LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It's time for the two-minute drill for sports writers. The clock is running out on writing about what we think is going to happen instead of actually covering games.
So here they are – Dr. Bo's 10 Picks You Need to Start the 2014 College Football Season.
1. Playoff Fab Four – Here are the four teams that will participate in the first playoff in the FBS Era: Florida State, Alabama, Michigan State and UCLA.
I was going to follow the pack and pick Oregon. Then I listened to the warnings from my pal Pat Forde, who knows more about college football than the ESPN Game Day crew.
I checked the schedule and saw that Oregon has to play Michigan State (in Eugene), at Washington State, at UCLA and at Oregon State (rivalry game). You're right, Pat. Give me the Bruins -- even though they do have a big game in Austin against Charlie Strong and Texas in mid-September. Better pack your special teams, UCLA.
Michigan State has Connor Cook at quarterback, a crackling defense and Ohio State (without quarterback Braxton Miller) in East Lansing.
Alabama has 147 5-star recruits. Ask Steve Spurrier.
Florida State has everything Alabama has without Spurrier chirping about it.
Which team will survive the playoff?
Sorry, read on.
2. Surprise, Surprise Team (Celebration Division) – TCU. You can get 100-to-1 on the Horned Frogs to win the national title. I'm not predicting TCU to do that.
But I do believe they are vastly underrated at No. 35 in the AP poll and 31 in the coaches' poll. Injuries ruined TCU's season last year. They're healthy, they have an excellent defense and they're likely to be 3-0 when they host Oklahoma Oct. 4.
The Horned Frogs were 4-8 last season. Gary Patterson, an excellent coach, will have them motivated.
3. Surprise, Surprise Team (Flop Division) – Auburn.
No team made more clutch plays that Auburn last season. Every time you turned on the TV somebody on Gus Malzahn's team was doing something ridiculous.
But let's talk a little truth here: Auburn was lucky. Amazingly lucky.
Beat Washington State, a mid-level Pac-12 team, by seven at Auburn. Beat Mississippi State by four. Beat Texas A&M by four. You know what happened against Georgia and Alabama. Don't you think 12-2 could have been 10-4?
This season Auburn's final three road games are at Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. That's unlucky. Bye-bye, playoff.
4. August Heisman Trophy Ballot -- The good folks from the New York Downtown Athletic Club always request three names. Here are my pre-season top three:
1. Myles Jack, UCLA linebacker. Explanation: The media loves guys who sometimes play both ways. Jack made 75 tackles and ran for 267 yards. Nobody else will match those numbers. He's a Sports Illustrated cover waiting to happen.
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU halfback. Explanation: The media loves to be first to tout a great freshman. The next ... Adrian Peterson ... Herschel Walker ... Billy Cannon.
3. Marcus Mariota, Oregon quarterback. Explanation: The media loves to console a guy who finished out of the running last season.
Yes, I realize that I did not include Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 winner, on the list. Explanation: The media hates to vote for the same guy who won the award last season.
5. Early Emerging Storyline: The Pac-12 will displace the SEC as the top conference. I wrote this last season and drew the usual SEC backlash. Now others are logging in and signing up for the Pac-12 bandwagon.
The Pac-12 has built a fine stable of coaches – David Shaw of Stanford, Todd Graham of Arizona State, Steve Sarkisian of USC, Jim Mora of UCLA, Chris Petersen of Washington, Mike Leach of Washington State, Rich Rodriguez of Arizona and more.
It has the best quartet of quarterbacks in Brett Hundley of UCLA, Sean Mannion of Oregon State, Taylor Kelly of Arizona and Mariota.
And the league has five teams in the AP pre-season Top 20 – Oregon (3), UCLA (7), Stanford (11), UCLA (15) and Arizona State (19).
6. Whatever happened to …? West Virginia football.
Remember when West Virginia was a big deal? When the Mountaineers were always hanging around the Top 10 or at least the Top 20? When they thought they were really slick by outmaneuvering Louisville for the final spot in the Big 12?
Well West Virginia is buried near the bottom of the Big 12, picked to finish eighth, ahead of only Kansas and Iowa State, by some. No wonder WVU coach Dana Holgorsen has a prime position on many Hot Seat lists, neck and neck with Will Muschamp of Florida and Brady Hoke of Michigan.
7. Question you'll never have to think about: Who is the team to beat in the American Athletic Conference?
Feels good doesn't it?
8. The Local Player Who Deserves More National Love – Tevin Coleman, Indiana tailback.
Coleman ran for 958 yards and a dozen touchdowns as a sophomore – and missed IU's final three games. He delivered eight runs of 40 yards or longer. Nobody in the country had more. He also caught 19 passes, returned six kickoffs and shoveled the snow off the sidewalks outside Memorial Stadium. If he stays healthy, Coleman should become the first IU back to rush for 1,000 yards since Levron Williams in 2001.
He's related to former IU basketball star Noah Vonleh. Maybe he can play power forward in January.
9. Save The Date – What is the best September weekend of the season?
A week from Saturday – Sept. 6.
You don't see many Top 10 teams play this early, but Michigan State visits Oregon. Don't finish reading this column until you have set your DVR. That's an early Rose Bowl matchup. USC at Stanford ain't bad. Neither is Ole Miss at Vandy, Michigan at Notre Dame or Virginia Tech at Ohio State.
10. Your 2014 National Champion – Common sense says you have to begin by picking a team from the SEC.
But that's risky. Could be Alabama. Could be South Carolina. Could be LSU. Could be Georgia. Some (not me) say that it could be Auburn.
So scratch an SEC team.
A Big Ten team. Sorry, even I can't go there.
A Pac-12 team. How do you decide between Oregon and UCLA?
Big 12? I wonder if people are getting too excited about Oklahoma simply because the Sooners punished Alabama in the Sugar Bowl?
Who does that leave?
You guessed it: Florida State.
Think about it: The odds on FSU winning the Atlantic Coast Conference are 1-to-4. Michigan State is 12-to-5 to win the Big Ten. Oregon is 4-to-5 to win the Pac-12 and Alabama 7-to-5 to win the SEC. The Big 12 has the Longhorn Network but no championship game.
When in doubt, take the most forgiving path. That's Florida State, the team that will be in town to play Louisville Oct. 30.