Playoff is Coming But Here’s Another Change College Football Needs Too

Yeldon and the Tide are an easy pick for preseason number one but what if we didn't have preseason rankings?

The powers that be in the NCAA and Bowl Championship Series finally decided to do away with the BCS beginning in 2014. I’m pretty sure I speak for the vast majority of you when I say, “It’s about damn time!”

The BCS has been nothing short of an embarrassment since the term entered the college football landscape in 1998. We’ve seen teams play in the title game who hadn’t even won their conference. We’ve seen teams with two losses win the title and we’ve seen two teams from the same conference play in the title game when there were other options available.

The BCS will be no more after this college football season and will be replaced by a four-team playoff. The playoff is a monster step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done. The four teams will be selected by a ‘committee of experts’ which will be comprised of retired coaches and athletic directors amongst others.

One other thing I would like to see college football do is eliminate preseason rankings.

Why you may ask? Because they are by and large useless and the only positive from them is that they create talking points for fans and sports talk radio. Frankly, that’s a discussion that bores me to no end. Do you really care if Michigan is ranked 17th? Are you going to argue they should be higher or lower? What are you basing your argument on since they haven’t played a game yet?

I saw an argument on Twitter this week asking why Georgia was ranked ahead of South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ fan argued that because they whipped the Bulldogs 35-7 last year that they should be ranked ahead of them. The two teams ended up playing another 11 or 12 games last season but apparently we are only supposed to pay attention to that one result.

Georgia and South Carolina will play again this year and they will do so in the second week of the season. Common sense tells us that whoever wins that game will be ranked higher than the other when the new rankings come out. So again let me ask what do the preseason rankings really mean? Absolutely nothing.

Cam Newton's Auburn Tigers are the only National Champ to come from outside the top 20 in the BCS era.

The reason I want them abolished is simple. By eliminating preseason rankings you allow more teams to have chances to compete for national titles and ‘BCS Bowls.’ Only one time during the BCS era did a team come from outside the Top 20 to win the National Title. That was Auburn in 2010. Every other champion has come from the top 20 and up. In fact, five of the last six national champions have come from the top five.

Go back 33 years and you’ll find that 17 champions started the season in the top 20.

That Auburn championship season also helps prove my point because one other team did finish the season unbeaten and ranked number two in the final poll. That was TCU and started the season ranked number seven which was 15 spots higher than the Tigers. So how did Auburn and their opponent that year Oregon make the title game ahead of unbeaten TCU? Strength of schedule and ‘peer pressure’ were the two main culprits.

What made the final rankings completely contradict the pollsters in both the coaches’ poll and the media poll was the fact they both listed TCU as the final #2 and Oregon #3. The Ducks were unbeaten and lost to Auburn by three points. Suddenly that made TCU better than Oregon?

If the polls would wait until week seven or eight to come out, they would have a greater chance of getting things right at the end of the year. I guarantee there will be top ten and maybe even top five teams who do not even sniff the BCS because of early losses.

With college football moving in the right direction why not keep going? Ban the preseason polls and let the teams now more than ever figure out how good they are on the field and not on someone’s desktop.

Big 12 Win Totals for 2013

Baylor's Seastrunk could be in the race for the Heisman Trophy this season.

The Big 12 should once again feature high-flying offenses and defenses lacking in stopping power. Here are projected win totals for the Big 12 in 2013.

Baylor 8 (+105 over/-135 under) – Lache Seastrunk could be a Heisman candidate this season at running back but the big question is about QB Bryce Petty and whether or not he is ready to handle the load. The defense is never very good and relies on takeaways. The Bears have an easy non-conference schedule but finish the season at OK State, TCU and home with Texas. I think eight is the right number here.

Iowa State 5.5 (+160 over/-200 under) – I think the Cyclones and Paul Rhodes take a step back in 2013. They have to replace key players and leaders at QB,WR and LB. Non-conference schedule includes Northern Iowa, Iowa and Tulsa which very well leave them at 1-2. They have road trips to Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia. I’m going with the under in Ames.

Kansas 3.5 (-125 over/-105 under) – While the Jayhawks were within a TD in five losses, the other six were blowouts in a 1-11 year. Things will be better but I’m not show how much. They should get wins over the three non-conference opponents and manage a win or two in conference play behind year two of Charlie Weis. I like the over in Lawrence.

Kansas State 8 (+135 over/-165 under) – Bill Snyder and the Wildcats must replace Collin Klein at QB but should be OK elsewhere. The offense was 11th in the nation in scoring and a respectable 28th in points against. The non-conference schedule should be an easy 3-0 but those games are followed by road trips to Austin and Stillwater. I really feel like eight is the right number.

Bell replaces Landry Jones at OU and offers a different style of play.

Oklahoma 8.5 (-160 over/+130 under) – Dual-threat QB Blake Bell takes over for Landry Jones at QB for Bob Stoops who needs a big season in Norman. The Sooners have road games at Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor plus the Red River Rivalry in Dallas. I think Bell could be a star but I’m going with the under due to the road schedule.

Oklahoma State 9.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Cowboys prolific offense returns Clint Chelf at QB. OSU opens with a tough Mississippi State team but has a very favorable schedule the rest of the way with the only potentially tough road game at Texas. They get TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor at home. If they can find a replacement for Joseph Randle in the backfield I like the over.

TCU 8 (-150 over/+120 over) – The Horned Frogs were an uncharacteristic 7-6 last year but the Big 12 is a different league than the Mountain West was. They open in Dallas with LSU and have road games at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and K-State. I’m not convinced the Frogs have settled in just yet so I’m going with the under.

Texas 9.5 (-130 over/EVEN under) – To say Mack Brown is on the hot seat is an understatement. He needs a winner and he needs it now. Many teams would kill for a 9-4 record but not in Austin. The good news is the offense returns 10 starters. Bad news is they have some playmakers to replace on defense. There is too much talent and athleticism not to be great but I think the Horns will be. Texas plays at BYU, Baylor and in Dallas against OU but I think the over is the play.

Texas Tech 7.5 (+135 over/-165 under) – The Red Raiders were second in the nation in passing but were near the bottom in the nation in points allowed. So what else is new in Lubbock? Former Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury returns to coach and will keep the offense humming. The D does return seven starters, but they have their fifth coordinator in five years. The schedule isn’t horrible with road games at Texas and Oklahoma but I still think the over is a tall order this year. Take the under.

West Virginia 6 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Mountaineers were one of the hottest teams in the country to start out last year but faded fast because of a porous defense. WVU will get three wins in non-conference play but the conference schedule features trips to Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State. Replacing Geno Smith and Tavon Austin will not be easy either. That said, I think the Mountaineers manage seven wins.


Win Totals for College Football Independents

The loss of Golson will have significant implications for the Irish in 2013.

The list of independents has grown with the disappearing act done by the WAC. Idaho, New Mexico State and FBS newcomer Old Dominion join the Irish, Air Force, Army and BYU this season. This is a group of extremes to be sure when it comes to wins and losses.

Army 4.5 (+110 over/-140 under) – The Black Knights enter 2013 off of a disappointing 2-10 record but should improve upon that this season. As is typically the case, Army ranked number one in the nation in rushing and dead last in passing. It’s no secret what they like to do offensively. The defense must be better though. They gave up over 35 points per game in 2012. The Knights play at Hawaii, Ball State and Air Force and get Stanford and Wake Forest at home. It isn’t a difficult schedule but I still see the under.

Bronco Mendenhall and BYU will ride the defense again in 2013.

BYU 8 (+120 over/-150 under) -The Cougars were 8-5 last year but went 0-3 against top 25 opponents. The defense was outstanding ranking third in the country with just 14 points per game. The offense is a far cry from the days of Ty Detmer and Steve Young. It ranked middle of the road in both rushing and passing. The schedule is not easy. They have road games at Virginia, Wisconsin and Notre Dame and also play Boise State, Texas and Georgia Tech at home. I have to take the under here.

Idaho 1.5 (+125 over/-155 under) – The 1-11 Vandals are just not that good to be honest. They ranked almost dead last in points for, points against and rushing yards. Now they enter the independent type of schedule that will not be easy. They have seven road games which include Florida State, Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Wyoming. The home schedule features Fresno State and MAC champion Northern Illinois. I see only three winnable games here and that leads me to think the under is the right play.

Navy 6.5 (-140 over/+110 under) – Much like their rivals the Army Black Knights, the Midshipmen were one of the top teams in rushing and one of the bottom teams in passing. Their defense was significantly better though and thus the 8-5 record. This season Navy has key road games at Indiana (who they had a thriller with last year), Notre Dame (who beat them by 40) and San Jose State. The home portion will include tough ones with Air Force and Pitt. I like the Academy for another seven or eight win season.

New Mexico State 2.5 (-120 over/-120 under) – The 1-11 Aggies struggled mightily last year ranking near the bottom in rushing, points for and points against. That combination will get you absolutely nowhere. In the first four weeks, NMSU has road games at Texas and at UCLA and they must also go to rival New Mexico. The home slate features Minnesota, Boston College and San Diego State. I can see two wins potentially on their schedule but nothing makes me want to take the over.

Notre Dame 8.5 (-125 over/-105 under) – Not many at this time last year had the Fighting Irish pegged for a trip to the BCS Championship Game but they rode a solid defense and efficient offense all the way there before being thumped by Alabama. They will enter the season without the quarterback who guided them as Everett Golson is not on the team due to academic issues. Also gone are a couple of key members of the defense including Manti T’eo. The schedule features road games at Michigan, Purdue, Air Force and Stanford. In South Bend, the Irish entertain Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and BYU. They also have a neutral site game against Arizona State. I see the issue at QB haunting them and the luck they had last year runs out. Take the under.

Old Dominion The Monarchs enter their first year of play in FBS and currently there is no win total listed. They have had good success in the lower division going 10-2 last season. East Carolina, Pitt and North Carolina are all on the road but the rest of the schedule is very winnable. I would say eight wins is doable for ODU.

Win Totals for the ACC Atlantic Division

If Tajh Boyd can lead the Tigers past Florida State then they should play in a BCS game.

The Atlantic Coast Conference begins its’ two years of change as Syracuse and Pitt enter the league. Next season, Maryland departs for the Big Ten. Today I’m looking at win totals for the Atlantic Division which features Clemson and Florida State who are both talented enough to get to a BCS game. The rest of the division is in re-build mode and should not pose a threat to the top two teams.

Boston College 4.5 (-140 over/+110 under) – Steve Addazio takes over a BC team coming off a 10-loss season and does so with a no-nonsense approach. The Eagles have Chase Rettig back at QB and All-ACC receiver Alex Amidon. The schedule features road games at USC, Clemson, Syracuse and North Carolina. The program will improve but I’m taking the under.

Clemson 9.5 (-125 over/-105 under) – The Tigers under Dabo Swinney have been very exciting and closed last year with a thrilling win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Tajh Boyd returns at QB but the questions will be on defense where there could be three new starters in the secondary. The Tigers open with Georgia at home and finish the season at rival South Carolina. In between are road trips to NC State, Syracuse and Maryland which should be wins. Clemson gets Florida State and Georgia Tech at home. I see nine wins but can’t go higher.

Jimbo Fisher is hoping he can return the Seminoles to the glory they had under Bobby Bowden.

Florida State 10.5 (+170 over/-210 under) – The good news is that FSU is coming off an ACC and Orange Bowl title. The bad news is that the Seminoles must replace E.J. Manuel and a lot of other talent to the NFL not to mention the departure of six assistant coaches. The cupboard is far from bare though as they reeled in a big recruiting class. The road schedule features two tough games at Florida in the finale and at Clemson. They get NC State, Maryland and Miami at home. I see only two games in question for FSU so I’m going for the over.

Maryland 6.5 (-145 over/+115 under) – Last season the Terps were forced to play five different QBs due to injuries. That can’t and shouldn’t happen again. The Problem? The offensive line is still below average and the running game is lacking which is strange under Randy Edsall who typically has good running teams. The final year of ACC play will not be kind for the Terps. They have road games at Florida State, Virginia Tech and NC State. I see a 6-6 season in College Park.

North Carolina State 7 (+110 over/-140 under) – Dave Doeren comes in to revamp the NC State offense and he’ll need time. The athletes just aren’t there to run his spread-type offense yet, but the defense should be the strength of the team as they have speed and experience. A new QB and new system will probably set the Pack back a bit in year one under Doeren. NC State has just four road games but one of those is at Florida State. They have a weak non-conference schedule and get Clemson, North Carolina and Syracuse at home. I’m going to go with the over here and ride the Wolfpack defense.

Wake Forest 5.5 (-145 over/+115 under) – QB Tanner Price returns for the Deacons which is great, but if they can’t improve the running game which was almost dead-last in the nation last year, this team will be home for the holidays again. Jim Grobe will rely on leadership on both sides of the ball and a strong recruiting class on defense should help that side especially. The schedule features six road games including at Miami, at Syracuse, at Clemson and at Vanderbilt in the finale. I think there is enough here for the Demon Deacons to get to six wins.

Manziel Will Not Miss Any Time

I can't see Manziel being suspended simply because proving he took money will be extremely difficult.

Johnny Manziel is obviously a very talented young man. You don’t win the most prestigious trophy in college athletics by being average. Johnny Manziel is also young and immature and isn’t exactly being aided by his parents who have apparently thrown their hands in the air. Johnny Manziel is also not a complete idiot.

I have a very hard time believing that Manziel, who has absolutely no issues with having money, would have taken money for signing his name approximately 50-200 times for a sports memorabilia broker last season.

Again, I can’t sit here and tell you he didn’t do it, but the NCAA is barking up the wrong tree period in a couple of ways. First, there has to be evidence. If he was given cash, it’s going to be very difficult to prove Manziel did anything wrong. Even if the broker says, “I handed him cash” and Manziel says, “No he didn’t” then the NCAA’s hands are tied with no proof.

Secondly, why would Manziel suddenly decide, after hundreds of autograph requests, to accept money in just this one situation?

The fact that the NCAA doesn’t allow athletes to profit from signing their own names is laughable in and of itself, but rules are rules no matter how ridiculous they may be. The hypocrisy of the NCAA is not the issue in this particular piece but it’s difficult to avoid.

For Texas A&M, the risk moving forward is very clear and concrete. If they choose to play Manziel in games as the investigation moves on, the risk is that if he is found to have violated NCAA rules, then the Aggies will more than likely be forced to forfeit games that are won.

The University has allegedly hired the same law firm that Auburn used in 2010 during the Cam Newton investigation.

LSU's Jeremy Hill wasn't even sniffed by the NCAA despite probation and an arrest.

I can’t see Manziel being suspended. The Manziel Investigation story came on the same day that Jeremy Hill of LSU was reinstated by Coach Les Miles following a vote by the players allowing him back on the team. Hill had violated his probation and had been suspended by the team back in April following his arrest for a bar fight in Baton Rouge.

He had already been on probation because of a misdemeanor involving a 14-year old girl when he was a high school senior. Hill was on the field yesterday for the Tigers’ first practice of the season.

There was absolutely no involvement by the NCAA in this case. So if you’re keeping score at home, a player can enter college athletics while on probation with the law, violate the probation for getting arrested and miss absolutely zero time. On the flip-side, a player allegedly gets cash for signing his own name on sports collectibles and is potentially facing a serious suspension.

The NCAA has created so many rules that they no longer understand what those rules are and worse yet, they no longer have any clue about what to enforce and what to investigate.

Johnny Manziel is not without guilt. Since winning the Heisman Trophy he has been on a non-stop, whirlwind tour that he himself has promoted with constant barrages of Tweets and Instagram photos. He has made it difficult to think that he can actually make a mature decision but he wouldn’t be the first to act moronically and still make a mature decision.

Manziel is not some kid from the projects or a broken home who is hoping to make it big in order to support his family. He comes from oil money. He never goes without and never will. That makes the fact that he took money for signing 250 or so items that much more strange and interesting.

Even if he is guilty, it’s going to be difficult to prove. Besides, the NCAA is a business entity isn’t it? There’s no way Manziel isn’t on the field when they host Alabama.

Pac-12 North Win Totals for 2013

Mariota and the Ducks will be looking to take the Pac-12 title back from Stanford in 2013.

The Pac-12 once again enters the college football season with hopes of being the conference that finally puts an end to the reign of dominance of the SEC when it comes to national championships. Today I’m focusing on the Pac-12 North which should once again come down to a meeting between Stanford and Oregon in Palo Alto this fall.

California 4 (EVEN over/-130 under) – The Golden Bears have some rebuilding to do and they hope Sonny Dykes is the man to do it. Dykes comes in from Louisiana Tech to replace Jeff Tedford. While the wide-open offense will be exciting, it may need another season before any results come. Cal has all three non-conference games at home, but two of three are against Northwestern and Ohio State who are both contenders for the Big Ten title. They must also play at Oregon, at Stanford, at UCLA and at USC. Take the under and run.

Oregon 10.5 (-250 over/+170 under) – The Ducks rare loss at home last year was their only one and cost them a trip to the national championship game. Chip Kelly is in the NFL but there are lots of talented guys still on this roster. The Ducks have Nicholls State and rebuilding Tennessee at home and travel to Virginia in non-conference play which should be three wins. They get UCLA and Oregon State at home but have road games at Stanford and at Arizona. I like the over for the Ducks.

Could Riley's Beavers pull off a Pac-12 North title?

Oregon State 8.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Beavers were an impressive 9-4 last year and look to improve upon that mark. The non-conference should provide three wins with only at San Diego State being a possible road block. OSU gets Stanford, USC and Washington at home and must travel to rival Oregon for the finale. The Beavers could very well start off 7-0 before the slate gets tough. I’m taking the Beavers for the over this year.

Stanford 9.5 (-105 over/-115 under) – Not a bad first season for Head Coach David Shaw who captured a Pac-12 title and then a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. The Cardinal have some guys to replace, but they have a lot of talent back too especially at quarterback. The non-conference schedule features San Jose State and Notre Dame (in the season finale) at home and an away game at Army. The conference schedule has road games at USC and at Oregon State but they get Oregon, Washington and UCLA at home. I like the Cardinal to go over.

Washington 7.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Huskies were very up and down last year. They scored 312 points and gave up 314 to tell you just how goofy the season was. Keith Price returns for his senior season and looks to avoid another 7-6 year. He must learn to get rid of the ball quicker and not take so many sacks. The Huskies open the season hosting Boise State but then have two winnable games against Illinois and Idaho State. The conference schedule features road games at Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA. The Huskies do get Oregon and Arizona at home. Head Coach Steve Sarkisian has gone 7-6 the last three years and I see little reason that changes.

Washington State 4.5 (EVEN over/-130 under) – The Cougars and Head Coach Mike Leach look to improve on a 3-9 season a year ago but it won’t be easy. They open at Auburn where anticipation will be high with a new head coach in place. Then they travel to USC in week two. They also have road games at Oregon, Arizona and rival Washington. This was an interesting hire from the get-go with Leach and I don’t think it works. Go with the under.

Win Totals for the Big Ten Legends Division

Colter and Northwestern have a legitmate shot at winning the Legends Division.

The Big Ten begins their final season of Legends and Leaders play and I think I speak for most when I say, “It’s about time.” When Rutgers and Maryland enter the conference in 2014, the divisions will change to the more appropriate ‘East and West.’ There will also be some changes among current division teams as well but we’ll worry about that next year.

The focus today is the Legends Division where I can see four of the six teams with a very reasonable opportunity to represent the division in the Big 10 Title game. Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern all have legitimate chances to be the final Legends’ champ while I see Minnesota and Iowa as bottom-dwellers.

Let’s break’em down.

Iowa 5.5 (-150 over/+120 over) – The Hawkeyes enter 2013 coming off an uncharacteristic 4-8 season. I’m not sure it’s going to get much better in Iowa City this year. They open with defending MAC champ Northern Illinois who went to the Orange Bowl last season. They also have road games at Iowa State, Ohio State and Nebraska. Michigan and Michigan State come to Kinnick Stadium and will be favored. With question marks at key positions like QB, I’m going with the under.

Gardner went from catching it to throwing it last season and that continues in 2013.

Michigan 8.5 (+110 over/-140 under) – Brady Hoke’s Wolverines were just 8-5 last year but have more stability at QB with Devin Gardner who runs well and passes well. Michigan opens with three straight at home including the night game against Notre Dame. They have road games at UConn, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern. I see at least six wins for sure with several toss-ups on the road. I’ll go with the over.

Michigan State 8.5 (-130 over/EVEN under) – The Spartans were far better than their 7-6 record last year. They lost several games by less than five points even with a poor passing attack. That should be better, but a replacement for Le’Veon Bell will be hard to find. That said, I love the schedule for MSU. They should open 3-0 before heading to Notre Dame. They also have road games at Nebraska and Northwestern but I see lots of wins for this team too. Take the over.

Minnesota 5.5 (-105 over/-125 under) – The Gophers were winless in the division last year and that could happen again in 2013. The non-conference schedule is weak with the exception of San Jose State who will cause the Gophers trouble at home. Minnesota has road games at Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State. Head Coach Jerry Kill is a good coach, but his health issues could be a problem if they persist. I’m leaning towards the over but it will be barely at six.

Nebraska 9.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Huskers are the defending division champs and will battle to repeat that honor. Their schedule is very favorable with an easy non-conference schedule with only UCLA coming to Lincoln as a potential challenge. They get Michigan State and Northwestern at home, but must go to Ann Arbor where that game could decide the division. Taylor Martinez is back for his final season at QB and I believe he leads them to 10 wins.

Northwestern 8.5 (+160 over/-200 under) – The Wildcats enter 2013 coming off a 10-3 record with all three losses coming in conference play. I’ve seen several publications that like the Wildcats to win the Legends Division behind Kain Colter. The non-conference schedule is not difficult although the opener at Cal could be troublesome as the Bears have a new coach. The Wildcats get Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State at home but must travel to Wisconsin and Nebraska. I’m not sure they get to 10 wins again but I like them for the over.

Win Totals for the SEC West

Just what can we expect from Gus Malzahn in his first year at Auburn?

The Southeastern Conference is once again loaded for a potential eight straight national championship in college football. Suggesting there is any other conference in America that is as talented, as deep and as rigorous as the SEC would be foolish and uneducated. The SEC West in particular could see a challenge from their brethren in the East Division.

Five of the last six national champions have come from the West and Alabama has a very good chance to make six in seven. With that said, the East is rising. Georgia, Florida and South Carolina are expected to battle for the East Division title while Tennessee will be improved under Butch Jones. Vanderbilt is coming off of a bowl season and Kentucky had a very good recruiting class.

The East however is for another day because today I’m looking at win totals for the SEC West and there are many questions. Can A&M repeat last year’s magic? How much better will Ole Miss and Arkansas be? Is this a down year for the Bayou Bengals and can Gus Malzahn turn Auburn around in one year?

Let’s take a look…

Arkansas will be better under Bielema but there will be bumps in the road this year.

Alabama 11 (-110 over/+140 under) – The Crimson Tide are a shoo-in in my book for the over here. Even if they stumble once, they’ll get to 12 wins in the SEC Title game. The schedule is not overly daunting for the SEC either other than a trip to Texas A&M. They get LSU and rival Auburn at home.

Arkansas 5.5 (-140 over/+110 under) – The Hogs have a very good chance to 3-0 right off the bat but that might be the highlight of the season for new coach Bret Bielema. The conference schedule is very tough with South Carolina and Florida as the crossover match-ups. They’ll be improved, but I like the under.

Auburn 6.5 (-140 over/+110 under) – Auburn has road games at Washington State, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama which could easily see them go 2-2 or 0-4. Gus Malzahn will right the ship there, but the personnel is not in place yet for his system. I like the under in 2013.

LSU 8.5 (-150 over/+120 under) – This is an extremely tough call here. The Tigers have senior QB Zach Mettenberger back but lost a lot of talent to the NFL. The Tigers will be competitive as always under Les Miles but road trips to Mississippi State, Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama will be tough. Plus they’ll have Florida and Texas A&M at home. I want to take the over but I’m going under here.

Ole Miss 8 (+110 over/-140 under) – The Rebels have seven home games including six in seven weeks with a bye week interrupting the string. Ole Miss opens in conference play at Vandy and also travels to Texas and Alabama. With a great recruiting class, Ole Miss is building and I’m going to say this is a push as they’ll get to eight.

Mississippi State 6 (+110 over/-140 under) – The Bulldogs return QB Tyler Russell and have a decent schedule to maneuver. They get LSU, Alabama and rival Ole Miss at home, but do travel to College Station and Columbia, South Carolina. The non-conference is not that difficult with the exception of Oklahoma State in the opener. I’m taking the over.

Texas A&M 9.5 (-145 over/+115 under) – Two months ago I would have said take the over here but I have concerns. I just don’t see Johnny Manziel repeating his Heisman Trophy year because of on and off-field distractions but that might be OK. The Aggies have eight home games which includes Alabama in the conference opener. The four road games pose little challenge other than at LSU late in the season. I’m going to go ahead and say ‘over’ but I’m leery if Manziel doesn’t get his act together.

Saban Approaching Rarified Air

Saban and Alabama go for their fourth title in five years.

The college football season is fast approaching and if you can find a poll that doesn’t have the Alabama Crimson Tide at the number one spot then its either run by a soccer fan or its’ just a Bama hater. Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide enter the 2013 season as the overwhelming favorites to win the final BCS title. The NCAA has finally taken the slightest step towards a real playoff with a four-team event that will start next season.

The man running college football’s current dynasty is a lightning rod to be sure. He has far more detractors than he does fans for a myriad of reasons but no one can dispute the results he gets. The Crimson Tide are attempting to win their third straight national title and fourth and five years.

If you visit cities like East Lansing, Baton Rouge and Miami you’ll probably find many of those detractors and the majority of the reasons why he is so vilified.

After one season at Toledo which was a 9-2 campaign, Saban went to the Cleveland Browns to become the defensive coordinator for head coach Bill Belichick. He then took the head coaching job at Michigan State where the team was very mediocre until his final season in 1999 when he had the Spartans at 9-2 and headed to the Citrus Bowl. Saban promptly resigned following the season finale against Penn State announcing he was leaving for the same position at LSU.

With the Spartans’ faithful up in arms over this betrayal, Saban made it worse by saying that “MSU couldn’t win consistently with rival Michigan always being better.”

LSU fans would soon feel the ultimate high of a national title, Saban’s first, in his fourth season in Baton Rogue but following his fifth he bolted for the NFL again this time to become head coach of the Dolphins.

Saban’s first season in Miami was fairly succesful as he went 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs. His second season was a disaster as the team went 6-10 and then the rumors of Alabama seeking him began. Saban deflected questions about the opening in Tuscaloosa even to the point of getting angry at press conferences as he continued to state he “was staying in Miami.”

Saban is chasing the legendary Bear Bryant who has six national titles.

In January of 2007, Saban officially became head coach of the Tide and the rest as they say is history.

Should Saban’s Crimson Tide go on to win the national title this season, that would give Saban five national championships and would leave him one short of the record. That record is held by former Alabama Head Coach Bear Bryant who earned six. There are some that will tell you Michigan’s Fielding Yost has six as well but that was in a far different era with numerous polling systems.

Coach Saban has already started the motivational mantra for the 2013 season. At last week’s SEC Media Day, Saban said he showed the team the epic Mike Tyson-James “Buster” Douglas fight in which Douglas amazingly knocked out the seemingly invincible Tyson. The idea was to let his team know that every underdog they face in this season will be looking to knock them out.

In Alabama’s weight-room which looks more like a temple or shrine, Saban has plastered the Texas A&M logo all over the weights and has the video of last season’s loss to the Aggies running on the flat screens at all times. The two teams will clash in the third game of the season in College Station.

Regardless of what you think of Saban, he gets results. Oddsmakers love him as well. Entering the final weeks of 2012, Saban was winning against the spread at a clip of about 60%. His overall record at Alabama is 68-13 and his Tide will likely enter every game this year as a significant favorite.

Successful football coaches are not always the nicest people and they don’t always have the best relationship with the media but if they win and do it without major off-field issues, then they are worshiped and such is the case in Alabama. Saban seems to finally have found a place he wants to stay but folks in East Lansing, Baton Rogue and Miami thought that too.