2010 College Football Predictions: Who Will Win Each Conference And Why
The perilous world of prognostication carries with it a certain reality that cannot be delayed or denied.
The season will end in the first week of January and the results of the year will likely make shambles of even the finest minds on the subject of who will win and why.
Nowhere will there be more hand wringing and shattered dreams than by those who simply believe nothing will change from one year to the next or picking the favorites to succeed is the only way to go.
Contained in the following pages is a visit through the 11 major conferences and assorted Independent schools.
Get out your pitchforks and torches, we are coming to set the record straight.
Atlantic Coast Conference
The 2010 season of the ACC should feature a return to traditional powers controlling the upper part of the standings.
Florida State, Miami, and Boston College are head and shoulders above a curious mix of middle of the road teams who will battle for any number of the conference bowl tie-in selections.
Defending Champion Georgia Tech leads in a three way race for fourth place among the predictable offense of Clemson and the usual failure to launch with talent at Virginia Tech. These are the remaining contenders for a bowl birth as each should achieve at least six wins.
Duke, under fine coach David Cutcliffe (a former G.A. under Bear Bryant in Tuscaloosa), is on the way back to respectability while Wake Forest and N.C. State continue to slide back under the far too conservative attacks of Jim Grobe and Tom O'Brien.
Maryland, UNC, and Virginia bring up the bottom of the conference.
UNC suffers under dreadful coaching, lack of focus and effort, along with constant NCAA investigations into one sport or the other at the school. The flamboyant "slick willie" Butch Davis is a hardly impressive 16-18 against Division 1 FBS opponents during his three seasons as coach in Chapel Hill.
The uniformed are susceptible to the overblown reputation of Davis, perhaps because he looks like a coach, but after another season of such disappointment even his backers at UNC will realize why Davis was last seen on his previous job in Cleveland being ridden out of town on a rail.
One could expect better from Maryland as longtime Coach Ralph Friedgen has at least won a conference championship as a head coach but, his style seems to be grinding into predictability and the Terrapins lack depth.
But, the great Turtle is adamant, "we're gonna win this year and if we don't it will not be from a lack of effort." If the large man in charge gets the line play he wishes, the Terps could show up in the Eagle Bank Bowl.
Things are so bad at Virginia the Cavaliers are thinking of forcing the band to raise their own money for traveling to away games.
Look for a return to the dynasty of the SEC in 2010.
After a season of aberration, the Florida Gators will be the hunter. By season's end, woe be unto any team who finds themselves in the way of the dominant SEC team of the 21st century.
The mighty Gators are 26-2 with a BCS Championship over the past two seasons and no one in the SEC can top that achievement.
Urban Meyer's ability to build a team during the year is the best in the business. Perhaps the best of all-time.
Whispers out of Gainesville indicate if Meyer had not suffered from a variety of late season health problems the Gators would be headed for their 3rd straight BCS championship this year.
Louisiana State may beg to differ with the description of Florida as the dynasty of the SEC in the past decade. After all, they point out, LSU has just as many BCS Titles (2) as Florida.
LSU has the talent and size to challenge the Gators but the schedule in the SEC West favors Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost so many starters and so much talent if they can get back to the SEC Title game they should throw a party.Some Alabama fan(atic?)s have opined it doesn't matter to them how much talent Alabama loses on defense or offense they will win every game.The Crimson Tide will have to prove that to everyone else.
It is true LSU and Alabama have coaches who have won the BCS Championship, as well as the headman at Florida, so the season could turn on which school has the least number of injuries to key players in determining who meets the Gators for the SEC title.
But it is the fast-improving Auburn Tigers who are causing all of the talk around SEC country this summer. While coach Gene Chizik settles on one of several viable options at quarterback, the much deeper and more experienced lines look to put the cry "War Eagle" into a New Year's Day Bowl.
Georgia and South Carolina will compete for second place in the SEC East while Derek Dooley takes over the reins in Knoxville, the third Volunteer coach in as many seasons.
Arkansas, Mississippi, and Mississippi State should put on a battle to avoid the SEC West cellar.
The Razorbacks have an immobile passer but go to battle with very little else. If the offense of quarterback Ryan Mallett is not good for six touchdowns a game, the sieve-like defense of the Hogs could put them in line for a fifth place finish in the SEC West.
The Rebels of Ole Miss improved themselves by leaps and bounds by adding Heisman Trophy candidate Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback. The Bulldogs have an up and coming coach in Dan Mullen who is off to a good start in Starkville.
In the East the usual suspects for last place, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, must both adjust to new head coaches.
Big 10 Conference
The Big 10 is the strongest conference in 2010.
There are two legitimate BCS Champions in Ohio State and Iowa along with a lethal contender for the conference championship in Wisconsin.
Add to that Penn State, with the greatest winning coach in college football history, and it is easy to understand why the Big 10 feels they are the cock of the walk this year.
Northwestern, Michigan State and Purdue should each produce solid teams who qualify for bowl games.
Indiana has enough soft games on the schedule to meet the necessary six wins to go traveling in December, even if it is the notorious Insight Bowl.
Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois will continue to bring up the rear in the conference. While the Golden Gophers have a fine coach in Tim Brewster, look for new faces in Ann Arbor and Champaign next season.
PAC 10 Conference
Don't look now but the PAC 10 is gaining on the nation.
One of the strongest leagues from top to bottom, the PAC 10 will return to a far more balanced conference in 2010.
The dominant program in the conference over the past decade, Southern California, has seen the torch passed from Pete Carroll to Lane Kiffin. Further, probation removes any talk of the Trojans having an impact this year.
So who will lift the banner of this proud league? The most likely candidate is Arizona.
The Wildcats, still seething over a perceived bad call by an official in the Oregon game last season (a call which cost the 'Cats the host role in the Rose Bowl), are not only stalking the PAC 10 title but a shot at the BCS Championship.
Arizona is loaded top to bottom, inside and out, superior to any PAC10 opponent who they will meet this season. The apex predator of the PAC 10 in 2010, if Arizona takes out Iowa early in the season it could be a virtual home game for the in-state Wildcats in the BCS Title match.
The most serious contender for Arizona to deal with is Oregon State.
The Beavers, led by their fine coach Mike Riley ( the same Mike Riley who was an all-sec defensive back for Bear Bryant in the 1970s), has been hanging around the top spot of the PAC 10 for several years now.
Similar to Arizona, the Beavers are thirsting for payback against Oregon. The past couple of seasons have been good to the Ducks in their Civil War battle. This year the Beavers get their revenge and finish No.2 in the PAC 10.
Washington has the best player of the PAC 10 in quarterback Jake Locker. The up and coming Huskies will battle the fading Ducks of Oregon for the third position in the conference.
Stanford and Southern Cal will slug it out for the remaining spot in the upper division. The Cardinal feature Oliver Luck's son at QB and fine coaching from Jim Harbaugh. Says Andrew "Coach and I have a lot in common, we both had to grow up playing for our Dad."
Quickly now, what coach in the PAC 10 has won two national championships? The answer is Dennis Erickson of Arizona State. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, this year will not add another ring to his fingers.
California is a program very much like Virginia Tech. The coach is respected by some around the country, the school is very much a blended and diverse student population, and the team never quite lives up to the pre-season press. Failure to launch–West Coast Style– is definitely Berkeley.
UCLA is in such bad shape they had to resurrect the career of a disgraced head coach in order to compete with the USC recruiting tactics. It has done the Bruins a lot of good, now they are still losing but have no respect nationwide.
Washington State? Well, if you were offered a scholarship to play for the Cougars what would you do? Right, take it if it's the only one you receive.
The Big East Conference
Connecticut is the class of the Big East Conference in 2010.
The Huskies went down to Alabama and defeated Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks in the Pizza Bowl last season and are primed for a run at an unbeaten year this time around.
Coaching, experience, and physical strength makes UConn a favorite over any conference opponent they meet in 2010.
West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and up and coming South Florida under new coach Skip Holtz look like the other heavy hitters of the Big East in 2010.
Cincinnati, last year's champion, looks to take a major step backward under unproven coaching and inexperienced prime time players. The Bearcats may survive to go 6-6 and check into a basement bowl this year.
Rutgers should struggle with improving Syracuse for the right to look down at Louisville in the conference basement.
The Big 12 Conference
While some may argue that Ohio State has the best team, Florida is the most motivated, or that Boise State has the most talent returning, there is no doubt about who puts all of the best attributes together–Nebraska.
The Big 12 is in its death throes, having been abandoned by lowly Colorado for the Pacific Coast league while the Cornhuskers sought the security of the Big 10.
For this final season of the 14 year old conference the terms for the last title should revert to the days of the early 1960s when Bob Devaney and Bud Wilkinson brought their titans on the field for a season ending settling of accounts.
Look for the fearsome Cornhuskers and the powerful Sooners to snatch two of the 10 BCS invitations this year.
With Nebraska and Oklahoma being the class of the Big 12 in 2010 who will fill out the rest of the multitude of conference bowl slots?
Missouri, slow of foot and weak against air attack, will struggle with Texas for the third overall position in the conference. The Longhorns, humiliated by Alabama in the BCS Title Game last year, will find it a long road back to respectability in the eyes of everyone outside their local fans in the bluebonnet state.
Like almost all Longhorn teams from 1970 to 2005, what will doom them is between their ears, not in their shoes.
Kansas State has seen slow improvement under the return of Bill Snyder while Texas A&M has witnessed their fortunes reverse under a dreadful coaching performance of the now suspect Mike Sherman.
Texas Tech could be a surprise player in conference fortunes with the addition of Tommy "Hard Luck" Tuberville, one of the most respected "gangsta" coaches in America. The Red Raiders may sneak into the back door of the Bowls this time around.
Oklahoma State and Iowa State will vie for respectability while Colorado can look forward to next year with a different conference, and hopefully, a different coach.
The Mountain West Conference
In the good old days of the 1960s and 70s most of what is today's Mountain West was called the Western Athletic Conference, or WAC.
The WAC was known for high scoring teams, and surprisingly successful programs. Over the years expansion made the league too large and eventually the Mountain West Conference was born.
In the Mountain West Conference there are several teams who regularly compete for a Top 25 position and a BCS Bowl birth.
Strongest among those teams is Texas Christian.
The men from Forth Worth met their match in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State last season but look loaded for another strong run in 2010.
Brigham Young and Utah will be nipping at the heels of the Horned Frogs and each has the firepower to steal the conference championship from TCU.
The Falcons of the Air Force Academy will be as competitive as always and just might be in a position to sneak into the top three of the MWC this season.
San Diego State and the Wyoming Cowboys have their work cut out for them. Both teams have felt the effects of losing a number of lettermen the past two seasons and this may not be the year to expect a return to better times.
Wyoming, 43 years after its historic undefeated squad made a trip to the Sugar Bowl, is poised for the upset with a road game at Texas but, appears three or four players short of pulling off that shocker.
UNLV has a tendency to pull a surprise each season.but this year the odds are stacked against them.
New Mexico has taken on the role of host of a fine bowl game each December and the Wolf-men from Albuquerque like to play in their New Mexico Bowl.
Unfortunately, the Lobos look to be two or three wins short for that qualification in 2010.
And Colorado State? Well, it has been a while since the glory days of the Sonny Lubick teams. The Rams can always dream of yesteryear.
The Western Athletic Conference
The WAC is one of the toughest conferences in the country with some of the best coaches and an extraordinary travel schedule.
The big boss of the WAC is Boise State, The Broncos have played football for 42 years, in that time they have won 71 percent of their games. By comparison, defending BCS champion Alabama has won 70 percent of their contests since first fielding a team.
Losing is just not in the Bronco vocabulary. The last losing season they suffered was in 1997 under head coach Houston Nutt. Nutt left for Arkansas before the next season began and was named national coach of the year by several organizations.
Nutt couldn't cut the mustard at Boise State but has been successful in the SEC. He's actually on his second tour of duty among SEC schools.
Beside the one dreary year of losing under SEC headmaster Houston Nutt, the Broncos have only had four other losing seasons in the school's football history.
Face it fans, the word Boise State is synonymous with victory and championships.
Fresno State and Nevada each produce highly productive teams each year. This season will be no different. In fact, the Bulldogs have a meeting with Ole Miss and their current coach, Houston Nutt, in late September. That could be the tale of the timber.
Hawaii, like New Mexico in the MWC, has one ambition. That is to win enough games to qualify for the Bowl game they host. The Warriors should make it with ease this year.
Utah State and Louisiana Tech will struggle for a bowl birth while Idaho and New Mexico State struggle to stay out of last place.
Fear not Vandal and Aggie fans, the cellar is reserved for San Jose State. The Spartans, arguably the worst team in the entire country, will open the season with last year's BCS champion– Alabama.
Who says the SEC doesn't like a challenge?
A funny thing happened to the Houston Cougars on their drive to the CUSA Title in 2010. In a word, or two, they wrecked.
But back from that disappointment is a nucleus of a team that could be the most successful in Houston Cougar history, and that is saying something.
Quarterback Case Keenum is a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. He is surrounded by lettermen on the line and backed by a returning defensive squad that spent the off-season preparing to stop the pass and the run.
The Cougars enter the 2010 season with a mix of youth and leadership in the secondary and also will see an influx of talent as a superb group of freshmen enter the program, already competing for playing time.
From this corner, it would not be surprising to see Houston in a BCS Bowl in 2010, they are the second best non-BCS team in the country, behind all-powerful Boise State.
June Jones at Southern Methodist plans to throw his offense at the Cougars and George O'Leary at Central Florida looks to place his defense in the way.
Two tough opponents for the CUSA crown but, each should be manageable.
Tulsa and Southern Mississippi are stalking bowl game invitations with two of the most consistently successful programs in the nation.
UAB looks to play the role of spoiler while East Carolina slides back after the departure of popular coach Skip Holtz to the Big East Conference.
Marshall and Memphis must spend their days wondering whatever happened to their winning ways while Rice and Tulane debate who is the finer academic institution.
The Mid-American Conference
For true fans of college football history it should be pointed out the opening picture of this article features a 20 year old Frank Solich breaking away for a long run when he was a player for Coach Bob Devaney at Nebraska.
Solich has been around the block a few times since those days but he has his eye on a MAC championship in 2010. In the view from this room, he has the team to go get the MAC title with his Ohio Bobcats.
Ohio returns five of the top seven offensive linemen and all four defensive linemen. An opportunistic linebacking corps is backed by a secondary with good footwork.
While the Bobcats must improve the running game, and a starting quarterback position must be settled, there is enough Nebraska-style line play and defense to make Frank the top cat among the MAC this season.
The major obstacle comes from the Northern Illinois Huskies. UNI is loaded for bear, or in this case bobcat, with a huge assortment of returning lettermen. If OU falls in '10, it will be to The Huskies.
Western Michigan and Temple feel they will be in a position to challenge for a division title and stand to gain the most from the MAC bowl connections. The Broncos have skill and the Owls have the opportunity. An early season upset possibility with in-state rival Penn State which could catapult the "Philly Birds" into the spotlight.
Central Michigan and Bowling Green are question marks who, if they can find some answers, may qualify for a lower bowl.
Kent State and Toledo will cause problems for the top tier teams while Akron and Ball State have hopes to avoid losing seasons.Miami of Ohio believes they can build confidence from a good showing in the season opener against Florida in Gainesville. That is probably not going to happen.
Things should be so good at Buffalo and Eastern Michigan where squads only hope to avoid double digits in the loss column.
The Sun Belt Conference
In the world of the Sun Belt, Troy has the upper hand in 2010.
The Trojans lack quality depth but have major league speed and excellent size.
Based upon scouting report remarks from a recently retired head coach, the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are in the cat bird's seat. The Blue Raiders are coached by former Florida State quarterback Rick Stockstill, and he has been a man on a mission for many years.
Just waiting for one of the big two to fail is Howard Schnellenberger's Florida Atlantic Owls. If there is one coach in the country who can make something from nothing, the former tight end for Bear Bryant has proved time and again he is the man, in numerous locations.
Arkansas State and North Texas believe they have a score to settle between them in 2010 while Florida International is wondering when luck will come their way.
Louisana and Louisiana-Monroe are happy, very happy.
Because they are in the same conference with Western Kentucky.
Time was the nation was full of independent schools, now we are down to three,
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will present a formidable challenge for teams on the schedule in 2010 and well beyond. The Irish now have a coach who understands the awesome responsibilities of representing America's team and he will work to make the Irish nation proud.
The Navy Middies have proved to be a difficult opponent for teams all over the country. With a returning squad capable of double digit wins, the Navy should sail to a bowl bid.
And lastly, for the entire review, allow us to present the undisputed football power of the United States.
100 years ago.
The West Point Black Knights, supported by the long gray line and followers all over the world, have taken the steps needed to restore respectability of the won-loss record to go along with the always dignified approach to the game.