The idea that Boise State--a non-qualifying school--can and will compete for a spot in this year's BCS National Championship Game is not as crazy as it may have sounded, oh say, five years ago.
Afterall, they are the people’s choice.
Infact,most fans would do cart-wheels to see Boise State in this year's BCS title game. Fans certainly would recall the Broncos electrifying performance, as they whipped heavily-favored Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
It was the greatest college football game ever played.
Now think if this David vs. Goliath scenario played out in the BCS Championship Game. It would change college football as we know it, maybe even bring about a playoff?
With fall camps opening around the country and preseason polls revealing college football’s elite, fans are starting to lick their chops at the possibilities of the 2010 season.
It's clear that Boise State is the vogue pick this season, and here’s why: If the Broncos can capture lighting in a bottle for two very important non-conference games, they could be in the title game.
Unlike past seasons, the pundits believe in Boise State, mainly because of its past accomplishments. Forget the fact that they still play on that whacky "smurf turf" and have one of the smallest venues (33,000) in Division I football--hardly a fitting place for college football's next national champion.
But regardless of the school's tiny stadium and underdog status, the experts agree that the Broncos' chance of grabbing a motherload of prestige and its first ever BCS Championship has never been better than right now.
With NFL quarterback Kellen Moore at the helm and 21 returning starters, Chris Petersen's team will have no problem running the table in the Western Athletic Conference. That's why the school’s non-conference schedule is the key to a title run.
Getting past a good Virginia Tech (Sept. 6) team will offer a stern test, and then facing Oregon State at home on the blue turf is no gimme. However, If Boise State can manage to win both of these games— the table will be set for a magical run.
And who's the likely opponent? The Ohio State Buckeyes of course.
Ohio State is no stranger to the title game and it’s fresh off a surgical performance in last year’s Rose Bowl. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor dominated the Ducks defense and emerged as an early favorite to win the 2010 Heisman Trophy. Now, the Buckeyes seem poised to take that next step.
In 2009, Pryor led the Buckeyes in rushing (709) and passing (1828) yardage but he doesn't have to play like Vince Young for Jim Tressel's team to be a factor in the national title race.
Ohio State will face three significant roads blocks in 2010.
Starting with its showdown against nationally ranked Miami on Sept. 11. Obviously the Buckeyes need a win against the Canes to solidify their preseason ranking and add a little swagger to team that has faltered in this situation.
A loss would likely allow Alabama, Nebraska, Texas, Florida and others to squeeze the Buckeyes out of a BCS title game.
They'll need road wins at Wisconsin on Oct. 16 and at Iowa November 20 to have a realistic chance at securing its first undefeated season in eight years. If that happens, then Ohio State will be headed to the championship game.
Oh, and that cry you just heard, was Nick Saban screaming Noooooooo!!! From some undisclosed film room in Tuscaloosa.
It’s impossible to overlook Alabama, Florida and LSU when it comes to a discussion regarding the national championship. The SEC has owned this game over the years—producing the BCS National Champion the last four seasons.
Still, the No. 1 college football conference in America has a way beating up on each other. With that said, it's hard to see either Florida or Alabama coming out of this ultra-competitive conference unscathed.
We know Bama quarterback Greg McElroy and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram are back, but I'm going against the chalk, simply because the SEC is the toughest week-to-week conference in the country.
And it’s hard rule out Texas and Nebraska. Both finished strong in 2009 (despite Texas' loss to 'Bama) and both have a stockpile of talent this season. The major concern for Mack Brown is dealing with the loss of Colt McCoy and his senior leadership. Nebraska must test its Blackshirt defense without the dominating force of Ndamukong Suh.
Other storylines to watch for this season include the reclamation projects going on at Florida Sate and Michigan.
Everyone expects the Noles to improve under new coach Jimbo Fisher. Quarterback Christian Ponder looks ready to direct one of the top offenses in the country but can the FSU defense stop anybody?
As for Michigan and third-year coach Rich Rodriguez, it's time to either sink or swim with the spread offense. If the Maze and Blue can't put together eight or nine wins this year, then Rodriguez will be toast in Ann Arbor.
Out West, Oregon has enough talent to win the Pac-10—even without starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was kicked off the Ducks squad during the offseason. Nate Costa takes over the QB controls and LaMichael James could be the best running back in the conference. Lane Kiffin has a top-5 squad at USC but the Trojans are serving NCAA sanctions and may not be motivated this year.
Highly ranked TCU is the media's pick to beat out Utah and BYU in the Mountain West Conference. However, the bigger story is Pac-10 bound Utah. Kyle Whittingham's team is playing its last season in the MWC and the "Holy War" with BYU could be in jeopardy. Scheduling problems between both schools have this storied rivalry in limbo.
In the end, I'm sticking by my guns. Boise State and Ohio State will play in the national title game and I’ll happily watch from week-to-week as the dominoes fall my way.
To start the season off right, here's the first edition of my top-25 preseason poll. See exactly where your team landed and let me know if I totally whiffed on any of the picks.
Picked to finish third in the Pac-10 Conference, Mike Riley's Oregon State Beavers return a number of starters, including elusive running back Jacquizz Rodgers. With wide receiver James Rodgers and senior tight end Brady Camp back, the offense should thrive.
However, new starting QB Ryan Katz must perform. The red shirt sophomore takes over as the Beavers starting quarterback, after being the understudy to Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield. The 6-foot-1 Katz saw action in four games in 2009, including the Las Vegas Bowl vs BYU, where he threw for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Oregon State will be led by defensive tackle Stephen Paea, linebacker Dwight Roberson, and cornerback James Dockery. The Beavers finished 8-5 in 2009 and lost at Oregon with a Rose Bowl berth on the line.
As of late July not even Joe Paterno was certain who would be barking out the signals for Penn State when they host Youngstown State and then travel to Tuscaloosa for a Sept. 11 showdown with BCS National Champion Alabama.
With 2009 starting quarterback Daryll Clark gone but not forgotten. The QB race at State College is wide-open and apparently going down to the wire.
Sophomore Kevin Newsome--who has more game experience--might have a slight edge over redshirt sophomore Matt McGlorin. However, according to reports, both QB's will take equal snaps when camp begins August 9.
Duplicating the team's 11-2 record and No. 9 ranking from last season won't be easy,especially with the loss of defensive end Jared Odrick and linebacker Sean Lee.
The team will look to pre-season All-Americans Evan Royster and guard Stefen Wisnieski to led the way. The team does return 13 starters from a season ago, but with trips to Alabama, Iowa and Ohio State, it may be an up-and-down season in Happy Valley.
The Tigers must find ways to overcome the loss of two giant playmakers in All-American running back C.J. Spiller and super-fast flanker/punt returner Jacoby Ford. These key losses can't be replaced easily.
Backups Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper will have to step into the spot light and replace Spiller's production in the backfield. Meanwhile sophomore quarterback Kyle Parker was solid in 2009. He's coming off a season in which he threw 20 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions.
Defensively, Clemson will look to safety DeAndre McDaniel and run-stuffing tackle, Jarvis Johnson to solidify the Tigers defense. With the rest of the ACC looking stout, Clemson must play nasty defense and run the ball to win.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik didn't exactly set the world on fire in his first season prowling the sidelines at Joradn-Hare Stadium. However, he did guide the Tigers to an 8-5 record and oversaw an offense that averaged 33.3 points per game.
The 6-foot-6 and 247 pound Newton, has a rifle for an arm and showed good footwork during spring practice.
Now comes the task of overhauling the defense. Last season the Tiger's defense was almost non-existent. Auburn allowed 374 yards per game and nearly 28 points per contest, that ranks dead last in the SEC.
If Chizik can get some improvement from the defense, the offense can score with anybody. Expect Auburn to contend in the SEC West but Alabama and LSU are still the teams to beat.
Having six players drafted into the NFL this past April speaks volumes about the quality and depth built up by Utah's football program. On the flip side, now try replacing that type of talent on a yearly basis.
That's merely one of the questions facing coach Kyle Whittingham and his Utes in 2010. Whittingham certainly doesn''t get the five star recruits but he and his coaches find ways to get the best athletes for their system. This season shouldn't be any different.
Even though the media voted TCU as the favorite to win the Mountain West Conference, Utah isn't feeling bad about its situation.
Starting quarterback Jordan Wynn returns, along with sixth-year senior running back Matt Asiata. The Hunter High product blew out his knee vs Louisville in 2009 and was granted a medical exemption for one more season.
Senior running back Eddie Wide is also expected to make a big impact with the Utes offense. He took over for Asiata at mid-season and still became a 1,000 yard rusher. Wide could be a sleeper choice to be MWC Offensive Player of the Year.
Underated defensive linemen Derrick Shelby and Silver Siliga will terrorize quarterbacks and should control the run as well. In the secondary, junior Brandon Burton needs help from an inexperienced group of pass defenders which could be the Utes biggest weakness in 2010.
However, another question mark is Utah's a lack of depth at linebacker. Nai Fotu was lost earlier in the year with a knee injury, without Fotu both the defensive line and linebackers are depleated.
The good news is Utah hosts both BYU and TCU at Rice-Eccles Stadium, which clearly gives the Utes a chance to win the conference.
The Huskies return 16 starters and plenty of optimisum in 2010. Experts say running back Jordan Todman is destined for a huge season. The junior ran for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and is the focus of the Huskies offense again.
Not only does Todman have a nose for the endzone, he also possess break away speed. Quarterback Zach Frazer isn't the second coming of Tom Brady--not by a longshot. In 2009, he threw for just over 1,400 yards and connected on only 10 touchdowns.
If Randy Esdall's team is going to win the Big East they'll have to get it done with a physical running game and a stingy defense.
LSU would love to avoid those dreaded 10-6 losses in 2010. Climbing out of the shadow of Alabama is also high on Les Miles list of things to do.
A couple things need to go right this season for that to be a possibility. First, is the continued development of junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson. As a sophomore, Jefferson threw 17 touchdowns and had only seven interceptions.
That just wasn't good enough. The offense was enemic and just couldn't punch it into the endzone.
Part of the reason the offense stunk, was the revolving door of running backs. Stevan Ridley, Michael Ford and Richard Murphy all missed games due to injury. With no ground attack, there was too much pressure on a 'green" quarteback, in turn, the offense suffered greatly.
The bottom line is this: If the offense comes around, the Tigers will be a contender in the SEC West.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino believes his team is going to go "Hog-Wild" on offense this season. Quarterback Ryan Mallett seemsto be more than ready to throw up all kinds of gaudy numbers and bring real excitment back to Razorback football.
While a high-octane offense seems to be a certainty, a swiss cheese defense could spoil all the fun. Mallett torched defenses last season throwing for over 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also set or tied 16 Arkansas records.
The Razorsback offense thrived with Mallett at the controls as the team averaged 36 points per game (No. 1 in SEC) but the defense gave up 401 yards per game, which was last in the league.
Maybe not since Tony Dorsett can the Pitt Panthers claim a legitmate Heisman Trophy candidate at tailback. Sophomore Dion Lewis is the main man in the Panthers offense and one of the reasons Pittsburgh could wind up in a BCS bowl game.
As a freshman, Lewis finished third in the nation in rushing and only seems to have gotten stronger in 2010--not that he needed to be, Lewis proved he was a gamer when he ran the ball 47 times vs Cincinnati last season.
Coach Dave Wannstedt knows Lewis can a huge part of the Panthers offense but they have other weapons, including Biletnikoff Award candidate Jonathan Baldwin.
Still, the team is breaking in a new quarterback, which could cost Pitt some wins. Wannstedt's team lost three games in the waning moments last season and can't afford a repeat of those bitter defeats in 2010.
In September, they blew a 14-point lead and lost 38-31 to NC State. West Virginia knocked in a late field goal to beat Pitt 19-16; and then Cincinnati scored a late touchdown with :33 seconds remaining to defeat the Panthers 45-44 at Heinz Field.
North Carolina is a team that's packed with future pros and elite college players. However, none are more impressive than defensive end Robert Quinn. He's the best defensive player on a team loaded with NFL talent.
Carolina can only get better if they stop bumbling around with lesser opponents. Costly defeats in '09 to Virginia, NC State and Georgia Tech prevented this team from taking the next step. We'll see if the Tar Heels have learned that lesson in 2010.
A team that won 10 games last season could be even better in 2010. The Badgers were effective through the air and on the ground. Last season Wisconsin was one of six teams in the country to average 200 yards rushing and passing.
Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay rushed for over 1,500 yards and led the team in touchdowns with 18. Expect more of the same from the Badgers ground game. Defensively, Wisconsin isn't overly athletic but they play very disciplined football and are tough to beat at home.
Georgia's most dynamic player is junior wide receiver A.J. Green. Despite being slowed by a number minor injuries over his brief career, Green remains the biggest game-changer in a Bulldogs uniform.
in 2009, Green caught six touchdowns and led the team with 808 yards in receptions, despite rib and shoulder injuries. Speculation about Green bolting to the NFL is running pretty high in Athens. So,expect the wide receiver to leave the scouts with something spectacular this season.
Georgia also returns four starters on the offensive line and has outstanding depth at running back.
Iowa will be in the hunt for the Big Ten championship but it'll have to take a back seat to Ohio State in the preseason rankings.
Hawkeyes quarteback Ricky Stanzi's injured ankle prevented Iowa from sealing the deal on a conference championship last season, but once again, the Hawkeyes are looking to contend.
Iowa will need its star QB completely healthy to have a chance to upset the Buckeyes and possibly make a run for another BCS bowl appearance.
Defensive monster Adrian Clayborn is virtually impossible to block and one of the premire ends in college football. It's hard to see Iowa improving on its 11-2 mark from a year ago but if they do--they'll be a darkhorse for the national title game.
The Horned Frogs lost star defensive end Jerry Hughes to the NFL but they return 16 starters from team that went 12-1 and represented the non-BCS Mountain West Conference in the Fiesta Bowl.
The media predicts TCU will win the conference again, but all bets are off when it comes to predicting whether or not TCU can go undefeated in the regular season.
Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton is easily the best quarterback in the MWC but TCU has had trouble winning at Utah.
The Horned Frogs are just 2-5 against the Utes in Salt Lake City. The two teams will meet at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 6 with a possible conference title at stake.
In 2008, Utah used a last minute drive to defeat TCU and eventually win the conference championship.
Is there enough talent in Tallahasse to get the Noles into a BCS game?
Of course there is. New coach Jimbo Fisher took over for legendary coach Bobby Bowden and seems to have the new regime clicking on all cylinders.
Thanks to the on-target arm of quarterback Christian Ponder and more offensive weapons to go around, FSU's offense should be vastly improved.
The sleeper pick of 2010.
Watch out for the Miami Hurricanes and quarterback Jacory Harris. The Canes signal caller has plenty of weapons to work with in 2010. His receivers are fast and the backfield is loaded with talent.
Lighting quick receiver Lenard Hankerson is the big-play man for the Canes. He caught 45 balls and hit pay-dirt six times. We should also expect Harris to make improvements in his own game. Even though Harris threw 24 touchdowns in '09, he also tossed 17 picks-- most by an ACC quarterback.
With an old-school defense being brewed up by Randy Shannon and his coaches. The team will play with a mean-streak and nastyness. These Canes could start to remind us of those great Hurricanes teams of the not so distant past.
A dangerous Virginia Tech team has all the earmarks of a BCS contender--or at least it appears that way. We'll know a lot more after the Hokies open the season against Boise State on Sept. 6.
If Frank Beamers team pulls off the upset, then V-Tech could be for real. If not, then it's only one game and the Hokies will rebound. They always do.
Led by third-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Ryan Williams, the Hokies are set offensively. Taylor made leaps and bounds last season as he increased his touchdowns from two to 13. Williams emerged as a star runner, as he compiled 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Taylor also has a pair of speedy wideouts to throw to--both Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale find ways to get open and have sure hands when the ball comes their way.
Defensively, the Hokies play a no-name brand of smash-mouth defense. No real stars but they play well as a unit. If tVirginia Tech gets out of the gate early, the Hokies could challenge for a BCS bid.
The loss of starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Jeremiah Masoli took the Ducks and the rest of the country by surprise. Now, the defending Pac-10 champions will try and fill the void with Nate Costa.
Don't underestimate Costa, he was going to lead the team in 2008 but a knee injury sent him to the bench. With plenty of weapons available, Costa doesn't have to do it all.
Starting with lighting-quick running back LaMichael James and junior college transfer Tyrece Gains, the Ducks backfield appears to be solid. Couple that with the return of all five starters on the O-Line and coach Chip Kelly seems to have a contender on his hands.
On the defensive side of the ball, things aren't as rosey but defensive end Kenny Rowe returns with his 11.5 sacks from 2009. We could see another version of "Gang Green" but there's a lot of work to be done before anyone in Eugene can claim that the Ducks are Rose Bowl bound again.
The Longhorns aren't as deep as last year's BCS title contending team. Obviously, Mack Brown has some big holes to fill in 2010.
Starting with the exit of Colt McCoy, safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Lamarr Houston, linebacker Sergio Kendle and receiver Jordan Shipley--it's clear that some major rebuilding has to be done before Texas can really say its back.
The good news is sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert may have a stronger arm than McCoy and is a tireless worker. He'll own the position and make the transition seemless.
The bad news is it's hard to replace the kind of talent that left. Especially when you're taking about Houston and Thomas, they were the best players at their respective position by a long way.
Defensive end Sam Acho (10 sacks) and tackle Kheeston Randall will anchor the Longhorns defensive line, while cornerback Aaron Williams romes the secondary. Texas' defense will be stout but the offense may take a while to find it's stride.
No Tim Tebow? No problem...
Or at least that's what Urban Meyer would like Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee to think.
There could be a few bumps in the road, especially knowing Meyer's propencity for perfection at the quarterback position.
Gators new QB John Brantley is known as a great pure passer. He'll take over for a college football legend (Tim Tebow) and try to master Meyer's spread offense--all at the same time. Brantley should have success, but it's too early to tell if he'll be a star. Remember, Alex Smith looked good in Meyer's system too.
That's going to be the the biggest question with Florida for the first month of the season. Maybe even longer...who knows?
What the Gators do have is plenty of speed. Featured runners Emmanuel Moody and Jeffs Demps will take the bulk of the carries should allow Brantley to grow into his position. Throw in playmaker Deonte Thompson as the the deep threat, and you've got the makings of a SEC East contender.
The offensive line is anchored by All-SEC center Mike Pouncey and the defense is a talented group, despite the loss of linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Joe Haden.
Losing to BYU in the season opener at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium must have been a shock to the ever-confident Sooners, then to lose Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford with a shoulder injury was devastating.
It started a downward spiral in 2009, that ended with 8-5 record and left a real bad taste in the mouth of Sooner Nation.
Sophomore quarterback Landry Jones performed well as Bradford's replacement, throwing 26 touchdowns in 10 games. He should pick up where he left off in 2010.
All-purpose back DeMarco Murray rushed for 705 yards and hit pay-dirt eight times in 2009. Murray is also a valuble receiver out of the backfield and a big-play threat as a punt returner. He could be the key to Oklahoma's success this season.
Questions still remain about the replacments for defensive stud Gerald McCoy and tackle Trent Williams, otherwise it's business as usual for Bob Stoops & Co.
Oklahoma has made 11 consecutive bowl apperances under Stoops, and that's likely going to 12 after this season, but will it be an appearance in the Sun Bowl or the BCS Championship Game?
Bo Pelini got the Huskers back to respectability in 2009 with a Holiday Bowl victory. Can he take his Huskers back to the national spotlight of the BCS Championship Game?
Tom Osborne's Huskers of the mid-90's will always be the measuring stick at Nebraska and that's unfortunate, because those teams were simply unbeatable.
Regardless, Pelini only has one thing to worry this season finish the Big-12 Conference strong before they head to the Big Ten. Secondly, everybody in Lincoln and around the country wants to see how this team will perform without the dominant force of All-American Ndamukong Suh.
No doubt, Nebraska will still have a very good defense in 2010. Jared Crick is the replacement for Mr. Suh and the Huskers will continue to play off the mystique the rebuilt Blackshirts. A defense that held opponents to a measly 10 points per game last season.
With most of that group returning, Poline's defensive should continue to be the strength of the Cornhuskers this season.
Crick is a different player than Suh, but he's almost as hard to block. With plenty of defensive experience around the 6-foot-6, 285 pound junior; Crick doesn't have to do it all for the defense to win.
The offense will be led by signal-caller Zach Lee, and 1,000 yard rusher Roy Helu Jr. Expect a grind it out ground-attack with an occassional pass sprinkled in to keep the defense honest.
Nebraska should make contend for the Big 12 Championship and even a national title if the Huskers keep their momentum from last season.
Can the Broncos live up to all preseason hype bestowed upon them?
That's the question Boise State must answer right away, and they'll get that chance, Sept. 6 in the season opener vs Virginia Tech.
The reason this team is so highly touted in 2010, is because of its great balance. Not only do the Broncos have an All-American candidate in quarterback Kellen Moore, the rest of the offense is full of playmakers and the defense returns in top form.
With 21 returning starters, Boise State has the skill, experience, and confidence to play with anyone. Moore is coming off a spectacular '09 season, that saw him throw 39 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
That's flat out amazing.
Receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis will be a handful for defenses. They can go get the deep-ball or break open field tackles from any position on the field.
John Avery is 1,000 yard rusher with great escapability and Doug Martin, a 200-pound bowling ball, scored 15 touchdowns last season. This makes Boise State one of the most balanced offenses in the country.
But the glue to the Broncos' dream season is their defense.
Gone is outstanding cornerback Kyle Wilson, but the rest of the starters are back. They absolutly mugged a great TCU in the Fiesta Bowl and they should continue this trend in September and beyond.
I know we haven't played a down of college football this season, but shouldn't we just give Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor the Heisman Trophy--it would save everyone the trouble of waiting until December.
On second thought, I think we want to see how Pryor and his No. 2 ranked Buckeyes perform against the likes of Miami, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa. There's little doubt that Ohio State will have to run the table or come darn close, if it wants to play for a national championship this season.
With the convoluted BCS rankings system the way it is-- the Buckeyes can't take any chances, they need to go undefeated. We'll see controversial polls, angry fans, and bitter coaches sounding off on the system.
...In otherwords, just another ho-hum college football season.
However, the Buckeyes can't get caught up in that, because much is expected of this team. Pryor must have a big season in Columbus, if the Buckeyes are to win the Big Ten conference for a sixth consecutive season and reach the BCS Championship Game in January.
Running backs Brandon Saine and Dan Herron can move the chains on their own and wide receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher are dangerous weapons.
In the trenches, Cameron Heyward anchors a rock solid defense, while all- conference linebackers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle can play both the pass and run effectively.
Ohio State went 14-0 on its way to a national championship eight years ago, will they return to the desert for an encore performance?
Has the Crimson Tide got another championship run left in them? They might, but don't wouldn't count on it. Quarterback Greg McElroy and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram are back, but the offense isn't the problem.
It's the hits Alabama took on defense that could spell doom for Nick Saban's team. Butkas Award winner and team leader Rolando McClain will be severly missed at the linebacker position. Mammoth NT Terrence Cody is also gone, along with defensive back and kick returner Javier Arenas.
On the plus side is McElroy, a leader and quarterback who doesn't know how to lose. He's14-0 as starter for the Tide and has lost a game since he was in the eighth grade.
Saban is a master motivator. He's going to rally his team around the fact that some college experts are doubting Alabama's metal and grit. He'll make no excuses about the loss of All-American players and the toughness of the SEC.
The only thing is, that last part is true.
Somewhere along the line, a conference opponent will knock Bama off, or maybe the Tide will over look an opponent. Perhaps stubbing a toe at Arkansas on Sept. 25 or maybe even blowing a home game to Florida.