The Stack is here on this Wednesday and it is time for the college football that you demand, well at least some of you demand. From some of the storylines to conference previews and the national champion, we have it all so let's get right to the 2013-14 college football preview for today, Wednesday, August 28:
2013-14 College football preview
No single player, team, topic or story dominated the sport of college football this offseason moreso than Johnny Manziel. The Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner made headlines doing every little thing possible it seemed like. Whether it be attending a frat party at the University of Texas, attending numerous big events, tweets or signing thousands of autographs and supposedly getting paid, Johnny Football can't stay out of the news. CBS Sports reported Tuesday that Manziel told the NCAA Sunday that he did not accept any money.
Texas A&M has stood by Manziel, but they are remaining silent. They can breath a sigh of relief though today knowing that Manziel will be with them the entire season after the NCAA found no evidence that Manziel did anything wrong (Terrelle Pryor, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green are beside themselves right now) and have suspended him only for the first half of their first game of the year against Rice for "violating the spirit of the rules." What a slap on the wrist and a disgraceful day for the NCAA. This was the speediest process for them ever and they look like fools. Then again, they typically do in these sorts of cases. More on that another day. Manziel has completely overshadowed just about everything else in college football; conference realignment, Jadaveon Clowney and anything else you would deem as a big story in the sport of college football.
Speaking of realignment, there are just ten Division I-A conferences for college football and seven schools who are independent (Army, BYU, Idaho, Navy, New Mexico State, Notre Dame and Old Dominion). Other conferences are just a hodgepodge of bad teams geoprachical challenges like Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East). So is college football watering down a little bit? Possibly. Fewer conferences mean fewer powerful conferences though the SEC continues to reign supreme. It's time to take a look at a few of the major conferences (sorry Conference USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt conferences, you didn't make the list).
American Athletics Conference
The former conference known as the Big East is seeing plenty of new teams in its first year under its new name. Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple and Central Florida are all newcomers to the conference. This conference was farily weak before these additions, but one team appears to be the best of the bunch. The Louisville Cardinals are coming off of a tremendous year that saw them pull off an upset win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. They have an exciting and very good quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. He certainly will be playing at the next level and he is a great kid overall. He has a lot of skill and is a Heisman Trophy candidate. It would not be a surprise to see Louisville run the table and go undefeated, putting them in a position to be a darkhorse to reach the national championship. They'll win the AAC fairly easily.
Predicted AAC Champion: Louisville
The ACC in recent years has been fairly weak. Not this year. There are some pretty good teams in the conference this year. The ACC welcomes two new teams this year in Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Both of those teams are better known for their basketball programs and probably won't add much for football, at least this year. There are four teams that really stand out.
Clemson may be the best of the bunch. Returning quarterback Taj Boyd is electric and the Clemson offense is fast. They've produced speedsters like Buffalo Bills RB C.J. Spiller and Houston Texans rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins. They still have plenty of weapons and are coming off of a comeback win in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. They are going to be a great team and a sleeper national championship game contender.
Florida State also will be good. Though EJ Manuel is gone, the Seminoles have a great defense and won't let Clemson run away with the ACC. Jameis Winston, a freshman is Florida State's starting quarterback, but they'll be careful with their game planning with him. They certainly have a great chance to win the ACC.
UNC and Virginia Tech are the other two teams that stand out and could wind up winning the ACC. UNC keeps producing NFL talen, but it doesn't translate to great records on the field. Better than what they have been before Butch Davis came there as head coach, but still not to where they would like. They have a tough opener against South Carolina. A win would certainly be a statement to the ACC. Virginia Tech has always been competitive, but they've slipped a bit in recent years. They haven't won the big games that they used to and Beamerball isn't making the huge impact it has in the past. Frank Beamer is a terrific coach and the team has a good defense. They need to step up their game though and an impressive performance against Alabama this weekend would certainly show it.
To the rest of the ACC, sorry. Just don't see you competing throughout the year with these other four.
Predicted ACC Champion: Clemson
Last year the Big 12 saw some pretty interesting things happen. West Virginia started out hot, but then Geno Smith and company quietly disappeared. Kansas State looked like they were destined for the national championship game with Collin Klein until they inexplicably got destroyed by Baylor. Speaking of Baylor, they have a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Lache Seastrunk. He thinks he can win it. Considering RGIII won the Heisman a couple of years ago, Baylor could once again have a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback on their hands.
Texas is the team to watch this year in part because they've been mediocre by their standards the last few years. This is a big year for quarterback David Ash who has not looked very good in leading the Longhorns. Head coach Mack Brown certainly must be feeling the coals warm up underneath his seat. Unfortunately for Texas, don't know if they will be up there on top when the regular season ends.
Oklahoma appears to be cream of the crop. Bob Stoops always does a good job getting his boys ready and recruits with the best of them, but every year the Sooners trip up. For whatever reason they do. While they are still a solid pick to win the Big 12 this year, a national championship won't happen if they lose to teams like Texas Tech.
TCU looks like they will be strong and will contend right up until the finish. Head coach Gary Patterson did well in his first year given the injuries and issues he had to deal with at running back and quarterback. Trevone Boykin has a lot of tremendous assets and has huge upside, but Casey Pachall (who left the team last year because of substance abuse) is back and he is more mature on the field. TCU is the biggest threat to win the Big 12 this year over favorites like Oklahoma.
Overall, the Big 12 is going to be highly competitive this year. Every team except maybe Kansas has the chance to surprise. Going to be a fun year in this conference.
Predicted Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
The conference that boasts twelve teams yet still sticks with ten as the number in their conference name (not too bright are they) looks pretty mediocre once again. Ohio State is head and shoulders the best team in the conference. Michigan will have something to say about that when they play and Nebraska is strong too, but no one boasts as much talent as Ohio State. Led by Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes are hoping to turn in another undefeated effort like last year (they were postseason ineligible due to issues with the Tressel program). Urban Meyer can recruit like none other (maybe not character wise) and the Buckeyes have the most talented roster in the conference. Wisconsin will take a step back this year without head coach Brett Bielema who is at Arkansas. Their quarterback situation didn't pan out all that well last year. Penn State was the surprise of the league and maybe all of college football last year going 8-4, but are still under a postseason ban from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Bill O'Brien though should be commended for the job he has done with that program. The bottom feeders (Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois) will continue to be the bottom feeders. If any team has a shot at taking down Ohio State it's either Nebraska or Michigan with Northwestern being the sneaky good team to watch in the Big Ten this year. They are ranked in the top 25 and head coach Pat Fitzgerald has done a marvelous job there. Still though, the Big Ten is Ohio State's to lose and they won't. The only thing they have to worry about though is whether or not the conference brings them down because of how weak it is and they may cost them a shot at the national championship even if they go undefeated. Eh, a Rose Bowl appearance will have to satisfy.
Predicted Big Ten Champion: Ohio State
November 7th is the date to remember. That is when Oregon travels to Palo Alto to take on the Stanford Cardinal and most likely will be the determing game as to who wins the Pac-12. Sure they are in the same division and the winner would have to play the winner of the Pac-12 South in the Pac-12 championship game, but it would appear that Oregon and Stanford are clearly the two best teams in the country as evidenced by the fact that they are both ranked in the top five in the country. Oregon may have lost head coach Chip Kelly, but they still have quarterback Marcus Mariota, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and their offense is still the same. Nothing has changed. The Cardinal did put a stop to them last year up in Eugene and would later on win the Rose Bowl so they won't back down without a fight. The conference really feels as though it is one of these two teams' to lose.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin is under the most pressure this year. If he fails to win even ten games, he's gone in my opinion and perhaps in the opinion of many others. He still hasn't named who his starting quarterback is going to be this year. Max Wittek or Cody Kessler? Both will play against Hawaii Thursday night. At some point a decision has to be made. Ultimately USC won't contend this year and Kiffin should be out of a job. Doesn't mean he will though.
Oregon State could be the darkhorse in the conference this year, but playing both Stanford (at home) and Oregon (on the road) is pretty daunting.
And we get to see what Mike Leach will do with a fresh recruiting class at Washington State. He was able to turn Texas Tech around. WSU might take a little more time.
Again, just remember November 7th.
Predicted Pac-12 Champion: Oregon
The crem de la clem. Without question the best conference in college football. Winners of the last seven BCS national championships. The SEC. Alabama is top dawg and rightfully so. Nick Saban is a genius and a master recruiter and motivator. Maybe he's not all that personable, but you can probably overlook that when you win three national championships in four years. They have another strong recruiting class coming in this year and plenty of players returning who will make an impact. Who can stop them?
There are a few teams that have a great chance to take down the kings of the southeast. The mad hatter, LSU head coach Les Miles, always has strong teams especially on defense. Offense has been suspect the last couple of years. Going to Tuscaloosa this will be a daunting challenge, but so too is their first game against TCU at AT&T Stadium (Dallas Cowboys stadium) in Arlington. LSU is always in it to to vie for the SEC crown and this year will be no different.
South Carolina has a chance. They're a talented team led by the old ball coach Steve Spurrier, but it's defensive end Jadaveon Clowney who everyone wants to see. He would have been the first pick in the NFL Draft last April. He's going to be double and triple teamed this year, but teams will still struggle to stop him. He won an ESPY. When you play with greatness, it inspires others around you and that is what Clowney will do for his Gamecock teammates.
What about Johnny Football and Texas A&M? Finally we can talk about the football team on the field and not just their star quarterback off of it. True test will be against Alabama week three, but A&M just doesn't strike me as a team to really fear and watch out for in the SEC this year. They'll be good, but I don't see a repeat performance from the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
The team to watch out for though is Georgia. Aaron Murray is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and will be out to prove that he is the best quarterback that will enter the NFL draft. The Bulldogs are a loaded team. They have a daunting first couple of weeks ahead of them though with a trip to Death Valley to face #8 Clemson and then returning home for a game against #6 South Carolina. They survive these first couple of weeks and start out 2-0, watch out! They'll meet Alabama or LSU in the SEC Championship game and if it's Alabama, Georgia will seek its revenge. They were what fifteen yards away from beating Alabama last year in the SEC title game? Just saying, what out for the dawgs!
Florida is going to be interesting to watch this year, but they're not quite as good as the other four. Ole Miss has a top five recruiting class so we'll see how that pans out. Brett Bielema at Arkansas could make things intriguing, but it all comes down to December in the Georgia Dome. Time to go out on a bit of a limb. As always, it is going to be a fascinating year in the SEC, but this year we might see an end to the national championship run the SEC has had should Alabama or LSU not win the SEC championship.
Predicted SEC Champion: Georgia
Best of the rest
Notre Dame will not have a repeat like last year. Lost too much. Too many questions. Good year, but certainly not undefeated. Boise State is always a team to watch out for. And welcome to your first year of FBS football Old Dominion. Could be a rough year for them. If there is a team that will crash the BCS party, it's Boise State. Don't know if that will happen, but this is a good team who will once again not back down.
Heisman Trophy list
I'm going to name perhaps a few more than the number of finalists who will be invited to New York, but here goes:
-RB Lache Seastrunk (Baylor)
-QB Taj Boyd (Clemson)
-QB Braxton Miller (Ohio State)
-QB Aaron Murray (Georgia)
-QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
-QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
-QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
-DE Jadaveon Clowney (South Carolina)
That's a lot of quarterbacks. And that position is not going to win. Jadaveon Clowney is going to win the Heisman Trophy. He's the best defensive player since Ndamukong Suh and he'll be the first defensive player to win it since Charles Woodson (though Woodson did it on special teams too). Why not pick the upset?
BCS National Championship game prediction
The SEC's reign of terror has to end at some point right? Since I'm going with some upset picks here, why not one more?
Oregon over Georgia
Don't feel great about it, but why not go out on a limb? College football kicks off tomorrow. Enjoy the year everyone. It's going to be another spectacular year.