1. Charlie Weis keeps his job this year, but loses it the following year. I think his entire offensive line is composed of seniors. [Three seniors and two juniors, but who's counting? -Ed.] You are looking at a huge drop off the next year. Also, they will have the sexy players back, Tate, Floyd and Clausen, meaning they will be overrated in the pre-season. I don’t think much of that win at Hawaii last year, and remember the total domination by USC as a greater indicator of their progress under “Schemer.” As a side note, what if they lose to Nevada in the opener? Remember, the Wolfpack are coached by a Hall of Famer and have fielded some decent teams recently. Plus ND did lose to the ‘Cuse last year, at home no less. If that happens and he loses to your beloved Wolverines the next week, does Tenuta become the interim coach by week 3?
[I'm not sure what to think about Notre Dame. On the one hand, Weis strikes me as a bully whose teams get punked every time they pick on someone their own size. Notre Dame fans are generally a clever bunch and will figure or have figured this out. On the other hand, so much talent!]
2. BC crashes very very hard. They lost a lot when Jags left and I think the bottom out this year. The ACC is slowly getting better, in large part to Butch Davis getting things going in Chapel Hill, Tom O’Brien implementing his program at State, and Bowden pursing the Paterno model and letting Jimbo run things in Tallahassee. (I do have an issue with the Swinney hiring, but I really like his hiring of Steele to coach the D, so I will give him two years). Firing a dynamic coach who was making chicken soup with… is a huge mistake. Matt Ryan was a talent, but he blossomed under Jags and what BC did last year with all the injuries was very impressive. BC has killed all of that with their principled stance.
[Way to go out on a limb by predicting bad things for BC, a team picked to finish fifth in a six-team division. After last year, this is Ben picking out a streak-breaker at closing time. Let's hope she doesn't order the double pork chop platter at the Waffle House.]
3. UGA far exceeds Vegas’s expectations, which are 8 wins, by winning 10 games. They win at Stillwater and at Knoxville. They also beat LSU at home, South Carolina at home and on the road in Fayetteville. They lose to Florida and possibly Tech. People seem to forget that Richt keeps pumping in these top ten classes while Tennessee has been down and SC has been average. Talent will win out and UGA has it.
[This is not unreasonable. I'm on record as thinking that Georgia will do well in the opener. Hell, with Georgia's record against defending national champions, I'm surprised that Ben doesn't foresee glory in Jacksonville.]
4. Pete Carroll’s tree will not take root yet. (Ask Nick Holt and Ed Orgeron.) Kiffin in Tennessee and Sarkisian in Washington will do horribly this year. Washington may have the hardest schedule in the country and will struggle to win 3 games. Kiffin has no QB in Tennessee and even though he recruited well, those guys are way too green to play in the SEC. They will not win 10 games between the two programs.
[I agree with this, as well. USC's regression on offense after Norm Chow left does not speak well of Kiffin or Sarkisian. Vegas has these two combining for 11 wins, so going nine or fewer is a smidge of a risk.]
5. Michigan will far exceed expectations and will win 9 games. Their schedule is a joke, and they should be 3-1 OOC, at least. If they beat ND in Ann Arbor, than 10 wins is clearly attainable. That means that they only have to go 6-2 in the Big Ten to hit the number. Outside of PSU and Ohio State, who scares you as a Michigan fan? Iowa is in Iowa City and they play Sparty at East Lansing. Color me unafraid. Maybe Illinois, but just look at the coach on the other side. It is cliché by now, but Rich Rod turns things around in year two. He has the schedule to do it.
[From your lips to G-d's ears. As will be clear from my first prediction, I'm high on at least one team on Michigan's schedule...]
1. Iowa finishes ahead of Penn State and in the top two in the Big Ten. I don't quite understand why Iowa isn't getting more love this preseason. Did they win nine games last year solely because of Shonn Greene? The line in front of him, which returns three starters and plugs two seniors into the open spots, had nothing to do with it? The defense that allowed 16 points per game and 97 yards rushing per game in Big Ten play and returns eight starters had nothing to do with it? Iowa wins in State College and the game of the year in the Big Ten is November 14 when the Hawkeyes travel to Columbus.
2. Arkansas finishes ahead of at least one of Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU. They have 18 starters back, one of the best coaches in college football on the sideline, two legitimate SEC running backs, and an enormous upgrade at quarterback from Casey Dick to Ryan Mallett.
3. Georgia Tech loses four games and is out of the race in the ACC Coastal by November. I'm banking on Negative Grohmentum here, along with ACC defenses being a little more savvy to Tech's offense. The games against Virginia and Virginia Tech in the second half of October will be the Jackets' Waterloo (or Kursk, if you're Eastern Front inclined like I am). Tech has a dreadful record in Charlottesville and if there's one team you'd trust to slow down the Tech running game, it's the Hokies.
4. Baylor makes a bowl game. If Indiana, Vandy, and Arizona have all made it in recent years, it's time for the Bears to break their duck. After watching their performance in Lubbock at the end of last season, I'm fully on the Robert Griffin bandwagon. How about a trip to El Paso to play Stanford?
5. Steve Spurrier retires at the end of the year and is replaced by Charlie Strong.