The Original College Football Czar

2020 Season Preview

a sports publication from The Shinbone

by Daniel Clark 

Description: The College Football Czar

Welcome to the 2020 season preview issue of The College Football Czar, a seasonal sports publication by the author and editor of The Shinbone. In the coming months, you will find weekly analyses of upcoming college football action posted at this site. To find out more, please see the Ground Rules.

This issue contains the Czar's rankings for all 130 teams in Division I-A football, as well as conference preview capsules, potential upsets to watch for, bowl projections, and a guide to help you locate head coaches on the move. Most importantly, it includes early nominees for the Lardhead of the Year Award, which the Czar never gets around to actually awarding, but for which he dispenses nominations promiscuously.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

COACHING MOVES

New coach ..... arriving at ..... previous position ..... former coach

Shawn Clark ..... Appalachian State ..... off. coord. App. State ..... Eli Drinkwitz

Sam Pittman ..... Arkansas ..... OL coach Georgia ..... Chad Morris

David Aranda ..... Baylor ..... off. coord. Boston College ..... Matt Rhule

Jeff Hafley ..... Boston College ..... def. coord. Ohio St. ..... Steve Addazio

Karl Dorrell ..... Colorado ..... WR coach Miami Dolphins ..... Mel Tucker

Steve Addazio ..... Colorado State ..... head coach Boston College ..... Mike Bobo

Willie Taggart ..... Florida Atlantic ..... head coach Florida St. ..... Lane Kiffin

Mike Norvell ..... Florida State ..... head coach Memphis ..... Willie Taggart

Todd Graham ..... Hawaii ..... head coach Arizona St. ('17) ..... Nick Rolovich

Ryan Silverfield ..... Memphis ..... OL coach Memphis ..... Mike Norvell

Mel Tucker ..... Michigan State ..... head coach Colorado ..... Mark Dantonio

Lane Kiffin ..... Ole Miss ..... head coach Florida Atl. ..... Matt Luke

Mike Leach ..... Mississippi State ..... head coach Washington St. ..... Joe Moorhead

Eli Drinkwitz ..... Missouri ..... head coach Appalachian St. ..... Barry Odom

Danny Gonzales ..... New Mexico ..... def. coord. Arizona St. ..... Bob Davie

Ricky Rahne ..... Old Dominion ..... off. coord. Penn State ..... Bobby Wilder

Greg Schiano ..... Rutgers ..... def. coord. Ohio St. ('18) ..... Chris Ash

Brady Hoke ..... San Diego State ..... DL coach San Diego St. ..... Rocky Long

Jeff Scott ..... South Florida ..... off. coord. Clemson ..... Charlie Strong

Marcus Arroyo ..... UNLV ..... off. coord. Oregon ..... Tony Sanchez

Jeff Traylor ..... UTSA ..... RB coach Arkansas ..... Chad Morris

Jimmy Lake ..... Washington ..... def. coord. Washington ..... Chris Petersen

Nick Rolovich ..... Washington State ..... head coach Hawaii ..... Mike Leach

 

ROLLING HEAD WATCH

The following coaches will have a difficult time hanging onto their noggins through the 2020 season:

Lovie Smith, Illinois -- The conventional wisdom was that the Fighting Illini's upset of mighty Wisconsin had saved the job of the former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Bucs skipper, but last year's team still had a bad home loss to Eastern Michigan. When they fell to the Cal Bears in the Redbox Bowl, that meant that even in Lovie's comparatively successful season, he finished with a losing record at 6-7. Over four years at UI, he is 15-34, and only 8-28 in Big Ten play. With a spring rescheduling that includes ten conference games, the Illini will not be able to go on their originally planned September cupcake feast against Bowling Green, Uconn and I-AA Illinois State. A fifth straight unsuccessful campaign in Champaign, and Coach Smith will be toast.

Matt Viator, Louisiana-Monroe -- In four years at the helm for the Warhawks, the very successful Division I-AA coach from McNeese State is only 19-29. The belligerent birds pride themselves on their willingness to take on all comers, but they haven't defeated a team from a power five conference since they upended Wake Forest early in 2013. This year's rescheduling provides more winnable nonconference games against Army, Liberty and UTEP. Under those circumstances, if Viator allows his team to be violated for another non-winning season, he can wave vye-vye.

Manny Diaz, Miami -- This may sound terribly unfair since it's only his second season at The U, but the coach was quite fickle himself in jilting Temple, so in the Czar's book he doesn't deserve a great deal of patience. The Hurricanes have been confounded in recent years by the inability to find a reliable quarterback. Houston transfer D'Eriq King is certainly very talented, but "reliable" is hardly the word he calls to mind. King had redshirted himself (more on that later) after a poor start at UH last season, promising that both he and the Cougars would come back stronger in 2020. Predictably, he dumped Dana Holgorsen's team to come to the Canes, which is not necessarily upward mobility. Diaz does have the ACC's second-best defense basically returning intact, which may override some of his club's offensive concerns. If King can't regain his form of 2018, however, or if the team's transition from a pro-set offense to a spread does not go smoothly, Diaz might discover that, all things considered, he'd rather be in Philadelphia.

Will Muschamp, South Carolina -- The once highly-touted coach, who was fired from Florida after four seasons with a record of 28-21, is now only 26-25 during that same time span in Columbia. The highly successful defensive coordinator from Auburn and Texas has not been able to replicate those defensive results as head coach, with his Gamecocks ranking twelfth in the SEC in defense against both the run and the pass last season. If those numbers don't improve dramatically this year, the head Cock can take a walk.

Philip Montgomery, Tulsa -- The Golden Hurricane was competitive against good competition throughout last season, but still only finished 4-8, in part because of a fourth-quarter crumble against SMU that sent them on a five-game midseason slump. In five seasons at TU, Montgomery has complied a modest record of 25-37. If his team is ever going to break out, it should be this year, when starting quarterback Zach Smith, 1,000-yard rusher Shamari Brooks and 1,000-yard receiver Keylon Stokes are all seniors. If the coach can't breeze to a winning record with all that offensive talent at his back, he'll soon find himself singing that all he are is dust in the wind. (What? We're supposed to refer to individuals with plural pronouns now, right?)

Chip Kelly, UCLA -- Everyone knew when the former Fighting Duck head coach returned to the Pac 12 two years ago that transforming the plodding Bruins into an up-tempo team would take some doing. His 7-17 record isn't that great a concern, then, nor is the fact that he has yet to find a quarterback to fit his scheme. What the blue bears hadn't bargained for was last year's pass defense, which ranked second-worst nationally out of 130 teams, ahead of only New Mexico. When the coach had first gone back on the market, he was considered a prime cut, but another season like that, and he'll only be creamed Chip beef on a shingle.

Clay Helton, USC -- This is how thankless a task it is to be a head coach in a major media market like Los Angeles. Helton's team won the Rose Bowl in 2016. In 2017, they won the Pac 12 Championship on their way to the Cotton Bowl. After one losing season, the Trojans bounced back for a record of 8-5 in 2019, even though they have had a terrible rash of injuries at the quarterback position during those two seasons. At 40-22 in four and a half years, Helton's job should not be in any danger, especially if his employers have any memory of the embarrassment that had been brought to the program in the previous four and a half years, under Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. Part of Helton's predicament is that SC must be kicking itself for not retaining former interim coach Ed Orgeron, who of course won the national championship at LSU last year. It's too late to change that. All the Trojan front office can do now is make yet another in a long list of big mistakes, and don't put it past them.

Everybody else -- No job is safe in this new and treacherous era, in which disgruntled current and former players hurl unprovable accusations of thought crimes against their coaches, and administrative star chambers are eager to entertain them. Any coach, anywhere, may find himself charged with racial insensitivity or some other form of un-niceness, with a presumption of guilt hanging over his head for the rest of the season. With ESPN and the other sports media acting as prosecutors in this kangaroo court, you never know who might get bounced.

 

WHAT'S NEW IN 2020

* Viral stupidity -- Since the end of last season, which seems like at least a decade ago, the world has been dealing with Covid-19, which is more commonly known as the coronavirus, even though it is but one among several coronaviruses. This is because we cannot give the disease a name related to its origin as is traditionally done (e.g., the "Wuhan virus"), because the looniest among us have decided that would be racist, and what they say goes, for some reason or other. Since March, we've been living in feudalistic quasi-dictatorships, in which the people are obeying unlawful gubernatorial proclamations, and capricious rules invented by unelected and generally corrupt and incompetent public health officials. Among other things, this has led to most states enacting requirements that people wear masks over their faces whenever the go to any public place. This, despite the fact that the porous material of these unwanted accessories protects people from the minuscule virus particles about as effectively as a leotard protects one's sensitive parts.

Rather than dealing with those people who are most at risk from the virus, our state governments effectively quarantined their entire populations, shutting down businesses, and mandating how far apart from each other people must stand. Meanwhile, four of the most arrogant governors in America deliberately exposed the most susceptible among us to the virus, by sending people who were known to be infected into nursing homes, for reasons they'll probably never explain. The president touted a drug that was already being widely prescribed for the virus all over the world. Happily, this treatment is both inexpensive and easily available. The Royal Smart People immediately concluded, with impeccable anti-logic, that because the president often says irresponsible things, the drug must be ineffective, and perhaps even deadly, even though they must realize that it is being prescribed for him by the White House physician. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a career bureaucrat who has not been a functioning doctor for more than half a century, has repeatedly contradicted himself to the point of outright hypocrisy, while deliberately inciting a national panic on a weekly basis. Nevertheless, the news and pop media continue to deify him.

Almost all sports in the entire world shut down, to reopen months later without any fans in attendance. College football was lucky enough not to need to address the issue until well after the disease had been downgraded form its pandemic status. This has not stopped four of the ten conferences in Division I-A from postponing their seasons from the fall until the spring in the name of player safety, even though the danger of the virus to healthy 20-year-olds is vanishingly small. So uncertain was the launch of the fall season for the remaining six leagues that the College Football Czar was unable to put together this preseason issue until the very last moment.

* Marxists on the march -- Spontaneous demonstrations of anger at George Floyd's death in Minneapolis were immediately appropriated by organized Communist mobs, who were obviously lying in wait for the next stalking horse to happen along. Almost instantly, the ostensible cause of the increasingly violent gatherings was obscured, as we found ourselves watching a bunch of collegiate sillyputtyheads waving Soviet flags, destroying private property, and burning bibles in American streets. The level of organization was apparent from the palates of bricks that were strategically placed in cities across America for goons to hurl through storefronts and at the police. Nevertheless, most of our media continue to refer to these as "mostly peaceful protests."

By posing as "anti-racist," these agitators have not only deflected criticism, but have gotten all four professional sports leagues to sign onto their deliberately ill-defined "social justice" agenda, borrowing a term that has long been employed in Marxist propaganda. Unsurprisingly, the enemy of "social justice" turns out to be America, as we can see from the fact that demonstrations against our flag and national anthem are no longer just tolerated at professional sporting events, but actively encouraged. This is even the case in the National Hockey League, whose playoffs the College Football Czar hasn't been able to watch because of the repugnant pregame ceremonies, which included four Canadians and a Swede kneeling for The Star-Spangled Banner, while on Canadian soil.

In fact, the Czar isn't watching any major professional sports for that same reason, not as a conscious boycott, but just because he can't stomach them anymore. Therefore, he must now advise his readers that he might suddenly stop posting his weekly picks at any point during this season, if the anti-American antics in the college game go any further than what we've already seen in the Division I-AA opener between Central Arkansas and Austin Peay. The message we're being given at every sporting event is that either you must be anti-American, or else you are, by default, a racist. The College Football Czar is going off the board to select option C, which is that nobody who would present us with such a choice deserves to be listened to.

* Charlotte hangs up the hammer and sickle -- While other universities trend in the direction of being even more Commie, the 49ers are retiring their Soviet-styled helmet logo, in favor of a pick forming the opening in a big letter C. A definite improvement, but the knob on the end of the pick is too long, which makes it look more like a soaring bird or a jet plane. Oh, well. Anything is better than the not-so-stealth pinko insignia that the school had been using. Even looking a little more like UTEP will be an improvement.

* Three more bowl games -- Who really knows if the bowl games will actually be played this year, and if so, how many? Officially, however, the NCAA has sanctioned three new games: the Fenway Bowl, which would obviously be played at Fenway Park in Boston, the L.A. Bowl, which would be in SoFi Stadium, the new, depressing indoor home of the NFL's Rams and Chargers, and the Myrtle Beach Bowl, to be played on the teal turf of Coastal Carolina's Brooks Stadium. What? We're going to start complaining about too much football now?

* Say Cheez, again -- Cheez-It has ended its sponsorship of what used to be the Cactus Bowl, which has now reverted to that moniker. Fear not, for there will still be a Cheez-It Bowl. The game in Orlando that had been known as the Camping World Bowl is the new Cheez-It Bowl, and that's actually an improvement. It's plain to see from this why the College Football Czar doesn't like the sponsorships supplanting the traditional bowl names, because that means there's no continuity. When fans look back years from now, there will be no "the" Cheez-It Bowl, because it has now been two different games. If they had simply changed sponsorships, from the Cheez-It Cactus Bowl to the Cheez-It Tangerine Bowl, then the games would have lasting meaning.

 

WHAT'S NOT NEW

* The rules -- Those rule changes that have been adopted for this season have been refreshingly minor. A player who has been ejected for targeting is now allowed to remain on the sideline. Officials will now be on the field 90 minutes before kickoff, in order to deter pregame incidents. A penalty at the end of a half may be assessed at the kickoff of the following half, or on the first play of overtime. The College Football Czar welcomes this stability, at a time when sports rules are seemingly updated whimsically, and in ways that fundamentally change the game. It makes it seem as if somebody, somewhere, wants us to continue enjoying the game.

* Conference alignment -- The tectonic plates of college football conference alignment remain at rest for another year, but how long will this last? One factor that could set off a major tremor is the economic carnage that's been inflicted by the coronavirus shutdown. As universities look for ways to cut costs, many of them are bound to question the travel requirements for all of their nonrevenue sports. Belonging to a geographically disparate conference for football may help rake in bigger TV revenues, but does it balance off the cost of West Virginia repeatedly sending its other 16 sports teams all the way to Lubbock, or Rutgers sending its other 21 teams to Iowa City? In college baseball, there's already a trend in neighboring conferences forming league-wide scheduling agreements in order to keep the teams closer to home throughout the season. It just might reach the point where the possibility of clinching an automatic New Year's Six bid every decade won't be persuasive enough to keep WVU playing TCU and Kansas State, instead of Marshall and Cincinnati, not to mention Pitt.

* Declining attendance -- It's not as serious as it sounds, yet. The nationwide decline in attendance at college football games has been very slight in recent years, and is most attributable to the following factors: (1) Too many lower division opponents, and otherwise deliberately arranged mismatches; (2) The loss of local rivalry games that provide lots of traveling fans; and (3) the simple fact that all of the new teams joining Division I-A are small schools playing in small conferences with small stadiums, which naturally drags down the national average. If the NCAA is really concerned, though, it had better head off the coming attendance apocalypse that will be caused by the ongoing anti-American displays that are taking place throughout sports. Americans are a nationality. Insult America week in and week out, and Americans are not going to like you. It's just that simple.

 

LARDHEAD OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINEES

* The Big Ten, Pac 12, MAC and Mountain West -- The Powers That Be Stupid in these four conferences decided to postpone their football season, in a rash and costly decision based primarily on concerns about appearing concerned. Now they'll be playing this season's games when they should be holding spring practices in preparation for next season. Not only that, but the shortened offseason this creates is going to be a genuine health concern for the players, a more genuine one than the coronavirus, that is. The players are going to realize that it does not behoove them to belong to teams in these leagues, which will cost the teams a lot of transfers and decommitted recruits. Furthermore, if the fall season goes as planned with the remaining six conferences, there will be a bowl season, and a new CFP will be crowned. One thing we know for sure is that it will not be the Ohio State Buckeyes, because the Big Ten has deprived them of a chance to contend for it. No wonder OSU quarterback Justin Fields was so adamant in trying to get the league to reverse its decision.

* Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach -- The former Wazzu wizard always makes the list, but this may be his most formidable entry of all time. Obviously bored with life under coronavirus lockdown, Leach tweeted a joke about it. The caption read, "After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf." Pictured below was a woman knitting something in the shape of a noose. Okay, it's just a joke, and he obviously didn't intend for it to have any racial overtones. Nevertheless, the idiocy of it is very difficult to underestimate. Leach has spent the past 37 years on college campuses. Surely he has some comprehension of the sensitivity level he's dealing with. In addition, he waits until he has accepted a new job in Mississippi, and picks that particular moment in time to unleash the whimsical noose gag? Yes, the reaction was overblown, but if Leach didn't see it coming, then it's a wonder that he ever anticipates an opposing coach's next move.

* Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy -- Captain Nathan Brittles said, "Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." Maybe Mike Gundy No Longer a Man has never seen that movie, but he should have understood the message instinctively. In April, the Cowboy coach said that he hoped his team could return to practice by May, and that any players infected with the coronavirus would be quarantined, just as they would be if they had the flu. Maybe he was right, and maybe not, but why should he let himself be bullied into apologizing for dissing the virus? No wonder official responses to the disease have been so irrational, if anything short of a grim, dystopian vision is treated as if it were some kind of a human rights violation.

Next, Gundy apologized for the tee-shirt he wore on a fishing trip, just because running back Chuba Hubbard complained. The coach had worn a shirt bearing the logo of the One America Network, a low-budget news channel that has a distinctively Trumpy editorial slant. We don't even know whether or not Gundy supports Trump, but why on earth should it matter one way or another where his employment is concerned? Gundy groveled, denouncing the network because the host of one of its programs criticized Black Lives Matter. Not the actual meaning of those words, mind you, but the political organization by that name, which is certainly not above criticism. Incredibly, Gundy accepted a million-dollar penalty from the university, and the loss of a year from his contract, all for having committed this shirtcrime. Hubbard, unsatisfied, called this "a step in the right direction." What, there's more? Of course there is. Giving a little ground to the socialist mob only encourages them to take it all. When will people ever learn this?

Meanwhile, he has yet to apologize for the mullet. Now there's a social injustice for you!

 

THE CZAR DECREES ...

If the College Football Czar could issue proclamations changing college football, these are some of the things he would do:

* Expand BYU's two-year missions to include kneelers throughout Division I-A football -- The Cougars all have to serve two years on Mormon missions while enrolled at the university. If every college football player had to reside in some other country for two years before taking the field for his school, the anthem protests would disappear. Let's see how little the kneelers think of our country and its Constitution when they've had to live without them for a while.

* Repeal the four-game redshirt rule -- The College Football Czar admits he was all in favor of this rule when it was introduced, but the D'Eriq King episode has changed his mind. The Houston quarterback presumed to redshirt himself after he and the Cougars stumbled in a couple early games. This is not the way it's supposed to work. Redshirts are for the head coach to use, in order to best utilize his talent on a year-to-year basis. In a sane world, coach Dana Holgorsen would have thrown King off the team the instant he decided to quit on the season. The coach didn't want to lose his star QB, though, so he ceded this authority, with blind optimism that King would return to the team the following season. Of course, King never intended any such thing. During the offseason, he surprised Holgorsen and absolutely nobody else by transferring to Miami. He had simply used the redshirt rule so that he wouldn't lose a year's eligibility while abandoning his teammates as UH.

* Invent the ticker guard -- It has gotten so you can't even watch Korean baseball without an endless stream of irritating wokedy-woke messages on the ESPN ticker. Ditto that for Australian Rules Football on Fox Sports. There are very good reasons why the College Football Czar does not watch cable sports network studio shows. He doesn't need those same insulting, asinine opinions encroaching on the things he actually wants to see. Therefore, he is kicking around ideas for creating an adjustable snap-on guard, which could be affixed to the bottom of your TV screen to cover up the ticker. That way, you could enjoy the game in peace, without spoiled athletes and pompous media figures incessantly scolding that you, your country, and everything you believe in suck!

 

TEAM RANKINGS, 1-130

1. Alabama (SEC)

41. Arizona (P12)

81. W. Forest (ACC)

121. N. Mex. St. (Ind)

2. Clemson (ACC)

42. Kent St. (MAC)

82. Purdue (B10)

122. Rice (CUSA)

3. Ohio St. (B10)

43. Florida St. (ACC)

83. So. Miss (CUSA)

123. Akron (MAC)

4. Florida (SEC)

44. Iowa (B10)

84. Texas Tech (XII)

124. N. Mexico (MW)

5. Oklahoma (XII)

45. W. Kent. (CUSA)

85. Oregon St. (P12)

125. Umass (Ind)

6. Texas A&M (SEC)

46. Ole Miss (SEC)

86. Hawaii (MW)

126. UTEP (CUSA)

7. Oregon (P12)

47. ULL (SB)

87. Miami OH (MAC)

127. Texas St. (SB)

8. Wisconsin (B10)

48. Louisville (ACC)

88. Houston (AAC)

128. Uconn (Ind)

9. LSU (SEC)

49. Memphis (AAC)

89. Fresno St. (MW)

129. Old Dom. (CUSA)

10. USC (P12)

50. La. Tech (CUSA)

90. No. Illinois (MAC)

130. C. Carolina (SB)

11. N. Carolina (ACC)

51. Nebraska (B10)

91. Vanderbilt (SEC)

 

12. Georgia (SEC)

52. Okla. St. (XII)

92. UCLA (P12)

 

13. Minnesota (B10)

53. Miami (ACC)

93. Ohio (MAC)

 

14. Notre Dame (ACC)

54. Utah St. (MW)

94. Air Force (MW)

 

15. Arizona St. (P12)

55. W. Mich. (MAC)

95. W. Virginia (XII)

 

16. Penn St. (B10)

56. Tulane (AAC)

96. Charlotte (CUSA)

 

17. Auburn (SEC)

57. Kentucky (SEC)

97. Army (Ind)

 

18. Iowa St. (XII)

58. Marshall (CUSA)

98. Toledo (MAC)

 

19. Wyoming (MW)

59. Ga. Southern (SB)

99. Troy (SB)

 

20. Texas (XII)

60. SMU (AAC)

100. Boston Coll (ACC)

 

21. California (P12)

61. Duke (ACC)

101. N. Texas (CUSA)

 

22. Cincinnati (AAC)

62. Buffalo (MAC)

102. Maryland (B10)

 

23. Baylor (XII)

63. Wash. St. (P12)

103. San Jose St. (MW)

 

24. Utah (P12)

64. Missouri (SEC)

104. Georgia St. (SB)

 

25. App. St. (SB)

65. Nc State (ACC)

105. Arkansas (SEC)

 

26. Indiana (B10)

66. Kansas St. (XII)

106. Syracuse (ACC)

 

27. San Diego St. (MW)

67. Stanford (P12)

107. Tulsa (AAC)

 

28. TCU (XII)

68. Fla. Atl. (CUSA)

108. Kansas (XII)

 

29. Washington (P12)

69. Liberty (Ind)

109. Rutgers (B10)

 

30. Tennessee (SEC)

70. S. Florida (AAC)

110. E. Mich. (MAC)

 

31. Pitt (ACC)

71. C. Mich. (MAC)

111. Mid. TN (CUSA)

 

32. UAB (CUSA)

72. Nevada (MW)

112. Colo. St. (MW)

 

33. C. Florida (AAC)

73. S. Carolina (SEC)

113. Bowl. Grn. (MAC)

 

34. Virginia (ACC)

74. Colorado (P12)

114. UTSA (CUSA)

 

35. Michigan (B10)

75. Arkansas St. (SB)

115. ULM (SB)

 

36. BYU (Ind)

76. Miss. St. (SEC)

116. Fla. Int'l (CUSA)

 

37. N´┐Żwestern (B10)

77. Navy (AAC)

117. Ball St. (MAC)

 

38. Boise St. (MW)

78. Ga. Tech (ACC)

118. E. Carolina (AAC)

 

39. Va. Tech (ACC)

79. Illinois (B10)

119. S. Alabama (SB)

 

40. Michigan St. (B10)

80. Temple (AAC)

120. UNLV (MW)

 

 

CONFERENCE CAPSULES

American Athletic Conference (east)

  1. Cincinnati Bearcats* -- RB Warren didn't report, because grassy knoll was greener in NFL
  2. Central Florida Knights -- senior-stocked roster will have foes calling them Sir
  3. South Florida Bulls -- new coach from Clemson hits the paws button on offense
  4. Temple Owls -- postseason slump makes one wish there was no "owl" in "bowl"
  5. East Carolina Pirates -- peglegs defense keeps sticking them in holes

American Athletic Conference (west)

  1. Memphis Tigers -- Can offensive team be made entire by new DC McIntyre?
  2. Tulane Green Wave -- fit to be tide after defensive rush subsided in disappointing 2019
  3. SMU Mustangs -- Rat Mouth Bowl left a bad taste after 10-win season
  4. Navy Midshipmen -- looking for a new goat-to guy behind center
  5. Houston Cougars -- Coach Medusa let departing QB behead him with redshirt rule
  6. Tulsa Golden Hurricane -- path to victory is harder than pronouncing "Isaias"

* projected conference champion

Outlook: If we have anything resembling a traditional bowl season, the AAC could get multiple slots in the New Year's Six games. Not only will there be vacancies opened by the Big Ten and Pac 12, but the Mountain West's decision to also play in the spring leaves little competition for the reserved group-of-five bid. The Tigers' Cotton Bowl crumble against Penn State may not give a fair impression of new coach Ryan Silverfield, but the Czar has got to give Luke Fickell and the Bearcats the edge in a potential conference championship rematch.

Atlantic Coast Conference

  1. Clemson Tigers* -- RB Etienne returns for another 8 or 10, or 13 games or so
  2. North Carolina Tar Heels -- must Mack-simize opportunities after 6 close losses in '19
  3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish -- no longer in a league of their own, at least for this year
  4. Pitt Panthers -- QB Pickett must stop fencing and go for the kill
  5. Virginia Cavaliers -- too many calves, and no bellcow on offense
  6. Virginia Tech Hokies/Gobblers -- Will D get carved up under new coaching unit?
  7. Florida State Seminoles -- coach Norvell should do very vell, but not this season
  8. Louisville Cardinals -- need a cribbage board to count points in Card games
  9. Miami Hurricanes -- spread scheme replaces O they left on the scoreboard in Shreveport
  10. Duke Blue Devils -- can go deep in Wallace Wade Stadium with ex-Clemson QB Brice
  11. Nc State Wolfpack -- getting Raleigh impatient after 4-8 season, minus-13 TO ratio
  12. Georgia Tech Yellowjackets -- Depth, where is thy sting?
  13. Wake Forest Demon Deacons -- Sage Surratt has no more thyme for this team
  14. Boston College Eagles -- glass half full for new coach Hafley, but cupboard isn't
  15. Syracuse Orange -- can't get rolling with doormats removed from nonconference slate

Outlook: As you can see, there are no divisions this year, and the Fighting Irish are a full-fledged league member for this season only. Other than that, everything is pretty much the same, with the Son of Clem head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, and lots of parity among teams 2-11. The decision by DT Jaylen Twyman to forego the season badly damages Pitt's chances of reaching the league title game. Sophomore slinger Sam Howell will have opponents crying UNC-le.

Big Ten Conference (east division)

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes* -- league matchups don't count as close in the Horseshoe
  2. Penn State Nittany Lions -- Parsons' departure is an answer to OSU's prayers
  3. Indiana Hoosiers -- A Hoos-Hoo returns to this talented veteran lineup
  4. Michigan Wolverines -- offense is empty-handed in the Big Mitten
  5. Michigan State Spartans -- need freshman QB Thorne to come up roses
  6. Maryland Terrapins -- steadily slow, ranking #109 in both offense and defense
  7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights -- Schiano's re-rebuild could take Middle Ages

Big Ten Conference (west division)

  1. Wisconsin Badgers -- There's always another big, bad RB ready to step in
  2. Minnesota Golden Gophers -- boat-rowers will miss Bateman from their cast
  3. Northwestern Wildcats -- Is ex-Indy QB the gentleman to start their engines?
  4. Iowa Hawkeyes -- Iowa City becomes I.C. Light, with diminished D, new QB
  5. Nebraska Cornhuskers -- Do the N-men want to remain in the Ten?
  6. Purdue Boilermakers -- Little Engine That Could Puke must start running more
  7. Illinois Fighting Illini -- yet more disastrous three-hour tours for Lovie

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The league's decision to delay its season until spring deprives OSU of a chance to play in the CFP. Wisconsin remains the big cheese in the West, with the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe being the deciding factor.

Big Twelve Conference

  1. Oklahoma Sooners* -- Cee Dee Lamb leave college early for dee Enn Eff Ell
  2. Iowa State Cyclones -- looks like another Purdy-good season for junior QB
  3. Texas Longhorns -- gave the hook to DC Orlando, for dismal play against the pass
  4. Baylor Bears -- New coach needs to be Aranda year or two before winning the title
  5. TCU Horned Frogs -- Without a star RB, lizard kings are in the Land of the Lost
  6. Oklahoma State Cowboys -- Mike the Man no more; apologetic coach loses control
  7. Kansas State Wildcats -- Senior scrambler Skylar can't lift rebuilding O off the ground
  8. Texas Tech Red Raiders -- Injury-riddled QB Bowman presents a big question mark
  9. West Virginia Mountaineers -- O is like pushing a car across Milan Puskar Stadium
  10. Kansas Jayhawks -- Sunflower Staters starting to come out of their shell

* projected conference champion

Outlook: In a league with no apparent national contenders, a slightly improved defense should cause OU to repeat in spite of losing key offensive players. If the Cyclones get another shot against a team like Notre Dame in the postseason, it'll be on more even terms than in last year's mismatch.

Conference USA (east division)

  1. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers -- Big Red defense continues to chew
  2. Marshall Thundering Herd -- league-leading rusher dishes out some hard Knox
  3. Florida Atlantic Burrowing Owls -- Taggart's transfers leave fans asking, "Who?"
  4. Charlotte 49ers -- picked 5 straight winners before bowl game failed to pan out
  5. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders -- Murfree's Law ruled in Murfreesboro last season
  6. Florida International Golden Panthers -- ?s abound for International Men of Mystery
  7. Old Dominion Monarchs -- sting like a butterfly, float like ... aw, skip it

Conference USA (west division)

  1. UAB Blazers* -- veteran squad on the march at Legion Field
  2. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs -- new defensive litter gives foes a chance to clean up
  3. Southern Miss Golden Eagles -- 4 score and 3 INT won't cut it for QB Abraham
  4. North Texas Mean Green -- new QB crop is green, and I mean that
  5. UTSA Roadrunners -- sophomore RB Sincere McCormick runs like he means it
  6. Rice Owls -- Coach Bloomgren tries to avoid the same fate as Uncle Ben
  7. UTEP Miners -- trade picks for shovels, with lots of turnover on their roster

* projected conference champion

Outlook: Bill Clark's amazing Blazers continue to contend since their return from oblivion. Charlotte has a chance to join Birmingham as a small college football boomtown. The C-USA, being among the six leagues to stick to a fall schedule, will get some higher-profile bowl bids this season.

Independents

  1. Brigham Young Cougars -- Mushroom man is under a cloud after a murky 7-6 season
  2. Liberty Flames -- team's progress won't stand still under Coach Freeze
  3. Army Black Knights -- no reason to be so excited about these Pointers
  4. New Mexico State Aggies -- getting to be too much for Las Cruces to bear
  5. Umass Minutemen -- not so manly for the other 59 minutes
  6. Uconn Huskies -- Conn Men are pulling a great hustle, or else they really are this bad

Outlook: Notre Dame usually occupies the top spot among Independents, but the Irish are competing in the ACC this season. The bottom three among these teams are not playing until the spring, and the Czar wonders if by then they'll even bother.

Mid-American Conference (east division)

  1. Kent State Golden Flashes* -- Dustin Crum is a thorough-bread at QB
  2. Buffalo Bulls -- Don't doze on MAC leaders in rushing, defense
  3. Miami OH RedHawks -- need MOH production from their passing game
  4. Ohio Bobcats -- Defenders wave goodbye to RB O'Shaan Allison
  5. Bowling Green Falcons -- Every week presents a 7-10 split for these guys
  6. Akron Zips -- zeroed in on record futility in 0-12 season

Mid-American Conference (west division)

  1. Western Michigan Broncos -- running wild for 7 straight wins in the 'Zoo
  2. Central Michigan Chippewas -- cease to wane in the MAC under McElwain
  3. Northern Illinois Huskies -- Coach Hammock can't rest easy after 5-7 debut
  4. Toledo Rockets -- ended season like a scud, after successful liftoff
  5. Eastern Michigan Eagles -- EMUs almost took flight in bowl battle vs. Pitt
  6. Ball State Cardinals -- gobbling up lots of points and yardage in Muncie

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The first conference to postpone its season until spring, the MAC got a break when the Big Ten followed suit, salvaging lots of big paydays for the lesser league. Kent State proves that last season was no flash in the pan. Kurtis Rourke competes for his brother's old job behind center at OU. CMU's down cycle, like Bruce Jenner's tenure on CHIPs, was mercifully brief. Since when do Broncos need to row a boat, anyway?

Mountain West Conference (mountain division)

  1. Wyoming Cowboys* -- coach has them rolling, even with no Bohl game this spring
  2. Boise State Broncos -- All-new DL could make LB Whimpey not so tough
  3. Utah State Aggies -- It wasn't Love that made their O go 'round
  4. Air Force Falcons -- QB Hammond's dismissal leaves flyboys on autopilot
  5. Colorado State Rams -- Will BC coach take their offense back to the Stone Age?
  6. New Mexico Lobos -- If they were dogs named Boo, would those be cheers?

Mountain West Conference (west division)

  1. San Diego State Aztecs -- all pieces to defensive pyramid scheme are still in place
  2. Nevada Wolf Pack -- Where'd the r-u-n go at UNR?
  3. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors -- A rainbow lasts longer than a Todd Graham tenure
  4. Fresno State Bulldogs -- That green V must stand for "Vhat's happening?"
  5. San Jose State Spartans -- Can ex-Conjunction Boy Starkel get them untracked?
  6. UNLV Rebels -- without a cause, or a real stadium, now that they play indoors

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The MWC is among the four leagues that will not play until spring. One of the few advantages to that is the fact that the Pac 12 is doing the same, which could lead to some big games yet to be scheduled. The AFA will still take the field twice during the fall season, to keep its rivalries against the other military academies intact. The Rebs new home, Allegiant Stadium, may be located in a town called Paradise, but it looks like eternal damnation for bad football fans.

Pac 12 Conference (north division)

  1. Oregon Ducks* -- perhaps overbilled, without a proven OL or QB
  2. California Golden Bears -- new OC Musgrave tries to resurrect moribund offense
  3. Washington Huskies -- rebuilding, unlike the rest of Seattle
  4. Washington State Cougars -- offensive coaches to Borghi: "Here's looking at you, kid"
  5. Stanford Cardinal -- tree-men have been running like saps for past 3 seasons
  6. Oregon State Beavers -- Corvallis remains the village of the dammed

Pac 12 Conference (south division)

  1. USC Trojans -- Saturdays are tougher on Coach Clay than they were on Mr. Bill
  2. Arizona State Sun Devils -- need some sparky performances from new tailbacks
  3. Utah Utes -- a little too uteful, with only 2 defensive starters returning
  4. Arizona Wildcats -- The bear that is down must have landed on top of them
  5. Colorado Buffaloes -- bison off more than they can chew
  6. UCLA Bruins -- Kelly's visor is but one of many holes on this team

* projected conference champion

Outlook: We already know that this league will again be unrepresented in the CFP, due to the simple fact that they're not playing until spring. Even if they were eligible for the final four, their only hope would be a big season from untested Fighting Duck QB Tyler Shough. Coach David Shaw had built up many years of good will at Stanford, but one wonders if that school's patience is wearing thin after several years without addressing the demise of his ground game. Even a division title might not save Trojan coach Clay Helton, who has had enough success to find a more enviable position by now.

Southeastern Conference (east division)

  1. Florida Gators* -- TE Pitts chews up and spits out would-be tacklers
  2. Georgia Bulldogs -- last offensive player out, turn out the lights in Georgia
  3. Tennessee Volunteers -- LB Henry To'o To'o is to'o go'od
  4. Kentucky Wildcats -- QB competition is looking yucky at UK
  5. Missouri Tigers -- Show-Me State has literally seen nothing yet
  6. South Carolina Gamecocks -- in tougher shape than Michael Vick's pooches
  7. Vanderbilt Commodores -- no stars, despite lots of experience on defense

Southeastern Conference (west division)

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide -- pachyderms pack a wallop with RB Najee Harris
  2. Texas A&M Aggies -- Conjunction Boys have many ands, few buts this year
  3. LSU Tigers -- changing too many stripes, with too little time to do it
  4. Auburn Tigers -- Can all-new OL protect the bones of Bo Nix?
  5. Ole Miss Rebels -- QB Plumlee says, "What a good boy am I?"
  6. Mississippi State Bulldogs -- Can mud puppies exist with no ground game?
  7. Arkansas Razorbacks -- new coaching staff can't go whole hog overnight

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The Gators have come such a long way under Dan Mullen, a Bama-UF championship game could actually be exciting this time around. UGA and LSU have lost too much talent to win their respective divisions again, but with 12 New Year's Six berths divided up among only six conferences, the SEC could easily claim five of those.

Sun Belt Conference (east division)

  1. Appalachian State Mountaineers* -- still have all the ingredients at Kidd Brewer Stadium
  2. Georgia Southern Eagles -- Statesboro Blues give the green light to efficient passer Wertz
  3. Troy Trojans -- Old College Troy needs a better defensive effort
  4. Georgia State Panthers -- Two freshman QBs get their turn at old Turner Field
  5. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers -- no cleer path to short-term success

Sun Belt Conference (west division)

  1. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns -- QB Levi Lewis wears the pants in this family
  2. Arkansas State Red Wolves -- Arky State needs some more animals on defense
  3. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks -- belligerent birds have a 3-way battle at quarterback
  4. South Alabama Jaguars -- not enough moving offensive parts in Mobile
  5. Texas State Bobcats -- as talented as their namesake, Goldthwait

* projected conference champion

Outlook: App State should have little trouble winning its third consecutive Sun Belt championship, and a share of that title for a fifth year in a row. GASO goes for three straight head-to-head against the Mountaineers, but cannot be as consistent over the course of the season. The Panthers could play spoiler, as their quarterbacks mature and their defense jells over the course of the season.

 

BOOBY-TRAP BALLGAMES

The College Football Czar has no idea who he will end up picking to win the following games, but he highlights them now as possible upsets which threaten to ensnare some of the nation's most prominent programs. The favored teams appear in bold face.

Sept. 26

Mississippi State at LSU -- The defending national champions have to replace a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Will first-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini be prepared for everything Mike Leach will throw at him in his first game as head coach at MSU?

Oct. 14

Appalachian State at Georgia Southern -- Since joining the Sun Belt Conference, the Mountaineers have dominated the entire league except for GASO, which has won the last two games in this series. Last year's 24-21 Eagle upset, also on a weekday, was App State's only defeat during a 13-1 campaign. Otherwise, it might have been ASU, and not Memphis, squaring off against Penn State in the Cotton Bowl.

Oct. 24

Oklahoma at TCU -- The Sooners' run to the CFP was almost derailed last year, when they received a 28-24 mid-November scare from Texas Christian. Horned Frogs' freshman scrambler Max Duggan did not have a productive day in that near-upset, but he should be well seasoned by this, the midway point of his sophomore year. If the current Big XII scheduling holds up, this will be OU's next game after their Red River Rivalry against Texas.

TBA

Penn State at Indiana -- If the Nittany Lions haven't adequately addressed their problems on pass defense, this figures to be the most dangerous game on their schedule. Versatile Hoosier WR Whop Philyor will be out to redeem himself after multiple uncharacteristic blunders in last year's 34-27 defeat. PSU holds a commanding 22-1 lead in this series, but nine of those victories have been by seven points or fewer.

Boise State at Hawaii -- Keeping a team focused throughout a spring season would probably be tough enough, without a road trip to Honolulu thrown in. The Rainbow Warriors have a coaching change to contend with, but it really shouldn't be much of a transition from Nick Rolovich to Todd Graham, at least schematically speaking. The Broncos have lost their entire defensive line from last year, and that includes Curtis Weaver, the Mountain West's all-time sack leader, who played a hybrid DE/OLB position. They'll need to restock quickly, if they want to disrupt the UH offense before sophomore slinger Chevan Cordeiro can get rid of the ball.

Stanford at Oregon -- The Fighting Ducks have had several very damaging losses to their rivals from Palo Alto in the past 20 years, including one they blew in 2018 when freshman tailback C.J. Verdell fumbled while struggling to pick up a relatively unimportant first down with less than a minute to play. The Cardinal seem like a nonfactor in the Pac 12 these days, but is David Shaw really going to watch his program deteriorate for another year, or is his mellow personality just a convenient cover for an ambush?

 

 

BOWL PROJECTIONS

Just for fun, the Czar takes his best preseason guesses at how the postseason might have turned out, if they had actually happened as planned.

Bowl ..... Date ..... Matchup ..... Projection

Rose ..... Jan. 1 ..... Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist ..... Alabama vs. Ohio St.

Sugar ..... Jan. 1 ..... Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist ..... Clemson vs. Florida

CFP Championship ..... Jan. 11 ..... Rose winner vs. Sugar winner ..... Alabama vs. Clemson

Cure ..... Dec. 19 ..... AAC/Sun Belt/MAC ..... S. Florida vs. Troy

Alamo ..... Dec. 29 ..... Big XII vs. Pac 12 ..... Iowa St. vs. Washington

Cotton ..... Dec. 30 ..... At-large vs. At-large ..... Oregon vs. Oklahoma

Sun ..... Dec.31 ..... Pac 12 vs. ACC ..... Arizona vs. Louisville

Peach ..... Jan. 1 ..... Atlanta ..... Wisconsin vs. Cincinnati

Citrus ..... Jan. 1 ..... Big Ten vs. SEC ..... Minnesota vs. LSU

Outback ..... Jan. 1 ..... Big Ten vs. SEC ..... Penn St. vs. Tennessee

Fiesta ..... Jan. 2 .... At-large vs. At-large ..... Wyoming vs. USC

Orange ..... Jan. 2 ..... At-large vs. At-large ..... N. Carolina vs. Georgia

Bahamas ..... TBA ..... MAC vs. CUSA ..... Miami OH vs. So. Miss

Frisco ..... TBA ..... AAC vs. CUSA/MAC/MWC ..... Houston vs. Air Force

New Mexico ..... TBA ..... CUSA/MWC/AAC ..... Charlotte vs. Utah St.

Boca Raton ..... TBA ..... MAC/AAC/CUSA ..... C. Florida vs. Fla. Atlantic

Camellia ..... TBA ..... MAC vs. Sun Belt ..... No. Illinois vs. Arkansas St.

Las Vegas ..... TBA ..... Pac 12 vs. MWC ..... Arizona St. vs. Texas A&M

New Orleans..... TBA ..... Sun Belt vs. CUSA ..... La.-Lafayette vs. La. Tech

Gasparilla ..... TBA ..... AAC/ACC.SEC ..... Georgia St.* vs. Toledo*

Hawaii ..... TBA ..... MWC/AAC/CUSA ..... Hawaii vs. Marshall

Independence ..... TBA ..... Pac 12 vs. Army ..... Ohio* vs. Army

Quick Lane ..... TBA ..... Big Ten vs. maC ..... Fresno St.* vs. C. Michigan

Military ..... TBA ..... ACC vs. AAC ..... Liberty* vs. Tulane

Pinstripe ..... TBA ..... Big Ten vs. ACC ..... Michigan St. vs. Va. Tech

Texas ..... TBA ..... Big XII vs. SEC ..... Baylor vs. Missouri

Holiday ..... TBA ..... ACC vs. Pac 12 ..... Pitt vs. Utah

Cactus ..... TBA ..... Big XII/Big Ten/BYU ..... Nebraska vs. Brigham Young

Cheez-It ..... TBA ..... Big XII vs. ACC ..... Texas vs. Notre Dame

First Responders ..... TBA ..... AAC/ACC/Big XII ..... Nc State vs. Kansas St.

Music City ..... TBA ..... SEC vs. Big Ten ..... Northwestern vs. Auburn

Redbox ..... TBA ..... Big Ten vs. Pac 12 ..... Iowa vs. Washington St.

Duke...s Mayo ..... TBA ..... ACC vs. SEC ..... Virginia vs. Indiana

Liberty ..... TBA ..... SEC vs. Big XII ..... Mississippi St. vs. TCU

Arizona ..... TBA ... MWC vs. MAC ..... Nevada vs. W. Michigan

Birmingham ..... TBA ..... AAC/ACC.SEC ..... Memphis vs. Duke

Gator ..... TBA ..... SEC vs. ACC ..... Ole Miss vs. Florida St.

Famous Idaho Potato ..... TBA ..... MAC vs. MWC ..... Buffalo vs. Boise St.

Armed Forces ..... TBA ..... AAC/CUSA/Big XII ..... SMU vs. Oklahoma St.

Lendingtree ..... TBA ..... MAC vs. Sun Belt ..... Kent St. vs. Appalachian St.

Fenway ..... TBA ..... ACC vs. AAC ..... Miami vs. Temple

LA ..... TBA ..... Pac 12 vs. MWC ..... California vs. San Diego St.

Myrtle Beach ..... TBA ..... AAC/CUSA/MAC/Sun Belt ..... Navy vs. Ga. Southern

* At-large bid opens due to lack of eligible team to fulfill commitment

The College Football Czar