Early 2018 College Football Championship PredictionsAtlanta will host the 2018 national championship game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, January 8, 2018. The semifinals will be on New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
It’s important to keep in mind that Jan. 16 is the biggest upcoming date in college football as that’s when draft-eligible underclassmen have to declare or not for the draft. That means any redshirt sophomores or true juniors.
Alabama is going to have to fill some big holes on defense for sure, with potentially five guys on that side of the ball going in the first round of the draft if they all declare as expected. That group is led by lineman Jonathan Allen, a likely Top 5 pick. But the offense welcomes back starting QB Jalen Hurts, who will only be a sophomore, running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough and receiver Calvin Ridley. It would be a surprise to no one if the Tide make a fourth straight College Football Playoff.
Three weeks after opening the season against Florida State in a huge early game in Atlanta on Sept. 2, Alabama will begin conference play in 2017 against Vanderbilt. Consecutive home games against Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU make up the heart of the schedule, which extends over a 21-day period in October and early November. But there is a bye between the matchup with the Volunteers and the Tigers. Alabama plays just four true road games.
Clemson is going to have some work to do on offense. Superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson, the best offensive player in school history, tailback Wayne Gallman and receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott will enter the NFL draft. Filling Watson’s shoes will be the biggest headache for Coach Dabo Swinney.
USC could be No. 2 in the 2017 preseason polls after the performance freshman QB Sam Darnold put on in the Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Darnold etched his name into the Rose Bowl record book, becoming the first quarterback in the history of the game to throw five touchdown passes. He finished the game 33 of 53 for 453 yards and the five scores. However, top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has declared for the draft. The 6-foot- 2, 222-pound Smith-Schuster caught a career-high 10 touchdowns this season as the featured target for Darnold, including seven grabs for a season-high 133 yards and the 25th touchdown of his illustrious career in the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State was crushed by Clemson in this season’s semifinals but the Buckeyes were one of the nation’s youngest teams and will be loaded next year with QB JT Barrett returning. Barrett is 26-4 as Ohio State’ starter. He hasn’t lost to Michigan and has accounted for 100 total touchdowns. Barrett needs just four to tie the Big Ten career record set by Purdue’s Drew Brees from 1997-2000. But OSU’s top offensive player, Curtis Samuel, is headed to the draft. He led the team in receptions, accounting for more than 1,600 combined yards as a rusher and receiver and scoring 15 touchdowns.
Washington was the Pac-12 champion before running into Alabama in the semifinals. Top receiver John Ross moves on, but QB Jake Browning returns after a sophomore season in which he threw for 43 touchdowns. Also back is top tailback Myles Gaskin. Oklahoma will be the Big 12 favorite again as Heisman Trophy finalist QB Baker Mayfield is back, although he loses running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon and Heisman Trophy finalist receiver Dede Westbrook.