College football predictions, second-chance playoff picks and more for 2017 season
Midway through the season, we make some (more educated) predictions for the rest of the year
Seven weeks down, seven weeks to go. The college football season is in full gear, and while we efforted to tell you exactly what would happen in 2017 before the season even began ... well, things change. We saw four top-10 teams go down in Week 6 alone, and now we want a second chance to get our picks right before we move into postseason mode in two months. The CBS Sports college football team breaks down its College Football Playoff predictions as well as its picks for national champion and some individual honors below.
College Football Playoff
Reaction: All of our experts have an SEC team winning the national championship, the only debate being whether it will be Alabama or Georgia. Furthermore, five of our seven experts expect two teams from the same conference to make it into the CFP for the first time in history. The only debate there is whether those teams come out of the SEC or Big Ten.
Best team to miss the playoff
Alabama: I'm sticking with my preseason prediction of Georgia being the only SEC team represented in the College Football Playoff, and that means Alabama will be on the outside looking in. Initially, I had the Crimson Tide falling to Auburn and losing the SEC West in the Iron Bowl. But whether it's there or to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, I see one loss on the Crimson Tide schedule along the way. At some point, there will be a defense that steps up and forces Alabama out of its comfort zone and make Jalen Hurts win with his arm. He might be able to do that, but we haven't seen it. We know that Georgia can play lights out defense, run effectively with a stout rushing attack with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and pass effectively and efficiently as proven by true freshman Jake Fromm's 170.42 passer rating -- tops in the SEC. -- Barrett Sallee
Georgia: Success for the Bulldogs comes the old fashioned way. They pound the ball on the ground and play some of the best defense in the country. Missouri was the first team to break the 20-point barrier against the Georgia defense this season, and the Bulldogs rank third in the nation in total yardage defense, one spot ahead of Alabama. They are ninth nationally in rushing offense, fifth if you take out the four option teams that run almost exclusively. It is old school, but it works. The reason I do not see Georgia as a playoff team is its difficult finishing schedule. The Bulldogs have to travel to Auburn on Nov. 11 and then likely play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Do not let the second half nap Auburn took at LSU fool you -- that is still a very good team. You can count on one hand with five fingers to spare the number of teams that would be favored in either of those games, and I do not expect Georgia to notch an upset. -- Jerry Palm
Notre Dame: It's so easy to pile on the Irish and coach Brian Kelly for going 4-8 last season. But at the midway point of 2017, this team is 5-1 with the only loss being by one point against Georgia. That loss looks much better now. So, too, does the win over Michigan State. Notre Dame has mostly taken care of business, which is a important because the schedule heats up quickly. There's not a single gimme among USC, NC State, Wake Forest, Miami, Navy and Stanford. The good thing for Notre Dame is it gets four of those games at home. It'll be tough to win out, but any team that can get nine or 10 wins with that schedule would warrant top-10 consideration. Between the efficient running game and good defense, the Irish can wear down a lot of teams. -- Ben Kercheval
Penn State: There's going to be a good team left out of the College Football Playoff this year, and it might just be one of the team's left out last year. Last season it was Penn State winning the Big Ten only to see the committee choose Ohio State -- a team it beat -- over it. Right now, as good as it is, I'm not sold on Penn State winning the Big Ten yet again, and I just don't see the committee going with two Big Ten teams in 2017. -- Tom Fornelli
Wisconsin: The continuity at Wisconsin is stunning: Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema to Gary Andersen (who won 10 and left!) to Paul Chryst. Jonathan Taylor is one of the best freshman runners in recent years. The Badgers are going to coast to the Big Ten West title. Tell me they can't beat Michigan, Penn State or Ohio State with physicality in both lines. Ignore Wisco at your own risk. -- Dennis Dodd
Coach of the Year
Kirby Smart, Georgia: Coach of the Year awards seldom go to the best coach. I mean, Urban Meyer has been at Ohio State since 2012, and he's yet to win one from the Big Ten. Instead, they go to coaches who lead teams that exceed expectations, and have you seen Georgia this season? Many people predicted it would win the SEC East, but there weren't a whole lot of prognosticators claiming the Dawgs as a legit playoff contender. Kirby has things rolling between the hedges. -- Tom Fornelli (and Dennis Dodd, Barton Simmons, Barrett Sallee)
Gary Patterson, TCU: Conventional wisdom said TCU would not be undefeated at this point in the season. Apparently, Patterson did not attend that convention. His Horned Frogs are 6-0 and have already won at Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. His teams are winning in the way we are used to seeing with relatively stout defense, but they are also lighting up the scoreboard Big 12 style with a prolific offense. The Frogs are averaging over 41 points per game, which is 11th nationally but only good enough for fifth in the league. However, they lead the Big 12 in scoring defense by far. That combination bodes well for a run toward a possible league championship. -- Jerry Palm (and Ben Kercheval)
Justin Wilcox, California: After two decades in college football, everything is coming together for Wilcox. He's a seasoned 40-year-old first-time head coach -- playing for Mike Belotti as a player at Oregon; working as a graduate assistant and later defensive coordinator at Boise State for Dan Hawkins and Chris Petersen; and then graduating up to the Power Five level for stints at Tennessee, Washington, USC and Wisconsin. He's checked every box in the rise of a successful defensive coordinator, but his success as a first-time head coach is also a credit to his staff hires. The Cal defense that shut down Washington State is run by former Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, and the Bears offense is under the direction of former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin. Both are California natives with plenty of experience to help guide Wilcox through the beginning of his head coaching career. Wilcox has been a coaching star on the rise for some time, but his work behind the scenes and below the radar at Cal has been the best coaching job so far this year. -- Chip Patterson
Heisman Trophy winner
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: The Heisman Trophy isn't awarded to the player with the best stats. Patrick Mahomes II and his 444 yards of offense per game last year wasn't even invited to New York. It's not awarded to the best player on the best team, either. If that were the case, Derrick Henry may have ceded the award to his teammate Ryan Kelly in 2015. The center was drafted 18th overall by the Colts and started as a rookie last year. It's not even awarded to the best player nationally. If it were, there would be no excuse for voting for Mark Ingram over Ndamukong Suh in 2009. The award is given to the best combination of those three factors with one big sweetener: Heisman moments. Those poster-worthy snapshots of a season are the jet fuel behind a campaign, and Penn State's Saquon Barkley already has those in bunches: one-handed catch and 0-100 acceleration past Indiana's Tegray Scales; open-field juke against All-American Josey Jewell to extend a game-winning drive against Iowa; darting, elusive 53-yard touchdown run against Northwestern. Those moments punctuate a season that has Barkley leading the nation in all-purpose yards per game, playing for the No. 2 team in the country and slotted as a near lock as a top five pick in the NFL draft. He's gonna be hard to beat. -- Barton Simmons (and Dennis Dodd, Jerry Palm, Tom Fornelli, Chip Patterson, Ben Kercheval)
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: I don't have Oklahoma State in the College Football Playoff, but I do think that they will run the table and win the Big 12 Championship Game (potentially in a revenge game vs. TCU). That will give the Cowboys a national spotlight, and Rudolph the stage to solidify himself as the best quarterback in the country. Frankly, I don't know why he isn't getting more love right now. He is the national leader in passing yards per game (394.7), second in yards per attempt (11.6), third in passer rating (191.0), third in passing touchdowns (19) and has added six rushing touchdowns. So what's missing? Attention. It's up to his team to get him that attention, and they will throughout the course of the second half of the season. -- Barrett Sallee
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