeSahun Watson the favorite to win the Heisman, will be able to win in Tallahassee for the de facto ACC Championship game (Sorry UNC). But somewhere along the way, whether it is on the road at Auburn or Georgia Tech or even at home against Louisville, I think that Clemson will slip up big against a lightweight competitor. The question is could an 11-1 Clemson team make the playoffs? My vote might surprise you; I say yes.
A non-power five team makes the playoffs: This is without a doubt my boldest prediction. But the playoff committee will at some point feel obliged to let a group of five member (non ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, or SEC) or an independent into the playoffs. My guess is that this year is the year. Houston will have a great chance if it can upset Oklahoma in week one and Notre Dame seems to be another great option. All it takes is one team to go undefeated and one of four spots will be theirs.
Rapid Fire: Leonard Fournette wins the Heisman. Fournette was the best running back in college football last season, this year he just needs to show up for the big games. Baylor finishes in the top two of the Big 12. Despite the program spiraling out of control after this summer, Baylor still has one of the best offenses in the Big 12, enough to upset Oklahoma or TCU. Tennessee disappoints… again. I want to believe in Tennesse but they just can not help but lose important games. Alabama wins the national title. I will be rooting against them every step of the way but Nick Saban has created a powerhouse that seems impossible to beat. They will likely slip up once, perhaps against LSU but eventually they will just overpower opponents.