FAU should win it again and be the representative in the New Orleans Bowl. Troy will compete with them for it as they do every year. Louisiana Lafayette and Louisiana Monroe will be right behind them. FIU and North Texas will pillow fight for the worst DI-A team again.
Central Michigan under Dan LeFevour should win the West and the conference. As for who will lose to them from the East, I think Miami (OH), but Bowling Green and Kent State could make it interesting. Central Michigan's challenger in the West is probably Ball State.
The West should belong to Tulsa again, unless June Jones does what he did at Hawaii and makes SMU contenders right away. In the East, look for East Carolina to represent the division for the first time. UCF could be back to defend their title, but as they only return five offensive starters, along with losing Kevin Smith, they may be down. My pick is Tulsa to win it all.
Boise State and Fresno State look to be the class of the WAC this year. The Broncos may not be getting as much hype as Fresno State, but Boise State has never lost to Fresno at home and only one time since joining the WAC. One thing is for sure: It will come down to their matchup to decide the conference.
Nevada, Hawaii, and New Mexico State will be fighting it out to make that third bowl, with San Jose State lurking to slip in if anyone should mess up. I lean toward Fresno State this year.
BYU has the inside track, having won the conference the last two years and going 8-0 in both seasons. Utah has been right with them both seasons, having only lost both games to BYU by a combined nine points. The championship will be decided by these two teams.
TCU will again be just a step behind, with the rest of the conference at a crapshoot for fourth through ninth. I like BYU to win but my gut tells me Utah. I pick the Utes.
Clemson is the popular pick for the Atlantic Division. I would agree with that and put Wake Forest and Florida State right there with them. The Atlantic will be the tougher of the two divisions.
It is hard to pick anyone but Virginia Tech in the Coastal. Duke, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Miami are all rebuilding with new coaches either in their first or second years. Perhaps one of these teams will step up to challenge VT. I think that is more likely than Virginia doing it. Clemson to win or collapse.
USF and West Virginia will be the game to watch to decide the conference. West Virginia with a new coach could be a question, but with playmakers like Pat White and Noel Devine, I think they will be okay. USF has 10 starters back on an offense that was pretty good and only six defensive starters, but that does include DE George Selvie. Pitt, Rutgers, and UConn will have their moments near the top but will fall short.
I pick USF even though they go to West Virginia. That hasn’t stopped the Bulls from beating them lately.
Do I really have to say it? Ohio State. Everyone will pick them to win the conference, and everyone will be right. Wisconsin will be the challenge. The Badgers have won two out of the last three against the Buckeyes. Penn State will be in the mix too. Some people are high on Iowa too, but I am not sure I see it.
Watch for Illinois and Michigan State to do something this year, and don’t count out Michigan. I don’t think they will win the conference, but don’t expect them to be obsolete this year either.
The obvious pick is USC, but I am not convinced they will win it as easily as everyone thinks. Yes, they look like the best, and recent history would indicate that, but recent history also tells me they have lost two games each of the last two seasons—and three of those four they weren’t supposed to. It also tells me they have struggled with every other team in the Pac-10 at least once over the last two seasons.
The challengers again this year are the usual suspects Oregon and Cal, along with team lately Arizona State. Although it is easy to count out Oregon State, they have proven to be a tough team, finishing higher than expected the last couple seasons as well. Of course I want to pick Oregon, but with the road schedule I can’t. I honestly don’t think the Trojans will win but don’t see a better choice right now. USC has to be my pick.
Florida and Georgia will play for the East, with South Carolina and Tennessee playing for third and maybe second. UGA looks to have the one of the toughest, if not the toughest, schedules in the nation, which could hurt them.
Auburn and LSU should battle it out for the West. I really could see Auburn going undefeated with all the tough games at home. LSU has a couple tough road games, but only a couple on the road altogether. For some reason I see Auburn winning the conference over either UGA or Florida.
The North looks to be catching up to the South in competition. Either Missouri or Kansas could be the North representative, a bit of a turnover from when it was almost always Colorado and Nebraska. CU and UN are still about a year from really competing for the division.
The South is still a bit tougher with Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. Oklahoma and Missouri will play in the Conference Championship game, and I think Missouri will get them this year.