College football 2023: Picks and predictions for every game

When I was a senior in high school in the spring of 2000, I decided to attend the University of Michigan. Earlier that fall, my mom surprised me with tickets to see quarterback Tom Brady captain the Wolverines against Notre Dame in Ann Arbor. Michigan won late in the fourth quarter, and I was officially mesmerized.

After the 1997 National Championships ended, I thought I had been rooting for life – that was it before I decided to become a sports writer! A real contender for the title.

For the most part, the 18-year-old was so wrong. Prospects haven’t been kind to Michigan over the last couple of decades – you may remember the Wolverines were in fifth place when they lost to Appalachian State – and in general, I know from experience that when Michigan is supposed to do something great, it makes it less likely that they will. The thing.

Which brings me to my point: My annual picks for each of the “Power Five” games now have to be made during a year in which the Wolverines are ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls, certainly the highest rating since I’ve watched the program. Carefully. Michigan pulls off two emphatic straight wins over Ohio State and brings back the starting quarterback and dominant tandem and major leaders up and down the depth chart. I know Michigan is going to be very good, but I also know a lot about how wrong you can be when you’re supposed to be right.

My friend Sam and I do these picks together every year for fun, and I’ve never been to this place with my alma mater. Am I drenched or rained on the show? Read on to find out what we’ll do with Michigan, plus: Can Georgia get three peats? Will Caleb Williams lead USC to its first playoff appearance? How would UCLA do in Chip Kelly’s first season without Dorian Thompson Robinson?

ACC game picks and predictions

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis warms up before playing Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29.

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis warms up before playing Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29.

(Phelan M. Ebenhaek / Associated Press)

After missing two consecutive playoff games due to a broken offense, Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney finally exited the program and hired offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, the younger brother of Lincoln who helped Texas Christian to the national title game. Reilly will certainly have more playing independence under Sweeney than he did under Sonny Dykes, a creative player himself, and will relish the talented young midfielder in Kadi Klopnik.

But for the first time in a long time, the Tigers have a legitimate rival in the ACC with the rookie Seminoles in Florida, led by Mike Norville. Florida State’s offense should be more explosive than Clemson’s with the dual-threat ability of quarterback Jordan Travis and the skillful players around him. The Seminoles have a rocky start with Louisiana State in Orlando, Florida, and a trip to Clemson in their first four games. They’ll split those – we think the most likely loss will be in Death Valley – and run the table the rest of the way and set up a rematch with Clemson. Florida State will avenge its lone defeat and uphold a recent realignment stance that puts it above the rest of the ACC.

ACC Championship Game

Florida State (12-1) vs. Clemson (10-3)

ACC projected standings

Big Ten Game Picks and Predictions

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh gestures during the Fiesta Bowl against TCU in the College Football Playoff game on Dec. 31.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh gestures during the Fiesta Bowl against TCU in the College Football Playoff game on Dec. 31.

(Rick Skutteri / Associated Press)

Now, back to my Michigan dilemma. That’s where I landed: The Wolverines would start 11-0, prove themselves on the road at Penn State, and be ranked first in the nation entering the “game” with Ohio State.

Michigan is the most complete team this year, but the pressure will be from another world, and the Wolverines aren’t doing their best in this scenario (see last year’s game against TCU). Jim Harbaugh will coach not to lose and defend enough to allow Ohio State’s incredible talent to pull off the upset late on.

But Michigan, 8-1, still won the Big Ten because the Buckeyes lost Wisconsin and Penn State. The Wolverines enjoy a new lease on life as their postseason dreams continue, and they take on the Badgers, who far exceed expectations in Luke Fickell’s first season.

Big Ten Championship game

Michigan (12-1) defeats Wisconsin (9-4)

Projected top ten ranking

Big 12 picks and predictions

Texas coach Steve Sarkissian, center, joins his team for the school song after their win over Baylor in November.

Texas coach Steve Sarkissian, center, joins his team for the school song after their win over Baylor in November.

(Eric Jay / Associated Press)

This is the long-awaited final rodeo for Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12, and the two schools aren’t expecting an amicable parting. Just last week, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yurmark was paying a visit to Texas Tech and encouraged the Red Raiders to sponsor the Longhorns this Thanksgiving weekend. Texas needs to toughen up and embrace hate.

We like Texas, but not enough to pick it to beat Alabama in Week 2. Nick Saban may have resurrected Steve Sarkissian’s career, but that would be the end of his humanitarian spirit. The Longhorns will need to win all 12 of their major games to get to the playoffs, and they’ll falter once somewhere – our bet is in TCU. The Horned Frogs will be back on the roster, but they had a charmed life last season and won’t be in back-to-back playoff appearances.

Texas Tech, one of our surprise teams, will defeat TCU and Kansas State in Lubbock. But Jormark will not get his wish. The Longhorns would beat the Red Raiders two weeks in a row to walk out of the Big 12 with bravado that had eluded them for so long.

Grand Tournament Game 12

Texas (11-2) defeats Texas Tech (10-3)

Expected Grand Order 12

Pac-12 Game – Picks and Predictions

USC quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates a win over San Jose State at the Coliseum.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates his victory over San Jose State at the Coliseum on Aug. 26.

(Jay Si Hong / Associated Press)

This was supposed to be a hate tour for USC and UCLA, but now that six others have joined them in leaving the Pac-12, it’s kind of sad. But the Trojans and Bruins are the ones who started it, so will one of them finish it as champions? I already predicted that USC would make its playoff debut in Lincoln Riley’s second season, and I will stick to that prediction even after seeing the defense struggle to come off the field against San Jose State.

The Trojans will drop one somewhere, and we suspect it will come in the first real test of the season against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. It seems like something strange is going to happen, but this is going to fuel USC for a very long time. hard run. The Trojans will beat Utah and Washington in the Coliseum and win a wild game in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon’s schedule is well organized, and we can’t ignore the possibility of a Pac-4 team contending for the title. Caleb Williams will hold off the beloved Patriots Beavers.

Pac-12 championship game

USC (12-1) defeats Oregon State (10-3)

Projected Pac-12 ranking

SEC Game Picks and Predictions

LSU coach Brian Kelly disputes a call during a game against Mississippi in October 2022.

LSU coach Brian Kelly disputes a call during a game against Mississippi in October 2022.

(Matthew Hinton/Associated Press)

Now that I see it, I can’t stop thinking about it: Georgia is No. 1 at Tennessee by one loss on Nov. 18, a night game at Neyland Stadium to win the SEC East title and a chance to make the playoff. This will be one of the most amazing atmospheres I can remember, perhaps even surpassing last year’s Tennessee-Alabama game in Neyland.

Are the Vols ready to extinguish the emerging Kirby Smart dynasty? Here’s the “yes” argument: Georgia will be relatively untested late this year. Her schedule is very easy, and Smart will be able to protect young quarterback Carson Beck all year long. I’m not sure we’ll know much about Beck’s 10 games into the season.

Also, Todd Monken, Georgia’s terrific offensive coordinator who turned Stetson Bennett IV into a draft pick, went to the Baltimore Ravens. I can’t see Georgia getting away unscathed, Tennessee will have a strong offense and should have an improved defense.

In the SEC West, Alabama would lose two games in the first half of the season while finding itself offensively with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator in Tommy Reese. LSU would lose in Tuscaloosa but would win the West. Tennessee will be back to where it was last season — controlling its own playoff destiny — but it will come up again in the SEC title game against the Tigers.

Let the playoff debate begin: Georgia with one loss or SEC champion LSU with two losses?

SEC Championship Game

LSU (11-2) v. Tennessee (11-2)

The expected ranking of the SEC

Independent forecast

Michigan running back Blake Corum holds the ball during a game against Northwestern in 2021.

Michigan running back Blake Corum holds the ball during a game against Northwestern in 2021.

(Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

As one-loss Power Five champions, Florida State, Michigan and USC are in the playoffs. The SEC will be represented, and will come down to Georgia, 11-1, and LSU, 11-2. Here, the Bulldogs’ soft schedule will come back to bite them. Their best win would be, what, South Carolina? Mississippi? Florida? LSU will take advantage of the uncertainty by losing to No. 1 seed in the playoffs, Florida State, and Alabama on the road.

In the Sugar Bowl, Florida State and LSU will compete in a rematch that will be their third matchup in the last two seasons. The Seminoles won the first two games, and LSU would avenge the all-important game in the New Orleans Superdome, advancing to the CFP Championship.

In the Rose Bowl, Michigan and USC will play a game that will please all the purists — so they remember it’s just a Big Ten preview for years to come. The Wolverines will be playing with a chip on their shoulder of all the previous Michigan teams that fell to the Trojans and won their first CFP semifinal after losing their last two games. Michigan simply has a more balanced team than USC, which is still trying to figure out everything about defense.

In the CFP Championship game in Houston, the Wolverines would break through and win their first national championship in over 25 years.

Believe me when I say these words are hard to write. But, honestly, how often can you pick your university to win a national championship and have that actually be a realistic expectation? My assumption is that I won’t do it again.


LSU defeats Florida State

Michigan defeats USC


Michigan defeats LSU

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