10 Things That Might Surprise You This College Football Season
Some things we consider a given every college football season, like the refs will blow calls, there will be some major upsets along the way, and not everyone will be happy when bowl season rolls around.
On the other side, there are always some elements of unpredictability—things that we know could happen but can't quite put our finger on.
With college football a week away, here are some of my predictions that may surprise you.
1. At least one Stoops brother will not be back next year at his current head coaching job.
A few years ago there was no hotter name in coaching and no name more in demand than Stoops. Today, a little luster is off the shine.
At Oklahoma, Bob Stoops won a national title but has been a BCS bowl disaster ever since. While the Sooners rack up conference wins and titles, they can't seem to win when bowl time comes around.
Some of the Sooners' losses have come in the national title game, others at the hands of Boise State and West Virginia. Overall though, Stoops is second among active coaches in winning percentage.
I'm not thinking Bob Stoops gets run out of town. He's more likely to go on to greener pastures.
His brother Mike, on the other hand, is a different story.
Arizona thought they were getting a hot young coach when they hired Mike Stoops, who had won a national title as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma. What they have gotten instead is one winning season and one bowl appearance.
From the size of Stoops' contract, that's an expensive bowl win. If the Wildcats revert to form this season, looks for Stoops to be seeking employment elsewhere.
2. The ACC will finish with at least two teams in the top 10.
College football can be cyclical, and it's been a down cycle for the ACC. It's been a while since any ACC team has been in contention for the BCS Championship, but I think that is going to change this year.
While a lot of people have been counting the ACC out, the reality is it has been more of these teams beating up on each other than losing to out of conference teams, which makes their records look mediocre. I think this is the year that at least one ACC team starts to flex its muscles.
The ACC has been playing a lot of young players, and if you follow the NFL draft at all, you probably noticed that for the last few years ACC players have been flying off the board early and often. It's obvious the talent is there.
3. USC will beat Cal and Oregon on the road and repeat as champs in the Pac-10.
Say what you want about the Trojans always losing one; it rarely if never happens in the big games. Pete Carroll is a proven big game coach, and he knows how to keep his team loose and ready. It rarely looks like they even feel the pressure or magnitude of the game they are playing in.
USC has lost in conference, but when looking at the games, they seem more likely to lose as 25- to 30-point favorites than as a single-digit favorite. Losses to Oregon State and Stanford were as huge favorites.
When USC goes to Cal and Oregon, the pressure will all be on the home team, as it is the Trojans they are trying to knock off the mountain. While this might not be the best team Carroll has had, it's still better than just about everyone else.
4. Duke, Baylor, and Washington all go to a bowl game.
Let's look at these one at a time.
At Duke, David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils headed in the right direction. While they ended up with another losing season last year, they showed they weren't going to be doormats.
I think this year Duke gets a little better and gets the attitude that they can and should win some ball games. In a day where six wins means you go bowling, Duke has as good of a chance as anyone.
Baylor was one of my favorite teams to watch. I never get sick of hearing Art Briles' life story, and I never get sick of watching Robert Griffin.
The only thing preventing Baylor from going places is they have a Big 12 conference schedule, which is never easy. If they can pull an upset or two, it's going to be a year to remember in Waco.
I think people forget how close Washington was to beating BYU last year. It was one of the more hideous officiating tragedies.
Once Jake Locker went down, the team looked to have lost their heart and soul, and Ty Willingham simply didn't have what it took to rally the troops. They won't have either of these issues this season.
Washington is traditionally one of the better programs that gets top-notch athletes and some of the bigger guys in the trenches. When you have most of the pieces, it just doesn't take much to turn it around.
5. Bryce Beall will be the nation's leading rusher.
So there are 120 teams, which means there are probably more than 500 tailbacks who will carry the ball this season, so that makes the odds on this pick pretty slim. I still like my chances here.
Beall didn't play nearly a full season last year as a true freshman and still managed 1,247 yards on the ground. In fact, Beall had fewer than 100 yards combined in the first three games last season and fewer than 200 after four games.
A Conference USA schedule and a wide-open offense do wonders in the stats department, and it should make last season's Conference USA Freshman of the Year a guy everyone knows about.
6. This season's performance will not quiet those who want Charlie Weis gone.
The only echoes that seem to be awoken in South Bend these days are ones of disappointing season after disappointing season. If you believe in recruiting rankings, it hasn't been because of an inability to attract top-notch talent.
Personally, I think people just give the Irish way too much of a pass and way too much credit before they do anything on the field and give their opponents less than they deserve.
Take Nevada, for example. Nevada is a 14-point underdog in week one. We're talking about a team that has one of the top QBs in America and that goes to a bowl every single year—something the Irish can't say they do.
Yet many consider this an easy game for Notre Dame.
Personally, I don't get it. I think the pistol offense and Colin Kaepernick give them absolute fits, along with a defense that did a decent job of holding a Boise State offense in check last season.
In any event, many people look at most of the games on Notre Dame's schedule and say they are easy. What they fail to realize is that when other teams see the Irish on their schedule, they are also calling it an easy game.
Charlie Weis isn't a very good college football coach. It's really as simple as that. A school like Notre Dame has money and options, and my guess is they are going to use both to get their guy, whether it be Jon Gruden, Brian Kelly, Urban Meyer, or someone else.
7. Michigan Beats Ohio State.
I know it's very early, and we never know what's going to happen over the course of the season, but I think this will be the game that sets the stage for the Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan.
Before you call me crazy, let's look at this one.
The Wolverines are home for this game, and while it hasn't looked all that intimidating as of late, the Big House can be a pretty tough building. While Michigan was just awful last year, Rodriguez's offense takes the right pieces to make it work, and by the tail end of his second full year it should be starting to click.
He's certainly heard the doubters and all of the criticism and knows full well the magnitude of the disaster that was the 2008 season, but I am still a very big believer. If the guy got it done at West Virginia, he should have no problem doing it at Michigan, where recruiting is generally much stronger.
Now before you say West Virginia isn't a Big Ten school and they play an easier schedule, let's look at the body of work. Coach Rod's teams physically beat up and blew out Georgia and Oklahoma in successive years in BCS bowl games, and I would say both of those programs had a lot more to pick and choose from during recruiting.
This has nothing to do with me liking or disliking Ohio State, because trust me on this, I don't like either of these teams.
8. More than half of the teams ranked in the preseason top 25 will finish the season unranked.
I'm not sure this will surprise anyone because it's an annual event, yet people still seem to acknowledge the preseason rankings. I still don't see the point of having preseason rankings.
While some argue it makes it better because it gives fans something to debate, I argue that it actually makes it worse in many areas.
Preseason rankings give teams credit for beating a ranked team, even though when all is said and done that team might not even be good. It also makes it hard for teams to jump over others as the season progresses no matter what happens on the field.
There are very few years where it's cut and dry as to who the two best teams are. It often comes down to who was ranked higher before the season started. It's pretty silly actually, considering the poll overall is never even close to how it ends up.
9. Florida will not win the national title.
There has never been a bigger favorite to win the national title, though history clearly isn't on the side of the Florida Gators. Repeat champions are few and far between, and running the table in a brutal conference is never a given.
While Florida returns a lot and they blew just so many people out last season, I just don't think there is all that much separation in the talent levels across college football that we can say they aren't going to lose. I actually think they lose at least twice.
It may very well be a title year in Gainesville, but I don't think any of the other SEC schools are ready to just hand the Gators the trophy.
10. There will be more bowl game slots than eligible bowl teams.
This is just a matter of time, and it will lend itself to more cream-puff scheduling in the future. There are just so many bowl games that nearly half of all teams go bowling each year.
We've already come to the point where 6-6 teams make a bowl game (to congratulate them on their great season?), so the losing team can finish the year with a losing record. I'm not sure what will happen when there aren't enough teams at even 6-6.
At what point is enough when it comes to bowls? Most of the people consider the games pointless, even though many of the early games in bowl season are some of the more exciting and competitive of all bowl games.
This will be an interesting dilemma and should bring us one step closer to what everyone wants—a playoff.
Visit Mitch anytime at The Sports Chat Place.
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