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2010: A look ahead

With the corpse of the 2009 season not yet even cold, what better time to look at the 2010 season than at the present?

Sure, it’s kinda like taking a date to your wife’s funeral, but, just like the deceased spouse, I’m sure ’09 would want us to be happy and move on quickly to next season, right?

With that in mind, we’ll take a quick glance at what may happen in 2010…

FIVE COMPELLING STORY LINES

1. Meyer: For or Against Urban Renewal?

C’mon, is there any story that’s even close to whether or not Urban Meyer will be back as Florida’s coach by the time the regular season rolls around?  This will be the dominant story over the next six months, and how it plays out before the season starts will shape how UF’s regular season will go.

2. Big Ten: Earnest Growth or One-Time Blip?

The most beleaguered and vilified conference in the country finished the 2009 bowl season with a 4-3 record, the first winning record for the league since 2002. And it’s not like they compiled that mark with a handful of Emerald Bowl-type wins; no, their wins came in BcS games over the Pac-10 and ACC champions (Ohio State over Oregon and Iowa over Georgia Tech, respectively), with the other two coming over No. 13 LSU (Penn State) and No. 14 Miami of Florida (Wisconsin).  It was a statement postseason for the beleaguered conference, but only time will tell if the performance was a shifting trend upward or simply false hope.

3. Mountain West: Finally the Time For Some Respect

The loss by TCU to fellow non-automatic qualifier left a bad taste in the conference’s mouth, but the MWC still exited the bowl season with a 4-1 mark and a healthy dose of national respect.  With their play this year, they have finally confirmed to most of the masses that they deserve an automatic BcS bid.  Carrying that momentum through 2010 will be key for the automatic bid to become a reality.  The conference is on a perilous slope perception-wise, and simply can’t afford to take a step back.

4. The BCmesS: Time to Grab the Congressional Pitchforks?

At no time in its controversial history has the BcS been under more fire than it is right now.  They were the subject of congressional hearings throughout 2009, and the only question remains when, not if, the government becomes more deeply involved.  Based on the tea leaves, one thing is certain: there will be some type of change to the system in the coming years, whether by force or by the threat of force.  Will it lead to a full-blown playoff system that most of the country, including the First Fan, wants?  2010 should go a long way toward answering that question

5. Replacing Legends: Adios, Tim & Colt; Hola, John & Garrett

Entering the past three seasons, there were no question marks at the quarterback position for both Florida and Texas.  With the departures of Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy due to expired eligibility, John Brantley of the Gators and Garrett Gilbert of the Longhorns have the unenviable tasks of replacing arguably the greatest QBs in their respective school’s history.  How they perform will go a long way in determining whether or not the two programs can remain at the top of the national scene.

WAY-TOO-EARLY HEISMAN ROLL CALL

1. Mark Ingram, Alabama — To be the man, you gotta beat the man.  Winning the Heisman as a sophomore will keep the running back in the trophy talk for the next two seasons.  Provided he stays in Tuscaloosa after his junior year, of course.

2. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State — Was the Rose Bowl performance a sign of things to come?  If it is, you can bet the Buckeyes quarterback will be in any and all Heisman talk.

3. Kellen Moore, Boise State — One of the best quarterbacks in the country that nobody talks about, the early-season match-up with Virginia Tech will go a long way toward determining Moore’s place in the Heisman discussion.  Speaking of that showdown with the Hokies…

4. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech — 1,655 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns as a freshman?  Yeah, that’ll get you into the mix.  The Moore-Williams September head-to-head will jump-start the race for the stiff-armed trophy.  And, no, we’re not completely finished with Six Degrees of Kellen Moore

5a. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State — With 1,440 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns and, for good measure, 78 receptions out of the backfield, this Beaver back is one of the best running backs in the country that nobody talks about.  Oh, did I mention that Rogers’ Beavers will take on Moore’s Broncos in September?  Early-season Heisman intrigue, indeed.

5b. Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh — It’s hard to believe a freshman had a more productive season than Williams, but Lewis did just that.  1,799 yards just screams Heisman contender for many years to come.  Unless, of course, head coach Dave Wannstedt rides him into an early RB grave.

COACHING HOT SEAT

1.Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

The throne entering the 2010 season is RichRod’s alone, and no one else is really close.  An 8-16 overall mark in two years at Michigan is bad enough; a 3-13 record in Big Ten play is wholly unacceptable in Ann Arbor.  Add in an NCAA investigation and two losses to archrival Ohio State by a combined 46 points, and you have a coach facing an absolute must-win season.

2. Ron Zook, Illinois

Really, is there any explanation needed?  With the exception of a head-scratching 9-4 season in 2007, The Zookster has compiled a 12-35 record in his five seasons with the Illini.  The school has recruited better than that record indicates, which is a tribute to Zook’s innate ability to coach his players down.

3. Paul Wulff, Washington State

You don’t go 3-22 in two seasons and not have your butt planted on something with at least a little bit of warmth to it.

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

T. Boone Pickens did not donate approximately $300 kajillion (U.S.) to watch his beloved Cowboys go 9-4, not play in the Big 12 title game and lose bowl games.  T. Boone wants more bang for his buck, and what T. Boone wants T. Boone gets.

5. Pete Carroll, Southern Cal

This one might be stretch.  In fact, it’s so much of a stretch that I might’ve torn a muscle typing it.  However, with the looming specter of an NCAA investigation coming to a conclusion at some point this year, coupled with an utterly disappointing 2009 season, Carroll could be feeling the heat more so than he has at any point in his USC career.

FIVE RISERSFive teams outside the final Top Ten who could surprise

1. Nebraska

Sure, they have to replace a Beast Named Suh, but there is plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball returning for Bo Pelini & Company.  If the ‘Huskers could just get some type of consistency on the other side of the ball — yeah, I’m looking at you Zac Lee — this team should be the class of Big 12 North and might be able to challenge Texas for conference supremacy.

2. Miami of Florida

The Hurricanes showed in the early part of the 2009 season that the talent is there.  Look for The U to put it together throughout the entire 2010 season and make a serious bid for both an ACC title and top-ten ranking.

3. Pittsburgh

With Dion Lewis and that defense, the immediate future is looking very bright for Dave Wannstedt & Company.

4. Oklahoma

Simply put, Bob Stoops is too good of a coach, and there’s too much talent in that program, for the Sooners to spend another season outside of the Top 25.  Call this one a hunch.

5a. Stanford

Yes, the likely loss of Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart to the NFL leaves a void, but, as long as
Jim Harbaugh
doesn’t bol
t for the NFL and quarterback Andrew Luck stays healthy for the entire season, the Cardinal is poised to challenge Oregon for Pac-10 supremacy in 2010.

5b. Tennessee

Lane Kiffin made most of his news in 2009 for what he said and did off the field.  Behind all that brashness, however, he and his staff were quietly rebuilding a storied football program on the field.  They might be a year away, but it would be no surprise at all to see the Volunteers challenge for a BcS berth as early as this year.

FIVE TUMBLERSFive teams inside the final Top 25 who could struggle

1. Florida

Uncertainty surrounding Urban Meyer.  The loss of Tim Tebow.  A pair of talented juniors — Joe Haden and Aaron Hernandez — have already left early; up to five more, including two-fifths of the starting offensive line, could follow suit.  Charlie Strong left for the head coaching job at Louisville, and his presence will be missed.  If he does indeed return as expected, it will take the best coaching job of Meyer’s coaching career to keep the Gators on top of their lofty national perch.

2. Cincinnati

Butch Jones is a tremendous football coach, but make no mistake — losing Brian Kelly to Notre Dame will hurt this program.  This won’t be a free-fall — Kelly left too solid a foundation for that to happen — but Jones could struggle in his first year at a BcS school.

3. Penn State

Losing quarterback Daryll Clark to graduation and Navorro Bowman to the draft are huge blows to the Nittany Lions.  Evan Royster, get your rest.  The offense will be on your shoulders.

4. Texas

Losing Colt McCoy will have an effect on the Longhorns, although Garrett Gilbert showed in the BcS title game after being suddenly thrust into the spotlight that he has a bright future.  In 2011.  UT will dip a little bit in ’10 — not bottom out, mind you — but look out for a reloaded group in ’11.

5. LSU

In the first three years of Les Miles‘ tenure, the Tigers did not win less than 11 games in any season.  In the past two seasons, the Bayou Bengals have gone a very pedestrian 17-9, including an even 8-8 mark in SEC play.  The concerning part for LSU faithful, though, is that there is not much hope that a turnaround is in the offing at any point in the near future.  And, if Miles doesn’t turn it around in 2009, he could very well find himself on the coaching hot seat.  Especially if he continues to boggle the mind with mind-numbing clock management at the end of games.

EARLY-BIRD TOP FIVE

1. Alabama: They were the best team in the country throughout the 2009 season — regardless of what the polls said.  They return most of the key performers from their national title team.  No way you can keep this team out of the top spot entering the season.

2. Ohio State: (And let the whining and bitching commence…)  This is all predicated on the Terrelle Pryor that seemed to mature in one sixty-minute Rose Bowl game being the real deal.  And the fact that the five-time defending Big Ten champs lose almost no one of consequence.

3. Boise State: Why?  One, because I can, and two, because they convincingly beat the team — TCU — I felt should’ve been playing in the national title game.  And that same team returns 23 of 24 starters in 2010.  If a non-automatic qualifier is ever going to make a run at the BcS title game, next year’s Broncos have the best shot at it.

4. Texas: As the BcS runner-up, they will start roughly in this area if not higher.  It’s deserved, given their finish, but it’ll be too high come the end of the year.

5. Iowa: The only two games the Hawkeyes lost in 2009 were games where quarterback Ricky Stanzi was unavailable for either all or part of the games due to injury.  A healthy Stanzi and a dominating defense helped Iowa roll Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, setting the tone for what Hawkeye Nation hopes will be a run at the Big Ten crown.  If not more.

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29 Responses to “2010: A look ahead”
  1. RichattheLake says: Jan 8, 2010 1:42 PM

    great preview, absolutely right about Les Miles, way overrated. Like the Boise starting out in your top-5, maybe if they get the same respect(yeah right!) from the AP voters, they might get the shot they deserve.

  2. Mr. Two Bits says: Jan 8, 2010 1:42 PM

    Brantley is going to open alot of eyes. Even holding a clip board this guy was the second best quarterback in the SEC this year. He is a much better passer than Tebow and he possess a cannon for an arm. Gators overall will take a step back this year, but the offense will be as good as it ever was. I look for a year similar to 2007 for them.

  3. BrownsTown says: Jan 8, 2010 1:48 PM

    There should be no whining and bitching. The OSU defense returns almost all of their playmakers and TP should hopefully take the next step in his development (and/or Tressel loosens the reigns). Jacory Harris vs. Pryor is a good storyline and should make for a good early-season matchup with possible Heisman ramifications.
    After watching that Iowa freshman (with the hot mom) pick apart the OSU defense while Stanzi was injured, is it fair to ask if there will be a QB competition at Iowa?

  4. cbfan says: Jan 8, 2010 1:51 PM

    If Pryor is on his game OSU may end up there by the end of the season but I would not put them there to start.

  5. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says: Jan 8, 2010 2:13 PM

    How far has Miami fallen? You actually had to specify “of Florida” in your post.
    Miami made their bones recruiting hardened, tough, ghetto kids that nobody else would touch. The kids were tougher and hungrier than anyone else out there.
    Now? Pretty much everyone recruits those kids (with the exception of Notre Dame).
    The only reason they’re rising is that the ACC is a really weak conference.

  6. joebuck says: Jan 8, 2010 2:40 PM

    Texas should not be in the top 5. We saw the huge difference in QB’s and this kid isn’t close. No Shipley either.
    Watch out for Wisconsin. They won 10 games and they get EVERYONE back. 22 starters and Clay is a beast. Otherwise your top 5 is close.

  7. Thor says: Jan 8, 2010 2:51 PM

    Add WVU to the list of stumblers and I pray Bill Stewart to the hot seat. He has done more to destroy what was a Top 5-10 team quicker than imagined. He is a moron who simply can’t coach. Losing their QB, probably RB and their top recruiter certainly won’t help.

  8. Pier588 says: Jan 8, 2010 2:56 PM

    Mr 2 Tits – you must smoking rolled up swamp grass.
    The Urbanless Gators will be a rebuilding young team in disarray next season as they take a mighty tumble. Watch as their arrogant (only if they are winning) fans jump ship in droves to Fla State or USF (if the Bulls go after and get Mikc Leech).
    The mighty Miami Sugarcanes show what they are made of every time the play a team outside the weak a$$ ACC and are on the way down as they showed in their bowl performance with Wisconsin.
    You left the real USC out (South Carolina). Stevo finally has his QB coached up and matured into the player he knows he can be. Look for the Gamecocks to be an SEC East dark horse and challenge Bama who satiated their national title appetite last night for the the next 17 seasons.
    Watch for a RichRod mid season firing at the 6 loss mark.
    Brian Kelly will put himself on the hot seat right away as the well established Irish losing tradition continues under his tutelege. If Noter Dame wins more than 6 next year it will take devine intervention – 3-9 is more likely.

  9. txhuskers says: Jan 8, 2010 3:02 PM

    Good health will be all Nebraska needs for improved offensive play next season. Lee played this year with a torn flexor tendon (surgery took place Jan 6), Helu dealt with a serious shoulder injury, Burkhead missed 5 weeks with a broken foot, and the offensive line was devastated by injuries.
    Nebraska will begin next season in the top 10 and should win the Big 12 (the whole thing, not just the North).

  10. Cleveland8 says: Jan 8, 2010 3:43 PM

    Do people realize that Ohio State this past season was the “first ever” school since the inception of the BCS to defeat five 10-win teams in a single season?
    This team played well below its ability the first half of the season and quietly dominated the last five games of the season. Their only significant losses are AA Safety Curt Coleman and DE Thadious Gibson at DE…Gibson’s loss will not be felt as next years slated starter Nathan Williams seems to have a much better knack for getting to the QB. Pryor is the key & if Tressel keeps the playbook open like in the Rose Bowl this team should be very dangerous. History says he will if you look at the play calling and development of past Heisman winner Troy Smith.
    They are faster than OSU teams of the past, stacked with experience & deep at every position save QB…could be 2002 all over again. At least the crazyed fans are beleiving it.

  11. MIKE B says: Jan 8, 2010 5:18 PM

    what a load of crap!!!!

  12. cbfan says: Jan 8, 2010 6:29 PM

    Cleveland 8, You could be right. Let’s hope they live up to the potential. Mike B, in need of depends?

  13. DB says: Jan 8, 2010 6:50 PM

    What is with ABC giving all the BIG games to Brent Mussberger? He made his fame (and should stay there) with the Little League World Series and Pro Bowling. He must have a relative in high places with ABC—There are so many more credible football announcers that it is truly a shame that he gets the “pick of the litter” every game.

  14. cbfan says: Jan 8, 2010 7:16 PM

    I agree about Brent. He needs to give it up

  15. Captain Hairdo says: Jan 8, 2010 9:42 PM

    If Pryor plays like he did in his most recent game, instead of like he has played in every other game his entire career except that, he will win the Heisman.
    Give me a break. Unfortunately, he will not be facing the terrible, terrible Oregon defense week after weak.
    And enough with the “will the Big10 be good again?” crap. If I wanted that kind of crap I’d read espn.com

  16. NCRob says: Jan 9, 2010 1:14 AM

    Seriously, Taylor?! You write for a living and you don’t know the difference between “less” and “fewer”?

  17. Arizona Buckeye says: Jan 9, 2010 2:38 AM

    The 2010 season is going to be one helluva good tussle all season long. The Buckeyes are set to get back to the title game but so are a bunch of other great teams. Too bad I don’t have a time machine handy so I can fast forward to late July

  18. SDZC says: Jan 9, 2010 5:02 AM

    Having no affiliation aside from watching their thoroughly entertaining and inventive method of winning games, I’m certainly going to be pulling for the Broncos to steal some of the more-funded and historically-favored programs’ glory.

  19. Alabama.Bull says: Jan 9, 2010 9:53 PM

    Speaking of teams, it takes more than one or two players. Texas has one of the best QBs & LBs but not a complete team. Alabama has a team which has the ability to win with or without a specific player.
    Teams win in team sports, individual players don’t.

  20. progunk says: Jan 10, 2010 4:45 AM

    First of all, it’s 1:44am PST and I am up way too late and way too drunk to be posting here, but I must say that this was a very good piece. Bama is the clear cut #1 heading into next year, and the Buckeyes are a perfect #2. Pryor may not be the Heisman favorite, but the favorite for next year is the guy that won it this year and he only won it because Bama was about to win, what, their 38th Natn. Championship W/no Heisman winners? They were due (sorry Toby), and were lucky to have gelded the Colt. Anyhow’sit, Bucks V. Bama next January for all the marbles. Tress beats Saban. Also, did I read some asshole on here assert that John Brantley was the second best QB in the SEC last year? All that snow in FLA must be clogging your pipes.
    Drunk and grammatically correct,
    ProGunk

  21. scubacane says: Jan 10, 2010 6:54 AM

    Pier 588- your ignorance is amazing
    Miami has improved every year under Randy Shannon
    07- 5-7
    08- 7-5
    09- 9-4
    They are not afraid to play out of conference heavies every year
    07- OU
    08-Florida
    09-OU
    10-OSU and PITT
    They beat 3 bowl winners this year-
    OU, FSU, USF
    They beat GaTech- ACC champs
    I agree they laid an egg against Wisconsin however if that is how you are going to grade them for the total 2009 season, you are mistaken. Another top 10 recruiting class in ’10, they will be playing in BCS games for a llong while starting next year – get used to it.

  22. Pier588 says: Jan 10, 2010 1:09 PM

    ScubaSugarcane – have you been holding your breath under water too long with tanks filled with that same swamp grass Mr 2 Tits is smoking?
    Shanahan is still an interium coach going no where near what the old Sugarcanes were capable of when the team fieled all of those thugs and Juco players – trash talking on the field and commiting crimes after hours.
    The ‘Sugs go no where next season outside the weak ACC – and thats only if they can get things done in their own league and find the Va Tech magic bullet.
    Miami’s best QB will be under center at Purdue next season – more proof that the wrong Shanahan is coaching down there.
    Fla State is just one speed bump on their schedule thats full of them next season.

  23. lskynard87 says: Jan 14, 2010 5:17 PM

    @Samuel L. Bronkowitz – IDK about the thug thing. It is widely known they have taken in a thug type persona, I wouldn’t call Ken Dorsey, Gino Torretta, Vinny Testaverde, Andre Johnson, Antrel Rolle, Frank Gore, DJ Williams, Jonathon Vilma thugs.
    But I can see how Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin and co. could be seen as thugs.
    I think they’re simply “individualists”

  24. cb in austin says: Feb 17, 2010 2:36 PM

    Look for Les Miles to go to Michigan and Mike Leach to either Oklahoma State or Illinois. Texas will be reloading and should return to the top 5 in 2011.

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