NCAA Football

A look at some amazing specific college football predictions

A look at some amazing specific college football predictions

Readers may remember how a few months ago AthleticThe college football editors assigned me a preseason homework assignment: “Render.” Amazingly specific predictions for each team in the top 25.

I agreed, putting in hours of research like a freshman GA tasked with watching and re-watching game film until my eyes turned into props for A Clockwork Orange. The result was an unequivocal sharp assumption. Guesses that received a not-so-cute 30 percent success rate.

Below we list each prediction (in italics), some of which actually came true. A couple of others came close. Most of all, comically large fields, lawn darts that landed on the roof are missing. Let’s start the audit:


Jamir Gibbs scores his first goal at Alabama on a drive route vs. State of Utah.

Jermaine Burton beats Kelly Ringo for the top score in Atlanta.

Tyler Harrell makes nine catches in swings.

Eli Ricks gets six picks.

Gibbs scored his first touchdown on a catch, only it came on a scrimmage instead of a wheel route. And it happened in the second week in Texas. (We’re partial to specifics.) Never mind Burton’s struggle against Ringo, when the receiver’s most notable interaction was an impression of a fan storming the field in Niland. Harrell, aka the Human Blur, missed half the season with a foot injury and made just two catches. Alabama ranked 123rd in the nation with five team selections, making it mathematically improbable that Ricks would have six.

Ohio State

Jackson Smith– Nigba will do DeVonta Smith2020 numbers and become a Heisman finalist.

Limited to three games with a hamstring injury, Smith-Njigba fell just shy of Smith’s Heisman stats with just 112 catches, 23 touchdowns and 1,813 yards.


• The tight end duo of Brock Bowers and Eric Gilbert surpass 80 catches and 20 touchdowns.

Bowers had another special season and Gilbert another quiet one. The Bulldogs tight ends as a unit, thanks to a huge transfer from Darnell Washingtonfinished with 75 catches and 13 touchdowns.


• Utah will lead the Pac-12 in rushing touchdowns.

The Utes scored 37 points, three of them in the conference championship game, to lead the Pac-12. So good, Utah, for starting the season with this goal line disaster.

Mother of God

• Marcus Freeman will have some game management issues as the Irish have at least three losses for the first time since 2017.

Freeman faced a full-blown crisis after the defeat at home against Marshal and a Stanford a team that finished 3-9. While the Irish have regrouped, an 8-4 regular season makes this prediction a stark one that resonates (at least in my home office).

Texas A&M

• Matches Johnny Manziel’s 2013 performance Agis converts at least 14 passes of 40-plus yards.

No. There were five of them. Same as their win total. I complained to Jimbo Fisher, who suggested that I hire Bobby Petrino to make my predictions.

State of Michigan

• The Spartans aren’t living up to their preseason billing because their pass defense stinks, but they’re on an eight-game winning streak.

• Peyton Thorne will improve on last season’s 31 TD passes, including three against Wisconsinwho hasn’t conceded a single in the last two meetings.

The pass defense really stunk — 124th in efficiency — and Mel Tucker’s team slipped out of the AP poll after Week 3 and never came back. Eight wins proved elusive for Sparty (5-7), and Thorne threw just 20 touchdowns. What hurts worse? He narrowly missed my three-TD prediction against the Badgers thanks to the receiver being stopped inside the 1-yard line.


• Michigan State will increase its 2021 scoring average from 35.8 points to at least 39 this season.

I didn’t expect the Wolverines to repeat the Big Ten, but they did, averaging 40.1 points. Cha-ching!

NC State

• The Wolfpack will remain the only member in existence to have never won an ACC Atlantic title.

Devin Leary will break Kenny Pickett’s 2021 single-season conference record with 42 touchdown passes.

The Wolfpack finished 4-4 in the ACC, not threatening the division race. Leary tore his pectoral muscle in Week 6, although I can’t in good conscience cite a “interrupting injury” because he only had 11 touchdowns at that point.


• The Bears will allow fewer than 19 points per game again.

Wow. Baylor dropped from 10th to 65th in scoring defense at 26.6, and head coach Dave Aranda parted ways with his mentor, defensive coordinator Ron Roberts.


• After throwing just 12 touchdown passes in 2021, the Tigers will surpass that total by the time my mom celebrates her 76th birthday on Oct. 1.

DJ Uiagalelei made a decent play early enough for Clemson to catch its 12th TD pass on Oct. 1, in a Week 5 win over NC State. I’d like to lobby for that prediction, but the word “outdo” is undeniable.

Unfortunately, my mom’s 76th birthday was her last. We lost her unexpectedly 28 days later. She was the greatest happiness in my life, even if she couldn’t pronounce Uyagalelei.


• For the first time since 2014, Dan Lanning’s defense will lead the Pac-12 in sacks.

The Ducks did well, finishing third in the conference with 21 takeaways. They even forced three against State of Oregonnot that anyone would remember.


• With new coordinator Alex Grinch adding a collection of passes, the Trojans’ improved defense will allow 25 points per game and 5.7 yards per game.

He became the Grinch who stole my prediction: USC’s defense was marginally better at 27.9 points and 6.3 yards per game. The name of the Pac-12 game remains an active crime scene.

Be Miss

• Lane Kiffin embraces fourth-down gambles and Jimbo Fisher hates them. When they meet at Kyle Field on Oct. 29, the risk-averse Aggies will go for a fourth down to salvage their game-winning drive.

in fact, Rebels stopped Texas A&M on fourth down with 16 seconds left in a 31-28 win. This prediction column turned into a regret when I let the Aegis attacker beat me twice. At least beat someone.


Hendon Hooker and Anthony Richardson unleash a stream of touchdowns, and Tennessee-Florida becomes the SEC’s winningest game in 2022.

Hooker and Richardson combined for seven touchdowns in a game that came down to the final drive, but the 71-point total fell short of the 101 points scored against Tennessee-Alabama or the 101-point score at Tennessee-South Carolina.

Wake Forest

• Wake will break the winning streak in Week 10 North Carolinabefore finishing Syracuse and duke to finish the regular season 9-3.

The savages gave me only for this. Wake went 6-3 and would have clinched a winning record against UNC, but the Tar Heels took a 36-34 lead on a late game field goal. Two weeks later, Duke won with a late touchdown to drop Wake to 7-5.

Oklahoma State

• Mike Gundy’s squad would come off a nine-game regular season streak, but one of its losses would come Nov. 19 in Norman, eliminating OSU from the Big 12 title chase.

Yes, the Cowboys lost to the Bedlams and were eliminated from Big 12 contention. No, they fell short of nine wins, settling for 7-5 and a trip to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. The guaranteed rate on my pick is so embarrassingly low that I mark splits like this one. Chelads around.


• An 0-2 start with close home losses to West Virginia and Tennessee before Pat Narduzzi’s team rallied during ACC play and went on a nine-game winning streak.

Pitt had six rebounds to beat WVU 38-31 in the opener before losing in overtime to Tennessee 34-27 with Kedon Slovis for the second half. Two razor-thin results that could have gone either way, and I apologize profusely to Panther Nation for assuming the worst. Then again, I also assumed your team would win Tech. That 8-4 finish hurts me as much as it hurts you.


• Transmission receivers Sam Brown, Cody Jackson and Joseph Manjack, who combined for 22 catches at Oklahoma, USC and West Virginia, will have at least 65 receptions in 2022.

God, I didn’t even break a sweat with that choice. In fact, I almost raised my threshold to 80 catches. Alas, Jackson disappeared from the roster midseason without a peep, putting the burden on Brown and Manjack, who combined for 52 catches.


• Dropped from 32.3 points per game — his most since 2007 — to 28 years old.

Easy pickings as the Wildcats have plummeted to just 22.1 points per game, worst in the SEC. The offensive line’s struggles led to a paltry 3.35 yards per carry, also a league-low, leading to Mark Stoops leaving offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello after one season. Blanton round please.


Drew Sanders will push the pass rush and the Hogs will get 30 sacks for the first time since 2012.

A big win for me — and a big contract for Sanders. Arkansas rose from the bottom of the SEC to the top with 39 sacks while Sanders developed into a likely first-round pick. Throw me a Pig Trail Porter and that bag of cracklins.


• Gophers will increase their attack past as Dylan Wright triples its production to 50-plus catches. The former top-70 recruit who transferred from Texas A&M has too much length and strength to go unused.

Wright had 15 catches that went largely unused. The CDC has changed the classification Tanner Morgan throwing for 30 touchdowns in 2019 as a fever dream.


• Will fall victim to the UCF Bounce House on Oct. 29 and snap a 19-game American Athletic Conference winning streak. However, the Bearcats would bounce back to beat Houston in the AAC Championship.

Cincinnati got the rebound all right UCF, but my prediction was only half correct. Loss for Tulane knocked the Bearcats out of the AAC title game in the regular season finale.


• Tight end Sam Laporta, an NFL prospect, who enters the season with 95 career catches, will have seven touchdowns, matching the number caught by Noah Fant in 2018.

Laporta caught one. The All-Big Ten tight end caught one. I’m guilty of betting on Hawkeye scoring a touchdown. Next, I’m betting on the robbers in Home Alone.


• Z Hall of years organizing things behind the special offensive line, the Cougars will have 12 or fewer losses for the second straight season. And they will not make a single turnover against Baylorending the Bears’ 23-game hitting streak.

Despite losing more games than expected, the Cougars (7-5) became world champions on the Oddly Specific stage. Zero turnovers against Baylor and only nine committed all season, fifth fewest in FBS. Well done Provo. I’ll have a cup of decaf for my nightcap.

The bottom line: nine right, 21 wrong, and countless excuses that won’t make this pill any easier to swallow. Only a new series of predictions in 2023 can fix this. See you then.

(Photo by Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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