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NO MORE DRAMA - THE 2010 SEASON BEGINS
September 2, 2010

SCS.com As mentioned in the offseason review article prior to our previews this month, the 2010 offseason was all about drama from Pete Carroll leaving USC to fall apart in front of the NCAA to even this past week when Fresno State and Nevada bailed the WAC to join the MWC, and North Carolina wavering from the most promising season in many years to a train wreck in front of more NCAA investigations. Even with all that drama continuing, the games finally begin on Thursday night with more than your usual MAC showdown. Big names Ohio State, Miami, USC, and Pittsburgh all take the field Thursday night to kick off the year. Before we get there with the week 1 games of the week, there's a bit of unfinished preview business and some last offseason drama business to take care of.

Although conference realignments may continue during the regular season, it is far more likely that the last shot across the bow happened when Fresno State and Nevada joined Boise State in bailing from the WAC. The interesting angle to this story is that BYU apparently was planning to jump ship the other direction (from the MWC to the WAC) after being left out by the Pac-10. However, those talk fell through and then the news became even worse for the WAC. While the Mountain West cannot be faulted for taking charge of the situation and maintaining their relevance in the BCS race with a great six-pack of teams in Boise State, TCU, Nevada, Fresno State, BYU, and Air Force, the WAC is now left wondering where to go next. Bonus points go to anyone who can name the remaining six teams in the WAC in 2011. It's Idaho, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Utah State, New Mexico State, and San Jose State. It seems likely that the eventual fallout will either be these six teams begging into other conferences, or another couple of callups from the FCS subdivision to the big show. This will be one of the top storylines for the 2011 offseason.

The other fallout from conference realignment is the debate over how divisions will be split. The Big Ten needs to make the first decision as the Pac-10 will not have 12 teams until 2012. Apparently the announcement will come in September as to what the Big Ten decides, but there are a lot of signs pointing toward Ohio State and Michigan being put in different divisions. This would presumably be done so that the top two name brands and fanbases in the conference could meet for epic moneymaking in the conference championship game. However, the downsides seem to vastly outweigh the upside. Even with both programs at the top of their game, you can probably expect a UM-OSU conference championship once every three seasons on average, at best. The other two thirds of the time, you will absolutely cheapen the game by (1) moving it from the traditional end game of the year where a bad season can be made by beating your rival at the most painful time, and (2) making the game largely irrelevant as to deciding who has a chance at a conference title instead of playing for a division title most years. Competitive balance will be there with Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska in an opposite division from Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State, and it would be a real shame to throw away the clear conference alignment that makes geographic and tradition-respecting sense.

The third issue in the cross hairs just popped up on the radar as I write this article, and that is the NCAA pulling the rug out from under Jeremiah Masoli. Masoli has been denied the right to follow the rules for a player who has graduated and generally can transfer to another FBS school without sitting out a year. So pending an appeal, Masoli will not be the starter for Ole Miss, which puts them right back at the bottom of the heap in the SEC West in a hurry. Masoli should not get a free pass for clearly getting into trouble when the leash was short, but it was more than enough punishment to force the kid out of a top-tier program. No other top tier program is going to touch him this year, so if he can move on with his life somewhere else then the NCAA should allow it. The rehabilitation of Lagarrette Blount was one of the most beautiful storylines a year ago, and it's a real shame if Masoli is not given the same opportunity in a different setting. In the end, if Masoli loses the appeal, I sincerely hope he sticks with it during a "redshirt" season and comes back with a vengeance in 2011.

So with all that being said, it is time to turn to one final piece of previews: bowl projections (sure to go wrong). Taking into consideration all the preview articles posted this month and the minor changes in personnel that have modified the outlooks of certain teams, here is a summary of the BCS selections followed by a listing of every bowl game:

This season the BCS five-pack of bowls turns into a second cycle, which means Glendale is the host of both the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS Championship. The automatic berths will go to Miami (11-2) from the ACC, West Virginia (10-2) from the Big East, Iowa (11-1) from the Big Ten, Nebraska (12-1) from the Big XII, Oregon State (9-3) from the Pac-10, Georgia (9-3) from the SEC and Boise State (12-0) from the non-BCS conferences. The top five contenders for at-large berths will be Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, Alabama, and TCU. The BCS Championship will certainly have to take Boise State, but the real controversy will be passing over TCU as Nebraska slips in to play the Broncos. The Fiesta Bowl gets to replace the Big XII champion and one would anticipate that they would grab a one-loss Ohio State, always a big draw in Glendale. Then the Sugar Bowl gets the SEC Champion Georgia and will also take undefeated TCU. The Orange Bowl goes next and will have Miami, who will then be paired against Alabama (which locks the Big XII out of an at large berth surprisingly). The Fiesta Bowl will be stuck taking West Virginia to play against the Buckeyes, and the Rose Bowl ends up with Oregon State vs. Iowa. Assuming either Boise State or TCU takes an automatic berth, the big story of the season will be seeing whether the other one can knock the second-best team from one of the SEC, the Big Ten, or the Big XII out of the BCS again like last season. Everyone else falls into line according to the following bowl schedule.

BCS Championship - Boise State vs. Nebraska
Rose Bowl - Iowa vs. Oregon State
Orange Bowl - Miami vs. Alabama
Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State vs. West Virginia
Sugar Bowl - Georgia vs. TCU
Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin vs. Florida
Gator Bowl - Michigan vs. LSU
Cotton Bowl - Oklahoma vs. Auburn
Outback Bowl - Penn State vs. South Carolina
Insight Bowl - Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Chich-fil-a Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas
Liberty Bowl - Houston vs. Notre Dame
Sun Bowl - Boston College vs. Arizona
Holiday Bowl - Missouri vs. California
Alamo Bowl - Texas vs. Oregon
Music City Bowl - Clemson vs. Tennessee
Meineke Car Care Bowl - North Carolina vs. Cincinnati
Champs Sports Bowl - Florida State vs. Pittsburgh
Poinsettia Bowl - BYU vs. Navy
Birmingham Bowl - South Florida vs. Troy
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - Idaho vs. Kent State
Independence Bowl - Georgia Tech vs. Air Force
GMAC Bowl - Temple vs. Kansas State
Hawaii Bowl - Centra Florida vs. Hawaii
Las Vegas Bowl - Utah vs. UCLA
Humanitarian Bowl - Ohio vs. Fresno State
Armed Forces Bowl - Southern Mississippi vs. Army
Little Caesars Bowl - Western Michigan vs. UTEP
Texas Bowl - Texas Tech vs. Purdue
New Orleans Bowl - Tulsa vs. Middle Tennessee State
New Mexico Bowl - Nevada vs. Ball State
St. Petersburg Bowl - Rutgers vs. SMU
Pinstripe Bowl - Colorado vs. Connecticut
Eaglebank Bowl - Northern Illinois vs. Marshall
Dallas Football Classic - Baylor vs. Michigan State

Left Out at 6-6: Wyoming, Florida Atlantic, and North Texas

There are some mighty intriguing match ups in that lot, and not a lot of teams left out, which is nice but perhaps the bowls should be culled if only three 6-6 teams are left out. The remainder of this article will be what you can expect for the remainder of the season. The top 3 games of the week is a return feature, and I will be looking to bounce back from a poor record in 2009 compared to 2007 and 2008. I will also provide my top 10 vote, although SCS will no longer be putting out our own poll every week. Thus, we will work on AP rankings for the time being. That becomes important in the next feature I will add to the weekly article, which will be my picks of every game involving a top 25 team, in rapid-fire style. No point spreads, no analysis, just shooting by the hip every week on the top teams in the country. Around November we will bring back the BCS Bowl Projections feature again, but other than that, everything will be as normal around here. Please jump into the SCS Pickem Contest, which provides good prizes and good competition all year long for you prognosticators out there.

The first game of the week for opening weekend is Connecticut at Michigan thanks to the UNC investigations taking the shine out of the game against a seemingly-mediocre LSU team. Connecticut could be a darkhorse in the Big East conference race due to their schedule and their returning talent, while Michigan needs this win before heading to Notre Dame in a tough opening stretch. Denard Robinson has been named as the starter for Michigan, but Tate Forcier will certainly see some limited playing time and we may also see the true freshman third stringer as well. If Michigan is to vault themselves back into the national conscience, the defense will need to stop a poten Huskies offense. Connecticut is led by QB Zach Frazer, but RB Jordan Todman will be the key to winning in the Big House. Connecticut actually has the better defense of the two teams, but this will be an offensive showdown. In those types of games, UCONN fell short a year ago except for the Notre Dame double overtime win. With the homefield advantage and the better record in shootouts, Michigan will win this game by a 4 point margin.

The second game of the week is Oregon State at TCU. The Beavers will be the only team who can determine just how good Boise State and TCU are as they play both in September. The opening game in Arlington is essentially a road game, but the Rodgers brothers will be perhaps the biggest test for the Horned Frogs defense. Expect TCU's linebackers to have a big game both in run stopping and pass coverage. On the other side of the ball, Andy Dalton may have a field day with an inexperienced Beavers linebacker crew. However, a good defensive backfield led by CB James Dockery will keep OSU in this game late. Oregon State also has a slight edge in special teams, but playing TCU on the road will not be an easy task. In fact, it will be just too much for Oregon State to handle, as the Horned Frogs move ahead in their chase for the BCS with a 10 point win.

The third game of the week is Monday night's showdown as Boise State travels across the country to face Virginia Tech. While Boise State is the favorite on paper, the trip across the country and the fact that this is a season-opener make this game a pure toss-up. Virginia Tech is no stranger to rough season opening games, having played Alabama on this same weekend. Tyrod Taylor will be the storyline coming into the season, but do not take a nap on sophomore RB Ryan Williams, who could continue the trend of sophomore Heisman winners if he leads Virginia Tech to a hard-earned victory here. The Tech defense is always good under Frank Beamer, but seven new starters will have to step up in a hurry if the Bronco attack is to be slowed. Kellen Moore threw 10 interceptions a year ago so he is prone to mistakes if the Hokies can capitalize on good reads. The game might come down to special teams, and it would surprise you who has the edge: Boise State. With Kyle Brotzman taking care of all the kicking and punting and Titus Young returning kicks, Boise State has one of the best special teams units in the country. Boise State has proven they can win the big openers (Oregon last year) and the really big games (Fiesta Bowl 2007, Fiesta Bowl 2010). And once again, Boise State will win their biggest test of the year in week 1 with everyone's attention Labor Day night, by a margin of 7.

The Remainder of the Big Games - Week 1
(1) Alabama defeats San Jose State
(2) Ohio State defeats Marshall
(4) Floirda defeats Miami (OH)
(5) Texas defeats Rice
(7) Oklahoma defeats Utah State
(8) Nebraska defeats Western Kentucky
(9) Iowa defeats Eastern Illinois
(11) Oregon defeats New Mexico
(12) Wisconsin defeats UNLV
(13) Miami defeats Florida A&M
(14) USC defeats Hawaii
Utah defeats (15) Pittsburgh
(16) Georgia Tech defeats South Carolina State
(17) Arkansas defeats Tennessee Tech
(18) North Carolina defeats (21) LSU
(19) Penn State defeats Youngstown State
(20) Florida State defeats Samford
(22) Auburn defeats Arkansas State
(23) Georgia defeats UL-Lafayette
(25) West Virginia defeats Coastal Carolina

2009 GOTW Record: 25-14 (64.1%)
Last Week: N/A

Fitz Top 10 - Preseason
1. Boise State (0-0)
2. Ohio State (0-0)
3. Alabama (0-0)
4. Oklahoma (0-0)
5. Iowa (0-0)
6. TCU (0-0)
7. Nebraska (0-0)
8. Florida (0-0)
9. Texas (0-0)
10. Virginia Tech (0-0)

Just Missed: Miami, Wisconsin, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Oregon State

This time next week we'll have actual football results to talk about! Let's hope there's no drama at the Boise State game like there was last season against Oregon. The two biggest spotlights will be shined on the two BCS busters from a year ago who again look poised to make another undefeated season run. However, one loss non-BCS schools typically have no shot at the BCS (although Boise State may be an exception this season). Neither team can afford a loss, and that makes week 1 worth watching. While there is not a lot of intrigue on the schedule behind the top 2 games, look for Pittsburgh and USC to have very stiff tests in week 1 on Thursday night as well. As an Ohio State alumnus, I know where I will be parked Thursday night, and that's in front of the TV with a remote in my hand and a hot wing in another. Won't you join me? Have a great week and we'll see you back here next week!

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