Thursday, July 11, 2013

13 For ‘13: College Football Predictions

By Jean Neuberger

We're exactly 50 days from kickoff, which means it's time for this year's predictions. Usually, like most who prognosticate, some predictions I get right each year and some I miss by a long shot. However, as we impatiently await the start of the greatest season in sports, it's always fun to make a few guesses about the upcoming year, so here's my 13 for '13.

1) The SEC will make the BCS title game for an eighth straight year. While I don't think anyone will make it through the league unscathed and while the rest of the country will hope for anyone but another SEC team in the title game, a one loss SEC champion will emerge and will compete for an eighth consecutive title for the conference.

2) The Heisman will go to Ohio State's Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes have a great shot of making the BCS title game this season and given the team Miller has, he'll put up big stats to ensure the Heisman heads up north in 2013.

3) Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel will slide this year. This has little to do with Manziel's offseason stories and much to do with what A&M lost. Luke Joeckel won't be on the field this fall. Neither will Ryan Swope. Neither will Christine Michael. Manziel's a fantastic player but his supporting cast last year was no slouches themselves. Given the losses, plus the target on Manziel's back and it spells for a very good but not great year for the Aggies. (They'll be loaded in 2014, though.)

4) Western Kentucky will get another win over the SEC this year. The Hilltoppers took down Kentucky in overtime last year and get the Wildcats, along with Tennessee, for the first two games of the season. Say what you want about Bobby Petrino, he can certainly coach and wasn't given a bare cupboard upon his arrival in Bowling Green. Here's thinking WKU takes down Kentucky again, with a pretty good chance to knock off Tennessee, as well.

5) Indiana will reach a bowl game this year. Surprised? Kevin Wilson has been laying a pretty good foundation in Bloomington. After a dismal 2011, the Hoosiers began to show promise last year, going 4-8 but having near misses against Ohio State and Michigan State. While the November slate is brutal (Indiana goes to Wisconsin and Ohio State), I think IU goes 6-6 and will finally go bowling.

6) The hottest seat in America is Randy Edsall's. But Lane Kiffin's is not far behind. Edsall has not produced at Maryland, going through more uniform changes than victories in his short tenure. As the move to the Big Ten approaches, Edsall's seat is scalding at the moment. Remember, this is the same program that ditched Ralph Friedgen despite going 9-4 in his final season. Kiffin's run at Southern Cal has been far from spectacular as well. To make matters worse, the lack of class shown during the Sun Bowl embarrassment only leaves a more sour taste in Pat Haden's mouth right now. Kiffin needs to have a huge, win the conference and thump Notre Dame type of year. If he doesn't, Haden likely will pull the trigger.

7) This will be Mack Brown's last year in Austin. Along with receiving a fat paycheck to guide the Longhorn program, Brown wants to end his coaching career on a high note. The natives in Austin are definitely restless, especially with the rise of the A&M program and the SEC chip they are using to lure top recruits. Unless Brown can get Texas deep in the national title hunt, the pressure from the fan base will ensure this is his final year. Who does Texas get? The Horns tend to go for coaches that win in places one isn't supposed to win, so I'd have Art Briles leading the list.

8) Clemson could be the dark horse for the national title. There's usually a team that people think are going to be good, yet not good enough to chase a BCS title. This year, it's Dabo Sweeney's Tigers that carry the dark horse label. The Tigers schedule seems to have three major hurdles. Two of those, Georgia and Florida State, are at home. The third is a showdown at rival South Carolina. If the Tigers can take care of business, win the games they're favored to and get past these three games, which is tough but not impossible, Sweeney will have Clemson battling for it all come January.

9) Staying in the Palmetto State, Jadeveon Clowney is going to have more than one "Michigan moment" this season. He'll garner enough Heisman attention to bring up the debate about why defensive stars never win the award and will leave for the pros after this year, being the top pick in next year's NFL draft.

10) In a repeat of last year's "Revenge of the Nerds," Stanford, Vanderbilt, Duke, and Northwestern will all go to bowl games this season. David Shaw and James Franklin's names will be up for openings next year, though Franklin should breathe a sigh of relief that he dodged Nick Saban this season.

11) Mike Leach and Kliff Kingsbury will both pull off at least one stunning upset this year. The offensive philosophy they share will eventually bite someone over the 2013 season, especially in the case of Kingsbury. There was talent still in Lubbock upon his arrival and I'd tend to think the players will excel under a coach who actually wants to be there.

12) Army will finally beat Navy. Call it a hunch. Call it a crazy guess. Something tells me that, given how close it was to happening last year, Army will finally get over the hump and beat the Midshipmen.

13) Oklahoma State will hang 80 on an opponent again this season. This year, it will be Lamar, who has yet to win five games in a season since reviving their football program in 2008. This bludgeoning will again bring up the question as to why BCS level programs continue to schedule FCS teams.

It's 50 days until kickoff. No doubt, anxiety will be high as we all wait for Media Days to begin in a few days and for next season to unfold.

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