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Joel Klatt predicts seven teams are in contention for the CFB Playoff

Former Colorado quarterback gives his thoughts on which schools could become conference champions next year

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt provided some insight into his way-too-early predictions for the 2018 college football season by picking conference champions with some surprises.

Klatt believes Alabama will claim an SEC championship come December. The Tide are once again the top-ranked defending national champions rolling into the start of the season, having won six conference titles during coach Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa. Last season featured the rare Alabama-less SEC title game last year when Georgia beating Auburn, 28-7. It was the first time since 2013 Alabama was knocked of SEC contention — not that missing out on an SEC championship mattered in the end after all.

As for Clemson, next year’s schedule is a make-or-break scenario with two SEC opponents (Texas A&M, South Carolina) making up part of their non-conference schedule, something that could come into play if the Tigers do make a postseason run. If Klatt’s prediction holds true, another ACC title would mark Clemson’s fourth in a row, and sixth overall since Dabo Swinney took over the program in 2009.

Klatt also sees a yet-undecided three-way tie with either Ohio State, Michigan State or Wisconsin hoisting a Big Ten championship when the dust settles. You can’t fault Klatt’s wide open picks due to the Big Ten being arguably the most competitive conference in college football. Although the chances are unlikely, Ohio State hopes to make the Playoff after narrowly missing out the past two seasons. 2018 is also another year and another opportunity for Michigan State to prove the critics wrong; their schedule will set them up favorably as their only difficult road game with be at Penn State. Wisconsin belongs in the conversation having been in all but two Big Ten title games (2013, 2015), but have lost in their last three appearances.

A tremendous surprise was Klatt’s pick of Texas to win the Big 12. A weakened year for the conference could result in the Longhorn’s first title since 2009. Coach Tom Herman’s second season in Austin could see Texas playing the the role of spoilers. I would count on Texas improving greatly, but it is a stretch to say they’ll be winning the Big 12 next season. Oklahoma is still the Vegas favorites without Baker Mayfield, and they’re likely to stay the favorites if Kyler Murray does indeed play football after he was selected 9th overall by the Oakland Athletics in the MLB Draft.

For the Pac-12, Klatt picked Stanford. This selection would make a bit of sense as the Cardinal return last year’s Heisman runner-up Bryce Love. The Cardinal will have to put in work to clear the multiple hurdles along the way, but despite the tough opponents they’re currently the team to beat out West. For the sake of Love’s Heisman hopes, Pac-12 After Dark might become an afternoon affair.

The college football season starts on Saturday, Aug. 25 with four games including Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Colorado State Rams (5:30 pm MT) and Wyoming Cowboys vs. New Mexico State Aggies (TBD).