Although it's still a bit too tough to predict, the college football season is approaching.
Right now, many programs across the country are in the midst of their spring practices and also preparing for the arrival of their incoming recruiting classes in the early summer.
We've chosen to have some fun, and again it is still early, but we're going to try to project who will play in all 35 bowl games for the 2011-2012 college football season.
Predictions and projections can be tough, but this should be fun to look at after the season is complete to see how we did.
Who'll win the BCS National Championship? Is your favorite program going bowling? Come inside and see!
Virginia vs. New Mexico State
I think Mike London has a solid season at the helm for the Cavaliers, as they make a breakthrough this year under his tenure.
London is a a good coach and has the Cavs fired up to compete this year.
DeWayne Walker is fighting a lack of resources and support from administration at NMSU, however, I think this year he uses it as sheer motivation and gets the Aggies in a bowl game.
Take that athletic director and chancellor.
Cincinnati vs. Kentucky
Kentucky is another program on the rise.
The Wildcats have a solid coach in Joker Phillips, I like Tee Martin as passing game coordinator and Kentucky has been hitting the recruiting trail hard.
Next year they will try to make a jump in the SEC.
The Bearcats did not get a great year from Zach Collaros last year, but I think he bounces back this year. Butch Jones is too good a coach not to have Cinci in a bowl game.
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
This sounds like a fantastic matchup on paper, as you get Arkansas with likely new household name QB Tyler Wilson, and Bobby Petrino in the Cotton Bowl.
Wilson has Hog fans thinking they shouldn't miss a beat without Ryan Mallett, and Greg Childs is back from injury.
A&M has a a great coach in Mike Sherman, and their defense was fantastic last season.
Now in a 3-4 scheme, if they can find a replacement or two for Von Miller, the Aggies could make some noise in 2011.
Florida Atlantic vs. Akron
If you don't like what Mario Cristobal is doing in FIU, then something is wrong with you.
He's a hardworking coach that is determined to build the FIU program into a power. They won their bowl game last year, and Cristobal used that to spearhead a solid recruiting class.
Akron is a bit of a shocker, but I think Rob Ianello will have a solid year this go around.
Ianello has learned much from his days at Notre Dame and the Zips have an arrow pointing up.
Georgia vs. Penn State
Another must see game, as you get two historic programs.
I've always felt that the Gator Bowl was one of the better non-BCS bowls to watch.
Georgia will have Aaron Murray back this year with a full year of experience under his belt. Isaiah Crowell and Caleb Kind should be a great running tandem, and look for Orson Charles to ascend.
Penn State somehow is on track to see if Robert Bolden can remain committed to the program. He has tried to transfer several times, but JoePa feels the playmaking QB is a born Nittany Lion.
As always, Paterno will have his squad in the thick of the Big Ten race.
Nebraska vs. South Carolina
In their first season in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers go around the conference and show everyone they will be a force to be reckoned with, not next year but immediately.
Bo Pelini has a physical and tough team, and has a playmaking QB back in Taylor Martinez.
South Carolina is my pick to win the SEC East again, as it is the weaker division in the SEC.
Yet Steve Spurrier will ride Marcus Lattimore all the way to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game, and Alshon Jefferey will make some plays.
Michigan State vs. Florida
Mark Dantonio has a talented running back coming back to Sparta in Edwin Baker. Baker has been productive every year he's taken the rock for the Spartans and this year should be no different.
Expect MSU to look to prove the medicine they took from Alabama was an aberration.
Florida reaches a bowl under Will Muschamp in his first year. The roster has too much talent not to win at at least six games and likely more.
John Brantley is expected to make a jump under Charlie Weis.
Minnesota vs. Kansas
This game pits two programs looking to make a name for themselves again.
Minnesota did the right thing in not looking to hire a retread coach for the Gopher program. Instead they went and got Jerry Kill from Northern Illinois, and he will bring his offensive magic to Minny.
Kansas is trying to shake off whispers that they are soft. Turner Gill's squad wants some respect after a down year last year.
Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State
I would love to see this matchup. You get the Hokies, who are one of the model programs for consistency and stability vs. Dan Mullen's spread option offense.
It would be interesting to see what Bud Foster does in his game-planning on how to attack Mullen's scheme.
VaTech has to replace both Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams on offense, but it seems every year Frank Beamer finds a way to have his squad in the thick of things.
Tennessee vs. Tulsa
I have Tulsa winning Conference USA this year. They have a strong team returning and will hang some serious tallies on the scoreboard this year.
Tennessee is also rebuilding, and Derek Dooley has the Vols moving back towards their old ways, but look for 2012 to be the year a big jump is made.
I do like Tyler Bray under center in Rocky Top though.
North Carolina vs. California
Butch Davis went through a hellish season last year.
He came into summer camp with basically an all-star team on defense and an offense with NFL prospects, and saw much of them get suspended for agent-related infractions.
The silver lining in the season was that many young players on the Tar Heel roster got their feet wet and have experience for the 2011 season.
California has fallen back to the middle of the Pac-12 after having strong teams in the middle of the decade.
Jeff Tedford is a solid coach and this is where I think the Bears end up in 2011.
Georgia Tech vs. UConn
Paul Johnson will keep running his triple option attack and opposing teams will continue having a tough time stopping it.
Some say Johnson is stubborn, others say he is smart. Whatever you think of him, you can't deny the fact he has won wherever he's been.
UConn saw themselves in the Fiesta Bowl last year.
Licking their wounds from Oklahoma's defeat, they began to learn right after the game their coach was leaving them for Maryland.
Enter Paul Pasqualoni, one of the best teachers in football.
Arizona State vs. Missouri
The Sun Devils have BCS Bowl and Pac-12 title aspirations this year. Nine points was the mere difference between them and a 10-2 season.
The heartbreak kids have the best defensive player in the conference linebacker Vontaze Burfict and this year, they are playing for keeps.
Missouri needs to replace Blaine Gabbert at QB, and his little brother Tyler is among the main candidates vying for the gig.
Gary Pinkel and his spread offense will have his Tigers ready to go this season.
Auburn vs. Boston College
The champs return this year, but are missing some key pieces from the magical 2010 BCS title run.
Heisman winner Cam Newton is gone, and so is DT Nick Fairley. Both expect to be top picks in a few weeks.
Also, the Tigers lost some key pieces from their offensive front. A drop is expected.
Boston College has a solid squad returning but must replace Anthony Costanzo at left tackle. Then Frank Spazziani needs to settle on a QB and let the offense redevelop.
Syracuse vs. Kansas State
This game had a crazy finish last year and it's back this year.
Syracuse is led by alum Doug Marrone, who was Sean Payton's right-hand man for a few years with the Saints. Marrone has moved the program to a multiple pro-style offense and progress has been made.
Kansas State saw Bill Snyder come out of retirement, and all he has done is right the ship.
Snyder relies on a good share of JuCo recruits to make an immediate impact, and the Wildcats are always competitive.
BYU vs. Houston
Jake Heaps is the future of the BYU program.
An all-world recruit coming out of high school, Heaps showed flashes of what made him so big time in high school as a true freshman. He also is a solid leader, and a big jump is expected in 2011.
Houston got the best news they could have gotten in the winter, as they heard the NCAA tell them Case Keenum would be granted a rare sixth year of eligibility.
He will be back for Kevin Sumlin's wide open passing offense.
Arizona vs. Ohio State
Yes, yes I have Ohio State here.
I think there are too many distractions for the Buckeyes. They lose their starting QB, RB and LT and a good receiver in DeVier Posey for five games, plus Jim Tressel is out for the initial five as well.
The first game back is against Nebraska and you expect them to not be rusty. Throw in the fact the Buckeyes will be young on D and you start to think a slip is due.
Arizona has Nick Foles back and will be competitive in the Pac-12. Foles has been called one of the most underrated signal callers in the country and Mike Stoops has the Wildcats poised for a strong year.
Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Northwestern is led by Pat Fitzgerald, who is a devout alum and has the Wildcat program respected by many.
His players play hard for him, with toughness and passion within the Big Ten. Plus, Micheal Wilbon loves them too.
Texas Tech is in the midst of the Tommy Tuberville reign, and he has shown some savvy.
Tuberville ran a power-running offense at Auburn, but did the smart thing in leaving the Texas Tech spread attack alone.
Maryland vs. SMU
As I mentioned before, Randy Edsall shocked the college football world by leaving UConn for Maryland soon after the Fiesta Bowl.
Many felt the job was Mike Leach's to lose, but Edsall came out of nowhere to snag what he and even his wife have called his dream job.
June Jones got the Mustangs in a bowl game last year and will do so again this year. He's a great coach and fantastic offensive mind.
Look for MSU to start to attract top QB and WR talent soon.
Iowa vs. Texas
Iowa is also one of the model programs in college football. If you're a recruit, you know Kirk Ferentz will be there after you graduate and you always will be a Big Ten contender.
Ferentz has turned down NFL jobs and is this decade's Hayden Frye.
Texas missed a bowl game last year at a 5-7 clip, but Mack Brown has the Longhorns re-energized for the 2011 season.
He went out and retooled his coaching staff, highlighted by plucking Bryan Harsin from Boise State to run his offense.
Notre Dame vs. Clemson
Notre Dame enters year two under Brian Kelly and things are looking up.
I must say Irish fans that I would not be shocked if the Irish end up in a BCS bowl, but projecting which exact bowl is tough, plus I think the potential loss of Micheal Floyd will be tough.
But once Kelly settles on either Tommy Rees or the strong armed Dayne Crist, the Irish have a chance to make noise in 2011.
Clemson is a squad that has its head coach feeling a little heat under his coaching khakis, but the Tigers have a strong incoming recruiting class.
Kyle Parker has gone to baseball, and I think Tahj Boyd is a solid QB.
Miami vs. San Diego State
Al Golden has his work cut out for him in Coral Gables. He needs to demand that all the players buy in, but he also needs to win their trust.
Whispers have Randy Shannon misleading players during his tenure, and ultimately they quit on him. This won't happen with Golden.
San Diego State saw their head coach leave for Michigan in Brady Hoke, but Rocky Long stayed behind to run the program.
The Aztecs have some talent and an ascending arrow for the future.
Florida Atlantic vs. Temple
I have the Owls finishing third in the Sun Belt conference, being edged out by FIU for second place.
Howard Schnellenberger got FAU to a bowl game quicker than any other program in history. The Owls are still looking for a bit more respect and 2011 will be used as a platform to demand it.
A shocker. Complete shocker that Temple wins the MAC, but I think Steve Addazio is a better coach than people give him credit for.
He needs to replace Muhammad Wilkerson at DT, but Al Golden left Temple in good shape.
Hawaii vs. East Carolina
Doesn't it seem like every year Hawaii plays in the Hawaii Bowl?
The Warriors still have that wide open offense and Greg McMackin is a good coach. Bryant Moniz is back, but Greg Salas needs to be replaced and will be missed.
East Carolina hired Ruffin McNeil to do two things: bring the Texas Tech offense with him and fix the Pirate defense.
So far he is batting .500, as the offense came to ECU and scored some points, but the defense was horrible.
He needs to get his hands dirty with the D this year.
Navy vs. Utah
Navy runs a 3-4 defense that annoys offenses. Then they run a physical triple option offense that annoys defenses.
Ken Niumatalolo has the Midshipmen stable as a program and they are a bear to prepare for.
Utah moves to the Pac-12 this year and will be among the top programs in the conference.
Kyle Whittingham has decided that he is comfortable at Utah rather than moving to a bigger program, and it has paid off well.
TCU vs. Nevada
This would be matchup that pure football strategists would drool over. You get the Pistol offense in Nevada vs. the 4-2-5 defense of TCU.
Chris Ault needs to replace all-everything QB Colin Kaepernick, who will be a late first or early second-round pick in the draft. But Ault will have the Wolfpack ready to play in 2011.
TCU won the Rose Bowl last year, a capping win for the Horned Frogs' program.
They have their last go this year in the Mountain West before moving on to the Big East.
I think their loss of Andy Dalton will be a steep one to overcome, but Gary Patterson is one of the best in the nation.
UTEP vs. West Virginia
Mike Price has been stable at UTEP and enters this 2011 season looking to bring the Miners to the forefront. Price has done well in El Paso, and his 2011 squad appears to have a solid core.
West Virginia is in transition, as they will have Dana Holgorsen on staff as the OC/Coach-in-Waiting.
Wherever Holgorsen has gone, his offenses have scored points. Immediately. I expect no different at WVU.
Troy vs. UCF
I have the Trojans winning the Sun Belt conference this year. Their offense was nearly unstoppable last year, and they have playmakers returning.
Their defense will be shored up and they should run the table in the Sun Belt in 2011.
UCF enjoyed a great winter, as they were on cloud nine from beating Georgia in their bowl game.
George O'Leary has a solid core headed back to the Orlando-based program, and the Golden Knights should be ready for more in 2011.
Fresno Sate vs. Toledo
The Bulldogs have my projection to earn the the WAC title this year. Pat Hill is an elite coach, and the program has a chip on its shoulder.
Toledo fits the bill as the third-place holder in the MAC, but do not be surprised if the wacky conference sees Toledo sitting at the top spot in 2011.
Southern Miss vs. Louisville
Southern Miss will win the Conference USA title this year. Mark it down. I think they will surprise some people and have a good core returning.
Louisville is headed in the right direction under Charlie Strong. Strong went 7-6 last season, earning a bowl bid.
Look for the defense to continue to get better for the Cardinals.
South Florida vs. Boise State
It's always year two when we see some big jumps with coaches.
Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer are just two coaches who won titles in year two.
Skip Holtz won a bowl game last year, but I think the Bulls can win the Big East.
BJ Daniels must improve his clock management, but he and USF have a good shot.
Boise State returns to the BCS and the bowl that sprung them to national acclaim, beating Oklahoma a few years back.
This time the Broncos and Kellen Moore will enter the game as the bullying favorites.
LSU vs. Stanford
I have LSU getting the SEC at-large bid into the BCS, as I think the Tigers and Alabama are the two favorites in the SEC this year.
Only problem is they play in the same division. Les Miles has an extremely talented roster coming back to Baton Rouge, and has the Tigers thinking BCS title for 2011.
Stanford returns Andrew Luck. That is enough for most to have, but Shane Skov is also back.
David Shaw needs to retool his offensive line to make sure Luck is kept clean, but look for Stanford to continue its recent run of success.
Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
I think the 'Noles win the ACC this year. EJ Manuel has experience as a starter and now knows this is his team.
The FSU secondary will be one of the best in the country, and the roster has talent up and down the list.
Oklahoma State has Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon back, and the combo should do some serious damage in Stillwater.
Mike Gundy needs to replace Kendall Hunter, but the offense has a chance to break some records.
Wisconsin vs. Oregon
In 2012, the Rose Bowl sees a traditional Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup.
Wisconsin needs to replace JJ Watt, Scott Tolzien and Gabe Carimi, but they return three running backs who could approach 1000 yards this year.
The Badgers are tough, physical grinders with strength, and 2011 will be a good year for them.
Oregon will make another title run in Eugene, as Darren Thomas and LaMicheal James are back and will welcome Lache Seastrunk to the spotlight.
Chip Kelly's offense will be put to the test though, as they may have to simply outscore opponents this year because the defense lost so many key players from last year's national runner-up squad.
Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Yes. I think the Sooners and Alabama run the table and meet in the BCS Championship game.
Oklahoma has a great quarterback in Landry Jones, a receiver core led by Ryan Broyles, and I think Tony Jefferson will emerge as one of the best defensive players in the country.
The roster has great talent, and Bob Stoops is one of the all-time greats.
Alabama will find a QB before camp breaks in either Phillip Sims or AJ McCarron.
Trent Richardson is back as the full-time back, and Marqius Maze will step up.
The defense is loaded with studs and will welcome Jesse Williams to the fold with open arms.