Jumbled-up lists, well-researched yet sure-to-miss predictions, over-analyzed statistics and a pinch of history mixed with a deep look at the future. Yep, it’s my own personal Jackson’s Five College Football Preview.
1. I think Ohio State — right now — is as good as anybody. Maturing and athletic QB. Studs on defense. Very manageable schedule, very nice young talent that should grow up as the season progresses and enough guys to make the game-changing plays that tend to make the bounces go their team’s way. Right now I’m picking the Buckeyes to narrowly defeat Miami in Week Two and run the table…almost. I’m picking them to go 11-1, losing at Wisconsin. But I believe they’ll still be in play for a shot at the BCS Championship Game because I don’t think any team is going to go undefeated. If any team does go undefeated, I kind of hope it’s Lane Kiffin’s ineligible-for-the-postseason team. That would make me laugh.
2. Here are the teams I see as having a semi-legitimate shot to go undefeated, in no particular order: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Boise State, TCU, Texas, Pitt (but I don’t the Wann-staches could actually do it), Navy, Houston, Nevada (yes, that means beating Boise) and, begrudgingly, Oklahoma. I don’t put an asterisk by Oklahoma for any personal reason, just that I think the Sooners have national-championship-type talent but have a brutal schedule to navigate. Plus, they seem to be everybody’s trendy pick to rebound from an injury-riddled year, and we know how those trendy picks usually go. In three months we might be saying, well, we know how Zac’s picks usually go. And that’s fine. But everybody else is talkin’ and guessin’ college football this week, so I might as well join the party.
3. I think Zach Collaros at Cincinnati is an outstanding quarterback who will put up big numbers in an offense that suits his skill set very well. But I don’t think we’ll see Collaros as a Heisman finalist because I think the Bearcats have an awfully tough schedule to navigate with a lot of young players trying to fit into a new defense. I’ll do my Week One predictions tomorrow, but I find it tough to believe UC can go to Fresno and win this weekend. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s a tall task. I do think UC is good enough to throw a scare into Oklahoma at Paul Brown Stadium in a few weeks, and I do think the Bearcats will contend for the Big East title. But I think Pitt is going to win the Big East, with West Virginia also having a shot.
4. I think the Heisman race is wide, wide open — especially with the news that returning winner Mark Ingram is going to miss a week or two due to minor knee surgery. I still think the SEC is the best conference (especially in what looks to be a down year for the Big 12) but I don’t see any of its teams (Alabama, Florida and LSU being the best I see) being good enough to survive the week-to-week grind and be undefeated. So, yes, I do see the SEC’s streak of national champions coming to an end. How long’s it been, anyway? I asked an SEC fan and he told me he thought it’s been 79 straight years. I asked a Buckeye fan and he told me he thought Ohio State won it every year. Anyway, if I hadn’t spent all my money this summer on Swenson’s while camping outside a gym in Akron waiting for That One Guy to speak to the media about his future plans, I’d place $10 on each of these guys to win the Heisman: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor (4/1), Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett (10/1), Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray (15/1) and Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert (50/1). Oh, yeah. I’d also think about placing a little on Texas (15/1) to win the national title. If you don’t believe my thought on the SEC streak coming to an end — and I may not even totally believe it — I’d look at Florida (7/1), Auburn (40/1) and LSU (40/1).
5. Some lists, counting down from five to one. Five teams I see as potential out-of-nowhere (currently not ranked in the Top 20) BCS party crashers: Missouri, Texas A&M, Navy, Houston and Auburn. Ohio State’s four toughest games, in order: at Wisconsin, Miami, at Iowa, Michigan (they’ll be better than most think). Three teams I see as potential crash-landers after starting the season with a high ranking: #8 Nebraska, #11 Oregon, #19 Penn State. Two coaches with Northeast Ohio ties it’s easy to root against: Butch Davis and Nick Saban. One out of nowhere Ohio team that might defy preseason expectations and end up in a bowl game: Akron.