Not wanting the ESPN Gameday crew to be the only ones putting their reputations on the line, my friend Ben and I exchanged "BOLD PREDICTIONS" last week. Here are his, along with my comments:
1. Iowa loses 4 conference games - Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue and either Wisconsin or Minnesota. I think the Hawkeyes are overrated (my overrated column will either run this week on CFN or I'll post it online before the season starter; it has Iowa on top of the list,) but four losses goes too far, given how good Kirk Ferentz is. I could possibly buy three. I also view the Iowa game as Michigan's most certain loss this year.
2. Texas A&M wins/ties the Big 12 South title - a nice pick in light of the Texas overhype, but I have concerns about their defense.
3. USC loses two games this year - interesting in light of Chow's departure, but the effects of that won't be fully felt for a year or two.
4. Wyoming plays UF close, and that is their only loss of the year - I have no reason to doubt that Florida will have some kinks to work out on offense and that Urban Meyer might sandbag a little in advance of the Tennessee game, but is Wyoming really that good? 7-5 in the MWC last year?
5. Alabama wins/ties for the SEC West - insert obligatory reference to Brodie Croyle's health.
My outlandish predictions:
1. By mid-season, USC's defense is better than their offense, despite the fact that almost all of their off-season losses were on the defensive side of the ball. This one is based on the idea that they'll miss Norm Chow more as the season goes on and they don't have his brain to make adjustments to the way that defenses attack USC, and that Pete Carroll will do a great job with the SC defense, but he'll need a little time to get them up to speed.
2. Notre Dame finishes in the top 25. I may be overrating Charlie Weis, but they have a very experienced offense and should score a lot of points. 8-3 doesn't seem improbable to me and that will create excessive expectations for Weis that will be hard to match, given what their depth chart on the offensive line looks like for 2006 and 2007. Thanks, Ty!
3. Maryland wins their division; I can't remember if it's Atlantic or Coastal. I'm predicting bad things for Florida State this year and one of the teams in their division is going to take advantage. One good review of Sam Hollenbach is enough for me to make this pick, although I'm also tempted by Clemson, which seems to be lying in the weeds and which improved their coordinators significantly in the off-season.
4. Louisville loses at least two games. I just don't believe that mid-majors can be great two years in a row, especially with an upgraded schedule. This is the pick about which I feel the least confident.
5. Cal wins the Pac Ten. Just chalk this one up to an abiding confidence in Jeff Tedford.