Since the advent of college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998, college football fans have had problems with it. Every year it seems, a good team with a perfect record gets snubbed from the National title game for a one-loss team from a bigger conference (i.e. Boise State in 2006 and 2009; Oklahoma State in 2011). But fear not, college football fans, a savior is coming. Last year an agreement was reached, and this season will be the last of the BCS. Next year, a four-team playoff system will be implemented with a selection committee similar to that of the NCAA basketball tournament choosing the competing teams. But sadly, we still have to deal with one more year of the BCS. With the change to the championship system, another redshirt freshman quarterback who is a Heisman contender, and more, the college football world is riddled with storylines. Here are four bold predictions I have for the 2013 season.
Jameis Winston is going to win the Heisman: I believe that, for the second year in a row, a redshirt freshman is going to win the Heisman Trophy. Last year it was Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel who burst onto the scene out of relative obscurity to become one of the biggest celebrities in college football. This year, Florida State’s Jameis Winston looks poised to become the next redshirt freshman quarterback to take college football by storm. In Florida State’s opening game against conference opponent Pittsburgh, Winston flat out dominated. He completed 25 of his 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns, and also added 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground. One game may not foreshadow the entire season, but Winston looked so crisp and accurate with his passes. If he keeps playing at this level, the sky is the limit. Everyone who was already familiar with Winston knew about his big downfield arm, but against Pittsburgh he showed pinpoint accuracy and composure while making plays very few quarterbacks can make. I predict Winston will win the Heisman this year, and he certainly has the talent to do so.
This year’s quarterback draft class is as good as the 2012 class: No, this draft won’t have the front-end talent of Andrew Luck and RGIII, but it has a solid top-five pick in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and the rest of class is as deep as any in recent memory. In addition to Bridgewater, I think Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota will be taken in the first round. That alone is a great class, so when you factor in middle-round prospects like San Jose State’s David Fales, possibly the most accurate QB in this draft, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, one of only a few QBs ever to win two national championships in a row (and a threat to three-peat), UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Miami’s Stephen Morris, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, North Carolina’s Bryn Renner, and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, a player who was once projected as a first-round pick before Virginia Tech’s poor season last year, you have an amazingly deep class. The x-factor in this draft class is going to be Johnny Manziel. With the great numbers he’s put up, and the NFL-wide trend toward dual-threat quarterbacks, Manziel could be picked early despite not being as big as the majority of NFL QBs. Depending on how the season goes for Manziel, he could be picked in the first-round barring continued off-the-field issues. If his production falls off, he’ll probably be picked in the third to fourth round range. Top to bottom, this year’s quarterback class is as deep as any in years.
There won’t be an SEC team in the national championship game: Recently, the SEC has dominated nationally, winning the last seven national championships. But the conference as a whole has gotten too good to win an eighth straight championship. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida, and LSU are all good enough to make a run at the championship, but there are too many good teams in the conference for any of them to go undefeated, and that is going to be what’s needed to go to the national championship this year. Both Louisville and Ohio State are great teams with weak schedules, so it looks like they are both very capable of going undefeated. Also, in the Pac-12, I believe whoever wins the Oregon-Stanford game on November 7 will run the table and go undefeated. The ACC also has several teams that could run the table. If there are multiple undefeated teams from automatic qualifying conferences coming out of the regular season, a one-loss SEC team may not reach the title game. Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina have already lost games two weeks into the season. That being said, an SEC school like Alabama, LSU, or Texas A&M could put together a great season and go undefeated. I just think their schedules are too tough and the conference as a whole is too deep for that to happen.
Stanford will win the national championship: When it’s all said and done, I believe that Stanford will finish the season as national champions. They have a great offense led by quarterback Kevin Hogan, who showcased his talent last year when he took over the starting job late in the season, a versatile wide receiver in junior Ty Montgomery, and a hard-hitting defense led by fifth-year senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov. The Cardinal’s biggest hole is in the backfield where they lose star running back Stepfan Taylor. Stanford hopes to use various backs including Tyler Gaffney, back from a short stint in minor league baseball, to try to replace the production lost with the departure of Taylor. Gaffney rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinal’s Week 2 win over San Jose State. Overall, though, the loss of Taylor won’t hurt Stanford too much. They have a very skilled, deep team that looks poised to make a championship run.