One thing seems almost inevitable going into the 2019 college football season: Either Alabama or Clemson will be here in December when the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl plays host to one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals. Maybe both, who knows.
As for the rest, the Arizona Republic sports staff read tea leaves and peered into their Magic 8 balls to answer these pressing questions for the season that kicks off this weekend:
When Arizona State and Arizona meet in the Territorial Cup game, what will be on the line?
Michelle Gardner, ASU beat reporter: Besides the usual bragging rights, Arizona probably needs to win this game to finish .500 after being 5-7 a year ago. That’s giving the Wildcats benefit of the doubt because they don’t have an easy schedule. Arizona is at USC, Oregon and Stanford among others.
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Greg Moore, columnist: ASU’s going to need to beat UA at home to win the Pac-12 South. UA will need a road win to get bowl eligible. ASU should cruise early, and most of its toughest games later in the season will be in Tempe. UA, meanwhile, has Texas Tech, UCLA and Washington in Tucson over the first six weeks, then go to USC, Stanford and Oregon. Expect these programs to be in vastly different spots come Thanksgiving.
Kent Somers, columnist: Not much outside Arizona if you’re not an alumnus. That’s not to say the game won’t be interesting. Both coaches, Kevin Sumlin and Herm Edwards, are in their second seasons, and this game will help us judge which program is in better shape. If ASU is fortunate, a win in this game will make the Sun Devils bowl eligible. The same could be true for the Wildcats, who should be better than last year. Both will hover around the .500 mark.
Jeff Metcalfe, colleges reporter: Provided Jayden Daniels plays somewhat close to the level of Taylor Kelly in 2012, ASU should fare no worse than last season including a win over Arizona. Arizona’s schedule is tougher (ASU’s Pac-12 North misses are Washington and Stanford), but the Wildcats could go 3-0 in non-conference and sneak into a bowl game.
Mark Faller, sports editor: ASU’s going to need to beat UA at home to become bowl-eligible. There are a lot of traps in the second half of schedule – such as playing at Oregon State the week before hosting Oregon – that could damage the W-L record. Arizona’s brutal road schedule should have the Wildcats on life support by the end of November.
Emily Horos, colleges editor: Nothing, except maybe a winning record for Arizona. Arizona State will probably enter this game 7-4, which is good enough for bowl eligibility, but not good enough to have a shot at the Pac-12 South.
Does anyone other than Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) or Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) have a realistic shot at the Heisman Trophy?
Gardner: There has been a lot of buzz for Oregon QB Justin Herbert too, but East Coast bias and the lack of respect for the Pac-12 won’t help his cause. Clemson and Alabama will dominate newspaper headlines and television coverage so it most likely comes down to those two.
Moore: Ever hear of Jalen Hurts? Lincoln Riley’s latest transfer quarterback at Oklahoma has a lot to prove after losing his job at Alabama, then rescuing the program in the SEC title game last season. Plus, we know what Riley did with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Just for fun, what if Eno Benjamin has another blockbuster season and ASU ends up in the Pac-12 title game. Wouldn’t he deserve a look from the Downtown Athletic Club, too?
Somers: Sure, they do. Did anyone have Murray winning it last year? It’s not easy being the preseason Heisman favorite and producing a season that lives up to expectations. Tagovailoa and Lawrence are good enough to do it, and their teams are deep enough to withstand injuries, which will make them look good. At the quarterback position alone, there are several players capable of making a run, including Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Herbert, Hurts and Adrian Martinez (Nebraska). And who knows? Maybe ASU's Benjamin makes a run. Edwards is going to make sure Benjamin gets enough carries.
Metcalfe: Gotta admit I sort of fancy the idea of Hurts soaring in his one year at Oklahoma and sticking it to Alabama in the playoffs. But three straight Sooners’ Heisman Trophy winners seems improbable. Why not throw Benjamin into the mix? Another 1,500-yard rushing season certainly is possible.
Faller: This might be Lawrence’s to lose – can’t see Clemson being challenged in the regular season – but my radar’s got a different blip: Ehlinger, especially if he can lead the apparently resurgent Longhorns back to the Big 12 title game.
Horos: Yes. Rarely do the preseason favorites end up the finalists. I like Georgia QB Jake Fromm.
Fox Sports college football studio analyst Urban Meyer was the guest speaker at the Fiesta Bowl Kickoff Luncheon. Arizona Republic
What regular-season game are you most anticipating?
Gardner: My personal one would be Florida-Miami since it’s my alma mater against the team we always hated the most (Miami) and it’s the first time in six years they’ve played. From a wider perspective it would be Oregon-Auburn on Aug. 31. It’s a chance to see if the Pac-12 can make inroads into gaining some respect against an almighty SEC foe.
Moore: Oklahoma at Texas. The Red River Showdown comes earlier than most rivalry games, and both teams are ranked in the preseason top 10s. We already know what I expect out of Hurts. But Ehlinger had a huge season in 2018, and analysts are predicting big things from him again this year.
Somers: Ohio State at Nebraska, Sept. 28. Both teams should be 4-0 when they meet in Lincoln. But we won’t know if either are for real until this game. The Buckeyes have a new coach in Ryan Day. Expectations haven’t changed, however. The Buckeyes enter the season ranked No. 5. This is a dangerous game for them. Nebraska is improving under second-year coach Scott Frost, and Martinez is very talented. Despite winning just four games a year ago, the Huskers are ranked 24th. Are they worthy? This game might tell us.
Metcalfe: The ramifications of No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia on Sept. 21 will be felt throughout the season especially since a loss ahead of the unforgiving SEC season could block the Bulldogs from the playoffs. If Notre Dame wins in its first appearance in Athens, the Irish could go undefeated for a second straight regular season.
Faller: Ohio State-Michigan at the Big House, but not for the usual reasons. Much intrigue in the Big Ten this year. Michigan would seem to have the best chance of getting the conference back into the playoff. But there’s one little problem: Jim Harbaugh’s never beaten Ohio State. So, is his job on the line if he loses again? And what about the Buckeyes after Urban Meyer – business as usual, or a step backward?
Horos: Notre Dame at Michigan, Oct. 26. I am not a fan of either of these teams, so whichever team loses, it’s a win for me. Both should be ranked in the top 10 when they meet, so it could be a chance for another team (perhaps the Pac-12’s Washington or Oregon) to break into the top 10.
Of the three Pac-12 teams that have never played in the Rose Bowl, Arizona and Colorado would seem to have no chance again. What about Utah?
Gardner: Utah is the heavy favorite in the South. I think it’s Utah and Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.
Moore: The winner of ASU-Utah wins the Pac-12 South. The North will come down to Oregon-Washington. So, no. The drought will continue.
Somers: The guess here is that coach Kyle Whittingham and the Utes live up to expectations.
Metcalfe: It’s completely feasible, maybe even likely, that Utah repeats as Pac-12 South champion, but even if that happens I’m not convinced the Utes are ready to beat, say, Washington or Oregon in the championship game.
Faller: It’s looking like Utah’s year. Defense doesn’t usually get enough credit in the Pac-12, but it will this year when the Utes beat Oregon for the conference title.
Horos: In my eyes the only possible answer here is Utah. Neither Arizona nor Colorado will be able to make the leap from sub-.500 in 2018 to conference champ in 2019.
USC coaches are often on the hot seat (looking at you, Clay Helton). What coach is in most danger of losing his job?
Gardner: Helton is the most obvious choice. Most USC faithful can’t believe he wasn’t shown the door last season.
Moore: Willie Taggart down at Florida State. Why he thought that would be a good job is anyone’s guess.
Somers: Anyone who coaches at Auburn is always on the hot seat, so that’s too easy. We’ll avoid Gus Malzahn. Let’s go with Taggart. Yes, this is only his second year. But another season like 2018 (5-7) might result in Florida State giving Taggart a road map and an apple. For you kids, a road map is a printed fold-out paper with a map of roads.
Metcalfe: Illinois is my alma mater and I like Lovie Smith going back to his ASU assistant days. Patience is certainly called for at a school without a winning record since 2011, but Smith is running out of time with a combined 9-27 record over three years. My guess is a change is coming if the Illini can’t get to at least 6-6.
Faller: I’m going with Randy Edsall at UConn. It’s year three of his second stint there and, man, were the Huskies putrid last season – statistically the worst defense (points and yards allowed) in the history of the FBS.
Horos: I’d say Smith. The Fighting Illini were last in a bowl game in 2014 and haven’t had a winning record since 2011. Illinois is the only team in the in the Big Ten West that did not receive a vote to win the division.
The final four playoff teams are Alabama, Clemson and …?
Gardner: Oklahoma, Michigan. I’m avoiding putting in another SEC team after Alabama.
Moore: Notre Dame, LSU. The exclusion of Georgia, Michigan and Texas is going to raise enough ruckus to force a playoff expansion. But will a small school like UCF force its way into the conversation again?
Somers: Just for the sake of change and keeping things interesting, I’ll say Utah and Michigan.
Metcalfe: I like Georgia’s chances especially since the Notre Dame game is at home. After that, I’ll throw a dart at Michigan to break through in the Big Ten.
Faller: Georgia, Texas. Not buying the Big Ten, again. Not buying the Pac-12, again.
Horos: Oklahoma, Michigan. It was tough to leave Georgia out of this, but at this point I figure the Bulldogs will be a three-loss team.
Source : https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/college/asu/2019/08/23/college-football-2019-fearless-predictions-republic-sports-experts/2079644001/2193