Spring football is kicking off around some college campuses, meaning we're one step closer to the 2018 college football season — the fifth year of the College Football Playoff.
Everyone knows Alabama is the team to beat, but it's never too early to forecast the rest of the field heading into 2018. Where are the big games? Which coaches are on the hot seat? What are we looking forward to most? Who are the Heisman contenders and Playoff shakers?
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Here's is an early forecast for the 2018 college football season:
1. Auburn-Washington a Playoff elimination game
The loser will likely be out of the College Football Playoff race on Sept. 1. Sure, Washington could still win its conference, but it'll be judged more by the Auburn game than its Pac-12 schedule. Auburn travels to Georgia and Alabama in November.
2. Texas-Oklahoma decides Big 12
The winner will win the Big 12, and it will be a one-score nail-biter as usual. The only question is, will we get a rematch?
3. Clemson-South Carolina will be huge
The Tigers will go into rivalry weekend looking to cap a 12-0 regular season, but the Gamecocks, capable of winning the SEC East, will give them all they can handle in one of the best games of rivalry weekend. The Tigers have a chance to match South Carolina's five-game win streak from 2009-13.
MORE: Clemson 2018 preview
4. Jim Harbaugh's seat cools
The Wolverines will bounce back from an 8-5 season and win at least nine games against a brutal schedule — but would the temperature in Ann Arbor be the same with 10 wins and two more losses to Michigan State and Ohio State? Michigan has to get at least a split there, and it will.
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5. Ed Orgeron's seat heats up
LSU has a nasty schedule too, including a neutral site game against Miami and trip to Auburn in the first three weeks. October features crossover games against Florida and Georgia. All that comes before tough games against Mississippi State, Alabama and Texas A&M. Assuming the other five games are wins, how many of those seven games mentioned do you think the Tigers win?
6. Frost starts with eight wins
The enthusiasm is off the charts in Lincoln with the arrival of Scott Frost — and it should be — but the road Big Ten schedules includes trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Ohio State. Who made that schedule? Eight wins would be a successful season (not that Frost wants to hear that).
7. Khalil Tate-Kevin Sumlin will be a hit
Kevin Sumlin will make an instant impact in his new home in Tucson. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate will be right back in the Heisman Trophy discussion, and will help the Wildcats challenge for the Pac-12 South title.
8. Dan Mullen's return to Starkville
Both Mississippi State and Florida, led by first-year coach Dan Mullen, will be undefeated when the Gators travel to Starkville on Sept. 29. The Bulldogs are a hot SEC West sleeper with a fantastic quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald, but first-year coach Joe Moorhead can't lose this one.
9. Clemson's D-line dominates
Clemson averaged 3.3 sacks per game last year, and Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell all returned to school to rejoin Dexter Lawrence. You might be watching four future first-round picks. TCU set the single-game record sacks in a game with 15 against Nevada in 2000. Will the Tigers break that record?
10. Tua gets to New York City
We'll try to contain our enthusiasm. Nick Saban will, too. But it's impossible not to get up caught in the hype with college football's next big megastar. Tua Tagovailoa is just that, and keep in mind AJ McCarron was a runner-up in 2013. All Tagovailoa has to do is win, and the numbers should follow. He's our best bet to win the Heisman Trophy. Yeah, we can't believe it either.
11. These guys will challenge for Heisman
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray are new starters taking over guaranteed Playoff contenders in offenses that produce video-game numbers. One of these two will be a Heisman finalist.
12. Super sophomores in the backfield
We know Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor will be in the mix, but keep an eye on some sophomore running backs who with high yard-per-carry averages last season. We're talking about Georgia's D'Andre Swift (7.6), Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins (7.2), Clemson's Travis Etienne (7.2). This group will be sensational as sophomores.
13. UCF won't go away
The Knights have a self-proclaimed national title from 2017, and the nonconference schedule includes North Carolina, Pitt and Lane Kiffin-led FAU. UCF can't take a tough AAC schedule for granted under first-year coach Josh Heupel, but the committee can't ignore this program if the Knights go undefeated for a second straight regular season.
14. Wisconsin will have another chance
The Badgers won the most games in school history last season with a 13-1 record, but that one loss kept them out of the College Football Playoff. The Badgers will win the Big Ten West with one loss or fewer this season and have another chance to get in the Playoff with a win. The test, however, hasn't changed. They must beat a Big Ten East power when it matters most: in Indianapolis.
15. Stanford will be in Playoff mix
The Cardinal lost back-to-back games against USC and San Diego State last season, knocking them out of the Playoff hunt in September. The Cardinal win those games this year, Bryce Love continues his remarkable career and all barrels into a Nov. 3 matchup at Washington. Everybody knows what happened the last time Stanford visited Husky Stadium. It's on David Shaw to change that.
16. Ohio State won't lose two
The Buckeyes learn from the Iowa debacle last year and take an 11-0 or 10-1 record into the final weekend of the regular season against Michigan. That game will decide the Big Ten East, and the Buckeyes will control their playoff destiny this time (win or lose).
17. Bama-Clemson IV is coming
Whether it's in the semifinals or the title game, another playoff rerun between these two powerhouses is coming. The only question is, will both teams have a new quarterback this time?
18. Another all-conference championship?
It's likely either the Big Ten or SEC will put two teams in the College Football Playoff, and nobody will like the best chance for that to happen with Alabama and Georgia. That's only going to intensify the call for eight teams even more.