The 2019 college football season is off and running for the 150th time and this is a special season on the gridiron. All year long ESPN and other media platforms will be providing us with documentaries, podcasts, and other mediums to celebrate this historic year in the sport’s history. Thanks to Miami-Florida shenanigans and a Pac 12 After Dark game for the record books in week zero, we are off to hot start in 2019. You just needed to leap, Khalil Tate.
Before we dive all in with game previews, it’s time for one more big picture look at the 2019 season. Here are six bold predictions for both Kentucky and college football as a whole for this season. Even with a potential Alabama vs. Clemson grudge match looming, there will still be plenty of wild stuff to breakout along the way to the Playoff.
A.J. Rose will reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark
Since Eddie Gran arrived in 2016 to run the offense, Kentucky has had a thousand yard rusher in each season. Both Boom Williams and Benny Snell reached the number in the 2016 season when Kentucky finished third in the SEC in rushing offense. Snell followed that up with 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017 before putting up 1,449 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2018. He’s off to the next level, but that means it is A.J. Rose’s time.
The redshirt junior from Cleveland was an excellent second running option for Kentucky last year and he figures to get the lion’s share of the carries this season. He isn’t a workhorse back, but he will provide a big play pop that has been missing since Boom Williams left. Behind a very good offensive line, Rose should have a very big season and will become one of the better backs in the SEC.
Tua Tagovailoa won’t be in the Heisman mix
The Hawaii native lit the college football world on fire last season by throwing for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns, and averaging a ridiculous 11.2 yards per attempt on Bama’s way to 14 wins and another SEC title. He took the sport by storm for a couple months before Kyler Murray emerged into a stardom running the sport’s best ever offense.
Trevor Lawrence may be the preseason first team All-American, but Tua Tagovailoa is the favorite to win the Heisman ? pic.twitter.com/2hMvZGz9XS
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) August 20, 2019
Tagovailoa is a near lock to be a top five pick come the NFL Draft, but gone is offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. Last year, Alabama used a heavy RPO scheme that included many vertical passes to take advantage of their massive talent advantage at wide receiver. However, it severely hurt Saban’s defense.
With Steve Sarkisian back in town after a quick play-calling stint with the Atlanta Falcons, expect Bama to ride 230-pound tailback Najee Harris early and often through a very manageable schedule. Tua Tagovailoa will remain one of the game’s best quarterbacks, but he won’t have the numbers to collect the most prestigious hardware in college sports.
Terry Wilson will throw 20-plus touchdowns
Since Mike Hartline tossed for 3,178 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2010, no Kentucky quarterback has tossed for more than 14 touchdowns in the decade since. After a season spent as a game manager, Eddie Gran’s offense will need Terry Touchdown to live up to the nickname.
The junior college transfer has a superstar slot receiver, a proven offensive line, and an offense that wants to establish the run. That should create many opportunities for plays to be made in the passing game. This season Kentucky is going to need the offense to put up points while they rebuild the defense and that should create opportunities for Wilson. Look for TW3 to approach the 2,500-yard mark and throw for over 20 touchdowns on top of nearing 1,00o yards rushing.
If these projections hit, Kentucky is going to have something special brewing behind center entering the 2020 season.
Clay Helton will coach USC in 2020
With Urban Meyer currently being the biggest free agent in coaching, many think there is one big program out west he could end up at. Clay Helton has been with the USC program this entire decade and is entering his fourth season as the permanent head coach. After winning 21 games, a Pac-12 title, and a Rose Bowl with Sam Darnold, the Trojans took a step back in 2018. Now many think he could be fired in the middle of the season.
Odds to be the first College Football Head Coach to be fired (BetOnline)
Helton (USC) +550
Ash (Rutgers) +600
Smith (Illinois) +900
Malzahn (Auburn) +1000
Sitake (BYU) +1200
Orgeron (LSU) +1400
Fuente (VTech) +1400
Taggart (FSU) +1600
Gundy (Ok State) +1600
Allen (Indiana) +2000
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) August 26, 2019
This offseason Helton had to make some major changes. After losing Kliff Kingsbury to the Arizona Cardinals, the Houston alum hired North Texas offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. The former quarterback for Mike Leach at Texas Tech put together an excellent offense at UNT and runs the closest thing we’ve seen to Leach’s version of the Air Raid. Now we’ll see this offense being ran by a bunch of blue-chip recruits.
There is no doubt that the Trojans have the most talent in their division and they are due for a bounce back after losing four of their last five games by one possession. Bet on the players and the Air Raid scheme in a wide open conference. Don’t be surprised if you see the Trojans back in the Pac-12 championship game playing for a Rose Bowl berth come December.
Lynn Bowden will break a single-season record
Back in 1999, Dusty Bonner stepped in at quarterback with the Wildcats reloading after losing Tim Couch to the Cleveland Browns. Mike Leach left the program for Oklahoma and that meant Hal Mumme needed to get in the lab and get creative. To do that he used a hybrid tight end.
After recording 90 receptions and 10 touchdowns, James Whalen became an All-American before being selected in the fifth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. It’s been 2o years since that season and Whalen’s single-season reception record still stands.
After recording 67 grabs on an impressive 80.7 percent catch rate last season, everyone knows that Lynn Bowden, Jr. is due for a big season. With an offense that is going to pass the ball more, look for Bowden to become one of college football’s top pass catchers this year. On his way to the NFL, he’ll break a 20-year program record.
Kirby knocks off Dabo and Saban
Most of the college football world is getting ready Alabama-Clemson Volume Five, but the visor wearing head coach in Athens is going to have something to say about that this season.
Georgia enters the year with the best offensive line in college football, an excellent quarterback, the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft class, and a defense that returns all kinds of blue-chip talent. The Dawgs have just been a play or two away the last two seasons, but the third time will be the charm in 2019.
Kirby Smart finally gets over the Nick Saban hump and then knocks off “Little Ol’ Clemson” in the national championship game in the Superdome in New Orleans. Jake Fromm becomes the most popular player in Georgia history not named Herschel and the red and black party all night on Bourbon Street.
Expect the unexpected.