Archive

Archive for the ‘Predictions’ Category

2011 NCAA Football Preview Pt. 1: Early Heisman race

It’s been a while. I’m going to try out the Bruce Feldman format this time.

The world hasn’t seen a Heisman winner like Cam Newton ever in my lifetime. Though this year’s winner likely won’t be another first year starter or transfer, there aren’t many standouts early.

The likely top candidate is Stanford QB Andrew Luck. The junior has been heralded as the top QB prospects coming out of college since Peyton Manning in the late 90’s. Structurally, you couldn’t ask for a better QB – 6’5″ and just shy of 240 lbs. He possesses all the tools a pro QB needs and has showcased it at Stanford for the last two years. He’s as tough as they come too, showcase in this Ed Reed-esque hit against USC. With a veteran O-Line and solid receiving corps including Chris Owusu, Luck will be the best player in College Football. He may not put up the video game stats needed to win the award, however.

My actual favorite to win the award (and sits in most peoples’ top three) is Bama junior running back Trent Richardson. Now that poster boy Mark Ingram is gone to the Saints, Richardson will be the Tide’s feature back – in every sense of the word. With a new QB at the helm (whom hasn’t even been chosen yet) Richardson will definitely get the number of carries needed to put up 1500+ yards on the ground. Physically, you won’t find a better looking back that Richardson. He’s a poor man’s Ricky Williams at 5’11”, 220 lbs. He runs in the low-to-middle 4.4’s, and even returns punts – the factor that likely tipped the Heisman scale for 1999 winner Charles Woodson.

The last serious contender at this point who no one seems to be giving any credit to is Oregon’s LaMichael James. James led that nation last year totaling over 1700 yards rushing. The Texas native is absolutely taylor-made for Chip Kelly faced-paced offense, and should realistically be able to equal his performance last season. The biggest issue for James is his size – can he stay as durable as he has at just 5’9″ 185 lbs? The Pac-12 hasn’t play much defense in the last two years, so who knows.

Two players too good to be labeled “darkhorses” are Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery.  Both will be among the top-10 most talented players next season, but the Heisman hasn’t given much love to receivers in recent years. Blackmon, who is  an amazing-catch machine, will be labeled as a “product of the system” playing in Oklahoma State’s spread offense. Jeffery, who is a nightmare of a matchup at 6’4″ 235 lbs, may be a better receiver than Blackmon, but won’t put up the stats that Blackmon will.

Quick hit candidates (In no particular order):

Kellen Moore – QB, BSU: Can he produce without the two best receiving threats he’s ever had in Austin Pettis and Titus young?

Dennard Robinson – QB, MU: Will he run wild or distribute the ball more in Al Borges’ new pro-style offense?

Matt Barkley – QB, USC: Likely won’t have the talent around him to showcase his own.

Brandon Weeden – QB, OKST: Like Blackmon, will receive the “system QB” label.

Taylor Martinez – QB, NU: Is he durable enough to be at full speed for a whole season?

Dan Persa – QB, NW: If he’s 100% coming back from an ACL tear, could be an elite QB.

Ryan Lindley – QB, SDSU: A great pro prosepct, can he get the hype and stats in the Mountain West?

Knile Davis – RB, ARK: With a new QB, Davis should get a big number of carries, topping 1300 yards again.

Ronnie Hillman – RB, SDSU: If he builds on a sensational freshman year, he’ll be in the top-5 fast.

Landry Jones – QB, OU: He’s got experience, talent, weapons around him, and possibly the best team in college football.

Weekly Heisman Watch: Week 3

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

1.  Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

Until his fire turns off (which you have to think it eventually will, right?) he’s got to be the hands-down favorite.

2.  Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas

Torched Georgia for 380 yards with 3 TDs and no INTS, including a near perfect 4th quarter touchdown drive to get the win.  If he keeps lighting up SEC secondaries, he’ll be the top QB on the ballot.

3.  Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State

He’s averaging just shy of 185 yards per game, but the Wildcats are going to have to pull off a healthy handful of upsets for him to be here at the end of the year.

4.  Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State

He’s been steadily putting up great (but not eye-popping) numbers so far, and he’s played a good team in Miami.  If he continues to roll like he is through Big 10 play, he’ll likely be in New York.

5.  Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

He hasn’t put up awe-inspiring yardage, but he’s also thrown 10 TDs to no INTs.

Weekly Heisman Watch: Week 2

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s obviously still way too early to predict even the Heisman candidates, but it’s still fun.  Here’s my take:

1.  Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

I’m not big into the phrase “carrying” when talking about a single football player.  But if there ever was an instance of one man carrying a football team on his back, it’s been Denard Robinson of Michigan.  He’s currently leading the country in rushing yards with 455 and three touchdowns, with 430 passing yards.  Last Saturday against Notre Dame he accounted for a staggering 94% of his team’s offense, a feat that has never before been accomplished.  For a frame of reference, consider Vince Young against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.  That was 84% of Texas’ offense.  The week before, Robinson accounted for 81% of Michigan’s offense in a 30-10 pounding of Connecticut.

Prospectus:  Robinson will still top this list after hammering UMass next week (although FCS teams are having quite the season, and no one knows that more than Michigan…)  However, before long Michigan is going to start playing some good defenses and teams will begin to break down Robinson.  I don’t believe one man can carry a team for an entire season at the rate he’s going.

2.  Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State

Hunter has come back onto the scene with a bang after a disappointing injury plagued 2009.  He’s nearly on pace to be the first player to break 2000 yards rushing since Connecticut’s Donald Brown did it in 2008.  He’s had over 150 yards rushing in each of Oklahoma State’s first two outings, including an impressive 259 yard showing with 4 touchdowns in the Cowboys’ home opener against Washington State.

Prospectus:  Hunter will start getting talked up or torn down very soon; the next four games on the schedule include Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Nebraska.  If Hunter can produce similar numbers against some very good Big 12 defenses, he’ll be in the race until the end if Oklahoma State can win a few that they’re not supposed to.

3.  Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

At this point, Mallett looks to be this year’s inflated stats quarterback of the year.  He’s in the top 10 of rated quarterbacks, and is one of only four quarterbacks to have surpassed the 700 yard passing park so far.  He’s got 6 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions, and is currently the top passer in the SEC.  He’s definitely passed up FSU’s Christian Ponder at this point, but barely has the edge over OU’s Landry Jones merely based on yards.

Prospectus:  Mallett hasn’t played a real defense yet either.  However, last year he showed that he was the top quarterback in the SEC and we currently have no reason to believe he won’t be this year.  If he continues the trend of big number, lots of touchdowns, and few interceptions all while picking apart SEC defenses, he’ll be on this list for a while.

4.  Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Like I said, Jones is barely behind Mallett on my list strictly because of total passing yards.  He too has six touchdowns to only two interceptions and has passed for for just under 600 yards.  Jones has the leg up on Mallett in that he’s played a legitimate team in Florida State, but their defense is far from proven.

Prospectus:  Jones is going to be tested this Saturday by Air Force’s nasty pass defense, which intercepted Houston’s Case Keenum five times last year in the Armed Forces Bowl.  Although I’ve got a feeling that Jones and the Sooners are going to be doing a lot of putting teams in their place this year.  If he has good showings across the board against the pass defenses of Air Force, Texas, and Nebraska, he’ll be one of (if not THE) top quarterbacks in the country at the end of the year.

Over/Under Win/Loss Style, 2010 Season

August 28, 2010 Leave a comment

This will be my second annual over/under for wins.  Last year my regular season over/under prediction was 8.5.  So my track record is pretty solid.

I didn’t want to write this bad boy until the Friday before game day, but I’ve been asked one two many times how many wins we’ll get this year.  (Yes Trey, you were the straw that broke the camel’s back)  Starting with this year’s schedule…

Week 1:  Western Kentucky

Week 2:  Idaho

Week 3:  @Washington

Week 4:  South Dakota State

Week 5:  Bye

Week 6:  @Kansas State (Thursday)

Week 7:  Texas

Week 8:  @Oklahoma State

Week 9:  Missouri

Week 10:  @Iowa State

Week 11:  Kansas

Week 12:  @Texas A&M

Week 13:  Colorado

Expectations are high this year, higher than they have been in years.  Being ranked in the top 10 in both the AP and Coaches Polls, the expectations are high outside of Nebraska also.

I’m going to chalk weeks one and two up to wins.  I know that no team deserves to be overlooked, but that’s for the coaches and players to worry about.  We’ll beat WKU and Idaho.

The trip to Washington will be one of the most interesting games (and story lines) in the early weeks of the college football season.  Washington, to me, is one of the biggest mystery teams around.  I have no doubt that they will be improved, but how much?  Former USC offensive coordinator and now head coach Steve Sarkisian has got the dawgs on the fast track to success; Washington’s offense improved from bottom 10 in the nation in 2008 to 64th right around middle of the pack.  With potential top pro prospect Jake Locker under center, 1000+ yard running back Chris Polk, and a tall receiving corps headlined by Jermaine Kearse, the offense should take another significant step up in 2010.  The defense was not as improved from 2008 to 2009, but it was in fact improved.  With former USC defensive coordinator Nick Holt calling the shots, the unit should improve again in 2010.

The fact that this is a road game makes it more difficult, obviously.  But one thing to consider is how well Nebraska played on the road last year.  I’m a firm belief in the school of thought that teams that run the ball well and play great defense play well on the road, which should play right into Nebraska’s hands.  Nebraska will have the capability to pound the rock would should leave to sustained drives, minimizing crowd effect.  Chalk me up for a win.

South Dakota State is next on the schedule.  The only question is whether or not they will score more than a couple of field goals on our third string defense.  Win

Kansas State is another story.  I do think they will be better, but I’m not drinking the purple kool aid quite as heavily as those in Manhattan.  Plenty of people are failing to remember that Nebraska has bye week before this game, and you know how I feel about running the ball and playing defense.  I might be closer than I think, but I call it a win.

Next week is the big one.  Red out around the world, the revenge game, whatever you want to call it, it’s a big one.  I can’t bring my self to pose the question of replacing Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley on offense, because then you automatically pose the question about Nebraska replacing Ndamukong Suh.  But I just can’t justify to myself how Texas is going to be a better team in 2010 than in 2009 when Nebraska came within one second of beating them.  But the Texas defense is going to be nasty.  But it’s in Lincoln.  But Nebraska is 1-9 against Texas in the last 10 meetings.  But Nebraska will be playing for revenge.  But, but, but.  I won’t call a win or loss here, we don’t know nearly enough about these teams yet.

Nebraska travels to Oklahoma State the next week, which everyone wants to classify as the classic “trap game”.  I can see it, but I just don’t see the Cowboys being a good enough to beat us, without us beating ourselves.  I’m not looking past this game or anything, I just think Oklahoma State will be simply outmatched.  I’ll call this one a win.

Missouri is nearly the same story for the opposite reason.  This is the game I see as one that could get overlooked.  I believe Missouri will be very good team this year, I’ve got them pegged to finish the year 10-3.  But it sounds like MU’s top running back Derrick Washington might be getting the boot for sexual assault charges, which will be a big blow to an already less than stellar rushing attack.  Nebraska gets the Tigers at home, and Missouri’s spread offense plays well into Nebraska’s elite secondary.  Nebraska with the win.

Iowa State and Kansas are next on the slate.  Yes, I remember that the cyclones beat Nebraska in our house last year, but unfortunately, lightning does not strike in the same spot twice.  I’ll give Nebraska two wins here.

The final two game stretch of the year will be interesting.  Texas A&M will be an offensive juggernaut, and with former Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyer calling the defense it really has nowhere to go but up.  But like Washington, A&M will be another mystery team.  Will there defense improve?  Will the offense develop elite consistency?  Can the team as a whole develop consistency?  I won’t call a win or loss for this game either because we’ll know a heck of a lot more about the two teams ten games into the season.

Finally there’s Colorado.  If Dan Hawkins isn’t fired by this game, this might the one that seals the deal for him.  Colorado has the capacity to be a good team, and they always seem to give Nebraska a run for their money, but I don’t see them winning this one.

So I’ve got Nebraska with 10 wins and two (tossups).  Don’t get me wrong, I believe Nebraska will be a good enough team to win both of those games, but they need to prove that they can be consistent and close out the close games.  Until then, I’m putting my regular season over/under at 10.5 wins.

College Coaches on the Hot Seat: What Happens?

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Today’s edition relates to the hot topic of coaches on the “hot seat”.  What do they need to do?  What do I think happens?

Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

Rich Rod has the highest profile hot seat.  With an unimpressive 8-16 record in two years at Michigan, a lot of people think this year is the go big or go home year for Rodriguez.

So what does Rich Rod need to do to keep his job?  Personally I believe it’s as simple as a bowl trip.  A bowl win would be a nice cushion on that hot seat.  Can they do it?  They’ve got a tough test right out of the gates against Randy Edsall’s Connecticut Huskies.  But year three in Rich Rod’s spread option offensive system should be a year when they really start to move the ball with (my projected starter) Denard Robinson.  For that reason, I’ll chalk them up for wins against Massachusetts, Bowling Green, Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue.  They should be favored in all those games, and have the speed and talent level where they should win them all.  The closer games will be weeks one and two against UConn and Notre Dame, then two October battles against rebuilding Penn State and rival Michigan State.  I’d say they should win at least one of those games, which means a trip to the post season.  My verdict:  Michigan wins 7 games, Rich Rod keeps his job.

Les Miles, LSU

The aptly named Mad Hatter’s trademark clock management mistakes and inability to assemble an offense have shown through brighter and brighter every year after he won the BCS title in 2007.  Since then, the Tigers have gone 8-5 and 9-4 since then.  Going 8-5 in 2008 tied the NCAA record for worst season following a national championship.

Fortunately for Miles, his excuses for lack of success are a little more reasonable than other.  It would be a lofty expectation at the very least to expect LSU to supplant Alabama as SEC West champs.  So what does LSU need to have happen to quell the questioning of Les Miles?  For one, they can’t fall further than second in the SEC West, which is where they finished last year.  However, the schedule does not set up nicely for LSU, with trips to Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas, and home games against West Virginia and Alabama, and a neutral site game against North Carolina in week one.

They also need to move the ball much better on offense.  Les Miles prefers big bruising running backs, but they were unable to run the ball well last year, or pass the ball well for that matter.  So in the end, I think they need to improve on offense first and foremost.  Improved offense should help in the next aspect-some serious upset work.  To be at least second in the SEC West they’re going to need to win some that they’re not expected too.  A win over Alabama or Florida would certainly help his case.  My verdict:  LSU improves on offense, but does not crack the top two in the SEC West.  They will however, upset either Florida or Alabama and win a bowl game.  LSU can’t justify firing him yet, and he keeps his job-for now.

Dan Hawkins, Colorado

Hawkins has slowly deteriorated the once highly respected Colorado Buffaloes.  His “10 wins, no excuses” speech prior to the 2010 season may have been a fitting sign for his fate, when Colorado proceeded to go 3-9 in 2010 with losses to Colorado State, Toledo, and Iowa State.  Needless to say, Hawkins’ success at Boise State has not translated to Boulder.  The one “highlight” of his four year coaching reign at Colorado was a 6-7 campaign  in 2007.

What does Hawkins need to do to keep his job?  That’s tough question.  In my humble opinion, the question ought to be “is there anything he can do to keep his job?”

A bowl game would be the obvious first step.  Unfortunately for the Buffs, the season opener vs. Colorado State might be the only game they’ll be favored in.  They might have 6 “winnable” games, and they’re going to need to win them all to make it to bowl season.  My verdict:  Colorado beats CSU and Hawaii, but Hawkins is fired before he has a chance to lose the rest of the other 10 games.

Lane Kiffin, USC

Lane Kiffin, you ask?  But he’s a first year head coach?  Yes he is, but I’m including him among coaches on the hot seat due to USC’s hiring of new athletic director Pat Haden.  When hired, Haden said he was going to “wipe USC clean of all things from the Pete Carroll era.”  Lane Kiffin, being Pete Carroll’s offensive coordinator at the time of the Reggie Bush scandal does not look to be on Pat Haden’s list of favorite people.  Personally, I think we’re eventually going to see another scenario like we saw with Mike Leach and Texas Tech, as in, USC and Pat Haden are looking high and low for a reason to get rid of Kiffin.  My verdict:  Since Kiffin is basically a walking NCAA violation, I think it’s only a matter of time before his controversial coaching and recruiting methods give Haden what he needs to fire him.

Conference Confidence Part 2

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Continued from yesterday, starting with #7.  Slightly elaborated from here on out.

7.  The Big Ten:  Ohio State

The Buckeye’s dominance in the Big 10 has been contested more and more in the last 2 years.  Last year may have been the best chance for any team to dethrone them, but this year’s big three in the Big 10 have schedules that create a perfect storm for upset.  Ohio State of course returns as the favorite.  However, we’re going to have to pay a lot closer attention to Wisconsin this year, and Iowa will be a force yet again.  Without injury to quarterback Ricky Stanzi in 2009, Iowa goes 12-0 and wins the Big 10.  The Hawkeye defense will be nasty again in 2010.  Wisconsin went 10-3,  two of those losses coming from Iowa and Ohio State in The Horseshoe.  They return 17 starters which includes arguably the best offensive line in the nation, and 1500 yard rusher John Clay.  Last year’s champs Ohio State return 18 starters with stars on both sides of the ball.

The kicker, in my opinion, is the scheduling.  The way I see, Ohio State is the best team, with Wisconsin being the next best, and Iowa being the third best of the “big 3”.  Iowa (3rd best) gets to play both Iowa and Ohio State at home.  Wisconsin (2nd best) gets Ohio State at home, but has to travel to face the Hawks in Iowa City.  And finally, Ohio State (Best team) has to go to Madison and Iowa City to play Wisconsin and Iowa respectively.  Parity anyone?

Gun to my head, I’d let my primal football instincts take over and tell you that teams who play stout defense and run the ball well win on the road.  Except all three of these teams play good defense and run the ball heavily.  Gun to my head and hammer cocked, I’d take Ohio State.

Next in Line:  Iowa and Wisconsin.  Upset odds?  I wouldn’t put money on this one.

8.  Pac 10:  Oregon

The Pac 10 is a lot lower on the list thanks to questions and unknowns coming from the top of the league.  Oregon will be breaking in a new quarterback after kicking Jeremiah Masoli off the team, USC has a new head coach and plenty of personal replacement to deal with, and Arizona is replacing both coordinators.  There’s also the up and comers to considers; UCLA, and Washington likely filling that role.  Oregon State and Stanford could potentially be forces as well.

There’s no doubt who the most talented team in the league is, and that’s USC yet again.  That’s why I’ve got Oregon winning the Pac 10 as one of my less confident picks.  Big time defensive personnel losses by USC in 2008 were likely the cause of the Trojan’s dropoff in 2009, and starting a true freshman quarterback is no cakewalk either.  If Pete Carroll and company were returning to USC in 2010, I would probably have them as my favorites.  However, the coaching change means USC will be adjusting to it’s third offensive and defensive coordinators in 3 years.

Oregon returns the majority of it’s starts on the offensive line and will have a excellent linebacking corps.  Redshirt sophomore LaMichael James will be the focal point of Oregon’s offense after rushing for just over 1500 yards in 2009.  Oregon has the most experience returning in 2010, and should be the conference favorite.

Next in Line:  USC and Arizona.  Upset Odds?  40% in my eyes.  This battle could go on till the bitter end.

9.  Big 12:  Oklahoma

The Big 12, like the Pac 10, has a ton of unknowns near the top of the league.  Oklahoma has the least, in my opinion.  They know what they have on defense, and we got a very extensive preview of what the offense will look like when Sam Bradford went out with shoulder injuries in 2009.  The Sooners managed to be the most statistically prolific team in the Big 12 and lose 5 games all in the same season last year, due to injuries, and general bad luck.  With more experience on the offensive line and less holes and questions due to injury, Oklahoma should be the class of the Big 12.

So why so low on the list?  Well there’s always Texas, which has been there (an beaten OU) 4 of the last 5 meetings.  Then there’s Nebraska, who has arguably the most favorable schedule of the three with Texas at home and no Oklahoma in the regular season.  Texas obviously must replace Colt McCoy, the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history.  And although they have to replace NFL draft picks like Earl Thomas, Rod Muckelroy, Lamarr Houston, and Sergio Kindle, they’ve got plenty of talent waiting in the wings, and a secondary that might be the best in the nation.  Nebraska, who nearly upset Texas in the Big 12 Championship last season, has big questions on offense, but returns 10 0f 11 starters from last year’s injury plagued squad.  The defense has big shoes to fill after losing Ndamukong Suh and both starting safeties, but Bo Pelini’s brand of defense should continue to field an elite unit.

Oklahoma may have the least questions to answer, but if Texas or Nebraska can answer their own questions they think they can and will, this conference could be a toss up.

Next in Line:  Texas and Nebraska.  Upset odds?  Possible coin flip

10.  The SEC:  Alabama

The SEC should again be a battle between Florida and Alabama, with more bumps in the road this time around.  After looking extensively through the SEC schedule, I just can’t justify to myself seeing any team make it through the whole regular season with an undefeated record.  Between the two power players Florida and Alabama, Florida has in my opinion the more favorable conference schedule with an away game in Tuscaloosa being the only game they won’t be the favorite in.  Alabama on the other hand should be favored in all game, but have more chances to be upset, with trips to South Carolina, Arkansas, and LSU which will most certainly be a Death Valley night game, one of the most difficult to win.  Resurgent Auburn gave Bama a close call last year, and should be even better this year.

As for LSU and Arkansas, I just don’t see them as contenders or even sleepers just yet.  That may change as the season rolls on, especially if Arkansas starts playing some defense, or LSU starts playing some offense.  They may play spoiler to one of the big boys on a select week, but Alabama is the class of the SEC west until proven otherwise.

Next in line:  Florida.  Upset Odds?  Actual coin flip.

11.  The ACC:  Miami

This one is as close as it gets.  Ask me again tomorrow, and Florida State might be my choice.  The day after that?  Possibly Virginia Tech or North Carolina.  One thing is for sure, the ACC will be a battle until the final quarter of the regular season.  And lest we forget last year’s champion Georgia Tech…

In years past, Virginia Tech has been the premier team in the ACC, winning two of the last three and playing in three of the last five.  And for the first time (possibly ever) the Hokies will be relying on offense with several holes left on defense after 2009.  They might have the best stable of running backs in the nation led by Ryan Williams and Darren Evans returning from in jury.  An early trip to Boston College we be a tough defensive test, and back to back November trips to North Carolina and Miami will provide the true season test.

Miami, who will be quite possibly the fastest, most talented, and most experienced group of players in the league, needs to prove they can be the best team. They have a gauntlet of a schedule early on starting conference play at Clemson after road tests at Ohio State and Pittsburgh.  The following week they get Florida State at home.  If they can duplicate last year’s early success and lose only one game in that early run, they should be in good shape to make a conference championship run.  The Canes get North Carolina and Virginia Tech at home, but must travel to Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech will need to seriously surprise a lot of people on defense with new defensive coordinator Al Groh transitioning the ramblin’ wreck to a 3-4 defense, especially after last year’s less than stellar defense lost it’s two best players; defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett.  After also losing star running back Jonathan Dwyer, Tech will have a tough test with grueling schedule starting early at North Carolina and finishing (in conference) with Miami at home.  In between, they have trips to Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Florida State and North Carolina could both be serious contenders if they start playing both sides of the ball.  UNC’s defense will be all-universe, and FSU’s offense will be among the best.  However, the Heels’ offense has been stagnant recently and needs to show that they can be explosive or all that talent on defense will be a waste.  Likewise at Florida State, new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops needs to have his guys playing the Stoops brand of defense right out of the gate if the Seminoles are going to take full advantage of their somewhat favorable (compared to the other contenders) schedules.

Next in Line:  Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina  Upset Odds?  Likely


Conference Confidence Part 1

August 8, 2010 Leave a comment

My conference champion picks, going most confident choices to least.

1.  The WAC:  Boise State

This is an easy choice.  If I were the guy engraving team names on the conference championship trophies, I’d etch Boise State Broncos in right now to save myself some time in November.  Boise returns all but one starter on last year’s 14-0 squad.  The Broncos have lost (not a joke) one conference game since becoming a member of the WAC, and hold a 39-1 record over the last 3 years.

Next in Line: Nevada.  Upset Odds?  Slim to none

2.  Conference USA:  Houston

Houston returns 9 of 11 starters from last year’s NCAA yards, passing, and scoring leader on offense.  I’ve already got Case Keenum pegged as a Heisman finalist.  The Cougar offense should simply be unstoppable.  The defense however is extremely suspect, giving up 32 points or more on seven occasions.  Having a potentially record setting offense should help eliminate slip ups like losses to UTEP and Central Florida last year.

Next in Line:  Southern Miss and Southern Methodist.  Upset Odds?  Very Unlikely

3.  Sun Belt:  Middle Tennessee

Last year’s Sun Belt runner up  should lead the way with quarterback Dwight Dasher returning to lead the team.  The toughest test will likely come at home against Troy, who just lost Quarterback Levi Brown to the NFL draft, and offensive coordinator Neal Brown to Texas Tech.

Next in Line:  Troy.  Upset Odds?  Unlikely

4. Mountain West:  TCU

The Frogs will be putting up impressive numbers in 2010 on both sides of the ball.  Gary Patterson and TCU have had the top ranked defense for the last two years, and even with losses of defensive end Jerry Hughes and linebacker Daryl Washington in the top 50 picks of the NFL draft should still be among the best yet again.  The offense will be top 5.  But Utah will provide a formidable opponent coming back from somewhat of a rebuilding year in 2009.  Air Force and BYU will be contenders as well.

Next in Line:  Utah.  Upset Odds?  Unlikely

5. The MAC:  Temple

Temple is already among the favorites to be the next BCS buster.  With Central Michigan being stripped of Dan LeFevour and head coach Butch Jones, Temple will be the early conference favorite and get Ohio and the Chippewas at home.  A solid running game and solid defense will keep them a factor in every game.

Next in line:  Ohio.  Upset odds?  Within the realm of possibility

6. The Big East:  Pittsburgh

Pitt returns enough tools on both sides on the ball to win the Big East, most notably running back Dion Lewis, receiver Jonathan Baldwin, and defensive end Greg Romeus.  The schedule is a bit grueling, toughest opponent, West Virginia, will be played at home.

Next in Line:  Cincinnati, West Virginia, and Connecticut.  Upset Odds?  Decent Possibility