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College Football Prediction Time

August 28, 2012

Pac-12

Winner: USC

Runner Up: Oregon

Comments: The Pac-12 has two of the top 5 teams in the country and it’s likely they face each other twice as they will for sure face on USC’s turf during the regular season and then likely face again in the Pac-12 championship game. The team with the best record will have home field advantage in that game and due to USC having home field advantage in the previous game, and veteran Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback to boot, I’m picking USC to win both games over Oregon and win the Pac-12. One possible scenario that Oregon has to win it all is if their young redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota improves throughout the year and lessens the gap between himself and Matt Barkley. USC also could be taken down internally by injuries as they are still extremely thin at certain spots due to the Reggie Bush related suspensions and an unlucky number of injuries could derail their Pac-12 title hopes.

Big 12

Winner: West Virginia

Runner Up: Oklahoma
Comments: I’m picking West Virginia in a huge upset over Oklahoma as I still don’t believe in Landry Jones and his receiving corp, with Jaz Reynolds dismissed from the team and Ryan Broyles moving on the NFL, will consist of Kenny Stills and little else. It wouldn’t shock me if Oklahoma won, I’m picking them as the runner up for a reason, but think their place as the lead dog in the Big 12 race is a tad strange. They’ll face tough tests this year in conference play with 5 of their opponents currently ranked and I just have my doubts that Landy Jones will make enough clutch plays for them to get through those tests without a loss or two. The underrated team in this conference is KansasState which is coming off a Cotton Bowl appearance and still has Heisman darkhorse Collin Klein at quarterback. Don’t be shocked if they outshine a higher profile team like TCU, Texas, or even Oklahoma.

Big Ten

Winner: MichiganState

Runner Up: Wisconsin

Comments: This is arguably the most competitive conference at the top as MichiganState is my pick but I’ve seen Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, and even OhioState predicted to win by different writers. I’m going with MichiganState despite them losing their starting QB, TE, and top two WRs as the defense comes back intact and their running back, Le’Veon Bell, should allow them to ease in the new starters at key spots. The defense is led by future Top 5 pick William Gholston who could have a monster year and they appear to be very deep all across the defense. Most of their games will be low scoring affairs and I don’t see any team going undefeated due to the parity in the conference but in the end I expect MichiganState to win enough ugly games to claim themselves Big Ten champions.

SEC

Winner: Georgia

Runner Up: LSU

Comments: In another upset pick I’m taking Georgia over Alabama and LSU which appear to be the consensus picks by the national media. The reason is the pass defense, or lack thereof, for LSU and Alabama. Both are teams built around defense and will not be successful if they are forced into shootouts yet issues in the secondary could cause that to occur with more frequency than most probably are expecting. LSU had the best secondary in all of college football last year as they had not just the best cornerback in the nation but the second best as well. Both of those players (Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne) are gone as is their #4 CB (Ron Brooks) and one of their starting safeties (Brandon Taylor). Their strength was in passing situations as they went 4 deep at cornerback and could shutdown any spread team. Yet with 4 of their top 6 secondary players gone I have serious doubts about them being able to continue their high level of excellence. That will be important as the offense lost their top 2 quarterbacks, their #1 WR and their starting TE so the LSU offense could again be the low scoring, ball control type that has so often frustrated LSU fans during Les Miles tenure. It all adds up to a 10-2 type season and a step back from the glory days of last year. With Alabama it’s possibly even worse as both their starting cornerbacks, their top 2 pass rushers, and their top safety all have left for the NFL Draft leaving them with Robert Lester and little else in their passing defense. Nick Saban is a great coach but I see no way that he can turn a bunch of freshman and inexperienced players into an elite pass defense and without it the Crimson Tide will be scored on regularly. They will have to rely on a ball control offense as well yet in their case it should work a little better as their offensive line is the best in the country and their quarterback is returning. I expect both LSU and Alabama to take a step back from their dominance of last year and that is why I have Georgia sneaking past them this year. They have the best QB in the conference (Aaron Murray), the best pass rusher in the conference (Jarvis Jones), the best non-pass rushing linebacker in the conference (Alec Ogletree), the best safety in the conference (Bacarri Rambo) and are inheriting another Top 5 recruiting class. Four of the past five years Georgia has pulled in a top 6 recruiting class (per ESPN class rankings) and I think this is the year they finally put it all together and win the SEC.

National Championship

Game: USC vs. Georgia

Winner: USC

Comments: USC has the Heisman frontrunner at quarterback, an offensive genius as a head coach and playcaller in Lane Kiffin, and has one of the better wide receiver duos in college football history. If USC hadn’t been on suspension they would have ended the year as a top 10 team and that’s despite a crushing triple overtime loss to Stanford. Both USC and Georgia could lose in one or more of their games against fellow top 10 teams and make this prediction look really dumb (a safe choice would have been Wisconsin or Florida State who both have easy schedules and won’t have a loss until at least December) yet when I studied teams’ rosters these two jumped out the most. Georgia is stacked across the board on both sides of the ball and USC has one of the best combination of skill position players (Barkley, Woods, Lee) that I’ve seen assembled on a college team in quite awhile. The SEC has won the national championship each of the past 7 years but I’m predicting that streak ends this year as does Alabama and LSU’s dominance of the SEC.

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