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Alabama will repeat, and nine other 2016 season predictions

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1 Big Thing: How accurate will the coaches' poll predictions be? (1:50)

Scott Van Pelt shares his thoughts on the release of the preseason Amway Coaches Top 25 poll and whether he believes Alabama will remain No. 1 throughout the entire season. (1:50)

After a summer full of hyperbole, promises, slogans, candidates and debate, we can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

No, I'm not talking about the U.S. presidential election, which won't end until Nov. 8.

Thankfully, the start of the 2016 college football season is right around the corner. And if you haven't heard, the opening weekend of the season is going to be so big. It's going to be yuuuge. Listen, it's going to be so good that you won't be able to turn away from your TV for 72 straight hours. It's going to be so very, very, very big. Trust me.

On the opening Saturday, Oklahoma will play Houston, UCLA will play Texas A&M, LSU will play Wisconsin (at Lambeau Field!), Georgia will play North Carolina, USC will play Alabama and Clemson will play Auburn. Then Notre Dame will play at Texas on Sunday night, and Ole Miss will play Florida State on Labor Day night.

We're going to have so much fun. It's going to be like Super Bowl Sunday on steroids. The best part: everybody is going to win (even UCF and Kansas!). There's going to be so much winning that no one will want to fire a coach after Week 1. Well, everyone but Auburn, which always seems to want to fire its coach.

Hawaii and California officially kick off the season in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 26 (10 p.m. ET, ESPN). After college football goes worldwide, here's what to watch this coming season:


1. Alabama will win the national championship. Again.

Alabama's season will look a lot like the last one -- the Crimson Tide will struggle at quarterback early, might even lose to Ole Miss again, and then they'll figure it out and start rolling. By the end of the regular season, Alabama's running game will be punishing people and its defense will be stuffing everyone.

Alabama coach Nick Saban will win his fifth national title in 10 years in Tuscaloosa and his sixth overall (he won one at LSU), which will tie him with legendary Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant for the most in major college football history. Afterward, Alabama will unveil a statue of Saban's wife, Terry, at Bryant-Denny Stadium at next year's spring game.


2. Alabama will be joined in the College Football Playoff by Clemson, Michigan and Oklahoma.

Year 3 of the College Football Playoff includes semifinal games at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Eve. Then the championship game will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on Jan. 9.

It's the last time the CFP semifinals games will be played on New Year's Eve until after the 2021 season. After this season, future semifinals games will fall on either Saturday or New Year's Day until 2022. So this year, you'll have to split time between college football and Ryan Seacrest once more.

I'm picking Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Oklahoma to make the playoffs. Alabama will play Michigan in the national championship game, which will be preceded by an eight-day Twitter war between Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh and Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Sadly, the Twitter war will be more entertaining than the actual game.


3. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will win one of the closest Heisman Trophy races in history.

Miami's Mark Richt recently said that when he was Georgia's coach, he told an assistant that Watson would "win somebody a national championship" when the Bulldogs were recruiting him four years ago. Watson will get close to winning a national championship for the second season in a row, but the Tigers will fall in the CFP semifinals.

However, Watson will win the Heisman Trophy in a very close race over Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and three tailbacks -- LSU's Leonard Fournette, FSU's Dalvin Cook and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey.


4. McCaffrey will kick an extra point, return a fumble for a touchdown and score a touchdown off an onside kick this coming season.

What didn't McCaffrey do last season? He'll be the best player in the country for the second season in a row in 2016, but not enough Heisman Trophy voters on the East Coast will stay up late enough to watch him play.

"Pac-12 After Dark" sounds cool, but it's killing the league. Please don't make East Coast fans stay up until 11 p.m. ET every week to see McCaffrey play. He's too fun to watch.


5. The Pac-12 will be left out of the College Football Playoff again.

The Pac-12 was the only Power 5 league left out of the playoff last season, and it might be in the same boat in December. There doesn't seem to be a dominant team out West, especially with Stanford and Oregon having to break in new quarterbacks.

Plus, the Pac-12 is at a disadvantage playing nine conference games (compared to eight in the ACC and SEC). The Big 12 also plays nine conference games, but one of them is against Kansas. The Big Ten is starting to play nine this season, but one of them is against Purdue. The Pac-12 will devour itself, and Washington will win the league with three losses.


6. Michigan will beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten.

I don't get why people don't like Harbaugh. He loves Twitter. He appears in rap videos. He likes Judge Judy. He likes taking his shirt off in public. He takes his entire team to Florida for spring break and holds satellite camps around the world. What's not to love?

College football people in the South don't like Harbaugh because he doesn't fear the SEC. SEC coaches don't like Harbaugh because he makes them work too hard. SEC coaches don't like spending their summers at satellite camps. They want to spend their summers with their families at the beach, and I don't blame them.

The Wolverines went 10-3 in Harbaugh's first season and throttled SEC East champion Florida 41-7 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. But there was also an ugly 42-13 loss to Ohio State in the Big House. Harbaugh despises the Buckeyes. The Wolverines won't lose to OSU this season. They will beat the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe to win the Big Ten.


7. A Power 5 school will scoop up Houston's Tom Herman by Dec. 1.

After guiding Houston to a 13-1 record and 38-24 upset of Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season, Herman will be a hot commodity this coming season. With quarterback Greg Ward Jr. leading Herman's offense, the Cougars are again favorites to win the AAC.

If teams like Auburn, Texas or Texas A&M struggle early, don't be surprised to see an athletic director fire a coach sooner than usual. Everybody will line up to get a chance to hire Herman, especially schools in Texas.


8. Tennessee will win the SEC East (but won't beat Florida).

The Volunteers haven't won an SEC championship since 1998 and haven't won 10 games in a season since 2007. After limping through four seasons under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley, the Vols have slowly showed progress under Butch Jones, who is 21-17 in three seasons.

But Jones says he believes he might finally have an SEC contender, and the Volunteers look loaded on both lines of scrimmage. With quarterback Joshua Dobbs and tailbacks Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara coming back, the Vols might be the team to beat in the SEC East. They'll win at Georgia and South Carolina, but they'll lose to Florida for the 12th season in a row. Even worse, Steve Spurrier will be there to watch it.


9. Big 12 expansion will come quickly.

The Big 12 has 10 teams. The Big Ten has 14. Whatever. The Big 12 recently announced that it's looking to expand, possibly with two more teams and maybe even four. Everybody from BYU to Cincinnati to Houston to South Florida to Tulane is under consideration.

The Big 12 will expand, probably even before the games kick off in September. I think it'll add only two teams -- probably Houston and maybe Cincinnati. The Big 12 adding four teams of the caliber it's considering for expansion would only water down its on-field product. It won't help it catch the SEC. After losing Cincinnati and Houston, the AAC won't replace them and will remain at 10 teams.


10. San Diego State will finish the regular season undefeated.

If the Aztecs can beat a rebuilding Cal team at home on Sept. 10, then win at Northern Illinois the next week, they'll have a great chance to finish 12-0. SDSU carries a 10-game winning streak -- second-longest in FBS behind only that of Alabama -- and doesn't play Boise State during the regular season.

Aztecs tailback Donnel Pumphrey is one of the most underrated players in the country, after running for 1,653 yards with 17 touchdowns in 2015, and coach Rocky Long's defense is stingy. After going 12-0 in the regular season, the Aztecs will have to beat Boise State in the Mountain West championship game to land a spot in a New Year's Six bowl.