NCF Nation: 2012 preseason predictions

2012 Big 12 preseason predictions

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
10:30
AM ET
Time for one of my favorite posts of the year. Sometimes, you've got to go out on a limb.

To kick off the season, it's time for 10 fearless predictions to cover each team in the league. We'll grade these with a midseason checkup and return after the season for final grades.

Want to check how I've done in the past? Here are my grades for the past two seasons:
What about this season?

As it always goes in the Big 12, we'll start with the quarterbacks.

1. Landry Jones' interception total will be in the single digits. Jones has thrown 41 interceptions in almost three seasons as the Sooners' starter, including 15 last season. This year, though, Jones turns the corner and takes care of the ball better than he's ever done before, clearing 30 touchdown passes easily.

2. Wes Lunt will throw for 4,000 yards. Are we sure he's a true freshman? Can somebody get ahold of this kid's birth certificate? Lunt looks like that guy who came before him a whole lot more often than he looks like a kid who's in over his head. This is the beginning of a bright, bright future for the Illinois native.

3. David Ash will start 13 games for Texas. Ash was stuck in a rotation with Case McCoy last year, but this is the year the Longhorns quarterback takes control of the position and shows some signs of improvement. He's still no world-beater, but he's much, much better than he was in 2011, and the team's offense has its leader.

4. Trey Metoyer will lead Oklahoma in receiving. According to Oklahoma football historian Mike Brooks, only four freshmen receivers have ever led the Sooners in receptions. Malcolm Kelly (2005) was the last before Steve Rhodes in 1976. I don't know about receptions, but Metoyer narrowly edges Kenny Stills to lead the team in receiving yards. Lunt isn't the only impact freshman in the Sooner State.

5. Texas Tech will play Baylor for a chance to play in a bowl game. Both of these teams are better than this, but the Big 12's depth is going to hurt them. That's life playing in a league with six top-25 teams and three conference champions moving on in to the Big 12.

6. West Virginia will lose to an unranked team. You're fresh and new to the Big 12, but some of us have done our homework on the Mountaineers. Last year, it was Louisville and Syracuse. Syracuse and UConn got 'em in 2010. There were lots in 2008 and 2009. In 2007, a memorable (or was it forgettable?) loss to Pitt. South Florida in 2006. You have to go all the way back to 2005 for the last time WVU navigated a season without a loss to an unranked team. West Virginia's better this year, but not that much better. A word of advice: Look out for Iowa State in Ames.

7. TCU will reach the top five and then fall out of the top 20. There aren't many teams in college football that can get to 7-0. TCU will do it, thanks to its schedule, and ascend the polls. As the Big 12's most brutal finish to the season trudges on, though, the Frogs will find themselves outside the top 20. TCU must play at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, Kansas State, at Texas and host Oklahoma to close the season. Good grief. No favors there from the Big 12 office.

8. Kansas will win a conference game, and Baylor will qualify for a third consecutive bowl game. The Jayhawks are more competitive this year, and somewhere along the line, it pays off. Meanwhile, so do Art Briles' and Nick Florence's efforts. Briles has turned Baylor's program around, and sustaining a winning season the year after his franchise player leaves is no small accomplishment.

9. Iowa State's Jake Knott and A.J. Klein will rank first and second in the Big 12 in total tackles. The Cyclones duo combined for 231 stops last year, but both are healthy and stay that way (sort of) to go out in style as seniors in Ames.

10. Kansas State will finish in the Big 12's top two in rushing offense. The Wildcats finished fifth a year ago and must replace three offensive linemen, but I've got faith in the SnyderCats here. Collin Klein's improved arm makes defenses respect him, and the Wildcats contend with tough competition in this stat from Oklahoma State and Texas.

2012 ACC preseason predictions

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
10:30
AM ET
It is time to consult my Magic 8 ball and come up with 10 preseason predictions for the ACC this season. If I get any of these wrong, place all of your blame on said Magic 8 ball.

1. Florida State will win the ACC. Where have you heard that one before? This is the year it will happen! I do not have my fingers crossed behind my back. The best I can do is pinkie-swear with you that the Noles have the best team in the ACC this year and will finish the year ranked in the top five. Wait, that is two predictions in one. Double bonus!

2. The ACC will win its BCS game. Yes indeed, as the BCS representative, Florida State will be the first to take baby steps toward improving the depressing BCS results. That defense is going to be simply outstanding.

3. Travis Blanks will be the freshman of the year. Of all the true freshmen who are going to see playing time this year, I have the most confidence at this point to say Blanks will make the biggest impact on his team. Clemson needs help on defense, and Blanks has shown throughout the spring and summer he will be able to contribute in a variety of ways.

4. Maryland will be better this year. I know the Terps lost quarterback C.J. Brown and have had a few other pretty significant injuries during preseason camp, but there is no way they will be worse than last season. Perry Hills will have his share of growing pains as a true freshman starting quarterback. But Randy Edsall now has a team committed to playing for him, and that will make a huge difference this year.

5. Miami will be better than expected. Not many people have faith in the Hurricanes this year, with only 10 starters returning and limited depth at a variety of positions on the field. But I think Stephen Morris will be a major upgrade over Jacory Harris and there are plenty of young playmakers who will do well when pressed into playing time. Watch out for Duke Johnson, who has the potential to dazzle.

6. Perry Jones will rush for 1,000 yards. There is depth and talent at running back for UVa, but Jones came oh-so-close to the coveted mark last year. He will be better this year and become the first Virginia running back to reach 1,000 yards since Alvin Pearman in 2004.

7. The ACC will have five teams ranked at some point this season. Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech go into the season as the lone ranked ACC teams. But Georgia Tech and NC State are good enough to be in the Top 25 right now, so I think all five will be in the poll. They may even end the season that way.

8. Boston College will struggle. I am having a hard time finding much to get excited about when it comes to this team. Coach Frank Spaziani finds himself on the hot seat, so he has to get back to a bowl game. I just don't see it. The best defensive player in the entire country is gone in Luke Kuechly. Not even he could save this team last year. Injuries to some of its best players are mounting, and the nonconference schedule is not easy with games at Northwestern, Army and home to Notre Dame. I worry about BC this year.

9. Rookie running back attack. There are several true freshmen running backs who have a shot at having big seasons this year. Watch out for the aforementioned Johnson at Miami; J.C. Coleman at Virginia Tech; Wes Brown and Albert Reid at Maryland; and Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell at Duke.

10. Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner will get 20 sacks combined. The two had 15 combined last year (Jenkins was second in the ACC with eight, while Werner had seven). Clemson's Andre Branch was the only ACC player to reach double digits in sacks last year. I think there will be more than one this year, given some of the talent returning.
It's time.

After a seemingly endless offseason, game week has arrived, and the Big Ten bloggers are ready to forecast the 2012 season. We study this league year-round and try to get as much of a feel for how things will play out as possible. Still, as you know, and as you love to remind us, we're occasionally off the mark (sometimes more than occasionally).

Let's get things started with the team predictions ...

Brian Bennett

Legends Division

Michigan State: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten
Michigan: 8-4, 5-3
Nebraska: 9-3, 5-3
Iowa: 8-4, 5-3
Northwestern: 7-5, 4-4
Minnesota: 5-7, 2-6

Leaders Division

Wisconsin: 9-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten
Ohio State: 10-2, 6-2
Purdue: 7-5, 4-4
Penn State: 6-6, 3-5
Illinois: 6-6, 3-5
Indiana: 3-9, 0-8

Big Ten championship: Michigan State defeats Wisconsin

Adam Rittenberg

Legends Division

Michigan State: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten
Michigan: 9-3, 6-2
Nebraska: 9-3, 5-3
Iowa: 8-4, 4-4
Northwestern: 6-6, 3-5
Minnesota: 5-7, 2-6

Leaders Division

Wisconsin: 10-2, 6-2
Ohio State: 9-3, 5-3
Purdue: 7-5, 4-4
Penn State: 7-5, 3-5
Illinois: 6-6, 3-5
Indiana: 3-9, 1-7

Big Ten championship: Michigan State defeats Wisconsin

OK, OK, so we're a little boring with these -- rematch of last year's title game, Michigan State winning, etc. Let's shake things up with some individual predictions for the season, which we reserve the right to change down the line.

Bennett

1. The Big Ten's run of BCS at-large bids comes to an end. The only two teams that finish with fewer than three losses are Michigan State, which goes to the Rose Bowl, and Ohio State, which is ineligible for the postseason. The SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 all get BCS at-large bids.

2. Purdue stuns Wisconsin at home but can't keep up the momentum, coming up one game short of earning the Leaders Division title.

3. Nebraska turns the tables on Michigan and Wisconsin, avenging last year's blowout losses by beating both at home. But the Huskers lose their final game at Iowa and are eliminated from the division-title hunt.

Rittenberg

1. Michigan rallies from back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Nebraska to win its final three games, including an overtime thriller at Ohio State. The Wolverines then punctuate their season with an impressive victory against LSU in the Capital One Bowl.

2. Speaking of the bowls, the Big Ten redeems itself on New Year's Day with a 4-1 record, including a Michigan State victory in the Rose Bowl. Northwestern also records its first bowl win since 1949 in the TicketCity Bowl. The Big Ten records just its second winning bowl performance since the 2002 season.

3. Michigan State rallies to win the title game, thanks in part to Mike Sadler doing his best Brad Nortman impression and flopping on a punt, drawing a penalty on the Badgers late in the fourth quarter. Le'Veon Bell rushes for 200 yards in the victory.

Check the blog throughout the week as we break down the Big Ten's four major awards -- Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year -- in video form.

2012 Pac-12 fearless predictions

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
10:30
AM ET
Not unlike Daredevil, the Pac-12 blog has no fear.

Other than roaches. Roaches are awful, disgusting things that crawl into your shoes and it's perfectly justifiable to scream if that happens.

Not, er, that I've ever done that.

Here are 10 "fearless" predictions in advance of the 2012 season.

1. USC and Oregon will play twice: They meet first on Nov. 3 in the Coliseum. And then they will meet in the Pac-12 title game on Nov. 30. I'd rate the odds at close to 92.4 percent that USC wins the South Division and Oregon wins the North Division. It's strange to feel that certain but I do. I also rate the odds close to zero that we'll see a third game between the two for the national title.

2. A Pac-12 player will be a Heisman Trophy finalist: USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the preseason favorite to win the award, and it would be an upset if he isn't at least a finalist. I wouldn't be shocked, however, if the conference sent two players to New York. If I were guessing today -- and I am -- the second would be Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas. But there are several other dark-horse options.

3. The Pac-12 will go 28-8 in nonconference games: Go and pencil it out yourself. My guess is your number will be fairly close to that record, too. If the actual record includes just five or six losses, it will be a very good year for the conference.

4. California, UCLA or Washington will win eight -- or nine -- games: But only one of the three. The other two will win fewer than eight games.

5. No Pac-12 coach will get fired after the season: After four firings last winter, this is a good thing. The Pac-12 blog won't hide its sentiments hoping this comes true.

6. Four Pac-12 teams will be ranked in the final AP poll: Our first inclination is USC, Oregon, Stanford and Utah. But the fourth also could be the team that emerges in prediction No. 4.

7. The Pac-12 will produce two BCS bowl teams and still fill its contracted bowls: USC will play for the national title. Oregon will go to another Rose Bowl. The conference then would need six more bowl-eligible teams, which it should produce.

8. The NCAA will not hammer Oregon: Despite the ridiculous and utterly uniformed rumor that spread in recent weeks, the NCAA and Oregon are still hashing things out and any "reports" you read about sanctions at this juncture are completely made up. One hundred percent. Further, the Pac-12 blog continues to believe that while Oregon will get hit with sanctions that won't exactly be pleasant, the penalties won't even approach the severity of what happened to USC.

9. At least three Pac-12 defenses will rank in the nation's top 25 in total defense: The candidates: California, Oregon, Stanford, USC and Utah.

10. The Pac-12 blog will, at some point, be wrong about something: No, seriously.

Big East preseason predictions

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
10:30
AM ET
It's that time of the year again. The first games are less than a week away (and just days away, in UConn's case), so with that, I will now subject myself to endless embarrassment by forecasting how a few things will unfold in the conference this season.

1. Kyle Flood will be a hit in his first year at Rutgers. Flood has been at the school for eight years now, has kept a strong recruiting class together and will be coaching a team with arguably one of the best defenses in the country. Greg Schiano breathed life into Rutgers football like no other, but Flood may just have a chance to do in Year 1 what his predecessor never could: win a Big East title.

2. Pitt will surprise many under Paul Chryst. While on the subject of first-year head coaches … unlike esteemed colleague Kirk Herbstreit (and several others), I don't think the Panthers will win the Big East, though they may come close. Chryst likes to run the football, has great depth in the backfield -- led by possibly the best running back in the country -- and his pro-style offense makes for an easier adjustment for the players, particularly with a senior quarterback in Tino Sunseri, who has had seemingly anything and everything thrown his way so far.

3. QB play will be at its finest. Ryan Nassib, Sunseri and B.J. Daniels are seniors who have already faced a lot. Gary Nova will get a chance to be the guy at Rutgers. And, of course, there's Teddy Bridgewater, who burst onto the scene last season as a freshman. The Big East doesn't lack for talent at the position this season.

4. Daniels will finish strong. Speaking of quarterbacks … is Daniels the conference's best quarterback right now? Maybe, but this season he could erase any doubt. The four-year starter is on the cusp of several school and conference records, is more comfortable under this regime and returns all of his offensive weapons.

5. The Big East will pick up some marquee nonconference wins. That Nov. 17 USF at Miami tilt certainly comes to mind. As does Temple's Sept. 22 game at Penn State. And can Rutgers go into big, bad SEC territory that same day and escape Fayetteville with a win? Other opportunities are scattered across the schedules, but these three jump out as close ones to watch.

6. Kevin Newsome will switch positions. The Penn State quarterback transfer is way behind after arriving on campus just this month, and starter Chris Coyer has two more years. Temple's best option may be to spread the 6-foot-2, 231-pounder out wide and take advantage of his athletic ability while the Owls have him for two years.

7. The conference will finish the season with multiple ranked teams. Yup, you heard that right. Louisville enters as a preseason top-25 team, and Rutgers and USF both bring back more than enough talent to crack the rankings if they take care of business this season. It's hard to imagine more than one of them falling.

8. Cincinnati will keep rising under Butch Jones. A conference title may be a bit much to ask given all that the Bearcats lost, but a strong front seven and favorable schedule present Jones with an opportunity to get eight or nine wins out of this year's squad.

9. Syracuse will struggle to make a bowl. Frankly, most teams with the Orange's schedule would. On the cusp of bowling last year before a season-ending five-game losing streak kept them home, the Orange face USC, Missouri and two Big Ten teams, in addition to conference trips to Rutgers, USF and Cincinnati.

10. No one will leave the conference. And for my boldest prediction yet, I will go out on a limb and say that, aside from the Pitt and Syracuse jumps at the end of the year, the Big East will go untouched. Of course, not even member schools saw those two flips coming, so it's really guesswork at this point.
Fortunately -- for me, anyway -- the Notre Dame blog wasn't around yet to do these the week before last season. Therefore, I am not one of the thousands of embarrassed prognosticators who felt last year's Notre Dame team would roll through USF behind Dayne Crist en route to a BCS-bowl season. Nope, I thought 10 turnovers amid an 0-2 start, three quarterbacks and, yes, four different helmets were in the cards all along.

This time, there will be proof for touting my genius. Away we go …

1. Notre Dame will finish the regular season 8-4 and play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Losses at East Lansing, Norman and Los Angeles seem unavoidable, though I do think this is the year the Irish finally take down Michigan. Surely, though, another roadblock sits among this year's gantlet of opponents. Keep an eye on that Oct. 20 tilt with BYU, which has won 10 games five of the last six years and has an experienced QB in Riley Nelson. As for the bowl? The Irish take the Yankee Stadium field as the Big 12's No. 7, which will open this year because the conference will get two teams in BCS bowls. (Here comes the bold part … ) To make matters more fun, the Pinstripe Bowl, not wanting another Pitt/Notre Dame matchup in 2012, picks fifth-place Cincinnati to square off against the Irish. I wonder if there will be any storylines in the lead-up to that one.

2. Cierre Wood will have a hard time winning back his starting job. Theo Riddick has impressed everyone this offseason, and he seems to be most comfortable in the backfield. Of course, the uniqueness of the offense will have him catching passes at certain points and allow for both Riddick and Wood to be on the field together. But don't expect a production drop-off from the backfield in Weeks 1 and 2.

3. Gunner Kiel will redshirt. Everett Golson, today at least, looks like the quarterback of the future. Andrew Hendrix will probably get some time at some point, and Tommy Rees is the perfect emergency signal-caller, given his experience and knowledge. Everyone wants to see what Kiel can do, but it would probably be short-sighted to burn a year of eligibility if it's really unnecessary.

4. Miami -- yes, the big, bad Hurricanes -- will be Notre Dame's easiest opponent. The Hurricanes' thin offensive line will have trouble against Notre Dame's defensive front. They are also coming off back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and NC State, while whatever fatigue issues the Irish had from their Dublin trip should be gone with the Sept. 29 bye. Chicago will be jacked for the Irish's Oct. 6 appearance.

5. Stephon Tuitt will make a lot of people forget about Aaron Lynch. He is more versatile, and he is more reliable. He is much bigger, too. Let's not forget that he missed three games last year because of a missed class and mono, so his numbers didn't leap off the page the way Lynch's did in Year 1. Tuitt is primed for a breakout sophomore season that will put him on the national radar, along with the radar of many pro scouts entering 2013.

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