2010 College Football Predictions: 50 Burning Questions and Answers

Elliott PohnlFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2010

2010 College Football Predictions: 50 Burning Questions and Answers

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    From top to bottom, there are plenty of questions surrounding the upcoming college football season.

    It starts with perennial powers Texas and Florida, who look to replace legends with talented but inexperienced quarterbacks. Will success come easily, or will both teams endure some growing pains?

    Several highly-ranked teams enter the season with questions at quarterback, including Oregon, Nebraska, and Penn State.

    Several coaches at major programs find themselves squarely on the hot seat, including Mark Richt, Les Miles, and Dan Hawkins. Elsewhere in the coaching world, how will Jimbo Fisher fare as he steps in for a legend? Will 83-year-old Joe Paterno finally call it quits after the season now that his legacy as the winningest coach of all time will no longer be challenged by the retired Bobby Bowden?

    As Alabama embarks on the quest to repeat as national champions, will junior running back Mark Ingram become the second player to win more than one Heisman Trophy?

    Which unranked teams will shock the world, and which ranked teams will make the voters look silly?

    Here's a look at 50 key questions heading into the 2010 season.

No. 50: Who Will Be the Best Safety in America?

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    The upcoming season will provide a showcase for the deepest field of safeties to grace the gridiron in recent memory.

    Clemson's DeAndre McDaniel, North Carolina's Deunta Williams, and Alabama's Mark Barron are perhaps the biggest names. But are they really the best?

    McDaniel and teammate Marcus Gilchrist form arguably the best safety duo in the country. Williams is one of five players from the Tar Heel defensive unit considered to be a lock for the NFL. Barron faces immense pressure as the only returning starter in Alabama's defensive backfield.

    Although you can't go wrong with any of those names, few players impacted the game more than UCLA's Rahim Moore and Iowa's Tyler Sash last season.

    Neither player has the ideal size to make them can't-miss NFL prospects, but their contributions at the college level are difficult to ignore.

    Moore has tallied 13 interceptions during his first two seasons at UCLA and demonstrates great range from his free safety spot. Sash is a devastating hitter with a knack for making huge plays in Norm Parker's Cover 2 defense.

No. 49: Will There Be an Urban Meyer Meltdown This Season?

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    Urban Meyer has had about enough of the media and sports agents and probably can't wait for the season to start.

    As Meyer ushers in John Brantley and looks to face hungry SEC opponents without his favorite son, the tension will run high, especially if the Gators suffer an early defeat.

    The good news is that Florida's schedule makes such a scenario somewhat unlikely. But will the stress that forced Meyer to briefly walk away from college football resurface this season?

No. 48: Will Mark Richt's Tenure in Athens Come to an End?

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    Things haven't gone well for Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs in recent years, which is why the powerhouse finds itself ranked behind Georgia Tech for the first time since 2001.

    For one reason or another, Georgia has has headed steadily downward since a preseason No. 1 ranking in 2008. The talented recruits have kept coming to Athens, but success hasn't followed.

    Georgia has plenty of talent, and Richt hopes he has finally found a reliable quarterback in Aaron Murray. But with a difficult early-season schedule featuring a trip to South Carolina and a matchup against Arkansas between the hedges, two early-season losses could drop the 'Dawgs from the top 25.

    Will eight or nine wins be enough to save Mark Richt's job?

No. 47: Is Les Miles Really on the Hot Seat?

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    Since guiding LSU to the national championship, the last two seasons have been nothing short of unimpressive for Les Miles.

    An anemic offense and a handful of highly-touted players who haven't quite panned out have kept the Tigers from reaching expectations.

    Now, it's time for Miles get back to the winning ways in Baton Rouge.

    LSU has plenty of talent and has potential to do great things, although the team isn't likely to peak unless it finds a way to put points on the board. It starts with junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who can no longer point to inexperience as the source of his inconsistency.

    Miles isn't on the hot seat yet, but anything less than nine wins in what is a fairly manageable schedule could get the rumor mill churning.

No. 46: Will the Offensive Line Hold in Norman?

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    From top to bottom, Oklahoma is absolutely loaded heading into the 2010 season. Landry Jones gained valuable experience last season and showed improvement throughout. DeMarco Murray is back in the backfield. The Sooner defensive unit is one the fastest in the entire country.

    But there is one big question mark: the offensive line.

    Oklahoma shuffled the line repeatedly in an effort to stop the bleeding. The Sooners experimented with nine starting combinations in the trenches and struggled especially in run blocking. This year, Donald Stephenson and Tyler Evans should emerge and provide stability. Evans has battled injuries but has the size and strength to become a dominant run-blocker.

    OU is a trendy pick to contend for the national championship. We've certainly heard that before.

No. 45: Can USC Turn the Page and Move on?

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    Lane Kiffin was certainly an interesting hire for a school looking to get back into the good graces of the NCAA, but things could work out for the Trojans after all.

    Kiffin's stubborn personality might be just what USC needs in a season of transition that won't end with a Pac-10 title or a bowl game.

    USC is down to 70 scholarship players but still has enough talent to be considered one of the top teams in the Pac-10.

    The college football world will have a chance to figure out if Kiffin's coaching abilities can measure up to his inflated ego.

No. 44: Can Al Golden Take Temple to New Heights?

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    The Temple Owls are just a few years removed from being considered one of the most impotent programs in Division I/FBS. Suddenly, the Owls are poised to be the MAC's best team for a second straight season.

    It's safe to say that Al Golden has done a remarkable job in Philadelphia. After going 1-11 in his first season in 2006, Golden has built a strong foundation and posted a 9-4 record last season.

    The Owls have a massive offensive line and one of the best running backs in college football in sophomore Bernard Pierce.

    If Temple can get consistent quarterback play and survive a non-conference schedule featuring games against Penn State and Connecticut, the Owls could enjoy another nine-win campaign.

No. 43: Will Jeremiah Masoli Help Ole Miss Surprise in the SEC?

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    There's no debating Jermiah Masoli's talent, which makes him one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football. There's also no getting around his history of off-field problems, which have defined him as one of the biggest knuckleheads in the college game.

    Houston Nutt gave Masoli another chance and is sure to give him the keys to the Ole Miss offense sooner rather than later. Nutt has defended his decision and said that Masoli will have to earn his way into the lineup, but ultimately there is no question he is the best quarterback on the roster.

    After being one of college football's biggest disappointments last season, the Rebels could certainly pull off a few upsets in 2010 and possibly contend for a postseason berth.

No. 42: Who Will Have the Better Season, Julio Jones or A.J. Green?

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    It's safe to say two of the SEC's most talented players vastly underachieved last season.

    Georgia's A.J. Green dealt with injuries and inconsistent quarterback play and still put up decent numbers, but he barely scratched the surface of his enormous talent.

    This season, Green figures to challenge the 1,000-yard mark if quarterback Aaron Murray lives up to expectations.

    Meanwhile, another SEC receiver looks to bounce back what from a less than stellar season.

    Julio Jones burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2008, catching 58 passes for 924 yards. His 2009 numbers were dismal by comparison.

    His receptions dipped to 43, his yards to 596, and his yards per reception dropped from 15.9 to 13.9.

    At times, he became nothing more than an afterthought in the Alabama attack.

    The improvement of Greg McElroy should lead to a bounce-back season for Jones and likely a spot in the first round of the NFL Draft.

No. 41: Is Andrew Luck the Real Deal?

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    There are plenty of reasons behind Andrew Luck's coronation as one of the best quarterbacks in America. From his rocket arm to Stanford-sized brain, Luck has the perfect pedigree to be a great NFL quarterback.

    With Toby Gerhart no longer in the Cardinal backfield, it's officially Luck's time to shine.

    The run-heavy attack in 2009 kept Luck's production a bit limited and didn't offer a great sample size of his abilities. The Cardinal will be pass-heavy in 2010, and Luck has plenty of talent at his disposal, including receivers Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu.

    Stanford's defense is likely to be a glaring weakness again this year, meaning Jim Harbaugh's team will need to win games on the strength of Luck's arm.

No. 40: Is Ron Zook's Run Finally Over in Illinois?

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    Ron Zook has proved to be one of the best recruiters in college football. He has also proved to be one of the worst coaches.

    Now, after finally having a down year in recruiting, optimism isn't very high in Champaign. Zook's hopes rest largely on the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse and underrated running back Mikel LeShoure.

    Barring a miracle, the Zookster will likely find himself looking for work after the season.

No. 39: Which Quarterback Will Take the Next Step Toward Stardom?

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    Tom Savage has a strong arm, great size, and good athleticism. If it wasn't for the fact that he plays for Rutgers, he would be getting plenty of hype.

    As it stands, Savage is one of the best quarterback prospects to watch. The 6'5", 226-pound sophomore threw for 2,211 yards and 14 touchdowns while spending much of his freshman season running for his life.

    Rutgers isn't expected to boast a prolific offense in 2010, but Savage and star wide receiver Mohamed Sanu will form one of college football's best quarterback-wide receiver tandems.

No. 38: Who Will Be the Best Freshman Quarterback?

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    This season promises to be a down year for freshman quarterbacks, but BYU's Jake Heaps is a name worth paying attention to.

    Heaps has all the tools and has been praised for being mature beyond his years, but he has yet to be officially anointed as the Cougars' starting quarterback.

    The expectation is that he will eventually distance himself from junior Riley Nelson and win the job.

    Once he gets on the field, Heaps is likely to put up big numbers through the air. BYU has never started a freshman at quarterback, but Heaps deserves to be the first.

No. 37: Will Tommy Tuberville Make Tech Fans Forget About Mike Leach?

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    Tommy Tuberville's seemingly premature dismissal from Auburn left one of the more successful coaches on the market. So when Texas Tech needed to find someone to pick up the pieces after the ugly divorce from Mike Leach, they quickly find themselves a replacement with a much more level-headed approach to running a program.

    For now, Tuberville plans to keep the Red Raiders' pass-happy spread attack alive. He named senior Taylor Potts as his starting quarterback Sunday and returns plenty of experienced playmakers on offense.

    It won't be easy for Texas Tech to overtake Texas, but Tuberville's track record suggest that he will win with consistency in Lubbock.

No. 36: Can Texas A&M Play Even a Little Defense?

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    Jerrod Johnson basically has to be perfect.

    With Johnson as the starting quarterback, A&M has posted a 1-10 record in games when he throws an interception and 9-3 when he doesn't. The Aggies can score with anyone but can't count on their defense to bail them out when they make even the slightest mistake.

    Aside from All-American Von Miller, who is one of the best pass rushers in college football, the Aggies aren't an overly talented or proven group on defense.

    Eight starters return from last year's unit, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Texas A&M was horrible against the pass and allowed a whopping 33.5 points per game to opponents.

    If the Aggies find a way to at least offer resistance to opposing offenses, Mike Sherman will have a chance to save his job.

No. 35: Will Virginia Tech's Young Defense Hold Up?

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    Bud Foster has a real challenge on his hands this season in Blacksburg, where his young Hokie defenders will be put to the test.

    Virginia Tech needs to replace seven starters and find a pass rush after losing both defensive ends.

    Foster will need to dial up a variety of packages to slow down the potent offenses his unit will face throughout the 2010 season, including a lethal Boise State attack on September 6.

No. 34: Can Derek Dooley Erase the Memories of Lane Kiffin in Knoxville?

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    Lane Kiffin's surprising departure opened the door for another young, unproven coach to try to fill the void left by Phillip Fulmer.

    Derek Dooley, like Kiffin, was one of the hottest young prospects in coaching despite lacking a particularly strong résumé. Dooley won 17 games in three seasons at Louisiana Tech, but only one of those wins came against a team with a winning record.

    This could be a rough year for Dooley and the Vols, who won't have a proven starter at quarterback and lack the usual assortment of star power.

    Tennessee starts the season with four games at home, but two of the four will likely be losses against supremely talented Florida and Oregon. A 4-8 campaign is hardly out of the question in Dooley's first season.

No. 33: Will Zach Collaros Be Even Better Than Tony Pike?

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    Tony Pike had a great career at Cincinnati, but Zach Collaros could make Bearcat fans forget about him in a hurry.

    Despite losing talented receiver Mardy Gilyard, the Bearcats return a talented receiver duo in D.J. Woods and Armon Binns and also welcome back senior tight end Ben Guidugli.

    Collaros impressed during his time in the lineup last season while Pike was sidelined with an arm injury, leading the Bearcats to a 4-0 record as a starter. His best game came against Connecticut, when he passed for 480 yards and ran for 75 more.

    The Bearcats will once again utilize a spread offense under new coach Butch Jones, allowing Collaros to showcase his abilities as a dual-threat quarterback.

No. 32: Can Pitt Survive as the Hunted?

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    If it simply came down to individual talent, Pittsburgh would be a lock to capture the Big East. But with a first-year quarterback and a difficult schedule, things won't be that easy for the Panthers.

    Tino Sunseri takes over for the departed Bill Stull and will be thrown into the fire in the season opener when the Panthers take on Utah in Salt Lake City.

    Dion Lewis and Jonathan Baldwin give Pittsburgh two dynamic weapons on offense, and Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard anchor one of the nation's best defensive lines.

    If Pittsburgh makes it to the BCS, Dave Wannstedt might finally get the credit he deserves for rebuilding the Panther program.

No. 31: Will Marcus Lattimore Finally Give Steve Spurrier a Running Game?

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    Steve Spurrier hasn't brought South Carolina to new heights, but he hasn't given up. This could be the year things finally get to the next level.

    The Gamecocks have a talented quarterback who has finally matured and a big-play threat on the outside. Now, they just need a running back.

    The answer could come in the form of Marcus Lattimore, one of the most highly recruited players in the nation, who is expected to get plenty of carries throughout the season.

    Lattimore has the physical tools and maturity to get the job done. The only question could be the offensive line, a unit that allowed 37 sacks last season and also struggled to open holes for the running game.

No. 30: Can Chip Kelly Circle the Wagons at Oregon?

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    Thankfully, things have cooled down a bit in Eugene after the year got off to a rocky start off the field. Jeremiah Masoli and a handful of other players were dismissed from the program, but Heisman hopeful LaMichael James returns for his sophomore season.

    Kelly showed the ability to handle adversity last season after dealing with the fallout of the LeGarrette Blount incident, and his understanding of the X's and O's can't be disputed.

    If Kelly finds a quarterback, the memories of a tumultuous offseason could be erased by another trip to the BCS.

No. 29: Will Big Blue Have Big Problems?

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    The Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan has gone worse than anyone could have expected. In his two years on the job, the Wolverine program has taken numerous steps backwards and found itself in hot water with the NCAA.

    Rich Rod is running out of time, and a daunting 2010 schedule isn't exactly reason for optimism.

    The problems on the field begin at quarterback, where Tate Forcier went from savior to goat in a matter of weeks last season. Denard Robinson probably never will be able to throw the ball with enough accuracy to be a full-time quarterback, which means freshman Drew Gardner could see the field.

    Michigan was a bad defensive team last season and could be even worse this season, with little experience at defensive back and at linebacker. The Wolverines are switching to a 3-3-5 alignment, the same system Rodriguez used at West Virginia, which might not be a great fit against powerful Big Ten teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State.

    A 6-6 record might be overly optimistic and probably wouldn't be enough to save Rich Rod's job anyway.

No. 28: Who Else Is on the Hot Seat?

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    Aside from Rich Rodriguez and Mark Richt, there are plenty of coaches who could find themselves looking for work after the season.

    It might take a miracle to save Dan Hawkins as Colorado prepares for the move to the Pac-10, and there isn't enough talent to suggest that the Buffs will bail out their coach.

    Minnesota's Tim Brewster hasn't translated a beautiful outdoor stadium to success on the recruiting front or on the field. Mike Sherman could use a winning season in the worst way at Texas A&M. Ralph Friedgen isn't ready to walk away quite yet, and it might take a bulldozer to push him off the sidelines at Maryland.

    Don't forget about Tom O'Brien at North Carolina State or even Dennis Erickson at Arizona State.

    Last but not least, Washington State's Paul Wulff again goes to battle with one of the least talented rosters of all the BCS schools.

No. 27: Will Jimbo Fisher Lead FSU to the BCS in His First Year?

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    Jimbo Fisher prepares to take over for Bobby Bowden with the most talented offensive group Florida State has seen in years.

    Christian Ponder will no longer have to run for his life behind an offensive line that has continued to grow, and the 'Noles should have a strong running game this season with three talented running backs on the roster.

    Mark Stoops was brought in to fix a defense that ranked near the bottom of the ACC in several categories last season. With Ponder and the offense producing big numbers, the unit will adopt a bend but don't break philosophy.

    A lot will have to go right for Florida State to make it to the BCS, but never say never.

No. 26: Which ACC Quarterback Will Have the Best Season?

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    The arms race in the ACC should be fascinating to watch this season.

    From Clemson's Kyle Parker to North Carolina State's Russell Wilson, there is talent all over the place.

    Josh Nesbitt is a below-average passer at best, but his ability to run the ball and make just enough plays through the air has given opponents fits.

    Miami's Jacory Harris and Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor are two other terrific playmakers.

    But the best of the bunch might be Christian Ponder, who promises to have a terrific season in Tallahassee.

No. 25: Can Ricky Stanzi and Jacory Harris Find Consistency?

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    Quarterback is the most polarizing position in football, especially in the case of teams with enough talent to contend for the BCS.

    Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Miami's Jacory Harris have a flare for the dramatic but also a habit of making costly mistakes.

    Stanzi threw 15 interceptions last season, including a handful that were run back for touchdowns. He overcame his mistakes, including a dreadful five-interception performance against Indiana, to post a 10-1 record as a starter.

    Harris threw for 3,352 yards and 24 touchdowns last season but was sacked 34 times and struggled mightily in losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

    If Stanzi and Harris mature, they could be the face of BCS teams in January.

No. 24: Will Jake Locker Regret Coming Back for His Senior Year?

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    After Sam Bradford's season ended with a shoulder injury, many people questioned the wisdom behind his decision to return for his junior season.

    If misfortune befalls Washington's Jake Locker, he might not be lucky enough to be selected as the top overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    Unlike Bradford, Locker has basically been a one-man show throughout his career in Seattle. The Huskies have stockpiled some young talent that could finally take the pressure off Locker.

    If he stays in the pocket and doesn't take too many hits, Locker should easily be a top-five pick in the draft.

    Hindsight is always 20/20.

No. 23: Who Will Be the Best Quarterback in the Country?

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    The field is vast, and the potential for producing gaudy numbers is immense.

    It starts with Boise State's Kellen Moore, who struggled in spring practice but should repeat or even exceed his 2009 numbers this season. SMU's Kyle Padron and Middle Tennessee State's Dwight Dasher (assuming his legal investigation doesn't lead to a suspension) are two other names to keep an eye on.

    Among BCS conference teams, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, North Carolina State's Russell Wilson, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, and Washington's Jake Locker are among the best at their position.

    Don't rule out first-year starters John Brantley or Garrett Gilbert.

    The best quarterback from a statistical point of view plays in the WAC, but not for Boise State. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick has racked up over 7,000 yards of offense during his three years in Chris Ault's system and should have another dynamic season.

    Locker's ability to move the ball with his legs and his arm makes him the early favorite to capture the Davey O'Brien Award, but don't forget about fellow Pac-10 quarterback Andrew Luck.

No. 22: Who Will Be the Best Running Back in America?

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    It's difficult to know where to even begin in listing off the great running backs of 2010 in college football.

    Starting with the obvious choice, Alabama's Mark Ingram embarks on the quest to win another Heisman Trophy. However, Ingram probably isn't even the most talented back on his own team and will likely lose a few carries to Trent Richardson this season.

    Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis came out of nowhere to run for over 1,700 yards last season, and Kansas State's Daniel Thomas is a beast in the Big 12.

    The Big Ten has fewer big names than usual, but Wisconsin's John Clay will certainly be a fixture on the national stage.

    UTEP's Donald Buckram and Temple's Bernard Pierce are among the best of the bunch in non-BCS Conferences.

    Lewis and Thomas will be force-fed the ball this season and have the best chance of running away from the competition to capture the Doak Walker Award.

No. 21: Who Will Have the Best Offense in College Football?

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    College football features plenty of lethal attacks, including Texas A&M, Southern Methodist under the guidance of June Jones, and of course Boise State.

    All three of these teams stand above the rest, although Oklahoma, Nevada, and Arkansas can certainly hold their own.

    Boise State and SMU have spectacular quarterback play and plenty of weapons across the board. Both teams are likely to average over 35 points per game this season.

No. 20: Who Will Have the Best Defense in College Football?

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    With five players projected to be drafted in the first two rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft, North Carolina can safely lay claim to the nation's best defense.

    Robert Quinn, Bruce Carter, and Kendric Burney are three of the top names that will make an impact in the ACC this season.

    Other top units include Iowa, Ohio State, and LSU.

No. 19: Can TCU Earn a Spot in the National Championship Game?

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    The Horned Frogs will attempt to return to the BCS in 2010 and are in good position to do so. But will they be good enough to possibly sneak into the National Championship Game?

    If the dominoes fall correctly, it could certainly happen. There are just a lot of dominoes to fall in line first.

    The Mountain West has legitimate BCS teams in Utah and BYU. TCU gets BYU at home but has to go to Utah, the better of the two Mountain West teams. Don't rule out an upset at the hands of a powerful SMU squad on September 24.

    The non-conference schedule opens with a virtual home game against Oregon State in Cowboys Stadium. A win over the Beavers would help the Horned Frogs climb even higher in the polls.

    Thanks to its high preseason rankings, TCU is already very close to the National Championship Game. Since the majority of programs ranked ahead of the Horned Frogs are likely to suffer at least one loss, an undefeated season could produce an appearance in the title game.

No. 18: Can Boise State Finally Shed the Cinderella Label?

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    We'll know right away if Boise State is for real.

    The Broncos have everyone's attention entering the 2010 season and can take the next step by beating Virginia Tech in the opener and securing a spot in the top five.

    Boise State's non-conference schedule is legitimate this year, with a trip to an underrated Wyoming team and a home date against Oregon State. If the Broncos pass those tests, the only thing standing between them and a possible National Championship Game appearance is a trip to Nevada on November 28.

    Could Boise State win the national championship? It sounds crazy, but it could happen.

No. 17: Can Nebraska Score Enough Points to Break into the BCS?

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    Nebraska's offense was nothing short of pathetic last season. The Big 12 Championship Game proved to be the microcosm of Big Red's struggles, when the offense repeatedly failed to take advantage of field position and what was arguably the best defense in the country.

    Zac Lee is back and will most likely be the starting quarterback, but his job is far from safe. The Huskers have talent at skill positions and should be better offensively than last season.

    Ultimately, Nebraska won't be staying in the top 10 unless it can put points on the board.

No. 16: Can Terrelle Pryor Finally Show Consistency as a Passer?

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    In the games leading up to the Rose Bowl win over Oregon, Ohio State had scaled back the offense largely because of Terrelle Pryor's inability to progress as a passer.

    The physical tools are hard to miss, but for whatever reason Pryor showed little improvement during his first two seasons when he was forced to throw the ball.

    If the Rose Bowl was foreshadowing of what was to come, Pryor's continued efforts to improve may have finally paid off. This could be the year Ohio State needs him to pull out a couple of victories by himself. 

No. 15: Will Wisconsin or Iowa Dethrone Ohio State?

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    History says no, but the schedule says yes. If not yes, then a very strong maybe.

    Ohio State visits Wisconsin on October 16 and travels to Iowa City on November 20. Both games are certain to have huge implications in the conference race and could even have a big impact on the national BCS picture.

    Wisconsin is a solid team from top to bottom, with a powerful running attack, experience on both sides of the ball, and a decent schedule. The Badgers have a history of giving Ohio State trouble in Camp Randall and could easily win the matchup this season.

    Ohio State has a history of beating the corn pants off Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have one of the nation's best defenses and a potent passing attack with one of the better groups of receivers in the country.

    Both Iowa and Wisconsin have an excellent chance to win the Big Ten this season. The teams meet in October 23 in Iowa City in another game that will likely have enormous meaning.

No. 14: Is This Finally the Year JoePa Will Call It Quits?

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    One of those great questions in college football that simply has no clear answer.

    Joe Paterno has no reason to keep coaching now that his record will no longer be challenged by Bobby Bowden. But the man simply loves the game and refuses to admit he is slowing down.

    Is Paterno slowing down? He says no, and his players and coaches say he is as lucid as ever. Common sense suggests that the 83-year-old has to be nearing the end of the road.

    It could be a season of transition for Penn State in 2010 and the perfect time for JoePa to walk away gracefully.

No. 13: Since USC Can't, Who Will Win the Pac-10?

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    The Trojans are ineligible to win the Pac-10, opening the door for what figures to be an interesting race out west in 2010.

    The league is fairly deep, and as many as five teams appear to have realistic chances, but Oregon appears to have the fewest problems and the easiest schedule of the bunch.

    Granted, the Ducks are still looking for a quarterback to replace the production of Jeremiah Masoli. The Ducks are in great shape in almost all other areas and appear to be the most complete team in the Pac-10.

No. 12: Which BCS Conference Will Be the Best?

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    Every year, fans from all over the country try to answer a difficult question: Which conference is the strongest in college football?

    This year, it appears that the ACC and Big Ten lead the way.

    The ACC has at least five teams with legitimate BCS aspirations and only a couple of teams with no hope for postseason play. The Big Ten has three clear BCS hopefuls and a great deal of depth from top to bottom.

    For the moment, the ACC has a slight edge. However, the Big Ten could easily send two teams to the BCS in the final year before the conference holds a championship game.

No. 11: Can Garrett Gilbert Lead Texas to the Promised Land?

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    Garrett Gilbert's performance in the Rose Bowl provided college football fans with a nice glimpse into the future.

    After getting off to a rocky start, Gilbert led a comeback that nearly brought the national championship to Texas.

    His talent was evident, and it was clear that his teammates responded to his leadership.

    Now, Gilbert looks to continue to mold his own legacy in the wake of Colt McCoy and will have to do so with a talented but inconsistent group of wide receivers.

    Texas will likely make a run at the BCS, but not without some growing pains along the way.

No. 10: Can John Brantley Replace the Man, the Myth, the Legend?

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    John Brantley, your time is now.

    After sitting behind Tim Tebow, Brantley will be thrust into the spotlight this season and faces a great deal of pressure to succeed.

    The Gators have all the talent in the world but are light on experience and proven production on both sides of the ball.

    Brantley has a big arm and has showed flashes in his limited snaps. By the end of the season, he should distinguish himself as one of the best quarterbacks in America. Tebow will never be forgotten, but Brantley is certain to leave his mark in Gainesville.

No. 9: Which Team Will Surprise This Season?

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    There are plenty of teams that could emerge this season, including what should be one of the best offensive teams in America in the Cal Golden Bears.

    Led by Shane Vereen, Cal should be able to score points on just about anybody. Kevin Riley's career has been up and down, but if he plays with consistency, Jeff Tedford's team has a legitimate chance to win the Pac-10.

    Boston College is another team to watch. The Eagles return most key weapons on both sides of the ball and could make a run at the ACC Atlantic Division title.

No. 8: Which Team Will Disappoint?

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    It's difficult to say that a team looking to replace four of its best five players from a season ago will be disappointing, but Georgia Tech's lofty preseason ranking suggests there is nowhere to go but down.

    The Yellow Jackets are making the transition to a 3-4 defense and could endure some bumps and bruises throughout the challenging ACC.

    Don't be surprised if Paul Johnson's squad ends the season outside of the top 25.

No. 7: Will Off-Field Distractions Fade?

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    All over the country, the involvement of agents in college football has coaches on high alert as the NCAA continues investigating a number of players and programs for improper dealings.

    Big-name coaches, including Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops, have urged the NCAA to take action against sports agents in an effort to eliminate the problem at its source at protect student-athletes.

    Once the season starts, this issue is likely to take a backseat to what happens on the field. That doesn't mean it will simply go away.

No. 6: What Impact Will Realignment Have on the 2010 Season?

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    From the Big Ten to the Mountain West, realignment has changed the outlook of conferences across America. Will it really have an impact on the games played on the field this season?

    Although Big 12 teams would probably like nothing more than to slaughter Nebraska and Colorado, the rivalries created next year after realignment gets under way will be worth watching more than the final acts of teams ready to move on to new conferences.

No. 5: Who Will Be College Football's Most Dominant Force in 2010?

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    Ndamukong Suh was a one-man wrecking crew last season for Nebraska, dominating the competition despite facing almost constant double teams. Who will be the Suh of 2010?

    Iowa's Adrian Clayborn appears to have the best chance. Like Suh last year, he is surrounded by a talented group of defensive linemen and a strong front seven, making success much easier to come by.

    Clayborn's physical tools are hard to miss, and his motor is one of the reasons he is projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

No. 4: Will Brian Kelly Win at Notre Dame?

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    Brian Kelly has won everywhere he has been. However, nothing quite compares to the fishbowl that is South Bend.

    Kelly appears to be the right man for the job, even if the results don't come as quickly as many Domers would like.

    Notre Dame has the usual assortment of winnable games but is breaking in a new quarterback who has limited experience, plus the Irish have plenty of questions on the defensive side of the ball.

    Don't be surprised if the Irish drop the opener to Purdue before finishing the season with seven or eight wins.

No. 3: Who Will Win the Heisman?

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    It's always fun to debate Heisman candidates, even before the season has started.

    This year's field promises to be wide open and could produce a surprising winner. Given the state of the Alabama backfield, it doesn't seem likely that Mark Ingram will follow in Archie Griffin's footsteps to become the second man to win two Heismans. That means we will have to look elsewhere.

    Boise State's Kellen Moore will likely have a say in things, as will Arkansas gunslinger Ryan Mallett. The running back contingent will be represented by Pitt's Dion Lewis and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, among others.

    Washington's Jake Locker is a player who is difficult not to like. The Heisman could be heading west this season.

No. 2: Who Will Succeed Tim Tebow as College Football's Pop Icon?

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    Tim Tebow left his mark all over college football. He became known on a first and last name basis and remains in the public eye despite being a third-string quarterback on a mediocre NFL team.

    Who will walk in his footsteps in 2010?

    The answer is difficult to pinpoint with certainty, but it will most likely be a quarterback from a marquee institution.

    Oklahoma's Landry Jones is a logical candidate. He plays in a conference that will get plenty of exposure and is surrounded by an abundance of weapons that will help him lead the Sooners to the BCS.

    Get used to hearing the name Landry Jones—over and over and over again.

No. 1: Will Alabama Repeat as National Champions?

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    It's tough to pick against Nick Saban's team in 2010.

    Despite losing a number of key starters from last year's team, the Tide figure to be a much-improved offensive unit with a dynamic duo in the backfield, an experienced quarterback, and plenty of talent on the outside.

    Alabama's schedule isn't a walk in the park, but the SEC is weaker than usual, and trips to Arkansas, South Carolina, and LSU offer the biggest hurdles.

    Home games include a matchup against Florida, a non-conference bout with Penn State, and the annual battle for bragging rights in the state of Alabama against Auburn to close out the season.

    Alabama will have to scrap and claw its way back to the national championship game, but there are plenty of reasons to believe it will happen.