College football predictions: Picking Heisman winners, CFP champs and more

The season is here! While Week 0 gave us a taste of what’s to come, we consider this week the official start of the 2019 college football season. In this post you’ll find predictions from the Yahoo Sports staff for all of the important things like conference champions, the Heisman Trophy and the College Football Playoff. We also gave you our best guesses at how teams will do against their over/under win total projections. All regular season win totals are from FanDuel Sportsbook.

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Here are our conference champions, Heisman and College Football Playoff picks. Clemson was the most popular national title pick and was chosen by four of the five writers polled.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)


ACC Atlantic

Boston College (6) - Under

Clemson (11.5) - Over

Florida State (7) - Over

Louisville (3.5) - Under

NC State (7.5) - Under

Syracuse (7.5) - Over

Wake Forest (6) - Over

BEST BET: Wake Forest over 6

Wake Forest dealt with an array of injuries yet still won three of its last four to close out 2018. The Demon Deacons have won at least six games in three straight seasons and with 12 starters returning, including seven on offense, we like the Demon Deacons to surprise some people this year. Beating Utah State in the season opener could be the key to winning this bet.

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence signals a play during Clemson's annual Orange and White NCAA college football spring scrimmage Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Clemson star Trevor Lawrence is back for his sophomore year and is one of the favorites to win the Heisman. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

ACC Coastal

Duke (5.5) - Under

Georgia Tech (3.5) - Under

*Miami (8.5) - Over

North Carolina (4.5) - Under

Pittsburgh (6.5) - Under

Virginia (7.5) - Over

Virginia Tech (8) - Over

***Notre Dame (8.5) - Over

BEST BET: Pittsburgh under 6.5

Pitt should be a perfectly average ACC team like it is most years, but a tough non-conference schedule — Ohio, Penn State and UCF — will likely put the team’s record around 6-6. The Panthers will be favored over Ohio, but will be a significant underdog at Penn State and will likely again be on the wrong side of the spread at home against UCF.

*Miami pick made before Week 0 loss to Florida.

*** Independent

Big Ten East

Indiana (6) - Under

Maryland (4) - Push

Michigan State (7.5) - Over

Michigan (9.5) - Over

Ohio State (10.5) - Under

Penn State (8.5) - Over

Rutgers (2.5) - Under

BEST BET: Penn State over 8.5

Even in a year when it underperformed, Penn State still won nine regular season games in 2018. As we noted in our PSU preview, the Nittany Lions will be heavily favored in their first five games in 2019, and then again in November home games against Indiana and Rutgers. That leaves five others — Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State — to get you two wins and over the 8.5. We’ll take that bet.

Big Ten West

Illinois (4.5) - Under

Iowa (8) - Push

Minnesota (7.5) - Over

Nebraska (8.5) - Under

Northwestern (6) - Push

Purdue (7) - Under

Wisconsin (8.5) - Under

BEST BET: Illinois under 4.5

Illinois was at its best in 2018 when it had an effective running quarterback (A.J. Bush) to go with running back Reggie Corbin. This year, the Illini’s quarterback will be Brandon Peters, a pocket passer who transferred from Michigan. That doesn’t seem like the best fit. Even if the Illini get through the non-conference schedule unscathed, it’s hard to find a realistic conference win other than Rutgers. You need two Big Ten wins to get over 4.5.

Big 12

Baylor (7.5) - Over

Kansas (3) - Under

Kansas State (5.5) - Under

Iowa State (8) - Push

Oklahoma (10.5) - Over

Oklahoma State (7) - Over

TCU (7.5) - Over

Texas (9.5) - Under

Texas Tech (6) - Under

West Virginia (5) - Push

BEST BET: Oklahoma State over 7

Oklahoma State disappointed in 2018, and Mike Gundy will be the first one to admit it. He is motivated to get the Cowboys back on track and has plenty of talent to do it, even if he won’t tell you who his starting quarterback is. Tylan Wallace could be one of the best receivers in the country. OSU should easily start the season 3-0 and should be able to get over seven wins as long as it takes care of business at home.

Pac 12 North

Cal (5.5) - Under

Oregon (8.5) - Over

Oregon State (2.5) - Under

Stanford (6.5) - Over

Washington (9.5) - Over

Washington State (8) - Push

BEST BET: Stanford over 6.5

Stanford hasn’t won fewer than seven regular season games during David Shaw’s time as head coach. In fact, you have to go back to 2008, Jim Harbaugh’s second season, to find a year where the Cardinal were worse than 7-5 in the regular season. Even with the brutal non-conference schedule of Northwestern, UCF and Notre Dame, it’s hard to believe the Cardinal won’t go at least 7-5.

Pac 12 South

*Arizona (4.5) - Over

Arizona State (6.5) - Over

Colorado (4.5) - Under

UCLA (5.5) - Under

USC (7) - Over

Utah (9.5) - Over

BEST BET: UCLA under 5.5

UCLA could be a significantly better team in Chip Kelly’s second season, but it will have to pull off a few upsets to get to six wins. Seriously, look at the schedule. The Bruins play Cincinnati, San Diego State and Oklahoma in the non-conference and get Washington State, Stanford, Utah and USC all on the road. Five wins feels like the ceiling.

*Arizona total dropped from 6.5 to 4.5 after Week 0 loss to Hawaii.

SEC East

*Florida (8.5) - Over

Georgia (10.5) - Over

Kentucky (6.5) - Over

Missouri (7.5) - Over

South Carolina (5.5) - Under

Tennessee (6.5) - Under

Vanderbilt (5) - Push

BEST BET: Missouri over 7.5

Missouri should win its four non-conference games — Wyoming, West Virginia, SE Missouri State and Troy — and also gets South Carolina, Ole Miss and Tennessee at home. There’s also three very winnable SEC road games: Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Arkansas. There are eight wins in there somewhere.

*Florida pick made before Week 0 win over Miami.

SEC West

Alabama (11.5) - Under

Arkansas (5) - Under

Auburn (7.5) - Over

LSU (9) - Over

Ole Miss (5) - Push

Mississippi State (8.5) - Under

Texas A&M (7.5) - Over

BEST BET: Arkansas under 5

Arkansas is going to be much better than the disaster that was Chad Morris’ first season, but where on the schedule do you see five wins? The four non-conference games are very winnable, but we have a hard time finding two SEC wins for the Razorbacks. They might get Ole Miss as a road underdog in Week 2, but that will get you to five. A push is better than losing.

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