Conference predictions: Picking the champions, top players and more from the Power 5

We're looking forward to the rematch this November. Andrew Weber/Getty Images

The college football season kicks off later this week (hey, Cal-Hawaii from Australia!). So it's time for preseason predictions. Want to know if anyone can challenge Baker Mayfield for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year? It's here. Can someone take down Alabama in the SEC? Just a click away.


Spoiler alert: There wasn't much debate over ACC Offensive Player of Year. (Deshaun Watson, claim your prize.) But Defensive Player of the Year was not unanimous. Here are a couple of the picks:

Devante Fields, Louisville: Fields ended last season on a tear and finished with 22.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Coach Bobby Petrino says Fields is in the best shape he has been in since his freshman year at TCU in 2012. That's bad news for opposing offenses. -- Andrea Adelson

Derwin James, Florida State: As a freshman, James was moved all over the field and excelled in every position the Seminoles put him in. There wasn't a task he could not handle. James has the ability to load up the stat sheet, and coupled with a few highlight-reel hits, he'll have a strong case for defensive player of the year. -- Jared Shanker

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Big 12

Which team walks away with the Big 12 title? It will be one of the most interesting races out there, and the only one in the Power 5 that won't be decided with a title game. This year, anyway.

Oklahoma: The Sooners have some question marks, notably at linebacker and in the trenches. But they have some incredible strengths as well, including a backfield that might be the envy of college football. That should be enough to catapult Oklahoma to another Big 12 title and, potentially, a return trip to the playoff. -- Jake Trotter

TCU: Not trying to go contrarian here: I think Oklahoma and TCU both end up having great seasons, and I think TCU wins the head-to-head in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs should be loaded on defense and are one great quarterback away from having all the pieces for a Big 12 title team. -- Max Olson

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Big Ten

OK, so this is what everyone wants to know: Ohio State or Michigan? Harbaugh or Meyer? Not surprisingly, our reporters are split. Here's a look at what they're saying when it comes to the Big Ten champion:

Ohio State: The Buckeyes will edge out Michigan to win the East in late November, then cruise past Nebraska in Indianapolis. Urban Meyer is too good of a coach to miss the conference championship game in back-to-back seasons with that much talent in Columbus.-- Dan Murphy

Michigan: Believe in the Harbaugh hype. The Wolverines could wind up with the top defense in the country, and it's difficult envisioning anyone in the West knocking them off. This is the best team in the Big Ten. -- Josh Moyer

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Could the Offensive Player of the Year really be someone other than Christian McCaffrey? Two of our Pac-12 reporters think so. Here's a sampling:

Washington State QB Luke Falk: The redshirt junior will lead the conference in total offense for the second season in a row and push Washington State to a nine-win season. -- Chantel Jennings

Christian McCaffrey: Christian McCaffrey posted an unprecedented 2,000-yard rushing, 1,000-yard receiving campaign in 2015. He's faster and stronger as a 20-year-old entering 2016, so he'll once again be the Pac-12's best player. -- David Lombardi

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It always seems to come down to Alabama and LSU, right? Can Les Miles and the Tigers finally get over the hump and beat Nick Saban and Co. this year? It should decide the SEC champion. So, who wins the conference?

Alabama: Florida's offense won't be dynamic enough to keep Alabama from extending its streak of conference championship game wins to five. -- Alex Scarborough

LSU: It's the Tigers' time. Les Miles was on the brink last November, but this year he'll pull a rabbit out of his hat and find a way to get them to the playoff. -- Sam Khan Jr.

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