It may be hard to believe, but college football is back. Tonight, South Carolina and Vanderbilt will open up the 2012 season, and it’s a season sure to be filled with many storylines. But before we look at the upcoming season, let’s look back at what’s happened in the offseason:
- Penn State loses 112 wins and receives a four-year bowl ban from NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
- Ohio State is banned from postseason play this season.
- Matt Barkley spurns the NFL Draft in order to come back to Southern Cal to try and help the Trojans win a national championship.
- A four-team playoff will start in 2014, which means we will soon be rid of this crazy way to decide a national champion.
- LSU’s Heisman trophy candidate, Tyrann Mathieu, was suspended from the team and will not return this season.
The offseason was filled with more negative than positive, but hopefully we can put the focus on the game itself. The positive news we did get this offseason was the decision to add playoffs to college football. It’s great that there will be more of a chance for champions to be decided on the field instead of being decided by computers and polls. I hope that we eventually get the field expanded to 8 or even 16 teams, then all doubt will be erased.
Playoffs are still a ways away, so let’s focus on this season. Prediction time!
Outside of three big debacles for games (blowout losses to South Carolina, N.C. State and West Virginia), the Tigers had an outstanding season, winning the ACC Championship with a young nucleus of players like Sammy Watkins and Tahj Boyd. I expect more of the same from Clemson. If they learn from last season’s losses, it could be the school’s best season since winning the national championship in 1981.
Most often uttered phrase this season
This could be Clemson’s year!
Big 12 Champ
Landry Jones could be in the NFL this year, but he chose one more year of riding the Sooner Schooner. For that, Coach Stoops should feel pretty good heading into the season with a veteran quarterback. The Big 12 gets a little tougher this year, however, because TCU and West Virginia are in the conference. But something tells me none of the Big 12 originals will want a new team to take the conference by storm, and I think Oklahoma will be the leader on that forefront.
Big East Champ
Why not? The Big East will likely have a champ from Idaho next season (Boise St.), so why not just pick a team at random. Regular frontrunner West Virginia is gone and though Cincinnati has won the Big East a few times in the recent past, the standings seem to flip over every year making the Big East almost impossible to predict. It just seems that whoever gets hot during conference play ends up with the Orange bowl bid, even when they haven’t won that many games overall.
Most Overused Name As A Pun (ala Jeremy Lin)
Brady Hoke – Hoke-a-mania
Big Ten Champ
Brady Hoke put Michigan on the fast track to regaining Big Ten dominance last year and with college football’s most exciting player, senior Denard Robinson, there is no reason to think they can’t win the conference. Especially since Penn State and Ohio State have all of their NCAA sanctions and problems.
Conference USA Champ
Okay, okay, I’m getting ahead of myself here, but my hometown university, the Charlotte 49ers, started football practice this week – for the first time since…ever. The Niners will begin playing FCS level football for two seasons in 2013 and 2014 before joining Conference USA at the FBS level in 2015. Charlotte will be making the jump to the FBS level quicker than any university has. So there’s some history for you. Oh, I guess Houston will win the conference this year, but in 2015, watch out America!
Notre Dame’s record
The Fighting Irish will have an above-average year, which will be below average in Irish fans’ minds, who are all delusional and have minds stuck in the Lou Holtz era. I do think head coach Brian Kelly will put together a special season with Notre Dame at some point, but not this year.
When the Big Six Conferences look ahead to basketball season
Big East – As soon as the nets are cut down in the NCAA Final.
ACC – After the first week, when non-conference play goes horribly.
Pac-12 – About halfway through October, when USC has beaten opponents so badly the rest of the teams in the conference give up hope.
Big Ten – Right after Thanksgiving dinner, when they realize there are no more Big Ten games left except bowl games against the SEC.
Big 12 - Right after the BCS Selection show, and they see that the SEC got both BCS Title game bids.
SEC - Only in Kentucky
The Ohio Bobcats went to the Sweet 16 this past year in hoops, so I’m thinking the magic will rub off onto the football team and they will win the right to play in a pizza bowl.
Mountain West Champ
I wanted to pick another team here since I know the Broncos lost their greatest quarterback of all time in Kellen Moore, but I just couldn’t. Chris Peterson is too good of a coach to let his team have a letdown season, and the Broncos were winning tons of games before Moore. Remember Jared Zabransky, who quarterbacked Boise State in their epic win against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl? People thought Boise State wouldn’t be able to continue winning without that guy, but they replaced him with Moore. So who’s to say that new quarterback Joe Southwick can’t be a suitable replacement?
Fight song you’ll be sick of by Week 3
Fight On – USC
Lane Kiffin may seem like a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing from time to time, but he sure knows how to get great players. I think USC can go undefeated this year in PAC-12 play as Oregon could fall back after losing Darron Thomas to the NFL Draft (and he didn’t even get drafted). I can’t see any other serious contenders after Oregon, so if USC can take care of them they’ll be fine.
Quarterback Aaron Murray may be the best quarterback in the SEC, and I always feel that if you have a great quarterback these days, you have a great team. Georgia will end the SEC West’s dominance and beat Alabama in the SEC Championship.
Sun Belt Champ
I have to be honest, this pick is just a stab in the dark. Does the Sun Belt even have a TV deal?
This will likely be the final year of the WAC, as many of its members are headed elsewhere. Look for Terry Bradshaw’s old school to win the last WAC football crown.
Heisman Trophy Winner
Matt Barkley, USC QB
Barkley came back for one reason only, to lead USC to a national chamiponship, and if he plays like he’s capable, he should put up Heisman-type numbers.
Coach of the year
Mark Richt, Georgia
Coach Richt gets a lot of flack for supposedly underachieving, but I think he will finally take the Bulldogs to the promised land and into the BCS title game this year. Navigating through an SEC schedule is always tough, but I feel like this is Richt’s year.
If the four-team playoff started this year
Michigan, Oregon, Clemson
Even though this won’t happen this year, it sure is fun to know that a playoff is no longer a fantasy but a reality. I have a feeling that the SEC will manage to get two of its teams into this four-team playoff pretty often though. Which could mean that all of the other conference presidents will decide there needs to be a few more spots.
BCS Title Game
USC vs. Georgia
Will it be the SEC’s 4,000th straight BCS Championship, or will somebody else finally get the job done? I say it’s someone else’s turn.
Final Score: 30-24 Trojans
Games to watch
Thursday August 30
#9 South Carolina at Vanderbilt – It may not look like a pretty matchup on paper, but it’s the first game of the season. You have to watch!
Friday August 31
#24 Boise St. at #13 Michigan St. – Both of these programs lost senior leaders at quarterback. It will be interesting to see which team was better prepared for the future.
Tennessee at NC State (at Georgia Dome in Atlanta) – Many experts thought Tennessee could be a surprise in the SEC this year, but the Volunteers will face much tougher teams in conference play than N.C. State. If they struggle against the Wolfpack, they will definitely struggle in conference play.
Saturday September 1
#14 Clemson at Auburn (at Georgia Dome in Atlanta) – If it really is Clemson’s year, it would help to start out beating a quality opponent from the SEC.
#8 Michigan at #2 Alabama – This is the MUST WATCH GAME of the WEEK. Two preseason top 10 teams. The best defense in the nation against the most explosive offensive player in the nation in Michigan’s Denard Robinson. If you don’t watch this one, you’re not a football fan. Period.
Aaron May is a staff writer and videographer for Sports Spectrum. You can catch his weekly columns on college football, college basketball, and Major League Baseball, depending on the season, each week at sportsspectrum.com. Follow Aaron on Twitter-@pplcallmeblue or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.