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College Football Preview: Not So Fast Alabama

Posted on September 03, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Nick Saban has Alabama poised for another run, but can they repeat as champions?

After romping through an undefeated 2009 season, many experts have ordained Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide as the team to beat again in 2010. While Alabama will again be formidable, it will be hard for them to overcome the loss of most of the defensive stars that carried them past Florida and Texas and to an undefeated record a year ago.

While last season there was little question that Alabama, Texas and Florida were the undisputed best teams in college football (unless of course you are a fan of TCU and Boise State), in 2010 it may be a little harder to gauge which college teams are the cream of the crop.

Across the board, college football teams lost a plethora of talented players that must be replaced in 2010. The teams that are able to rise from the pack in 2010 will be those that have new players and former backups ready to play at the highest level.

Below is a look at the major conferences in Division I-A (Bowl Championship Subdivision):

Who Is The Best Team In College Football?

  • Ohio State Buckeyes (30%, 7 Votes)
  • Someone else (26%, 6 Votes)
  • Alabama Crimson Tide (13%, 3 Votes)
  • Boise State Broncos (9%, 2 Votes)
  • Florida Gators (9%, 2 Votes)
  • Texas Longhorns (9%, 2 Votes)
  • Oklahoma Sooners (4%, 1 Votes)
  • TCU Horned Frogs (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

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Atlantic Coast Conference: Defending Champion: Georgia Tech

A decade ago it would have been considered blasphemy to suggest that Florida State would be better without legendary head coach Bobby Bowden. However, as the team enters the “Jimbo Fisher era” in 2010, that is exactly what people believe. With 15 starters (including quarterback Christian Ponder) returning from a team that went 7-6 last season, many expect Florida State to return to the top of the ACC. They will battle Boston College and Clemson for supremacy in the Atlantic Division of the conference. The biggest off-season move for Clemson was actually a non-move as the decision by quarterback Kyle Parker to hold off on a baseball career and play another year for the Tigers could be the decision of the year in the ACC.

Ryan Williams will team with Darren Evans to give Virginia Tech one of the best running back duos in the country.

The true power in the ACC in 2010 is in the Coastal Division where defending league champion Georgia Tech returns 14 starters, but are picked by many to finish fourth. North Carolina seemed poised to make a move, but recent NCAA clouds could cast a pall on the Tar Heels this season. Typically known for their great defense, Virginia Tech suddenly has two of the best running backs in the country in Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, but question marks on the defense. The University of Miami showed signs a year ago of returning to prominence and behind quarterback Jacory Harris could make the next step this season.

Predictions: Atlantic Division Champion: Clemson; Coastal Division Champ: Miami

Big East: Defending Champion: Cincinnati

As has been the case in recent years, there seems to be little separation between the teams in the Big East. Though Cincinnati blazed through the conference undefeated last year, they needed some late heroics to pull off that success. With a new coach and only 12 returning starters, they seem to have returned to the pack. Pittsburgh could be the most talented team in the league, but they have a brutal non-conference schedule (Utah, Miami, Notre Dame) that will make it hard for them to be a national contender. West Virginia will again be a contender as will South Florida, though they must adjust to a new coach in Skip Holtz. Many have pegged Connecticut as the league sleeper, but I have a hard time believing they are ready to take that step. We will see early as they play at Michigan in their opener.

Prediction: Big East Champion: Pittsburgh

Big 12 Conference: Defending Champion Texas

In their final season in the Big 12, Nebraska looks poised to leave with a league title under their arms. Though they lost the best defensive player in the country, Nebraska returns 15 starters from a 10-win team and should have little problem dispatching their opponents in the North Division. Missouri will likely be the only team capable of giving them a challenge.

The South will again be the premier division in the conference with Oklahoma and Texas leading the way. The Longhorns must overcome the loss of several greats, including quarterback Colt McCoy. The Sooners played most of last season without quarterback Sam Bradford, so Landry Jones won’t be new to the league this season. If the Oklahoma defense can repeat their great performance from a year ago (14.5 ppg allowed) then the offense should be ready to lead them back to prominence.

Predictions: North Division: Nebraska; South Division: Oklahoma

Big 10 Conference: Defending Champion: Ohio State

It is never smart money to bet against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten. That seems to again be the case in 2010 as Terrelle Pryor will be given every chance to emerge as a Heisman Trophy contender while running the offense. If there is a team capable of stopping the Buckeyes it is probably Iowa. They nearly did it a year ago and this time host the Buckeyes in their late season matchup. Penn State and Wisconsin also could emerge this season. Wisconsin has a pretty easy non-conference schedule and could be undefeated when they host Ohio State on October 16th. Penn State plays at Alabama in the second week of the season and an upset win there could change the landscape of the college football season.

Prediction: Big 10 Champion: Ohio State

Pac-10: Defending Champion: Oregon

LaMichael James will look to lead Oregon to back-to-back Pac-10 titles.

With perennial power USC ineligible for a bowl, it looks like Oregon and Oregon State will again be playing late in the season for a spot in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks have 17 returning starters, including explosive running back LaMichael James ready to prove that their title last season was no fluke. Oregon State will get early tests from TCU and Louisville, but should be ready come conference season. California and Stanford could also contend for the title. Except for the loss of running back Toby Gerhart, Stanford could be stronger than a year ago. However, their tough schedule could keep them from improving on their 8-5 record from last season.

Prediction: Pac-10 Champion: Oregon

Southeastern Conference: Defending Champion: Alabama

With only two starters returning from their smothering defense (11.7 ppg allowed) of a year ago, it seems likely that Alabama will have some struggles repeating that dominance in 2010. You can bet that they will still be very strong on defense, but just not quite as dominant. That could prove to be the difference against teams like LSU, Auburn, Arkansas and Florida. The Alabama offense is back in full force, which could help offset some of the defensive issues. Auburn has most starters back on both sides of the ball, but must replace star running back Ben Tate and quarterback Chris Todd. Arkansas returns 17 starters, including potential Heisman candidate Ryan Mallett at quarterback.

Everyone is asking if Florida can withstand the graduation of quarterback Tim Tebow, but the reality for the Gators is that they lost several stars (including three first round draft picks) from a team that lost only two games the last two seasons. New quarterback John Brantley will be fine, but for the Gators to contend they must have other standouts emerge on offense and defense. Georgia and South Carolina will provide the most resistance in the division, but the East is not the strongest division in the conference.

Predictions: East Division: Florida; West Division: Arkansas

Other Major College Contenders:

Terrelle Pryor will look to lead the Buckeyes to a title.

Last season both Boise State and TCU ran the table in the regular season. Both will get huge tests in the first week of the 2010 season as TCU plays Oregon State and Boise State travels across the country to play Virginia Tech in Landover. If they are both able to come away with victories then there is a good chance they could both be undefeated again. However, TCU must win at Utah and Boise State also faces Oregon State. If they both do end up undefeated for the second straight year, watch for the BCS folks to have some really tough decisions as I do not think more than one (if any) team from one of the traditional BCS conferences will finish the season undefeated.

Final Predictions: It is never fun to put college football predictions on paper in late August and early September because so much can change. However, it is one of those things everyone who writes about college football must do.

I personally don’t think there is a “superior” college football team this season. I expect we will have a scenario similar to 2007 when LSU won the championship with two losses. I don’t know that we will have a two loss champion, but I expect there will be several teams with one loss vying for the spots in the BCS title game.

BCS Title Game: Both teams may stumble at some point during the season, but when all the dust clears I predict that we will see Florida vs. Ohio State for the championship in a rematch of the 2006 title game.

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