Five bold predictions for college football in '21

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***1. Georgia wins the SEC championship

Kirby Smart has been building the Georgia Bulldogs into a perennial power for years now. Since he was hired as the Bulldogs' head coach in 2016, Georgia has dominated the SEC East and in addition to winning an SEC title in 2017, Georgia went on to face Alabama in the national championship later that season. Smart has built a winning pedigree, having posted 10-plus win seasons in three of his five seasons at the helm for Georgia.

Even last season, Georgia went 8-2 in a season shortened due to COVID-19.

He returns JT Daniels who put the Bulldogs on an absolute tear last season after getting the starting job after an injury sidelined Stetson Bennett.

In Daniels' four starts, the Bulldogs went 4-0 and he threw for over 1,200 yards and had 10 touchdowns against two interceptions.

As long as Daniels stays healthy, the Bulldogs have the best arm talent in the SEC and that will carry Smart to his second SEC title.

***2. Alabama misses College Football Playoffs

It seems like every year Alabama churns out talent to the NFL, only to replace said talent with top-end, five-star recruits to make another run at a national championship.

While that may be true in 2021, Alabama will miss the playoffs due to a talented SEC West.

Gone are skill players like Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris and quarterback Mac Jones, all four of which are in the NFL.

As if the losses on the offensive side of the ball aren't bad enough, Alabama loses six key defensive players as well.

That's a ton to replace. Now Alabama has become a talent-driven machine under Nick Saban and there's little doubt he will eventually get the Tide back to 2020-caliber levels.

But it just won't happen in 2021.

Alabama gets challenged out of the gate and in two of the first three games, must face the two of the top teams in the nation—ironically both of which hail from Florida.

Miami awaits Alabama in the opener with presumptuous Heisman front runner, D'Eriq King at quarterback.

In Week 3, things don't get any easier as Alabama travels to the Swamp to face non-division opponent Florida—and that's all before Alabama dives into the traditional rivals of the SEC West.

While Alabama will certainly be a “good” team in 2021 with all the talent in the pipes, this could be a year that sees Alabama not only miss the SEC title, but also the College Football Playoffs.

***3. Breece Hall wins the Heisman

Since the year 2000, 18 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks, with just two being running backs and only DeVonta Smith being the lone wide receiver to win the Heisman just last season.

So, who are the top candidates for the 2021 Heisman watch?

Florida quarterback Emory Jones, Miami quarterback D'Eriq King, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and Texas running back Bijan Robinson all dominate the preseason Heisman predictions.

But there's one name that's been left off essentially every list, and he shouldn't be, is Iowa State running back Breece Hall.

While Robinson benefits of playing for the Longhorns and all the hype that surrounds a big brand such as Texas, Hall has very quietly put together a stellar start to his career at Iowa State.

As a freshman in 2019, Hall averaged nearly five yards per carry and finished the season with nine touchdowns on 897 rushing yards. He also caught 23 passes for 252 yards.

His sophomore season saw a monster jump in production as he provided balance to an incredibly efficient Iowa State offense.

He upped his efficiency to 5.6 yards per carry and finished with a staggering 21 rushing touchdowns an capped the season with 1,572 rushing yards.

As stated, Robinson is ranked by many as the top running back in the nation and is the beneficiary of playing for one of the biggest brands in college football.

But if his trend continues, Hall could not only become the nation's best running back, but could also win the Heisman this season as well.

***4. Saban finally loses to a former assistant

As if his teams' yearly records, SEC and national titles weren't enough to cement his legacy as the greatest coach in college football history, there's another record lurking among the statistics that prove Saban is a master among the coaching ranks.

Entering the 2021 season, Saban is a perfect 23-0 against his former opponents who have gone on to become head coaches at other schools.

He just doesn't lose to his former disciples.

The closest he's come to losing to a former assistant came against Kirby Smart in the 2018 national championship when the Tide stormed back and defeated the Bulldogs with a 26-23 overtime victory.

Just by the numbers, Saban will face three SEC teams this season that were former assistants under Saban—and all three represent threats to beating their former teacher this season.

While Smart has certainly had Saban on the ropes in years past, with the talent Georgia returns, this could be the year he finally gets one over his old boss.

More recently, Saban and current Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin had a brutal falling out and there's no love lost between the two.

Last season, Ole Miss came out of nowhere and nearly matched pace with Alabama in 63-48 shootout.

With the Rebels returning much of the 2020 talent, including quarterback Matt Corral, Kiffin could hand Saban a loss on October 2.

Finally, the last of Saban's disciples who could present an issue for the top coach in the land is Jimbo Fisher.

Fisher's tenure with Saban goes back to the early 2000's when he coached under him at LSU.

While Fisher had plenty of success at Florida State, including a 2013 national title, Fisher's success hasn't quite caught up to him at Texas A&M.

While he's been knocking on the door of becoming an elite program at A&M, Fischer has posted three-straight seasons, winning at least eight games and three-straight bowl victories.

With his successes on the recruiting trail since becoming the head coach for the Aggies, 2021 could be the season it all comes together and Fisher finally defeats Saban.

It seems rather improbable all three former coaches could get a win against Saban, if there ever was an Alabama “rebuild” season and other teams had an opportunity with returning talent, it's 2021.

***5. Iowa State makes the CFP playoffs

Since the NCAA reformed the postseason and moved on from the BCS era to the current playoff format, a couple of teams have dominated the brackets and nearly have made yearly appearances.

It's almost a given that either Clemson, Alabama or Ohio State will venture into the playoffs, as these teams tend to dominate with big-named recruits and produce conference titles.

One criticism of the current format is it doesn't give any chance for a dark horse team to make the playoffs (as evidenced by the undefeated 2017 UCF Knights team).

While UCF doesn't play in a Power 5 conference, one potential, and dang near likely dark horse does—and that team is Iowa State.

Led by Matt Campbell, who many rank as the top “young” coach in the nation, the Cyclones have turned a corner in the program.

After picking up the shambles left by former coach Paul Rhodes, Campbell has quietly built one of the best programs in the nation.

While the Cyclones only managed three wins in Campbell's first season as the Iowa State head coach, since then, they've been a team on the rise.

Campbell led Iowa State to a 9-3 overall record and a Fiesta Bowl win a season ago.

He returns quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall in what figures to be one of the best teams in the Big 12.

Should the Cyclones continue their trend of successes, the 2021 Iowa State team could sneak its way into the playoffs, just as long as they avoid any upsets along the way.

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