Bama wins title, Texas goes bowling and other second-half predictions

Chris Morris/ESPN

Back in early September, I predicted South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier would retire. The Head Ball Coach hung up his visor Oct. 12.

I told you at least one team from outside the preseason top 10 would make the College Football Playoff (hello, Utah), and I told you a running back would win the Heisman Trophy for the first time since 2009. (Full disclosure: I picked Georgia's Nick Chubb and not LSU's Leonard Fournette, the clear front-runner.)

I also predicted the SEC would have a two-loss champion, which still might happen, and that Oregon transfer Vernon Adams Jr. would be a Heisman Trophy finalist, which probably won't happen.

So I'm batting about .500 on my preseason predictions, which is a lot more than you can say about the Chicago Cubs' hitters these days.

With seven weeks in the books, here are my predictions for the second half of the season:

1. Alabama will win the national championship

The Crimson Tide are starting to look a lot like the 2014 Ohio State team, which played better and better every week en route to winning the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Since losing to Ole Miss 43-37 at home Sept. 19, the Tide have reeled off four consecutive victories, including a 41-23 win at No. 9 Texas A&M on Saturday. Alabama plays only one more regular-season game against a team that is currently ranked -- at home against No. 5 LSU on Nov. 7. The Tide will win a close game against the Tigers to finish 11-1 and then will defeat Florida in the SEC championship game. They'll be the only one-loss team in the playoffs.

Like the Buckeyes last season, the Tide will be the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff and will win the national championship. Alabama will upset No. 1 seed Ohio State in the semifinals and knock off No. 3 Baylor in the title game.

2. Clemson will finish unbeaten and make the playoff

The No. 6 Tigers probably aren't getting nearly enough credit for what they've done so far this season. They'll win their next two road games at Miami and NC State to move to 8-0, and then they'll knock off No. 9 Florida State at Death Valley on Nov. 7, ending the Seminoles' 30-game winning streak against ACC foes. It will be smooth sailing for the Tigers from there, with regular-season games against Syracuse (road), Wake Forest (home) and South Carolina (road). Clemson will beat Duke in the ACC championship game to finish 13-0.

3. Baylor will win the Big 12

We can argue about No. 2 Baylor's strength of schedule until we're blue in the face. But no offense in FBS is playing as well as Baylor's, and this might be the best defense an Art Briles-coached team has ever put on the field. More importantly, the Bears are a lot healthier than No. 4 TCU, which appears to be their strongest competition in the Big 12.

Baylor has no margin for error because of its nonconference schedule, so it has to finish unbeaten to make the playoff. The Bears host No. 17 Oklahoma on Nov. 14, play at No. 14 Oklahoma State the next week and then play at TCU on the night after Thanksgiving. There might be one loss in that grueling stretch, but I'm betting the Bears find a way to get it done.

4. Ohio State will beat Michigan State to win the Big Ten

The No. 1 Buckeyes have looked pretty ordinary at times, but coach Urban Meyer is about to change that. With J.T. Barrett taking over at quarterback, the Buckeyes are about to find their groove again on offense. They'll roll through their next three games against Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois before beating No. 7 Michigan State at the Shoe on Nov. 21. Then they'll defeat No. 15 Michigan on the road Nov. 28 to finish 12-0.

After taking care of Iowa in the Big Ten championship game, the Buckeyes will be the No. 1 seed in the CFP.

5. Utah will lose at least once, and the Pac-12 will be left out of the playoff

The Utes are currently the lone unbeaten team left in the Pac-12, whose teams are beating each other up every week. The Utes survived a 34-18 win over Arizona State last week, scoring four times in the final 11 minutes to win, and they'll have to play better down the stretch if they're going to remain unbeaten. The good news: Utah doesn't play a team that's currently ranked in its final six regular-season games. The bad news: I'm betting the Utes lose to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship, which will knock them out of the playoff. Utah's earlier wins over Michigan and Oregon won't mean much to the selection committee at season's end.

6. Notre Dame will play in a New Year's Six bowl

The Irish have recovered nicely after losing quarterback Malik Zaire, winning five of six games without him, with the only loss coming at undefeated Clemson in the rain. The Irish have three road games left against teams that are currently ranked: at No. 22 Temple on Halloween night, at No. 25 Pitt on Nov. 7 and at No. 10 Stanford on Nov. 28. The Irish will win two out of three, which will be good enough to earn them a spot in a New Year's Six bowl. That's not too shabby after losing their starting quarterback.

7. Memphis will be the Group of 5 representative

Memphis and Toledo will both finish unbeaten, creating a dilemma for the CFP selection committee. Memphis will get the nod because of its strength of schedule, which will include victories over three ranked teams (Ole Miss, Temple and Houston). Before the Tigers play Florida in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Justin Fuente will be named the new coach at a Power 5 school. My best guess: Miami.

8. The ACC will have three job openings (and the Big Ten will have four!)

There are already two job openings in the Big Ten at Illinois and Maryland. Rutgers' Kyle Flood and Purdue's Darrell Hazell also look to be on their way out the door. Two ACC schools will fire their coaches (Virginia's Mike London and Miami's Al Golden), and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer will retire, ending one of the greatest tenures in college football history.

The Hokies are currently 3-4, but they have a soft enough remaining schedule to finish with a winning record. Beamer, 69, will step down after the Hokies finish with at least five losses for the fourth consecutive season. After winning 10 games or more in eight straight seasons from 2004 to 2011, he'll decide to go out on a winning note. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster deserves the job, but if the Hokies decide to go outside for a successor, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez might be in the mix.

9. South Carolina will hire Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as its next head coach

Smart, who has been the Tide's defensive coordinator since 2008 and won the Broyles Award as the country's top assistant in 2009, is exactly what the Gamecocks need in a new head coach. Smart, 39, knows the SEC inside and out after playing and coaching at Georgia, his alma mater, before coaching at LSU and Alabama. Former Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier admitted he was a "liability" in recruiting because of his age, and few assistants have recruited the Southeast as well as Smart during the past nine seasons.

10. Texas will go bowling

Left for dead a few weeks ago, the Longhorns will somehow claw their way to 6-6 in coach Charlie Strong's second season. UT will build on the momentum of its stunning 24-17 upset of No. 10 Oklahoma two weeks ago by beating Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas in its next three games. That will lift the Longhorns' record to 5-4, and then they'll beat either West Virginia on the road or Texas Tech at home before losing at Baylor to finish 6-6. It won't be much by UT standards, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

Other second-half predictions

  • Central Florida will finish winless, and coach George O'Leary will retire. He'll end his UCF tenure with a 0-12 record this season after starting with a 0-11 mark in 2004.

  • Iowa will finish the regular season unbeaten but will lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

  • With Adams back under center, Oregon will get its act together and finish 7-5. The Ducks will fall well short of their lofty preseason aspirations, but it's still better than missing the postseason.

  • After spending the second half of the season as Barrett's backup, Cardale Jones will enter the NFL draft. The New England Patriots will draft him in the fourth round, and he'll eventually lead them to two Super Bowl titles.

  • Auburn will beat Arkansas and Idaho and will go 1-2 in its three games against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia to finish 7-5. The Tigers will play in a bowl game after starting a disappointing 2-2.

  • Georgia Tech won't finish with a winning record, ending its streak of 18 consecutive seasons in which it played in a bowl game, tied for third longest in the FBS.

  • Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds will run for at least 12 more touchdowns, breaking former Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball's FBS career record of 77. Reynolds currently has 73 with seven regular-season games to go.

  • Arkansas coach Bret Bielema will say something to tick somebody off.

  • The Philadelphia Eagles will somehow win 10 games, and coach Chip Kelly will stay in the NFL, taking his name out of the USC head coach search.