A week from now, the Georgia Bulldogs will have a game under their belts, so, with college football season virtually upon us, it is high time I got down to the serious business of making some predictions. I begin by calling the winners of the respective leagues; these are they:
Sun Belt Conference: Middle Tennessee State. I’ll be pulling for Louisiana-Lafayette to win the league title, of course, so that we can point to the Ragin’ Cajuns when touting our strength of schedule (that’s a joke, folks), but I like the Blue Raiders to capture their first outright Sun Belt championship. I’m already looking forward to hearing the announcers covering the New Orleans Bowl speculate about the exact identity of MTSU’s costumed sideline mascot.
Mid-American Conference: Temple. After an offseason as topsy-turvy as this one has been, it’s only fitting that I perpetuate the head-slapping wackiness of it all by picking the Owls to win a conference championship.
Conference USA: Houston. The Cougars have something to play for this year, as the winner of this league will get not only an automatic bid to the Liberty Bowl, but also an automatic invitation to join the Mountain West. Houston should have no problem earning the opportunity to step up in weight class by joining what will become the next automatically-qualifying BCS conference.
Western Athletic Conference:
BYU. (No, wait, they’re not joining now, are they? Sorry; my bad.) Boise State. The Broncos are the class of the league by leaps and bounds.
Mountain West Conference:
Boise State. (No, wait, they haven’t joined yet, have they? Sorry; my bad.) TCU. The Horned Frogs have a shot at running the table and earning a second straight BCS bowl invitation.
Big East Conference: Pittsburgh. I have a special level of disdain for the Panthers---Georgia has a frustrating history with Pitt---and I have little inclination to repose faith in Dave Wannstedt, but Brian Kelly, Jim Leavitt, and Rich Rodriguez all are gone from what was never a deep league, putting the Panthers in a position to finish atop the conference.
Atlantic Coast Conference: VPI. Rarely will a prognosticator go wrong by anointing the Hokies as the ACC frontrunners. I predict Virginia Tech will beat Clemson in the conference championship game, unless, of course, Virginia Tech and Clemson play in the same division, in which case I retract that portion of the forecast.
Utah. (No, wait, they haven’t joined yet, have they? Sorry; my bad.) Oregon. Even with all the upheaval, the Ducks appear solid and they are the team in the best position to take advantage of the end of Southern California’s hegemony.
Big Ten Conference:
Nebraska. (No, wait, they haven’t joined yet, have they? Sorry; my bad.) Ohio State. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about moving The Game, The Game hasn’t so much been The Game lately. Whatever their woes on the biggest of stages, the Buckeyes own Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten.
Big 12 Conference:
N/A. (No, wait, they haven’t disbanded yet, have they? Sorry; my bad.) Texas. I ain’t buying Oklahoma, so that means the Big 12 winner will be either the Longhorns or a team from the North. Texas it is, then.
Southeastern Conference: Georgia, of course! Sadly, not really. Actually, Florida. I know I ranked the Crimson Tide higher than the Gators, but I reserve the right to plead alternately and inconsistently. Alabama lost more on the side of the ball that wins championships, Nick Saban’s club carries the lofty expectations that weighed upon the Gators a year ago, and I simply cannot shake the sense that the Sunshine State Saurians are just lying in the weeds waiting to take a bite out of ‘Bama and every other team that crosses their path.
Coming Soon: General predictions.