My summer review of college football and the NFL is complete and I find myself standing on the threshold of picking Alabama-Ohio State to meet in the College Football Championship game and Green Bay-New England to square off in the Super Bowl.
Could anything be more chalky? Could any predictions be less noteworthy? I don’t think so, but I find it hard to make a case for anyone else. While I’ve never been afraid to make a bold pick (or a pick that might otherwise be called “stupid”) I try to avoid making it just for the sake of standing out. And the way I see the Tide, Buckeyes, Packers and Patriots right now, that’s exactly what picking anyone else would be doing .
Alabama and New England are the old-standards in their respective sports with Nick Saban and Bill Belichick each strong contenders as the best-ever coach on each side. There’s no reason to expect fall-off from either one.
The Crimson Tide actually look better this season. The secondary, a weak point much of last year that finally did ‘Bama in at the end of the championship game against Clemson, will be more experienced. Jalen Hurts is established at quarterback and the running game, keyed by Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris has a veteran offensive line to run behind. The top receiver, Calvin Ridley, is back in the fold. The beat goes on at Alabama, as they keep grabbing the nation’s best recruiting classes.
The Patriots are loaded on offense. Rob Gronkowski is healthy Brandin Cooks provides Tom Brady a new toy at wide receiver. The offensive line is stable. The defense has a few weak points, but they also have some exceptional players in Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower.
Ohio State and Green Bay aren’t quite as accomplished as Alabama and New England, but the Buckeyes and Packers aren’t far behind.
Ohio State’s recruiting is second only to Alabama’s. Urban Meyer’s three national championships are second only to Saban’s. The defensive front seven and the offensive line look good. The key is quarterback J.T. Barrett elevating himself from solid leader, to thoroughly dynamic passer. And in that regard, the hiring of Kevin Wilson, the former Indiana coach, as the offensive coordinator, was the most significant offseason development in college football.
Green Bay closed last season hot. Aaron Rodgers, after spending a year and a half looking like he had morphed into Alex Smith, suddenly returned into being Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have the only quarterback in the league that can rival Brady.
The offensive line is the best it’s been in the Rodgers era. Ty Montgomery emerged at running back. The defense is always the big question mark, but the safeties are as good as anyone in the league, the defensive front is good and Nick Perry has emerged as a big-time havoc-wreaker off the edge.
Even if the chalk does hold, there’s a lot to be interested in this season beyond the race for championships. And I hope the latter does heat up and offer us some good plot twists and turns. But sitting here in August, I can see no good reason to expect anything other than Alabama-Ohio State on January 9 in Atlanta and Green Bay-New England on February 4 in Minneapolis.