We are close enough to college football season to smell it, so it is high time I got around to offering a few preseason predictions. I will begin by forecasting this year’s conference champions, but be forewarned; I did a lousy job of this last season, so there is little reason for you to believe I will be any better at it this autumn. That said, here are my league title prognostications:
Sun Belt Conference: I know they’re not expected to make much noise this season, but I’m not about to pick against the Florida Atlantic Owls in Howard Schnellenberger’s final fall on the sidelines. I freely admit this is an emotional pick, but I’m going with FAU to send Coach Schnellenberger out a winner.
Mid-American Conference: I swear, I’m not trying to get an owl theme going here, even though I do love a good "Twin Peaks" reference, but I’m taking the Temple Owls to win the MAC this season. After going 4-42 from 2003 to 2006, Bill Cosby’s alma mater has gone 17-8 over the last two seasons, including a 12-4 mark in conference play and a 10-2 ledger at home. After missing out on a bowl game last year, Temple is ready to capture the MAC crown this fall.
Conference USA: As much as I’d like to pick Rice and perpetuate the trend of picking Owls wherever possible, I believe the odds favor a different Southwest Conference refugee instead, as the Houston Cougars are the best bet to capture the league title with Case Keenum returning for his sixth (and most oversexed) season.
Western Athletic Conference: I’m going with the Nevada Wolf Pack, because (a) they beat Boise State last year, (b) they get Fresno State, Hawaii, and Louisiana Tech in Reno, and (c) they’re basically the only team that’s left.
Mountain West Conference: The league schedule-makers took what would have been a tough call and made it easy. Because the TCU Horned Frogs have to play on the blue turf one week after facing Wyoming more than 7,000 feet above sea level in Laramie, the Boise St. Broncos are the obvious choice here.
Big East Conference: My decision to go with the Pittsburgh Panthers is based upon five factors. First of all, Dave Wannstedt is gone, which can’t help but improve his team. Secondly, the Wannstache was replaced by Todd Graham, and I have faith in any coach who’s just an NT away from being Todd Grantham. (Actually, if Kwame Geathers and Jonathan Jenkins turn out to be as good as expected this year, it may prove to be the case that, last season, Todd Grantham was just an NT away from being Todd Grantham, if you know what I mean.) Thirdly, my conception of Pitt as a football team was formed by the performances of Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino against the Red and Black in Sugar Bowls, so I simply can’t wrap my brain around the idea that the Panthers aren’t the beasts of the Big East. Fourthly, it seems I pick Pitt to win its conference championship every year (this undoubtedly is related to my third point, supra), so, eventually, I’m almost certain to be right. Finally, the odds of a five-way tie atop the league standings are so favorable that it’s hard to avoid being at least partly right on this one. Yeah, this prediction is going down in flames, isn’t it?
Atlantic Coast Conference: There is no particularly good reason to doubt that the Florida St. Seminoles will win the ACC, other than the fact that the Tribe recently has made a habit of not winning the ACC when there is no particularly good reason why the ‘Noles should not do so. Accordingly, I’m taking the Virginia Tech Hokies instead.
Big 12 (sic) Conference: The question isn’t whether the Oklahoma Sooners will win this year’s Big 12 title; they will. The question is whether the Big 12 will be a ten-member league or a nine-member league by the time the conference title trophy finds its way to Norman.
Big Ten (sic) Conference: With the Ohio St. Buckeyes reeling after a tumultuous offseason and the league looking topheavy in its newly-minted twelve-member incarnation, I like the defending Big Ten co-champion Michigan St. Spartans to avenge last year’s slight by capturing an outright league crown this autumn.
Pacific-12 Conference: The USC Trojans’ continued ineligibility and Jim Harbaugh’s departure from The Farm make this a no-brainer. I will maintain my belief that the Oregon Ducks are the class of the conference until I am given a reason to believe otherwise.
Southeastern Conference: The Georgia Bulldogs, of course! If not the ‘Dawgs, though, then the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Yellowhammer State ceased to be the home of the SEC Championship Game when the league title tilt moved from Birmingham to Atlanta, but the Heart of Dixie will retain possession of the conference crown for the third straight season.
As noted above, forecasting is not my forte, so, if you have a contrary opinion, you’re more than likely right. Anyone who finds fault with any of the foregoing should feel free to offer constructive criticisms in the comments.
Coming Soon: General college football predictions.