I tackled my NFL predictions last week, so let's take a look at my predictions for what will happen in college football this year.
Barring injury, there's really no excuse for Louisville to not win the conference championship in its first and only season in the American Athletic Conference. Teddy Bridgewater is arguably the best pure passer in college football and the Cardinals are loaded with weapons on both sides of the ball. They also have a great schedule and will be favored in every game, which is why many are picking them to reach the BCS Championship game. The only team I see posing a threat to Louisville would be UCF.
This pick depends on what happens with the NCAA ruling from its investigation into the Miami program, but I hope the Canes are eligible to finally play in the conference championship game. They would have played in the title game last season were it not for a university-imposed sanction. I think Duke Johnson is the best all-around player in the ACC and Al Golden has done an outstanding job of recruiting despite the cloud of uncertainty that's surrounded the program over the past two years. Miami will have to play Florida State and North Carolina on the road, but I think their young talent is ready to take the next step.
Big 12: TCU
Many Big 12 teams are in need of a bounce-back season this year. The heat is on for Mack Brown at Texas and the natives are growing restless with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma after disappointing seasons for both teams in 2012. TCU is another program coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign. I expect the Horned Frogs to right the ship and for Gary Patterson to get his defense back to being one of the best units in the country. The showdown against the Sooners in Norman, OK, on October 5 will be huge for both teams.
If Ohio State doesn't win the Big Ten, there should be an investigation. The Buckeyes are by far the most talented team in the conference and they have a very favorable schedule. The only two roadblocks between them and another undefeated regular season would be their two road games against Northwestern and Michigan. Braxton Miller is a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy and Urban Meyer always does a great job recruiting athletes who can play defense. The most exciting element will be to see if the Buckeyes get matched up against another SEC team in a bowl game.
Pac 12: Stanford
Remember when Stanford was supposed to take a step back after Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL and Andrew Luck graduated? About that. The Cardinal continues to move forward and they have emerged as the dominant program in the state of California. They have one of the best front sevens in college football and their physical style of play is a nightmare for opposing teams on both sides of the ball.
I simply refuse to pick against Alabama. As long as Nick Saban continues to devise the gameplans and recruit 5-stars to Tuscaloosa, I don't know how anyone can be favored to beat them. The Tide simply have too much talent and depth and they never beat themselves. Add in that they have an extremely favorable schedule in the SEC and their main competition in the SEC West have major questions at QB, and it looks like it will be another trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
Heisman: Braxton Miller
Braxton Miller put up huge numbers last season and the talk coming out of Ohio State is that he's ready to elevate his play to another level in 2013. He'll benefit from playing on the big stage of Ohio State and the Big Ten but still faces a relatively easy schedule compared to many of the other preseason favorites to win the Heisman. I expect Miller to be the face of a Buckeye team that will have another great year under Urban Meyer.
National Champion: Alabama
Remember how I said I can't pick against Alabama in my SEC prediction? The same applies for the national championship. I think what gives Alabama a huge advantage in this spot is the fact that Nick Saban usually has an extra month to prepare for an opponent leading up to the title game. Give Saban that much time to get a defense ready and he's nearly unbeatable.