There are few things I hate more than autumn weather in July.
That sounds stupid, right? Last Thursday evening, my girlfriend and I are walking the dog and it’s a postcard-worthy evening that shouldn’t happen in Washington, D.C. in July. Temperatures were in the 70’s. There was a cool breeze. The dog bounded up and down the sidewalk, free from the oppressive heat.
It felt like football weather. It was not football season. That is the problem.
It did signal that we are getting ever closer to the beginning of a new college football season. What better way to celebrate than making some bold predictions?
So you are aware – I do not forget about these come December. As fun to write now, I like going back to check my work even more. I don’t like to brag, but I batted .333 last year on my predictions, which gets me in the Nationals’ starting lineup. Right Bryce?
*In April I made my first bold prediction, which is that Notre Dame will make the first college football playoff.
One of the big talking points with the new college football playoff has been the SEC getting two or, heaven forbid, three teams into the playoff. On the surface, this discussion makes sense. The SEC had the two best teams in 2011 with LSU and Alabama and certainly would’ve had two teams in last year with Auburn and Alabama. We cannot forget that 2012 Florida was ranked #3 before its Sugar Bowl thrashing from Louisville.
Coming into this year, it would appear that the conference will be the best conference in college football – at least from an elite standpoint, if not top through bottom strength – and that bodes well to get two teams into the discussion.
It won’t happen. It is not because the SEC is so strong they will knock each other off. The problem is the quarterback play.
Every top contender in the SEC will be replacing its quarterback, with the exception of Auburn. And the Tigers have to replace Tre Mason, who was more valuable than Nick Marshall, who is going through his own legal troubles at this point.
Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M and LSU will all play with new starting quarterbacks. We have seen in recent years that a new starting quarterback is not the detriment it once was – Jameis Winston is smirking somewhere, Matt Leinart is nodding sadly – but it does add another variable to the title chase. For that reason, the top SEC teams will be more susceptible to upsets from “lower division” teams like Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee.
2) Todd Gurley will win the Heisman Trophy
I picked Georgia to win the National Title last year. In the opener against Clemson, there was a brief, fleeting moment when Georgia was healthy and I looked like a genius. That moment occurred early in the first quarter, when Todd Gurley took the ball off the right side and blasted down the sideline for a Herschel Walker-like 75-yard touchdown.
Gurley would be hurt later in the game. For the rest of the 2013 season, everyone on Georgia was felled by an injury at some point, concluding with Aaron Murray’s season-ending one in late November.
I still can’t get that Gurley touchdown out of my mind. I cannot imagine what Georgia fans think about it. The ultimate, “What if?” because Georgia was that good.
Todd Gurley is still that good. The 2,000 yard talk has begun and I’m on the bandwagon with two feet. If Gurley stays healthy and comes even close to that barrier in the SEC, he will win the Heisman Trophy. When he does…
3) Georgia will make the college football playoff
The silver lining to Aaron Murray’s injury is that this year’s starting QB, Hutson Mason, got invaluable experience, leading a dramatic comeback against Georgia Tech and playing in the Gator Bowl against Nebraska. Neither of those teams were Alabama or South Carolina, but they were still quality, FBS opponents from Power Five conferences.
The schedule helps. LSU has cycled off, replaced by a road trip to Arkansas. Clemson, Georgia Tech and Auburn all visit Athens. The season comes down to the South Carolina game on Sept. 13.
The winner of the SEC will make the playoff and that is not really up for debate. With two solid non-conference opponents from the ACC, Georgia will have no qualms about schedule quality. They will win the SEC East. They will beat Alabama in the SEC Title Game.
They will play in the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame.
4) Ohio State will go undefeated
Ohio State hasn’t lost a regular season game since Urban Meyer arrived. In all fairness, they should have beaten Michigan State in last year’s Big Ten Championship Game. That game has somehow been viewed through a prism that Ohio State was a fraud and Michigan State exposed them by running all over them, a view bolstered by Michigan State’s impressive Rose Bowl victory over Stanford.
Ohio State was leading after three quarters against the Spartans. That was not a blowout. Ohio State spent the offseason knowing the offense would be lights out again. The defense is the question mark. I cannot imagine Urban Meyer letting a poor defense cost him a chance at a National Title two years in a row.
There will be no questions about the schedule, with Navy, Virginia Tech and Cincinnati providing strong tests in the non-conference and a trip to East Lansing to extract revenge. Come December, there is no one in the Big Ten West that can stay within two touchdowns.
5) Auburn will lose at least three games
Otherwise reasonable people have started to suggest that Gus Malzahn, based on one magical season, is a better coach than Nick Saban.
If Johnny Football doesn’t get hurt… if Georgia defenders knock it down… if Alabama has a kicker… Auburn is 8-4 in 2013. All credit to Auburn for pulling out so many ridiculous victories but they aren’t getting all those breaks this year. Tre Mason was far and away their best player and he’s gone.
The Tigers have road trips to Kansas State, Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama. Their SEC East rotating opponent went from Tennessee to South Carolina. LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M are still on the schedule. There may be nothing wrong with going 9-3 against that schedule. But that’s the ceiling.
6) An AAC team will be in the playoff hunt come December
The AAC has three really good teams, at least on paper, in Cincinnati, East Carolina and UCF. In the first year of the college football playoff, it is widely assumed only Power Five teams and Notre Dame have a chance. That may not be entirely true. Each of those three teams has multiple non-conference tests that – if aced – would put them in the playoff discussion if the thing isn’t totally rigged.
Cincinnati: Miami, Ohio State
UCF: Penn State, Missouri, BYU
East Carolina: South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia Tech
UCF: Penn State, Missouri, BYU
East Carolina: South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia Tech
Here’s my guess: UCF wins all three big non-conference games but loses the season finale at East Carolina. The Power Five conference exhale a $30 million sigh of relief.
7) The weekly playoff rankings will be a disaster
Could you imagine if the NCAA Tournament committee put out a field of 68 every week and then had the chairman defend it on ESPN? Even if they just did, say, the #1 seeds, it would be an exercise in the absolute absurd.
So of course, college football is doing this. I cannot quantify this but I guarantee you that they will be a fiasco of epic proportions every week. Maybe this isn’t a bold prediction as much as it’s stating fact?
8) Maryland will win 8 games; Rutgers will be lucky to win 4
The 2013 UConn football season was unpleasant. Yes, unpleasant, that’s a polite word for it. Maybe 2014 will be more successful. It did, however, allow me to see the Big Ten’s two newest teams in person.
Maryland looked really good. Rutgers looked really bad.
While I may never be over Randy Edsall leaving UConn, I cannot deny that his tenure at Maryland has been defined by one thing – injuries. It would be a comical number of injuries if the injuries weren’t inherently awful. He’s rarely had his team at full strength at any point. If they stay healthy, there are 8 wins on Maryland’s schedule. There could be even more, since the two toughest opponents (Ohio State & Michigan State) visit Maryland.
As for Rutgers – the 2014 season could be a disaster unlike anything Rutgers fans are prepared for. Let’s remember that Rutgers went 6-6 in the top heavy AAC and won only one road game, an overtime escape against an SMU team that didn’t make a bowl. They beat 0 bowl teams in 2013.
This is Rutgers’ road schedule in 2014: Washington State, Navy, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State and Maryland. Who are they beating?
It may be good for Rutgers because Kyle Flood is decidedly not the guy Rutgers need, so an implosion could be good in the long run. They could end up 2-10, considering Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State are also on the docket.
9) Tennessee over Oklahoma will be the year’s biggest upset
Oklahoma is my pick for most overrated team. Yes, the win over Alabama was nice but there was more than a little truth to what Nick Saban was saying about the Sugar Bowl being a consolation game. Yes, Oklahoma looked good but, no, it doesn’t mean Trevor Knight is now a Heisman contender.
The confidence, bordering on arrogance, from Bob Stoops this offseason has been surprising and off-putting. He realizes Oklahoma has won the Big 12 once in the past five years, right?
It’ll be a home, primetime game in which Oklahoma will be favored by about 30 against a rapidly improving Tennessee team, who will be underrated because of a close week 1 victory over a really good Utah State team. Oklahoma will be overconfident. Tennessee will keep it close. Oklahoma will falter late. And all those SEC comments will come back to really bite Bob Stoops.
10) The Big 12 will announce expansion plans by November
The league is not getting a playoff spot this year. If strength of schedule truly means something, they may not until Texas gets really good again because the league lacks elite teams. The talking points about no conference championship game are already starting and next year the Big 12 will be the only conference without a title game, including the non-power conferences.
That’s not going to work long-term. Before this season ends, the Big 12 will realize it needs to match the number in its name and will announce such. Who those teams are? I don’t know everything*.
*It’ll be BYU and UCF.
11) Florida State will not make the college football playoff
Notre Dame is going to beat Florida State. The Seminoles will show up to the ACC Title Game at 11-1 in the playoff hunt when they lose a stunner to….well, you have to keep reading.
Why? Because Florida State plays in a conference devoid of challengers. They were not tested last year. They won’t be this year, which is why they will lose to Notre Dame. After cruising through the ACC, they will take their title game opponent lightly.
Have you heard Jameis Winston talk this offseason? He clearly believes merely showing up gets FSU to the Final Four.
12) Navy will win 10 games this year
Navy won its last five games of 2013. They probably should have beaten Notre Dame on the road, which would have given them a 7-game winning streak to end the season. Their QB, Keenan Reynolds, is really, really good and back for his junior season. The defense is strong. There is a lot to like about Navy.
And the best thing to like is the schedule. The Midshipmen have two mega games – the season opener against Ohio State in Baltimore and a November clash against Notre Dame at FedEx Field that CBS is showing in primetime.
Navy is going to be really, really good. It should be favored in 10 games this year. I predict they will win all 10 of those.
Has anyone stopped to truly consider how badly Michigan fucked it all up with Rich Rodriguez? He was trying to bring Michigan into the 21st Century, but the “Michigan Men” revolted. So now Michigan is stuck with a coach who doesn’t even wear a headset, has lost 11 games in the past two years and is so far behind Ohio State that he went for two – AT HOME – to avoid overtime. That’s brutal.
Arizona, meanwhile, is coming off of back-to-back 8-win season in the much more difficult Pac-12 and destroyed Oregon last year, which is a better win than any Michigan has had under Brady Hoke. But enough about how much Michigan sucks.
Rich Rodriguez has it all going on in Arizona. With the administration and fans in Tucson firmly behind him, the team is set for a big year. USC is in a year of transition under a first-year coach, UCLA is getting way too much hype and Arizona State has to visit Tucson – it’s all coming together. I can’t imagine Arizona beating Oregon in Eugene, but they will still be the best the Pac-12 South has to offer.
14) Oregon will lose two games…and still make the college football playoff
The Pac-12 champion will make the college football playoff in year 1. It simply has to for the system to be taken seriously because the league is as strong as any and plays 9 conference games, a title game, and strong nonconference opponents.
So Oregon’s win over Michigan State will be enough to offset losses to Washington State and UCLA as it beats Top 25 teams Washington, Stanford and Arizona (twice) to win the Pac-12. It will earn a Rose Bowl berth, doubling a semifinal game, against Ohio State because college football always falls ass-backwards into awesomeness.
To reiterate, this will be your first college football semifinals on New Year’s Day as ESPN celebrates by lighting cigars with $100 bills.
Rose Bowl: #1 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #4 Oregon (11-2)
Sugar Bowl: #2 Georgia (12-1) vs. #3 Notre Dame (11-1)
Sugar Bowl: #2 Georgia (12-1) vs. #3 Notre Dame (11-1)
15) Bo Pelini will be fired
I wrote about this after the Nebraska spring game, when the program’s complete national irrelevance was revealed when everyone wrote about Coach Pelini holding up a cat. Because appeasing Twitter users is always a sure-fire way to win football games.
Nebraska hasn’t lost less than four games since 2003 – it’s beyond absurd that Nebraska has gone more than a decade since being “great” and beyond the beyond of being absurd that it hasn’t won a conference crown since 1999. That’s so long ago that horny males were celebrating Britney Spears’ 18th birthday the last time Nebraska was winning a title.
Nebraska isn’t winning any titles this year and it’ll be time for a change that is long overdue. I cannot be the only one who finds it ridiculous that Nebraska fans are accepting of four-loss seasons, right?
16) Dana Holgorsen will be fired
On October 6, 2012, West Virginia beat Texas in a fantastic game, 48-45, to move to 5-0, firmly in the Top 10, with Geno Smith as the honest-to-goodness Heisman frontrunner. Coming off of the 70-point Orange Bowl win, it looked like Holgorsen was everything he was cracked up to be, when he took over for the late, and unfairly maligned, Bill Stewart.
Since that game, West Virginia is 6-14. They will almost certainly lose their opener to Alabama by about 50. They very likely will start 1-3. Even the one W is Towson, an FCS team that played for the FCS National Title in 2013 and annihilated (sigh) UConn last year.
West Virginia will not make a bowl game in 2014. They will be lucky to win 4 games. West Virginia won at least 8 games for 10 straight years, until Holgorsen came along. I don’t think the Mountaineer faithful will be as forgiving as the Husker faithful – Holgorsen will not get multiple chances to prove himself.
17) North Carolina will win the ACC
Here’s my working theory: Florida State is going to breeze through the ACC regular season. They will not take UNC in the ACC Title Game seriously, despite like 80,000 UNC fans in the stands. UNC will jump out to an early lead and hang on for dear life in one of the season’s biggest upsets.
Why UNC? Larry Fedora is the real deal as a head coach. Just look at those abs! Actually, Fedora just knows his stuff offensively and it’s his third year with the school, which is when he started kicking it into high gear with Southern Miss. Lastly, I foresee a highly motivated UNC team due to NCAA investigations.
18) South Carolina will make a New Year’s Six bowl, and be disappointed
If South Carolina played in any other conference, they would have played in the BCS multiple times. The stupid rule that prevented a conference from getting more than two teams in the BCS – made even stupider when they added another game – prevented a lot of good teams from playing in the BCS. I mean, how silly is it that in 2012 both Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Football played for Top 10 teams and neither made the BCS.
With the new bowl schedule, that is gone. But it has been replaced with a new hurdle for South Carolina to hit and that’s the four-team playoff.
South Carolina is going to lose to Georgia. They will go 11-1. They will miss out on the fourth playoff spot to a two-loss Oregon team that won the Pac-12 and an 11-1 Notre Dame team that played an insane schedule.
They will play in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve. No one will give a crap.
19) Ratings for the Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl & Orange Bowl will be down
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
On New Year’s Eve 1973, the Sugar Bowl featured Notre Dame playing Alabama for the national title. A literal shit-ton of people watched.
On New Year’s Eve 1995, the Sugar Bowl featured Virginia Tech playing Texas for nothing. No one watched. It did a 6.3 rating, possibly the worst ever for that bowl. Even the much-maligned Louisville/Florida Sugar Bowl did a 6.4.
Here’s my point: people will watch college football on New Year’s Eve when there’s a national title on the line, or Johnny Football is playing. They will not if nothing is on the line.
It boggles my mind that college football already tried this! For three years prior to the BCS, the Orange, Fiesta and Sugar Bowl rotated playing on New Year’s Eve. It was such a disaster that the BCS was formed in large part to remove New Year’s Eve from the rotation. And now we’re back?
The new playoff executive director, aka the old BCS honcho, Bill Hancock famously said, “I think this will absolutely change the paradigm for New Year’s Eve in this country.”
Bill Hancock is an idiot.
20) Ohio State will win the National Championship
On New Year’s Day, Ohio State will beat Oregon and Georgia will beat Notre Dame. In the ultimate conference battle, Ohio State will defeat Georgia and the SEC for the first Playoff National Title in college football history.
And the SEC will spend the next 9 months trying to “fix” the playoff system.
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