With kickoff to the season countdowns on almost every college football website out there, clearly it’s time to start thinking about the possibilities of another season.
But what if I told you I have 10 things that are guaranteed to happen in 2010? Would you bite?
Jake Locker leads Washington to a bowl game
The Huskies haven’t played in a bowl game since the 2002 Sun Bowl, a 34-24 loss to Purdue. But that streak ends in 2010 as Jake Locker lives up to the hype and guides Washington into the postseason.
The dual-threat Locker returned for his senior season for a shot at leading his teammates to a bowl game (as well as another year of seasoning under Steve Sarkisian).
The schedule isn’t easy, but the Huskies could go to USC on Oct. 2 ranked 3-0 if they take care of business at BYU in the season opener and by protecting Husky Stadium against Syracuse and Nebraska.
If that happens, Washington could get to the magical six victories with wins over Arizona State, UCLA, and Washington State. Add in an upset of say, I don’t know, USC again...and Washington could elevate to an eight or nine win team.
One of these coaches resigns midseason
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State: Erickson was once a top-tier coach, but he’s lost his magic touch. Erickson will be OK for at least two weeks since the Sun Devils should be able to handle Portland State and Northern Arizona. It gets interesting after this as the only other sure-fire win is an Oct. 30 home game with Washington State. ASU will be 3-5 at that time and will very likely finish 3-9.
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland: It wasn’t that long ago that Friedgen was the Golden One at Maryland. But last year’s 2-10 campaign did not set well, not to mention a change at Athletic Director do not play in Friedgen’s favor. If Maryland is better than expected it could open 5-0 with upsets of Navy, West Virginia and Duke (did anyone every think they’d see that in print?).
Dan Hawkins, Colorado: If the Buffaloes don’t reach a bowl game in 2010 there is no way the Colorado brass will want to make the move to the Pac-12 with Hawkins still in charge. Don’t count UC out, though. Hawkins team is experienced and if they can play well at home a six or seven win season is very likely. It wouldn’t hurt if the Buffaloes could finally beat Colorado State.
Rich Rodriguez, Michigan: Despite what many pundits think, Rodriguez is still a great coach. His transition in Ann Arbor has not been as smooth as he had hoped, but if the Wolverines can be patient they’ll be pleased they did. Working against him, though, is all of the off-the-field issues. If Michigan loses to Connecticut in the opener and at Notre Dame a week later, Rodriguez may announce a season-ending resignation just so he can get a good night’s sleep.
Paul Wulff, Washington State: Wulff is 3-22 in two seasons and one or two victories is probably all anyone in Pullman can expect in 2010. The only way Wulff saves his job is by pulling an upset or two against the likes of Arizona State, SMU, UCLA and Washington.
Ron Zook, Illinois: Zook has recruited well at Illinois, but the results on the field have been discouraging since the 2007 team went 9-4 and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl. Since then the Illini have gone 8-16. It was expected Zook would be done after last year, so a slow start will mean the end of the Zook era in Champaign.
One of these coaches gets hired by a higher profile school
Al Golden, Temple: Golden has turned in one of the more impressive rebuilding jobs in the country with Temple. The Owls could have been playing for a Mid-American Conference championship last year, but an injury to RB Bernard Pierce right before playing Ohio cost Temple that shot. Golden’s name was floated a bit last year for jobs, but he wanted to stay put at least one more year to see if he could get that championship.
Bud Foster, Virginia Tech DC: It’s going to happen sooner or later, right? One of the problems for Foster has been that he’s been unwilling to leave to be a head coach at a lower level program. He has held out for BCS level employment (he was rumored to be politicking hard for the West Virginia job in 2007 and Clemson in 2008) and that just may never happen. After 16 seasons at the DC the timing may finally be right.
Mike Leech, Unemployed: It’s easy to upgrade from being out of coaching, but Leech is due to land a job with a Division I Bowl Subdivision program in 2011. Leech’s track record of winning during his time at Texas Tech will be enough for some administrators to overlook his quirks. Where that will be is still up for debate, but who really wants to bet against this guy being out of coaching another year?
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: So here’s a philosophical question: Is coaching at a lower-level SEC team better than coaching at a conference championship contender in the Big East, ACC, or Pac-10 an upgrade? If you don’t think it is, then you can stop reading. However, Mullen is an excellent motivator and he’s a competitor. If say, West Virginia opened, wouldn’t it be a good move for Mullen?
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy: The Midshipmen haven’t missed a beat since Niumatalolo took over for Paul Johnson. Last season, he quietly led Navy to a 10-win season and picked up victories against Notre Dame and Maryland. He’d be a great fit for a place like Vanderbilt, but right now interim coach Robbie Caldwell is a huge hit as well.
Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State: Here’s a scary thought, Stockstill is the dean of FBS coaches in the state of Tennessee. He could remain that guy if Vanderbilt comes calling after the season. Stockstill’s stock can’t rise much higher. He won 10 games last season, including a win over Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl. His Blue Raiders have a shot at winning Sun Belt title in 2010. But maybe Murfreesboro is just too pretty leave.
Virginia Tech ends Boise State’s whining about the BCS
Most college football fans respect what Boise State has accomplished under the tutelage of Chris Petersen, but very few of them really believe the Broncos are one of the Top 10 teams in the nation. Virginia Tech will prove that on Sept. 6 when the Hokies face Boise at FedEx Field.
Frank Beamer is well aware of what the Broncos have been able to pull off against bigger-name programs and he’s not about to let the Hokies get blindsided. VT has one of the ACC’s best offenses with QB Tyrod Taylor and RBs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans.
But don’t overlook Tech’s defense. It may not be as heralded as in years past, but given all off season to get ready is all DC Bud Foster needs to have his unit ready for the talented Boise offense.
The Hokies win this game 31-17 and any hope Boise has of playing for a BCS Championship end in the first week.
Brian Kelly equals two more wins for Notre Dame
That’s right, Kelly is good for two more wins than Charlie Weis could produce last year. Kelly-coached teams do not lose many games when he has the talent advantage.
Factor that with he can usually coach his way to one or two more against better teams and Notre Dame is looking like an 8-4 team in 2010. You think the Irish fans will take that right now? Thought so.
Tennessee fans continue to spew venom at Lane Kiffin
Since Kiffin announced his resignation on Jan. 12 to take the open job at USC, Volunteers have been ruthless in their disgust of their one-year coach. Communities have named water treatment plants after him. The university produced game tickets for 2010 with images of past coaches (and current coach Derek Dooley), but Kiffin is now where to be found. And now UT fans are jazzed the Tennessee Titans are filing a lawsuit against Kiffin for the hiring of an assistant.
Clearly there is still plenty of more hatred to spread before the bowl season.
Rivalries are back
Not to say rivalries disappeared in recent history, but some of the better ones have been pretty one-sided lately. So which ones look the best for 2010?
Florida-Georgia: With Tim Tebow off to the NFL, it may be time for Georgia to regain a little ground in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Urban Meyer has treated this game as a personal grudge match since his Gators were embarrassed by the Bulldogs in 2007. Over the past two seasons, Florida has won by a combined score of 90-27. Georgia is still an underdog, but it’s time for Mark Richt to lead the Bulldogs to a few more wins in this series.
USC-Notre Dame: Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis just couldn’t find a way to win this one. It didn’t cost him his job, but it certainly didn’t help. This year’s clash will feature two new coaches—Lane Kiffin at USC and Brian Kelly at ND. Let’s just say the edge goes to Kelly. The Trojans still have more talent, but Kelly has worked some magic before. Who knows what he’ll do with the luck of the Irish on his side.
Pittsburgh-West Virginia: This is one of those regional rivalries that doesn’t get the respect of some of the others, but the Backyard Brawl has a great history and these teams hate each other. Last year, WVU upset the Panthers 19-16 in Morgantown to start a two-game losing skid for Pitt. Mountaineer fans remember 2007 when the 28-point underdog Panthers knocked WVU out of the BCS title game. The intensity is back as these two are Big East elite.
USC-UCLA: When UCLA hired Rick Neuheisel the Bruins hoped he could recruit on the level of USC. He’s been doing just fine and UCLA is primed to take over L.A. from the Trojans. I’m sure the UCLA fans were pleased to see Pete Carroll skip town for the NFL, and even giddier when Lane Kiffin was hired. The quotes leading up to this game make this one a must see right now.
Alabama-Auburn: Not to say this game ever lost its luster, but when Gene Chizik’s Tigers almost pulled the upset of top-ranked Alabama last year almost immediately you could feel the intensity of this series get ratcheted up a bit. Auburn really needs a victory in the next two meetings to keep fans outside of Alabama interested. The Tigers had won six consecutive meetings, but Alabama has won the past two.
Miami-Florida State: Personally, I want this rivalry to return to its heyday when the Hurricanes and Seminoles were both preseason Top 5 teams and this game had national title implications. Lately, it has been a pretty lackluster game (excluding last year) with sloppy play and too many turnovers. The 2009 game gave us a glimpse of how great this rivalry can be.
Oregon-Oregon State: The Civil War is a bigger rivalry game than folks on the East Coast give it credit for being. Last year’s contest decided the Pac-10 champ. It could very easily do the same again this year. With USC’s future uncertain, these two have a chance to become the Pac-12’s best in the future and with it lift this contest up to national prominence. Plus, I’d love to see a game in Corvallis and Eugene. Maybe one day.
Houston Nutt will deny interest in any and all open jobs
More than likely, Houston Nutt will be coaching at Ole Miss in 2011. But every time a job opens it seems Nutt denies any interest in the job, but his agent is behind the scenes seeing what he can get for his client. This, of course, forces the administration at Mississippi to throw him a bone.
Hey Ole Miss, call his bluff.
No Big East, ACC, or Pac-10 team will play for the BCS Championship
It’s still a three conference tournament. The SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten are still the big players. With USC being ineligible and not up to its usual standards, the Pac-10 doesn’t have a legitimate title contender. The ACC is talented, but Virginia Tech is the only real championship caliber team, but the Hokies schedule is tough. Oh yeah, the Big East. There’s no clear-cut favorite and there’s a good chance Connecticut, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia will all knock each other off at some point, not to mention South Florida with Skip Holtz could play a spoiler role also.
Boise State? See earlier guarantee.
Expansion talk continues, but...
Nothing will change during the season. The conference expansion chatter was downright overwhelming at the beginning of the offseason. But after some minor moves we still don’t have any super conferences (big sigh of relief from Big East commissioner John Marinatto).
Notre Dame came out of this still in demand and still in control of its future. If the Irish can keep the Big East viable nothing will change in South Bend. But anyone who thinks expansion is finished just isn’t paying attention. Stay tuned.
(BONUS) NCAA ignores the real problem: Agents
Naturally this is a timely issue, but agents have been a problem for years in college football. It’s time for the NCAA to step up and do some drastic to protect these young athletes who are vulnerable, and understandably so, easy prey for the suave agents.
Is there a perfect answer? Probably not.
But you’re the NCAA. Don’t you have a lot of PhDs in the room that can work on a solution? Let’s get it done.