As we head into a college football season that promises to be a great one, here are nine bold predictions that I feel pretty good about. Think of it as a window into the future:
The SEC will not win the National Championship
A big part of this prediction is probably that I am just sick and tired of seeing the south come out on top year after year. I’m not disrespecting the conference — I respect several teams, and I really think LSU is very good. There are very good teams elsewhere this year, though — Florida State in the ACC, USC in the Pac-12, Oklahoma and West Virginia in the Big 12, and the two teams from Michigan in the Big Ten. The SEC success has been mostly skill, but luck has been a big element, too. Sooner or later another conference will get the breaks.
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Matt Barkley won’t win the Heisman
I expect USC to be very good and for this offense to be special. Barkley is so much in the spotlight, though, that his margin for error is going to be very small, and just one misstep could cost him his Heisman campaign. I look at it much like Andrew Luck last year. Luck was clearly the best man heading into the season, and he was easy to love at the end of the year as well. The expectations were so impossibly high, though, that he couldn’t meet them even when he had a great year. Other guys wouldn’t have to be as good as Barkley to move past him.
Penn State won’t win three games
Throughout his career I never had any time for QB Joey Harrington. Recently, though, he said one of the most interesting things I have heard about this Penn State situation. He was with the Falcons when Michael Vick’s ordeal started. Knowing what that was like, he said he seriously doubts that any team could have the mental strength to deal with everything this team will have to deal with. The Penn State football schedule is not super easy, the talent is very questionable, and the players have been beat up a hundred times before playing a single game. I wish them the best, but I am not at all optimistic.
Boise State will still be Boise State
Kellen Moore is gone. So are a shocking number of starters and key contributors, including nine starters on defense. Now is when Boise State gets to show whether they are an elite program that is good no matter what — a Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, and so on — or a team that needs to reload before being dangerous. They are helped by a fairly favorable schedule outside of a trip to Michigan State, and they still have a whole lot of talent. They may not be what they have been at their best, but this will still be a very good team.
Florida State will disappoint — again
There is a whole lot of talent in Tallahassee this year. They will be dangerous, but I just can’t completely buy into them. The biggest issue I have is the mindset of this program. For the last decade this team has always found a way to get in its own way, and I expect the same this year. Jimbo Fisher is a good tactician, but I don’t think he is as strong managing his players, and that will be a problem here. This is still a team that will easily win double-digit games, but they are getting “undefeated” buzz, and I just don’t trust them enough to believe in that.
Ohio will run the table
The Bobcats are the most talented team in the MAC — the gap between them and Western Michigan is huge. Frank Solich couldn’t get it done on a bigger stage, but he has found a home here. He’s loaded on both sides of the ball, and he faces a very favorable schedule. The toughest test is a season-opening trip to Penn State. The eyes of the nation will be on the game. If they can handle that pressure and come out on top then they have a very real look at 12-0, a nice ranking, and a big time bowl date in January.
Garrett Gilbert will have a special year
It has been a rough career for Gilbert, but there is one thing that is important to remember — not only was he good enough to be put into the National Championship game for Texas as a true freshman, but he didn’t completely embarrass himself when he got there. In other words, despite the issues, he has massive talent. He gets the luxury of a fresh start at SMU this year, and he has a coach in June Jones that is very capable of handling talented quarterbacks and letting them shine. It will be a fun, wide-open season in C-USA, and I expect Gilbert to emerge as a star.
Oregon will hit road bumps
Oregon has talent to burn again, and the Ducks will be very fast and very dangerous. I can’t help but feel, though, that intangible issues are going to keep them from reaching their potential. Chip Kelly really flirted with leaving, and that will weigh on the minds of the team. Discipline continues to be an issue. The pressure of being a hunted team could weigh on them, and so could the threat of NCAA sanctions. I don’t expect an implosion like Texas had last year, but I also don’t expect them to be the power we have seen in recent years.
No Big East team will be ranked at the end of the year
This is a really, really lousy conference. The team that is easiest to like is Louisville — Charlie Strong can coach, and Teddy Bridgewater could be a special QB if he continues to advance from where he was last year. They aren’t an elite team by any means, though, and a lot could go wrong. There’s a pretty good chance that the conference winner will be ranked on principle, but it’s certainly very possible that no team winds up in the top 25.
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