Let’s dispense with the pleasantries: it’s been far too long a wait for the start of the 2017 college football season. I say in all seriousness I was having some withdrawal symptoms, namely sporadic Heisman poses and involuntary arm motions simulating a forward pass. It’s rather embarrassing to hurdle soda displays at HEB because your brain decided that case of Dr. Pepper was linebacker intent of keeping you out of the end zone, or perhaps the dairy aisle.
This Saturday marks the official start of the season, albeit with a rather pedestrian set of games, but I’m not going to complain. Much like the deprived candy addict can appreciate a half-eaten bar of stale chocolate, so, too, can I appreciate college football, in any form.
It is difficult to do any sort of prognosticating this early, but I’ll start out with this prediction: Michigan wins the 2017 national title. The game against Florida in Week 2 will probably prove me wrong immediately, but I’m putting this in print just so I can ignore it later.
With the departure of Deshaun Watson from Clemson and Alabama fatigue, I think this is the year of the Big Ten/PAC-12 matchup everyone wants in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium is not, however, in the shape of a coupe, nor sedan, but will have leather-trimmed seats throughout along with really nice analog clocks and an overpriced maintenance schedule.
Looking not so far ahead, well maybe pretty far ahead, I also predict the LSU-A&M game in Tiger Stadium will determine the representative from the West for the SEC championship. The Aggies have a fairly favorable schedule (about as good as you’re going to get in the SEC) and LSU’s defense should be as good as ever. I have no idea how the East will end up, with Georgia, Tennessee and Florida all being contenders as usual. You heard it here first: Alabama goes 9-3. Don’t hurt me, Mr. Saban.
As far as Texas teams in general, let’s go down the list — all of them.
Texas A&M: You had your chance last year, Aggies. But as stated, they should be in the mix to win the SEC. If the Aggies somehow implode and underachieve, which is always likely, Sumlin is out. Possibly a CFP Bowl if the defense can close out games.
Tech: You had your chance last year, Red Raiders. I think this is a rebuilding year for Kliff Kingsbury, who might finally get some new sunglasses courtesy of Solar Eclipse 2017 closeout sales.
Baylor: You had your chance last year, Bears. Unlike Tech, the addition of Matt Rhule at head coach might actually spark some interest in the program. Anyone who can coach back-to-back 10 win seasons at Temple can surely have some success at Baylor.
Houston: You had your chance last year, Cougars. This seems to be a running theme: Texas football teams underperforming. The loss to SMU last year was the beginning of the end, resulting in the Louisville win being a mere footnote to a disappointing season. Godspeed, Major Applewhite. I’ll also point out that with Herman and Rhule departing the AAC, the “new Big East” should be totally wide open.
TCU: Good luck, Mr. Patterson. Pretty tough road schedule, and the home games aren’t much easier. Bold prediction: Horned Frog loss against Jackson State to open the season.
SMU: I drove past SMU a couple times this year on my way to downtown Dallas, so I know the school actually exists, contrary to popular football opinion. A possible bowl game is in the cards, depending on how well the Mustangs play against some of the better AAC teams.
Texas: Tom Herman took $5 million to coach at his school of choice, which proves dreams do come true. Charlie Strong wasn’t given a chance, and my guess is Herman won’t be given one, either. I’m guessing the Longhorns win six or seven games, maybe beating OU, but reveling in mediocrity for at least one more year. At least they get Kansas in Austin!
North Texas: The Mean Green will make yet another bowl game, despite having a losing record. It’s just what they do.
Rice: Good thing these guys graduate with respectable degrees. The opening game against Stanford should be humbling, but at least it’s in Australia. At the very least, the Owls can go to the Sydney Opera House and get an early start on their cultural studies.
UTEP: The Miners might as well be in another state. Seriously, I never hear anything about UTEP other than, “El Paso has a football team?” I always answer that question with a shrug.
UTSA: Surprisingly good 2016 season, capped off with a bowl appearance. Not bad for a team that didn’t even exist seven years ago. The Roadrunners should have a repeat bowl, and be a serious contender for the C-USA title. Also should win the award for most annoying commute ever.
Texas State: Either extremely terrible, or disturbingly mediocre. Disturbingly because there is a lot of potential for the Bobcats to be a good team, but living up to that expectation seems nigh impossible. Bobcat fans can take solace in the fact that the Sun Belt is probably even more disturbingly mediocre, which gives them a chance. I’m still holding out for the revisited Southwest Conference.
Southland/SWAC/Div II & III: I usually stick to FBS, but I’ll mention that there is a lot of good football in the state of Texas, and most of it isn’t in the bowl division. Going out on a limb and predicting Sam Houston State finally wins the FCS title after nearly 20 years of solid play.
In closing, I’d like to welcome back everyone to the only season that truly matters, the one dearest to our hearts, the one responsible for a year’s worth of bragging rights. Next week I’ll be back to speculate on more stuff I don’t know anything about.
Brad Everman is a guest columnist for the Herald-Zeitung.