The stories in college football always attract the most attention. Going in to the start of the college football season, headlines like the Alabama-Michigan games and the multiple suspensions are ruling the airwaves. But what about when the season is over? What will people be talking about when one of the 120 Division I coaches lifts up the coveted crystal ball? With my predictions for the year on my right and my head filled with opinions, I try and take a guess at which headlines we’ll be seeing once the season is through.
1. SEC continues dominance
There is no doubt in my mind that an SEC team will win the national championship this season. In the past the winning formula for the Southeastern conference has been defensive toughness. Now, the top contenders for a title have powerful offenses as well. Alabama returns national championship MVP AJ McCarron as well as a steady running back group. LSU brings junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger to the scene, along with speedy receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and a trio of running backs in Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue, and Spencer Ware that can run you over or run right by you. Then, of course, there is Arkansas and quarterback Tyler Wilson. The key for the Razorbacks will be the improvement of their defense. Arkansas cannot win a national championship allowing 23 points per game. Either way you look at it, there is no team in the country that can stack up to these teams on both offense and defense. Some say USC will dethrone the dominant conference, but USC’s defense is still suspect. As is Oregon’s, another team in the conversation. Either way, the SEC will continue its supremacy and add a seventh straight national title.
2. Florida State disappoints…again
It will be a movie so very similar to last year’s. Florida State came in to the year ranked sixth, and finished not even in the top two in their division in the ACC. So why do people think this year will be any different? They come in ranked one spot lower, and with a schedule that doesn’t scream automatic national championship contender. There is no guarantee that Florida State wins against Clemson, at NC State, at Virginia Tech, and against Florida, and winning all of those will be very difficult. The one thing Florida State has going for it is the defense and EJ Manuel. But can those two things lead them to the national championship like experts Kirk Herbstreit and David Pollack believe? That seems mighty difficult for a team that has become what Clemson was just a few years ago: a constant disappointment.
3. Penn State gets past sanctions, makes bowl game
This year will no doubt be a struggle for the Nittany Lions. After everything that has happened since last season, it will mean a lot to the institution if they can somehow grab 6 wins. I believe they will, and that Bill O’Brien will be a strong candidate for national coach of the year. I think that Penn State will win against Ohio, Navy, Temple, Illinois, Purdue, and Indiana to make a season that appears lost right now a great success.
4. USC looks back, disappointed at three losses
WHAT?!?! THREE LOSSES?!?! I’m sure that I may seem crazy, but USC will lose three games. I have the Trojans losing on the road against Washington and twice to Oregon. Here’s why. Washington has a quarterback in Keith Price that has proven that he is a fantastic player. Price passed for over 3,000 yards last year with a 33:11 touchdown to interception ratio, and showed his mobility in the bowl game against Baylor with three rushing touchdowns. The key is the defense, which needs a major remolding job. That defense will be tested early in the season, and I get the feeling that they will be flying under the radar a little bit and will shock USC. I think the Trojans will lose to Oregon twice, and they will both be games that they lose in the second half. The speed of Oregon will be too much for a thin USC team to compete with for four quarters. Oregon will win the Pac-12 this year, and USC will lose three games.
5. Montee Ball steals Heisman from Barkley
With my earlier prediction, Matt Barkley will play his way out of the Heisman race late in the season. The parallel to Andrew Luck, who was preseason favorite last year, is going to be almost uncanny. It is said that history can dictate the future (just ask any Vanderbilt team ever), and Matt Barkley will not win the Heisman just like Luck. Instead, Montee Ball will swoop in late with a great performance in the Big Ten title game to give the Badgers a conference championship. I doubt that Ball will be able to completely repeat his numbers from last year, but I think that his leadership towards a conference championship will put him over Matt Barkley, who will wind up with three losses.
Well, there you have it. I took a stab at what headlines I thought we’d be seeing at season’s end. If you want, you can check back when it’s all said and done and see how I do. As the season is only a few hours away, I hope that your team has a great season this. Happy college football!
Defense wins championships. That has been the saying in the SEC for a long time, and has been further exemplified by past national champions such as Alabama, LSU, Florida, and Auburn. Take last year, where half of the top ten in total defense were from the Southeastern Conference, with Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina completing the top three. The tenacious defenses give the teams in the league their identity.
Enter this year’s class of quarterbacks. Players like Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray, and Aaron Murray are some of the offensive stars hoping to shift the perception of the conference. Murray led the Georgia Bulldogs to the conference championship game, and is hoping to take his team back again. Wilson, the quarterback with a cannon for an arm from Arkansas, is a preseason Heisman candidate after passing for over 3,600 yards last year. Bray, despite a 5-7 season and a broken thumb five weeks in, still passed for just shy of 2,000 yards in seven games. “Just being out there and the experience I’ve had, it’s time to be that guy that the young guys can count on,” says Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell, who is another SEC quarterback returning for another season. Like Russell, Wilson, Bray, and Murray will be trying to take advantage of their SEC experience in this upcoming season. Of course, there are other players looking to shift the focus of the media from the defense to the offense. AJ McCarron, the quarterback at Alabama, returns after leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship last year. Missouri returns deal threat speedster James Franklin, who is hoping to launch the inaugural season in the SEC for the Tigers in the right direction. A revitalized Vanderbilt will see Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers’ brother, James Rodgers, under center for the ‘Dores. Rodgers returns after a surprisingly successful first season under head coach James Franklin. There are more returning stars, like South Carolina’s Connor Shaw, who finished last year for the Gamecocks after Stephen Garcia was finally let go after a topsy-turvy career, and LSU’s junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger, who is drawing comparisons to successful NFL quarterback with a similar difficult spelling last name, Ben Roethlisberger.
Each of these quarterbacks have something to prove this year-the SEC isn’t all defense. While the quality of the defense has certainly not gone down, it’s clear that the quality of the offense will be stepping up. “Used to, you might see one or two really good quarterbacks,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “Now, every week, you’re facing one in this league.” Richt’s defense will be preparing for a very tough stretch during the season that features matchups against Rodgers, Bray, and Shaw. If anyone should be worried about their defense, it should be every coach in the Western division. That is because they will be facing Heisman candidate Tyler Wilson, who is looking to grow after a season that saw the Arkansas Razorbacks reach as high as number three in the BCS Standings. “For me, I always felt that I had confidence that I could go in and be a successful quarterback in this league,” Wilson said when asked about being a quarterback in the toughest defensive conference in America. Wilson has no doubt proven himself, with 31 touchdowns in his four-year career. Of course, the most overlooked quarterback in the SEC might be newcomer James Franklin from Missouri, who passed for 2,865 yards and rushed for 981 a year ago. SEC defenses are no stranger to dual threat quarterbacks, considering two past Heisman winners, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, played very successful careers in the league. Franklin might be the next player to move into that category. “He’s going to make plays no matter what league he’s in,” Tiger wide receiver T.J. Moe said. Looking at the league top to bottom, the defenses will have their work cut out for them with the quality of offensive leaders this year.
After winning six consecutive national championships, many would think that the competitors for this year in the SEC would follow the same defense-first formula. Think again. LSU will be lead by a loaded running game and a new quarterback ready to lead a championship caliber team. National Championship MVP AJ McCarron will look to build on a fantastic first year as a starter. Arkansas will load their always-talented passing game with just a little more firepower, and Georgia’s Aaron Murray will look to sneak the Bulldogs into the conversation with a seemingly manageable schedule. And of course, there is South Carolina starter Connor Shaw. “The teams in this conference, you see them play in the national championship,” Shaw said. “From week to week, it’s exciting.”
The clock has been ticking down for a while, and the miserable offseason that was 2012 is almost over. College football will be here in 7 days, and so I thought it would be time for me to deliver my predictions for this upcoming year. You can agree with them, but you don’t have to. That’s what makes it all fun. So, without further adieu, here are my 2012-2013 College Football Predictions.
1. Texas A&M will have a better first season in the SEC than Missouri.
Why?: Simple. Texas A&M has 9 winnable games. Don’t get me wrong, the Aggies will lose to Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas. However, is there a game out of the others that people should mark as a loss of the bat? Florida? Inexperience at quarterback early in the season. At Auburn? The Tigers’ defense is still suspect to me until I see them actually stop someone. At Mississippi State? Tricky game, but winnable. Missouri? The odds are that James Franklin will be out by that point. A&M will go 9-3 at best, 8-4 probably. Missouri will go 8-4 at best. but it’s hard to see them not losing at least 5 out of Georgia, at South Carolina, Alabama, at Florida, at Tennessee, and at Texas A&M. 7-5.
2. Wisconsin will win the Big Ten.
I am a big believer in this Badgers offense. I feel like Danny O’Brien is underrated. His numbers weren’t great last year because of a suspect O-Line at Maryland, and I have a funny feeling that he will show opposing defenses that Montee Ball isn’t the only offensive weapon.
3. Washington will beat USC on October 13th.
This is my upset of the year. USC will be coming off of a physical game at Utah the week before, and Washington will be coming off what will probably be a road beating against Oregon. USC has had trouble with Washington in the past (2007-20 point favorites on the road and won by 3, 2009-19 point favorites and lost by 3, 2010-10 point favorites and lost by 1) and the atmosphere will be rocking for sure. I am a big believer in Washington’s quarterback Keith Price. If Price can get the Huskies off to a good start and not disappear against LSU, Stanford, and Oregon, I feel like the Huskies will have enough confidence to pull off the upset.
Surprise Team: Vanderbilt
Disappointment Team: Florida
Player of the Year: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Coach of the Year: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Leading Passer: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Breakout Player: Connor Shaw, South Carolina
1. South Carolina
4. Texas A&M
5. Mississippi State
7. Ole Miss
Conference Championship: LSU over South Carolina
Surprise Team: Purdue
Disappointment Team: Michigan
Player of the Year: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Coach of the Year: Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
Leading Passer: James Vandenberg, Iowa
Breakout Player: Caleb TerBush, Purdue
2. Ohio State
5. Penn State
2. Michigan State
Conference Championship: Wisconsin over Nebraska
Surprise Team: Kansas State
Disappointment Team: Oklahoma State
Player of the Year: Geno Smith, West Virginia
Coach of the Year: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Leading Passer: Geno Smith, West Virginia
Breakout Player: Nick Florence, Baylor
2. West Virginia
3. Kansas State
6. Oklahoma State
8. Texas Tech
10. Iowa State
Surprise Team: NC State
Disappointment Team: Florida State (Again)
Player of the Year: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Coach of the Year: Tom O’Brien, NC State
Leading Passer: Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Breakout Player: Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech
2. NC State
3. Florida State
4. Wake Forest
5. Boston College
1. Virginia Tech
2. North Carolina
4. Georgia Tech
Conference Championship: Virginia Tech over Clemson
Surprise Team: Washington
Disappointment Team: Stanford
Player of the Year: Matt Barkley, USC
Coach of the Year: Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Leading Passer: Keith Price, Washington
Breakout Player: Jeff Tuel, Washington State
6. Arizona State
5. Washington State
6. Oregon State
Conference Championship: Oregon over USC
Surprise Team: Rutgers
Disappointment Team: Louisville
Player of the Year: BJ Daniels, South Florida
Coach of the Year: Skip Holtz, South Florida
Leading Passer: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
Breakout Player: Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh
1. South Florida
BCS Bowl Picks
BCS National Championship: LSU over Oregon
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin over USC
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech over South Florida
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma over Nebraska
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over West Virginia
Headed For New York
Matt Barkley, USC
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Geno Smith, West Virginia
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Could Sneak In
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Colin Klein, Kansas State
Keith Price, Washington
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Let’s hope this football season is filled with controversy and great games. That’s why we love it, right?
Gray Robertson, Senior Writer