Finally College Football Season!
Ok, College Football starts this weekend and we all know it is a year round event but playing the games make it even that much better. I am going to look at each 2013 Conference and try to predict a winner, like most preseason magazines/prognosticators they will try to predict the order of each conference and at the end of the season boost about “look I had SMU fourth in the AAC and that is what happened”. Lets face it, every one at this point is 0-0 and each school goes into the season thinking National Title (or why else play at this level?).
In 2013 we say goodbye to the WAC, hello to the AAC and for some universities a quick stop till another conference change in 2014.
I love almost everything about the game of College Football and am ecstatic when the season begins and a little sad when over.
Enjoy this quick glance into 2013 and remember this is just my opinion, if you agree or disagree at this stage in the game no one is wrong (unless you think Kentucky will win the SEC East!....sorry Wildcat fan).
*Teams listed below predicted winner are in alphabetical order
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (AAC, former Big East)
WINNER: Louisville Cardinals
Louisville comes in well deserving of its #9 preseason ranking. They are a very talented team led by QB Teddy Bridgewater and ended last season smoking #4 Florida 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl. The schedule sets up nicely as they get the advantage of playing in the “new” AAC, have three byes prior to 3 of their 5 road games and will not experience any back-to-back trips the entire season. The Cardinal host UCF and Houston and get Cincinnati in early December on the road (bye prior, regular season finale). It looks like a 12-0 season for Louisville and the only question might be do they get a chance to play for the National Title? (great time to be a Cardinals fan with the basketball team winning it all last year).
Cincinnati Bearcats, Connecticut Huskies, Houston Cougars, Memphis Tigers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, USF Bulls, SMU Mustangs, Temple Owls, UCF Knights
ATLANTIC WINNER: Clemson Tigers
#8 Clemson starts off right away with a huge test, #5 Georgia. Even with a loss they may be somewhat out of the National Race but the Atlantic Division comes down to October 19th hosting Florida State. Toss in a road test at rival South Carolina and the Tigers may be 11-1 (if not 12-0) heading into the ACC Title. There are so many weapons on this team (QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins etc) and the DC is Brent Venables, (DC Oklahoma from 1999-’11 & should be a HC soon) who in his 3rd year here has his best unit yet.
Boston College Eagles, Florida State Seminoles, Maryland Terrapins, NC State Wolfpack, Syracuse Orange, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
COASTAL WINNER: Miami Hurricanes
Miami has been bowl eligible the last 5 years but has elected not to go “bowling” the last 2 seasons. This season not only will the Hurricane get to a bowl but it looks like its most prestige one since the ’05 Peach Bowl. The schedule is tough with road trips to North Carolina and Florida State but the U does host Virginia Tech in November (what may decide the Coastal). It also is hard to ignore 18 returning starters including 10 on the offense making this HC Al Golden’s best team yet.
Duke Blue Devils, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Pittsburgh Panthers, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
WINNER: TCU Horned Frogs
#20 TCU, like Clemson, will start the season off with a bang, #12 LSU. The game will be at a neutral location but in Arlington, TX. After that the biggest season test comes in October when the Frogs travel to Oklahoma, OSU and host Texas. Pass that “October to Remember” and TCU just may be 9-0 in the Big 12. HC Gary Patterson finished just 7-6 last year snapping 4 straight seasons of 11+ wins and in his tenure at TCU he is a combined 32-5 the season after not winning 10+. Nine starters are back on the defense and the Frogs welcome back QB Casey Pachall (looks to put past behind) who should have the offense back up to 2011’s numbers.
Baylor Bears, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, West Virginia Mountaineers
BIG TEN CONFERENCE
LEGENDS WINNER: Michigan State Spartans
It looks like the Legends Division will be decided from November 2nd-November 16th. MSU gets to host Michigan and travels to Nebraska (bye prior). The Wolverines and Cornhuskers may field more potent offenses but the Spartans by far have the better defense (best in Big Ten and one of the NCAA’s best). The offense was one-dimensional at times last season but QB Andrew Maxwell should be much improved in ’13 (having HC Mark Dantonio behind you will also build confidence). The defense may have to keep MSU in some games early but by the time November rolls around the Spartans will be much more balanced.
Iowa Hawkeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Northwestern Wildcats
LEADERS WINNER: Ohio State Buckeyes
I think that Ohio State is talented but I also feel they fall into a very favorable situation in 2013. It looks like a manageable schedule but the Buckeyes may drop a couple conference games outside the Leaders Division. QB Braxton Miller does have 8 other returning starters with him and since HC Urban Meyer has been in Columbus, OSU has not lost, but last year won 5 conference games by a TD or less. The defense only returns 4 starters (last year 9) but is always filled with talent. All-in-all OSU wins the Leaders Divison but will not match last years 12 wins.
Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Purdue Boilermakers, Wisconsin Badgers
EAST WINNER: East Carolina Pirates
HC Ruffin McNeill has done a great job since coming to his alma mater in 2010. He was the DC at Texas Tech prior and in 2010 only had 2 defensive starters back (44.0 ppg), 6 in 2012 (32.3 ppg), 7 last year (31.6 ppg) and 9 this season (pattern?). This will be his best team yet as EC also has 9 returning starters on offense (WR Justin Hardy is one of the best you may never even heard of) and should flirt with a 10+ win season. Florida Atlantic, FIU and Middle Tennessee come over from the SBC and UAB and Southern Miss combined to go 3-21 last year. The East Division once again should come down to Friday night in the season finale at Marshall.
Florida Atlantic Owls, FIU Golden Panthers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, UAB Blazers
WEST WINNER: Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
Tulsa in my mind is a big step up from any other school in the West Division. Last year the Golden Hurricanes had SMU, Houston and UCF in their division and trade them out for Louisiana Tech, North Texas and UTSA. Rice seems to be their biggest threat and they host them (18-2 run at home; 7-0 last year). HC Bill Blankenship enters his 3rd year at his alma mater and with QB Cody Green and RB’s Watts & Douglas, has a very potent offense. The Tulsa defense only has 3 starters back but when conference play starts will have seen the likes of Oklahoma and Iowa State.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, North Texas Mean Green, Rice Owls, Tulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners, UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) Roadrunners
WEST WINNER: San Diego State Aztecs
HC Rocky Long has the Aztecs moving in the right direction and they should win the first ever MW West Division. San Jose State and Nevada will field 1st year HC’s, Hawaii and UNLV went a combined 5-20 last season and figure to do about the same this year. The Fresno State game (which should decide West) will be at Qualcomm Stadium and the Aztecs get an extra week prior to prepare. QB Adam Dingwell played a lot last season and RB Adam Muema can control the clock, combined with 9 starters back on the defense, Long’s squad could top the 10 win mark.
Fresno State Bulldogs, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Nevada Wolf Pack, San Jose State Spartans, UNLV Rebels
MOUNTAIN WINNER: Boise State Broncos
#19 Boise State kind of reminds me of Tulsa in the CUSA West Division, pretty big gap from #1 to #2. They do have to travel to Fresno State and San Diego State but their toughest Mountain Division test will be at Utah State and they get a bye prior. HC Chris Peterson has never had anything less than a 10+ win season and that will continue in 2013. Look for a big season out of QB Joe Southwick and even with just 9 total returning starters the Broncos are a force.
Air Force Falcons, Colorado State Rams, New Mexico Lobos, Utah State Aggies, Wyoming Cowboys
MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE (MAC)
EAST WINNER: Buffalo Bulls
I might be by myself on this pick but trust me this is a very talented Bulls squad. Obviously when you are a MAC member the non-conference schedule can be brutal (at Ohio State, at Baylor) but that experience will only help in MAC play. UB’s two biggest threats come at the hands of Ohio and Bowling Green, both come to Buffalo in cold November (BG at Ralph Wilson Stadium; home to NFL Bills). HC Jeff Quinn has improved his record each of the last 2 seasons since 2-10 in 2010 and he could match the win total in 2013 of the prior 2 seasons (7). QB Joe Licata, RB Brandon Oliver and WR Alex Nuetz might be the MAC’s best trio and with 16 total returning starters (most since ‘08’s bowl season) UB may have their most successful FBS season in school history.
Akron Zips, Bowling Green Falcons, Kent State Golden Flashes, Massachusetts Minutemen, Miami Redhawks, Ohio Bobcats
WEST WINNER: Northern Illinois Huskies
Northern Illinois got the national attention last year making it to the Orange Bowl but clearly was overmatched by Florida State. Still they are the best team in the entire MAC led by QB Jordan Lynch. Lynch could even be more dangerous this year (4,953 total yards in ‘12) with his 5 OL starters returning. NIU does have just 4 defensive starters returning but with such a potent offense that will be overshadowed. The November 20th game at Toledo will be tough but the Huskies enter 2013 having won 8 straight true away games and by that point should be gearing toward its 4th straight 11+ win season (even with a 1st year HC in Rod Carey).
Ball State Cardinals, Central Michigan Chippewas, Eastern Michigan Eagles, Toledo Rockets, Western Michigan Broncos
NORTH WINNER: Stanford Cardinal
HC David Shaw has done a tremendous job with back-to-back 11+ win seasons. He will have his QB Kevin Hogan back and although the Cardinal are missing a lot of skilled position yards from 2012, they are loaded with a massive OL and 8 returning defensive starters. The November 7th Thursday Night tilt hosting Oregon most likely decides the North Division and Stanford gets a bye prior. The Cardinal under Shaw do the things right to be successful and that carries over again in 2013, will it lead to a National Title appearance?
California Golden Bears, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars
SOUTH WINNER: Arizona State Sun Devils
I think that most would pick USC to win the South Division but the Trojans have some things going against them. Do not get me wrong; USC could be the most talented squad in the country but translating it on the field is another thing. The Sun Devils have all the skilled tools in place from an offense that averaged 38.4 ppg last year. They bring back 8 on the defensive side and are in the 2nd year of HC Todd Graham’s system. ASU does travel to Stanford early but host USC on September 28th in what could be the Pac-12 South Division “title game” (last time hosted #23 USC won 43-22 in 2011).
Arizona Wildcats, Colorado Buffaloes, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Utah Utes
EAST WINNER: Georgia Bulldogs
#5 Georgia begins 2013 with #8 Clemson, #6 South Carolina and #12 LSU in 3 of their first 4 games. An interesting note is that only Florida State in the BCS era has ever lost in week 1 or 2 and gone on to play in the National Title game. The East Division will be somewhat decided after week 2 and later on November 2nd in Jacksonville (UGA vs Florida). The Bulldogs have QB Aaron Murray and RB Todd Gurley back and even with just 3 starters back on defense will be solid. Last year HC Mark Richt had Georgia ranked #3 at 11-1 and one play away from the National Title game, the good news for Bulldog fan is that this may even be a better team than 2012’s version.
Florida Gators, Kentucky Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores
WEST WINNER: Alabama Crimson Tide
What we are witnessing first hand is a dynasty! Alabama not only should win the SEC West but the SEC and another National Title. They are that good and if you disagree, you are a player hater. From QB AJ McCarron to RB TJ Yeldon to WR Amari Cooper to LB CJ Mosley this is as complete a team as I have ever seen in my 15+ years covering College Football. Nick Saban (love him or hate him) will go down as the greatest HC in College Football history when he retires. Adding to this monster is a picture perfect schedule with the Texas A&M (September 14th) and LSU (November 9th) games having bye weeks prior. I guess the only thing left to say is, Roll Tide (make it 8 straight for the SEC)!
Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, LSU Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Ole Miss Rebels, Texas A&M Aggies
SUN BELT CONFERENCE (SBC)
WINNER: Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
Louisiana may start 0-2 this year but when conference time comes around they will have 2 wins under their belt and have had played at Arkansas and at Kansas State. Like mentioned prior with the MAC that will go a long way in SBC action. QB Terrance Broadway and RB Alonzo Harris are the leaders and the defense has 6 returning starters including its MLB. The schedule has them playing their two tougher SBC opponents (at WKU, vs ULM) with 2 weeks to prepare and two more road games have them facing off against teams that had FCS status 2 seasons ago. HC Mark Hudspeth days could be coming to an end in Lafayette (in a good way) as UL gets to their 3rd straight New Orleans Bowl.
Arkansas State Red Wolves, Georgia State Panthers, ULM Warhawks, South Alabama Jaguars, Texas State Bobcats, Troy Trojans, WKU Hilltoppers
#14 Notre Dame again will be by far the best Independent but sorry Fighting Irish fans, no National Title appearance. The schedule is very brutal (just like most seasons) with road trips to Michigan and Stanford, neutral site vs Arizona State (Arlington, TX) and a home game with Oklahoma. It looks like an 8-4 to 7-5 2013 for ND as HC Brian Kelly goes right back on the “hot-seat”.
Army Black Knights, BYU Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Navy Midshipmen, New Mexico State Aggies, Old Dominion Monarchs