This year’s college football national champion will not be a team from the Big East conference. That would never have been a bold prediction, but I feel particularly confident that I’ll be right come next January, since the Big East no longer exists.
Some version of that league will still compete in basketball, but for football it is now calling itself the American Athletic Conference.
Here’s another reason a Big East team won’t win the championship: A team from the Southeastern Conference will. That has been true for the past seven seasons; last year 5 of the top 9 schools in the final rankings were from the SEC, including national champ Alabama.
Some experts thought Ohio State might have a chance to break the SEC’s streak in 2013, but that was before some of the Buckeyes’ best players got into legal troubles. Apparently they were trying to prove that they were NFL-level criminals, but the effect is that Coach Urban Meyer and his staff will be handcuffed by the loss of a couple of potential stars.
It looks like any one of several SEC teams could win the national championship this season, but for the sake of tradition, I’m going with Alabama. Here are my predictions, some of which may surprise you. Some of them will surprise me, too, if they turn out to be right.
1. Alabama National champion 3 of the past 4 seasons, the Crimson Tide had an outstanding recruiting year, too.
2. Stanford The Cardinal has the country’s best offensive line, and 10 starters return on defense.
3. Georgia Scoring won’t be a problem for the Bulldogs; they averaged almost 40 points per game last season.
4. Ohio State An undefeated season didn’t earn them a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions, but they should get a nice post-season trip this year.
5. Boise State Broncos went 11-2 a year ago and should be better this season.
6. Oregon Coach Chip Kelly escaped punishment be taking an NFL job, but NCAA sanctions are so light, the Ducks won’t be slowed down.
7. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and the Aggies play Alabama at home on September 14. The winner could be headed to the national championship.
8. South Carolina The Gamecocks have an outstanding defense, featuring lineman Jadeveon Clowney. He hits so hard, you feel the impact while you’re watching on TV.
9. Florida State This might be a stretch, but the Seminoles have a lot of talent. A lot.
10. Louisville The Cardinals will only be the champion of the American Athletic Conference in its inaugural season. Next year Louisville jumps to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
11. Clemson We’ll find out early how good the Tigers are. Clemson’s opener is against Georgia.
12. Nebraska The Cornhuskers have won at least 10 games in each of the last 5 seasons.
13. Notre Dame Starting QB Everett Golson is academically ineligible and one of his backups had previously transferred out. Even so, this team is capable of a 10-win season.
14. Michigan The toughest matchups — Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State — will all be played in Ann Arbor.
15. Florida Gators’ defense is solid; do they have anybody who can play pitch-and-catch?
16. Texas Nineteen starters return; unfortunately, that includes members of a defense that had trouble making stops.
17. UCLA The Bruins have added an outstanding recruiting class to the foundation laid last year.
18. Michigan State Last year the Spartans lost 5 games by 4 points or fewer, finishing 7-6. If they can change their luck in a couple or 3 games…
19. Kansas State Key players (like QB Collin Klein) have departed, but Coach Bill Snyder’s system works.
20. Oklahoma The Sooners struggled to stop the run; they were 89th nationally last year and problems remain on the D-line.
21. LSU Major personnel losses are a challenge for the Tigers, and so is a tough schedule.
22. Northwestern Ten wins were a surprise a year ago, and the Wildcats may not get that many in 2013. They have a lot of talent returning, though.
23. TCU The defense, led by All-American CB Jason Verrett, should help erase memories of a disappointing 2012 season.
24. Baylor This may be expecting too much from the Bears, but this team’s passing game sure is fun to watch.
25. Miami (FL) Coming off their self-imposed postseason ban, the Hurricanes are looking to prove themselves worthy of a late-December game.