2010 College Football Predictions

Jan 1, 2010; Pasadena, CA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes players huddle before the 2010 Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks. Photo via Newscom

Conference winners, sleepers, power rankings and one big, fat national championship prediction.


Big Ten

Champion: Ohio State
Yes, it’s true – the Buckeyes need Terrelle Pryor to be more consistent in the passing game this year if they expect to win a national championship. But stop acting like that’s the difference between OSU winning the Big Ten and them turning into Vanderbilt. Choke on this for a second: The Buckeyes return all three leading rushers from 2009 in Pryor, Brandon Saine and Dan Herron, the secondary features three senior NFL prospects, and they own the best defensive end in the nation in Cameron Heyward. Pryor is also coming off a dominating performance against Oregon in the Rose Bowl and reports state that he has committed himself this offseason to being a better teammate. Sorry Buckeye-haters, but the gap between them and Alabama is closer than you think.

Conference Champion Sleeper: Michigan Slate
My biggest concern with the Spartans is that despite pulling off an upset nearly every year, they also manage to lose a game they shouldn’t. But they have a slew of playmakers and plenty of depth on both sides of the ball, plus feature a ton of offensive firepower in Larry Caper, Edwin Baker, Keith Nicol and Mark Dell. Oh, and linebacker Greg Jones is the best defender in the nation. If this team can avoid being tripped up by an inferior opponent, they could easily surprise this season.

Conference Power Ranking: #1 Ohio State, #2 Iowa, #3 Wisconsin, # 4 Penn State, #5 Michigan State, #6 Northwestern, #7 Michigan, #8 Purdue, #9 Illinois, #10 Indiana, #11 Minnesota.

I admit that I had Michigan rated too high when I did my Big Ten preview last week. Having any sort of trust in Rich Rodriguez right now is a dangerous proposition for obvious reasons. Just when you think he’s going to figure things out in Ann Arbor, he makes a decision to muck everything up. Penn State might be ranked a little high given their quarterback concerns. Wisconsin is going to give teams trouble this year and Northwestern is going to be a tough opponent every week as well.


TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 17: Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during the Alabama spring game at Bryant Denny Stadium on April 17, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)

East Winner: Florida
Gone is Tim Tebow and the 170.8 career passing rating that he compiled as a Gator (which ranks No. 1 all-time in the SEC and No. 2 in college football history). Florida isn’t going to replace that kind of production, but I have faith in John Brantley, who is a more conventional passer and who has the luxury of handing the ball off to four talented backs. Even though only 11 starters return from last year’s team and Urban Meyer has to replace defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, the Gators remain the only D1 squad to win 13 games in consecutive seasons. In other words, they re-tool and re-load.

West Winner: Alabama
It’s the Tide’s offense that opponents will have to worry about this season – not their defense. Greg McElroy has never lost a game as a starter – ever. No losses in high school, none in college and although I don’t have hard data, I’m willing to bet the young man didn’t lose in Pee Wee’s either. He’ll hand the ball off to defending Heisman winner Mark Ingram and throw to arguably the best receiver in college football in Julio Jones. Auburn and Arkansas will give them a run for their money, but the Razorbacks usually find a way to lose a game they should win and ‘Bama gets the Tigers at home this year. Roll Tide Roll…

Conference Champion Sleeper: Auburn
Gene Chizik’s team raced out to a 5-0 start last season before winning just two of their final seven games. Still, they capped the season with a wild win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl and they pushed Alabama in the Iron Bowl before falling, 26-21. Auburn faces an uphill battle with eight bowl teams on its schedule, as well as a trip to Tuscaloosa. But this team has 15 starters returning, including the majority of both lines. I think they fall short in the end, but the Tigers are definitely a team to watch.

Conference Champion: Alabama
While its defense won’t be as dominating as it was a year ago, Alabama’s offensive trio of McElroy, Ingram and Jones will be too much for most opponents. They play in the SEC so a one-loss season certainly isn’t out of the question, but the Tide have the best combination of talent and coaching in the nation.

Conference Power Rankings: #1 Alabama, #2 Florida, #3 Arkansas, #4 Georgia, #5 Auburn, #6 LSU, #7 South Carolina, #8 Tennessee, #9 Ole’ Miss, #10 Kentucky, #11 Mississippi State, #12 Vanderbilt

Yeah, I’m drinking the Ryan Mallett Kool-Aid this year – what of it? You know what, it’s cool, crisp and it tastes refreshing. I also jumped on the Ole’ Miss hype wagon last year and look how well that turned out. No way Arkansas let’s me down with that defense…

…All right, so I probably have the Razorbacks rated too high. Quite frankly, I could see any of the four teams ranked behind them having better seasons but I’m going to put on my Johnny Public hat and stick with Arkansas. It’s certainly not prudent, but I’m fine with my life’s decisions.

Big 12

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 29:  Running back DeMarco Murray #7 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs the ball against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

North Winner: Nebraska
The Huskers have a real good shot of finishing out their Big 12 tenure by winning a conference championship, but they have issues at quarterback with Zac Lee. Backups Cody Green and Taylor Martinez gave Lee a run for the starting quarterback job this spring and that means Lee will likely be on a short leash. That said, the Huskers plan to rely on running backs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead to carry the offense anyway, so as long as Lee or whomever is under center doesn’t turn the ball over, this team will win games. Defensively, don’t expect Nebraska to replace Ndamukong Suh because they can’t. But with players like Jared Crick, Pierre Allen and Prince Amukamara, points will once again be hard to come by on Bo Pelini’s defense.

South Winner: Oklahoma
Many pundits still think Texas is the team to beat in the South, but there’s too much uncertainty going on in Austin right now for me to rank the Longhorns over the Sooners. Losing Sam Bradford hurts, but Landry Jones did very well filling in as a redshirt freshman last year. He finished with 3,198 passing yards and a TD-to-INT ratio of 26:14, but more importantly, he gained valuable starting experience and should be able to handle the lofty expectations this year. But the main reason I have Oklahoma emerging as South champions is DeMarco Murray, whom I bet will stay healthy this season and challenge for the Heisman. He’s incredibly versatile and will be the rock of OU’s offense if he can stay upright.

Conference Champion Sleeper: Texas A&M
I’m not going to sugarcoat this one: The Aggies need way more production from their defense or else they’ll hover in the middle of the pack all season. But this team is going to light up the scoreboard this year with Jerrod Johnson, Christine Michael, Cyrus Gray and Uzoma Nwachukwu. It’s just a matter of if they’ll have to score 40 points a game or 50 in order to pull out Ws.

Conference Champion: Oklahoma
While Nebraska arguably has an easier road than Oklahoma to get to the conference championship game, Lee scares the bejesus out of me. I think the Sooners are more stable and have less questions heading into the season, thus, I like them to get back on top of the Big 12 this season.

Conference Power Ranking: #1 Oklahoma, #2 Texas, #3 Nebraska, #4 Missouri, #5 Texas A&M, #6 Texas Tech, #7 Oklahoma State, #8 Kansas State, #9 Iowa State, #10 Kansas #11 Colorado, #12 Baylor

This conference is loaded with intriguing headlines coming into the season. How will Tommy Tuberville (Texas Tech) and Turner Gill (Kansas) fair in their first seasons with their respective teams? (Good, not great.) Can Dan Hawkins save his job in Colorado? (No.) Will Baylor be more competitive with a healthy Robert Griffin, III back under center? (Of course – dumb question.) Missouri is a team that seems to be flying under the radar and Oklahoma State will be interesting to watch now that Dana Holgorsen (who was the play caller for Houston last season when the Cougars led the FBS in scoring and passing offense) is their new offensive coordinator. Iowa State is also a dark horse to keep an eye on.


EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 31: Running back LaMichael James #11 of the Oregon Ducks is carried off the field after the game against the USC Trojans at Autzen Stadium on October 31, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon. James ran for 183 yards and a score as the Ducks won the game 47-20. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Conference Champion: Oregon
Everything hinges on whether sophomore Darron Thomas can make good reads in the spread so that the offense won’t take a step back this season. That said, the strength of the offense will once again be the running game behind LaMichael James, who is coming off a 1,500-yard season as a freshman. Defensively, the linebacker corps of Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger and Bryson Littlejohn is the strength of the unit and the Ducks should get plenty of pressure on the quarterback this season. While I fully expect Oregon State to challenge their in-state rivalries this season, I think Oregon will emerge as champs once again.

Conference Champion Sleeper: Stanford
John Harbaugh returns six starters on an offense that averaged 36 points a year ago and nine starters on defense. Quarterback Andrew Luck’s stock is rising quickly and he has the luxury of throwing to Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu in the passing game. He’ll also benefit from the offensive line returning four of five starters, although losing running back Toby Gerhart was obviously a huge blow.

Conference Power Ranking: #1 Oregon, #2 Oregon State, #3 Washington, #4 Stanford, #5 USC, #6 Arizona, #8 UCLA, #8 Cal, #9 Arizona State, #10 Washington State

Oregon State and Washington (who has the conference’s best quarterback in Jake Locker) will challenge Oregon for the top spot all season and I wouldn’t put it past UCLA to make some noise as well. USC is obviously the wild card, even though they’ve already been disqualified from bowl consideration. Will Lane Kiffin’s squad lay down every week because they don’t care about the outcome of their season or will playing spoiler motivate them?


ATLANTA - DECEMBER 31:  Quarterback Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Virginia Tech Hokies signals to the offense during the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against the Tennessee Volunteers at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Hokies beat the Volunteers 37-14.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Coastal Division Winner: Virginia Tech
I’m not buying into the Miami hype quite yet and still think VA Tech is the team to beat in the conference. Last year, the Hokies allowed just 15.8 points per game and return six starters from that unit. Offensively, they return seven starts including senior QB Tyrod Taylor (13 touchdowns) and dynamic sophomore Ryan Williams (1,655 yards, 5.6 YPC). Darren Evans also returns from a knee injury after finishing with 1,265 yards two years ago as a freshman, so opponents will have to pick their poison when they face this Tech offense. This team has to get by Boise State in the opener, but even if they lose the Hokies will still be in good shape in the conference.

Atlantic Division Winner: Florida State
The Seminoles return 10 starters on offense and six on defense under new head coach Jimbo Fisher, who was the team’s offensive coordinator the last three years. FSU averaged 30 points on offense last season, rushing for 143 yards per game and 278 through the air. Experienced senior Christian Ponder returns under center and will have plenty of help from running back Jermaine Thomas and the offensive line, which returns all five starters. Obviously the key for this team will be better play from the defense, which allowed 30 points per game last season. (The secondary was also horrendous, allowing 26 touchdown passes.)

Conference Champion Sleeper: Clemson
The Tigers return six starters on defense and seven on offense, including four on the offensive line. Quarterback Kyle Parker (20:12 TD-to-INT ratio last season) also returns, as does first-team All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel, who led the ACC in interceptions last year with eight. Clemson will make some noise this season and considering how bad FSU’s defense could be again this year, don’t be surprised if the Tigers over take them in the Atlantic.

Conference Champion: VA Tech
We know the Hokies will play good defense and special teams under Frank Beamer, but the reason I have them winning the conference is Taylor. I know he’s inconsistent as a passer, but with Evans back and Williams coming off a phenomenal year, I think if Taylor limits the turnovers and mistakes then the Hokies will emerge victorious. Taylor doesn’t have to win games by himself in order for this team to be successful.

Conference Power Rankings: #1 Virginia Tech, #2 Miami, #3 Florida State, #4 North Carolina, #5 Georgia Tech, #6 Clemson, #7 Boston College, #8 NC State, #9 Duke, #10 Wake Forest, #11 Virginia, #12 Maryland

I’d be lying if I said that the potential rules violations that the Hurricanes are now facing didn’t factor into my decision to make VA Tech the conference winner, although I still think the Hokies are being overlooked. North Carolina is intriguing, but something tells me they might not live up to expectations and it’ll be interesting to see if Georgia Tech can repeat the success they had from a year ago. Also, even though Maryland is the softest team in the conference, I doubt they’ll finish 2-10 this year. This will be a competitive conference.

Mountain West

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 14: Ryan Christian #18 of the TCU Horned Frogs celebrates his teams 55-28 victory over the Utah Utes at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Conference Champion: TCU
Even though they produced perhaps the biggest letdown performance of any team in the 2009-10 Bowl Season, I still have much love for the Horned Frogs. And how could I not? Head coach Gary Patterson returns nine starters on offense and seven on a defense that led the nation by allowing just 239.7 yards per game for the second straight year. Senior QB Andy Dalton (23 touchdowns, 8 interceptions) returns after a solid season and all three of his top targets are back, as well as four starters on the offensive line. Don’t forget about running backs Matthew Tucker (6.4 YPC) and Ed Wesley (6.3 YPC), who combined to rush for over 1,200 yards last season. The defense lost Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington, but again, they return seven starters on that side of the ball. A juggernaut TCU should be once again, although the real test comes a year from now when Boise State joins the conference.

Conference Sleeper Champion: BYU
The champion is either going to be TCU, Utah or BYU and since I have the Cougars ranked last out of the three, they’re my de facto winner. Under Bronco Mendenhall, the Cougars have posted a 43-9 overall record the past four years and the offense should once again be fantastic this year after averaging 34.8 points per game in 2009. Defensively, safety Andrew Rich will anchor the unit and the secondary has loads of experience. This team has two huge tests early in Washington and Florida State, so we’ll see what they’re made of early in the year.

Conference Power Ranking: #1 TCU, #2 Utah, #3 BYU, #4 Air Force, #5 Colorado State, #6 Wyoming, #7 Arkansas State, #9 UNLV, #10 New Mexico

It would be unfair to talk about TCU and BYU and not Utah, so here it goes: The Utes managed to average 29.3 points per game last season despite using two quarterbacks and losing running back Matt Asiata to a knee injury. The thing that keeps this team down this year, however, is the fact that they must replace seven starters (including all three linebackers) on defense. Ouch.

Big East

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 26:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game on December 26, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Conference Champion: PITT
If it weren’t for Cincinnati’s unbelievable 45-44 comeback last season, PITT would have been the defending champs heading into this year. No matter, they should win the conference this year after averaging 33 points on offense in 2009. Sophomore Dion Lewis will once again be the focal point on offense after rushing for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns at 5.5 yards a clip. Defensively, the unit is incredibly talented at the end position thanks to Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus and although the schedule is a concern, I like the Panthers to emerge on top.

Conference Champion Sleeper: Cincinnati
Not a sleeper, but I had a tough time deciding between PITT and Cincy, so I’ll use the opportunity to talk about the Bearcats here. Even without Brian Kelly, the Bearcats are going to do battle with the Panthers all season. Butch Jones proved that he could win at Central Michigan when Kelly left Mt. Pleasant and will prove that he can win at Cincy, too. Gone is Tony Pike, but Zach Collaros saw plenty of action last year as a sub and will be exciting to watch.

Conference Power Rankings: #1 PITT, #2 Cincinnati, #3 West Virginia, #4 Rutgers, #5 UCONN, #6 South Florida, #7 Syracuse, #8 Louisville

Thanks to Noel Devine, the Mountaineers are going to be tough to beat every week, but the inexperience of quarterback Geno Smith will limit them in the end. The key for Rutgers will be protecting quarterback Tom Savage and UCONN (a true sleeper) will need a much better effort out of its secondary if it wants to compete all year. This isn’t a terribly intriguing conference, but there’s a couple of interesting story lines to follow.

2011 National Championship Prediction

Apr 24, 2010 - South Bend, Indiana, U.S. - Notre Dame head coach BRIAN KELLY leads his team on to the field Saturday for the annual Blue-Gold Spring Game at Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame? Really?!

No – don’t be f**king ridiculous. I just thought I’d throw a picture of the Golden Domers in there to have a little fun and seeing as how I didn’t talk about Brian Kelly’s squad in this prediction piece, I thought that this was the appropriate time.

On to the real prediction…

Download these nuggets of information for a second:

– The last five champions have finished ranked in the top 5 nationally in pass efficiency defense.

– Six of the last seven title winners began the season ranked in the top 5.

– Eight of the last nine champs finished ranked in the top 10 in total defense.

Which team either fits into those three categories or could fit into those three categories? None other than Ohio State, who has an experienced secondary, is ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls and who finished in the top 5 in total defense last season.

The Buckeyes it is for national champs!

Well, not exactly. Even though the gap between them and Alabama has closed from last season, there’s still a gap. Plus, given the Buckeyes’ recent history in title games, I couldn’t feasibly write in Ohio State as this year’s national champs without feeling the need to change it as soon as this article went live.

So I’m going with ‘Bama. I know – I’m not going out on a limb here, but the Tide’s offense will be scary this year and even though their defense will likely take a step back, I don’t think any team in the nation is as deep in talent as Alabama is. They also have the depth and coaching to carry them as well.

2011 BCS National Championship Prediction: Alabama over Ohio State.

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