2009 NCAA Football Predictions
by Jay Horne - 7/21/2009
The 2009 College Football Season is shaping out to be one of the most anticipated seasons in history. We have the return of all three Heisman Trophy finalists, who will all be in the hunt for a National Championship. The Florida Gators will attempt to stay on top of the food chain as they seek their second straight national title. The Big 12 promises to display more high-octane offenses and it will be interesting to see if the conference can produce another BCS National Championship contender.
There will be plenty of up-and-coming teams knocking on the door to step into the spotlight. Take a look as I breakdown the BCS Conference winners who will all get automatic berths into a BCS Bowl Game along with some other teams to keep an eye on heading into 2009 for my 2009 NCAA football predictions.
Winner- Virginia Tech
The Virginia Tech Hokies took down the ACC Championship last season and that was one year ahead of schedule. The Hokies were very young and inexperienced heading into 2008, but was able to come on strong at the end of the year. This team will be even better in 2009 as the folks in Blacksburg even have BCS National Championship aspirations.
While the offense will not be good enough for a national title, it should be plenty good enough to capture the ACC again. Running back Darren Evans will be major influence in the offense's success after posting over 1,200 yards last season. QB Tyrod Taylor will also be a major rushing threat behind center. Taylor rushed for 738 yards while sharing playing time last year with Sean Glennon, and with these two players in the backfield they should be very effective, at least on the ground.
Defense, however, will be the team's strength. The 2008 unit ranked in the Top 10 nationally in both total and scoring defense. The Hokies defense will have to replace a few starters, mainly at the linebacker position, but they have plenty of experience ready to step into the picture. Expect nothing less than similar numbers on defense again this season, making the Hokies the most complete team in the conference.
The Florida State Seminoles return eight starters on defense and also surprisingly returns one of the best offenses in the ACC. Christian Ponder should settle in as the starter, but must cut down from the 14 interceptions in 2008. This could be the Seminoles year to take back the ACC, but they will have to prove they can overcome all the off-the-field drama that has surrounded them all summer.
Winner - Ohio State
I know some angry Penn State Nittany Lions fans will be angry about this prediction, and will retort by saying that the Buckeyes have a lot of talent to replace. However, there is going to be tons of talent on the field this season for Ohio State. The Buckeyes played really well as the season progressed last year and nearly capped it off with a win over Texas in the Fiesta Bowl.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor can tuck the ball away and pick up chunks of yards with ease. If Pryor shows basic improvement with his arm, the offense could be really dangerous. Replacing the likes of James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, and Brian Hartline will not be easy tasks. However, they Buckeyes will have a very solid defensive front and an even better secondary. In the end, Pryor leads the Buckeyes back on top of the standings in the Big Ten.
Iowa ruined Penn State's national title hopes a year ago and they will play spoiler role again this season. The Hawkeyes combination of QB Ricki Stanzi and WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos should present problems for defenses through the air. The air attack could become more dynamic now that Shonn Greene is no longer taking handoffs and the passing game will become a big strength for the team this season.
Winner - Oklahoma
I would love to take the Longhorns in a path of vengeance from wrongfully missing out on last year's BCS National Championship Game here, but Oklahoma has the best chance to repeat. The main difference between the two teams lies in the running game. The Sooners have Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, who both racked up more than 1,000 yards from a year ago. Heisman winner Sam Bradford will certainly be a huge influence in the air assault, but the Sooners have lost a lot of talent from their WRs. Tight End Jermaine Gresham could have a huge season as he will be the favorite target for the air campaign. The defense should be equally impressive returning nearly their entire unit from last year outside of the secondary. The defensive front was extremely successful a year ago and they could wreak havoc on opposing offenses again this season.
Oklahoma State may have the best offense in America. I like this offense so much I considered picking them to win the Big 12, but would rather people not question my sanity. Zac Robinson, Kendal Hunter, and Dez Bryant will provide fireworks as the biggest trio in college football.
Winner - Florida
Honestly, I do not see how anyone can bet against the Gators. We all know about Tim Tebow and the offense. However, let's take a second to recognize the true strength of the team that has won two National Championships in three years.
Ever heard the phrase "defense wins championships"? The Gators ranked fourth in scoring defense last season, holding teams to just 12.9 points per game and ninth in overall defense. Florida will return all 11 starters on defense. Led by possibly the best defensive player in the nation in linebacker Brandon Spikes, the defense has the ingredients to be one of the best we have ever seen. On the other side of the ball we have former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. He doesn't only make brilliant passes with a canon of a arm, but also is a bull rusher in the trenches. Outside of the departure of prolific WR Percy Harvin, the offense will be the same.
The Gators offense ran through the SEC like no other last season, averaging a 37-point margin of victory in the regular season. The 37 points would have ranked right outside the top 10 in scoring offense, but that was just the margin of victory. Do I need to go into any further detail?
Ole Miss exploded last year behind new coach Houston Nutt, achieving a 9-4 record after finishing 3-9 the year before. The Rebels capped off their turnaround season by blowing out Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. The Rebels are primed for another big year behind the arm of Jevan Snead. Watch out for a surprisingly strong offense here and they are the only team that beat Florida in 2008.
Winner - California
I can just see people's jaws dropping when they see this pick. That's right, if there was ever going to be a year when USC does not win the Pac-10 it will be this season. Let me first tell you why the Trojans will not win their eighth straight conference title before I tell you why California will.
First of all, judging by Pete Carroll's reaction to Mark Sanchez's early departure, I really think the quarterback situation is a lot bigger problem than many are saying. When the Top 25 polls are released, you may find no team with bigger problems at quarterback than the Trojans. Sorry, but I just do not have the confidence in Mitch Mustain or Aaron Corp. On top of that, the team lost nearly every starter on defense. Sure, that was the best defense in the nation, but still the losses can't be avoided. The talent gap between USC and the rest of the Pac-10 has finally gotten reasonable. The Trojans will not hold such a juggernaut advantage as they have in year's past.
California and Oregon are going to be challengers. However, the Bears I feel will be the best bet. The big reason is that they have the best running back in the nation in Jahvid Best. Best rushed for 1,580 yards last year, including a school record 311-yard performance against Washington. However, the Bears defense will be equally impressive and this is the big reason I think they will take down the Trojans at home on Oct. 3.
If any other team is going to be able to back my stunning prediction in the Pac-10 it will be Oregon. The Ducks offense will give them the ability to compete. Jeromiah Masoli has improved tons since his first step onto the field and could be on the verge of a big season behind center.
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