College Football: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2011 Season
With the NFL lockout currently in full effect, the anticipation for the upcoming college football season has never been greater.
There are so many great story lines that fans are eagerly awaiting to play themselves out. How will Ohio State rebound from the embarrassment of Jim Tressell, Terrell Pryor, etc.
Who will win the new look Big Ten? Will USC return to glory in 2011? Can any team go unscathed through the treacherous SEC?
There are so many questions that need to be answered and some are more obvious than others.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the 2011 college football season.
1- Ohio State Will Not Finish in the Top 25
Since 2000, the Buckeyes have finished in the top 10 an amazing seven times. No other team in college football has put more money into their football program than Ohio State over the past year.
In fact, it's not even close. Only Alabama can say that they spend more than $31 million annually on their football program.
They have played in eight BCS bowls in the last 10 years. They have been the one constant since 2000 in the Big Ten.
While hated rivals Michigan and Penn State have had their shares of ups-and-downs, Ohio State has continued to stay on top.
That will all change in 2011.
The man in the sweater (Jim Tressell) has resigned and five Buckeyes including previous Heisman Trophy favorite Terrelle Pryor are suspended for the first five games in 2011.
You heard it hear first, the Buckeyes will lose two of their first five games at Miami and home against Michigan State.
Hey Terrell, hope the free shirts and tattoos were worth it.
2- the 2011 Season Will Be Joe Paterno's Finest
Joe Paterno quite simply IS college football. One of the most beloved figures in the sports history has been the head coach in Happy Valley since 1966.
Yes, Paterno has been coaching the Penn State Nittany Lions for 45 seasons. Paterno is the first coach in FBS history to reach the 400-victory milestone.
He will go down as the all-time winningest collegiate football coach ever and he will retire as the face of Penn State football.
Paterno has two undefeated seasons under his belt, but 2011 will be remembered as his finest coaching job. At 84 years of age, Paterno will lead an experienced group to the Big Ten title in 2011.
The Nittany Lions have a solid group of linebackers returning to "Linebacker U" and playmakers all over the field on offense and defense.
Penn State is the sleeper pick in the Big Ten this season (if 110,00 screaming fans can be considered a sleeper) and it will forever implant Joe Paterno as one of the finest College Football coaches in history.
3- Stanford Will Not Finish in the Top 10
Almost every national ranking has the Stanford Cardinal in top five. Andrew Luck and his teammates have garnered a ton of media attention and accolades.
Don't be surprised if the Cardinal struggle more than they did in 2010. There are a lot of question marks at receiver and amongst the offensive line as the teams top two receivers in Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen graduated.
Three of their five starters at offensive line are gone as well. Stanford will miss these players almost as much as they miss Jim Harbaugh.
Don't look too much into Stanford's defense (who is returning ten starters) as not one player was an All-Pac-10 selection. With a final five game schedule of USC, Oregon State, Oregon, California and Notre Dame, don't be surprised if the Cardinal finish the season with at least four losses.
How will this affect Andrew Luck's draft stock?
4- ROLL Tide
That's right folks, Trent Richardson will be the second Alabama running back to win the Heisman Trophy in three years. Richardson is every bit as talented as Mark Ingram and may be a bit faster and stronger.
The Crimson Tide will return four of five starters among the offensive line, with two of them being All-conference selections. With the departure of Greg McElroy, Nick Saban and Alabama will depend on the running game more than ever.
Trent Richardson is a beast and will be able to carry a heavy load. Good thing too, as he will be carrying the Heisman Trophy out of New York City after the season he has.
5- Stoopin' Atop the National Rankings
Bob Stoops will return the Oklahoma Sooners to glory in 2011 as they will win the national championship. The Sooners have won the Big 12 title four of the past five seasons and are absolutely loaded (as usual) on both sides of the ball.
The Sooners have 18 starters returning from a team that went 12-2 and blew out the University of Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.
2011 will be no different as they are led by quarterback Landry Jones. Jones averaged over 330 passing yards per game in 2010.
Landry is just a junior who if he stays on his current pace, will break all of the school's passing records. The Sooners must replace man-child DeMarco Murray in the backfield, but look for Roy Finch and a plethora of young running backs to pick up the slack.
Ryan Broyles and Co. make the Sooners offense one of the most dynamic in the country. Travis Lewis and his defensive mates make the Sooners D one of the most feared in America.
Oklahoma has an experienced team with their best players at the most crucial positions. This will bode well for them in 2011, as Bob Stoops hoists his second BCS National Championship trophy.
6- LSU Will Beat Oregon in Season Opener
How did the Bayou Bengals win 10 games in 2010? They had absolutely horrific quarterback play from the start.
Even with the huge concerns at quarterback, that actually turned out to be even more substantial than once originally believed, LSU had a remarkable run. LSU will be loaded in 2011 with 18 starters returning.
LSU will run the ball effectively and efficiently and keep the ball away from high-powered Oregon. The Duck's title hopes will be gone after the first game of the season.
7- Justin Blackmon Will Be Even Better in 2011
Justin Blackmon had an absolutely spectacular 2010 campaign as he had 111 receptions, 1,782 yards receiving, and 20 touchdowns. Video game type numbers for sure.
No one expects Blackmon to post such ridiculous numbers again and maybe they shouldn't, as it went down as one of the finest collegiate seasons ever by a wide receiver.
You heard it hear, Blackmon will be better in 2011 as he will have more touchdown catches. He will be a top three finalist for the Heisman trophy, mark it down.
Cowboy fans better enjoy this season, as it will most likely be the last for Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State.
8- Florida State Will Make and Win a BCS Bowl Game
First-year coach Jimbo Fisher guided Florida State to a 10-4 record, ACC Atlantic Division title and 26-17 victory over South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. They lost first-round pick Christian Ponder but many of the Seminoles' best players were only freshmen and sophomores in 2010.
EJ Manuel is officially ready to be a star and Florida State is ready to return to national prominence. 2011 is the season when one of the best programs in college history stakes their claim to the country that they are back.
The Seminoles will play Oklahoma at home in a key non-conference game, but they get a big break because they don't play Georgia Tech, North Carolina or Virginia Tech during the regular season.
9- At Least One FBS Team Will Fall to an FCS
If Appalachian State can beat Michigan than Villanova can surely beat Temple.
Virginia Tech already lost last year to James Madison, so why can't they lose to Appalachian State this year.
The Mountaineers have shown that they are not afraid of anyone and FCS schools should have confidence that they can compete.
FBS will go down to FCS again in 2011.
10- Auburn Will Fall Hard
How is this for a bold prediction, the defending National Champs will not finish in the top 25 in 2011. What other team counted on one player as much as the Tigers?
Cam Newton was everything to the Auburn Tigers and he will be sorely missed this season.
Auburn plays road games at South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia, and they have a real possibility of losing five games this season.
Auburn's home-field advantage will need to play a bigger role than ever in 2011. My how things can change in one season.