June - The Offseason
By Terry Johnson
- Talk of a playoff dominated the headlines in the offseason. Just when it looked like the four-team format appeared safe, things quickly fell apart. First, Larry Scott resurrected the “plus one” format. Then, the Big Ten changed its position saying that it wanted to keep the existing system, but would consider the “plus one”. Today, reports emerged that Florida State Trustee Joe Gruters asked President Eric Barron to push the ACC for an 8-team playoff so that the conference will have a spot on the big stage.
- Talk about drama. It's the show that's not going
- The SEC and the Big 12 signed an agreement to have its conference champions play in a bowl game if both teams fail to qualify for the four-team playoff (or BCS Championship Game).
- Conference realignment rumors are once again alive and well. Thanks to the discussion about a playoff, coupled with the new SEC – Big 12 agreement, several schools in the ACC have started to consider other options.
- Unfortunately, suspensions could affect the national title race this season. Potential top 10 teams Georgia and Oklahoma will lose some key players early in year due to some off-the-field incidents. In the case of the Sooners, the three players in question will lose their scholarships and might not rejoin the team at all.
- Several teams will make their debuts in new conferences this season. West Virginia and TCU join the Big 12, while Missouri and Texas A&M move to the SEC. Expect to see the Mountaineers and Tigers compete for their respective conference (or division) crowns right away, while TCU’s chances have likely gone up in smoke.
- Yes, Missouri has an excellent chance to win the SEC East. The Tigers will play a suspension-riddled Georgia at home early in the season. As long as they survive a trip to the “other” Columbia, they will represent the East in the SEC Championship Game.
- The SEC West Champion will likely play in the National Championship Game again this season. However, with all of the talent in this conference, don’t expect either division winner to finish the season undefeated.
- Alabama at LSU will be the game of the year in the SEC. While Arkansas is closing the gap on these two heavyweights, John L. Smith is no Bobby Petrino.
- How would everyone react to a rematch of 1-loss SEC West teams for the national championship? If nothing else, it would drive all of the conferences back to the table to discuss a playoff.
- Circle your calendars for November 17, when Ohio State travels to Camp Randall Stadium to face Wisconsin. Bret Bielema sent shockwaves throughout the college football world when he accused Urban Meyer of “illegal” recruiting and said that he didn’t want the Big Ten to become the SEC. Regardless of whether or not the Buckeyes can play in the postseason, they will look to send a message in this game.
- While Meyer and Bielema are two of the league’s top coaches, keep an eye on Illinois’ Tim Beckman, who will turn the Illini into a consistent winner.
- Of course, Brady Hoke will quickly enter this conversation if he leads Michigan to another BCS game.
- The Big 12 is officially up for grabs. Thanks to some suspensions/dismissals at the receiver position, Oklahoma will not run away with the race like everyone initially thought. This will open the door for teams like West Virginia, Texas and Kansas State.
- Keep an eye out for Oklahoma State true freshman QB Wes Lunt. Lunt won the job outright with an impressive spring. The Cowboy coaching staff must have seen something very special in him during practice to elevate him above Clint Chelf, who filled in well in spot duty for Brandon Weeden.
- The most underrated game of the year is Kansas State – West Virginia. Neither team has received the type of respect that they deserve during the preseason.
- But they will when bowl bids go out.
- Can Oregon win the Pac 12 for the fourth consecutive year? While most experts have pegged USC as the favorite (and rightfully so), keep in mind that Chip Kelly has more conference championships than conference losses. Since the Trojans only have one week to prepare for the Ducks this time, the inside track belongs to the Quack Attack.
- Of course, if they lose that game, they would still have another chance at USC in the Pac 12 title game.
- Just what college football needs, another rematch!
- On the other hand, playing Oregon twice would almost certainly assist the Heisman candidacy of Matt Barkley.
- Is this the year that the ACC finally becomes the league that it expected to be once Miami and Virginia Tech joined? Clemson and North Carolina State have an excellent chance to make a statement in the Chick-Fil-A Classic on the opening week of the season. A couple of victories in those contests would boost the conference profile tremendously.
- The real burden falls on the shoulders of the Atlantic Division champion. With Virginia Tech reloading on offense this year (only three starters returning), the Clemson-Florida State winner must carry the load this year. As long as their clash on September 22 is close, the ACC could capture another at-large bid.
- It goes without saying that if the ACC wants to survive as a relevant Division 1-A conference, it must start winning the Orange Bowl. A 2-13 record simply won’t cut it.
- Will the Big East survive when the BCS expires after the 2014 season? Tough to say, but as long as Charlie Strong and Butch Jones remain at Louisville and Cincinnati, the conference will always have strength at the top.
- The real wildcard in the Big East race is South Florida. Skip Holtz returns 15 starters from last year’s team. However, the Bulls struggled with consistency in 2011 defeating Notre Dame in the season opener, but limped to 1-6 record in Big East play. USF will find out how good they are on September 29 when Florida State comes to Tampa.