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SI.com's 2010 Midseason Crystal Ball

SI.com's 2010 Midseason Crystal Ball
A lot can change in seven weeks. After providing their original forecasts back in August, SI.com college football analysts Stewart Mandel, Andy Staples, Austin Murphy, George Schroeder, Cory McCartney, Bill Trocchi and Mallory Rubin have regrouped to offer their predictions for the rest of the season.
BCS Bowl Projections
 
Stewart Mandel
 Title Game Rose Fiesta Orange Sugar 
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Andy Staples
 Title Game Rose Fiesta Orange Sugar 
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Austin Murphy
 Title Game Rose Fiesta Orange Sugar 
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George Schroeder
 Title Game Rose Fiesta Orange Sugar 
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Cory McCartney
 Title Game Rose Fiesta Orange Sugar 
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Bill Trocchi
 Title Game Rose Fiesta Orange Sugar 
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Mallory Rubin
 Title Game Rose Fiesta Orange Sugar 
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National Champion
 
Mandel
Big-time QB, playmakers galore, powerful offensive line, dominant defense. Why not?
Staples
I think Oregon is the nation's best team, but given four weeks to prepare, several teams could duplicate the Ducks' breakneck offensive pace in practice and find a way to stop them. Boise is one of those teams. Since so few AQ-conference teams look capable of going undefeated, it's not unreasonable to believe Boise will wind up in one of the top two BCS slots.
Murphy
Boise State's two previous wins over Oregon have come early in the season. By January, Kelly's heroes are hitting on all cylinders. Darron Thomas ends up being better than Masoli and Dixon. The defense yields three touchdowns, but it won't matter.
Schroeder
A late trio of trick plays -- where had we seen that hook-and-ladder before? -- beats Boise State, restores Bob Stoops' reputation in big games and gives the Sooners their first title since 2000.
McCartney
Who's going to shut down, or even keep up with, the Ducks' blur of an offense, which is led by arguably the nation's best RB/QB combo in LaMichael James and Darron Thomas? The defense is overshadowed, but has allowed only 13 second-half points this season. It's all enough to bring Nike U. its first national title.
Trocchi
The Ducks' offense looks unstoppable, having scored at least 42 points in every game so far. Plenty will predict the unit will be stopped by Nick Saban, but Oregon will keep it rolling and deny the one-loss Tide back-to-back titles.
Rubin
Will the Broncos actually get a crack at the title? Who knows. Can they win it all if they do? Absolutely. Kellen Moore and Co. can post points in a hurry, and the Boise D is one of the few that can disrupt an explosive offense like Oregon's.
 
Surprise Team
 
Mandel
Reports of the Longhorns' demise were premature. They'll wind up delivering Mack Brown his 10th straight 10-win season.
Staples
Things couldn't have gotten much worse for the Bulldogs in the first half of the season, but they seem to have settled. Don't be shocked if Georgia beats Florida for only the third time since 1997, and don't be shocked if Georgia gives Auburn trouble in November.
Murphy
East Carolina! Coming off a huge overtime win over NC State, Ruffin McNeil's boys are on a rail to the Conference USA title game. Beware the Pirates!
Schroeder
The Cowboys were picked too low (by me) and have rolled. They won't win the Big 12 South, but they'll make a run at a BCS bowl.
McCartney
After stumbling to 1-4, the Bulldogs seem to be coming together. A.J. Green has returned, Aaron Murray has found his footing and the Dawgs have rediscovered how to run. They have to go to Auburn, but should still become bowl eligible. It remains to be seen if that'll be enough to save Mark Richt.
Trocchi
The Irish have a shot to quietly carry a seven-game winning streak into Los Angeles for the season finale against USC -- provided they can get by No. 9 Utah in South Bend (they'll have two weeks to prepare). Michael Floyd and Dayne Crist are developing some chemistry and the shaky defense is making some strides.
Rubin
The Hokies fell completely off the radar after consecutive opening-season losses to Boise State and James Madison, but they've been cruising since. A Coastal Division title -- and subsequent date with FSU in the ACC Championship Game -- is well within reach.
 
Flop Team
 
Mandel
The wheels are bound to come off at some point with games remaining against Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas.
Staples
And Oklahoma State, too. These two undefeated Big 12 teams have feasted on inferior competition. Now, they'll face the meat of their schedules. Reality hits this weekend as Missouri faces Oklahoma and Oklahoma State faces Nebraska.
Murphy
The Hat's magic will desert him down the stretch -- and a lack of "O" will result in three losses (against Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas) over the final five games.
Schroeder
Yeah, we know, Les Miles is a mad genius, but the clock is ticking on his improbable perfection. The meat of the schedule comes in the second half. A sputtering offense will catch up with the Tigers.
McCartney
The luck of Les Miles and a stout defense have helped keep LSU perfect despite the nation's No. 92 offense. But that attack's limitations will prove costly if the Tigers are asked to trade points with Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas, which field the SEC's top three offenses and remain on LSU's schedule.
Trocchi
The Utes have rolled up impressive numbers, but the schedule is about to get a whole lot harder. Road trips to Air Force, Notre Dame and San Diego State surround a home date against No. 5 TCU. The Utes currently have the nation's 110th ranked schedule according to Sagarin, and the lone Top 50 team they faced (No. 46 Pitt) took them to overtime.
Rubin
Maybe the Tigers are a team of destiny. More likely, they're a team whose luck is about to run out. Don't be shocked if LSU drops three of its final five games.
 
Heisman Trophy Winner
 
Cam Newton :: Jim Rinaldi/Icon SMI
Mandel
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon. In a tight race, big games against Arizona and Oregon State in the season's last two weeks will put him over the top.

Staples
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. Newton's stats are eerily similar to Tim Tebow's in 2007, and Newton plays for a better team than Tebow did that year. (Weirdly, Newton was a member of that Florida team.) Heisman voters like their winners squeaky clean, and Newton will lose votes for the fenced laptop incident at Florida, but fellow favorite LaMichael James has his own blown-out-of-proportion legal scrape with which to contend.

Murphy
Newton. Love you Denard Robinson, but you were a place-holder until the losses started piling up. If Newton keeps this up, the race is over.

Schroeder
Newton. Voters see a dynamic combination of Tim Tebow and Vince Young, and the Tigers' suspect defense provides plenty of opportunities for Newton to save games.

McCartney
Newton. He's the SEC's leader in rushing yards, total offense and passing efficiency, and at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, there's little doubt whether he can continue to shoulder the load. In a year that's been defined by dual-threat quarterbacks, the nation's best will take home the trophy.

Trocchi
James. Sticking to my best-player-on-the-best-team theory. James will get plenty of attention in a showcase win at USC, a key point on Oregon's run to the BCS title game.

Rubin
Newton. If Auburn keeps winning, and Newton keeps being the main reason why, the Trophy will be his. LaMichael James is his biggest competition, but Newton should shrug off that threat the same way he shrugs off would-be tacklers.
 
First Player to Fall Out of Heisman Race
 
Denard Robinson :: Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Mandel
Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan. It's not the losing. It's the lack of a dangerous running back to keep defenses from keying on him.

Staples
Robinson. Robinson's candidacy may already be dead, but the season will continue to wear on a guy who has been expected to make every play for his offense.

Murphy
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State. Pryor could still have a great season. But his Heisman hopes were linked directly to the Buckeyes' national title run. Mediocrity in the Wisconsin loss mortally wounded his chances.

Schroeder
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. The junior might be the nation's best clutch quarterback, but the Broncos' weak schedule won't give him a chance to show it.

McCartney
Robinson. He was my Halfway Heisman winner in the weekly Watch, but Shoelace saw his stock drop against the best defenses he's seen so far. He could be in for more rough days with Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin still on the horizon.

Trocchi
Robinson. Love Shoelace, but Heisman voters don't like losses or injuries, and both are piling up for the Michigan quarterback. Five of the six remaining opponents for Michigan boast top 25 scoring defenses, so the Lace may get tied up in the second half.

Rubin
Robinson. Even if Shoelace regains some of his Heisman momentum against Penn State, Illinois and Purdue, his candidacy will meet its end in a closing stretch against Wisconsin and Ohio State. Provided he's healthy enough to play in those games, that is.
 
Coach on the Hottest Seat
 
Dan Hawkins :: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Mandel
Dan Hawkins, Colorado. The Buffs just lost at home to Baylor. They're not going bowling (again), but they're going to the Pac-10 without Hawk.

Staples
Rich Rodriguez, Michigan. If the Wolverines go 2-3 the rest of the way, they'll make a bowl game, but the truth will be apparent. After three seasons under Rodriguez, they'll still only be an average Big Ten team. Michigan isn't supposed to be average.

Murphy
Mike Locksley, New Mexico. With a 16-14 loss to New Mexico State on Oct. 9, the Lobos blew their last, best chance for a win in 2010. Off-field issues and a failure to compete will doom Locksley.

Schroeder
Mike Sherman, Texas A&M. An impatient fan base still thinks A&M is the equal of Texas and Oklahoma -- and cannot fathom falling beneath Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and possibly even Baylor.

McCartney
Paul Wulff, Washington State. The Cougars are 4-28 under his watch and have beaten just two FBS teams. But in a sign of progress, this season's average margin of defeat (24.5 points) is the lowest of his three seasons in Pullman.

Trocchi
Locksley. He's only in his second season, but a 1-17 record, a sexual harassment claim, a suspension for hitting an assistant and an awkward confrontation with a student reporter at a bar have kept him in the headlines. Eight of his 17 losses have been by 30 points or more. The future does not look bright.

Rubin
Hawkins. Colorado has actually posted three decent wins (Colorado State, Hawaii, Georgia), but there are a lot of losses on the horizon. This move has been a long time coming, and the Buffs need to start fresh when they head to the Pac-12.
 
A Bold Prediction
 
Mack Brown :: Greg Nelson/SI
Mandel
Umm ... Boise State/national champion?

Staples
What, picking Boise State to win the national title wasn't bold enough? OK, here's one: South Carolina will win the SEC East, and Coach Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks will celebrate the division title after beating Florida in The Swamp.

Murphy
Pac-10 teams go 5-0 in bowls, making a strong case for the conference being the nation's best and deepest in 2010.

Schroeder
Texas' win at Nebraska is the first of seven straight victories to finish the regular season, but Mack Brown's politicking isn't quite enough to grab a BCS at-large berth.

McCartney
A record number of quarterbacks will amass 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yard. Last season, an FBS-best three passers reached the plateau. This season, we could see as many as five: Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Terrelle Pryor, Denard Robinson and Tyrod Taylor.

Trocchi
Oregon, Boise State and TCU will all finish the season undefeated and be ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the final poll, leading to the loudest cry yet for a playoff.

Rubin
Georgia's resurgence continues with a lopsided win over Florida in The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, securing the Dawgs a second-place finish in the East -- and saving Mark Richt's job.
 

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