Fall forecast in winter: projecting the 2019 college football season

Staff writers Matt Baker and Joey Knight offer some early state and national predictions for this autumn.
Veteran Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will open the 2019 season as the starter for Coach Dan Mullen's team, but will he finish the year in that role? [BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times]
Veteran Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will open the 2019 season as the starter for Coach Dan Mullen's team, but will he finish the year in that role? [BRONTE WITTPENN | Times]
Published January 9

TAMPA — We know, we know. We're pushing the envelope on prematurity.

Forecasting the 2019 college football season at this stage, when slivers of confetti have yet to land on the Levi's Stadium turf and Dabo Swinney has yet to stop talking, comes with a huge cone of uncertainty.

But way-too-early predictions have become ingrained the sport's culture, like marching bands, mascots and mid-season transfers. They're all the rage.

So indulge us as we reveal our first (but certainly not final) forecasts for the upcoming season.

Predictions

For the first time in six years, the Bulls lose their season opener, falling to Big Ten foe Wisconsin. Florida State loses its opener, too, beginning Year 2 of the Willie Taggart era with a defeat to Boise State in Jacksonville.

USF pulls off a mini-upset with a win at Georgia Tech in Week 2, snapping the program's seven-game skid dating to October 2018.

Trying to come all the way back from a horrific knee injury, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton continues astounding doctors in rehab and vows to return in 2020. Meantime, the Knights fall at home to Stanford in the third game of the season.

At least two state head coaches enter the offseason coaching carousel. One of them is Florida Atlantic's Lane Kiffin.

Kendal Briles lights up the scoreboard as FSU's new offensive coordinator. It won't be enough to provide clarity on whether Taggart is the long-term answer in Tallahassee.

USF officials announce they intend to break ground on the $40 million football complex…in 2020.

Feleipe Franks begins the season as the Gators' starting quarterback. He does not hold that title at the end of the season.

Florida edges Miami in the opener, beats FSU and earns another-10 win season. But Georgia runs away with the SEC East (again).

Jimbo Fisher's Aggies finish in the top 10 as the No. 2 team in the SEC West.

Clemson and Alabama meet in the national championship game, again. Not exactly going out on a limb, we know.

For the third season in a row, USF falls to UCF in the annual "War on I-4" showdown. The Knights stumble only once in American Athletic Conference play and capture their third consecutive league title.

State power rankings

(With projected record in parentheses)

1. Florida (10-3): It's too early to declare the Gators back. But they're certainly better than they had been, and they'll remain atop the state.

2. UCF (12-2): Forget the Fiesta Bowl loss. Even with an inevitable (slight) regression, the Knights will be one of the top three Group of Five teams in the country.

3. Miami (8-5): The Hurricanes won't be as good as they were in 2017 or as bad as they were in 2018. That's as bold as we'll get right now with so much unknown in Coral Gables.

4. FSU (8-5): The Seminoles' bowl streak will start over at 1, but Clemson will continue to distance itself from FSU (and the rest of the ACC).

5. USF (8-5): The swoon of 2018 spills over into 2019 (see opener vs. Wisconsin), but the offense and defense ultimately enjoy minor resurgences. How can they not?

Bowl picks

Florida: Cotton
FSU: Gator
Miami: Sun
USF: Boca Raton
UCF: Birmingham

And our four playoff teams…

Knight: Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Texas
Baker: Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State

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