NCF Nation: predictions 0905

2009 ACC predictions

January, 5, 2009
1/05/09
9:12
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's a new year, which means a new season and therefore, new predictions. Let's try this again, shall we? Here are five predictions for the ACC in 2009:

1. This year will be just as muddled as last year. Don't fool yourself, there is no frontrunner. Expectations should be high for Virginia Tech, but rival Virginia will have a new look offensively, and everyone in the Coastal Division -- including Duke -- will give them all they can handle. Florida State will take back the Atlantic Division, but not without a fight from NC State. The Seminoles will have a strong nucleus of playmakers back on offense, but NC State -- if it stays healthy -- could be the ACC dark horse.

2. NC State will have a quarterback controversy. It won't be like 2008, when Tom O'Brien started summer camp with five quarterbacks to choose from, but this situation might be worse -- keeping both Russell Wilson and talented redshirt freshman Mike Glennon happy and on the same roster.

3. Duke will come up short of a bowl game. Durham wasn't built in a day and either was Duke football. Let's give David Cutcliffe some time. Besides, his schedule isn't exactly favorable. Army, Kansas and red-hot Richmond are all on the nonconference schedule. Duke will host Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, and travel to NC State, Virginia, North Carolina and Miami.

4. Miami coach Randy Shannon will face the most scrutiny he has since being hired. It's the do-or-die third season for Shannon. In his first year, he won two conference games. In his second, he was a contender for the Coastal Division, but flopped in the end and the success was overshadowed by Robert Marve's transfer and the firing of Patrick Nix. There has to be less drama and more wins in Season 3.

5. Florida State will win the ACC title and Bobby Bowden can finally say goodbye to the game he loves. Offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher will finally take over the big office, and he'll hire his own assistants. Of course, this would require somewhat of a down year for Penn State, so Bowden can rest assured he is the winningest coach in college football.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A few fearless predictions for the SEC in the 2009 season. Hey, it's never too early to start looking ahead:

1. Tebow comes back: Yep, Florida's own Superman returns for his senior season, wins his second Heisman Trophy, and the Gators go on to win their third SEC championship in the last four years. We'll wait until Thursday night before making any national title predictions.

2. Hotty Toddy: The breakthrough team for the 2009 season is none other than Ole Miss, which ended this season with a bang by thrashing Texas Tech in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. What was it about Houston Nutt they didn't like in Arkansas? The guy can coach. He can recruit, and he can motivate.

3. Jones vs. Green: No conference in America will have two better receivers than Alabama's Julio Jones and Georgia's A.J. Green in 2009. They will combine for nearly 20 touchdown catches and become household names in college football. Meanwhile, the debate will rage on as to who's the better of the two.

4. Spurrier's farewell: The Head Ball Coach says he's not ready to hang it up, but he sure sounds frustrated after 12 losses in his last two seasons. The 2009 season will be his fifth and final one in Columbia, as he walks away from a Hall of Fame coaching career and walks onto a golf course full time.

5. LSU fights back: After underachieving for much of this season on defense, the Tigers will get back to their attacking style in 2009 under new coordinator John Chavis. They were missing that edge this season, but the fiery Chavis will see to it that they get it back on the Bayou.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The 2008 Big East football season is officially in the books. So it's time to look ahead, with some very early predictions for the 2009 season:

1. Uphill climb: For the first time this decade and way before Miami made its run, the Big East won't have a Top 10 team in the preseason polls. Pittsburgh had an outside chance to make it there but ruined that with an unimpressive bowl performance. The league will still be looking for respect at the start of next year without a team that's viewed as elite come late August.

2. Pitt is it: Pittsburgh will hold off challenges from West Virginia, Rutgers and Cincinnati to win the Big East, assuming LeSean McCoy stays put. The Panthers will need better quarterback play to get it done, but otherwise they have the fewest question marks of any league team going into the offseason.

3. Overhaul in Morgantown: Without Pat White under center anymore, the West Virginia offense will hardly resemble the zone-read option attack formulated under Rich Rodriguez. The Mountaineers will go to more of a true passing-based offense with the strong armed Jarrett Brown at the controls. Look for more multiple-receiver sets and fewer quarterback keepers.

4. Doug Marrone will be a hit: The first-year Syracuse coach has already impressed fans with his unending enthusiasm for his alma mater. With a more dynamic offense and some key returnees on defense, he'll have a promising first season at the helm. We're not talking eight or nine wins here, but he could notch four or five. And most importantly, the Orange won't finish last in the Big East because ...

5. Louisville lags behind: Things will get worse before they get better for Steve Kragthorpe's team. With a severe talent deficit and road trips to West Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida, Kentucky and Utah, the Cardinals will struggle to match this year's 5-7 record.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Peering into the Pac-10 crystal ball for 2009.

1. Better quarterback play, better conference: If Mark Sanchez elects to return at USC -- a big if -- the Pac-10 will welcome back eight starting quarterbacks. Experience at the position is important anywhere, but in the Pac-10, where offenses are far more sophisticated, it's critical. More than anything else, this would indicate an upward trend in 2009.

2. The conference will produce a serious Heisman Trophy candidate -- or two. If Sanchez comes back, he would join California running back Jahvid Best as two conference candidates near the top of preseason Heisman lists. And Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli might be a guy to toss in as a dark horse.

3. No coach will be fired in 2009: The only coaching change this season was Tyrone Willingham getting fired at Washington and Steve Sarkisian leaving USC to take his place. There won't be any firings next season. That doesn't mean, however, there won't be any changes: Designated Mike Bellotti heir Chip Kelly may take over at Oregon (if he doesn't do so entering 2009) and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh might become a hot prospect and get lured away from The Farm.

4. The nonconference schedule is again brutal, and the results won't be much better: The Pac-10 redeemed a mediocre regular season with a 5-0 bowl mark in 2008, but the nonconference slate may be nearly as rugged in 2009. There are a lot of tough road games -- at Iowa (Arizona), at Georgia (Arizona State), at Minnesota (California), at Boise State (Oregon), at Wake Forest (Stanford), at Tennessee (UCLA) and at Ohio State (USC). As well as some tough home foes: BYU (Arizona State), Utah (Oregon), Cincinnati (Oregon State) and LSU (Washington). A .500 mark would be impressive.

5. The final order in 2009 will ... look a lot like 2008: USC will again be the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-10, and most will project Washington and Washington State at the bottom. California, Oregon and Oregon State will be the top challengers for the Trojans. And that challenge could be legit if Sanchez opts to enter the NFL draft.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The 2008 Big Ten season officially ends tonight as No. 10 Ohio State faces No. 3 Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but it's never too early to take a look at 2009. Here are five fearless predictions for the Big Ten next fall. 

1. The Big Ten mercifully gets only one BCS entry -- After sending two teams to BCS bowls for four straight years, the Big Ten is limited to only one participant (Rose Bowl). The league's recent big-game flops turn off the bowl selection folks, but the Big Ten gets a more reasonable bowl lineup and finishes above .500. 

2. Penn State repeats, JoePa returns -- The Nittany Lions fix their secondary and produce one of the nation's most dominating defenses en route to a second consecutive league title. Penn State capitalizes on a favorable home schedule (Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota), and head coach Joe Paterno opts to return for a 45th season. 

3. Michigan reaches the postseason (barely) -- The Wolverines might be making the short drive to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl, but they won't miss the postseason for the second straight year. Freshman Tate Forcier stabilizes the quarterback spot and Michigan finds a way to win six or seven games. 

4. Northwestern wins a bowl game -- The Wildcats should have ended their drought this year against Missouri, but they'll come through next fall in the Champs Sports or Insight bowl. It marks Northwestern's first postseason victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl. 

5. Ax falls on at least one coach -- After a rare offseason with no forced coaching changes, the Big Ten sees some turnover in 2009. Indiana's Bill Lynch can't afford another losing season, and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema needs to show improvement following an extremely disappointing 2008 campaign. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Call me a soothsayer or just a predictor of events. Here's a look at five early 2009 predictions for the Big 12.

1. Sooners denied again. Oklahoma and coach Bob Stoops will lose another BCS game, dropping a 35-31 decision in the upcoming matchup with Florida later this week. But the Sooners win plaudits in the loss with a gritty performance in their best outing during a five-game BCS losing streak. The game is settled only when Tim Tebow directs the Gators on a dramatic game-winning drive settled when Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin beats loquacious Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks for the game-winning TD in the final minute.

2. Early NFL draft departures strip the league's talent. The balance of power in the league is profoundly shaped for 2009 after Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung all leave school to declare for the NFL draft. The net loss of talent keeps the Big 12 South from claiming its position as the nation's toughest division for a second-straight season.

3. The Red River Rivalry percolates. In one of the most anticipated games in Big 12 history, Texas beats Oklahoma, 34-17, to take control of the South Division early in the conference race. In an expectation almost as certain as the steady stream of fans eating corny dogs before the game outside the Cotton Bowl, Texas fans boo heralded Oklahoma freshman defensive tackle Jamarcus McFarland every time he takes the field.

4. Bo's first division title. After Nebraska coach Bo Pelini inserts Zac Lee into the starting lineup, the Cornhuskers catch fire and cruise to the North Division title in a tight race that features four teams that eventually make bowl trips -- Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. The Cornhuskers don't have enough firepower, however, to beat Texas. The Longhorns win their conference title since 2005 after a 38-24 triumph over the Cornhuskers to cruise to the BCS title game after a 12-1 season marred only by a loss at Oklahoma State.

5. McCoy's Heisman moment. Not only do the Longhorns claim the league championship, but Colt McCoy has a huge season to become the first quarterback from his school to ever claim the Heisman Trophy. His victory comes over runner-up Tebow, who faces the Big 12 champion again in the 2010 national championship game at the Rose Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

With the 2008 season almost in the books, it's time to make some bold 2009 predictions.

1. Another undefeated season: Boise State has the schedule to go undefeated for a second consecutive season, and with 13 regular-season games (the Broncos play at Hawaii, which allows them another game), the Broncos could be the first team to go 13-0 during the regular season. But will their schedule be tough enough to get them into the BCS?

2. San Diego State becomes bowl eligible: With Brady Hoke, Al Borges and Rocky Long manning the ship, the rest of the Mountain West better be weary of the Aztecs. I'm not saying they win the conference, but they'll be far more competitive.

3. The Irish rise: Using the Hawaii Bowl as a jumping-off point, the Irish rally next season to win 10 games, but it won't be enough to climb into the top eight of the BCS standings to get an automatic BCS bid. But an at-large bid won't be out of the question, especially with a decent schedule.

4. Air Force wins the Commander In Chief Trophy: Navy has dominated its military brethren for the past six seasons, but Air Force had its second consecutive stellar year with a lot of young players and a coach that's becoming a hot commodity. Sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson leads his team back to prominence.

5. ECU wins Conference USA: The Pirates are going to repeat their conference championship, but don't expect them to be a BCS buster with the ridiculous schedule they have in 2009. The Pirates kickoff with Appalachian State and then travel to North Carolina. They also have rematches against Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

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