The 2010 college football season will kick off in just two weeks! College Football Haven has the top 10 questions for 2010, plus one bonus question for making it to the end.
1. Is this Joe Paterno’s last ride? Last year we saw the departure of the legendary Bobby Bowden. Now that Bowden is gone, Joe Pa is assured that when he retires he will have more wins than any FBS coach. With 394 wins to his name, he should eclipse the 400 win plateau this year. These two factors just might be enough to get him to finally hang it up after 45 years.
2. Will an SEC team win the National Championship? It has happened for the last four years. Whether the SEC champion has been undefeated or has had two losses, they have made it to the BCS national championship game and come out the victor every time. The SEC championship could be a rematch of Florida and Alabama. If this is the case, I don’t expect either team to be undefeated, so whether the winner makes it to Glendale will depend on how the other automatic qualifying (AQ) champions fare. Two undefeated teams (Ohio State and Oklahoma, perhaps) and the SEC champion will be on the outside looking in. If only one AQ champion is undefeated and so is Boise State or TCU, then the SEC champ probably gets in.
3. Will Boise State or TCU play in the National Championship game? They are both in a very favorable position starting at numbers 5 and 7, respectively, in the USA Today preseason top 25. After the way they played last year, if one of them finishes undefeated, and no other team in the nation is undefeated, then I like their chances to be in the BCS top two. If one AQ champion is undefeated, then Boise State and TCU will have to fight for that second spot. Both teams have earned a shot to prove themselves if they are undefeated, but in the end, they probably won’t make it over a one loss SEC champion.
4. Is this Rich Rodriguez’s break through year at Michigan? With his track record at Tulane and West Virginia, many expected the Wolverines to be a force in the Big Ten last year. Instead, Michigan dropped 7 of 8 league games and finished 5-7. It was a good strategic move by Michigan to hire Rodriguez, but if he doesn’t get things done this year, he is probably gone. That being said, I think Michigan will be back in a bowl and Rich Rod will be on the sidelines in 2011.
5. Will SMU continue its resurgence? While Rodriguez continued to struggle in his second year, June Jones was flourishing in his second year at SMU. The Mustanges went from one win to 8, and slaughtered Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. Kyle Padron returns at quarterback so I fully expect the Mustangs to gallop in the lead pack of Conference USA and could win the conference in a photo finish.
6. Are select teams auditioning for invitations to join better conferences? The Big Ten doesn’t appear to be satisfied with 12 teams. Pitt, Rutgers, Maryland, and maybe even Virginia are prime candidates. The Big XII may be happy with 10 teams for now, but it won’t be long before they are back to 12. The Memphis faithful are hungry to make the jump to big time football. BYU has made it clear that they are looking for something better than the Mountain West Conference. These teams may find that the way they play on Saturdays was the difference maker in whether they got an invite or not.
7. Can Jeremiah Masoli redeem himself? With a second chance at Ole Miss, the former Oregon Duck may get the last quack. I find it hard to imagine that he won’t be the Rebels starting quarterback. How quickly he can grasp the offense and gel with his teammates will determine his success. He will have a respectable year, but what will determine the winner in this situation will be how well Oregon does without him.
8. Will Jake Locker live up to the hype? For three years we have heard about the phenomenal athleticism and potential of Jake Locker. This summer he went back east on a whirlwind media tour to promote his Heisman Trophy candidacy. Many consider him to be the future number one draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft. With all this fanfare you would think that his college career resembled that of Tim Tebow. On the contrary, Locker has not played in a bowl, nor has he passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season. I predict that Locker will break both these trends this year. Locker and Washington are poised for a breakout year in Steve Sarkisian’s second year as head coach.
9. Who will represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl? No conference race is more wide open than the Pac-10. USC has a bowl ban, so even if they win the conference, they won’t play in the Rose Bowl. Oregon had a good chance to make a repeat showing until they lost Masoli and had a rash of other off the field issues that affected the team. Stanford is making strides, but replacing Tody Gerhart will keep the Rose Bowl out of reach. Same goes for Cal without Jahvid Best. Washington and UCLA are dark horses that I wouldn’t count out. In the end, this is Oregon State’s year. The Beavers will get off to a typically slow start, but when the conference games roll around Jaquizz Rodgers and company will be ready.
10. Will Case Keenum break the NCAA record for career passing yards? With back-to-back 5,000 yard passing seasons and 12,950 yards to his credit, Keenum is only 4,123 yards away from breaking Timmy Chang’s record (17,072). Barring injury, Keenum will break this record with ease. The better question might be how high will he push this mark?
Bonus: How will they react? With the way 2009 ended and the events during the offseason, I am curious to know how several teams will react to what happened. Their reactions will go a long way in shaping how the 2010 season plays out.
• USC: Pete Carroll left for the NFL, and the NCAA finally ruled in the Reggie Bush case. With no bowl game to play for and some players transferring, how will the men of Troy react? USC has a lot of pride, and, like him or not, Lane Kiffen overachieved last year at Tennessee. I see USC bouncing back from last year’s 9-4 campaign and playing with a chip on their shoulder. Even with Carroll gone, the end result will be typical of the Pete Carroll years.
• Nebraska: The Cornhuskers nearly pulled off the biggest win of the season last year in the Big XII championship game. We saw them vent some frustration in the 33-0 beat down of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl, but something tells me that Bo Pelini and his boys are not satisfied. Look for them to be breathing fire this year and play with great emotion as they try to take care of some unfinished business and leave the Big XII as champions.
• Texas: It looked like it would never come, but Texas now faces life without Colt McCoy. We all got a taste of the future when McCoy went down in the BCS Championship game. While Garrett Gilbert will have a nice career in Austin, Texas will drop two games this year.
• Oregon: No one is happier that the season is starting than Chip Kelly. After an offseason to forget, with an alarming number of players violating team rules and having run ins with the law, Kelly is relieved to finally move on. If the players handle this well, then Oregon will still be better than most teams in the Pac-10. However, if the locker room is divided and they are dwelling on the off-the-field issues, the Ducks might struggle to finish with a winning record and leave the fan base wondering what might have been.
• Florida: The Gators face a situation similar to Texas. In Gainesville, the Tim Tebow era is over. It is impossible to replace a guy like him. Florida will have to move on the best they can with John Brantley. Besides losing Tebow, Florida nearly lost their coach. After announcing his resignation, Urban Meyer quickly changed it to a leave of absence. While everything seems to be smooth sailing again, how many of the players are worrying whether Coach Meyer will survive the rigors of the year? Although the Gators are the preseason number 3 team, this year is going to be bumpier than the last two. If Meyer and the players hit the panic button when things aren’t as peachy as they were with Tebow around, then this could end as a disappointing year.
• Temple: The Temple Owls were the biggest surprise last year. They won 9 games for the first time since 1979. They were a win against Ohio away from playing for the MAC Championship. Temple has Heisman Trophy aspirations for running back Bernard Pierce. Is Temple hungry for more or did they take their foot off the gas after the surprising success in 2009?
• Florida State: Bobby Bowden is not at Florida State for the first time since 1975. While new head coach Jimbo Fisher has been in the program for the last few years, he is making sure that everyone knows there is a new sheriff in town. The reaction, so far, has not been good. Players are dropping from the roster like flies. Florida State has lost several players in the last few weeks for a lot more reasons than injury. The Seminoles sputtered during Bowden’s final few years. Will the coaching change bring a resurgence, or will it further cripple the program as players struggle to adjust to the new expectations?
• Alabama: They are the defending national champions and now they are number one to start the year, despite having seven players drafted. The preseason number one is a curse, and so is Alabama’s schedule with six conference teams having byes the week before playing the Crimson Tide. Will Alabama have enough drive to repeat to end the season where they are starting? In 2009, they were coming off of back-to-back losses in the SEC Championship game and the Sugar Bowl. Where is the motivation going to come from after a perfect 14-0 national championship season?