The greatest time of the year. Grills are fired up, burgers are being cooked, beers are being drunk, and some of the most passionate fans in the entire world are supporting their team almost like a religion for the next 16 weeks. After last year, when Clemson beat the brakes off Alabama in the National Championship Game, the Tigers now have a target on their back as they look to repeat as national champions. There are some key matchups that can help set the mold for the College Football Playoff, like a week four rematch between the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Georgia Bulldogs. Also, in week 14 of the game, Michigan, Ohio State - it doesn't get any bigger than this. These along with others can determine whether a team hoists a championship trophy in January or they have a date with their couch.
1. Week 1: Miami vs. Florida (Orlando, FL)
Is "the U" back, or is Florida back? In 2017, Miami went 12-2 and looked as if they were going to contend for an ACC championship. But in 2018, to say they struggled would be an understatement, with a 7-6 record and losing to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. A chance to prove the U is back starts in week one. For Florida, in 2018, first-year coach Dan Mullen took them to 10 wins after going 4-8 in 2017, as well as a win against Michigan in the Peach Bowl.
But, this summer has been littered with many Florida players de-committing from the school, or not being eligible to play. So, whatever is left of Florida is set to take the field August 24th in Orlando. With everything going on, Florida is still the better team. This game will be close, but Florida will overpower the Hurricanes.
Final prediction: Florida 24, Miami 18
2. Week 1: Oregon vs. Auburn (Atlanta, GA)
Last year, Auburn beat a PAC-12 team in a week one match-up. Then, the Tigers started a tailspin for the remainder of their season. This year, the Tigers look to have one of the best defenses in college football, and with Gus Malzhan on the hot seat, he may be more eager to call big plays to kick-start their offense.
For the Fighting Ducks, senior quarterback Justin Herbert comes back after not going to the NFL Draft in 2018. With that being said, the Ducks have a legit chance to win the PAC-12 and possibly steal a playoff spot. For the Ducks, though, they will start off on the wrong foot. Coming all the way from Eugene, playing in Auburn's back yard will be just too much.
Final prediction: Auburn 26, Oregon 17
3. Week 2: Texas A&M vs. Clemson (Clemson, SC)
In 2018, this was one of the games of the year, a breakout performance for Trevor Lawrence, and proof Texas A&M is here to stay. For the Aggies, going on the road to Clemson against the defending National Champions will be too much. I think Jimbo Fisher will have a team ready, but again, playing in Clemson fresh off a thumping from Alabama is not ideal for any team in college football.
Final prediction: Clemson 31, Texas A&M 21
4. Week 3: Clemson vs. Syracuse (Syracuse, NY)
Before 2018, some people may have only known Syracuse for being a team that can make a run in the NCAA tournament. But in 2018, Dino Babers brought the Orange back to relevance in football. Will they be relevant enough to beat Clemson? No, but this game is huge for the Orange to see how good are they really. Unfortunately, the loss of Ryan Dungey doesn't help and won't in the game.
Final prediction: Clemson 42, Syracuse 27
5. Week 4: Notre Dame vs. Georgia (Athens, GA)
This is the biggest game of the year. Notre Dame is always hated for not scheduling big names and playing "cupcakes" because they are independent. This year, we get the rematch. In 2017, this game went down to the final drive. Now, the Irish have seasoned quarterback Ian Book back for a "second" season.
For the Bulldogs, they lose a lot of depth at the wide receiver position, so this game will be won in the trenches. But, junior running back DeAndre Swift might just overpower the Fighting Irish defense front.
Final prediction: Georgia 24, Notre Dame 18
6. Week 5: Ohio State vs. Nebraska (Lincoln, NE)
For Scott Frost, his second year at UCF was a 12-0 campaign that led to Peach Bowl championship. Now, he's in his second year at a BIG 10 school, and there are expectations for the Huskers this season. Adrian Martinez looked to be a top-10 quarterback in the later part of 2018. In 2019, he will blossom into a top-five quarterback.
For the Buckeyes, losing Hall of Fame coach Urban Meyer isn't a great thing. Also, with transfer quarterback Justin Fields at the helm, he might need some grooming at the position. This is the Huskers' chance to show they are back and looking to contend for New Year's Six Bowl game.
Final prediction: Nebraska 45, Ohio State 24
7. Week 6: Auburn vs. Florida (Gainesville, FL)
There is a very high chance that both teams will be undefeated going into this game, so that means only one team will come out unscathed. For the Gators, this is where losing all that depth will come back to bite them. This game will go to the Tigers, but not by much.
Final prediction: Auburn 24, Florida 21
8. Week 7: Alabama vs. Texas A&M (College Station, TX)
There is such thing as a championship hangover, but is there a first losers hangover? For the Crimson Tide, they got the brakes beat off of them in the National Championship, 44-16. With Nick Saban at the helm, he won't allow for this. He will only use the loss as motivation.
But in 2019, people don't understand how good the Aggies will be this season. They will learn in week seven, as in this game, the Aggies will just scrape by the Crimson Tide in one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Final prediction: Texas A&M 38, Alabama 34
9. Week 8: West Virginia vs. Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
In the post-Will Grier era, West Virginia will be tough. Not to mention, the Mountaineers will lose the most production in all of the FBS going into 2019. While it will be week eight, there will still be a learning curve for these younger players.
For the Sooners, Lincoln Riley would have eight weeks in the season to groom Jalen Hurts. Which, if you are Mountaineer fan, is not what you wanted. This game, in a nice way, will only be close when the ball is getting ready to get kicked off.
Final prediction: Oklahoma 63, West Virginia 24
10. Week 9: Notre Dame vs. Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
Notre Dame has two massive games in 2019: the aforementioned rematch with the Bulldogs and this rematch with the Wolverines. For Jim Harbaugh, he now has a chance to work with Shea Patterson for a second season. But, will it be enough?
There are some questions about Michigan's running attack, and this is where they will get exposed. With Notre Dame being so close to Michigan, it allows for some Irish fans to travel to Ann Arbor, which could help the Fighting Irish.
Final prediction: Notre Dame 21, Michigan 16
Week 10: Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville, FL)
The South's Biggest Cocktail Party.
Maybe one of the biggest match-ups in recent memory. With this game effectively determining who wins the SEC East, unless Kentucky has another surprise for us, the Gators and Dogs will come into this game with everything on the line. The only reason I give this game to the Dogs is that Kirby Smart has been with his respective program for longer.
Final prediction: Georgia 28, Florida 17
12. Week 11: LSU vs. Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)
The game above this settled the SEC East, so this game can very easily settle the SEC West. This is the best that LSU has been in a long time, but it's still Alabama. Last year, we thought the Tigers could upset the Tide. Then, Alabama went and beat the brakes off of them 29-0. Now, a motivated, one-loss Alabama team has a chance to seal up the SEC West. There is no chance for the Tigers in this one.
Final prediction: Alabama 35, LSU 3
13. Week 12: Alabama vs. Miss. State (Mississippi State, MS)
In this matchup in 2017, the Bulldogs gave the eventual national champions all they could handle. But in 2019, this is a Mississippi State team that is on a decline. Not a sharp decline, but their performance won't be what it was back in the 2017-2018 era for the Bulldogs.
For the Crimson Tide, they could have a hangover from their big win against LSU, but that's not the case when Nick Saban is the head coach.
Final prediction: Alabama 45, Mississippi State 21
14. Week 13: Texas A&M vs. Georgia (Athens, GA)
In what is considered "dead week," where many SEC teams play a "cupcake" to prepare for rivalry weekend, this year, the Aggies and Bulldogs will battle in Athens. At this point for the Aggies, all they will be playing for is pride during this game, as a chance to the SEC has gone by the wayside. This game will be an instant classic, as the Aggies will give the Bulldogs all they can handle, and then some.
Yes, this game will go into overtime and be one for the ages.
Final prediction: Georgia 37, Texas A&M 34 (OT)
15. Week 14: Ohio State vs. Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
The Game, what more must be said?
Again, this game will probably determine who goes to the BIG 10 Championship game. Jim Harbaugh hasn't had the best record in "big games" he's been in while at the helm for the Wolverines. This is where he rides the ship. This is the strongest Michigan team he will have ever had, not mention this game is at the Big House. This game is going to be Michigan's to win.
Final prediction: Michigan 35, Ohio State 17
For what it is worth, the four playoff teams will be Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, and Michigan.
Clemson and Alabama, again, will play for a National Championship. After getting the tar knocked out of them by Clemson last year, Alabama comes back with vengeance and beats Clemson to win its 6th National Championship in the Saban era.