College football is finally here, with Week 0 kicking off a slate of games for those itching for some action outside of the XFL, USFL, and preseason games. The 2023 season will mark the end of an era in more ways than one. Not only will the College Football Playoff be expanding to 12 teams next season, but the totality of the conference realignment is taking shape as well.
Although the season is just beginning with a short list of games this weekend, it’s never too early to start making college football predictions on what teams will end up in the final four-team race to the national title this year.
TCU surprised many last season with its run to the national championship, but will the Horned Frogs or someone else be another sneaky underdog once again this year for a potential run or will the CFP go back to its regularly scheduled programming? Read on to find out how I see the 2023 season football shaking out.
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs No. 4 Michigan
It shouldn’t come as a shock to see either of these two teams in the final four once again, as both have made the College Football Playoffs the last two years.
Despite Georgia losing 10 players to the NFL Draft, the Bulldogs have reloaded once again, with their 2023 recruiting class second in the country. The two-time defending national title winners are favored to win the championship once again, with college football odds giving them +225 odds.
The Bulldogs should be able to sail through the regular season due to the lowest strength of schedule in the SEC. Georgia’s receiving room also should also get an upgrade with the additions of transfers Dominic Lovett and Rara Thomas.
On the opposite side of the field should be Michigan to feature a rematch of the 2022 CFP semifinals in which the Bulldogs defeated the Wolverines 34-11.
The Wolverines should see a jump from quarterback JJ McCarthy in his second season as a starter while they also boast one of the nation’s best running back tandems in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) July 21, 2023
Michigan also boasts strength along both the offensive and defensive lines. Its run defense ranked third in the country last season and with many returnees, including senior leader Kris Jenkins, it should be a force once again.
The Wolverines should roll through the first part of their schedule, but meetings with both Penn State and Ohio State in the last three weeks could spell trouble. Ultimately, however, Michigan should do enough to get into the playoffs, which NCAA football odds have as an even-money bet.
Rose Bowl: No. 2 USC vs No. 3 Alabama
Though they are two teams with different strengths on each side, bettors shouldn’t count out either team making a run at the CFP.
The Trojans’ strength is their offense as they return quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, who is the current favorite to win the award once again this season with +550 odds from the sportsbook.
Why is USC QB Caleb Williams projected to go No. 1 overall?
Insane arm talent pic.twitter.com/flQjhx8Boy
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) August 5, 2023
USC finished third in the nation in total offense and scoring, and with Williams back along with a number of skill players that includes transfer wide receiver Dorian Singer, the offense should be humming once again.
However, the Trojans will need to shore up their defense to get anywhere after giving up 47 points to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game last season. Key transfers, including linebacker Mason Cobb, should help clean up the defense and take USC further this season.
While quarterback is USC’s position of strength, it’s one of the main reasons many are counting out Alabama after quarterback Bryce Young was selected first overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Don’t count out head coach Nick Saban, however, as he recruited the No. 1 class in the country and has shown a proven ability to coach up quarterbacks. His past four No. 1 quarterbacks are now starters in the NFL.
The Crimson Tide defense was second in the SEC in both points and yards allowed and with the depth they bring, they should be able to have another strong season despite losing some key players to the draft.
With Saban and Co. now the underdog after and on the road to revenge after failing to reach the CFP in 2022, a return to the playoffs should be in the cards.
National Championship: No. 2 USC vs No. 4 Michigan
For the first time since the 2020 College Football Playoff, the national championship game won’t feature either Georgia or Alabama.
Although Georgia is the favorite to win the championship once again, a three-peat seems almost impossible to accomplish, and with Michigan returning 81% of its production for fifth in the nation, it’ll be tough to stop.
Meeting Michigan in the championship will be USC. The Trojans’ advantage on offense with Williams will prove to be the difference-maker in the semifinal game.
However, though the Trojans’ defense may have been enough to get them to the championship game, it won’t be enough to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Wolverines, whose strength both offensively and defensively should win them a national title.
Pick: Michigan Wolverines +900