We're halfway through the college football season now, folks, and the story of the first half has been written. Florida, Oregon State, Texas A&M and Ohio stand out as rousing stories of success. The Big Ten as a whole, Florida State and USC highlight the list of major and slight disappointments. Texas made me redo my thoughts on its team, and Manny Diaz in particular.
Now, with the back end of the season set to start this weekend, we have plenty of ball games left for us to take a look at. We're going to give ourselves the proverbial "Second Chance" here to make some predictions. For the sake of sanity, we'll go from small to big, talking individual players, teams, conferences and then we'll get into the overall bowl and BCS picture.
Going with three playmakers that we have not heard nearly enough from in this spot: Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and De'Anthony Thomas. Woods is staring up at his former protege, Marqise Lee, as Lee and quarterback Matt Barkley storm through the season as one of the nation's premier tandems. The same can be said for Watkins as he looks at his sidekick from a season ago, DeAndre Hopkins, torching defenses, while he struggles to get going. Thomas has not had a 100-yard offense game since Tennessee Tech.
In the second half of the season, look for two of these guys to turn it on. For Woods and Watkins, the current film shows teams getting abused by Lee and Hopkins, respectively, and that will create some shifts in the defensive approach. Both guys are dynamic players who have to be ready when their number is called. Half a season of dummy routes is plenty; look for defenses to push to defend their counterparts and for their numbers to come up in the back end.
As for De'Anthony Thomas, this is really an interesting situation. Oregon is winning its games handily without forcing the football to Thomas. Kenjon Barner is the workhorse and the guy who is going to have a legitimate Heisman shot if the season continues in the same direction. Thomas is dynamic and explosive, but he doesn't have a real position.
As teams notice him in the backfield and key im to stop his explosion plays both in the run and pass game, he is having a tough time finding seams. Unless Chip Kelly figures out how to isolate the sophomore in space, expect his stagnant numbers to continue.
We'll hit Oregon State, Texas A&M and Florida State. The Beavers and Aggies are smiling their fannies off, while the 'Noles are hanging heads wondering why they stayed so conservative in Raleigh.
Oregon State will finish with three losses. Oregon is not going to relinquish its stranglehold on the Civil War between Stanford, Washington and Arizona State; look for the Beavers to go 1-2. They're a heck of a ball club and will be playing in a respectable bowl, but as injuries mount and bodies wear out, Mike Riley's team is going to have a tough time staying unbeaten.
Speaking of having a tough time, enter the real SEC West for Texas A&M. This one-loss team is in for a rude awakening starting this weekend against LSU. The Aggies also have Mississippi State and Alabama on the schedule; viola, three loses to tough, physical teams in their division. However, set against the backdrop of the debacle that has become Mizzou's inaugural SEC run, a 4-4 conference record would look right nice in College Station.
With Florida State, look for a more "upward" trajectory. The Seminoles are focused, and outside of the Florida Gators, they are better than everyone on their schedule—a lot better. Florida State should finish the season with one loss; yes, that means beating Florida.
Quick takes on every one of them. In the ACC, look for FSU to get to the Orange Bowl, and regardless of who they play in Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game, it shouldn't be too difficult. The Coastal Division is pathetic, and the Atlantic Champ, likely Florida State, is going to walk the dog on them.
In the Big East, look for an undefeated team to come from this league. It's been three seasons since Cincinnati emerged, and both Louisville and Rutgers are capable of running the table.
The Big Ten will be won by a team that does NOT have double-digit wins. This will be not be a great year for the league, and while Ohio State might finish undefeated or with one loss, the eligible champions will be sitting at eight or nine wins in a very ACC type fashion.
We head to the Big 12, where Oklahoma will wave the flag. West Virginia, everyone's favorite, will finish with three losses and head to a bowl that it is less than happy to be in. Kansas State will only have itself to blame for finishing out of the money.
In the Pac-12, Oregon hosts USC after the Trojans limp through November to win the south. Not much to see here, as we've suspected all along the physically exhausting Thanksgiving month will hurt USC too much for it to get to the Rose Bowl.
SEC. The daddy. Alabama rolls. We have a little 2008 and 2009 deja vu as the Gators and the Crimson Tide meet in Atlanta. A lot more 2009 than 2008, as the Tide run through Florida for an undefeated season.
Lastly, the non-BCS ranks. Ohio is going to finish undefeated.
The big one here is that Duke is going to bowl-eligible. Between UNC, Georgia Tech and Miami, it will only take one of those to get David Cutcliffe into the postseason.
Ohio, the team we think goes undefeated from the non-BCS ranks, will find itself in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. The Orange Bowl has the last pick, and this is what the ACC does not need as they try to grow the value of their dedicated bowl game.
In the Rose Bowl, we'll see a less-than-impressive Big Ten team take on a team that's not Oregon, the Pac-12 Champions. Should be a fun game where a three-loss Stanford takes on a three or four-loss Wisconsin or Michigan or Michigan State or whoever else the Big Ten sends out to Pasadena.
The Fiesta Bowl will get Oklahoma taking on Louisville. I'm going Cardinals over the Scarlet Knights because Teddy Bridgewater is the man. OU will finish with one loss, and the Stoops era continues as Charlie Strong becomes the hottest commodity in the coaching marketplace.
Then we get to the Sugar Bowl, a gang of two-loss SEC teams. South Carolina, Florida and LSU will likely be waiting to see who gets picked. Odds are the executives take Florida, sell hotels and get a major television draw, matched up against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Yup, you read that right, Notre Dame in the BCS mix with one or two losses, heading to New Orleans to take on the Florida Gators. Yes, the Fiesta Bowl has first pick, but I don't think they'll go "rematch" against the Sooners.
Which brings us to the title game, Alabama and Oregon. Speed versus speed and power. Offensive explosion versus a sledge hammer aimed to drive you into the ground. Should be a great game if you like defense and watching Oregon try to figure out how to out-scheme Alabama's big bodies.
Got any predictions for the second half of the season? Leave them in the comments!
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