Every year around this time, everyone is a prognosticator. Everyone is looking for what the key games are going to be, who the best players are going to be, and who is going to be a contender and a pretender.
We also have a lot of people who feel the need to rank a bunch of teams who haven't played a game and have many players who have never started more than a game or two over the course of a grinding season.
As I wrote about a few weeks back, the pollsters are not only rarely right, they usually aren't close. The same can be said about the predictors and those trying to read into the future about key games and matchups, as well as who will be making the trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
I have plenty of questions about the upcoming college football season, which I'll be addressing in the next few weeks. And while I've written a few articles about the "what ifs" for the upcoming season, here are a few more questions which we'll have answers to soon enough.
1. Will TCU and Ole Miss be able to stand up to the pressure of being ranked from the start of the season?
These are two teams I have heard referred to as "under the radar" and "longshot" picks.
Nothing could be further from reality.
Both of these teams will be ranked, and ranked pretty decently, to start the season. Both will have a mountain of expectations, with some even picking one of them for the National Championship game. Both of these teams return a ton of talent, and both have returning quarterbacks.
Neither of these teams are going to sneak up on anyone, and there isn't a team in the country that will take either of these two lightly. They both should be facing wildly different environments than they faced last season, when outside of the program, little was expected.
Can they live up to the hype? Can they play from the favorite role?
It should be fun finding out the answers.
2. Who will be the surprise team in the Big Ten?
Two years ago, Illinois went into Columbus and knocked off Ohio State and ended up playing on New Years Day in the Rose Bowl.
Last season, Minnesota was coming off a horrific season and started on a tear. Also last season, Iowa had few expectations and ended up knocking off an undefeated Penn State and winning a New Year's Day bowl game.
It seems like just about every season, a team from the middle or even back of the pack makes it's move in the Big Ten and emerges as a frontrunner and even scares some of the big guys.
There are a lot of choices this year, as the conference had some teams who had major disappointments last year.
If Michigan won eight or nine games, is anyone really shocked? If Wisconsin grounds out a few upsets, is it really that big of a deal?
Is this the year Michigan State emerges to the front? Can Illinois recover from last years season-end collapse that cost them a bowl bid?
Even any of the other teams can realistically make things happen. While a lot of people think all Big Ten games are boring, they are generally pretty close and hard-fought battles.
3. Can Oregon or Cal finally win the Pac-10?
Both the Ducks and the Golden Bears have some real stars on their teams. Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli and Cal's Jahvid Best are nothing short of spectacular.
USC has had a stronghold on the Pac-10 title in the Pete Carroll era, and if the Trojans are to fall, they aren't going to go quietly.
Over the past few years, the other Pac-10 teams' best chances of going to the Rose Bowl was hoping USC would make the title game. They haven't been so lucky.
However, there are more than just a few issues here for the Ducks and the Bears.
While the Trojans lost a ton of talent, they still have more than just about everyone. There are also a few other pretty good teams in the Pac-10 like Oregon State, as well as some improvement among the bottom feeders.
4. Is Nebraska ready to compete for the Big 12 title?
I'm not even from Nebraska, nor have I ever been to Nebraska, but I have heard the "Go Big Red" cheer live more often than the average College Football fan. I spent my childhood and early adulthood in Miami, and the Huskers and their massive fan base were regular in some very meaningful Orange Bowl games.
Times got tough recently in the post-Tom Osborne era in Lincoln, and while it' been only since 2001 that Nebraska last played in a national title game, it sure seems like much longer. Nebraska just hasn't been the Nebraska the rest of the country or the home folk are accustomed to.
Enter Bo Pelini and a new attitude, exit Bill Callahan and his failed attempt to bring his offense and philosophies to corn country. The Huskers returned to a New Year's Day bowl last year, and while it wasn't as meaningful as past Nebraska bowl games, it was a big step in the right direction.
The game that impressed me the most was the win over Kansas. While the Jayhawks aren't the top shelf of the conference, they are far from the bottom, and the victory was as meaningful as a game of that nature can be.
The Big 12 has some heavy hitters this season and should have as many as five ranked before the season starts, so the Huskers will have plenty of chances to prove they can play on and belong on the big stage.
The question is: Can they?
5. Will the Big East and ACC still be seen as the worst of the BCS conferences?
I've stated a few tines this offseason that I think the ACC will surprise a lot of people. I also think the Big East will be better as well.
The Big East has suffered because Louisville hasn't quite been the same since Bobby Petrino left and West Virginia was pretty disappointing last year after Rich Rodriguez left.
The ACC has been banking that Miami and Florida State will be meaningful programs again, but neither has played like a national power in several years.
I think this may be a year that both the Big East and ACC finish with not only teams in the top 10, but with teams seriously contending for the title game late in the season. Cincinnati made huge steps last year, and South Florida has a few players who will be in the NFL next year.
Miami and Florida State both return the young speedy talent that made them appear to be rebounding last season. The ACC also has other programs on the rise like Georgia Tech, NC State, Wake Forest, and Clemson.
I think this question is less of a question of if the conferences will do it, but in reality, more of a question as to what teams will be the ones to rise to the top.
Visit Mitch anytime at The Sports Chat Place