It’s that time of the year again. 10 days from today we will have college football and I’m ready for the madness. The USA Today/Coaches and AP polls are out, so, after reading my Phil Steele football magazine, it’s time for me to unveil my preseason top 25, as well as my predictions for every conference, for every BCS bowl game and my predicted National Champion.
Last year, admittedly, was an off year for me as my predicted championship game of LSU vs. USC did not even come close to happening. I will try and remedy that mistake this season, which means I could be looking at some chalk as my champion. However, it may surprise you who one of the teams I’ve predicted will be. (You’ll have to keep reading, not giving away my surprises just yet). Ideally, when I look at predicting games, I often take into account schedule, returning talent, obviously coaching and conference. It doesn’t always go as planned (with Notre Dame’s schedule last season and how difficult it was, I don’t recall a single prognasticator outside of South Bend choosing the Irish as a BCS Championship Game participant but that’s precisely what happened).
But with no games having been played yet, it’s not quite the time to ramble. So please enjoy my projections for this upcoming season and as always, debate and comments are always welcome.
Preseason Top 25:
1) Alabama Crimson Tide-Saban just reloads his roster again after another title and heavy losses to the NFL Draft. The cream of college football resides in Tuscaloosa, and will for as long as Saban wants to be there.
2) Stanford Cardinal-David Shaw has picked up right where Jim Harbaugh left off. Found his signal caller in Kevin Hogan the second half of last year and big things are expected of him.
3) Oregon Ducks-Ranked slightly below Stanford for two reasons. One, Chip Kelly is gone and those are enormous shoes to fill. And two, Pac 12-North game likely to be decided on The Farm at Stanford.
4) Ohio State Buckeyes-Buckeye schedule sets up nicely for a second consecutive unbeaten season for Urban Meyer. However, last game is at Michigan and could also see a rematch a week later in the Big Ten Championship game.
5) Georgia Bulldogs-Most explosive offense in the SEC is driven by Sr. QB Aaron Murray and talented duo of RB’s Gurley and Marshall. Nearly upset Bama in the SEC Championship Game. I like their chances to get back, but can they unseat the Tide finally?
6) South Carolina Gamecocks-defense will be insanely good with Clowney back for his final year. If Spurrier could ever get QB play like he had at Florida, Gamecocks could win it all.
7) Florida State Seminoles-Winning the Orange Bowl last year was good to take some heat off Jimbo Fisher, but fans want National Championships, not just ACC Championships. Jameis Winston steps in at QB for long time QB E.J. Manuel. Has all the tools to be the next great Nole quarterback.
8) Florida Gators-Third SEC East team ranked in the top 8 amazingly. Season will likely come down to what it always does…Cocktail Party in October vs. Georgia.
9) Clemson Tigers-Much like Florida’s game vs. Georgia will go a long way to deciding it’s fate, Clemson’s home game vs. Florida State could likely decide ACC Champion and pave the way for a BCS run.
10) Texas A&M Aggies-Might be ranked higher, but given the fluidity of the Johnny Manziel situation and the distractions this team could be faced with as the season progresses, have to think the Aggies lose one or two they shouldn’t this year.
11) Louisiana State Tigers-could a team be in for a down year and still be ranked 11th?! That’s the SEC for you. Don’t ever count out Les Miles, but the schedule’s very tough with games at Georgia and Bama and neutral site vs. TCU.
12) Texas Longhorns-In a wide open Big XII, I like the Longhorns with their RB tandem of Gray and Brown and improving QB David Ash. Mack also seems more determined than he has in years past. Darkhorse title team.
13) Louisville Cardinals-most everyone has them ranked higher, due to their schedule, QB Teddy Bridgewater, and upset win of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Talent wise, this is where they should be. One play away from losing Bridgewater at any time and becoming just a mediocre team.
14) Michigan Wolverines-With offensive weapon Denard Robinson off to the NFL, Brady Hoke can finally implement more of his offense. Devin Gardner has seen time at QB already and Wolverines look like they’re back to their old Lloyd Carr type teams.
15) Oklahoma State Cowboys-can always expect a lot of offense and points from Mike Gundy’s offense, but in a league that plays no defense in the Big XII, will they stop anyone when it matters most?
16) Notre Dame Fighting Irish-Tommy Rees steps in for the temporarily departed Everett Golson at QB. Rees has seen a lot of time the past few years already. Lost their leader on defense in Te’o. Were Irish exposed vs. Bama in the title game last year or was Bama just that much better?
17) Oklahoma Sooners-Sooners have some QB concerns, but Bob Stoops always finds a way. Red River Rivalry once again could decide Big XII title.
18) Nebraska Cornhuskers-Taylor Martinez is as dynamic as he is frustrating at QB for coach Bo Pelini. If Martinez can find some consistency and the Blackshirt defense can return, Huskers could be Rose Bowl bound.
19) Texas Christian Horned Frogs-return of QB Casey Pachall should make a huge difference this year for Coach Patterson. Might be the best defense in the Big XII and if so, could sneak out some games you’d expect them to be out gunned in.
20) Arizona State Sun Devils-I’m very high on the Sun Devils this year. Pac 12 South is wide open and the Sun Devils schedule along with an explosive offense has me thinking this team can make some major noise this year.
21) Wisconsin Badgers-new coach in Brent Guy to replace Bret Bielema, who left for Arkansas. I’m skeptical to see how this works out as I don’t think it’s an ideal fit, but as always, Badgers will have a strong running game and big OL.
22) Boise State Broncos-with the Mountain West breaking into divisions, might not be so easy for Chris Petersen’s boys to run away with a conference title this year. Still though, this is Boise and they should win yet another conference title.
23) Baylor Bears-RGIII’s alma mater has been built pretty nice under coach Art Briles. Can score with anyone in the Big XII and could be a darkhorse conference contender.
24) Southern California Trojans-potentially a make or break year for coach Lane Kiffin. Scholarship restrictions hurt the team last year as injuries severely tested the depth on the team. Max Wittek has the reigns all to himself at QB this year and the little taste he got last year will be very beneficial.
25) UCLA Bruins-very nice season in Year One for Jim Mora and with QB Brett Hundley, UCLA will have a chance in every game. In a wide open Pac 12 South, that’s all you need.
Other teams receiving consideration (in order): Virginia Tech Hokies, Oregon State Beavers, Miami Hurricanes, Northwestern Wildcats, Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels, Ole Miss Rebels, Kansas State Wildcats, Arizona Wildcats, Vanderbilt Commodores, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Northern Illinois Huskies, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Cincinnati Bearcats.
SEC East: Georgia Bulldogs
SEC West: Alabama Crimson Tide
SEC Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide
Big Ten Conference:
Big Ten Legends: Michigan Wolverines
Big Ten Leaders: Ohio State Buckeyes
Big Ten Champion: Michigan Wolverines
Big XII Conference:
Champion: Texas Longhorns
Pacific Twelve Conference:
Pac 12 North: Stanford Cardinal
Pac 12 South: Arizona State Sun Devils
Pac 12 Champion: Stanford Cardinal
Atlantic Coast Conference:
ACC Coastal:Virginia Tech Hokies
ACC Atlantic: Florida State Seminoles
ACC Champion: Florida State Seminoles
American Athletic Conference:
Champion: Louisville Cardinals
Mountain West Conference:
MW West: Fresno State Bulldogs
MW Mountain: Boise State Broncos
Mountain West Champion: Boise State Broncos
CUSA East: East Carolina Pirates
CUSA West: Tulsa Golden Hurricane
CUSA Champion: Tulsa Golden Hurricane
MAC East: Bowling Green Falcons
MAC West: Northern Illinois Huskies
MAC Champion: Northern Illinois Huskies
Sun Belt Conference:
Champion: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
BCS Game Projections:
BCS National Championship Game: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas Longhorns (Champion-Alabama)
Rose Bowl: Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan Wolverines
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Oregon Ducks
Sugar Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Orange Bowl: Florida State Seminoles vs. Louisville Cardinals
Heisman Award Winner: Aaron Murray, QB Georgia Bulldogs