College Football 2011: 25 Shocking Predictions
The 2010 college football season is officially over.
The Auburn Tigers won the national championship and have been cemented into college football immortality.
Now, the 2011 season is just nine measly months away.
Here are 25 bold predictions for the 2011-2012 college football season.
Texas A&M Will Win the Big 12
You read that right. Not Oklahoma, but rather Texas A&M will win the Big 12 (Ten?).
Led by QB Ryan Tannehill, the Aggies control the Big 12 (Ten?). They lose a couple of games in the conference, sure, but in the end they'll be punching their ticket to Glendale for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Finishing second in the conference and earning a BCS At-Large bid is Oklahoma State.
South Carolina Proves To Be More Than a One-Year Wonder
The Gamecocks are built for the long haul.
Stephen Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey all return, not to mention some potential big-name recruits that may be coming like Jadeveon Clowney.
The 2011 Gamecocks might be the best team in school history. That isn't saying a lot, but the potential is there for the Gamecocks to win the SEC.
I predict them to win the SEC East with a 10-2 record.
Oregon Will Be a Better Team Than Auburn
I'm an Auburn fan.
I've had season tickets for several seasons.
I'm very aware Auburn just beat Oregon on the field, 22-19, to win its second national championship in school history and complete its third unbeaten season in 20 years.
However, Auburn loses 24 seniors, a good bit of them starters. They also lose Heisman winner Cam Newton, Lombardi winner Nick Fairley and leading receiver Darvin Adams to the NFL Draft. Oregon returns basically everybody.
Both teams can and likely will win at least 10 games. They can both end up in the Top 15.
However, when it just comes to skill and experience, Oregon will be a better team than my Auburn Tigers.
The Cam Newton Investigation Will Come To a Silent Close
The NCAA investigation into Mississippi State's recruitment of Cam Newton will end and not many people will notice.
Don't expect ESPN to make breaking news out of it.
The NCAA will conclude they found nothing new, and it was simply a Mississippi State booster talking money with Cam's father, Cecil. No money changed hands, and Cam was not aware of the allegations.
Auburn's 2010 national championship season will remain just that: a national championship season.
Oregon Will Lose Their Second Consecutive Game to SEC Tigers
Next season, the Oregon Ducks will try to bounce back from a tough BCS Title Game loss to the SEC's Auburn Tigers.
Their first mission: Beat the other SEC Tigers, the ones that represent Louisiana State University.
Once again, their hearts will be broken.
I like LSU to beat Oregon, 26-21, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, hurting the Ducks' national title chances. However, excitement will be wide spread around Baton Rouge.
Tennessee Upsets Georgia in Knoxville
The Vols experienced two types of pain this year.
There was the pain of losing close games, like LSU and North Carolina, and there was the pain of getting your doors blown off, like their losses to Oregon, Alabama and Georgia.
To make matters worse, their 41-14 loss to Georgia was when Georgia was 1-4.
Tennessee is going to be a much-improved team in 2011, and the same was thought about Georgia, but the Bulldogs' loss of star WR A.J. Green to the NFL Draft makes them a mystery.
This time, it's in Knoxville, and I like the Vols to send the Dawgs back to Athens in defeat, 38-20.
College Football's Biggest Surprise: Northwestern
A good man shouldn't have a purse, but a good football team could use a Persa.
OK, so that was the cheesiest thing you've ever heard.
However, Dan Persa is no joke. The Wildcats' QB has the potential and skill to be the best QB in the Big Ten (12?). He injured himself celebrating after throwing the game-winning touchdown against Iowa, so it's safe to say he greatly needs to improve in that area.
He has all the tools to be a great QB, and a great QB can make an average team a great team.
I call for Northwestern to win their division in the Big Ten (12?) this year. I'm not saying the name of the division because, as most of you know, it's too stupid.
Other teams to watch out for: Wisconsin, Texas Tech, Missouri, Syracuse, Nebraska, Clemson
USF Will Win the Big East
The Bulls' breakthrough.
Since their historic rise to No. 2 in the polls halfway through the 2007 season, they've been on a steady decline.
The man who built their football program was fired, and he was replaced by former East Carolina coach Skip Holtz (son of Lou Holtz).
In 2010 the Bulls were a pretty good team, going 8-5 and beating Clemson in the bowl game. Outside of losing to Florida by 24 (after being tied at halftime), they lost their other four games by a combined 28 points.
I'm calling for this year's team to be the best USF team ever, going 10-2 and winning the Big East Conference.
Alabama Will Not Be the Best Team in the SEC West
'Bama is everybody's trendy pick to win the BCS Title next year, along with Oklahoma and Oregon.
As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"
Despite all the talent coming in, Alabama has to replace Greg McElroy, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Marcell Dareus.
Julio might be the hardest to replace. Who will now step up as the leading receiver?
What about AJ McCarron? Is he ready for the spotlight?
Is Trent Richardson really ready to be the only premier running back?
How much will the Tide miss the inside presence of Dareus?
Alabama will be a good team, no question, but I like the LSU Tigers out of the West.
Syracuse Will Win 10 Games (Including the Bowl)
The Orange took strides in 2010, going 8-5 and (in very controversial fashion) beating Kansas State to win the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Does that mean a new era of Orange football is coming? Perhaps.
I call for them to end the regular season 9-3, win its bowl game and finish 10-3 in 2011.
Georgia Beats Boise State Like a Drum in the Georgia Dome
Let's see: Let's have a neutral site game between a school from Georgia, who has a 92,000 seat stadium, and a school from Idaho, who has a 30,000 seat stadium.
Let's play it in the Georgia Dome.
Not the best idea, unless you're ABC and ESPN and all about your ratings.
It may be tiring to hear and it may be a bit stereotypical, but it's true: The SEC just has bigger, stronger, faster and better players than anyone else.
Boise State found it out the last time it played the Dawgs (48-13 loss in 2005), and it'll find it out again.
Georgia wallops the Broncos, 34-17.
ESPN's College GameDay Will Begin and End in Atlanta
Here are my predictions for where ESPN's College GameDay will visit this season. (Location in parenthesis) (Game prediction in bold)
9/03: Georgia vs. Boise State (Chick-Fill-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome) (UGA 34, Boise State 17)
9/10: Alabama at Penn State (Pennsylvania State University) (Alabama 26, Penn State 10)
9/17: Auburn at Clemson (Clemson University) (Auburn 35, Clemson 21)
9/24: LSU at West Virginia (West Virginia University) (LSU 31, West Virginia 20)
10/01: Nebraska at Wisconsin (University of Wisconsin) (Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 7)
10/08: Texas vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas) (Texas 35, Oklahoma 33)
10/15: Michigan at Michigan State (Michigan State University) (Michigan State 23, Michigan 21)
10/22: Auburn at LSU (Louisiana State University) (LSU 24, Auburn 23)
10/29: Wisconsin at Ohio State (Ohio State University) (Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 13)
11/05: LSU at Alabama (University of Alabama) (LSU 30, Alabama 27 in OT)
11/12: Oregon at Stanford (Stanford University) (Oregon 41, Stanford 38)
11/19: Texas Tech at Missouri (University of Missouri) (Missouri 37, Texas Tech 14)
11/26: Alabama at Auburn (Auburn University) (Auburn 31, Alabama 26)
12/03: LSU vs. South Carolina (SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome) (LSU 18, South Carolina 17)
Auburn's Winning Streak Ends at 20
Life after Cam starts off well for the Auburn Tigers, who win their first five games against Utah State, Mississippi State, Clemson, Florida Atlantic and South Carolina.
However, their chances of repeating as champions take a big blow in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
In a high-flying shootout, the Tigers lose a heart-breaker to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Despite outgaining the Hogs 543-471, Auburn falls to Arkansas, 41-35.
Tyler Wilson Will Be the SEC's Top Passer
Tyler Wilson, who stepped in for an injured Ryan Mallett in their game against Auburn, lit up the Tigers' defense and the scoreboard until the final 10 minutes.
He has a great arm, limitless potential and a great scheme under Bobby Petrino.
I see Tyler Wilson leading the SEC in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
One of the Nation's Biggest Disappointments: Virginia Tech
Not on a level of 2010 Texas, but the Hokies will not win the ACC again next year.
QB Tyrod Taylor? Gone.
RBs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans? Gone to the NFL Draft.
The ACC appears to be wide open in 2011, but I just can't see the Hokies being in the mix. I see a 7-5 or 8-4 season for Virginia Tech.
Others that will disappoint: Oklahoma, Alabama, Stanford
Striking the Pose: Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden Wins the Heisman
Who is Brandon Weeden?
He's simply a 27-year-old college football QB who was once a minor league pitcher in baseball. He was drafted in 2002 by the Yankees but never made it to the big leagues.
Just a week ago he announced that he would not enter the NFL Draft and return for his senior season with the Cowboys.
Oh, and he has a receiver to throw to named Justin Blackmon.
You might be thinking I'm crazy, but just look at the past few seasons.
In 2009, the projected big three competing for the Heisman were Tim Tebow (Florida), Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) and Colt McCoy (Texas). But the actual big three were Mark Ingram (Alabama), Toby Gerhart (Stanford) and Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska). Ingram won.
In 2010, the list of candidates included Mark Ingram (Alabama), Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma). Instead, a QB who had never started a game in the FBS and had just transferred in from JUCO won the award. His name? Cam Newton. Only the best QB Auburn has ever had by two country miles. Nobody was even close to Newton in the voting. The only reason it wasn't the most lopsided Heisman ever awarded was because of some allegations against his father, Cecil.
Expect the unexpected. I like Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State QB, to win the Heisman Trophy in 2011.
The Fiesta Bowl Will Actually Sell Out
You're at the 2011 Fiesta Bowl between Oklahoma and Connecticut.
You look to your left. Then you look to your right. You look behind your back, then look down at the seats in front of you.
You would think one of the following things:
1) You're in the movie I am Legend.
2) You're actually at a Carolina Panthers game.
3) Eastern Washington's playing Ball State.
4) Everyone else with a ticket passed out from Tostitos overdose outside before the game.
OK, so it wasn't a one-man crowd, but the attendance at the Fiesta Bowl was downright pathetic. UConn gained absolutely nothing from the game but lost respect as a football program, respect as a fanbase and over $3,000,000 as a school.
Oklahoma, shockingly, didn't travel well either.
Rest assured, this year, the game will sell out. Who will be playing? We'll find out later.
Texas Beats Oklahoma
Last season was forgettable if you're a Texas fan. The Longhorns went 5-7.
Of course, they will have a chance to bounce back in 2011.
Beating Oklahoma is a nice start. I see Texas pulling a huge upset over Oklahoma, 35-33.
Texas goes 8-4 and Oklahoma, picked to be preseason No. 1, becomes the second straight preseason No. 1 to finish 9-3 in the regular season.
TCU Beats Boise State
As if losing the season opener wasn't bad enough, the Broncos will suffer loss No. 2 against TCU.
The Horned Frogs proved their doubters wrong in 2010, going unbeaten and beating a great Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl.
While the Frogs lose a little bit of firepower, they will still prove to be the top non-AQ team in the land.
NC State Beats North Carolina for the ACC Crown
Let's see: a North Carolina team is playing another North Carolina team at a stadium in North Carolina.
I think there might be a good crowd on hand.
In the wide-open ACC, you could look at over half of the teams in the league and give good reasons why they can win the ACC.
The reports coming out are that great NC State QB Russell Wilson will decide to come back and play football and baseball.
I firmly believe that with Wilson at QB in 2011, NC State is capable of winning the conference.
Of course, if he leaves, then this prediction will change and my article will lose a good bit of credibility. But this is with the mindset that he's coming back.
I think both NC State and North Carolina, who has had a great recruiting class, will lose some ACC games but end up facing each other for a berth in the Orange Bowl.
NC State falls to UNC in the regular season, but the Wolfpack rebounds in the ACC Championship Game to beat the Tar Heels, 27-17.
Oregon Beats Arizona State To Win the Pac-12
College football will experience a pretty odd game on December 3, 2011.
Much like the C-USA, the Pac-12 will have a conference title game that is hosted by the team with the better record.
NCAA rules say that to have a conference title game, a conference must have at least 12 teams.
The Pac-10 had Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal and Stanford.
That's just 10. So, the conference went out and got Utah out of the Mountain West Conference and Colorado out of the Big 12.
Now, the conference has 12 teams, and the conference title game will be between the winner of the Pac-12 North (Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford, Washington, Washington State) and the Pac-12 South (USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah).
Oregon will roll through the Pac-12, beating Stanford and Southern Cal.
Arizona State, who I predict to win the Pac-12 South, will suffer some losses to Oregon and Southern Cal among others, but it will represent its division in the Pac-12 Title Game, simply because USC is not eligible.
In Eugene, Oregon defeats ASU, 55-28, to win the Pac-12. However, a loss to LSU in Week 1 is just enough to keep the Ducks out of their second consecutive BCS Title Game. Oregon goes to the Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin Beats Northwestern for the Big Ten Crown and a Trip to New Orleans
Legends and Leaders.
OK, stop laughing and read what I have to say.
I said earlier that Northwestern had the potential to be college football's biggest surprise.
That will carry over all the way to Indianapolis, where it will face Wisconsin, which was a perfect 12-0 in the regular season.
Yes, you read that right, 12-0. It would appear that the loss of several players would hurt the Badgers, but I just have a feeling this is their breakthrough season. I like them to shock the world and run the table in the regular season.
Northwestern will be a good team and a very surprising team. Sadly, there will be no roses in Evanston, Illinois.
Wisconsin rolls over the Wildcats, 41-17, and punches its unexpected ticket to the BCS National Championship Game, becoming the second consecutive team to lose the Rose Bowl and go to the BCS Title Game the next season.
LSU Beats South Carolina for the SEC Crown and a Trip to New Orleans
That's right. South Carolina is back.
The Gamecocks, bringing in a 10-2 record (losses to Auburn and Arkansas), try to avoid their third consecutive loss in the Georgia Dome.
Their opponent? None other than the LSU Tigers, led by the Mad Hatter, Les Miles.
With Miles is a team that has just completed an unexpected 12-0 season.
No. 1 LSU vs. No. 12 South Carolina.
USC takes a 14-6 lead into the locker room and has a 17-6 lead in the third, but in typical LSU fashion, the Tigers come back to win the SEC, 18-17.
LSU goes to 13-0 and punches its ticket to the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans. Hmm...LSU playing for the title in New Orleans. Sound familiar?
It should, because the last two BCS Title Games played in New Orleans have been won by LSU (2003, 2007).
Notable Bowl Games
Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs. Ohio State (South Carolina 17, Ohio State 10)
Cotton Bowl: Auburn vs. Oklahoma (Auburn 38, Oklahoma 30)
Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan (Florida 31, Michigan 24)
Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. North Carolina (North Carolina 20, Arizona State 17)
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Arkansas vs. Clemson (Arkansas 38, Clemson 34)
Holiday Bowl: Stanford vs. Missouri (Stanford 35, Missouri 24)
Insight Bowl: Texas vs. Northwestern (Northwestern 30, Texas 28)
Outback Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Iowa (Iowa 36, Mississippi State 13)
Champs Sports Bowl: Syracuse vs. Georgia Tech (Syracuse 17, Georgia Tech 9)
Rose Bowl: Oregon (Pac-12 Champs) vs. Nebraska (Big Ten At-Large) (Oregon 42, Nebraska 17)
Fiesta Bowl: Texas A&M (Big 12 Champs) vs. Florida State (ACC At-Large) (Texas A&M 34, Florida State 28)
Orange Bowl: NC State (ACC Champs) vs. South Florida (Big East Champs) (NC State 38, USF 7)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (SEC At-Large) vs. Oklahoma State (Big 12 At-Large) (Alabama 31, Oklahoma State 30)
BCS National Championship Game
No. 1 LSU (13-0) vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (13-0)
LSU Beats Wisconsin To Win the BCS National Championship
This past season, the nation was surprised to see Auburn play Oregon for the BCS Title. Neither team was expected to even be in a BCS bowl. But they won all their games against the odds and played for all the marbles, with Auburn coming out on top.
I expect another unexpected matchup: LSU faces Wisconsin for the crystal ball.
LSU falls behind early, 7-0, but rallies to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room.
LSU adds a field goal in the third to make it 20-10. After an interception, LSU's offense finds the end zone yet again, 27-10 after three.
Wisconsin scores early in the fourth to make it 27-17, but a short TD run with about six minutes left seals the deal for the Bayou Bengals.
LSU 34, Wisconsin 17
LSU wins its third BCS title, its fourth national title in school history and the SEC's SIXTH consecutive BCS Title.