The 2019 preseason Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com point to a new conference champion in the Big Ten - and a new national champion that doesn't reside in the ACC or SEC.
The computer has Michigan going undefeated through the nation's 7th-toughest schedule. The Wolverines are a 3.84-point favorite at home over arch-rival Ohio State in the regular season finale, and a 9.75-point favorite versus Northwestern in the conference championship game.
Michigan would then face Oregon in the College Football Playoff semifinals where the computer has Jim Harbaugh's team projected as a 6.85-point pick. LSU gets the No. 2 seed as the SEC champion and is favored to beat No. 3 seed Clemson by 4.99.
Ultimately, the computer has Michigan favored by a 0.11 over LSU in the National Championship.
The first order of business would be for the Wolverines to halt a lengthy dry spell against Ohio State. The Maize & Blue have dropped 7 straight to the Buckeyes, and 14 of the last 15.
Harbaugh has another hurdle to overcome - he's won just 1 game against a top ten opponent in 10 tries since he took the reins of the program in 2015, and that lone win occurred three seasons ago.
Harbaugh was 0-4 vs. Urban Meyer who retired after the 2018 season and put offensive coordinator Ryan Day in charge. With Day as OC the past two seasons, Ohio State hung 93 points on the Michigan defense with a 31-20 win in 2017 and a 62-39 win last season.
Day got an early sniff at being the head coach when he captained the Buckeyes to a 3-0 start of the 2018 campaign while Meyer was suspended.
The rest of the computer's forecast for the East puts Michigan State 3rd (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten), followed by Penn State (7-5, 4-5). Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers all wind up under the .500 mark.
In the West division, Northwestern should continue to enjoy the best of times. The 'Cats are favored to secure a second consecutive title with a forecast of 11-1 overall while repeating last season's 8-1 trek through their conference slate. In 2017, Northwestern went 7-2 in the league while finishing 10-3 overall.
Minnesota gets the computer's second-place nod with projected records of a stellar 10-2 over-all campaign and a 7-2 mark in the Big Ten.
Iowa (8-4, 6-3), Wisconsin (7-5, 4-5) and Purdue (7-5, 4-5) follow, with Nebraska and Illinois bringing up the rear.
Nebraska limped in at 4-8 in Scott Frost's first season as head coach and the computer only sees a 1-win improvement overall to 5-7, but a 1-win slide in the conference to 2-7.
The conference media disagree, selecting Nebraska as division champs this season and placing Northwestern in 4th. The media also have Minnesota finishing 6th in the division.
Maryland: Mike Locksley replaces Matt Canada who was interim head coach for the entire season after A.J. Durkin was suspended in August, welcomed back for a day on October 30, and then fired on October 31. Durkin was suspended August 11, pending a review of the death of redshirt freshman Jordan McNair, an offensive lineman. McNair collapsed on May 29 while running as a punishment, and died June 13. The school's reinstatement of Durkin was met with a strong backlash from members of the student body, government officials and even some team players. In the wake of that response, the school decided it was in the best interest of the university to fire Durkin. At the time of the firing, Canada had led Maryland to a 5-3 record. However, the Terps fizzled down the stretch and finished the season 5-7. In hiring Locksley, Maryland looked past the fact that he was suspended as the head coach at New Mexico for punching an assistant where he also got in hot water over an age and sexual harassment lawsuit that was curiously later withdrawn. He was 1-5 as the interim head coach of Maryland when Randy Edsall was fired in 2015, and he was 2-26 at New Mexico. That's a career head coaching mark of 3-31. If we were grading hires, this one would have a tough time getting above a 'D', especially when Canada deserved to be rewarded with the full-time position.
Ohio State: Ryan Day succeeds Urban Meyer whose retirement became effective after defeating Washington 28-23 in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. While Meyer was serving a suspension at the start of the season for the lack of action taken earlier in the Zach Smith domestic abuse allegations, Day went 3-0 as interim head coach..Smith was the tight ends coach who was fired in July after a judge issued a protection order that forbade Smith from getting within 500 feet of the accuser who is now his ex-wife. Meyer says the sole reason for his retirement is a health issue he disclosed to reporters in October - an arachnoid cyst in his brain, which causes frequent headaches.
*-Tie-breakers: Maryland beats Rutgers
*-Tie-breakers: Wisconsin beats Purdue; Illinois beats Nebraska
*-Championship: Michigan over Northwestern
First-place votes in parenthesis (Poll of 17 writers conducted by cleveland.com.)
1. Michigan (20) - 222 points
2. Ohio State (14) - 214 points
3. Michigan State - 156 points
4. Penn State- 154 points
5. Indiana -86.5 points
6. Maryland- 82.5 points
7. Rutgers - 37 points
1. Nebraska (14) - 198 points
2. Iowa (14) - 194.5 points
3. Wisconsin (4) - 172.5 points
4. Northwestern (1) - 142.5 points
5. Purdue - 110.5 points
6. Minnesota (1) - 100 points
7. Illinois - 34 points
Predicted Champion: Michigan