Brian Murphy: Bold predictions for the college football season

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comAugust 25, 2013 

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had plenty to celebrate last season as he totaled 5,116 yards of offense, the most by a Heisman winner. But trying to become a repeat Heisman winner could prove to be a tall order; only one other player (Archie Griffin) has done so.

Hope you enjoyed Saturday. Hope you were productive and got a lot done on TLSWCFUJ.

What? You didn’t hear. No one told you that Saturday was The Last Saturday Without College Football Until January. Your friends should be ashamed, leaving you in the dark about such an important day. How dare they?

Forgive them. It’s OK, because college football is back. You won’t have to spend another Saturday without the sport’s all-day buffet. No more Saturdays flipping channels between golf and the Little League World Series.

At this time next week, you’ll be recapping Boise State’s opener at Washington, digesting Paul Petrino’s first game as the Idaho coach, debating a targeting call and, if college football hasn’t changed too much while it was gone, smacking your forehead over at least one mind-boggling upset.

And I’ll probably be marking a giant red X through one of these predictions.

BOISE STATE WILL NOT GO UNDEFEATED

The No. 19 Broncos’ road schedule is just too tough. Boise State plays at Washington, at Fresno State, at Utah State, at BYU, at Colorado State and at San Diego State. The home games should be easier, but it takes a lot of skill — and plenty of luck — to make it through a season undefeated. That coach Chris Petersen and the Broncos were able to do it in 2006, 2008 and 2009 is the exception and not the norm. In fact, no team in the FBS will win all of its games this season. More on that in a bit.

BUT THE BRONCOS WILL WIN THE MOUNTAIN WEST

With the addition of Utah State and San Jose State and the return of Boise State and San Diego State (originally committed to the Big East/ American for the 2013 season), the Mountain West divided into two, six-team divisions and scheduled a championship game. There will be no more tri-champions like there was in 2012 when Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State shared the crown at 7-1. Now it gets settled on the field. Boise State, seeking its first outright conference title since 2009, gets it done.

AND BOISE STATE WILL BE IN THE BCS MIX

In the final year of the Bowl Championship Series, the Broncos will again contend for a spot in one of the five games. It’s fitting that Boise State, which delivered one of the most memorable BCS victories of all time in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, is part of the conversation in the BCS’ final year. The BCS’ overall merits are up for debate, but the benefits it provided to Boise State are not. The four-team College Football Playoff begins in 2014, a welcome step forward for the sport, but hopefully not the last one.

BCS WILL BE A BIGGER MESS THAN USUAL

As alluded to earlier, no team will make it through the regular season and conference championship games undefeated. The overall strength of the sport is too strong, the pressure is too great late in the season and no team is immune to one bad Saturday. That means no no-doubt selections for the title game. Instead, pollsters and the computers will be asked to sort through a host of one-loss teams to pick No. 1 and No. 2 for the final BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl. Nick Saban’s Alabama, winner of three of the past four national titles, including the past two, will get a berth. Who gets the other spot will be a major debate.

THE HEISMAN RACE WILL BE JUST AS MESSY

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won’t win the trophy again. Not even if he surpasses the 5,117 yards of total offense and 47 touchdowns he produced last year. OK, maybe if he does that. But the odds are certainly against Johnny Football claiming the hardware for a second time, even if he remains eligible all season after off-season allegations that he was paid for autographs. There’s been just one two-time Heisman winner (Ohio State’s Archie Griffin), and current voters are going to look long and hard about giving Manziel a second stiff arm trophy. That could mean a tight race for the award. South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney won’t win, either. But he will end up in New York as a finalist.

IDAHO WILL MATCH ITS WIN TOTAL FROM 2011 AND 2012 COMBINED

This might be the boldest prediction, but I’m putting some faith in Petrino and his offense. The best chances for Idaho wins come at North Texas on Saturday, at Wyoming (Sept. 7), versus Texas State (Nov. 2) and Old Dominion (Nov. 9) in Moscow and at New Mexico State in the season finale on Nov. 30. Redshirt freshman QB Chad Chalich and the offense are going to have to score some points to reach three wins (that’s how many games Idaho won in 2011 and 2012 combined), but Petrino has added speed and pizzazz on that side of the ball. He’s also added some optimism.

TARGETING WON’T BE THE MOST DISCUSSED RULE CHANGE

The new penalty for targeting — which means hitting someone above the shoulders or using the crown of the helmet — calls for a 15-yard penalty and a one-game ejection. The ejection will carry over to the first half of the next game if it occurs in the second half. It will lead to hand-wringing, plenty of complaints about the demise of football as we know it and even a few columns.

But it is the new spike rule that will come into play in at least one high-profile game. The rules says you need at least 3 seconds left in order to spike the ball, stop the clock and get another play. A spike with less than 3 seconds left means the end of the game or half. That’s going to put a lot of scrutiny on clock operators. My prediction: Some poor quarterback is not going to remember the rule and, in the chaos of an end-of-game situation, spike it with less than 3 seconds.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; @MurphsTurph on Twitter

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