August 01, 2006

August = Awesome

Well gang here we are in the month of college football. 30 days from today Boston College will take the field against Central Michigan at 6 p.m., officially kicking off the 2006 season. While the South Carolina-Mississippi State game sounds better just 90 minutes later, the season will be underway and we’ll be done with all the speculation and predictions. Only on the field will it matter.

However, what is a college football blog without predictions that will come back to bite you in December and January? So what to predict? I could draw it out, preview each conference one-by-one. I could give you a Top 25, or I could come up with the BCS contenders.

But lets start in a different way, each year a handful of teams are poised for greatness only to watch it fade away and they even have to stay home during the bowling season. As you can guess this is modeled after the 2005 Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols went from champions of the SEC and perhaps the nation to getting beat on Senior Day against Vanderbilt.

So what teams are in the same mold – predicted for success but destined for a fall?

The possible complete collapses:

Tennessee Volunteers
Wait a minute you say, it can’t happen again. Changes have been made with David Cutcliffe back to repair and restore Erik Ainge, but check out that schedule people. California to open the season, Florida shows up in Knoxville two weeks later. The Vols then travel to Memphis and Georgia. The Tigers are a pest, but the Bulldogs are currently holding ownership papers of the Vols. Alabama comes to Knoxville for the annual Third Saturday in September. The Vols visit the Gamecocks then come back to face LSU, followed by a trip to improved Arkansas. The saving grace for the Vols are the games against Air Force, Marshall, Vanderbilt (sans Jay Cutler), and Kentucky.

The key will be the opener against Cal and then the Florida game two weeks later. Win both and the Vols are back, split either way and your still envisioning the Peach Bowl, lose both and the unruly fans will get ugly and UT will be hiring a new coach.

Oregon Ducks
Last year the Ducks were the snubbed team of the BCS, losing out to Notre Dame’s popularity. They promptly went to the Holiday Bowl and proved the BCS right by losing to a four-loss Oklahoma squad. In 2006 the Ducks hope to fly high but will be grounded by October because of their schedule as well.

Let’s review. The Ducks begin with Stanford which should equal 1-0. The next six games are a meat grinder with games at Fresno State, home against Oklahoma, back on the road at Arizona State and California. UCLA comes to visit and then they close out the stretch in Pullman against Washington State. That could be 1-6, easily. Personally I think they can beat Oklahoma and UCLA the two home games. The four roadies are the problems. Fresno State has shown a penchant for taking out Pac-10 teams. Arizona State and California are expected to challenge for the conference crown and well, the trip to Pullman becomes difficult if the wheels start falling off. Let’s be nice and say the Ducks go 4-3 with wins at home over OU and UCLA and win at Pullman. They face Portland State to get to 5-3 and Washington gets them bowling at 6-3, then they face USC in LA, Arizona at home and then the Civil War against Oregon State.

7-5 is what I see out of all that, but mind you that is calling wins over Oklahoma and UCLA. Essentially, the 7-5 consists of the Ducks going 6-0 at home. With that prognosis they would still be three games under their 2005 performance. This team will falter.

Clemson Tigers
Big things are being predicted about the Tigers in the watered down ACC. They return several All-Conference players and have a core nucleus back. However, their early schedule will begin their descent to a 7-5 season at best. The Tigers lead off with Florida Atlantic, 1-0. Then they travel to Boston and Tallahassee. They will lose both games putting them at 1-2. Game over. Your already have two losses to the biggest contenders in your division. They can rebound with the rest of their schedule – consisting of only three more road games – at Wake Forest, Temple in Charlotte, and at Virginia Tech. UNC, La. Tech, Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, and South Carolina all visit. However to win the Atlantic Division they would have to run the table and hope for three conference losses out of BC and FSU. That is not happening.

UCLA Bruins
The Bruins are yet another schedule casualty. They play Oregon, Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Cal on the road. Pasadena will see USC and Utah coming in having had winning records in 2005. Bottom line? The Bruins will start 5-0 and get a lot of press, however those games mentioned earlier all come after that first five game stretch so UCLA fans better be ready for the patented Bruin collapse.

The mild setbacks:

Iowa State Cyclones
No missed FG heartaches this time around as the Cyclones will be done by October. They play at Iowa and at Texas in back-to-back weeks in late September. Remaining road trips include Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Colorado. Nebraska and Texas Tech visit Ames while other home games include Toledo, UNLV, Northern Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. They should win those five, but the 'Clones could easily lose the other six. 2-6, even in the Big 12 North, won't get it done.

Penn State Nittany Lions
If your a fan of Colin Cowherd (I am.) then you know about new QB Anthony Morelli. For Lions fans, he had better be all as advertised with Penn State traveling to South Bend and Columbus all in September. Mind you, this team still ventures to West Lafayette, Minneapolis, and Madison and includes a home tilt with Michigan. Penn State will keep bowling, but by the end of September they could surpass their loss total for all of 2005.

Alabama Crimson Tide
The Tide was another program returning to glory for 2005. Like Penn State, the full return is in question heading into this year sans Brodie Croyle, Tyrone Prothro, and half of the defense. Road games are killers for Bama with Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and LSU all on the road. Home games are all winnable (Hawaii, Vandy, LA-Monroe, Duke, Ole Miss, FL International, and Mississippi State) until the Auburn game. The Tide won't totally collapse with a 7-5 record being the worst prognosis, but they won't start 9-0 either with those killer road trips.

A lot of teams have "proving moments", games in which they shouldn't be taken seriously until those moments (games) are played. Usually, its the first road game but it can be a big non-conference hurdle.

We'll talk about those tomorrow.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.