A few weeks ago, I, like many others, tried to predict what was going to happen in the college football season. Looking back at that post, which can be seen here, you can say that I, like many, have been befuddled by what has transpired. While my pick of Boston College in the ACC looks good, you don't really know what to make of them. They have played 6 games against I-A opponents with a combined 16-23 record and a I-AA team in UMass. Their first real test comes next Thursday against the resurgent Virginia Tech Hokies, who have beaten up on everyone since their debacle against LSU to get to 6-1. If BC can get through this game, they have a very real shot of running the table, at least until they face either Virginia or Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. We'll see what they are made of soon enough.
One of the more underrated upsets so far this season was Colorado beating Oklahoma the week that I wrote that above post. If the Sooners did not blow that 4th quarter lead, they would be the easy #1 right now, but that is why this season is unthinkable. As I promised, Missouri is really one of the better teams in the country, dropping only to the Sooners by 10 in Norman. They can't afford to dwell on it too much, however, because they have to take on the explosive Texas Tech Red Raiders. Kansas is undefeated right now, and they won't get seriously tested until the end of the year when Missouri comes to town, so expect the Jayhawks to stay near the top of the rankings for awhile.
Everyone's favorite story of the year is the South Florida Bulls. Now up to #2 in the BCS standings, they have the potential to go undefeated and make a claim for an appearance in the national title game. What I don't understand is how the computers have them ranked #1. People keep talking about how they have played and beaten good teams, but I don't see it that way. They beat an overrated Auburn team in overtime, and beat a West Virginia team that did not have Pat White for the majority of that game, as he got injured late in the first half. Yes, they beat the Mountaineers, but it was a team missing their star QB. Lots of people could beat a team with an unproven sophomore quarterback. What do I say about them? I think they lose this Thursday night at Rutgers, if not losing one of their next two at UConn and at home against Cincinnati. They won't get through all 12 games undefeated, so let's stop thinking they will get to the title game.
My Penn State boys disappointed me greatly the two weeks after that post, dropping close games to Michigan and Illinois, but they have started to come back with the loss of Austin Scott due to his pending rape case. Ohio State has taken over the #1 ranking in the BCS standings, but they have a similar problem to Boston College: they haven't really played anyone of note. Sure, wins at Washington and Purdue were nice, but they are hardly championship-caliber teams. We will see how good this year's Buckeyes really are starting October 27th with a trip to rowdy Beaver Stadium, which could be even louder and more hyped than it was in 2005, when Penn State beat the Buckeyes on their way to an Orange Bowl victory. After that, they play Wisconsin and Illinois at home before finishing up with the big game at Michigan, who has been resurgent. I don't see the Buckeyes making it through those 4 games unscathed, which means a new #1 will be there before the season is over. By the way, I do think the game at Penn State will be good, and not just because I go there. The Nittany Lions have won 19 of their last 20 home games, the lone loss coming to Michigan last year. I'm not explicitly saying OSU will lose but......
I don't think there is a better conference right now than the Pac-10. USC is down at #14 after losing to up-and-coming Stanford (led by Jim Harbaugh) and getting a nail biter from Arizona. Cal had a chance to become #1, but dropped a close game to Oregon State. Oregon is still rolling, their only loss coming on a late touchdown to Cal. UCLA has two embarrassing losses to Utah and Notre Dame, but they are undefeated in conference play, albeit against Stanford, Washington, and Oregon State. They get Cal this week and finish the year with three straight games against Arizona State, Oregon, and USC. Speaking of Arizona State, how about those Sun Devils? They are 7-0, #8 in the BCS rankings, and Rudy Carpenter is conjuring up thoughts of a Pac-10 title. They begin an extremely tough 4 game stretch to finish their regular season with the following schedule: vs. #12 Cal, at #10 Oregon, at UCLA, vs #14 USC, before finishing with a home game vs. Arizona. If they are going to make a claim for the Pac-10, this is the time for them to step up. I don't think they are quite there yet, but Carpenter returns next year to give them a legitimate shot at next year's conference championship.
As usual, the SEC has produced upsets and close games, recently seeing former #1 LSU drop a tough road game to a talented Kentucky squad. You can still argue that Andre Woodson is deserving of the Heisman, and you wouldn't get much of an argument from me. With 1786 yards and 24 touchdowns, he has led the Wildcats to big wins over then #9 Louisville and then #1 LSU. They continue their tough stretch with another home game, this time against Florida, as their quest for the SEC East division championship continues. However, that spot is currently held by South Carolina, #6 in the AP poll, whose only loss came at LSU. That could be a rematch at the end of the year for the SEC championship game, and the Steve Spurrier rebuilding project is coming to fruition for the Gamecocks.
Who is going to reign at the end of the year? Your guess is probably as good as mine, but if I was to predict the conference champions and BCS teams now, it would look like this:
ACC: Boston College. They won't go undefeated, but I am sticking with my pick.
Big 12: Oklahoma. They should run the table from here on out and win the conference championship game.
Big East: West Virginia. I don't think South Florida has the experience or the talent to win out, and West Virginia will take advantage to win it.
Big Ten: Ohio State. I think they drop one of their remaining games in that tough stretch, but they won't lose twice. Michigan will try to sneak back in, but will lose to Ohio State at the end.
Pac-10: Oregon. Difference between them and Cal? They have Arizona State at home. Both get USC at home, both are good. Should be the best race to watch the rest of the season.
SEC: LSU. They will run the table and win the SEC championship game, staying near the top of the rankings.
National Championship: LSU vs. Oklahoma. The three teams in front of them in the BCS rankings will all lose at least once before the season is over, and these two won't. It will be strength vs. strength as LSU's defense will get to go up against one of the best offenses in the country in Oklahoma. You know your offense is good when your 3rd best running back scores 3 touchdowns against a top 15 team.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon. The winners from the Big Ten and Pac-10 traditionally play in this game, and it will stay that way this year. Neither team is quite good enough to make it to the title game, but both are immensely talented and can certainly play exciting football.
Fiesta Bowl: Cal vs. Missouri. An offensive fan's dream in the Fiesta Bowl. Cal has the excitable DeSean Jackson, where Missouri has a relative unknown in Chase Daniel (2073 passing yards, 19 total TDs). Neither team wins their conference, but they should get BCS bids. Missouri should run the table the rest of the way, only losing to Oklahoma again, which is nothing to sneeze at. Cal may trip up once more along the way, but I would rather bet on them than someone else.
Orange Bowl: Boston College vs. West Virginia. The conference winners from the ACC and Big East square off in this Orange Bowl match-up as Heisman hopeful Matt Ryan goes toe to toe with the combination of Pat White and Steve Slaton. Both teams will be deserving of BCS bids and make for a quality game in Miami.
Sugar Bowl: South Carolina vs. South Florida. The Cinderella story won't make it to the title game, but I still think they will make it to a BCS game after having the pressure of the media come off after a loss, which I think comes Thursday at Rutgers. Steve Spurrier will guide his team through a tough schedule to the SEC title game, and because LSU will go to the title game, the second SEC team lands here in the Sugar Bowl.