College Footbal 2009: An Early Look Ahead

Alex HowieContributor IJanuary 5, 2009

Bowl season is winding down and very soon college football will be in a seven-month lull until August.  So now begins the anticipation: What will be the BCS drama in 2009?  Who will be 2009’s BCS buster? Is the Pac-10 really as good as the 5-0 bowl record implies?  Is the Big Ten really that bad?  Will the Big 12 and SEC match up in the championship again? 

I don’t have the answers—but it seems not even the “experts” do.  But I do have some thoughts. 

One of those thoughts: Yes, the Big Ten is really that bad. Actually, no, it isn't. It's worse.

Ohio State ran through the Big Ten to get into the National Championship Game in 2006 and 2007.  The lost both times—badly. 

Michigan got selected to the Rose Bowl as an at-large team after the 2006 season.  Illinois did the same after the 2007 season.  They both lost—badly.

This year, Penn State stepped up to beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten, and got a chance to redeem the conference in the Rose Bowl.  Instead, they lost to USC in the Rose Bowl—badly. 

Ohio State was selected to the Fiesta Bowl with a chance to prove the worth of the Big Ten.  The Buckeyes came close, but lost to Texas—not badly, but they badly needed a win.

In total, the Big Ten was 1-6 in bowl games. So the Big Ten is officially bad.  Hopefully, the conference has lost the nation’s respect, because in actuality, it never did anything to earn it. 

And it shouldn’t be any better in 2009. Ohio State and Penn State will compete for the Big Ten Championship and probably both finish with 10-plus win seasons, only to lose in a bowl game.  Let’s just hope that only one of them makes the BCS. 

My pick: Penn State might lose once, but not to Ohio State. Joe Pa does it again.


The Pac-10 

They are really that good.  USC is great.  Oregon, Oregon State, California, and Arizona are good.  And they will be better in 2009.  Why?  They run the ball, and they run the ball with speed and power. Look for USC to finally fall apart—while destroying Ohio State on the road—and finish with a disappointing, almost unbearable, 10-2 record.  Oregon, Oregon State, and California will make the Pac-10 more competitive than it has been in nearly a decade. 

My pick: Oregon. They have Oregon State, California, and USC all at home. 



The SEC will once again be represented in the national championship.  LSU and Georgia will be very good.  The SEC's problem is that Florida and Alabama will be good, also.

Both the Tigers and Bulldogs will be trying to knock off the Gators and Crimson Tide in their respective divisions. Auburn may also be dangerous—but maybe not with Gene Chizik as coach. 

My pick: Look for another SEC championship matchup of Florida vs. Alabama to determine the SEC’s national championship representative, only this time it will be even better. I like Alabama to win a showdown between two undefeated teams.


Big 12

The Big 12 won’t disappoint.  They will be more than ready to set up another SEC vs. Big 12 national championship matchup.  Texas looks to be the front runner, but Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will also be Top 10 teams—and Oklahoma State has the Longhorns at home.

Don’t slouch on the Big 12 North, either.  Missouri was disappointing this year, and the division’s reputation isn’t good, but the gap between the North and South is closing. 

A good Kansas team will be the favorite, but don’t count out Colorado and Nebraska—their Thanksgiving rivalry could once again be meaningful.  Ultimately, the Jayhawks will win the North, but will be no match for the South Division champion.

My pick: Oklahoma State over Kansas.



This conference will be surprisingly good.  Virginia Tech broke the conference’s seven-year BCS bowl losing streak and will be looking for its third straight conference title.  

First, the Hokies will have to contend with Georgia Tech to win the ACC Coastal.  Florida State and North Carolina are both hoping to take the ACC Atlantic, but Boston College won’t give up the division crown easily.  The rest of the league will have good teams, but not good enough to compete with superior talent and coaching.

My pick: Georgia Tech over Florida State in the ACC Championship.  Virginia Tech will be looking to get a BCS at-large.


Big East

The word “big” has lost all of its credibility.  If the Big Ten isn’t the worst BCS league, the Big East is.

Pittsburgh is still on the rise. West Virginia still has potent offensive speed. Rutgers will be dangerous. Watch out for Cincinnati, South Florida, and Louisville, too. 

My pick: Pittsburgh.  And no, the Big Ten is not better than the Big East—the Big East won bowl games.  Four to be exact.


Mountain West

Utah had quite the year.  The Utes might duplicate it in 2009. But BYU will be better and TCU may be, too. The Cougars will have more consistency and toughness next year.  TCU and Utah never lacked any. The top of this league can compete with any of the six major conferences. 

Actually, the Big Ten and Big East might not be able to compete with the Mountain West.  Should the Mountain West Champion get an automatic BCS bid?  Maybe, but it’s not going to happen.  Maybe they should make a push to expand their league to include Boise State.  Now that would be an interesting league. 

My pick: BYU squeaks by Utah and TCU, earning an automatic BCS berth by finishing unbeaten.  The Cougars won’t get into the BCS title game, but they might deserve it.


Western Athletic Conference

Boise State is the king of this league, and that really shouldn’t change.  The Broncos will return a strong core from an undefeated regular season. Fresno State was supposed to be good in 2008.  They weren’t, but they will be in 2009.  Nevada will be good, too—good enough to win 10 games, that is.  Louisiana Tech and Hawai’i will be decent, too. The whole league will be more competitive than usual.

My pick: Boise State. How could it not be?  Boise gets Oregon in the season opener. If the Broncos win, a 13-0 season warrants a BCS berth—but they might not get it. 

If a Mountain West team is undefeated, they will probably be ranked higher.  The Broncos should get an at-large, but won’t. This time around, they will win their bowl game, though.


National Championship: Alabama vs. Oklahoma State

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Penn State

Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. BYU

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Pittsburgh

Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. the controversial at large (USC gets picked over Virginia Tech and Boise State, despite being ranked lower. Reputation and money means a lot more than it should in college football.)



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