2010 Spring Preview
- No. 5
Ranking The Conferences
11. Sun Belt
Western Kentucky is going to struggle, FIU isn’t going to be in the title race, and North Texas is still trying to figure out what it’s doing under head coach Todd Dodge. It’s game on for everyone else. Middle Tennessee, led by QB Dwight Dasher, should be the class of the offense, while Arkansas State should be loaded and strong enough to challenge for the title. Troy is great at reloading in a hurry, and while it’ll take a step back, it’ll be in the hunt for yet another championship, ULM has a nice-looking squad, and Florida Atlantic and Louisiana are good enough to come up with winning seasons and possible bowl bids if everything breaks right.
The Best Team Should Be … Middle Tennessee
Now that Central Michigan appears to be weakened and ready to take a step back, watch out for Temple to step in and fill the role as the class of the conference. Last year was a phenomenal breakthrough year under Al Golden, and this year’s team is far better. Northern Illinois will be terrific and Toledo will be explosive in the second season under the helm of Tim Beckham, and then roll the dice. The bottom teams of last year, Eastern Michigan, Miami, and Ball State, are all going to be far more competitive, and Western Michigan, Ohio, and Bowling Green will pick off some of the big boys, but this is Temple’s MAC and everyone else will be taking up space.
The Best Team Should Be … Temple
9. Conference USA
Houston, let’s try this again. Case Keenum and the high-octane offense should be even more explosive and even more unstoppable, but like last year, there will be a few other teams in the league good enough to make this interesting. Tulsa could be sneaky-good with ten starters returning on offense, UTEP gets star RB Donald Buckram back to a strong offense, Southern Miss welcomes back nine starters on defense, and Marshall (led by new head coach, Doc Holliday) and UCF are loaded with enough talent to challenge for the title. SMU’s offense should be explosive, Rice gets 19 starters back, and even UAB and Tulane have several excellent veterans returning.
The Best Team Should Be … Houston
Oh sure, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State might be interesting with new head coaches, Utah State should have its best team in years thanks to the backfield tandem of QB Diondre Borel and RB Robert Turbin, and Hawaii will be even more interesting after a good rally over the second half of last year. Nevada’s running game will be devastating, Fresno State still has talent, and Idaho might be scratching the surface under Robb Akey, but this year is all about Boise State. This is finally the year the Broncos should have the mix of the right team at the right time to make a serious run to play for the national title, but they need to beat Virginia Tech right away or the WAC will become irrelevant.
The Best Team Should Be … Boise State
7. Mountain West
Could this be the year someone breaks the hold by the Big Three? TCU will be ranked in the top ten in most polls to start the season, Utah has reloaded to a high level, and BYU should once again be fantastic, but Air Force might be just good enough to crack the code. The Falcons should have the best offense it’s had yet under head coach Troy Calhoun, and now there will be real, live expectations for success. There will be hopes for Wyoming to build upon last year’s breakthrough season, but the offense has to be far better. San Diego State should be dangerous in Year Two under head coach Brady Hoke, Colorado State will play with more of a sense of desperation after collapsing last year, and UNLV should be more interesting with new head coach Bobby Hauck.
The Best Team Should Be … TCU
6. Big East
This should be a really, really, really good year. There might not be a 2009 Cincinnati in the bunch who’ll challenge for the national title, but West Virginia is loaded again, Pitt has enough talent to finally get into the BCS under Dave Wannstedt, and Rutgers should be dangerous offensively. Cincinnati won’t be the team it was last year, but new head coach Butch Jones is just good enough to prevent a free-fall. Skip Holtz could be a steadying force for a sleeping giant at South Florida, and Connecticut should be devastating on the ground and gets 17 starters back. Syracuse has the potential to be far better defensively with nine starters returning, and Louisville will almost certainly be better with Charlie Strong at the helm. In other words, don’t be stunned at any outcome.
The Best Team Should Be … West Virginia
5. Pac 10
The conference is loaded with veteran quarterbacks, even with Oregon losing Jeremiah Masoli to suspension, and has enough talent from 1-to-9 (with Washington State a distant ten) to make this one of the craziest seasons in league history. Do you really think Lane Kiffin can take USC to a conference title right away? On talent, the Trojans should be on top, but they’re hardly going to be sure things with Stanford, Oregon State, and California all good enough to challenge for the title. Will UCLA finally grow up? Can Jake Locker carry Washington back to the glory days? Will Arizona and Arizona State have enough offense to be in the race? The answer should be yes to all of the above, and that doesn’t even include Oregon, who should be more than fine even without Masoli.
The Best Team Should Be … USC
Is it time for the ACC to finally step up and make the type of national noise it has hoped to do for the last several years? Virginia Tech could have the best backfield in the nation and could be able to make a big statement right away against Boise State. North Carolina has an embarrassment of NFL riches on defense and welcomes back nine starters on both sides of the ball. Georgia Tech has enough talent returning, and more of the right pieces in place, to retain its ACC title if things break the right way, Jimbo Fisher gets 18 starters back on a dangerous Florida State squad, Miami is hitting its peak under Randy Shannon, and Clemson, even without C.J. Spiller, is going to be dangerous. Virginia, Maryland, Duke, and Wake Forest aren’t going to be world beaters, but Boston College and NC State should be challenging from the league’s midsection.
The Best Team Should Be … Virginia Tech
3. Big Ten
It’ll be a wildly entertaining season with Ohio State national title-good, Wisconsin and Iowa loaded, and Penn State expected to be just good enough to stay in the hunt (even though this won’t be a vintage Nittany Lion squad). Michigan State should be exciting on offense and has Greg Jones a good defense coming back, Northwestern has the potential to be better than last year, and Michigan is a major X factor with Rich Rodriguez finally with several of the right pieces in place. Indiana might be Indiana, but the receiving corps might be the best in the conference, Minnesota has a boatload of talent returning on offense with ten starters back, and Illinois has eight returning starters on defense.
The Best Team Should Be … Ohio State
2. Big 12
It’s all about the reemergence of Oklahoma and the expected big year out of Nebraska. Texas should be loaded once again as Mack Brown has restocked the shelves, Garrett Gilbert should be more than ready to step in and shine in place of Colt McCoy, and there will be more of a running game to count on. The Sooners should be good again, but they might not be national title good, while the Huskers could be in the BCS title hunt if the offense can show a little improvement. And then it’s all up in the air with Texas Tech ushering in the Tommy Tuberville era, Missouri with its question marks on both sides of the ball, Texas A&M concerned about improving the defense, and Oklahoma State going through a major rebuilding job. The league will be solid and interesting, but it won’t be anywhere near as good as the SEC with the bottom half, including Baylor, Colorado and Kansas State, likely to struggle to make much noise.
The Best Team Should Be … Texas
The good for the SEC: it should be the strongest league in the country yet again. The bad: it could be too good to let any team to get through unscathed. Alabama will almost certainly be the preseason No. 1 with a loaded offense returning and a slew of talented prospects ready to fill in the gaps on defense, but Florida, even in a rebuilding mode, isn’t going to be all that far behind. Throw in the expected emergence of LSU and Auburn into even bigger threats, a wild card in Arkansas with Ryan Mallett and the high-octane Hog attack, a South Carolina team that should be the best yet under Steve Spurrier, and Georgia, who should rebuild a bit, and the SEC will once again be nasty week-in-and-week-out. If that wasn’t enough, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi State would be good enough to challenge for conference titles in any of the non-BCS leagues and would be a threat in the Big East.
The Best Team Should Be … Alabama