A: Every preseason poll I saw had Oklahoma and Alabama 1-2. Even though it is rare to see the preseason 1 and 2 in those slots at the end of the year, these two teams (on paper) are so far ahead of everyone else. Oregon and LSU should be a phenomenal game on Saturday night, but both have had off-field problems in August. That doesn't bode well for a smooth autumn. Boise is still uber-talented but one loss or especially two and they will plummet in the polls. I went back and forth between OU and Bama. I even typed in Oklahoma but reconsidered after noticing they play at Florida State and at Oklahoma State this year. I didn't like the idea of knocking out my A or B in week 3 (spoiler alert) and finally switched to Bama. That defense (10 returning starters) is awe-inspiring.
I've been using the "Saban at podium" picture for a while now. Now that Saban has his own statue .... oh yeah.
B: Aside from thinking this is the year Florida State wins the ACC, this was a process of eliminating the hype. Stanford will not be the same without Harbaugh; I will be stunned if they are Top 10 when they play ND at the end of the year. A&M's drama is all conference-related, but will any of that bleed over to the field of play? I'd already decided not to pick Oklahoma State when I was considering the Sooners, and while they will probably have a very good year, I don't feel like rooting for them. Nebraska likewise is talented but I do not think they will stroll into a new conference and win--too many new variables (new coaches to scheme against, new players to scout, new hotels for road games).
I don't have a Florida State picture, but I do have this 64-pack crayon box from back when FSU was going through a cheating scandal.
C: TCU is ranked based on their defense (good) and last year's QB Andy Dalton (gone). Arkansas lost their star RB for the year and I don't see them managing that SEC without him. Virginia Tech is out cause I like FSU in the ACC. So it's Wisconsin vs. South Carolina, and I just sense Spurrier will have a breakthrough year with all that offensive talent (QB Garcia, RB Lattimore, WR Jeffery). Plus as a married guy I can write "I LOVE COCKS" on the Internet and that won't come back to bite me in the ass, right?
No South Carolina pictures, but given Stephen Garcia's problems off the field, I just assume this is a picture of him as a youngster.
D: Intriguing grouping: two Big Tens, two SEC, and the Irish. Ohio State is a litmus test on how important you think Tressel and Pryor are/were. My sense is they will lose at least 2, probably 3, games they would have won with one or the other. So a 10-2/Top 10 season becomes 7-5/unranked. Georgia too is tempting: if they start 2-0, they will catapault to the Top 10 and be on track for an amazing season. But those first two games are Boise and at South Carolina. With an 0-2 start, they spiral into a lost season, and Richt is fired by Halloween. I don't know enough about Mississippi State's team, but they do have a lot of firepower on that schedule. I'm not picking ND for reasons I'll explain soon-ish, so that leaves me with Sparty. Michigan State went 10-2 last year. Those two losses were huge, but remember this: Dantonio is kinda dick-ish. I think he'll motivate his senior-laden team for revenge on Iowa, plus keep up the gains made last year on rivals ND and Michigan.
New year, new Sparty picture. In any other league without Bielema and Fitzgerald, Mark Dantonio would easily be the most dickish coach in his conference.
E: What an underwhelming quintile. Yes, I know last year's national champion came from E, but I don't see that magic here. Florida is the savvy pick, given the immense talent that Urban Meyer stockpiled. But I don't trust the combination of a first-time head coach and the alleged QB guru Charlie Weis. Missouri and Auburn lost their QBs to the NFL and I don't expect big things there. West Virginia had coaching turmoil in the offseason and I just don't see them improving. So, yeah, I'm gonna grit my teeth and take Southern Cal, with star QB Matt Barkley, Jimmy Clausen's old high school teammate Marc Tyler, and all their surrounding questions. They can't play in the Pac-12 Championship or a bowl, but if they go 10-2 or 9-3, they will finish higher than where they started.
If I have to mention Southern Cal on my blog, I'm going to run a picture of the Song Girls.
F: Texas is the tempting pick. They can't be that bad again, can they? Well, no, but will they be better than OU, OSU and A&M? How highly ranked will the fourth best XII team be in January? Iowa under Ferentz always does well when expectations are low, but in this case, the low expectations are justified. Breaking in a new QB and all that inexperience on defense will cost us some wins. So, yeah, I'm gonna pick Utah. I know what I said about Nebraska having trouble in a new conference, I know I've got a team from the same conference AND division right above there in E. But the Utes have a nice schedule, missing Oregon and Stanford. They play USC early, giving both teams time to recover and climb in the polls. They've got a strong QB in Wynn who was out for all three of Utah's losses. I generally don't like teams coming off a bowl loss, or P6 teams that play each other, so this is a contrarian pick in many ways.
Can you say much of anything about Utah football? Yeah me neither.