It's back. Kickoff is right around the corner on the 2012-13 college football season and this promises to be very interesting and exciting. Isn't every college football season that way though? The Stack is here with the college football season preview that you demand...well maybe. Time to look at the major conferences and make some predictions on the upcoming season in "the stack" for today, Wednesday, August 29:
The landscape of college football is going to be different this year and no more so will it be different than at Penn State where for the first time in forty-eight years, a new coach will roam the sidelines. Bill O'Brien has his work cut out for him as the program has disciplined the likes which we have never seen before in wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. No postseason appearance, multiple scholarships gone, several players bolting for other programs to play out their eligibility. Joe Paterno watching from above. Yes it is going to be a difficult year for the Penn State faithful, but this must show support for this team and this coaching staff. No one expects them to be good, because quite frankly they won't be good. But the community must gather around this team through thick and thin and I'm hoping they will.
Another place where it will be different is in Columbus at Ohio State. Yes the Buckeyes are banned from the postseason, but they have a renewed energy about them with former Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer coaching them now after a year away from the game. You can see it in the way they practice and anyone who watched the all-access camp show on ESPN involving Ohio State can see the excitement that Meyer has brought to the program and how much the players are buying in. Ohio State is getting some top-notch recruits (shocking right?) and the future looks very, very bright.
While there are many other schools whose landscapes are changing, the last place we stop at is USC, where the Trojans are back after being banned from the postseason the last couple of years and are ready to make a statement. Head coach Lane Kiffin brings back a talented bunch of kids and they are ready to make a national championship run. Optimism and expectations are running high and USC is back in the national spotlight for all of the right reasons. More on them in a bit.
Conferences are changing too of course, and for the worst I think. I hate how this schools are jumping conferences just for a quick buck. We lose so many good rivalries and geographically, some of them don't make sense. Boise State in the Big East? Well that will happen next year, but it's still dumb. Missouri in the SEC? Missouri is in the central part of the US, how the hell are they considered southeast? There are plenty of other examples too. You get my drift. The following schools changed conferences from last year to this year:
- West Virginia (formerly Big East) and TCU (formerly Mountain West) = Big 12
- Temple (formerly MAC)= Big East
- Massachusetts (formerly I-AA) =MAC
- Missouri (formerly Big 12) and Texas A&M (formerly Big 12) = SEC
- Texas State and UTSA (formerly I-AA) = WAC
And more are coming next year. Plus the WAC won't have football here in a few years and we're still getting used to Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten which has twelve teams and doesn't make sense, it's just crazy. I'm going to blow a fuse. Stop with the re-alligning. You're killing college sports as we know it. Where was I? Oh yes, back to the preview.
We'll have BCS bowl predictions, Heisman Trophy and national champs coming up, but let's go conference to conference and pick the winners.
A lot of people are taking Florida State, even picking them as a dark horse national championship pick. And while E.J. Manuel is one of the better quarterbacks in the game and that defense is stout (4th in the nation last year in points allowed at just over 15 ppg), I'm just not quite sure they're national championship material. They'll make it to the ACC title game for sure where they will face Virginia Tech. I make no secrets that I am a fan of Virginia Tech and once again, head coach Frank Beamer restocks the cuboard with plenty of good talent. They'll have a good defense and a solid running game not to mention quarterback Logan Thomas, a duel threat who is vastly improving at the position. If they can see huge improvement from him, this is thee dark horse to go to the national championship.
Conference game to watch: Florida State @ Virginia Tech Thursday, November 8th 7:30 PM ET ESPN.
It's in Blacksburg on a Thursday night. The Hokies will win that game and fairly convincingly dashing Florida State's hopes at a national championship.
ACC Championship: Florida State vs. Virginia Tech. It will be a rematch and the Seminoles will come out on top. I have to be objective here and as much as it pains me, I'll take Florida State to win the ACC.
The conference welcomes two new teams this year in West Virginia and TCU. Both teams make the conference better, but they are in for a rough ride, because this conference is loaded from top to bottom. Fortunately, both WVU and TCU bring in good football programs. TCU especially with head coach Gary Patterson and that defense. Wow! Watch out for them. They rebuilt a little last year after losing quarterback Andy Dalton to the NFL, but this year they are back and will put the rest of the conference on notice. I think it's fair to expect semi-down years from Oklahoma State and Baylor. The Cowboys lost two big offensive weapons in quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon who are in the NFL now. And Baylor lost Heisman Trophy winning quarterback RG III and wide receiver Josh Gordon to the NFL as well. Those are a couple of pretty talented guys on each of those teams that will be tough to replace. Texas was better last year than their nightmare season a couple of years ago, but I'm not sold on their quarterback position and don't think they have what it takes to win the Big 12 this year. Do you think Case McCoy and David Ash are the real deals? I say no.
That leads me to Oklahoma. This team is once again the most talented team in the conference yet always seems to under perform in games you don't expect them to. Last year it was Texas Tech. What will it be this year? They have too much going for them not to put their pedal to the medal. When you bring in two new schools with good teams like West Virginia and TCU, you better be on your toes and be focused. Landry Jones is a Heisman Trophy worthy quarterback. He is the favorite in some people's eyes. Weapons at running back and wide receiver. A good defense. This team has what it takes to win the Big 12. I'm not saying national championship. They have a shot and should any team go through conference play undefeated, they are definitely worthy of a national championship game. I like Oklahoma to win the Big 12. The rest of the conference has nothing. Not going to happen this year.
Conference game to watch for: There are simply too many of them. When Texas vs. Oklahoma and against TCU are two I'm watching for. Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma. Oklahoma @ TCU. TCU @ West Virginia. This may be the most entertaining conference to watch this year, even above the SEC.
Ah the Big East...The most interesting thing about this conference is that Boise State is joining it next year. No one respects the Big East. I'm sorry, it's just a fact. They don't deserve any automatic bids to a BCS game. There are far more deserving teams including ones like Boise State and TCU previously from outside of the power conferences. If they want a spot in the BCS, they have to prove it. Unfortunately, the conference has been ran-sacked, particularly in the college basketball department. Next year Syracuse is leaving for the ACC. Good thing Boise State will come in and bring some respectability to the conference. I guess if you're looking for the best team it's Louisville. Head coach Charlie Strong has done a very good job turning the program along and on paper they appear to be the best team, but don't sleep on Pittsburgh. The Panthers have plenty of talent and will have something to say about who's going to win the conference. Cincinnati has an outside chance too.
Conference game to watch: Louisville @ Pittsburgh Saturday, October 13th TBD.
The two best team's in the conference go at it.
Honorable mention goes to Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati Thursday, September 6th at 8 PM ET on ESPN. Didn't the Cincinnati mascot get arrested for being drunk at the game last year? May want to see if the same thing happens again.
Big East Conference champion: Louisville
Ah the Legends and the Leaders. Two really dumb names for divisions. I mean seriously. What gives? Terrible. Aside from the names, the conference will be a little different this year. We've already documented Penn State's troubles and both them and Ohio State are banned from postseason play this year. So the leaders division, which features Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin (along with Penn State and Ohio State) is going to be boring, because Wisconsin is going to destroy kids. Brett Bielema has done a great job with this program. They boast one of, if not thee best running back in the game in Montee Ball. And this year again, just like last year, they are naming an ACC transfer their starting quarterback. Last year it was Russell Wilson from NC State. This year it's Danny O'Brien from Maryland who gets the nod. Have the Badgers gone to the well one too many times? I doubt it. They know what they're doing and what they've got in naming O'Brien the starter.
As for the Legends division, this is going to be interesting, at least in the state of Michigan. Nebraska will be worth a watch, but the other schools (Minnesota, Iowa and Northwestern) don't light a candle to the talent in Ann Arbor (Michigan) and East Lansing (Michigan State). Side note, I'm from Minnesota and would love to see the Golden Gophers get back to respectability and make a run in the conference, but that is not going to happen for a long time. Surprise me Jerry Kill. Anyway, Michigan and Michigan State are clear leaders in this division. A lot of people are very high on Michigan State this year, thinking that their defense will help lead them to a conference title. I'm not buying it. Michigan to me under Brady Hoke, is the more dangerous team. Love Denard Robinson, another Heisman Trophy candidate. In fact, I think Michigan State will lose their first game to Boise State this Friday. But one of those two teams will come out as the winners of the Legends division.
Conference game to watch: Apart from the normal rivalry of Michigan-Ohio State which should be very good this year, it's Michigan State @ Michigan Saturday, October 20 TBD. This decides the Legends Divsion and who will play Wisconsin, winners of the Leaders division.
Big Ten Champinship: Wisconsin vs. Michigan State. A rematch of last year's classic battle, won by Wisconsin. And Wisconsin will it again and the fans will jump around again at another trip to the Rose Bowl.
Dun-da-dah, dun-da-duh, dun-da-dahh! That was my terrible rendition to the beginning of USC's fight song. They're back. The USC Trojans are ready for this season. They are locked and loaded. Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Matt Barkley is back for his senior year and it promises to be a good one. He has stuck by the university as they endured the postseason ban and you can bet that he and the rest of the players are hungry and ready to make a big run at the national championship. Barkley is easily one of the top three quarterbacks in the game. And he has two of, if not thee best wide receivers in the game in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Both had over 1100 yards and double-digit touchdown receptions last year. Who's going to stop them? No one. Add to that a good defense and the Trojans are ready.
Who can stop them? The Oregon Ducks. That offensive attack that head coach Chip Kelly installs is something else. Players come and go, but they are all very succesfull. Sure the defense doesn't always make stops, but the offense is practically unstoppable. If the defense takes a step forward this year, the Ducks may just have enough to make a championship run.
There are plenty of new faces in the conference. Jim Mora Jr. is at UCLA. Rich Rod is in Arizona. Mike Leach is in Washington State. Will they have success? It's going to take time at each school. Washington State has been bad for a while, but Leach was great at Texas Tech. Rich Rod was successful at West Virginia, not at Michigan. And Mora Jr. was a good coach with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Expect growing pains for all three, especially Jim Mora Jr. who has to compete to take L.A. away from USC. Good luck there.
Conference game to watch: Oregon @ USC Saturday, November 3 TBD. Just a tune-up for the conference championship game.
Pac-12 Championship: Oregon vs. USC. As much as I'd like to take the Ducks and their crazy uniforms, this is the year of the Trojans. USC will win this game and go on to play in the BCS National Championship game.
Best conference in college football. May not always be the most entertaining, but it is by far the toughest. If I had to watch once conference and one game on Saturday, it would be the SEC on CBS. They've got it down pat. The conference that has won the last six BCS national championships welcomes two newcomers in Missouri and Texas A&M. It will take each school a little while to get acclamated to the difficult SEC. Missouri is in the east division and A&M is in the west along with 2012 BCS champion Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost a lot of key parts to last year's team and while Nick Saban and his staff have done a fabulous job with recruiting, they are probably going to struggle a little big this year. I do not see them being in the national championship picture and that is probably exactly how they like it. Gives them extra motivation. Auburn will be better this year. Both Mississippi schools, eh not so much. Arkansas is a very interesting team to watch this year. With new head John L. Smith taking the job after the school fired Bobby Petrino for that affair with his mistress and then lying to the school, the Razorbacks have a talented team that can win the west. Quarterback Tyler Wilson is a gem of a quarterback. Plus you get Kniles Davis back at running back after missing all of last year with an injury and the Razorbacks are looking good. Can the defense hold up? Their schedule is favorable with both Alabama and LSU at home this year. Speaking of LSU, what about the Bayou Bengals? Losing the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu is big, but the Tigers can overcome that. Les Miles has a really good team in place and they are ready to compete for the national title. Provided they get by Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving, I see no reason in thinking they won't win the SEC. Oh yeah and Alabama. But LSU should get revenge from the national championship beatdown they received.
West conference games to watch: Alabama @ Arkansas Saturday, September 15 2:30 PM ET CBS and LSU @ Arkansas Friday, November 23 2:30 PM ET CBS. These games will decide who wins the SEC west.
In the east, all signs point to either Georgia or South Carolina. And I really like Georgia. Running back Isaiah Crowell may no longer be with the team, but that won't stop Georgia who has a lot of talent and won the east last year. Giving everyone another year to mature and know what it takes to get back will really help the Bulldogs. Aaron Murray is a fine quarterback and that defense will be tough. South Carolina will make it tough on them, but Georgia has too much talent. Florida is still another year away from making a big impact. The interesting team in the east is Vanderbilt. A lot of people think Vandy might to do something this year. Jordan Rodgers, brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been named the starter. Not saying that Vandy will compete for the SEC East title this year, but they will make some noise and turn some heads inside and outside of the conference. The rest of the east, not worth the time.
East conference game to watch: Georgia @ South Carolina Saturday, October 6 TBD. Could very well decide who wins the east and goes to Atlanta.
SEC Championship game: Georgia @ LSU. I'm really tempted to take Arkansas, but something scares me about them. I know what I'm getting in Les Miles and the Tigers. Not sure what I'm getting out of Smith and the Razorbacks. It'll be closer this year, but I like LSU to win the SEC.
Well there you have it, the conference previews, but we're not done. Top to talk Heisman Trophy. I've laid a few guys out there or you. Here's the list:
QB Matt Barkley USC
RB Montee Ball Wisconsin
QB Landry Jones Oklahoma
WR Robert Woods USC
QB Denard Robinson Michigan
I have a feeling it could Tyler Wilson of Arkansas or Kniles Davis of Arkansas. Don't know why, but if those two have big games against the top teams in the SEC west (Alabama and LSU) that will really boost their chances at a Heisman. But in the end, the Heisman Trophy is going to Matt Barkley from USC. He's put together some great seasons over the last couple of years. This one is going to top them all off.
Can't forget about picking the BCS games can we?
Louisville vs. Florida State
Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas
Boise State vs. Oklahoma
BCS National Championship game
USC vs. LSU
I'm very scared with some of these picks. Could totally see Michigan State or Michigan in one of these games. And you never know with the Big 12. Maybe we'll see TCU or Texas. Boise State is perhaps the worst of the picks, but there is just something about them that makes me want to pick them. Maybe it's because they are the underdog. If they lose at Michigan State this Friday, throw that pick out of the book and put in Virginia Tech and Michigan State will replace the Hokies in the Sugar Bowl. Then again, maybe I'm just completely wrong on everything.
Oh wait, I didn't pick a national champion. The winner of the 2013 BCS National Championship will be...LSU. I want to pick USC so bad, but look at the SEC's dominance as of late. Six straight national championships! They get the benefit of the doubt here. Until someone knocks them off, I'm taking an SEC school to win it.
Hope you all enjoyed the preview. Give me your college football thoughts. Agree with me? Disagree? Let the debate begin. College football kicks off in a little over 24 hours.
Coming up Thursday: NFL preseason reaction and big college football games.