The State of College Football: Week 0

It is here!!! Week 0 is upon us and for the first time since January, 11th, 2021, we have big time college football back on TV.

Through the rest of the season I will be giving you MY weekly top 25. Not the AP, coaches or BCS poll—but my rankings and feelings on who the top teams are. You’ll get that, as well as weekly awards, bets, players to watch, reactions to big news and so much more! Additionally, I would like to start answering your questions with #AskMelloAnything - hit me up with those AMA style questions @mello on twitter.

This week we’re diving into Top 25, Bold Predictions, Award Winners, Week 0 Bets, Hot Seats, #AskMelloAnything, and Week 1 Look Ahead!

Let’s get it!

Top 25 Rankings
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Oklahoma
4. Ohio State
5. Georgia
6. Florida
7. Cincinnati
8. Iowa State
9. Texas A&M
10. USC
11. Oregon
12. North Carolina
13. Notre Dame
14. Texas
15. Wisconsin
16. Miami
17. Iowa
18. Coastal Carolina
19. Washington
20. Indiana
21. Nevada
22. Arizona State
23. Northwestern
24. Louisiana
25. Utah

Bold Predictions
-Two or more of the “fearsome foursome” will miss the College Football Playoff!
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma have dominated the College Football Playoff since its creation in 2015. In fact, at least two of the four have made the College Football Playoff every year. But this year won’t be as easy as most think. Three of the four bring in new starting quarterbacks and all will have huge targets on their backs. Look for schools like Georgia, Iowa State and Cincinnati to make a lot of noise in 2021, leading to a major 2022 bowl game.

-If you hate the transfer portal you’re going to hate 2021!
The transfer portal has drastically changed college football over the past few seasons and it is not going to slow down. College basketball saw a record number of players enter the portal last season and college football is about to see a similar exodus. Backups are literally more valuable now than ever. Will a starter at a small school decide to be a backup at a power house where he can make more money? Will blueblood backups be lured to start at smaller schools and cash in on more playing time? Only time will tell, and quite frankly, it will probably be a mix of both.

-Lincoln Riley leaves Norman!
This is definitely one of those “speak it into existence” things. But hear me out. The expectations at Oklahoma are as high as they have been in 10 years and Lincoln Riley is going to be feeling it this season. Add on the stress of leaving the conference and the pressure of joining the SEC and Riley is already halfway out the door. Now, add in the expectations of the Dallas Cowboys. What can Mike McCarthy do to keep his job? Is it Super Bowl or bust in Big D? This is the year. Jerry Jones will finally make Lincoln Riley the offer he can't refuse - making him the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and their loaded offense! God, please answer these Texas fans' prayers!

Award Winners:
Heisman: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Doak Walker: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Biletnikoff: Drake London, WR, USC
Mackey: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
Remington: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Outland: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Bednarik/Nagurski: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Hendricks: Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State
Butkus: Mike Rose, Iowa State
Thorpe: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Week 0 Bets
Nebraska @ Illinois, 12:00 CT, Fox
Nebraska is a -7 favorite over Illinois and new head coach Brett Bielema but the Huskers return limited starters on offense and quarterback Adrian Martinez hasn’t lived up to his recruiting hype. I love Scott Frost and hope he turns the Nebraska program around but I can’t pass up a good dawg. Mark this as the first “Super Underdog Locksmith Game of the Week to Bet Your Money On” of 2021 - I’m taking Illinois to cover the -7!

UConn @ Fresno State, 1:00 CT, CBSSN
Fresno is a huge -27.5 point favorite and even though that huge spread makes me nervous I’m still taking it. Uconn hasn’t played football since 2019 and Fresno returns a top Mountain West offense with nine returning starters! No underdog here but I am taking the Bulldogs in a blowout.

Hawaii @ UCLA, 2;30 CT, ESPN
Traveling to UCLA is not going to be fun for the Rainbow Warriors and once they get to LA I’m not predicting much fun either. UCLA head coach, Chip Kelly returns 19 (!) starters from 2020 - including their quarterback, top tackler and sack leader. The Bruins take this one and cover the -17 points.

Hot Seats
No one likes to talk about coaches being fired but it’s a harsh reality that coaches will be fired before the season ends. These coaches are feeling the fire and desperately need a good season.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Harbaugh signed a new four-year extension which should keep him off the hot seat but Michigan lowered his salary from $8M in 2020 to $4M in 2021 AND made his buyout just $4M - which is nothing for Michigan. If Harbaugh fails to compete with Ohio State, again, this could be the year Harbaugh is removed as head coach.

Scott Frost, Nebraska
Frost has a contract through the 2026 season and Nebraska would be looking at a $20M buyout; but it’s very clear to see the turnaround has not happened as quickly as most would have hoped. I expect Nebraska to give Frost time to try to build a program but there is no doubt the seat is heating up in Frost’s office. Add in the recent NCAA investigation, and things are not looking good for Frost.

Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Taking over for Frank Beamer was going to be tough for anyone but Fuente was supposed to bring a new, exciting offense to Blacksburg and has so far failed to do so. His 38-26 record at Virginia Tech, and 5-6 record in 2020, might make Fuente’s seat the hottest in the Nation.

Dino Babers, Syracuse
In five-years with Syracuse, Babers is just 24-36, and led the Orange to a one-win season in 2020. Needless to say, Babers is feeling the pressure and faces a tough 2021 schedule.

David Cutcliffe, Duke
Duke is an interesting place for football. How many games do they really expect to win each season? Cutcliffe is still living off his success as an offensive coordinator but has led the Blue Devils to a 74-88 record in 13 seasons. Duke is also bringing in a new Athletic Director, Nina King, and she may be looking for a new face to lead the football program.

Chip Kelly, UCLA
Entering year-four, Chip Kelly is already feeling the pressure at UCLA. While building a program takes time, Kelly has no excuses now that he has a roster full of “his guys'' and loads of experience with 19 starters returning. However, another five or six win season may not be enough to save his job in 2021.

1. Is Texas ever going to be back if/when they join the SEC?
The short answer is yes. But a lot of people don’t realize what it means for Texas to be “back.” Texas had a really good run under Mack Brown and made it to two National Championship games, but struggled immediately after the second Natty appearance. So, for Texas to be “back” they need to get to conference championship games, not National Championship games. Can they do that in the SEC? They should be able to. They have the recruiting, facilities and possibly the coach now. And, Nick Saban probably can’t coach forever. So eventually we will see a swing in power in college football, and the SEC, and Texas COULD take advantage of that.

2. Where does Quinn Ewers transfer to when he doesn’t start over CJ Stroud the next 2 years?
Anytime you mention the quarterback situation at Ohio State their fanbase gets upset about the fact they’re eventually going to lose two or three guys to the transfer portal. If CJ Stroud plays as well as it sounds he is, Ryan Day has praised him often, then he will be the starter and he will be a Heisman Trophy candidate this season. I would expect Jack Miller and Kyle McCord to both enter the transfer portal before the 2022 season with Ewers potentially returning to compete for the starting job in 2022. IF, he does not win that job then he could be looking at some of his previous suitors - Texas, Alabama, Auburn. I think we can rule out Alabama with Bryce Young returning for his junior year in 2022. Ewers was once committed to Texas but the old saying says “you can’t go home again.” Auburn could definitely use an upgrade at QB and head coach Bryan Harsin might be able to entice Ewers to Auburn. Other SEC schools to keep an eye on, for any transfer quarterback, are Ole Miss, Georgia and Texas A&M.

3. Who is this year's Joe Burrow? The QB who will jump in the draft convo?
After Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson you would be dumb to not look for “this year’s Joe Burrow.” I’ve got two guys in mind already and like their game quite a bit. Carson Strong from Nevada and Phil Jurkovec from Boston College. Nevada returns 10 offensive starters, including Strong, and is set for a huge year on offense. It won’t take Strong long to burst onto the scene and wow college football and NFL Draft fans. Jurkovec is a big, strong armed, Josh Allen type quarterback but was a little hit-or-miss in his first year at Boston College. With a full season under his belt and a normal offseason, the previous five-star recruit is set for a breakout year in 2021.

4. Describe what a “successful” 2021 campaign would look like for Mike Norvell and the Seminoles.
After a 3-6 season in 2020 the bar is set pretty low for FSU and head coach Mike Norvell. A “successful” 2021 might not come in the win/loss column for Florida State - the Seminoles have a tough schedule in 2021, playing top 25 ranked Notre Dame, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Florida. Norvell needs buy-in from his players and commitment to build something from the ground up. Transfer quarterback McKenzie Milton is the perfect leader to get the wheels going in the right direction. But FSU needs to be patient and let Norvell try to build a program. Something not many universities do anymore.

5. Call your shot. Which QB will have a more successful college career and why. Bryce Young or DJ Uiagaleilei?
The key word here is “college” career. D.J.Uiagalelei is my answer because of his ability to run around, and over, people at the college level. DJ is a Cam Newton clone, but might have a better arm, and will probably finish his college career with a Heisman Trophy too. Bryce Young is also an exciting young player but he is going to do most of his damage from the pocket and he will have to share the spotlight with the other Alabama stars. In terms of personal accomplishments, I’ll take D.J.Uiagalelei. In terms of team accomplishments (National and Conference titles) I’ll take Bryce Young.

6. Please explain the covid eligibility to me.
Buckle up! No one, and I mean no one knows what is really going on or how players will be listed. Even before covid, eligibility was confusing because schools like Michigan and Notre Dame wouldn’t list players as redshirts. They would let a player walk at Senior Day and then that same player would announce they were coming back for their 5th season. With covid things are even more complicated. What we do know is that 2020 did not count against anyone’s eligibility. So even the freshman that played a full season have four more years of eligibility. Guys like Bryce Young and D.J.Uiagalelei COULD have four more years of eligibility, if they wanted. And to make things more confusing, a true sophomore in 2020 (Derek Stingley) could still play in 2021, 2022 and 2023 if he wanted. So, like I said, no one knows what class a player belongs to. All we know is that they have to be three years removed from high school before they can enter the NFL Draft.

Week 1 Preview:
Thursday, September 2nd

Boise State @ UCF, 6:00 CT, ESPN
South Florida @ NC State, 6:30 CT, ACCN
Ohio State @ Minnesota, 7:00 CT, Fox

Friday, September 3rd
North Carolina @ Virginia Tech, 5:00 CT, ESPN

Saturday, September 4th
Penn State @ Wisconsin, 11:00 CT, Fox
Alabama @ Miami, 2:30 CT, ABC
Indiana @ Iowa, 2:30 CT, BTN
Louisiana @ Texas, 3:30 CT, Fox
Georgia @ Clemson, 6:30 CT, ABC

Sunday, September 5th
Notre Dame @ Florida State, 6:30 CT, ABC

Monday, September 6th
Louisville @ Ole Miss, 7:00 CT, ESPN