The long offseason is finally over, and college football has officially returned. With that comes all of the typical prognostications -- preseason polls, watch lists and the like.
We at CBS Sports are here to do our part as our staff breaks down its picks for the College Football Playoff, 2018 national champion, Coach of the Year and Heisman Trophy winner. They also look at the most overrated and underrated teams in college football before making a bold prediction for the season as a whole.
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College Football Playoff predictions
2018 national champion
Clemson: Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence are both players that can lead the Tigers to an ACC championship, but Clemson will need them both, at different times, in order to win the national title. In games at Texas A&M, at Florida State and in the College Football Playoff, Bryant's experience and ability to help the ground game will provide a steadying presence. In some of those same moments, Clemson will need to stretch the defense with Lawrence and Tee Higgins. The defense is going to be one of the best in program history, and I think the different looks both quarterbacks present makes the offense even more dangerous. -- Chip Patterson (also Barton Simmons, Barrett Sallee, Ben Kercheval)
Alabama: The Crimson Tide has the best talent and the best coach. It is as simple as that. Alabama is on a decade-long run unlike anything we have seen in college football history. This is the 10th consecutive season that the Tide is No. 1 in either the preseason AP Top 25, the end-of-season poll or the postseason poll. Alabama is looking for its sixth national title in 10 years. It is a program that is built to win championships and knows how to do it. The Tide does not win every year, but it seems foolish to pick against them. -- Jerry Palm (also Dennis Dodd, Tom Fornelli)
Most overrated team
West Virginia: I'm in on Will Grier, but there are too many other questions -- including what WVU's offense looks like if he gets banged up -- to have on board with the pollsters in saying the Mountaineers are a top-20 team. To me, there are two or three teams in the Big 12 that I'd take over West Virginia, and while there's a great chance to put together a solid record in September and October, I think the November schedule will leave them right in the middle of the Big 12 standings and not in the top 25 of the polls. -- Chip Patterson (also Tom Fornelli, Barton Simmons)
Michigan: Lost in the Shea Patterson hoopla is the fact that he threw just two touchdowns and five interceptions against winning teams last year and those two touchdowns came after Ole Miss was in a 35-point hole vs. Auburn. Any thoughts of him coming in and being the savior for Michigan at quarterback are a bit premature. The quarterback spot is a question, the offensive line still needs work, and I'm not sure Jim Harbaugh has built Michigan in a way that it can win games that are played outside of its conservative comfort zone. -- Barrett Sallee (also Jerry Palm)
Texas: The Longhorns have to prove to themselves that they're back. They aren't -- not until Texas-Oklahoma means more than a speed bump for the Sooners. Not until a difference-making quarterback emerges. Not until Texas is a defense-first squad. Not until Tom Herman realizes all the potential Texas hired him to display. I just can't see it yet with many picking the 'Horns second in the Big 12. That would mean they'd be playing in the conference championship game. That would mean they'd finish 10-2, 9-3 at the worst. Texas is coming but it isn't there yet. Meanwhile, watch TCU and West Virginia battle for second place in the Big 12. -- Dennis Dodd
Virginia Tech: The Hokies could still win around nine games based on their schedule, and coach Justin Fuente is legit, but the Hokies sure do have a lot to replace on defense. Also, quarterback Josh Jackson low-key tapered off as last season progressed. It'll be interesting to see if he takes a noticeable leap in Year 2. There's some promise, yes, but the concerns are glaring. -- Ben Kercheval
Most underrated team
Florida: The Gators opened last season ranked No. 17, and after a 3-1 start to the season, things just fell apart. Well, it's still a talented team, and it's an experienced one as well. The Gators have 10 returning starters on offense and nine on defense. They've also made a major upgrade from a coaching standpoint going from Jim McElwain to Dan Mullen. While Georgia will still be the best team in the division, Florida should take advantage of an SEC East that remains the lesser of the conference's two divisions, and it'll finish the season ranked. -- Tom Fornelli
Florida State: It's the same refrain every year. Every outgoing coach brags about how they left the roster loaded and ready to win now. Every incoming coach bemoans the work they have to do to get "our guys" in and change the culture. That's why my ears perked up when the word around the campfire in Tallahassee was that Willie Taggart was excited about his roster and feels like there is a lot of talent in place right now. That admission hammers home my belief that this Florida State team isn't getting nearly enough attention. These guys were preseason No. 3 in the country last year. They were picked to win the ACC over Clemson. Then their quarterback got hurt and all bets were off. That QB is healthy again, the roster is loaded with top 5 recruiting classes, the beleaguered offensive line that was the Achilles heel has one of the best position coaches in the country, and I like Florida State to be a national juggernaut again. -- Barton Simmons
Iowa: It just feels like the Big Ten West is considered a one-team race with Wisconsin. However, Iowa is good for about eight wins a year anyway, and it returns one of the Big Ten's more effective quarterbacks in Nate Stanley. If the Hawkeyes can seamlessly replace some defensive production and improve the ground game, the schedule actually sets up nicely to make at least make a run at the Badgers in the West race. -- Ben Kercheval
Mississippi State: The Dawgs have been underrated basically the last nine years going to bowls under Dan Mullen. That streak should continue under Joe Moorhead. Ask Trace McSorley. Moorhead is one of the top five play callers in the country. Even with Nick Fitzgerald missing the opener, the Dawgs should keep on barking finishing second in the SEC West. -- Dennis Dodd
Nebraska: The naming of Adrian Martinez as starting quarterback boosts my confidence in the outlook for Nebraska's offense in year one under Scott Frost. Every Frost quarterback has been wildly efficient in his offense, and Stanley Morgan leads a group of absolute studs at wide receiver. The schedule is real tough and includes most of the best Big Ten teams, but I wouldn't rule out an upset in one of those games and think the Cornhuskers can pick up four or five wins against division opponents. -- Chip Patterson
Oregon: Justin Herbert was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation when he was healthy last year, and he'll prove that for a full season with first-year coach Mario Cristobal. The run-based power spread shouldn't change from the scheme of former coach Willie Taggart. Defensively, Jim Leavitt's return at defensive coordinator and experience up front should make this one of the better units in the Pac-12. Everybody's mentioning Stanford as Washington's primary threat in the Pac-12 North, but it's really the Ducks. -- Barrett Sallee
Utah: The Utes were a relatively young team last season and returns a lot of talent, especially on offense, which should be better used to second year coordinator Troy Taylor. The Utes also figure to have their usual stout defense, which is typically among the best in a conference that is otherwise not know for its defense. Utah has come close to a division title before, but with USC, Oregon and Arizona at home, the schedule is in place to make a run to the top this season. -- Jerry Palm
Coach of the Year
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin: Quick, who has a better overall record in the Big Ten the last three years? Only Urban Meyer is better than Chryst. Wisconsin's coach could walk down Madison Avenue and go unrecognized. With a quiet calm, Chryst has built the Badgers to within the heartbeat of a CFP berth. That could come this year. -- Dennis Dodd (also Chip Patterson)
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma: Riley is coming off one of the best head coaching debuts in the history of college football. It helped to have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, but he will not have that luxury this season. Still, Oklahoma is very talented, enough so that I expect them to make another run to the College Football Playoff, even with first-year starter Kyler Murray under center. If the Sooners repeat as a CFP participant, Riley should get very strong consideration for this award. -- Jerry Palm
Chris Petersen, Washington: Petersen is already considered one of the best coaches in the country, and he's only reestablished that belief with the job he's done at Washington. I think 2018 will be a special season for the Huskies that sees them winning the Pac-12 and returning to the College Football Playoff. Should that happen, Petersen will be a popular choice for this honor. -- Tom Fornelli
Dabo Swinney, Clemson: When Swinney deftly navigates a quarterback battle that features a returning starter that led his team to the playoffs and one of the top quarterback prospects of all time, it will catch voters' attention. When he goes undefeated in the regular season and wins the ACC it will catch voters' attention. When he keeps a roster of former five-stars happy to be role players, it will catch voters' attention. When he enters the playoffs as the favorite to win the national title, it will catch voters' attention. Or maybe all that talent and all those good assistant coaches will make voters think anybody can do it. Either way, the coach on the best team seems like a smart bet for coach of the year to me. -- Barton Simmons
James Franklin, Penn State: Nobody seems to consider Franklin as a top-five coach, but that will change in the post-Saquon Barkley era at Penn State. He'll lead Penn State to another Big Ten championship, McSorley into the Heisman Trophy hunt and prove to the world that the turnaround he has orchestrated at Penn State has been nothing short of incredible. After the big three of Swinney, Meyer and Nick Saban, Franklin leads the next group of top-tier head coaches. -- Barrett Sallee
Kirby Smart, Georgia: Trying to duplicate the Saban "process" has been almost impossible for SEC schools, but that's because no one can do what Alabama can do as far as recruiting goes -- until now. Smart recruits like Saban and finally has Georgia playing at the levels it wanted for so long under Mark Richt. If the Bulldogs win the SEC and get back to the playoff for the second straight year, Smart quickly joins the conversation as one of college football's top coaches. -- Ben Kercheval
Heisman Trophy winner
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Easy, right? Love rushed for 2,000 yards playing half the season on a bad ankle. Fully healthy, you can pencil in Stanford for 10 wins and Love for the Heisman he finished second for in 2017. Heisman voters love familiar, shiny things flashed before them. They haven't forgotten Love. -- Dennis Dodd (also Jerry Palm)
Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State: I never pick the preseason Heisman favorite, so as much as I like Love, I'm going with McSorley. And why not? He's put up terrific numbers in Penn State's offense the last couple of seasons, and now he'll be the focal point of the show without Barkley. There's a chance it could hurt McSorley's production, but I think he'll flourish. If he does there's a good chance he'll lead Penn State to a Big Ten title, and if that happens there's no way he's not in the Heisman race. -- Tom Fornelli (also Barrett Sallee)
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: If Wisconsin is going to make it to the College Football Playoff (as I have predicted elsewhere here at CBS Sports), then I think the Badgers' star running back has not only had a great year but will almost certainly be in the mix for the Heisman Trophy. Haters will say anyone can rack up yards behind an offensive line of future NFL players, but Taylor's breakaway speed and big-play ability adds a highlight reel factor necessary for Heisman winners in the social media era. -- Chip Patterson
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: The Ducks were 6-2 with Herbert last year; they were 1-4 without him. It averaged 520 yards of offense with Herbert, 320 without him. Herbert is 6-foot-6, accurate, athletic and potentially the top quarterback taken in next spring's NFL Draft. Because this is a year with a ton of good candidates but no sure things, I like the chances of a quarterback that will put up big numbers on a surging team that will have NFL buzz. If Oregon goes 9-3 or better (they will), Herbert will win the big prize. -- Barton Simmons
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma: This redshirt junior's career has been, unfortunately, largely hampered by injuries. But the coaching staff always raved about him anyway and it seemed like only a matter of time before Anderson broke loose. That happened on Oct. 21 against Kansas State when Anderson rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown along with a receiving score. From there, he finished with four 100-yard games and a 200-yard, two-touchdown game against Georgia in the playoff semifinal. With the injuries and not coming on until the second half of last season, a lot of people are just now starting to see what he can do. Know this: He's arguably the most complete running back in college. His stock is rising quickly. Buy now. -- Ben Kercheval
- Dennis Dodd: Meyer won't make it through the season. The report -- and what it didn't say -- left more questions than answers. The scandal that rocked Ohio State football isn't over.
- Jerry Palm: Oklahoma loses the Heisman winner and gets back to the College Football Playoff anyway.
- Tom Fornelli: The Big Ten championship will be played between two teams who already have two losses, effectively eliminating both from CFP contention.
- Chip Patterson: Georgia knocks off Alabama in overtime in the SEC Championship Game, perhaps with Justin Fields having a Tua-like moment in the game's final act.
- Barton Simmons: There will be two true freshmen quarterbacks starting in the CFP.
- Barrett Sallee: Late in another disappointing season, LSU will fire Ed Orgeron just two seasons in as the full-time coach. Lane Kiffin will be announced as his replacement on the same day that the College Football Playoff selections are announced.
- Ben Kercheval: 2018 will be the year of the true freshman quarterback with at least one starting in a playoff game and one making it to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Three likely candidates: Nebraska's Adrian Martinez, USC's JT Daniels and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence.