Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) looks for room to run against the USC Trojans during the first half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2017 in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)
Photo: Doug Benc/AP
Photo: Doug Benc/AP

Miami back, Darnold strikes pose, Tide — yep — rolls

There are a couple of ways to approach making predictions for a college football season. 

If being correct in the end is the most important thing, stick with the chalk picks and come away with a solid completion percentage built mostly on short throws to open receivers. Hooray, efficiency! 

Of course, where's fun in that? Open things up and maybe come away with one or two memorable plays — or huge mistakes. 

It's time to take a few shots down field.  

AP TOP 25 

Three teams in the AP preseason poll that will not finish the season ranked — No. 13 LSU, No. 16 Louisville, No. 22 West Virginia. 

Three teams not in the AP preseason poll that will finish the season ranked — Northwestern, North Carolina State, Notre Dame.  


American Athletic Conference: Memphis (West) over USF (East). Heavily hyped AAC favorite gets knocked off again. 

Atlantic Coast Conference: Miami (Coastal) over Florida State (Atlantic). 'Canes, back! Really. 

Big Ten: Ohio State (East) over Northwestern (West). Wildcats are surprise winners of the West, but Buckeyes take care of business to finish 13-0. 

Big 12: Kansas State (second) over Oklahoma (first). Of course an upset in the Big 12 championship game helps keep Oklahoma out of the playoff. Of course. 

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee (East) over Louisiana Tech (West). Stockstill & son (coach Rick and quarterback Brent) rule C-USA. 

Mid-American Conference: Toledo (West) over Miami (East). Finally, Toledo. Steady Rockets win the MAC for first time since 2004. 

Mountain West: Boise State (Mountain) over San Diego State (West) Broncos snap Aztecs' MW title streak at two. 

Pac-12: Southern California (South) over Washington (North). Heavyweight matchup that sends the winner to the playoff. 

Southeastern Conference: Alabama (West) over Georgia (East). SEC East champ still just a tuneup for playoff-bound Crimson Tide. 

Sun Belt: Appalachian State. Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield positions himself for a possible Power-Five gig.  


Top five vote-getters (in order): 

Sam Darnold, QB, USC. The favorite becomes the Trojans' eighth Heisman winner. 

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Barkley goes for 2,000-plus total yards. 

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Mayfield joins Tebow as three-time finalist. 

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M. Spectacular receiver also provides special-teams thrills. 

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. Fifth-year senior gets some career achievement support.  


The most-wanted coach on the market will end up at UCLA after another rough season by the Bruins convinces the administration to dip into all that new Under Armour money — this is the first of a 15-year deal worth $280 million — to part ways to Jim Mora. Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly will be biding his time at ESPN this season.  


Sugar Bowl — Alabama (2) vs. USC (3). 

Rose Bowl — Ohio State (1) vs. Miami (4). 

Cotton Bowl — Oklahoma vs. Stanford. 

Orange Bowl — Florida State vs. Penn State. 

Fiesta Bowl — Washington vs. Kansas State. 

Peach Bowl — Auburn vs. Memphis. 


Alabama beats Ohio State to avenge that 2014 semifinal loss to the Buckeyes and win its fifth national title in the last nine seasons under Nick Saban.

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