My post Monday on Louisville losing 4 games in 2013 got me thinking – what else do I think is going to happen this year? I feel like this is going to be a crazy year along the lines of 2007. It would stun me if this year plays out like it should, with the top teams exerting dominance and upsets few and far between.
So without further ado, here are my 20 Bold Predictions for the 2013 College Football season:
1) Alabama will not win the National Championship
Alabama will be the preseason #1. They will be a prohibitive favorite in every game they play. They are expected to dominate the competition like the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. They will end up being more like the 2002 Miami Hurricanes. We have seen in past history that teams going for a 3-peat (or pseudo-3-peat) like 1996 Nebraska, 2002 Miami or 2005 USC tripped up in the most remarkable circumstances imaginable. This year’s Alabama team reminds me a lot of the 2005 USC team, after Leinart decided to come back for his senior season. Expectations will not be met unless Alabama wins every game, including the title game, by 3 touchdowns. They will make the National Title game. They will not win. Sorry, you have to wait for #20 to find out who does.
2) Georgia will annihilate Clemson in Week 1
The game is at Clemson. The Tigers are riding momentum from a big bowl victory over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on the last night of 2012 and they return a bunch of offensive superstars including Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins. The game will have been circled for 9 months by the time it happens. ESPN College Gameday will be there. It will be the centerpiece of opening weekend.
And what happens in these opening weekend showcases? The SEC dominates whoever they play, usually a hapless foe from the ACC. SEC football and ACC football operate on different planes of existence right now and that will continue in Death Valley. Clemson may put up some points but their defense doesn’t have a chance in hell of slowing down Aaron Murray and company. Georgia will win by three scores, at least.
3) Boise State will lose to Washington in Week 1
This has almost nothing to do with football, which is admittedly odd and stupid for a college football blog post. But here’s the deal – Washington is returning to a renovated Husky Stadium, playing on campus for the first time since 2011 and hosting a team it almost beat in the Las Vegas Bowl. The stars are aligning. Boise State is good, but it is not of vintage Bronco greatness. Washington will ride the wave of emotion from a frenzy crowd in primetime – the game kicks off late night on the East Coast – and will score a huge victory for a program that has been trying to get over the hump for a couple years now.
4) An American Athletic Conference team will be in the National Title hunt in November
There are a lot of great teams coming into 2013. Unfortunately, they all reside in the SEC. I foresee a a chaotic year like 2007 when preseason favorites went down early and opened the door for surprises like Kansas and Missouri to climb into national title contention simply by winning – even if they weren’t beating anybody great.
With Louisville already out of the way – they’re losing 4 games, remember? – it opens the door for another American team to step up. My best guess in Cincinnati, though UCF and its nonconference games against South Carolina and Penn State provide two huge opportunities to make a splash. Cincinnati is much better than the national media is giving them credit for and should be able to roll into November with unblemished records. This will happen much to the consternation of other major conferences and should provide a fun end to the old Big East football conference. The contender, either Cincinnati or UCF, won’t end up undefeated but, much like Louisville last year, they will win their BCS bowl game. Just because ESPN is un-American.
5) Ohio State will play Michigan twice
6) Ohio State will lose to Michigan once
7) It will cost them a spot in the title game
6) Ohio State will lose to Michigan once
7) It will cost them a spot in the title game
The Big Ten has made very few poor decisions. There’s a reason they make more money than any other conference and it’s not even close. The only slipup, which will be fixed next year by divisional realignment, was splitting up Ohio State and Michigan. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too by having the big rivalry game and the Big Ten Title game featuring their two flagship programs. It hasn’t worked out so far, but it will in 2013. That won’t be a good thing for the Big Ten.
And so, we will see the folly of their ways. Ohio State will enter the first game against Michigan 11-0. Michigan will be 10-1, having lost to only Notre Dame. Both will have clinched spots in the title game. With nothing to play for in the first meeting, Michigan puts up a decent fight but loses. The following week, Michigan beats Ohio State in the title game and goes to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State wonders what could have been. Jim Delany tries to blame it on the SEC.
8) Baylor will win the Big 12
The Big 12 is not going to have a banner year. No other conference was hurt more by players graduating or leaving early. Texas seems to be perpetually down. Kansas State won’t play back to last year’s level. Oklahoma, well, they just seem off. It opens up a bit of a power vacuum for this year and no team is more poised to claim it than Baylor. The light bulb, particularly on the defensive side, seemed to go off during its beatdown of Kansas State last November. And its destruction of UCLA in the Holiday Bowl may have been the most impressive bowl performance (non-Alabama division) of the season but no one saw it because the game kicked off seemingly at midnight. Baylor has a killer offense. It has a rapidly improving defense. They will win the Big 12*
*Jesse Palmer said something similar on College Football Live last week, but I swear I thought of it first. Besides, having Jesse Palmer predict something is akin to ensuring it will never, ever happen. Maybe I should’ve skipped this one.
9) There will be no BCS Buster
The “BCS Buster” concept exists for one more season. Following the Northern Illinois debacle of a year ago, it would be a fun way to go out if, say, a 2-loss Boise State team or a 1-loss North Texas was able to break into the BCS party. Alas, it won’t happen. Every major conference will have a conference champion in the top 15, to close that loophole opened up by a five-loss Wisconsin team in 2012. No team from a non-BCS conference will go undefeated, rendering their hopes of crashing the party impossible. We’ll always have 2007 Hawaii though…
10) Texas A&M will lose at least 3 games
I’m not sure if this is a bold prediction at this point, but Texas A&M is due for a big-time regression to the mean. They lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, including probably the best offensive lineman in football, and they go into 2013 with a huge target on their back. It is insane to expect Johnny Football to play back to his record-setting level of a year ago and you know other SEC West teams have spent the offseason devising ways to make sure that doesn’t happen. Alabama and LSU are 2 definite losses. Back to back road trips to Ole Miss and Arkansas will provide another loss. With the season falling so far below expectations, it could be a 4- or 5-loss campaign. Things will go south in a hurry after Alabama delivers an epic beatdown in College Station.
11) This will be Mack Brown’s last year at Texas
Mack Brown won a national championship. He revitalized a Texas program that was shockingly on the verge of irrelevance in the mid-1990’s. It doesn’t matter.
The team hasn’t sniffed a conference championship since Colt McCoy left town and, even worse, things don’t appear to beat turning around. A nice win in the Alamo Bowl ended 2012 on a good note – but after Rose Bowls and Fiesta Bowls, even playing in the Alamo Bowl is a big step back. Another offseason of hype will lead to another early season disappointment. Mack will see the writing on the wall and announce that he will step down at the end of the season, preventing an ugly Bobby Bowden situation where they fire a National Champion. Texas will play in another Holiday Bowl and the Texas job search will be the main off-the-field storyline through the bowl season. I’m not bold enough to predict who takes the job – but it will start the coaching carousel.
12) Jadeveon Clowney will win the Heisman Trophy
It’s been building for a few years now. Defensive players are slowly creeping up the Heisman voting tallies, culminating with Manti Te'o being in a spot where if it was not for Johnny Football, he would’ve won going away. Clowney began his Heisman candidacy on New Year’s Day when he murdered a Michigan running back and will be the most hyped player, along with Johnny Football, going into 2013. With NFL scouts already drooling, Clowney will get the benefit of the doubt that other defensive standouts have not. Instead of focusing on meaningless stats like sacks, announcers and analysts will focus on the way Clowney disrupts the game and how offenses need to rearrange entire gameplans to deal with him. A few big plays, a few more SportsCenter highlights and a few South Carolina wins will end with Clowney raising the trophy in New York.
13) Notre Dame will lose 1 game, and not to who you think
Notre Dame is back. I know the loss to Alabama exposed Notre Dame as not being ready for that type of competition, but there are about 118 FBS teams that would’ve traded places and gladly accepted that beatdown. The loss of Everett Golson hurts, no doubt, but there is no coach better than Brian Kelly at overcoming QB issues and changes. Look no further than his tenure at Cincinnati, when he was at times rotating QBs every play and still winning easy.
Stanford in 1990, Tennessee in 1991 or (shudder) Boston College in 1993.
My best guess? Notre Dame enters November undefeated and loses to BYU at home, the week before a much-anticipated showdown with Stanford on Thanksgiving weekend. Notre Dame will go 11-1, play in a BCS bowl and Domers will complain. See, Notre Dame really is back.
14) The ACC will not have a national title contender
Is this a bold prediction? I really should amend it. Let me try again:
14) The ACC will not have a national contender by October 1
Okay, that feels better. Clemson will lose opening weekend to Georgia. Virginia Tech will lose to Alabama. Miami will get run over by Florida. And Florida State will get upset by a surprisingly good Pitt team on Labor Day night. Is there anyone else? And for the tenth year in a row, the Orange Bowl will get a multi-loss ACC champion for its trouble. The new system – and the SEC or Big Ten’s third-place team – can’t come soon enough for the irrelevant Orange Bowl.
15) Pitt and Syracuse will both win at least 8 games
The Big East played much, much better football than anyone ever gave them credit for. The BCS bowl records and superb non-conference records should have given that away, but that would fly counter to the “Big East sucks and everyone knows it” meme that ESPN loved pushing.
Pitt and Syracuse were both average teams in 2012, but rapidly improving ones. Syracuse, in particular, seemed to hit its stride in November and Pitt, well Pitt is always Pitt. Good thing for them they’re playing in a weaker conference this year. They may not contend for a conference title in year 1, but both teams will sneak up on ACC foes that have a) never played them and b) will underestimate them. As a UConn fan, I won’t be rooting for either – but it will amuse me plenty when they’re taking down the NC State’s and Georgia Tech’s of the world.
16) Army will beat Navy
Okay, this may not be a bold prediction since it almost happened last year. But I wanted to get it down on paper so I can point to it in December and act like I’m Jimmy the Greek or something. The long streak will finally end. In an even bolder prediction – both teams will make bowl games too.
17) Penn State will not have a winning record
Bill O’Brien is getting a ton of publicity and credit this offseason, all of which is richly deserved for the magnificent job he did in 2012 getting Penn State to pull together in the wake of crippling NCAA sanctions. There is only one problem with success – the expectation that more is coming.
While the team was hurt by defections, the depth will really become a problem in 2013 as seniors have moved on, the scholarships start to dry up and the motivation that carried the team last year starts to fade. I believe O’Brien could overcome those factors and scrape together 8 wins. He cannot overcome a new quarterback – even if that QB is the #1 QB recruit in the land – trying to get acclimated to college football. The schedule is also much tougher with two non-conference tests (Syracuse & UCF) along with back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State in October and Nebraska and Wisconsin to close the season in November. It feels like a 6-6 year in Happy Valley – not that that’s a bad thing considering their predicament.
18) USC will win the Pac-12 and play in the Rose Bowl
Why? I have no good explanation. UCLA and Arizona State both seem like better teams in the Pac-12 South. Arizona is improving rapidly. Stanford and Oregon remain the class of the conference, and maybe the nation. Washington and Oregon State look like Top 25 caliber teams. Lane Kiffin led a dumpster fire last year with an NFL quality QB in Matt Barkley. And I’m picking them to win the Pac-12 despite not even having a starting QB named?
Yes, yes I am. I really don’t have anything to say to back up this prediction, other than Marquise Lee. Let’s move on…
19) 2 SEC teams will play in the National Title game
Well, I’ve ruled out Ohio State and the Big Ten. The ACC stinks. The American will be good, but not that good. Boise State will lose in week 1. The Pac-12 is going to be won by USC. Notre Dame is going 11-1. Who could possibly play for the National Title?
Here’s how the season is going to play out – feel free to fly to Vegas on these predictions and make it work for you. Alabama will go 12-0. Georgia will go 11-1. So will South Carolina. But South Carolina will have beaten Georgia head-to-head while South Carolina only loses a cross-divisional game at Arkansas. It means that #1 Alabama will play #4 South Carolina in the SEC title game.
On the last weekend, #2 Ohio State will lose to Michigan while #3 Georgia – ranked so high thanks in part to wins over Clemson, LSU and Florida – stands waiting in the wings. Alabama beats South Carolina and we have #1 13-0 Alabama playing #2 11-1 Georgia and, well, no one is happy. Because even though Alabama and Georgia are the most deserving teams, the fact that 2 teams from the same conference didn’t play each other in the regular season will rub people the wrong way. As we know, the BCS is not going to go out without controversy – that’s not a bold prediction. When in doubt, the BCS creates a new controversy.
20) Georgia will win the National Championship
In the end, Georgia beats Alabama in the title game as the South takes over the Rose Bowl for the last BCS title game. The game may be good, it may not be, and it doesn’t really matter. Alabama’s dynasty run ends on the same field it started against Texas. Georgia gets its first national title in three decades. Mark Richt gets the last laugh on all the doubters – mostly insane – who were calling for him to be fired.
And sportswriters across the country will gleefully write their BCS obituaries and we say goodbye to 2013 and enter the 4-team College Football Playoff era. What could possibly go wrong then?
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