Predicting The 2024 College World Series: Will We See A First-Time Champion?

The College World Series kicks off June 14 as eight teams sprint for a national championship. Six of the finalists have never won a title.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Of the eight teams in this year's College World Series field, six of them have never won a national championship (Florida State, Kentucky, NC State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M). The two that have, Florida and Virginia, both won their only title in the past decade. The odds of us seeing a first-time champion are excellent and nobody will wear out their welcome.

But that's not to say this year's crop is new to Omaha – Florida State is an astounding 0-for-23 in CWS appearances (by far the most without a title). Its 24th time at the CWS is third-most behind Texas (38) and Miami (25). Kentucky is the only first-timer, officially making it so that every SEC program has experienced Omaha at least once.

Tennessee, making its seventh College World Series field, has historical odds stacked against it, despite being the favorite according to this year's odds. A No. 1 overall national seed has not won a championship since Miami in 1999.

With such a wide-open field this year, let's try to sort out how this bracket might go.

Predicting 2024 College World Series: Bracket 1

But first, let's take a look at how I did last year. Overall, I picked three of the four finalists correctly – LSU, Wake Forest, and TCU – and successfully pinned LSU as the national champion (and in the correct number of games, too). While my runner up, Virginia, would go on to lose in two games, last year's success rate was pretty good.

The teams playing in Bracket 1 this year: (1) Tennessee, (4) North Carolina, (8) Florida State, (12) Virginia.

Game 1: North Carolina vs. Virginia

Virginia took two-of-three from North Carolina earlier this year, piling on 28 runs in the process. UNC made its money in Chapel Hill, finishing a ridiculous 37-3. Right now, the Hoos are making things look easy, tearing through opponents with a deadly combination of shutdown pitching and the hottest bats in the field.

The pick: Virginia

Game 2: Tennessee vs. Florida State

I expect Florida State to throw everything it has at the top seed in this opening game, including ace Jamie Arnold (11-3, 2.77 ERA). Arnold's struck out 155 batters this year, third-most behind Hagen Smith and Chase Burns. Against the Vols – who, at 173 home runs, are chasing 1997 LSU's record 188 – an ace is needed. But is he enough?

Despite these two teams being known for power hitting, I think we see a reasonably-scored game.

The pick: Tennessee

OK – you don't have the time to read through multi-paragraph breakdowns of each game, so let's pick up the pace a little.

Game 5: North Carolina OVER Florida State – It's tough to send any one of these four teams home first. Each of them is capable of winning this side of the bracket. These two surprisingly didn't square off this season, but I like North Carolina's star power, as well as pitcher Jason DeCaro (6-1, 3.89) over Carson Dorsey (7-4, 4.67). UNC has just a little more to throw than FSU with its back against a wall.

Florida State eliminated.

Game 6: Tennessee OVER Virginia – The Vols are the only team capable of getting into a home run derby with Virginia and winning. UVA leads the teams in Omaha with a 137 wRC+ but Tennessee leads with the long ball. The Hoos' over-producing pitching has to come back down eventually... right?

Game 9: Virginia OVER North Carolina – Maybe one day I'll learn, if Virginia is again the first team eliminated. But this team is playing better than almost anyone in the country right now. They make it look easy.

North Carolina eliminated.

Game 11: Virginia OVER Tennessee – The Hoos are too good to let Tennessee walk to a College World Series final. The Vols' pitching staff does give up runs in buckets, and they might be trying to save their best arms for an elimination game or final series. The distance we go!

Bracket 1 Final: Tennessee OVER Virginia – The biggest adjustment good hitting teams face in Omaha are deeper outfields. Tennessee doesn't skirt its homers just over the wall, they mash baseballs. I think the power of the Vols, led by Christian Moore (32 home runs), is simply too much an advantage. Tennessee becomes just the fourth No. 1 overall seed ever to make the CWS final (Miami '99, Texas '04, Texas '09).

Tennessee advances to College World Series Final.

Predicting 2024 College World Series: Bracket 2

Unlike last year, both brackets this year are pretty evenly balanced. In Bracket 1, you have the ceiling of Tennessee. In Bracket 2, you have the next two national seeds – and sportsbook odds' favorites – Texas A&M and Kentucky.

Teams playing in Bracket 2 this year: (2) Kentucky, (3) Texas A&M), (10) NC State, Florida.

Game 3: Kentucky vs. NC State

Let's put it out there now: NC State makes no sense. Statistically, they shouldn't be here, producing the worst pitching staff in the field and the third-worst offense. And yet, like their men's and women's basketball programs, the Wolfpack men's baseball team defied odds to get to rarified air.

The last time NC State made a College World Series, they were unceremoniously removed after a rash of COVID-19 positive tests, despite more than half the team being vaccinated. It was one of the most controversial moves in sports.

Kentucky appears in its first College World Series ever, becoming the final SEC team to do so. Over its last four games, UK allowed three combined runs – all against quality opponents.

So... stats? Or narrative?

The pick: Kentucky

Game 4: Texas A&M vs. Florida

The Aggies have proved they can win in any number of ways: with the long ball, with small ball – hell, they'll even walk the bases around to score. Aside from Tennessee, A&M is the most complete team in the entire CWS field.

On the other hand, Florida has done *exactly* enough to make it here and not an ounce more. In their last three games surrendering 10+ runs, the Gators are 3-0 (1-10 previously). But the luck has to run out. Despite taking two of three at home from A&M in March, I can't pick Florida and their pitching staff here.

The pick: Texas A&M

Game 7: NC State OVER Florida – I do think the Wolfpack are feisty enough to make some noise. Their head coach, Elliott Avent, keeps talking about "riding into the sunset... but not today." NC State thrives off the long ball – 18 of their 27 runs in the Super Regional were from home runs. What does Jac Caglianone tend to give up? Home runs.

Florida eliminated.

Game 8: Texas A&M OVER Kentucky – If A&M has to win this game 1-0 in extras, they will. Kentucky is an extremely good team playing extremely sound baseball with maybe the best current pitching staff, but I trust A&M to score more than UK.

Game 10: Kentucky OVER NC State – Unfortunately for NC State, it's hard to hit home runs when you can't touch the baseball. Need I remind everyone about three runs in four games? That came against great hitting teams like Oregon State. This staff is too deep and too good for an early exit.

NC State eliminated.

Game 12: Texas A&M OVER Kentucky – Everything above applies. If A&M gets the lead, star closer Evan Aschenbeck won't relinquish it. I think there's three teams really capable of winning the College World Series, and two of them are about to square off in the final.

Texas A&M advances to College World Series final.

College World Series Final: Texas A&M OVER Tennessee

It's probably short-sighted, but I just can't get over the No. 1 seed deal. Tennessee already defies the historical odds by even making it this far. And when it comes to two outstanding teams competing for a national championship, we have to compare flaws rather than strengths.

Both teams are susceptible to giving up power hitting. Not all that often, but they do. Look no further than the Super Regionals for both – Tennessee flat out dropped a game to Evansville because they gave up some batting practice. Texas A&M gave up a bunch of runs to Oregon and many of those game early in Game 2 via home runs.

Which team can roll with those punches when the pitching staff gives up runs? Tennessee has just two wins when surrendering more than six runs (nine total). Texas A&M has seven wins (14 games).

The Vols eliminated the Aggies from the SEC Tournament, and A&M gets its ultimate revenge. We do, in fact, get a first-time CWS champion.

Texas A&M wins the College World Series 2-1.


Want to join the discussion? Click here to become a member of the Killer Frogs message board community today!

Follow KillerFrogs on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest TCU news! Follow KillerFrogs on Facebook and Instagram as well. Download the KillerFrogs app on Google Play or in the Apple App Store.


Published
Brett Gibbons

BRETT GIBBONS

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s covered college sports for Fansided, Stadium Journey, and several independent outlets over the past five years. A graduate of BGSU, Brett currently works on-site at Google as a project lead for content curation products.