No Offseason: Bold predictions for the 2023 season

Even though the start of the college football season is still four months away, here are some early bold predictions for 2023.

Junior quarterback Caleb Williams slings a sidearm throw in the Cotton Bowl.

“No Offseason” is a column by Adam Bradford discussing college football developments during the winter and spring months.

Well, this is it. Although the return of college football is still four months away, this marks the final edition of No Offseason this year. Hence, I thought it would be fun to end things by giving a few of my bold predictions for the 2023 season.

There is definitely a range as to the “boldness” of my predictions. Some are medium at best, others are scorching hot. These are just a few things that I think will happen this fall.

Without further ado, here they are.

Arkansas bounces back

After an impressive nine-win season in 2021, Arkansas entered 2022 with high expectations. However, the Razorbacks struggled to meet those expectations, as they fell to 7-6, including stunning losses versus Texas A&M and Liberty.

The X-factor for Arkansas is redshirt senior quarterback KJ Jefferson. After a strong first season as the Razorbacks’ starter in 2021, Jefferson struggled with injuries last year, a large factor in his team’s decline. If Jefferson can stay healthy and take a step forward in his development, Arkansas could sneak up on Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.

Kansas wins eight games

Last season, Kansas made a bowl game for the first time since 2008. After a remarkable 5-0 start, however, the Jayhawks struggled down the stretch and finished the year 6-7.

Much of that struggle was due to quarterback Jalon Daniels missing time with an injury. While backup Jason Bean filled in admirably for Daniels, Kansas was clearly a different team without their starter. If Daniels stays healthy next season, the Jayhawks could legitimately win eight games — which would be truly remarkable given their poor football history.

Texas fires Sark

After an underwhelming first two years in Austin, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian enters 2023 with the pressure to win. Despite signing top recruiting classes throughout his tenure with the Longhorns — including five-star quarterbacks Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning — Sarkisian holds just a 13-12 record at Texas.

In eight full seasons as a head coach at Washington, USC and now Texas, Sarkisian has never finished a regular season better than 8-4. Given Texas’ high expectations and impatient boosters, that isn’t going to cut it on the Forty Acres. If the Longhorns don’t take a step forward from last season, do not be stunned if they kick Sarkisian to the curb and start fresh.

The Pac-12 ends its playoff drought

The Pac-12 has not made the College Football Playoff since Washington did it back in 2016. And with the playoff set to expand in 2024, this is the conference’s last chance to make it under the current format.

Fortunately for the Pac-12, 2023 appears to be its best shot yet to end the drought, with four or five legitimate contenders all led by high-profile signal callers. USC enters year two of the Lincoln Riley era, adding numerous defensive transfers to an explosive offense led by Heisman-winning junior quarterback Caleb Williams. Washington and Oregon both won double-digit games last season, and they return redshirt senior quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix, respectively. Utah brings back senior quarterback Cam Rising, who has led the Utes to two consecutive conference titles. And Oregon State adds senior Clemson transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to a team that quietly won 10 games last season.

Of course, there is certainly the possibility that these teams all beat up on each other, leaving the conference with a bunch of very good teams and no true contenders. Given the Pac-12′s depth and star power, however, there is a decent chance that one team emerges from the pack and finally ends the conference’s playoff drought.

Alabama reclaims the title

Is it bold to predict that a program that has won six of the past 14 national championships will win it all this year? Not particularly. But ever since Georgia won its second consecutive title in January, the narrative has been that Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs have passed Alabama as college football’s premier program.

However, Nick Saban has never gone three consecutive seasons at Alabama without winning a national championship. And while the Crimson Tide must replace star quarterback Bryce Young, five of their six titles under Saban have been won by a quarterback who did not start the year prior.

Come January, Alabama reasserts itself as the top program in college football and wins its seventh national championship in 15 seasons.

“No Offseason” runs every other Thursday.