Yes! It is true! The Almighty and All Seeing PU returns with his Pre-Season NCAA Football Top 25 Predictions!
Trying to predict NCAA Football to begin the season without the benefit of having seen any games is the true definition of “a work in futility.” Only a few people in the world are uniquely qualified to even try and predict the top teams before a single game is played. PU is not only uniquely qualified to do so, he is ranked #1 among this group by his peers!
PU is acknowledged throughout this and every universe, known and unknown, for his uncanny ability to assess an upcoming football season. People and creatures in every world wait with baited breath for his breathtaking analysis. So without further ado, PU presents his first look at the 2019 NCAA Football season
Top 21 – 25 Teams
2018 record: 9-5
Returning starters: six offense, 4 defense,
Key losses: QB Clayton Thorson, CB Montrae Hartage, RB Cameron Green
Northwestern enters the 2019 season having 19 victories over the two previous seasons in the Big 10 West and finishing with a Holiday Bowl victory over Utah last year.
Hunter Johnson a transfer from Clemson should start at QB. He will be backed up by TJ Green, the backup to Clayton Thorson from last year.
Isaiah Bowser will be the running back and can be expected to run for 1,000 yards plus this season, making for a strong backfield. Joining him will be John Moten, Jesse Brown and Drake Anderson, making for a more depth filled position.
Northwestern should have a stronger receiving group this season for Johnson to target. Ben Skowronek is the best of the bunch, having caught 45 passes last season and the year before also. He is joined by Riley Lees in the slot, another reliable receiver.
The offensive line will be the question point, having lost three starters who anchored the line last year, though their “achievements” were unremarkable to say the least.
Defensively, Northwestern looks very good. They return nearly a dozen experienced players with Trae Williams and JR Pace leading the unit. Joining them is the All Big 10 end Joe Gaziano, as well as Earnest Brown, Samdup Miller and freshmen Eku Leota and Devin O’Rouke.
Stopping the run will be the biggest problem for the defensive unit. They need an interior lineman who can step up, and hopefully Senior Alex Miller will meet the challenge.
Paddy Fisher returns at the linebacker position for his third year, having at least 110 tackles and 4 forced fumbles in each of the two previous seasons. He is joined by Blake Gallagher and Chris Bergin to round out the defensive starting backfield. The secondary should be stable with returning players in most spots.
Northwestern gets a huge test the first game of the season at Stanford, a team that could be ranked by the end of the season. In the next six games, Northwestern meets Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa, all of which will prove to be troublesome at the very least.
With their strength of schedule, it will be tough for Northwestern to repeat as Division Champions. They will only do so IF the other division teams decide to not play.
Expect an 8 game winning season, and a December trip to a lesser Bowl Game.
2018 record: 8-5, 4-4 Conference
Returning starters: RB Larry Rountree, G Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, TE Albert Okwuegbunam
Key losses: QB Drew Lock, E Emanuel Hall, T Terry Beckner, LB Terez Hall
Missouri finished the 2018 outing with an 8-5 record, and 4-4 in the SEC East conference. They ended the year with a Liberty Bowl appearance where they lost to Oklahoma State 38-33.
Unfortunately, the 2019 Tigers are banned from a 2019 Bowl game due to academic violations. So this may spur them to perform during the regular season by using the NCAA as a motivational tool.
After losing QB Drew Lock to the NFL, Clemson transfer QB Kelly Bryant will be under center for the Tigers. Having completed 66% of his passes while at Clemson, he should keep Missouri in pretty good shape offensively for 2019.
Missouri has a solid returning backfield to join with Bryant. Larry Rountree will be in the running back position having run for 1,216 yards as a sophomore. Having started slowly last year, some believe that by the end of last year, he was the SEC’s best back. He is joined by sophomore Tyler Badie, providing a good one-two punch for Bryant.
The offensive line remains strong this year behind 3 returning starters. All-conference guard Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms leads the pack that will be protecting Bryant. The offensive line gave up only 13 sacks last year, and should be able to continue that performance this year.
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is back after suffering injuries most of last year which kept him from jumping to the NFL early. Receivers Johnathon Johnson, 124 career catches, and Jalen Knox should pick up a part of the receiving load. Joining them is Arkansas transfer Jonathan Nance, who led the team in receiving in 2017.
The Tiger defense has much to prove. Though allowing only 25.5 points per game average in 2018 with 126.5 rushing yards per game (22nd nationally) and 3.7 yards per carry (32nd nationally), they were ranked 108th in sack rate for the season. No end had more than 2.5 sacks. The defense must rely upon Texas transfer Jordan Elliott in the middle, junior end Akial Byers and the tackling machine Cale Garrett with 264 total tackles in his career. But for the defense to perform well, junior end Chris Turner, LSU transfer Sci Martin or Trajan Jeffcoat will have to step up to assist Byers.
The secondary appears to be in pretty good shape. They had acompletion rate at 55.7% last year, and that is even with the lack of QB sacks. CB Christian Holmes, DeMarkus Acy and Adam Sparks return with 4 safeties.
The schedule provides a measure of comfort for Missouri. They play Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina at home, and also catch Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Another 8 game winning season is likely.
23. Army Black Knights
2018 record: 11-2
Returning starters: seven offense, six defense, zero special teams.
Key losses: FB Darnell Woolfolk, C Bryce Holland, OT Austin Schuffert, LB James Nachtigal, S James Gibson, LB Chandler Ramirez, LB Kenneth Brinson
Army begins the 2019 campaign having experienced the most successful football season in decades with their 2018 season. For the first time ever, Army won 11 games and almost won 12, having played #4 Oklahoma so tough that it took OU overtime to defeat the Black Knights. Over the last 2 years, Army is 21-5.
Army followed up the OU battle with a victory in the Armed Forces Bowl over Houston, 70-14.
Coach Jeff Monken took over Army in 2014. At the time, Army had fielded terrible teams, having won 8 games in just one season over the last 25 years. Monken took over the team, rebuilding it, and now looks ahead to the 2019 campaign with the goal of building upon their success in 2018.
Returning for Army is Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. He is the first Army QB to both run and pass for 1000 yards in a season and will be expected to continue this level of performance, The really good news is that Army returns an experienced offensive line to ensure Hopkins can continue to run.
Army’s defensive will be tested this year. Safeties Coach John Loose has taken over as Defensive Coordinator with Jay Bateman leaving for North Carolina. The Black Knights defense will miss James Nachtigal, their leading tackler, but otherwise return 6 defensive starters.
Army opens the 2019 season against Rice and is tested the following Saturday, Sep 7, playing away against Michigan. If Army can beat Michigan, then they are for real and a New Year’s Day game is not out of the question.
An easy schedule should provide Army with at least a 10 game winning season.
2018 record: 4-8, 3-6 Big Ten
Returning starters: seven offense, six defense, two special teams.
Key losses: WR Stanley Morgan Jr., RB Devine Ozigbo, LB Dedrick Young II, LB Luke Gifford, S Aaron Williams, S Tre Neal
Nebraska begins the 2019 campaign with greater expectations than one would expect from a 4-8 record in 2018. Their record does not reflect that performance and play improved greatly by the end of the season and should be even better this year.
Leading the Huskers at QB will be sophomore Adrian Martinez, a sleeper candidate for the Heisman. Last year, Martinez led Nebraska to an average of 30 points per game, and that should be even better this year.
Joining Martinez in the backfield will be RB Maurice Washington while JD Spielman becomes the go-to receiver.
The offensive line has a couple of holes to fill due to graduation. However, they will remain strong for the Big Ten season.
The defense is the problem for Nebraska. Last year, the Huskers gave up 5.8 yards a play, down from 6.34 in 2017. If Nebraska wants to win the Big Ten East, the defense will have to step up its game.
The good news for Nebraska is the schedule. This year, they do not play Michigan, Penn State or Michigan State. And they host Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State on Sep 28.
An 8 game winning season is to be expected with 9 wins not out of the question. As well, a December Bowl Game should be planned for.
21. Syracuse Orange
2018 record: 10-3, 6-2 ACC
Returning starters: five offense, eight defense, two special teams
Key losses: QB Eric Dungey, WR Jamal Custis, OT Cody Conway, G Aaron Roberts, OT Koda Martin, DT Chris Slayton, LB Kielan Whitner, LB Ryan Guthrie
Since a successful season in 2001, where Syracuse finished with a #14 ranking, it had been all downhill. Naming Dino Babers the head coach beginning with the 2016 campaign, Syracuse began to turn things around. Although only going 4-8 for each of his first two seasons, Babers led Syracuse to a 10 win season in 2018, and a trip to the Camping World Bowl where they defeated West Virginia 34-18.
The Orange blasted their first four opponents by an average of 50-20, then gave Clemson its scare of the season. They let a late lead slip away in an overtime loss at Pitt the next week, but it was the only time Syracuse would lose to a non-Playoff team.
The Orange won six of their final seven games, losing only to Notre Dame. Earning a trip to the Camping World Bowl, they defeated rival West Virginia. For 2019, Syracuse is the only AAC team with any hopes of challenging Clemson for the AAC title, and even that is “The Impossible Dream.
Syracuse begins with having to replace QB Eric Dungey. His replacement is Tommy DeVito, who can both pass and run. DeVito will have RB Abdul Adams, an Oklahoma transfer and receiver Trishton Jackson, a Michigan State transfer to turn to when he is not running himself.
Jackson will be joined by Sean Riley (64 receptions, 58 percent success rate) and sophomore Taj Harris and junior slot Nykeim Johnson (combined: 81 catches, 1,130 yards, seven TDs) which will provide additional targets for Devito.
The offensive line should remain strong with most of the skill position players returning. This should keep Syracuse racking up points per game, and they may exceed last year’s average of 40.2 points.
Syracuse benefits from an easy schedule, playing on one Power 5 team, Maryland, outside of its conference. ACC road games will be at Duke, FSU, Louisville and NC State.
Week 3 will “tell the tale” with Syracuse taking on #1 Clemson at home. The last two years have been played down to the wire with Syracuse winning in 2017 and losing in 2018.
The Clemson game will have both ACC and BSC implications. If Syracuse can defeat Clemson, then they have a chance for a New Year’s Day Bowl game. A College GameDay showing in Syracuse could be very likely.
Another 10-2 season is definitely foreseeable for Syracuse, with likely losses only to Clemson and Florida State University.
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