We’ve almost made it, y’all! Just one more month of the offseason. And with it, we’re going to start slowly easing into season. To that end, we’re going to round table the coming year, but with a bit of a different spin: Fact or Fiction. And today, Airwreck takes a stab at our panel questions:
2022 National Picture
- Clemson is back to perennial national champion contender status.
Fiction — The Tigers issues run deeper than the loss of Venables. Although he took an 8- and 9-win goof and helped them win that cripple-kicking conference regularly, the band has wholly broken up: gone are both OCs, the DC. The recruiting strategy also is suspect because when it works, it really works. But signing small classes, dodging the portal, and promising starting jobs plays with fire. When you miss on just one critical position, then it retards your team for 3-4 years at a time. DJU seems to be that miss, on top of an offensive line that has never been very good, with losses on the outside and in the backfield to boot. The defense is hella’ talented though up front. They’ll be salty. And the simple fact is the rest of the ACC is getting better (though slowly) around them. A super-talented Miami team or a rebuilt FSU can pose existential threats to Clemson’s hegemony. Pitt and UNC don’t figure to be going anywhere, and Luhvl is also improving. Forget perennial natty contender. I’m not sure they’re conference favorites in 24 months.
- Southern Cal will be in the College Football Playoff.
Fiction — Absolutely not. It always takes a year to break in a new coaching staff, the Trojans lost their best players (particularly up front), and the simple matter is that not only has Lincoln Riley underperformed, once he was without Stoops’ recruits and had to croot and develop talent on his own, he has suffered diminishing returns and far more misses than slam dunks. Over his last four seasons, the Sooners went from 1st overall to T-1, to 2nd, to 3rd in the Big 12. And those failures begin with a soft and disinterested defense on one side, and recently in the backfield: So far, Rattler and Caleb look like Big Lots Jalen Hurts. They’re a 3- or 4-loss team this year, with all the exigencies. If the Trojans actually move the Big 10, they’re a 3- and 4-loss team every year. It’s what that coward deserves too.
- Ohio State will go 13-0 (regular season plus the B1GCG).
Fact — The Buckeyes go 13-0 and may not have a single game decided by fewer than double-digit points too....until they meet Alabama in the CFPCG, where they shall lose again (though much more competitively than in 2020). Cheer up, though. Most programs would kill to go 14-1, have a Heisman-winning QB, and romp their way to a Big 10 title. This team is going to set all kinds of B1G records and come up just short.
2022 SEC PICTURE
- Brian Kelly will win more SEC game this year than Jimbo Fisher (tiebreaker is head-to-head matchup).
Fiction — Brian Kelly is a better coach, but it’s going to take a while to get the talent and system in place. Aggie had some major losses, but at least the system is in place and people generally have familiar expectations. Expect both to try and win with the ground game this year, as the QB room for both teams is a hot mess, to be frank.
- Georgia will go 12-0.
Fiction — You don’t lose 28 players to the draft, graduation, and the Portal and get better — including 8 off the defense, Jermaine Burton, James Cook, half of an offensive line, 6 out of 7 on the defensive front, and the defensive coordinator. Oh, sure, there are weapons at TE and WR, and UGA is always going to have running backs, but the margin of error is significantly slimmer this season. I think turning over a full third of the roster is going to matter at some point. And while Florida, Sakerlina are still a year away from putting it all together, there are enough traps on this schedule and enough question marks for it to ding the ‘Dawgs at least one somewhere, maybe twice.
The funniest thing to watch this year will be the folly Honky McFailson suddenly thinking he’s Aaron Rodgers and trying to play outside of himself and the offense. Those 50-50 eephuses he threw up against Alabama’s inexperienced reserve corners won’t fly against teams that have some starting experience back there.
- Vanderbilt will go 0-9 against Power-5 teams.
Fact — Vanderbilt will lay the goose egg against the major conference peers, and I predict that they in fact will not come within 14 points of any one of them — Wake Forest, Alabama, Ole Miss, Tennessee in particular are going to molest that secondary.
2022 ALABAMA OUTLOOK
- Will Anderson Will Win the Heisman. The question is not does he deserve it but can he actually pull it off and what it might take.
Fiction — He will finally get his due, however, and get on the stage in New York with Bryce and Stroud. But even as he is having seasons for the literal ages, with productivity marked in generations, it’s an offensive sport. And with Stroud likely to put up Madden-type stats en route to a 13-0 OSU record, the Buckeye has to be your favorite. I honestly don’t think there’s any amount of production that would be enough to ensure that the nation’s best player actually wins the award recognizing that fact.
- The Crimson Tide offensive line will excel.
Fiction — The line will improve, if it’s addition by subtraction alone. New coaching will matter; giving underperformers a quick hook or better personnel chemistry will matter more. It won’t be an elite line, but it will be at least an average-to-above-average one...and that’s enough to do a world of wonder for the offense (no matter how badly BoB will want to give games away).
- Alabama will go 12-0 this season
Fact — The Tide’s usual competition in the West are all either rebuilding heavily (A&M, Auburn, LSU), have new coaches (LSU, Auburn at several positions), and/or both (LSU). The up and comer has to rebuild its offense (Ole Miss). And the most stable, experienced teams figure to be MSU — which is a home game, and Nick Saban loves dominating Mike Leach — and the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs host ‘Bama, so it will be a bit tougher than you’d like. But Arkie had significant if not many losses that still make them a second-tier SEC team. THAT SAID, everyone else is even further behind. So, don’t be surprised if the Piggies finish second in the West this season. Alabama’s other toughest game, and most likely chance for a loss, is at Tennessee. The Vols offense will be lethal, and if the defense is even marginally improved, this is going to be one helluva’ game. Unfortunately. But, at the end of the day, Alabama still has more Jimmies and Joes, and the offense will not be outstanding like Tennessee’s...it will be otherworldly. 38-27ish sounds about right, on its way to a 12-0 regular season for Nick Saban and company.