I've been kicking around how to get this information out to the public for about three plus weeks now. Debating between a daily roll out, giving each conference prediction a spotlight post and then I realized something. When people want some in depth analysis of your own team you head over to your favorite beat writer, respective team blog or team fan site. No sense in knocking out some fancy schmancy countdown.
Thus we've waited until the witching hour, the season is upon us and, mostly for the right to say I TOLD YOU SO, here are the In The Bleachers 2010 predictions. All neatly packaged, quickly explained and 100% accurate as of right now. We knock out the conference division and championship predictions. Eat that fools.
Is there rhyme or reason to this lay out? Sort of. We roll alphabetical but in a sort of "fair" pattern where we will alternate between the BCS leagues and non-BCS leagues. So what you're getting is ACC-CUSA-Big East-MAC and so on and so forth. Expect a few twists and turns as we run through this PREDICTINATOR!
As you read this and make you're predictions against ours be sure to sign up for the In The Bleachers Pick'em Pool (password inthebleachers) to take on Pat and Michael for mediocre gifts of gratitude.
Read more for our predictions...
Coastal- Virginia Tech
Champion- Virginia Tech
The Hokies have won two of the last three ACC Championships and this year they've got a shot at the most explosive offense they've had since Michael Vick was in the maroon and orange. The Evans-Williams backfield is going to have to take the pressure off Bud Foster's young defense early in the season as they grow into their roles but with a ball control, bruising attack the Hokies should give their transitioning D plenty of time.
Clemson coming out of the Atlantic seemed like a pipe dream when Kyle Parker went early in the MLB draft, however his return takes the offense out of a freshman's hands and puts it into the capable hands of a returning starter. We know the defense will be good as Kevin Steele is one of the better defensive minds in the college game. The unknowns with the Tigers is their shift to life without CJ Spiller. I expect Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington to fill the shoes left behind nicely as a true running back combo and look for OC Billy Napier to have more freedom in play calling where he is forced to spread the ball around instead of concentrating on getting Spiller his 20-28 touches a game.
Virginia Tech wins a hard fought title game on the strength of their backfield and maturation of Tyrod Taylor.
*Bonus Prediction* this ACC Championship Game, hosted in Charlotte, NC will be the first one to sell out.
East- Southern Miss
Champion- Southern Miss
Pitt has so many NFL caliber players on their roster it is scary. Jon Baldwin, Dion Lewis, Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard are among the nations best at their respective positions. The QB trouble and replacing the interior of the offensive line are no small tasks but Wannstedt has shown a proclivity for manufacturing yards, especially on the ground. The Panthers will be tough on defensive on the strength of the pass rush. Getting to the quarterback makes their new cornerbacks' jobs a lot easier. In the Big East look for UConn, WVU, Cinci and USF to push but not remove the fighting Wannstaches from the top of the hill.
West- Northern Illinois
That's right folks I'm rolling with the Hawkeyes. The answer was easy for me when I looked at the schedule; Ohio State and Wisconsin in Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes have got plenty of talent coming back on defense including stand out defenders Adrian Clayborn, Broderick Binns and Tyler Sash. A season ago the Hawkeye's were an overtime loss, in Columbus, from their first Rose Bowl since 1991. This year having the Buckeyes at home could be the difference in Iowa winning the Big Ten and having to accept another at-large BCS bid.
Last season the Utes got embarrassed in Ft. Worth to the tune of 55-28 by TCU. This year they're on the warpath against their two in conference rivals; BYU and TCU. Home games this season help the Utes as does the quarterback indecision that could exist all season for the Cougars. TCU is the best team in the conference but the Utes have a chip on their shoulder and Kyle Whittingham has proven that he's capable of taking a team ranked outside of the Top 15 and motivating them to grow together into an elite unit.
Nebraska stumbled early a season ago dropping 3 of their first 7 contests before ripping off five wins in a row. This season they should enter focused and instead of battling a Top 15 Virginia Tech the Huskers will get to week seven before they square off against a ranked Texas squad in Lincoln. Mizzou is their best competition in the North and the Tigers travel to Lincoln in late October, barring an upset the Huskers won't lose a Big Twelve North game this season.
Oklahoma is rebounding form a year that deviated completely from their intended plans. They opened 2009 with title expectations that went down with Jermaine Gresham and Sam Bradford. This year they've got an experienced quarterback, a running back on a mission and a defense that looks to be every bit as good as the rest of Stoops' squads this decade. DeMarco Murray will have a big season as he returns to the 1,000 yard performer he was in 2008.
Sooners and Huskers don't square off on the field this season so the Big XII title game will be their first meeting since last seasons 13-10 Huskers win in the ugliest of fashions in Lincoln. This will be strength on strength as Nebraska's defense will be their season long calling card and OU's offense will be explosive through both the air and the ground. OU wins as their defense is still miles ahead of Nebraska's limited offense and the Huskers' D can't keep Broyles, Murray and company scoreless all game.
Champion- North Texas
Champion- Southern Cal*
The Trojans are still the most talented team in the conference even with the departures of several players. Matt Barkley should continue his maturity under Kiffin and I expect Ronald Johnson to step up into that Damian Williams-Dwayne Jarrett role of the go-to playmaker on the outside. On defense Monte Kiffin will have one of the nation's best collections of talent poised to play sound football. The Pac-10 is a free for all with as many as five teams having a legitimate shot at claiming the title. The odds of anyone escaping undefeated are between slim and none. Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona and Stanford will be in the running but Southern Cal is who we expect to come out on top.
*USC obviously cannot receive the Pac-10's automatic bid to the Rose Bowl.
Champion- Boise State
I know my favorite player on the offensive side of the ball for the 2010 season Washaun Ealey is suspended for at least one game. That game is Louisiana-Lafayette so I'm not too worried. I expect the Dawgs to come out firing on all cylinders and there isn't an offensive mind in the nation I'd rather have paring down the playbook for a freshman than Mark Richt. He works well with maximizing young players' talent and with Grantham calling the shots on defense I expect UGA to put an end to last seasons putrid play. That's right folks the Dawgs beat Florida in the Cocktail Party and carry the torch into Atlanta against the Tide.
Bama is the best team in the SEC this season but their problem will be maturity, consistency and leadership on defense. Names such as Marcell Dareus, Niko Johnson and Dont'a Hightower have played in big spots for the Tide but now they're being pressed into full time duty. That means the moments are bigger, the pressure is higher and most notably there is no Rolando McClain, Cory Reamer or Justin Woodall to look to for guidance. With Arkansas, Florida and USC back to back the Tide stand a good shot at dropping a game early before the defense gels but they will win the SEC West.
Both UGA and Bama will improve as the season progresses. Bama will rely on their stud-laden offense to buy their defense time to grow into a cohesive unit. Georgia will rely on their running game and improved defense to allow Aaron Murray some time to mature in his role. Come December we'll have two experienced, talented football teams set to do battle in the ATL. Bama wins this contest in a close one because of their playmakers as we likely see the last time AJ Green and Julio Jones suit up against an SEC foe.