It's June, which means we won't know a single thing about the 2016 football season for about another two-plus months. Even then, we still won't know a whole lot.
But to hold off on making any grand statements until November isn't fun. If your first response is, "Well, let's wait and see," there's a party to which I never want to invite you. If there's ever a time to make unapologetic guesses and proclamations, now is it. Sometimes, you just have to blindly follow that little voice inside your head.
What I'm saying is, it's time to roll out some bold predictions for the 2016 college football season.
The important thing here is that there's bold and then there's reckless. Predicting Illinois to win the Big Ten, with apologies to the Illini, isn't realistic. Everything is a guess now, but there needs to be some rationalization behind the statements.
Here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season. Enjoy (or tell us how crazy we are for even suggesting) the following). I'll blame it on the tiny voice anyway.
1. Your 2016 national champion will come from the ACC ... but it won't be Clemson: That's because it's Florida State. What's bold about picking a blue-blood program to win a national title, you ask? Nothing by itself, but let's examine a few things.
Clemson figures to be the preseason ACC favorite after making a national championship appearance last season. After all, the Tigers' offense could historically great with all its returning pieces. However, don't sleep on the Seminoles, who also return their entire offense. And unlike Clemson, many of FSU's key defensive players are returning, too. Among them are defensive end Josh Sweat and safety Derwin James, who saw plenty of action in 2015.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher did an outstanding job in a rebuilding year by winning 10 games. After losing 29 players to the draft from 2013-15? That's a big deal. Remember, too, winning a national title starts with recruiting. The general rule of thumb is that you need to recruit at a top-10 level to compete for national championships. Over the past four years, FSU has averaged a top-five recruiting class.
The concern for FSU in 2016 revolves around the passing game, both with the consistency of the receivers and in the pass protection. The passing attack doesn't need to be prolific, but if it can take pressure off running back Dalvin Cook, the offense becomes a lot more dangerous.
2. Tom Herman will leave Houston for another job ... but not at Texas or Texas A&M: The foregone conclusion seems to be that Herman's time in Houston is already approaching an end because he'll eventually head to Texas or Texas A&M. As it stands now, Charlie Strong and Kevin Sumlin, respectively, enter the 2016 season on seats with varying degrees of warmth.
However, I'm going to go in a different direction and say 1) Strong survives his third season in Austin, albeit ever so slightly. That leaves A&M. Ideally, Sumlin needs about eight or nine wins to keep his job. After posting 11 wins in his first season with Johnny Manziel at quarterback back in 2012, Sumlin's win total has gone down and never come back up. Here's betting he just pulls it out.
So where would Herman go? How about LSU? Les Miles was nearly fired a year ago but somehow kept his job when the school had an 11th-hour change of heart. Clearly, the pressure is on Miles to get back to the SEC Championship Game and make a College Football Playoff appearance, but it's fair to wonder what Miles' mentality is after how he was treated by LSU in the height of the rumor spreading. For all anyone knows, he might be done with LSU.
A&M may have the richest athletic department in college sports, but LSU has the better in-state recruiting advantage. And, of course, Herman would still get whatever he wants. So here's betting Herman does eventually leave Houston for the SEC, but not for the program expected.
3. This will not be 'the year' for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan: We talk about Harbaugh a lot around here because he's one big headline. He's interesting and he holds nothing back. Still, Peter Burns of ESPN suggested not long ago that Harbaugh is actually better for college football media than the sport itself. It's an interesting take, and while I don't agree with it, the fact remains 2016 is a prime year for Harbaugh to officially crush that narrative.
I'm thinking Harbaugh falls short -- way short. In fact, he invites even more criticism after failing to win the Big Ten East for the second straight year. No national championship. No playoff appearance. Not even a Big Ten title.
Who wins the division, then? The rebuilt Ohio State Buckeyes, of course. That's what adds insult to this injury. Not only does Ohio State win the East, it does so by again beating Michigan.
The Buckeyes just lost 12 players to the NFL Draft (10 in the first three rounds). Michigan lost three. Through successful recruiting efforts over the past few years, however, Ohio State finds a way to reload and win the division. Though Harbaugh is rebuilding Michigan for success long term, '16 is one of those wide-open years that's ripe for capturing. By not doing so, Wolverine fans actually start wondering if they'll ever top the Buckeyes.
4. The Pac-12 will fail to produce a 10-win team in the regular season: Or putting it another way, the Pac-12 fails to reach the playoff for the second straight year. As for the bold prediction itself, no Pac-12 program emerges from the regular season with more than nine wins. This actually almost happened a year ago. Stanford comfortably won 12 games, but the only other conference team to eclipse the double-digit win mark was Utah -- and that was with the help of a Las Vegas Bowl victory over BYU.
This year, the number of 10-win teams in the Pac-12 goes to zero. For the record, Las Vegas didn't set any win totals at 10 or higher from the North or South division. Granted, Vegas is about maximizing bets, not necessarily predicting the future, but it's worth noting all the same.
The South division looks wide open again and Washington is the team du jour to win the North (and maybe the entire Pac-12). Overall, though, this looks like a conference of several good teams, but maybe no great teams, on paper.
5. The Heisman winner will neither be a running back nor a top preseason QB: Like last year, this season's crop of running backs is deep: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Royce Freeman, Nick Chubb -- the list goes on. The All-America selections for this position could be 10-deep. Understandably, then, a running back should be the favorite position to win the Heisman. However, the Heisman usually has been a quarterback award. The attention would then shift to the likes of Deshaun Watson from Clemson or Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma.
There's another thing to consider, though. Among the last five Heisman winners -- Derrick Henry, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III -- only Mariota entered the year with favorable odds (5/1). Manziel, in fact, wasn't even on the board. The point: Sometimes it pays (literally) to take a shot in the dark before the season begins.
I'm putting all my fake house money on Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. At 33/1 odds, Mahomes is just trendy enough for Vegas to notice but not gain too much attention.
Mahomes checks off the right boxes. He plays a high-profile position in a quarterback-friendly offense. Last year, he accounted for more than 5,100 yards of total offense and 46 touchdowns. Just as importantly, Tech's schedule sets up Mahomes for a Heisman run at the right time, too. Tech gets Oklahoma at home on Oct. 22 with games at TCU, at Oklahoma State and against Baylor over the next month. Remember: The Heisman isn't won in September.
Texas Tech doesn't need to win the Big 12 or compete for a playoff spot for Mahomes to win the Heisman. The Red Raiders do, however, need to have a big November.