Last year, Matt Reaves and I did a college football top 25 together. Reaves just got married a couple of weeks ago, so we’re not doing that this year. We’ll probably do an NCAA tournament preview in March together.
I’m not going to give you the top 25. I’m just going to give you the major conference champions and a couple storylines to watch. Then I’ll give you the major bowl game predictions.
Here you go:
Champion: Clemson. I know this is the “hot” pick, but this team is, by far, the most talented in the conference. If they don’t produce, Tommy could be in severe trouble.
Also watch: Wake Forest. Jim Grobe is a fantastic coach and has this team flying under the radar a bit. The way they’ve played the last couple of years, that’s just where they want to be.
Up and Coming: Miami (Florida). While they have 7 players suspended for tonight’s opener, they’re playing Charleston Southern. Randy Shannon has a good recruiting class, and “The U” should start moving back up the standings in the ACC.
By the Way…: Duke will win 1 game…again.
Champion: South Florida. I was going to pick West Virginia, but I don’t like the coaching change. South Florida had a great start last year, then fell apart. With a veteran QB in Matt Grothe, this team looks ready to break through.
Falling way back: Cincinnati and Louisville. I think both teams will lose at least 4 games. If Louisville gets beat by Kentucky in the opener on Sunday, it could be a long year in Papa John’s Stadium.
Most Interesting Team: West Virginia. An early season game against Auburn will really tell us all we need to know. Win and the ‘Eers are national title contenders. Lose and it’ll shape up to be a 10-2 season.
Champion: Ohio State…and it’s not close. There are some other decent teams in the Big 10, but Ohio State, like it or not (and, for the record, I do not) is the best team by far. Very possibly could win the conference by multiple games.
Do or Die: Iowa. Coach Ferenz got a major contract a few years ago and it basically .500 since. If the Hawkeyes don’t show major improvement this season, it could be bad news for the coach.
What are We to Make Of…: Indiana. Major move upward last year in the face of tragedy, but lost some great senior talent to the NFL. Could the Hoosiers possibly go to consecutive bowl games?
Prediction on Michigan: 8-4.
Champion: Southern California (again). While I don’t think the rest of the conference is as down as some others do, The Men of Troy are still the class of the league. Injury to Sanchez? A nonissue. He’ll play in their blowout opening win over Virginia.
Most Interesting Team: UCLA. New coach with a new system, and a major tough schedule (Tennessee and BYU for starters). This could be a team that finishes with 4 wins, or a team that, with some luck, could crack the top 20. If they somehow beat Tennessee in the opener on Monday night, things get real interesting real fast…in both places.
Hangin’ Around or Fallin’ Down? Arizona State. Can the Fightin’ Erikson’s possibly do it again? After playing way over their heads last season, the Sun Devils look to try to repeat the magic of ’07. I look for them to fall back some, and end up 9-3 or maybe even 8-4.
Champion: Auburn. While I don’t think Auburn will have the best record in the conference in the regular season, I think the Eagle-Tigers will beat Florida in the title game. There may not be a more balanced team in the country than the Tiger-Eagles.
Disappointment Reigns: Georgia and Alabama. Georgians will be down if they lose 1 game, since they are the preseason #1 team. I think they lose 2, including to Florida, which will cost them the tiebreaker. Alabama will be better than the .500 team they’ve been lately, but some fans think this is the year they break up to 9 or even 10 wins. I think they get to 7, maybe 8. If they get blown out by Clemson Saturday night, it could be a long season. If they pull out a win, 9 or 10 wins is possible.
Yuck! Arkansas. ‘Nuff said.
The best conference in America…or at least my favorite. Seriously, they are near the SEC this year, and could possibly look better by the time things are done.
Champion: (This hurts) Oklahoma over Missouri in the title game. Oklahoma has all the make up of a Bob Stoops team…in other words, they could go 14-0, or could lose to a terrible team and fall completely out of the mix. When all is said and done, I think they are the class of the conference, but it’s close.
Steppin’ Up: Texas Tech, Colorado, and Nebraska. Predictions for each: Tech 10-2, Colorado 8-4, Nebraska 9-3. If Bo pulls that off in Lincoln, he’ll be an instant hero. 8 wins might do that for him.
Steppin’ Down: Kansas. While I don’t think they will be terrible, last year will not be duplicated.
With these 6 championship teams, there will be four “at-large” picks for the BCS Bowl games. My predictions for these spots are: Florida, Missouri, BYU (BCS crasher!), and West Virginia.
Now, for your national title winner:
USC over Oklahoma.
That’s it. Now you don’t have to watch any games.