Brief, and probably incorrect, predictions for the 2015 NCAA football season
The 2015 NCAA football season is right around the corner and every year I love to look at each FBS conference and make my predictions. The only thing wrong with that is usually my predictions. I am by no means an expert on making picks. If anything, people should read this and most likely pick the opposite if money is involved. But what I am is a fan of the sport and a man who will watch just about any game that is on TV. So, without wasting any more time, let’s jump into each conference and make some random picks.
The level of play in the ACC has improved over the past few years, but not all around. In the Atlantic Division, I expected Florida State to continue to be a good team, but fall short of the division title. I think Clemson will win the Atlantic Division this year with FSU and Louisville battling right behind them. Boston College, Syracuse, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest will round out the bottom of the division.
In the Coastal Division, a few teams will battle for the top spot and beat each other up all year. But when all is said and done, Georgia Tech should repeat as division champions. Giving them a hard time will be Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech. And at the bottom of the division, once again, will be Virginia and Miami.
Division Winners: Clemson Tigers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Conference Winner: Clemson Tigers
Surprise Team: Pittsburgh Panthers
The American Athletic Conference is just like the conference it replaced, the Big East. The conference has ambitions to be one of the power conferences, but it simply does not have the teams to compete at that level. Memphis put together a nice season in 2014, but I am predicting them to slip down and be trumped by Cincinnati this year. The Bearcats should finish atop the AAC, followed by Memphis and then a close and tied UCF. They will be followed by Houston, Tulane, and East Carolina to round out the top half of the conference. The bottom of the conference is filled by average to below average programs and should see South Florida, Temple, Tulsa, SMU, and UConn finish in that order.
Conference Champion: Cincinnati Bearcats
Surprise Team: Tulane Green Wave
The Big XII is a conference with a major problem. The lack of a conference championship game definitely hurt the conference last season as Baylor and TCU finished atop the conference but neither made it to the playoffs. If the conference had a championship game, I’m sure one of the two scholls would have had a shot at a national championship. But instead, they do not and teams will have to try to win the conference outright for that chance. And I believe that TCU will be the team to do so.
Following last season’s campaign, TCU brings back a great team and should win the conference title. Baylor should be the runners-up with Oklahoma State and Kansas State at third and fourth respectively. West Virginia should finish fifth and round out the top half of the conference. Oklahoma will finish sixth in what should be a down year for the program, with Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas finishing off the conference.
Conference Champion: TCU Horned Frogs
Surprise Team: Texas Longhorns
The Big Ten may be the conference going into the 2015 season with the most steam. Ohio State won the East Division and then the National Championship last season and I expect them to remain at the top of the division. Michigan State will once again be a close second and Penn State should jump up to the third spot. The East will be rounded out by Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan, and Indiana.
Over in the West Division, Wisconsin should repeat as division champs and play OSU in the Big Ten Championship game. I think they should win the division easily with Minnesota and Iowa finishing behind them. I expect Nebraska to slip down to fourth after changing head coaches in the offseason. Illinois, Northwestern, and Purdue look to once again be the bottom three in the division.
Division Champions: Ohio State Buckeyes, Wisconsin Badgers
Conference Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes
Surprise Team: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Conference USA has taken a big hit in the past few years. The conference saw teams leave to join the AAC and had to replenish with teams from the Sun Belt or teams jumping up from the FCS ranks. Even the teams that C-USA got from the Sun Belt were fairly new to the FBS. Marshall was the most dominant team in the East Division in 2014 and should remain at the top this year. They will be followed by Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky, the only two schools in their division that may give them a challenge. The division will be rounded out by Old Dominion, Florida International, and Florida Atlantic, with UNC Charlotte at the bottom in their first FBS season.
In the West Division, I expect Louisiana Tech repeat as champs as well but do so more convincingly. Even though Marshall has very little competition in their division, LA Tech has even less. Following the Bulldogs will be a mess of average to below-average programs. Rice should finish second, with UTSA, UTEP, North Texas, and Southern Mississippi all following behind.
Division Champions: Marshall Thundering Herd, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Conference Champions: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Surprise Team: Old Dominion Monarchs
The Independents are not truly a conference, but I still felt I should at least mention them. I believe Notre Dame will be the best of the four. They will be followed closely by BYU and then Navy. As usual, Army will be the worst of the four Independent teams.
The MAC is a small conference that always boast one or two good teams. In the West Division, Northern Illinois has been at the top and I predict they will remain there. Toledo should also remain at the number two spot. They will be followed by Ball State, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan. The long-struggling Eastern Michigan will remain at the bottom of the division once again.
In the East Division, I look for Ohio to take the top spot with Bowling Green State, last year’s division winner, to finish second. I think Buffalo will remain at third in the division, with UMass jumping into the number four spot. The division will be rounded out by Akron, Kent State, and Miami (OH).
Division Champions: Northern Illinois Huskies, Ohio Bobcats
Conference Champions: Ohio Bobcats
Surprise Team: UMass Minutemen
In the Mountain Division, it should surprise no one to see Boise State at the top of the division again. Behind them, Utah State and Air Force will battle for second and third. Colorado State will fall to fourth after losing their starting quarterback and head coach. And finally Wyoming and New Mexico will once again be at the bottom of the division.
In the West Division, three teams will compete for the top spot, while the other three will try not to finish last. I think Fresno State will win the division, with San Diego State and Nevada following closely behind. San Jose State will be at the top of the bottom half, with Hawaii and UNLV rounding out the division.
Division Champions: Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs
Conference Champions: Boise State Broncos
Surprise Team: Wyoming Cowboys
The PAC-12 is one of the top conferences in the NCAA and has the talent to show for it. Oregon should be the top team in the North Division once again with Washington and Stanford coming in second and third. I expect Oregon State to jump up one spot to fourth with California falling to fifth. Washington State will once again finish at the bottom of the division.
The South Division of the PAC-12 is a lot more competitive however. After winning the division last year, expect another strong season from Arizona. But I don’t see it being enough to win the division as I think UCLA will finally take the next step and win the division title. They will be followed by Arizona, USC, and then Arizona State, who I think will slip back into being a mediocre team. Utah and Colorado will finish fifth and sixth once again this year.
Division Champions: Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins
Conference Champions: Oregon Ducks
Surprise Team: Oregon State Beavers
For two seasons in a row, the national champion has not been from the SEC and the conference is hoping to change that in 2015. And if that were to happen, that team would have to come out of the West Division. Although Alabama is usually the consensus pick to win the West Division, I believe Auburn will be the team to do that, with Alabama finishing second. Following them will be Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M.
In the weaker East Division, I believe it is South Carolina’s to lose. I think they will finish first in the division, followed by Georgia and last year’s division winners Missouri. I think Tennessee will surprise some people and finish fourth in the division. Florida will continue to struggle and finish fifth, followed only by Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Division Champions: Auburn Tigers, South Carolina Gamecocks
Conference Champions: Auburn Tigers
Surprise Team: TIE – Arkansas Razorbacks and Tennessee Volunteers
The Sun Belt Conference is growing every year and has produced a number of good teams in recent years. Georgia Southern entered the Sun Belt, and the FBS, last year and won the conference title outright. If they were able to do that in their first year, I won’t doubt that they can do it again in 2015. I think Appalachian State will finish in second this year and will continue to improve. Despite having a good team returning, ULL will slip to third this year without a returning quarterback. South Alabama is will jump up to the fourth spot and Arkansas State and Texas State will follow. ULM, Troy, Idaho, Georgia State, and New Mexico State will finish off the conference.
Conference Champions: Georgia Southern Eagles
Surprise Team: South Alabama Jaguars
And now that I have looked at each conference, it is time for my “way to early, often wrong, and never should be duplicated” picks for the College Football Playoff.
Four Playoff Teams:
1. Ohio State
… and the eventual National Champions are…
Daryl Karpinski Jr.