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42 Days, 42 Predictions

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There are 42 days left until gamblers get to feast on a six-pack of college football games on Aug. 28. With that in mind, here are 42 predictions for the 2008 campaign.

1-By the time we get to mid-November, the national-title race will boil down to five teams – Florida, USC, Missouri, Oklahoma and Clemson.

2-USC won’t be as good as some of its teams in recent years. Nevertheless, the Trojans will go 12-0 thanks to a schedule that calls for their four toughest foes – Ohio St., Oregon, Arizona St. and Cal – to come to the Coliseum. The Trojans will be in Miami with a chance to win another national championship.

3-Oklahoma will win its first nine games, but the Sooners will go down either Nov. 8 at Texas A&M or Nov. 29 at Oklahoma State. Even if OU does find a way to go undefeated, it will lose to Missouri in the Big 12 title game and therefore fail to reach the Orange Bowl.

4-Speaking of Mizzou, the Tigers will go 11-1 in the regular season (losing at Texas on Oct. 18). However, their win over OU in the Big 12 title game will leave them ranked third and out of the Orange Bowl mix because…

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5-If (and only if) Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin are healthy all year, Florida will join USC as the nation’s only undefeated squads. The Gators should be favored in every game with Georgia serving as the only potential exception. UF can afford to lose one game and still get to Miami, assuming the loss doesn’t come to the Dawgs or at FSU in the regular-season finale.

6-The Gators will beat USC to win the BCS Championship Game thanks to a monster performance from Tebow.

7-Georgia, which is as talented as any team in America and probably deserves to be No. 1 in the pre-season, will go 11-2 and win a BCS game. The Dawgs will come to Jacksonville unbeaten thanks to impressive road wins over South Carolina, Arizona St. and LSU. However, a four-week stretch with zero home games – at LSU, vs. Florida in Jax, at Kentucky and at Auburn – will be too much for Mark Richt’s squad. The Dawgs will go down in River City and on the Plains.

8-UGA’s Knowshon Moreno, not Tebow, will win the Heisman Trophy. Tebow will finish second, followed (in order) by Missouri’s Chase Daniel, Ohio State’s Beanie Wells and Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree.

9-Michigan will lose its season opener at home again (to Utah). The Wolverines will have a horrible year, limping to a 5-7 record.

10-The other Week 1 upset will go down in Charlotte, where East Carolina will shock Virginia Tech.

11-Auburn will go 10-2 and win the SEC West. That’s the good news for Auburn fans. The bad news? The Tigers will lose at West Virginia in a monster matchup in Morgantown on Oct. 23. Even worse, Tommy Tuberville’s six-game winning streak in the Iron Bowl will end in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 29. Auburn will also to lose to Florida at the Georgia Dome to fall to 10-3 going into its bowl game.

12-Clemson will go 12-1 and win the ACC Championship. The Tigers’ lone loss will come at Wake Forest in a Thursday game on Oct. 9. Clemson’s first BCS appearance will be a Battle of Tigers against Missouri. I say Mizzou will prevail.

13-Kudos to Wisconsin for having the (Bill Raftery voice) ‘onions’ to play at Fresno St. We all know that Pat Hill’s team will play anybody, anywhere, as evidenced by road games against Rutgers and UCLA in 2008. The Bulldogs will lose their opener to the Scarlet Knights, but they will rebound with 11 consecutive victories, including upset wins over Wisconsin and Boise St. (triumph over Broncos only an upset because of the Bulldogs’ abysmal history on the blue carpet).

14-Back to Wisconsin… I really like this team, but the QB position is a major question mark. If the Badgers get decent QB play, they’ll go 9-3 at worst. If they get better-than-decent QB play, they’ll beat Ohio St. at home on Oct. 4 and have a good chance at a Rose Bowl trip. Then again, if the QB play is mediocre, 7-5 isn’t completely out of the question.

15-Wake Forest will be the ACC’s second-best team, continuing its improbable run of excellence under Jim Grobe. I have the Demon Deacons going 10-2 in the regular season.

16-After another shaky season (most likely 7-5, 8-4 at best and possibly as bad as 6-6), FSU head coach Bobby Bowden will retire after 33 seasons of leading the Seminoles.

17-As long as sophomore QB TJ Yates avoids the freshman mistakes (18 interceptions) he made last year, North Carolina will be the nation’s biggest surprise. The Tar Heels will go 9-3 to announce themselves as the ACC’s up-and-coming program.

18-South Florida will beat Kansas in a big-time Friday night game on Sept. 13. The Bulls will go 10-2, but they’ll lose at West Virginia in the regular-season finale with the Big East title and a BCS berth on the line.

19-Even though West Virginia will beat Auburn, the Mountaineers won’t be in the hunt for the national title. That’s because they will lose one game early (either at East Carolina or at Colorado) and also fall at Pittsburgh on Nov. 28.

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20-Along with UNC and Fresno St., Pitt will be one of the country’s biggest surprises. The Panthers will win at least eight games, possibly nine. Sophomore RB LeSean McCoy will emerge as a sleeper Heisman candidate.

21-Louisville’s decline will continue, as the Cards will go 7-5 at best. Another mediocre campaign will have Steve Kragthorpe on the hot seat going into 2009.

22-South Carolina will start 8-2 and be in the SEC East hunt going into a Nov. 15 game at Florida. The Gamecocks will lose to the Gators, though, and they’ll also drop their regular-season finale at Clemson. In a perfect world, the ‘Noles will find a way to go 8-4 so Steve Spurrier and Bobby Bowden can lock horns one last time in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Of course, this isn’t a perfect world (I'd have my choice of Marisa Miller and/or Erin Andrews if it were), so I doubt it’ll happen.

23-Like I said, the Buckeyes will lose at USC. If they don’t lose at Wisconsin, they’ll lose at Illinois on Nov. 15. They might lose both. Either way, Ohio St. fans won’t have to watch their team get slaughtered in another national-title game.

24-Penn St. will go 9-3 and JoePa will decide to stick around for (at least) one more year.

25-Iowa will go 7-5 and Kirk Ferentz, once mentioned for nearly every NFL opening, will be on a boiling hot seat.

26-Ferentz will spend 2008 on the hot seat along with Syracuse’s Greg Williams, Kansas State’s Ron Prince, Arizona’s Mike Stoops, UNLV’s Mike Sanford and Washington’s Ty Willingham.

27-(Unless the $$$ makes it too difficult for Iowa and Ferentz to part ways,) Stoops is the only coach that’ll survive thanks to stellar QB play from Willie Tuitama. In other words, Prince, Williams, Sanford and Willingham are goners for sure.

28-Because the schedule is so difficult (at Wake Forest, at Florida, at Alabama and at LSU), the straight-up win-loss record might not make it obvious, but Ole Miss will be the most improved team in the SEC. The Rebels are going to get solid QB play from Jevan Snead and a huge season from versatile WR Dexter McCluster. They have the SEC’s premier pass rusher in DE Greg Hardy. Most importantly, they’ll be coached much better by Houston Nutt’s staff. I only have the Rebels going 6-6 SU, but look for them to be a solid ATS squad.

29-I called for Kentucky to beat LSU last June as my Upset of the Year. I’ll admit that I was proud of myself, and deservedly so, but little did I know that I would be outdone several times. Seriously, UK over LSU was NOTHING on the radar scale in terms of the upsets when you think about App St. (off the board) winning at Michigan, Stanford (+41!!) winning at USC and Pitt (+29) shocking West Virginia. This year, my upset call won’t be as dramatic (I forecasted that LSU would be undefeated and No. 1 when UK knocked ‘em off), especially since it comes in Week 1. But like I said earlier, the Hokies go down to East Carolina in their opener.

30-This six-pack of freshmen – in no particular order -- will have the biggest impacts in 2008: Alabama WR Julio Jones, Colorado RB Darrell Scott, Florida safety Will “Thrill” Hill, Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, LSU CB Patrick Johnson and Southern Miss WR DeAndre Brown.

31-June Jones won’t get SMU to its first bowl game since the Pony Express Days (think Eric Dickerson and Craig James), but he will guide the Mustangs to five wins (after they went 1-11 last year) and set the tone for a bright future.

32-Arkansas will finish last in the SEC West.

33-Mississippi State free safety/punt returner Derek Pegues will be the best player in America that nobody west of the Mississippi River has ever heard of. Pegues will be a first-team All-American and the Bulldogs will go 7-5.

34-Assuming Jones is 'as advertised,' Alabama QB John Parker Wilson will silence his (many) critics by enjoying an outstanding senior season. The Tide will go 9-3 with losses against Clemson, Georgia and LSU. The highlights will be wins at Tennessee and vs. Auburn.

35-In 2008, there will not be a non-BCS team that goes unbeaten in the regular season like Hawaii and Boise State in ’07 and ’06, respectively. Utah will have the best chance, but the Utes will fall in at least one of these home games (vs. Oregon St. vs. TCU and/or vs. BYU).

36-East Carolina will win Conference USA.

37-SMU quarterback Justin Willis will lead the nation in TD passes.

38-Oregon State WR Sammie Stroughter will enjoy a brilliant comeback campaign.

39-South Carolina WR Kenny McKinley will lead the SEC in receptions.

40-Here’s another upset: UCF wins at Miami on Oct. 11.

41-Notre Dame will bounce back with an 8-4 season thanks to a softer schedule.

42-Central Michigan will not only win the MAC, but the Chippewas will beat a pair of Big 10 teams with victories at Purdue and at Indiana. They will also give a decent account of themselves Sept. 6 at Georgia.

Brian Edwards can be reached at briane@vegasinsider.com.

  
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