College Football Predictions: 25 Compelling Story Lines for 2010
With the start of fall practice, it is officially football time in America.
With the official start of football time, it's time to get the preview juices flowing.
Among the many aspects of college football in 2010, are the storylines that will be created, explored, talked about, cursed, and debated over the course of the entire season.
Storylines are limitless. One can take many angles on every aspect of every game between now and January, but you've got to start somewhere, right?
For those wanting a nice place to jump-off, you've come to the right website.
Here is a comprehensive list of the many stories, thoughts, and angles you will hear over the next few days, weeks, and months.
Alabama: Will the Tide Return to the Top?
Winning one national championship is hard enough. Winning two, in a row, is nearly unheard of in today's college football.
Even in past years, winning back-to-back national championships was hard to do. And when it happened, the program that achieved it was a bona fide dynasty.
Alabama has not lost a regular season game since November 2007, when it lost to Auburn. The game before the Iron Bowl that year resulted in a home-loss to Louisiana Monroe.
That's what we refer to as a stunning turnaround for a program that was fledgling at best before Nick Saban took over the reins.
Two SEC title game appearances, with one win, and a national title makes this Alabama team as close to a dynasty as you'll see in this day and age.
Another trip to the BCS National Championship Game and there will be no doubt where this 'Bama team stands.
A New Era for Florida State
It will be odd, to say the least, to see a Florida State team playing football without Papa Bowden roaming the sideline.
It was really sad how it all came crashing down for the living legend in 2009. But there's no doubt that this program received a serious shot in the arm when Jimbo Fisher took over at the end of the season.
Florida State closed out a great recruiting class in February. A new coaching staff and a renewed vision for a once proud program was probably all the 'Noles needed.
Now, if the defense responds and QB Christian Ponder lives up to the expectations lavished upon him, F.S.U. could end up right back in its rightful place among the nation's elite.
Hot Seat: Will Les Miles and Rich Rodriguez Survive a Week One Loss?
There are two coaches who's seats are every bit as hot as the triple-digit temperatures that have been scorching much of our nation lately.
To say Les Miles and Rich Rodridguez are living on borrowed time would be a vast understatement.
LSU begins 2010 barely ranked in the top 25, probably. At this point, even that is not guaranteed.
Michigan will definitely begin the season unranked.
Those are not good circumstances for two very proud, storied programs. The situation for each coach gets even dicier when you consider that both start the season against opponents that should never beat either team, but definitely could.
Michigan welcomes UConn to the Big House. UConn has made great strides in the Big East of late and they are the reigning papajohns.com Bowl champions.
When was the last time we gave a team that played in the papajohns.com Bowl a chance in the Big House?
LSU takes on an even more formidable foe in North Carolina. Agent-gate issues aside, the 'Heels are picked by more than one college football afficionado to win their division in the ACC. A win over LSU in Atlanta is not that hard to imagine.
As unlikely as either scenario might have seemed three or four years ago, the likelihood is better than good that a loss for either team could spell the end for their much maligned head coaches.
Florida Gators: Post-Tebow
Tim Tebow is simply irreplaceable.
There's no way to duplicate the intangibles that Tebow brought to the Gators.
As religious as he is, there's no way Tebow could touch another random quarterback and give him his magical quarterbacking powers.
So, what can the Gators do to make the change from the 'Chosen One' to a normal quarterback, an easy transition?
For starters, it can go back to a conventional offense. It has the playmakers. John Brantley hasn't started a game in college and is easily one of the SEC's top Heisman candidates already.
The only area of transition for the Gators will be in the leadership category. According to Urban Meyer, center Mike Pouncey is ready, willing, and able to take over that role with no problem at all.
For some reason, I believe him.
Lane Kiffin's Uphill Battle at USC Begins
It started out as a guy leaving a great head coaching gig in the nation's best conference for his dream job at one of the top programs of the past decade. That dream job quickly turned into an awful nightmare for Lane Kiffin.
Upon having to pay for sins committed during the previous head man's administration, Lane Kiffin quickly found out that returning the mighty Trojans to Pete Carroll's lofty place in Troy lore was going to be much harder than expected.
Kiffin secured a top rated recruiting class, but that's about all he has going for him in year one.
Due to the many transfers and future scholarships restrictions, depth is going to be a key issue for a while in Los Angeles. There's no doubt this team will have plenty of talent, but the sheer loss of numbers will make the Trojans' NCAA-mandated-bowl-ban two seasons rather forgettable.
Brian Kelly's Notre Dame Debut
Brian Kelly made Central Michigan a winner. Brian Kelly made Cincinnati a Big East champion.
He became a hot coaching commodity at two schools where he had to work with talented, yet lower-tier players.
Now, he's at arguably the most storied program in the history of college football. Top recruits will be lined out the door for Kelly. His first recruiting class, one that was started by his predecessor at Notre Dame proved that.
Kelly nailed down commitment after commitment heading into National Signing Day in February.
When you realize what he did with sub-par talent at the other two schools, the realization of what could happen at Notre Dame with Kelly at the helm really sets in.
Wide Open Heisman Campaign
The Heisman campaigns for many of the nation's elite have already begun in earnest.
From the two quarterbacks who are vying for the No. 1 overall draft pick, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett, to the guy who won it last year, Mark Ingram, and everything in between, this year's race is certainly wide open.
Ingram's teammate and fellow running back, Trent Richardson is ready to make some noise, as well. In addition, John Clay of Wisconsin, Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech, and Pitt's Dion Lewis are all prime picks.
From the quarterback position, FSU's Christian Ponder, Boise State's Kellen Moore, John Brantley of the Florida Gators, and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor could all factor into the conversation at some point.
At wide receiver, Georgia's AJ Green is ready for another breakout season. Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles and Kentucky's Randall Cobb will factor into that conversation, as well.
Which Teams Will Be Out of the BCS Title Picture Before October?
There are so many great games in the season's first month that the BCS might finally be able to make the argument that college football's regular season is better than a playoff.
In Week One, the biggest game with national implications is Boise State vs. Virginia Tech in Washington DC. Boise State is the preseason darling that many are saying will finally break that non-BCS conference glass ceiling and play for all the marbles in January.
Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is readying itself for another solid, consistent season as one of the ACC's best programs and perrenniel top ten power.
In Week Two, Pac 10-Favorite Oregon travels accross the country to play Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. Penn State travels to Alabama. Florida State heads west to play Oklahoma. And in the biggest game of the week, Miami heads to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes.
Week Three's biggest games include Arkansas at Georgia and Iowa at Arizona.
Week Four features SEC grudge matches South Carolina at Auburn and Alabama at Arkansas.
Many teams could bite the dust before October.
Spurrier’s Best South Carolina Team Yet (On Paper), Takes the Field
On paper, Spurrier has never had a more talented Gamecocks team than this 2010 version. On paper, the Gamecocks have their best opportunity yet to get to Atlanta on the first weekend in December. On paper, the sky is the limit for South Carolina.
Spurrier has had decent expectations at Carolina since becoming the ‘Cocks head coach in 2005. He’s never had the caliber of quarterback that he had at Florida. He’s never had the caliber of wide receivers he had at Florida. He’s never had the caliber of offensive line that he had at Florida.
News flash: He still doesn’t have any of that.
Too bad football games are played on grass/turf, not paper.
Mark Herzlich Kicks Cancer, Returns to College Football
It's as great a feel-good story as you will ever hear in sports.
One of the nation's best linebackers, Mark Herzlich of Boston College, had just won the '08 ACC Defensive Player of the Year award when he learned he had Ewing's Sarcoma, a malignant tumor, in early 2009.
Herzlich was the heart and soul of that Eagles defensive unit before turning down a chance to go into the NFL Draft after that '08 season.
After taking out cancer the way he took out opposing offenses in '08, Herzlich is ready to make his triumphant return to the sport that doctor's said he'd never play again.
It is destined to be one of the more heartwarming moments in the history of the game, when Herzlich takes the field in September.
Welcome Back, Mr. Tuberville
He only had to wait a year for his next coaching gig. While it's not as high-profile as Auburn, Texas Tech had plenty to offer the one time heir apparent to Steve Spurrier's "evil genius" title.
It wasn't that long ago that Tuberville was on top of the SEC coaching world. In fact, it was just 2004 when Tubs led Auburn to an SEC title and what should have been a shot at the national title.
Just a note to all the Texas Tech fans who think Tubs will be even remotely close to Mike Leach in coaching philosophy, personality, and/or anything else for that matter, he won't.
If there's an anti-Mike Leach in every sense of the thought, it is Tommy Tuberville.
The way that the Leach era ended, I'm not so sure that's a bad thing.
Nebraska, Colorado Begin Their Big 12 Swansong
When Nebraska and Colorado bolted from the Big 12, the general perception was that the schools had set in motion a domino effect that would change college football as we know it, forever.
Instead, Nebraska's Big 12 defection immediately inflated the Big Ten to SEC-like status. Coupled with Colorado's move to the Pac 10, the fallout was clear—the Big 12 would soon falter.
Of course, when that didn't happen either, thanks to Texas and certain media entities, it appeared the Big 12 would survive, although for how long is anyone's guess.
Now, Nebraska and Colorado, rivals in their own right, will begin their final season as members of the Big 12.
Will they face super-motivated teams just itching to take them to the woodshed? Will they inexplicably have nothing but cold water to shower with in opposing stadiums?
With the talent returning at Nebraska, the remaining Big 12 teams had better bring their lunch if they hope to "make an example" out of the 'Huskers.
Georgia is Finally Able To Put 2009 in the Past
Forgettable. That’s the best word to sum up the ’09 season for Georgia Bulldogs football fans.
It got off on the wrong foot in Stillwater, when Oklahoma State won a close game on some questionable calls. By the time Georgia lost to LSU on yet another horrible call, there was seemingly no way that the ’09 season could end well.
Blowout losses to Tennessee and Florida solidified that fact. The home loss to Kentucky was just the cherry on top if a miserable season in Athens.
The 2010 season can’t get here soon enough for a team with a terrible taste in its mouth. This team has had to endure the non-stop ridicule of its defense, the incredibly overblown hotseat talk about its coach, and the endless questions about its depth, or lack thereof, at quarterback.
Oregon’s Off-Field Issues Take a Backseat, Finally
This is one off-season that cannot come to an end quickly enough for a lot of college football programs. Lately, there's been no shortage of bad news surrounding many elite programs. In college football, it's never a good thing to be in the news in June and July.
Chip Kelly, however, found his team in the news much more often and a lot earlier than the normal summertime swoon that effects so many football programs.
First, LaMichael James was charged with strangulation, fourth degree assault, and physical harassment for an incident involving his girlfriend.
Star quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, was arrested for possession just a month after being a suspect in a stolen laptop case. Teammate Garrett Embry was also implicated in that particular case, as well.
Around the same time linebacker Kiko Alonso was cited for DUI. Wide receiver, Jamare Holland was kicked off the team for violating team rules.
In January, even the kickers were getting into trouble, as Rob Beard and Mike Bowlin were involved in a large off-campus brawl.
Needless to say, losing Jeremiah Masoli hurts, but apparently the Pac 10 media still believe the Ducks will win the conference despite the off-field issues.
Must be great to be a Duck.
Joe Paterno Embarks on His 45th Season as Penn State Head Coach
JoePa is just six wins away from 400—a milestone that he should reach before November.
Whether that number is the reason he's still coaching or not, it's a remarkable statistic in this day and age of major college football.
In an era when an icon like Bobby Bowden can be unceremoniously shown the door, Paterno has defied the odds and is still fielding good teams at State College.
Penn State may not win 10 games in 2010, because of youth and experience at key positions, but eight to nine wins should be attainable if for no other reason than the wisdom and knowledge that a 45th year head coach can bring to a bunch of high school/college kids.
Tennessee Begins a New Era... Again
It's deja vu all over again in Knoxville, TN. If it seems like Tennessee was just in this predicament, they were.
Derek Dooley stepped in at a time when the Tennessee program was reeling from having lost their second head coach in 12 months.
Well, "lost" is a relatively tame term for being completely blindsided and stabbed in the back by a coach who had done nothing but drag the program's name and prestige through the mud for 14 months.
Thankfully, the son of legendary Georgia coach, Vince Dooley, was a lot closer to Kiffin's predecessor than was Lane Kiffin.
Dooley has slowly, but surely, begun building back confidence among his players. He has also started re-building the team's off-field image with his Vol4Life program. Given the recent spate of arrests, Dooley clearly has a tough road to climb in that area.
Another tough road will be on the field in 2010. The Vols simply do not have anywhere near the numbers or the depth to compete in the SEC week-in, week-out. Sure, the Vols will win some games in the next two years, but anything better than 7-5 would be a surprise before 2012.
Tennessee fans better hope that the Derek Dooley Era is still going then.
Can Miami Become?
The 'Canes have enough talent to compete for the ACC title in 2010. Quarterback Jacory Harris is as good as Miami has had in the last decade.
Can Miami regain that swagger that made it such a juggernaut in the 80's, early 90's and early 00's? If this team can go in to Columbus and come out with a win, it will be well on its way to doing just that.
If it can go on to find success against ACC foes, expect to see Miami right back where it was when Willis McGahee, Sean Taylor, and Andre Johnson roamed South Beach.
Wisconsin, Iowa Begin Quest to Unseat Ohio State in Big Ten
Iowa returns a lot of talent from its Orange Bowl winning team. The Hawkeyes could be even better on defense than they were last season.
If you watched much of Iowa football, however, you would realize that defense was not this team's problem.
Through their struggles on the offensive side of the ball, this team still found a way to win. The 2010 schedule is not easy, by any means. But getting Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State at home surely helps.
An early season road test at Arizona and a matchup at still-rebuilding Michigan are the toughest road games the Hawkeyes will play.
Wisconsin has a ton of experience coming back as well. Wisconsin, too, gets Ohio State at home. Michigan State, Iowa, and Michigan present the only real challenge to the Badgers on the road.
With Ohio State having to go through both of their closest competitors home stadiums to get to Pasadena, it's hard not to like one of those two 'closest competitors' to win the Big Ten.
Oregon State Has a Good Shot to Win the Pac 10 in 2010?
In the Pac 10 there's Oregon and a bunch of other teams in 2010.
Oregon, despite suspensions and player expulsions, is the overwhelming favorite in the conference.
California never lives up to any kind of hype. Stanford lost its most productive player from last season. USC has been hit by the NCAA. UCLA is still not quite ready to compete for the conference title. Arizona has a great quarterback, but the Wildcats are hit or miss. Washington has one of the nation's best quarterbacks, but what else?
Arizona State is still struggling mightily. Washington State is, well, they're Washington State.
That leaves Oregon State. The Beavers are nothing if not consistent.
This we know about Mike Riley's team, you can pencil them in for eight wins no matter what. They were five points away from playing in the Rose Bowl last season. They've beat USC two of the last four times they played the Trojans. They lost three Pac 10 games last season, by a combined 16 points.
The Beavers return 15 starters from last year's team, and an even though the out of conference schedule gets much tougher (TCU, Boise State), they play California, USC, and Oregon at home.
Road games at Arizona, Washington, and Stanford should be tough, but the talent of an all upperclassman offensive line and talented skill players like the Rodgers brothers will make Oregon State an incredibly formidable foe in 2010.
TCU Ready To Prove 2010’s Success Was No Fluke
If I told you that the wrong non-BCS conference team is receiving all the hype, what would you say?
Well, that's exactly what I'm saying. TCU will have a better season than Boise State.
Yes, Boise State defeated TCU, head-to-head, in the Fiesta Bowl. Yes, Boise State has a plethora of talent returning from that team.
TCU, however, has an easier schedule, almost as much experience returning and the lack of crazy-high expectations.
TCU should sneak up on no one these days, considering their recent success. But that's just the case. The reason Boise State has thrived for much of the last decade is the element of surprise, which it no longer has.
If TCU can get past Oregon State on September 4, an undefeated season is not only possible, but likely.
Kentucky: Joker Phillips Starts Building on Rich Brooks’ Success
These new coaches and their ideas...
Of all the new ideas and methods, Kentucky head coach, Joker Phillips, may have the best of the bunch.
Coach Phillips has a vision to take Kentucky to the next level. His is a vision that begins off the football field, away from the cheering masses. It starts in the classroom. What a novel idea for a bunch of student-athletes.
He hasn't been in the SEC long enough to become jaded yet. He doesn't know that SEC Football is all about winning or else, yet.
And that's just fine with him.
Phillips will attempt to build on the modest success of Rich Brooks' tenure, that saw the Wildcats go to four straight bowl games, a virtual impossibility in for much of Kentucky football's recent history.
Joker expects to take Kentucky to that next step—a step that includes defeating Tennessee for the first time in 26 years. With a visionary calling the shots, that might not be too far fetched an idea.
Ohio State, Terrelle Pryor Ready To Hush the Naysayer’s
If there's anything Jim Tressel has gained over the years, it's detractors.
They say he's too conservative. Some say they don't like his demeanor.
Terrelle Pryor has faced his share of criticism, as well. He hasn't lived up to expectations. He hasn't won anything but a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl. He should have three BCS titles by now.
Stupid, unrealistic expectations have been the downfall of many coaches and players during the internet age.
That sort of thing will not happen in Columbus, however. Big Ten Championships and Rose Bowl's are plenty for a proud program like Ohio State to stay in the limelight.
For some, it may take a national title for Pryor and Tressel to finally get the respect they deserve. And while that may be a little more difficult in 2010 because of their schedule, there's plenty that Ohio State's highly touted quarterback can do to keep the negativity from reaching fever pitch.
Texas Longhorns Usher in the Garrett Gilbert Era
Is there a better name for a Texas quarterback than Colt?
There have been better quarterbacks than Colt McCoy at Texas, though. Granted, there are not very many, but Vince Young is among the handful.
Still, when McCoy went out against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, Texas had no choice but to play a redshirt freshman in his place.
Enter Garrett Gilbert.
The young quarterback held his own, especially when you consider the circumstances in which he found himself shortly after entering the game.
One could argue that, had it not been for the blindside hit that caused the fumble (pictured), Texas might have mounted a late comeback in that game against Alabama.
In 2010, Gilbert won't have to do everything.
Texas returns seven starters from an excellent '09 defense. The 2010 version could be the best of the Big 12. The young skill players will be protected by a veteran offensive line as well.
That October 2 matchup against Oklahoma looks more and more appetizing as the days go by, doesn't it.
An Urban Meyer Disciple, Charlie Strong, Takes Over at Louisville
After leading some of the greatest Florida defenses ever, Charlie Strong has finally gotten the chance to prove himself as a head coach. It was a long time coming for the genius defensive coordinator.
In his few months on the job, Strong has already begun to rid the program of the sour taste that Steve Kragthorpe left in the collective mouths of the Louisville faithful.
According to Louisville blogger, Mark Ennis of The Collision Course, Strong has brought an "unmistakable increase in intensity."
As someone who has witnessed the program go from Big East power to cellar dweller in less than a decade, Ennis said, "There will never be any accusation that Charlie's teams don't practice hard. "
A player even remarked, "I can't believe we thought we were working hard last year."
Fan excitement surrounding the program is cautiously optimistic. An expansion of 15,000 seats to increase capacity to over 50,000 has been a hit and is already near sellout levels.
It wasn't that long ago that Louisville was playing the Orange Bowl. 2007, as a matter of fact. If Strong's first few months on the job are any indication, the Cardinals could be back just as quickly.
By the way, can anyone remember the last Florida defensive coordinator that left to became a head coach at a once proud institution?
Oklahoma Ready to Win its First BCS National Title Since 2000?
Speaking of Bob Stoops, the former national champion coach has his Sooners primed for a return to college football greatness in 2010.
QB Landry Jones filled in admirably for the injured Sam Bradford last season and the sophomore is ready to build upon his freshman success. He won't be alone, either. Senior RB DeMarco Murray is one of the best backs in the Big 12. Between Ryan Broyles and DeJuan Miller, the Sooners could have one of the best wide receiver units in the nation, as well.
On defense, Stoops' specialty, only five starters return from last year's vaunted crew that gave up the least amount of yards per game since '03. But with Senior anchors, Jeremy Beal and Adrian Taylor on the line, Travis Lewis at linebacker, and Quinton Carter in the secondary, don't expect the newcomers not to know everything there is to know, as soon as possible.
Oklahoma has been back to the national title game a few times since the 2000 Orange Bowl. Each time it has lost.
In 2010, the Sooners could erase all of that by winning it all in January.