Stewart Mandel and I used to split the annual predictions column, but after my first solo foray a year ago, the powers that be decided I should go it alone for another year. Last year, six of my 10 predictions came true. (I'm taking half points on Nos. 3 and 7.) You may call that a failing grade. I call it a .600 batting average.
Actually, some of the predictions I missed on were so horrifically, egregiously wrong that I shouldn't take any credit for the others. I can only hope I won't miss so badly in 2013...
Now, anyone who made a name for himself the previous year enters the preseason Heisman hype cycle. By September, everyone will be sick of him and looking for reasons to tear him down. Judging by the past two years, the new formula involves a previously unheralded player putting up huge numbers early then winning a signature game sometime in November with a huge chunk of people watching. Manziel could probably duplicate his season on an equally good Texas A&M team in 2013 and not win because he isn't the flavor of the month anymore. It isn't fair, but what exactly is fair about an award that usually ignores 20 of the 22 positions on the field?
Meanwhile, every time someone links Saban's name to an NFL job, it is because of one of two reasons: 1) Agent Jimmy Sexton knows how to get raises for his clients. 2) Trolling Alabama fans by suggesting their uber-successful coach will leave them is a surefire way to grab page views and social-media engagement.
This is why the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 have Grant of Rights agreements that bind them together. Schools must pledge their television rights to the league for the length of their media deal. If a school leaves, the league retains the ability to sell the television rights for that school's home games. One former conference bigwig described the Grant of Rights this way recently: "It's like telling someone they can marry my wife, but I'm the only one allowed to sleep with her." Why didn't the ACC do that? Because all the schools wouldn't agree to it. In fact, Maryland and Florida State voted against the $50 million buyout. If that buyout isn't upheld or Maryland is allowed to negotiate it down to a much smaller number, then Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will essentially have a green light to try to poach two more schools in large, untapped-by-the-Big Ten television markets. The fate of the ACC would be in Delany's hands. If he grabbed two ACC schools, the SEC likely would follow suit. If the Big 12 felt insecure about only having 10 members, it might also join the fray. If the buyout holds at $50 million, then the incentive for anyone else to leave drops considerably.
The Broncos just finished their version of a rebuilding year with an 11-2 record. Now they have to figure out which league they'll play in next season. Boise State is supposed to leave the Mountain West for the Big East, but the Big East has no media rights deal. That deal gets tougher to make every day because the league doesn't know which schools it can count on to stay or even what it will even be called. The Mountain West has a media rights deal in place, and it may try to poach Big East-bound SMU as well. On the field, the Broncos will be good enough to win either league. The Big East would be tougher -- assuming Louisville and Rutgers haven't already departed for their new leagues -- but because the BCS has one last gasp in 2013, the winner of the league automatically makes a BCS bowl. In the Mountain West, Boise State probably would have to go undefeated. With out-of-conference games at Washington and BYU, that won't be easy. Northern Illinois made a BCS game with a loss this season, but after the outrage that followed that choice, expect voters to hold schools in non-AQ conferences to a higher standard now that they understand the rules.