Pick 6 Predictions: Risers, fallers, a playoff dark horse


By Ralph D. Russo - AP College Football Writer



FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, Clemson players huddle before the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, in Glendale, Ariz. Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25. Clemson is No. 2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)


FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, Alabama fan Alanna Jackson, of Foxboro, Mass., cheers after Alabama defeated Clemson 45-40 in the NCAA college playoff championship football game, at Gallettes Bar in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 for the third time under coach Nick Saban as the Crimson Tide attempts to win a second straight national title and fifth in eight seasons. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)


Before we start this, you should know something — if you already do not. I suspect you might.

I picked Auburn to make the College Football Playoff last year.

I was one of the many members of the media who bought into the Jeremy Johnson hype, the new defensive coordinator (Muschamp!) and those stellar recruiting classes and decided that, yes, the Tigers coming off an 8-5 season in 2014 would indeed be one of the four best teams in the country in 2015.

Auburn started the season ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 , and then finished it 7-6.

So, yeah, not great.

The 2016 AP preseason poll was unveiled Sunday and the majority of the voters, many no doubt still stinging from Auburn, took the safe route and declared defending national champion Alabama No. 1. No team in the top 10 had less than nine victories last season.

Now it is time to put that Auburn debacle behind me and try to have a little fun forecasting the coming college football season. Part of what makes predictions fun is taking a flyer on a dark horse or two. Maybe even picking against Alabama again. And unlike Tigers coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s rotten season did not put me on the hot seat with my bosses.

Though I know some of you are keeping score.

1) Three unranked teams most likely to be ranked at end of the season.

Nebraska, Boise State, Miami.

2) Three ranked teams most likely to be unranked at the end of the season.

No. 23 Baylor, No. 20 Southern California, No. 11 Mississippi.

3) Top-10 team most likely to pull an Auburn-esque flop?

No. 5 LSU. The Tigers look loaded, but poor quarterback play can doom a season. Brandon Harris completed 54 percent of his passes last year. When the ship goes off course in the SEC West it is very hard to avoid the rocks — especially when the rumors start swirling about the head coach getting fired. A lot riding on this season for Les Miles. No. 8 Stanford is the second choice here and No. 3 Oklahoma has a recent history of flopping when starting highly ranked.

4) Team outside the top 10 most likely to make the playoff.

No. 15 UCLA. The Bruins have the most talented quarterback in the country outside of Clemson in Josh Rosen and a defense that could start eight seniors and two juniors. UCLA edges out No. 13 TCU in this category.

5) Conference champions

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic: Florida State

Coastal: Miami

Champion: Florida State

Big Ten

East: Ohio State

West: Nebraska

Champion: Ohio State

Big 12

Champion: TCU

Pac-12

North: Oregon

South: UCLA

Champion: UCLA

Southeastern Conference

East: Tennessee

West: Alabama

Champion: Alabama

American Athletic Conference

East: USF

West: Houston

Champion: USF

Conference USA

East: Western Kentucky

West: Southern Miss

Champion: Southern Miss

Mid-American Conference

East: Ohio

West: Western Michigan

Champion: Western Michigan

Mountain West

Mountain: Boise State

West: Nevada

Champion: Boise State

Sun Belt

Champion: Appalachian State

6) New Year’s Six

Rose Bowl

Oregon vs. Michigan

Sugar Bowl

LSU vs. TCU

Cotton Bowl

Notre Dame vs. USF

Orange Bowl

Clemson vs. Tennessee

PLAYOFF

Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State vs. Alabama

Peach Bowl

Florida State vs. UCLA

National championship

Florida State vs. Alabama

NATIONAL CHAMPION

Florida State

EXTRA POINT

Heisman Trophy finalists: Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson, Josh Rosen.

Winner: Watson.

FILE – In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, Clemson players huddle before the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, in Glendale, Ariz. Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25. Clemson is No. 2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_112030960-df83287ffe2240f2aff6bcf157d145a5-1.jpgFILE – In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, Clemson players huddle before the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, in Glendale, Ariz. Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25. Clemson is No. 2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, Alabama fan Alanna Jackson, of Foxboro, Mass., cheers after Alabama defeated Clemson 45-40 in the NCAA college playoff championship football game, at Gallettes Bar in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 for the third time under coach Nick Saban as the Crimson Tide attempts to win a second straight national title and fifth in eight seasons. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_112030960-efd731574acb4fdcb006f992b9a79635.jpgFILE – In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, Alabama fan Alanna Jackson, of Foxboro, Mass., cheers after Alabama defeated Clemson 45-40 in the NCAA college playoff championship football game, at Gallettes Bar in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 for the third time under coach Nick Saban as the Crimson Tide attempts to win a second straight national title and fifth in eight seasons. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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