Syracuse flew under the radar last year going 10-3 and 6-2 in conference. Those two conference losses came in one possession games against Clemson and Pitt. This year, Syracuse will play Clemson in the Carrier Dome, where they beat them in 2017. Syracuse has given Clemson the most trouble out of all the ACC teams, and could very likely knock off the Tigers in upstate New York. The Orange are returning eight starters from a very good defense and are upgrading at the quarterback position with redshirt sophomore Tommy DeVito set to take over the starting role. Other than that Clemson game, Syracuse’s schedule isn’t too tough, and could potentially win the rest of their games. If they can beat Clemson, they will most likely be playing in the ACC Championship Game, which would put them in a good position to make the playoff.
If Washington State can win the Pac-12, they have a legitimate shot to be in the final four. The Cougars are losing quarterback Gardner Minshew II, but they have Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud coming in to replace him. Gubrud was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (the FCS version of the Heisman) the last two years at Eastern Washington, and he will have a very good receiving core that includes eight players who caught at least 20 passes last year. They also have six defensive starters returning, so this will be a very experienced team. With Washington having a huge turnover this season, this could be the year the Cougars take the Pac-12. The winner of the Pac-12 has only made the College Football Playoff twice in its five year existence, however, Stanford and USC were both in heavy consideration in 2015 and 2017. If Washington State can pull off a Pac-12 Championship and 12-1 record, it will be hard for the committee to keep them out.
With Jimbo Fisher heading into his second year, Texas A&M is ready to make a push to compete for championships. Texas A&M had a surprise season last year, finishing 9-4 and 5-3 in conference. The Aggies are bringing a top-five recruiting class this year, which could help them be one of college football’s best defenses. They are also bringing back quarterback Kellen Mond, who threw for 24 TDs while also running in 7 of his own last year. Unfortunately for the Aggies, they’ll have to play a hard schedule that includes Clemson, Alabama and Georgia. This will be tough, but if they steal two from these three, they will have a great chance to be one of the final four teams.