Get ready: It’s almost time for the resumption of college football’s historic rivalries. Well, some of them, anyway; because of conference realignments, we also now get unfamiliar matchups like Texas vs. West Virginia (not Texas A&M). If you’re yearning to see the old traditional battles — classics like Nebraska against Oklahoma — you can hope that both teams have mediocre seasons and fill their respective leagues’ slots in the Insight Bowl.
In the past it was customary at this time of year to pick a team from the Southeastern Conference and make it the preseason favorite to win the national championship. Since demolishing tradition is now the vogue in college football, I’m picking a team from a different conference this season — pretty wild, huh?
However, I am sticking to the tradition of posting my preseason predictions publicly, despite of a lot of encouragement to knock it off. So here they are, along with a few random observations. I’m confident that by the time the championship game is played a few months from now, these picks won’t all be wrong…
1. USC Stars like Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and T.J. McDonald feel they have unfinished business.
2. LSU Key games against So. Carolina and Alabama are in Tiger Stadium.
3. Oklahoma Averaged almost 40 points/game last year; 19 starters return
4. Alabama Two national championships in past 3 seasons
5. Oregon These Ducks don’t walk, they sprint.
6. South Carolina Eleven wins last year, could be even better in 2012
7. Michigan Season opener vs. Alabama could set tone for entire season
8. Florida State One of these years, high expectations for Seminoles will come true.
9. Texas After two sub-par seasons, Texas climbs back toward elite status.
10. Boise State Coach Chris Peterson’s six-season record: 73-6
11. Arkansas The big question mark is how Razorbacks respond to the coaching change following Bobby Petrino’s dismissal.
12. West Virginia Move to Big 12 conference will provide stiffer competition
13. Wisconsin Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball is back for his senior year.
14. Louisville Cardinals are the best team in mediocre Big East.
15. Georgia Easy schedule should help: Bulldogs avoid Alabama, Arkansas and LSU.
16. Ohio State Sanctions keep Buckeyes out of bowl game, but at least 9 wins seem possible.
17. Florida The defense is strong; can the offense score enough points to win games?
18. Michigan State Same as Florida (above)
19. Stanford If you’re good enough, you don’t need Luck.
20. Oklahoma State Finished 3rd in final polls last season, but are missing some important players from that outstanding team.
21. Nebraska Huskers have a tough mid-season stretch with Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan in four weeks.
22. Virginia Tech Hokies have 8 consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins.
23. Southern Methodist Mustangs have a chance to be this year’s dark horse.
24. Georgia Tech Opponents find it difficult to defend against Yellow Jackets’ bizarre offense.
25. TCU Four consecutive top-15 finishes, but stepping up to Big 12 in 2012