Conference winners, Playoff picks, award winners

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Congratulations! You successfully traversed the drama and diversions of conference realignment, multi-million dollar NIL fights and a flurry of message board rumors to reach the first full week of the 2022 college football season.

Take a breath, collect your thoughts and clear your mind because assumptions and predictions — and whatever Stanford fan treehard4392 said last week on the board – are about to be thrown out the window. The unexpected is expected in college football, where just as we feel like we’re in a safe space, the GOAT falls for the first time to a protege (Nick Saban vs. Jimbo Fisher and again with Saban vs. Kirby Smart), Kansas upsets Texas on the road as a 30.5-point underdog, an FCS program (Jacksonville State) knocks off a blue blood (Florida State) with a history of national championships and Cincinnati shakes up the established order with an appearance in the College Football Playoff.

There’s no telling what 2022 has in store for college football. Week 0 already provided us with a familiar-and-still-surprising storyline with Scott Frost(*4*)’s Nebraska Cornhuskers blowing an 11-point lead to Northwestern. The Week 1 schedule is as loaded as any in recent memory, with three ranked-against-ranked matchups and three top-15 teams opening the year on the road.

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We love to make predictions and try to make sense of an uncertain future in all facets of life, but only in sports is it an accepted – and joyful – practice for everyone, including the best to ever coach the sport.

(*2*) Saban said in July. “So that’s why we play the games, that’s why we have a season, so that we can sort of see how we grow and develop.”

So, rejoice. Talking season is over. After months of conference realignment rumors, conferences signing multi-billion dollar media rights contracts and a record number of movements in the transfer portal, it’s time to play ball.

… Buuuuuut we do still have some time to burn before the avalanche of games swallow Fansville. Mind if I sneak in a few more predictions before Week 1 begins with the return of the Backyard Brawl on Thursday night? OK, great, thanks. Here’s my “ultimate” college football preview, with bite-sized previews and projections for every FBS conference — and superlatives on the top players and coaches in the sport.