Nov 23, 2012; Fayetteville, AR, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) on a kick return defended by Arkansas Razorbacks kicker Cameron Bryan (47) at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

From The Editor's Desk: College Football Predictions

Dec 31, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins (2) could have major impact on site editors’ college football predictions . Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports site editors Kyle Kensing and Luke Brietzke share their college football predictions for the Group of Five


Luke Brietzke

Biggest Sleeper: Georgia Tech

So many have the ACC Coastal as being between Miami and North Carolina, but the Yellow Jackets quietly must be excited for this season. QB Vad Lee could potentially give Tech the pass game it has lacked since Paul Johnson became coach – though that’s a narrative we’ve heard before. DC Ted Roof returned to his alma mater and could bring an attacking defense that forces turnovers and puts pressure on opponents.

Biggest Bust: Miami

It’s hard to pick a true “bust” considering Clemson and Florida State are the only two teams with any real expectations. However, some are calling for Miami to win the ACC Coastal. Al Golden’s team has the offensive talent to do so, but hasn’t yet shown it can play consistent enough defense.

Breakout Star #1: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

Winston, a two-sport star who also excels in baseball, already has a legend growing before he even takes a snap for the Seminoles. He’s just a freshman, but he has all the tools and makings of a superstar. Some are even calling him a Heisman Trophy darkhorse candidate.

Breakout Star #2: WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland

Most astute ACC fans already know Diggs, after he turned in a stellar true freshman season despite catching passes from true freshmen and converted linebackers all season. Diggs is one of the best receivers in the nation right now. He has also proven himself as a dangerous return specialist. With QB C.J. Brown healthy, Diggs is primed to take off on the national scale.

Most Important Game: Florida State at Clemson, Oct. 19

Yes, this one is obvious. Sorry that there’s no originality with this pick, but what else can anyone say? The winner will almost certainly win the ACC Atlantic and is also likely to win the conference. This year could also feature national title implications.

Off-The-Radar Game: North Carolina at Georgia Tech, Sept. 21

This game could come and go with little fanfare outside of these two fanbases. It could also easily determine the ACC Coastal.


Dec 31, 2012; El Paso, TX, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back David Sims (20) tries to get past Southern California Trojans linebacker Hayes Pullard (10) in the 2012 Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium. Georgia Tech defeated USC 21-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest Sleeper:Miami

I am a firm believer in Al Golden, and have been since its time at Temple. His last two teams went 17-8. Remember that this is Temple we’re talking about, a program that went to exactly zero bowl games in the three decades before 2009. Most importantly, Golden won their by securing local recruits, something he has done effectively at The U. despite NCAA uncertainty. The talent is in place for the Hurricanes to rip off double-digit wins and contend for a BCS bowl.

Biggest Bust: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech opens the season unranked, as a three-score underdog to No. 1 Alabama and coming off a 7-6 campaign in which it needed to win its last two in the regular season just to bowl. So how exactly does that qualify as bust? Well, given the program’s consistency under Frank Beamer, it would seem the Hokies are primed to bounce back. Tech should surpass last season’s seven-game benchmark, but the Coastal is too deep for the Hokies to return to the ACC championship game.

Breakout Star: David Sims, Georgia Tech

Paul Johnson’s triple option offense obviously functions most effectively with a dynamic, No. 1 ball carrier. David Sims is more than capable of fulfilling the feature role predecessors Jonathan Dwyer and Reggie Ball manned so brilliantly.

Most Important Game: Florida State at Clemson, Oct. 19

Going out on a limb here and predicting the conference’s only preseason ranked teams, and the winner of each of the last two ACC championships, will play for the inside track on this year’s league title.

Off-the-Radar Game: Miami at Florida State, Nov. 2

A potential preview of the ACC championship game and rivalry showdown, this is likely to be the best Miami-Florida State showdown since the early 2000s.



January 01, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez (3) throws a pass during the first half of the Capital One Bowl against the Georgia Bulldogs at The Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest Sleeper:Nebraska

Ohio State is the heavy favorite. Michigan is getting most of the attention in the other division. Nebraska, meanwhile, has all the talent and senior QB Taylor Martinez leading a strong offense. If the defense can show some life – and coach Bo Pelini is the right person to grab players’ attention – the Cornhuskers could spoil the back-to-back Michigan-Ohio State games.

Biggest Bust: Northwestern

Finding a Big Ten “bust” is difficult because the top teams aren’t likely to falter and there is limited middle class in the league. The Wildcats won’t be bad this year. Living up to expectations to compete at the top of the division simply might be more than Northwestern can handle.

Breakout Star: RB Riley Bullough, Michigan State

With a poor quarterback situation and no established running backs, coach Mark Dantonio will have to turn to someone. He gave Bullough a chance to move from linebacker to tailback during spring practices and the redshirt freshman quickly rose to the top of the depth chart. Bullough impressed so much that he is still expected to receive significant reps despite missing most of August practice.

Most Important Game: Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30

The two teams many analysts project to play in the Big Ten Championship Game square off in the final week of the regular season. Ohio State aims for a national title in year 2 under coach Urban Meyer, meaning every game will be crucial. This could be the Buckeyes’ toughest test.

Off-The-Radar Game: Nebraska at Michigan, Nov. 9

Before the Wolverines get to their highly anticipated showdown with rival Ohio State, they must survive this home test against Nebraska. The winner could take control of the road to Indianapolis.


Biggest Sleeper: Michigan State

Mark Dantonio has done an outstanding job in his East Lansing tenure, primarily building off the defense. Sparty’s defense is stacked this season

Biggest Bust: Ohio State

Before any Buckeye fans track me down to show their displeasure, remember that the term bust is subjective. Expectations for the Buckeyes are set as high as possible: BCS championship or bust. But winning 25 consecutive games, as Ohio State must do in order to reach the national championship game

Breakout Star: Devin Gardner, Michigan

Funny that Al Borges wanted to, and actually had moved Devin Gardner to wide receiver. He was Michigan’s most effective quarterback in 2012, and an offseason of work with George Whitfield should

Most Important Game: Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30

The Big Game has big implications for arch rivals Ohio State and Michigan. Both

Under-the-Radar Game: Ohio State Northwestern, Oct. 5

BIG 12


Biggest Sleeper: Kansas State

Is it really fair to take the defending Big 12 champ as a sleeper? Well, nobody seems to be giving the Wildcats any respect when it comes to their chances to repeat. The offense, behind QB Jake Waters, could be in position to make a run at another conference title.

Biggest Bust: None

Not even Texas can be a bust this season because so few analysts expect the Longhorns to live up to their considerable potential. With no clear favorite, there’s no clear candidate for a bust. Considering that Oklahoma State was picked to win the league and it seems too close to call, the Cowboys might be the best bet as a bust.

Breakout Star #1: QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

Coach Art Briles has shown he is a star-maker at the quarterback position. This year Petty takes the reins after impressing throughout spring and August camps.

Breakout Star #2: RB Charles Sims, West Virginia

Fans of mid-major football know Sims from his career at Houston. Now he will take his spot in Dana Holgorsen’s offense. The all-transfer backfield – Sims will team up with Florida State transfer Clint Tricket – will be called upon to cover up the defense.

Most Important Game: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Dec. 7

The Battle of Bedlam might just be the de facto Big 12 championship game. It’s difficult to imagine neither team having a chance at the conference title and automatic BCS berth when this game kicks off on the final day of the regular season.

Off-The-Radar Game: Kansas State at Texas, Sept. 21

If the Longhorns want to contend for the league crown, they would be well-advised to take care of business in Austin. This game, followed by a road test at Oklahoma State two weeks later, seem to be the toughest away tilts for the Wildcats.


Biggest Sleeper: Kansas State

The loss of Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and almost all of the defense

Biggest Bust: Texas

Texas boasts the most veteran lineup in the Big 12 and a bevy of talent. In years past, the Longhorns would be ranked in the top five and praised as BCS championship contenders. However, three straight seasons of underachieving

Breakout Star: Bryce Petty

The new Baylor quarterback fills some pretty big shoes, taking over for electric dual-threat play-maker Nick Florence and manning the BU offense just two years removed from Robert Griffin III’s Heisman campaign. But Bryce Petty is surrounded by a talented corps of skill position players, with an outstanding offensive line in front of him. All indicators this offseason point to huge production from the Bears’ third starting quarterback in as many seasons.

Most Important Game: Oklahoma State at Texas, Nov. 16

Texas and OSU exchanged blows in an exciting slobberknocker (h/t Jim Ross) that ended in controversy. The Big 12 apologized to Mike Gundy for the below call:

Off-the-Radar Game: Oklahoma at Kansas State, Nov. 23

Teacher Bill Snyder has had student Bob Stoops’ number in several high profile contests, including last year’s K-State win that effectively sent the Wildcats to the Fiesta Bowl. Stoops almost always has OU in the conference championship race at this juncture in the season, but by this point the new Wildcats making their first starts this weekend should be completely up to speed down the stretch.



Dec. 31, 2012; El Paso, TX, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington (13) has a pass batted down by USC Trojans defensive end Leonard Williams (94) as defensive end Wes Horton (96) defends during the first half during the Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest Sleeper: USC

Perhaps it’s a fool-me-once situation, but few analysts are giving the Trojans a chance to win the Pac-12 South. There’s still talent – if coach Lane Kiffin can solve the quarterback situation. If not, USC will be among the biggest sleepers again next season – though likely under a new coach.

Biggest Bust: UCLA

The schedule screams trouble for the Bruins this season, including road games at Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona and USC. Jim Mora Jr. did a great job in Year 1 and QB Brett Hundley has a bright future, but there will be growing pains in 2013.

Breakout Star #1: QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford

He’s already a known commodity in the Pac-12 after he led the Cardinal to a perfect second half of the season. The true sophomore has all the tools to emerge as a national star on the same plane as Braxton Miller or Johnny Manziel. He also has the team to stay relevant all season.

Breakout Star #2: RB Brendan Bigelow, California

Perhaps nothing soured Cal fans against former coach Jeff Tedford last year more than his refusal to find ways to get Bigelow the ball more. The junior tailback showed huge-play potential. Now he will run out of OC Tony Franklin’s system.

Most Important Game: Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 7

Chalk this up to another completely obvious most important game. The two preseason national title contenders square off on a Thursday night stage. Whoever wins this game has a great chance to run the table.

Off-The-Radar Game: Arizona at Arizona State, Nov. 30

Most analysts – me included – are paying too much attention to the battle of SoCal and not nearly enough attention to what’s happening in Arizona. When the Wildcats and Sun Devils meet, it could easily have Pac-12 South implications.


Biggest Sleeper: Washington

Steve Sarkisian returns one of the two most veteran rosters in the conference, along with Arizona. Unlike the Wildcats, the Huskies have no major question marks. Keith Price should bounce back from a disappointing junior season, playing alongside a deep running back corps and with multiple talented receivers. Justin Wilcox’s work with the defense has been nothing short of astounding

Biggest Bust: USC

The Trojans cracked the preseason top 25, one of only two teams with seven losses in 2012 to get that nod of confidence. Phil Steele is also projecting the Trojans for a BCS bowl. Expectations may be tempered from what they were last year

Breakout Star: Marion Grice

Nov. 23, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA: Arizona State Sun Devils running back (1) Marion Grice scores a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. The Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats 41-34. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Quietly, Arizona State had one of the most prolific scoring offenses in college football last year. Coordinator Mike Norvell has had an additional year to fine-tune his high octane offense, and the engine should be Marion Grice. Grice shares carries with D.J. Foster, but Grice looks like more of the breakout play-maker. He averaged nearly seven yards per carry last season, and scored a touchdown on more than 10 percent of his touches.

Most Important Game: Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 7

The Cardinal ended Oregon’s three-year run of Pac-12 championships by stymieing the Ducks’ quick-strike offense. Stanford goes from hunter to hunted as a result, but has the lineup to make a run at a second straight league title. This contrast of styles is one of the most exciting dynamics in college football. The winner will not just have an inside track to the Pac-12 championship, but potentially the BCS title game.

Off-the-Radar Game: Arizona State at UCLA, Nov. 23

Defending divisional champion UCLA has taken something of a backseat this offseason to up-and-coming ASU. Both should be in contention to win the South when the Sun Devils visit the Rose Bowl in this late season clash. A collection of the conference’s best defensive players will be on the field, with Carl Bradford and Will Sutton representing ASU and the Anthony Barr/Eric Kendricks/Jordan Zumwalt triumvirate holding it down for the Bruins.



Biggest Sleeper: None

There’s at least no great sleeper to challenge the upper echelon of the SEC, which consists of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, LSU and Florida. Ole Miss would seemingly fit the bill, but a tough schedule combined with a turnover-prone quarterback scare me. If there is a team primed to charge up the standings, it might be Auburn under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. How special is QB Nick Marshall?

Biggest Bust: Florida

The defense might be among the best in the nation, but living up to the 11-1 regular season from last year will prove difficult. The Gators relied on grit and fortune to hit that mark in 2012. They could easily find themselves missing out on similar breaks this season – especially if QB Jeff Driskel doesn’t show marked improvement as a passer.

Breakout Star #1: QB Nick Marshall, Auburn

The junior-college transfer gets the benefit of playing for Gus Malzahn, who has a reputation as one of the nation’s greatest offensive minds.

Breakout Star #2: DT Anthony Johnson, LSU

Not even a starter last year, Johnson will emerge as one of the top tackles in the country in 2013. The Tigers have a reputation of producing some of the best talent at the position and Johnson will be the next great in line.

Most Important Game: Alabama at Texas A&M, Sept. 14

The Aggies pulled off the upset over No. 1 Alabama last year, helping launch QB Johnny Manziel to Heisman Trophy fame. The Crimson Tide’s pursuit of perfection in 2013 goes through Kyle Field and might prove to be the toughest test.

Off-The-Radar Game: LSU at Georgia, Sept. 28

Georgia’s games against South Carolina and Florida deservedly get more attention, but this one could have major implications about which teams play in Atlanta.


Biggest Sleeper: LSU

Les Miles lost a raft of talent to the NFL, but he simply reloads. In fact, this Tiger team could be better than last year’s version, should quarterback Zach Mettenberger improve as is expected. Joining him is a deep and talented backfield including Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue. LSU will pose the stiffest challenge to Alabama in the SEC West.

Biggest Bust: Florida

Will Muschamp’s second Gator team vastly exceeded expectations, winning 11 games in 2012 and reaching the Sugar Bowl. Florida’s lopsided loss to Louisville there set a negative tone for UF heading into what has been a trying offseason. Indicators of a significant step backward are too glaring to ignore.

Breakout Star: Laquon Treadwell

Full disclosure: this opinion was written after true freshman wide receiver caught for 82 yards against Vanderbilt and earned the unwavering adulation of one Matt Millen:

Most Important Game: South Carolina at Georgia, Sept. 7

The most important game comes on Week 2? Barring the SEC championship game, you bet that this early season showdown is the most important in the SEC. Alabama is head-and-shoulders above its divisional foes and should have no problem returning to Atlanta, and likely waiting for the Crimson Tide is the winner of this one.

Under-the-Radar Game: South Carolina at Tennessee, Oct. 19

No offensive line gave South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney more fits in 2012 than Tennessee’s. The Vols were also within striking distance of an upset in last year’s showdown. This is a marquee matchup of Butch Jones’ debut campaign, and perhaps his team’s best opportunity to score an upset.

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