College Football Predictions: Winners, Losers and What Might Happen This Season

Alex Joseph@alex_brosephAnalyst IAugust 24, 2011

College Football Predictions: Winners, Losers and What Might Happen This Season

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    The season is approaching fast. We're almost exactly a week away from the first kickoff, and it couldn't come soon enough.

    But there are still questions to be asked before the season begins, such as: Who is going to win it all? Who is going to surprise? Who is going to under-perform? Who is the favorite for the Heisman?

    And the list goes on. Many can make predictions, but rarely do predictions come true. There's an entire season ahead of us, and players are going to get injured, teams are going to lose games they shouldn't, and non-BCS schools are going to try to make a name for themselves.

    It happens every year, so why do I think I can predict the future? Because I believe parity is gone this year. There are few elite teams, so there better be a whole lot of luck involved.

    Hopefully these next slides will help answer some questions, so without further ado, here are this season's college football predictions. 

Oklahoma Will Run the Table and Go to the National Championship Game

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    For a full analysis of why I think Oklahoma will finish the year where it started, please click here

    But if you don't want to stray away from this article, here are the main reasons: 

    Their Schedule

    OU really has four tough games this season, and I think only two are losable. The tough games include: at Florida State in Week 3, vs. Missouri in Week 4, vs. Texas A&M in Week 10 and at Oklahoma State in Week 13. 

    The two losable games are at Florida State and at Oklahoma State. When the Sooners take on the Seminoles, they will be without All-American linebacker Travis Lewis and quite possibly Ronnell Lewis, but that situation is currently unresolved.

    The Sooners have all the weapons they need to defeat Florida State, but the game will be significantly harder on the road. The same can be said about Oklahoma State, but given Bedlam's recent history, the Cowboys will have to be on top of their game to top their in-state foe.

    Ryan Broyles and Landry Jones

     Broyles might be the top wide receiver in the nation. In fact, his best competition likely plays at Oklahoma State (Justin Blackmon). That makes this year's Bedlam game even more interesting. 

    Jones, on the other hand, is a preseason candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Statistically, Jones has been great for the Sooners, especially last season. He still made bad decisions, but that was to be expected from a sophomore. Now a year older with even more experience under his belt, Jones should be able to put it all together for a memorable season.

    Josh Heupel and Bob Stoops

     Heupel is now co-offensive coordinator. This might be the best thing that could have happened to the Sooners. Former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who is now the head coach at Indiana, definitely had some good years in Norman. Heupel, however, has personally coached three OU quarterbacks and made them great.

    Sam Bradford was not a Heisman hopeful when he stepped foot on campus, but under Heupel's guidance, Bradford became not only a Heisman winner, but a No. 1 draft pick. Jones looks like he might be following in his foot steps, and he even has a chance to break a few of Bradford's records this season if he stays healthy. 

    So, yes, Heupel is going to be a great offensive coordinator, but the Sooners have somebody else they can also count on. Bob Stoops single-handedly turned Oklahoma back into national championship contenders. 

    Stoops has lead the Sooners to 12 consecutive bowl games (seven BCS), three of those bowl games being national championships (just one victory, though), eight Big 12 South crowns and seven Big 12 titles.

    His record at OU is an impressive 129-31. That's an 81 percent winning percentage! 

    If the team stays healthy and they can get past Florida State in Week 2, it will have a legitimate shot of running the table. Getting Travis Lewis back for Texas is huge, and the senior All-American will anchor a much-improved defense that will hopefully be reminiscent of the 2000 championship team. 

The SEC Will Once Again Be the Best Conference

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    Even though I think Oklahoma will have the best shot at going to the national championship, the SEC will still have the best teams.

    Because of this, it's always tougher for an SEC team to make it to the national championship, but when it does, you can guarantee it's going to be a favorite to win.

    The numbers don't lie. Since the BCS has been formed, an SEC team has won the national championship seven out of 13 times. What's more impressive than those numbers, though, is that the SEC is 7-0 when in the national championship game.

    Every time they've gone, they've won. 

    This just proves my point that when a SEC team has an opportunity to get there, you know there weren't any favors involved. 

    This season should be interesting. Both Alabama and LSU have a great shot at being the national champions, but both teams face a tough schedule, especially LSU.

    I'm one who believes LSU is going to go take care of Oregon in Week 1, but even after that game the Tigers still face six more (currently) ranked opponents before the season ends. The big one will be at Alabama in Week 9.

    Because of this, I think that Alabama has a better chance of being this year's SEC candidate for the national championship, but it has to get through tough games at Florida, at Mississippi State and at in-state rival Auburn. 

    The SEC is going to be great, but because of this, it might be too difficult for anyone to get to the national championship.

    But I still think somebody will—likely Alabama.

    And that's all because... 

Boise State Will Run the Table and Not Finish in the Top Two

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    Over the past few years, Boise State has proven to be an elite team. This year will be no different.

    Looking at Boise State's schedule, the Broncos really only have two games that should be tough: Week 1 at Georgia and Week 10 vs. TCU. 

    TCU is going to be down this year, though, without its star quarterback, Andy Dalton. The Horned Frogs will be transitioning their offense and it will take time to mesh. When you take that into consideration—along with the fact that this year's game will be played in Boise—TCU shouldn't stand much of a chance.

    The actual tough game should come in Week 1 against a young and talented Georgia squad. Playing at home on TV against No. 5 ranked Boise State might be enough fuel to earn Georgia an upset, but in all likelihood, the Broncos should come away with the victory.

    If they get past Georgia, everything will be downhill for Boise State. It has the best chance to run the table in the NCAA, and it likely will, but will that be enough to get into the BCS National Championship Game? 

    Not likely. History shows us that the BCS system really likes strength of schedule, and because of this a one-loss SEC team like LSU or Alabama has a much better chance of making it.

    This is going to happen. Controversy will ensue and once again the BCS will be criticized. 

    Sorry, Boise. 

Andrew Luck Will Not Win the Heisman

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    Andrew Luck is quite possibly the best quarterback in college football. In fact, he may have been the best quarterback in college football last season. 

    Had Luck decided to enter the NFL draft, he probably would have been selected No. 1 overall, and he, not Cam Newton, would be battling for a starting job with the Carolina Panthers right now. 

    Stanford is currently ranked No. 7 in the AP Poll, and it hopes to give the Oregon Ducks a run for their money in the Pac-12. 

    Unfortunately, No. 7 is a little high for Stanford this season. Stanford has had one of the best offensive lines in college football the last few seasons, but after graduating three top talents off their line, the Cardinal have moved into transition mode.

    It could take time for the new line to mesh, and that's the worst-case scenario for Luck and Stanford's standout running back Stepfan Taylor. 

    And with wide receiver Doug Baldwin graduating, Luck is going to have to find a new favorite target to throw to. 

    Stanford definitely has a good chance at finishing No. 2 in the Pac-12 behind Oregon this season, but that's it. Luck is going to have to have some seriously good numbers to contend for the Heisman. 

    Favorites for the Heisman: 

    Landry Jones, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Kellen Moore, Trent Richardson

Taylor Martinez Will Be the Most Exciting Quarterback in College Football

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    Nebraska is going to shake up the Big Ten this season. It has a great chance at winning the league—even though I'm partial to Wisconsin—and Taylor Martinez is going to be the catalyst. 

    Martinez will join the Big Ten as another exciting dual-threat quarterback. As a freshman, Martinez racked up 1,631 passing yards to go along with 965 rushing yards. He also missed two games due to injury and was definitely affected by that injury for his final five games of the season. 

    This season, fully healthy, Martinez has a chance to improve. Even though Nebraska was focused more on the run last season with Martinez and now Washington Redskin Roy Helu, Jr., Martinez proved that he wasn't just a one-dimensional quarterback.

    His game against Oklahoma State in Week 7 was enough justification for any doubters. Martinez did rush 19 times for 112 yards (5.6 average), but he also completed 23 of 35 passes for 323 yards and five touchdowns. He led Nebraska to an exciting 51-41 victory. It was a career day.

    Before that performance, the most passes Martinez had thrown in a game was 17. Needless to say, Martinez was able to step up when he was needed the most. 

    He also completed just under 60 percent of his passes last season and threw only seven interceptions. 

    While most of the attention will be on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, Martinez is going to surprise a lot of people around the country, including his new Big Ten opponents. 

Virginia Tech Has the Easiest Schedule of Any BCS Contender

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    After beating Florida State 44-33 in last year's ACC Championship game, the Hokies have a great chance at doing the same thing this year. 

    Their schedule has virtually no game on it they should be scared of. Their toughest road game is going to be at Georgia Tech, and they should still be at least a 10-point favorite, and that's only if Georgia Tech overachieves this season. 

    There's no doubt that Florida State and Virginia Tech are the top two teams in the ACC, so they should definitely be playing each other again come the end of the season, but will the result be the same?

    That all depends on the play of Virginia Tech's quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas will be filling in for recent graduate and draft pick Tyrod Taylor. Taylor had a great senior season, so Thomas will have a lot to live up to. 

    Thomas is a converted tight end, which is unusual, but he has a cannon for an arm. Also, the guy is 6'6" and 245 pounds, AND HE CAN RUN. 

    This year's Cam Newton? Quite possibly. Thomas is going to be a great player to watch this season. 

The Final AP Poll Before Bowl Games Will Look Like This

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    AP Poll Rankings: 

    1. Oklahoma, 12-0 

    2. Alabama, 12-1

    3. Boise State, 12-0

    4. LSU, 11-1

    5. Oregon, 12-1

    6. Wisconsin, 12-1

    7. Virginia Tech, 12-1

    8. Florida State, 11-2 

    9. Nebraska, 11-2

    10. South Carolina, 10-3

    That makes for 3 SEC teams, 2 Big Ten teams, 2 ACC teams, 1 Big 12 team, 1 Pac 12 team and 1 Mountain West team.

    There obviously isn't a lot of difference between this poll and the preseason AP Poll, and that brings me back to the introduction slide. There will be very little parity this year in college football.

    The elite teams are elite. The underdogs are going to have a tough go this year.