The Original College Football Czar

2021 Season Preview

a sports publication from The Shinbone

by Daniel Clark 

Description: The College Football Czar

Welcome to the 2021 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.

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COACHING MOVES

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

Jedd Fisch ..... Arizona ..... QB coach N.E. Patriots ..... Kevin Sumlin

Butch Jones ..... Arkansas State ..... asst. head coach Alabama ..... Blake Anderson

Bryan Harsin ..... Auburn ..... head coach Boise St. ..... Gus Malzahn

Andy Avalos ..... Boise State ..... def. coord. Oregon ..... Bryan Harsin

Maurice Linguist ..... Buffalo ..... DB coach Dallas Cowboys ..... Lance Leipold

Gus Malzahn ..... Central Florida ..... head coach Auburn ..... Josh Heupel

Bret Bielema ..... Illinois ..... LB coach N.Y. Giants ..... Lovie Smith

Lance Leipold ..... Kansas ..... head coach Buffalo ..... Fewer Miles

Terry Bowden ..... La.-Monroe ..... grad assistant Clemson (no, really) ..... Matt Viator

Charles Huff ..... Marshall ..... RB coach Alabama ..... Doc Holliday

Tim Albin ..... Ohio ..... off. coord. Ohio ..... Frank Solich

Kane Wommack ..... South Alabama ..... def. coord. Indiana ..... Steve Campbell

Shane Beamer ..... South Carolina ..... asst. head coach Oklahoma ..... Will Muschamp

Will Hall ..... Southern Miss ..... off. coord. Tulane ..... Jay Hopson

Josh Heupel ..... Tennessee ..... head coach Central Florida ..... Jeremy Pruitt

Steve Sarkisian ..... Texas ..... off. coord. Alabama ..... Tom Herman

Blake Anderson ..... Utah State ..... head coach Arkansas St. ..... Gary Andersen

Clark Lea ..... Vanderbilt ..... def. coord. Notre Dame ..... Derek Mason

 

ROLLING HEAD WATCH

The following coaches will have a difficult time hanging onto their noggins through the 2021 season:

Herm Edwards, Arizona State -- If not for his surprising success in his first two years in Tempe, the longtime NFL coach would probably have already been dismissed as a result of his having deliberately and habitually violated COVID-inspired restrictions on contacts with recruits. That might not sound like much, but it did give his program a distinct upperhand against any schools that played by the rules. In addition, the veracity of the accusations is beyond any reasonable doubt, because the NCAA has been furnished with a complete dossier of the infractions, apparently by a disgruntled assistant coach. ASU already has three coaches on leave and several others under investigation. How long before they decide to pitchfork the whole crew and start over?

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan -- Since being hired in 2015, the former Wolverine QB has gone 0-5 against Ohio State -- a team against which the maize and blue supposedly had a rivalry at one time. Because of that streak of futility against OSU, he has yet to play for a Big Ten championship. He won his first bowl game, but has since gone 0-4. Three 10-win seasons and a record of 49-22 since arriving in Ann Arbor don't amount to all that much, as long every season continues to end in catastrophe. The former 49er coach recently sold his $13 million house in the Bay Area. He might also be betting his house on his Wolverines' fate in this 2021 season.

Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee -- The former Bama quarterback and 15-year head coach at MTSU has had back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the East division of Conference USA, largely because of his team's offensive struggles since the graduation of his son, Brent. He's brought Brent back this year, as a new addition to his coaching staff, as graduate transfer Bailey Hockman arrives from Nc State to play quarterback. What makes Stockstill's situation more dire is the appearance of disarray on his sideline last season, as memorably characterized by a series at the end of the first half against Army, when the befuddled Blue Raiders allowed the clock to expire on them at the 7-yard-line. An MT-head moment for the ages.

Thomas Hammock, Northern Illinois -- Like Stockstill, the third-year NIU coach is looking for a lifeline from a transfer at quarterback, in this case Rocky Lombardi from Michigan State. Hammock expects to swing back after an 0-6 finish in an abbreviated 2020 season, which has dropped his overall mark to 5-13. Mind you, that winless mark came exclusively against MAC opposition, whereas this season the Huskies start with consecutive games against Georgia Tech, Wyoming and Michigan. The dangerous part comes in Week 4, when Hammock's team could be induced to take a dirt nap in a trap game against Division I-AA Maine.

Jeff Brohm, Purdue -- The highly successful Western Kentucky coach seemed to be cultivating a winner in West Lafayette when he ended the 2017 season with a Foster Farms Bowl victory over Arizona. Ever since then, it's as if his Boilermakers were listening to Brohm's lullaby, going 12-19 in three seasons. His running game has sleepwalked through the past two campaigns, finishing dead last in the Big Ten in each. With rival Indiana on the rise, PU's patience may be nearing its end.

Dino Babers, Syracuse -- The up-tempo offensive coach arrived at SU with his slogan, "Orange is the new fast," which he probably thought of during his successful stint at Bowling Green. Since enjoying a 10-win season in 2018, however, all his teams have done fast is fade. Last year's 1-10 record was weighed down by the nation's sixth-worst offense, which finished last in the ACC in rushing, passing, and points scored. Contrary to the slogan, orange is never fast, but Babers O has been running more slowly than an orange popsicle on the pavement.

 

WHAT'S NEW IN 2021

* Normalcy, sort of -- Is it really over? We appear to be headed for a standard season involving ten Division I-A conferences, whose teams are slated to play twelve regular season games apiece. Many of us may actually be able to attend those games, and perhaps even pay for beer with money! With the rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, however, has come a whole new wave of concern about being concerned. So don't be terribly surprised if we see a return of the dreaded facial jockstraps, and limited capacity at sporting events.

* NIL, better than nothing -- It's hard to imagine college football surviving if the players are ever paid for playing, but why they haven't been able to profit from their names, images and likenesses has always struck the College Football Czar as terribly wrong. In fact, if the NCAA wants to bloviate about injustice, it needs not have looked any farther. After all, Olympic athletes have been allowed to earn endorsement money without affecting their amateur status for decades. Until now, The Powers That Be Stupid have forbidden players from providing themselves any honest income. This of course has encouraged cheating, and surely nudged a lot of star players out of college a year early. Here's hoping the new NIL rules serve as a mitigating factor against both of these circumstances.

One caveat, however, is that the new NIL rules give the players a material motivation to beg even harder for attention through conspicuous displays of unsportsmanlike conduct. Thus, although NIL doesn't amount to pay-for-play, it will bring the character of the college game closer to that of the NFL, which is nothing short of tragic.

* Realignment -- Just when the tectonic plates of the college football world seemed to have settled into place, the SEC caused a major rumble by enticing Oklahoma and Texas away from the Big XII. This cannot help but set off a chain reaction that will ultimately affect every other conference. Starting perhaps as early as 2023, the SEC will become a 16-team conference. You might remember the College Football Czar writing at length in seasons past about how the WAC doomed itself by over-expanding to 16 teams back in 1996. Well, the season is longer now, and a nine-game conference schedule makes a 16-team conference easily doable. Like the old WAC, the SEC will likely divide into four quadrants, or "pods" as is now the preferred nomenclature. Each team could play each of the other three teams in its own pod, and two teams from each of the other three pods. That way, you never go two years without seeing a conference opponent. That sure beats the current format, in which Florida and Auburn only meet whenever the orbits of Neptune and Pluto intersect.

* So long, Solich -- The Ohio Bobcats will have a new head coach for the first time in 17 years, because 76-year-old Frank Solich has suddenly retired due to health concerns. Solich, who finishes with a record of 173-101, had gone 58-19 at Nebraska from 1998-2003, before being fired by athletic director Steve Pederson. You remember Pederson, who, as A.D. at the University of Pittsburgh, decided that the school would stop branding itself as Pitt. The Cornhuskers hired him away in 2002, and they've never recovered. They could look at the bright side, however. At least they still have "N".

* OT rules getting even dumber -- Now, the scoring team will be required to go for two after a touchdown starting in the second overtime, instead of the third. The third extra frame will consist of the conversion attempt only, as was previously the case starting with OT number five. At what point will the NCAA pull an NHL, and decide that its new overtime rules are so insufficient to determine a winner that it has to add a new column to the standings, because the losing team in overtime hasn't really lost a football game?

* Herbie goes buggy -- Okay, so maybe Kirk Herbstreit's peculiar behavior isn't exactly new, but it sure has accelerated since last preseason. The longtime College GameDay co-host had been a big reason why that had been the only enjoyable studio show on ESPN, mostly because he, along with Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso, appeared genuine in his upbeat and jocular approach to the game. Sadly, last year's wave of wokery has sucked Herbstreit under.

Whether under indirect pressure or direct order, the former Buckeye receiver got on board with the sports media's gloomy and dishonest anti-American narrative of "systemic" racism. In an impassioned plea for nothing in particular, the visibly confused commentator struggled through a morass of his own mopiness in hopeless search of an expressible thought. While inflicting an emotional breakdown upon himself, he delivered an incomprehensible oration in which he seemed to say that evil policemen are hunting down and killing young black men just because they're wearing Nike gear. "We gotta do better," he warbled.

If the thing we gotta do better is sulk, Herbie has certainly held his end up. Even in June, after most COVID restrictions had been lifted, he was delivering Zoom commentaries with Blair Witch Project video quality, looking as if he was barricaded in his basement awaiting Y2K, with his long, unshaven face frozen in the expression of a child who's just been told there's no Easter Bunny.

It's time for Herbie, and those likewise affected, to reconnect with the real world. He has spent his entire adult life in a majority-black sport. If he lived in a dystopian apartheid state, he'd surely have noticed long before 2020. There are good reasons why our nation serves as a beacon to people around the world, and is the most hated enemy of totalitarian oppressors everywhere. If there's an actual injustice he'd like to point out, he'd find the vast majority of Americans perfectly willing to listen. He might have noticed, however, that Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe and the rest of the kneelers never have spelled out what, apart from undeserved riches and notoriety, they actually want. If you can't be happy in America, you simply can't be happy. What kind of a sick person would sign up for that? The kind who's afraid of losing his gig with the Disney Family of Networks, perhaps.

* Mountain West wanderers -- Both San Diego State and Hawaii are in the process of moving into their new stadiums, but in the meantime, the Aztecs will continue to play at what is now called Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, which is the home stadium of the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer. (Isn't "dignity health" a euphemism for croaking people?) Its capacity of 27,000 is not bad for an interim facility, though less than the 35,000-seat stadium that is now under construction. The working title of the new venue is Aztec Stadium, although by the time it is finished will probably be renamed My Pillow Park, or something. The Rainbow Warriors are in for a rougher transition, as their 2021 home games will be held at their practice field, the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex. This stadium is not named after the golfer who infamously hit the ball twice on the same swing at the 1985 U.S. Open, but it is nevertheless a disaster. Having only 4,100 seats, it will be expanded to 9,000 for this season, and 15,000 in 2022. Worst of all, the stands are separated from the field by a running track. The New Aloha Stadium, with a capacity of 35,000, will hopefully be ready by 2023.

* Online Irish only -- Notre Dame's Week 2 home opener against Toledo will be available only on Peacock, NBC's new streaming service, and will not be shown on network or cable television. This is not likely to go over well with the Fighting Irish faithful, especially when they aren't able to complain to anybody but an online chat robot.

* Women disappearing from the sidelines -- The predictable outcome of the Me Too movement is that attractive women have been disappearing from television, as you've probably noticed from network and cable news in recent years. Heck, they're even frowned upon in the modeling business anymore. On college football broadcasts, sideline reporters are becoming unmistakably, increasingly male. Just in case there's any doubt whom the feminists consider to be their real enemies.

 

WHAT'S NOT NEW

* Mindless playoff expansion-mongering -- The CFP committee is supposedly preparing to expand the playoff to 12 teams. Why? With the disruptive powers of both the coronavirus and Antifa waning, the committee apparently decided that somebody else had to take the lead in this year's effort to destroy college football. Naturally, the masochistic anti-sports sports media love the idea. The new scheme calls for inviting the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus six at-large teams. The top four league champs would get a first-round bye, while the other eight teams play for berths in the quarterfinals.

The problems with this are numerous and glaring. For starters, it seems designed specifically to create a clamor to expand the field even further. The determination of which team is #4 and which is #5 would immediately become controversial, leading to an elimination of bye weeks by expanding the field to 16. Then, there would be a demand that all ten conference champions be invited. This in turn would provoke the major conference contenders to object that the #4 team out of the SEC is bound to be much better than the champion from the MAC. There are reasons why playoffs at the lower divisions of college football are constantly expanding.

In Division I-A, there is already a postseason, but the bowl games would not be able to coexist with an extended tournament format. The group of five schools may say they want to be able to play for a national championship, but none of them is about to make it through a four-round tournament against superior competition. At least the bowl games make an effort to produce competitive matchups, whereas a majority of playoff games would be total mismatches. Last year, surprise MAC champion Ball State scored a big Arizona Bowl victory over Mountain West champion San Jose State, capping their most successful season of all time. Would it have been better if they'd gotten the phlegm beaten out of them by Oklahoma in the first round of a playoff?

Furthermore, an expanded playoff would eliminate the regular-season blockbusters that are so vital to the college game's popularity. Once both Auburn and Alabama knew they were playoff bound, the Iron Bowl would be reduced to the equivalent of an NFL Week 17 game. Not only wouldn't the matchup be very compelling anymore, but the teams would be inclined to play an awkward, tentative game, rather than give anything away should they meet again in the postseason.

Perhaps it's time for a history lesson. The purpose of the BCS was to try to match the nation's two best teams in a bowl game, so that we'd know who was best, and there would be no more "mythical" national championship. One slight problem; it wasn't always overwhelmingly apparent that the best team was one of the two that had been paired up. There was often a third team that might have been best, whose absence from the BCS championship only created more controversy. The CFP was an improvement upon the BCS in that it matched the top four teams in the year's two biggest bowl games, and had the winners play in a championship game, as an addendum to the bowl season (then known as the "plus-one" format). There was the predictable residual squawking about who should have been the #4 team, but no serious doubt remained that the best team was among those selected by the CFP committee. The problem is solved. Fans and media should be happy about that. So why must everyone be bent on creating a whole new problem?

College football is the only sport that makes a point of doing its best to crown its greatest team as national champion. If you'd rather see a team stink for the first third of the season, squirm into a wild card berth after failing to compete in its conference, and become champion with a winning percentage under .700, then you have the entire rest of the sports world to give you what you're looking for. Leave this game alone.

* Replay officials don't understand goal-line extension -- It's one thing for the on-field officials to blow a call by misunderstanding a rule, but for replay officials, who have plenty of time to look the rule up, there's no excuse. At least once every season, the replay officials award a team a touchdown that it should not have had, because they don't bother to understand the goal-line extension rule. The rule says that when a ball carrier reaches the ball beyond the plane of the goal line, the ball does not need to be in-bounds, just as long as the ball carrier still is. If neither the ball nor the ball carrier is in bounds when the ball breaks the plane of the goal line, it is not a touchdown. The ball should instead be marked at the point where it crossed over the sideline. Nevertheless, the replay officials have made a habit of overruling the on-field officials on this point, and awarding a touchdown when a ball carrier who is out of bounds reaches out with the ball and touches the pylon, which is also out of bounds. As if this weren't bad enough, it's the referee who is forced to announce the overturned call, explaining in so many words that the play is a touchdown because the pylon is magical, even though you can see in his face that he knows it isn't true.

* Weak Zero -- The season gets underway with four games between Division I-A opponents on the last Saturday of August. The highlight of the day is the early game between Nebraska and Illinois. The rest of the schedule consists of Uconn at Fresno State, Hawaii at UCLA, and UTEP at New Mexico State. The Kickoff Classic, it ain't.

 

LARDHEAD OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINEES

* Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte -- Everybody enjoys a story of redemption, including the College Football Czar, who wishes coach Steve Sarkisian well in his first season as head coach of the Longhorns. How he's gotten there, however, is more than a little perplexing. Tom Herman had gone 32-18 in four years in Austin. He was 4-0 in bowl games, including a victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2018 season. Herman's ballyhooed predecessor, Charlie Strong, had only gone 16-21 in three seasons, without a bowl appearance. How Herman could have been on the hot seat defies all reasonable expectations. Of course, Texas thinks its natural place is as a nationally contending program. Maybe they figured Herman had taken them as far as he could, and they needed to come up with a great hire in order to take that next step. Enter Sarkisian, who had been fired as head coach at USC after a series of alcohol-related incidents in 2015, including his apparently having shown up drunk to coach a game against Arizona State. His success as an assistant to Nick Saban at Alabama since that time has been remarkable, but hiring him away for his first head coaching gig since USC is quite a gamble, especially when Herman's .640 winning percentage has been deemed insufficient. Even if Sark succeeds, as most people would define that, was this really a wise move?

* The Big Ten and Pac 12 -- who had initially postponed their 2020 seasons to the spring of 2021, allegedly out of fear of a virus that very rarely has any affect at all on people of college age who are in good physical condition. They reversed course months later, when it became evident that the other conferences were not following them down this path of arrogant arse-headedness. Heaven only knows how much TV revenue they lost, and their dithering caused countless players to opt out of the season altogether, but the important thing is that they showed how concerned they were about being concerned.

* Expansion-mongers motivated by little-guy-itis -- Small schools like Coastal Carolina should be able to win the national championship, they say. The College Football Czar realizes that we are living in the era of "my truth," in which there are eleventy-fourteen and two-thirds genders and everything, but doesn't objective reality count for anything anymore? Even after CCU lost one of the puniest bowl games of the season against Liberty, those sports media blowhards who fancy themselves the champions of the downtrodden couldn't help fantasizing about an expanded playoff format that would have given the Chanticleers a shot at the national championship. Stop and consider that this would require them to win four consecutive games against ranked teams, and probably three of them among the Top Five.

Look at Boise State's 2006 Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma, one of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport. The Broncos emptied their bag of tricks on the field to topple a notoriously underachieving OU team, finally pulling off on a Statue of Liberty play to score a two-point conversion in overtime to win, 43-42. What if this had only been a first-round game, and BSU still needed to defeat USC, Ohio State and Florida in order to win the national championship? There's no way in the world they could have done it.

We all know that the best team doesn't always win. In every other sport, this results in non-exceptional teams winning the championship. The St. Louis Cardinals won the 2006 World Series with a regular season record of 83-78. The New York Giants were only 9-7 before going on to win Super Bowl XLVI. College football is supposed to be different. It's not a league, mind you. The whole purpose of contriving a national championship game was to determine to the surest degree possible which team is really the best. An upset-riddled playoff in which a four-loss team prevailed would not accomplish that. In any case, when one of the lower playoff seeds does win the CFP, it is not going to be a team from a group-of-five conference. It's going to be some 8-4 Auburn team that finished third in its division. There will be no "hooray for the little guy" tickertape parades when that happens.

Furthermore, in a 12-team playoff, there will usually be no more than one group-of-five team to qualify. Even in a 32-team format, those five leagues would only get a combined total of six or seven teams in the field. In what way would that improve their circumstance over what they now have in the bowl games? During the last bowl season at the end of 2019, the MAC secured seven postseason berths, resulting in three victories, including potential program-defining wins for Buffalo and Kent State. In a 12-team playoff, none of this league's teams would have qualified. If the playoff were expanded to include all conference champions, then 8-6 Miami Ohio would have had the honor of getting pulverized in the first round, perhaps by the likes of Oregon or Georgia. The other six teams would have stayed home and been bored like the rest of us, with no bowl games to watch between Christmas and New Year's. Hooray for the little guy!

* Reggie Bush -- The former USC superstar running back asked the NCAA to return his 2005 Heisman Trophy, which had been stripped from him for his receipt of illegal benefits. They said no, and rightly so. The Trojan tailback based his appeal on the NCAA's new NIL rules, which in fact are irrelevant. First of all, the fact that the rules have changed today does not make it okay to have broken the rules yesterday, so even if what Bush had done then were now legal, that wouldn't matter. It's a moot point, however, because Bush had simply accepted large sums of money for playing college football, which remains as illegal now as it was then. He cannot now undo that, any more than he can undo that ludicrous lateral he threw against Texas in the BCS Championship.

* The LA Bowl -- Not only is the committee for this new postseason game inviting a lawsuit by incorporating something very similar to an upside-down Nike swoosh in its logo, but it has signed a naming rights deal with the ABC late night host and West Coast leading distributor of unfunniness Jimmy Kimmel. Yes, the game is now officially known as the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. In the name of Poulan-Weedeater, how about a little dignity? Until now, Kimmel's closest connection to athletics was that he lost the worst game of basketball in recorded history to girthy conservative Texas senator Ted Cruz, during which the two engaged in arguments over health care policy. Uproarious stuff, that. Upon losing, Kimmel remarked, "I still think you're a terrible senator." Is there any way that sounded witty when his staff came up with it? No wonder his show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, employs an exclamation point, just like the yard signs for every lame presidential candidate (Hillary! Jeb!). If there are people who actually tune in to it, that's their problem. The rest of us, through no fault of our own, are going to have this smugmonster foisted upon us for three and a half hours. That's no way to promote a football game.

* The College Football Czar -- who was just reviewing last season's preview issue, and realized that he picked Coastal Carolina dead last among the 130 teams in Division I-A football. Honestly, it made perfect sense at the time. I mean, they're teal!

 

THE CZAR DECREES ...

If the College Football Czar could issue proclamations changing college football, these are some examples of what those would entail:

* Start making sense! -- In May of 2020, a man who was probably about the eleventh-worst person in Minnesota was killed by a cop who ranked somewhere in the Bottom Five. As a result, we are no longer allowed to have Eskimo Pies. Even though it was an extremely unusual circumstance, the offending officer was convicted, and the trial made absolutely no suggestion of any possible racist motive, the entire sports world piled on to declare this an example of "systemic racism," and lecture us about what a rotten, unjust country we supposedly have. In college football, many conferences, and especially the ACC, aired outrageous PSAs in which the obviously coerced coaches took turns indirectly slandering America with vague blather about "social injustice" during their cringe-inducing hostage video presentations. The fact that the event that supposedly triggered this campaign has utterly failed to validate it has not resulted in so much as a "never mind," let alone an apology.

But that's not all! Athletes, coaches, media personalities, and some fans are now having their lives destroyed over decade-old social media posts, even as we are excusing the Taliban on the basis that 9-11 was so long ago. People now refer to individuals with plural pronouns, as in "to each their own," to avoid offending those who are confused about which sex they are. So, now we must pretend to believe that a man is capable of becoming several women? Contrary to the definition of their profession, actors are being forced to apologize for having pretended to be things they're not. Perhaps most strangely, it becomes more evident by the day that many of those in the sports media actually hate the sports they cover, and seek to play a role in destroying them. If people don't suddenly start making a lot more sense in the next 13 minutes, the College Football Czar will have no choice but to hit them with gigantic zucchinis until they explode.

* De-gamble-fy the game -- The relation between sports and gambling has become uncomfortably consensual in recent years, and it's easy to see why. By this point, the NFL would be in danger of collapsing, if not for the support of people who are tracking their bets and their fantasy players. College football, however, remains enjoyable on its own, but is made less so by the conspicuous intrusion of annoying, irrelevant scumbucketry. If you've seen the abrasive, gamble-centric Canadian Football League halftime show, with its Idiocracy-inspired "You Got Screwed" segment explaining to gamblers who's responsible for their lost bets, that's exactly what college football needs to avoid. As if it weren't obnoxious enough, the panelists holler at us as if they didn't have any microphones in the studio. Apparently, the gambling lardheads watching at home are incapable of maintaining an attention span without the sound waves from their TVs constantly stinging their faces. Real football fans don't need this. Don't assault us with a bunch of mindless blather at 300 decibels about which team has covered in its last four night games as a road favorite on artificial turf. Just get out of the way and put the game on.

* No NIL naughty business -- Endorsement deals consistent with the new NIL rules should need to be arranged between the sponsors and the individual athletes. For an example of what should not be done, take Brigham Young, where energy bar-maker Built Brands is partnering with the university to pay the tuition for all walk-on players, without yet knowing who they are. That's not compensation for name, image and likeness usage. Those are just under-the-table scholarships, in circumvention of the 85-scholarship limit that has done so much to improve the competitive depth of the game.

* Walk the walk on unity; no need to talk With the NCAA, the sports media, and some football programs shamefully fomenting racial division, the College Football Czar found it encouraging that most teams embraced a far more innocent "unity" theme, but isn't that a bit redundant? I mean, you're a team. When you're all wearing the same uniform with the same logo, and driving toward the same goal, distinctions between black and white, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat are unimportant. If you want to further emphasize how united you are, stop committing selfish unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, take off your tackle-for-loss tiara, and continue to play for your team through the end of the season. Compared to that, sticking a "Bulldogs United" decal on your helmet says nothing.

 

TEAM RANKINGS, 1-130

1. Oklahoma (XII)

41. Florida St. (ACC)

81. W. Forest (ACC)

121. Bowl. Grn. (MAC)

2. Georgia (SEC)

42. Army (Ind.)

82. S. Carolina (SEC)

122. Umass (Ind.)

3. Cincinnati (AAC)

43. Arizona St. (P12)

83. Nebraska (B10)

123. Akron (MAC)

4. Oregon (P12)

44. Tulane (AAC)

84. Ga. Southern (SB)

124. Texas St. (SB)

5. Alabama (SEC)

45. N'western (B10)

85. Arizona (P12)

125. N. Texas (CUSA)

6. Clemson (ACC)

46. UAB (CUSA)

86. Navy (AAC)

126. Kansas (XII)

7. Ohio St. (B10)

47. Memphis (AAC)

87. Texas Tech (XII)

127. ULM (SB)

8. N. Carolina (ACC)

48. Va. Tech (ACC)

88. Miss. St. (SEC)

128. Uconn (Ind)

9. Iowa St. (XII)

49. Marshall (CUSA)

89. ULL (SB)

129. UTEP (CUSA)

10. Ole Miss (SEC)

50. Rutgers (B10)

90. Charlotte (CUSA)

130. N. Mex. St. (Ind.)

11. USC (P12)

51. Wyoming (MW)

91. Syracuse (ACC)

 

12. Miami (ACC)

52. UCLA (P12)

92. Tulsa (AAC)

 

13. Wisconsin (B10)

53. Georgia St. (SB)

93. Michigan St. (B10)

 

14. Texas A&M (SEC)

54. Tennessee (SEC)

94. FL Atl. (CUSA)

 

15. Notre Dame (Ind.)

55. Michigan (B10)

95. San Diego St. (MW)

 

16. Oklahoma St. (XII)

56. Kent St. (MAC)

96. W. Mich. (MAC)

 

17. Nevada (MW)

57. Colorado (P12)

97. New Mexico (MW)

 

18. Boston Coll. (ACC)

58. Purdue (B10)

98. S. Alabama (SB)

 

19. Florida (SEC)

59. Fresno St. (MW)

99. E. Carolina (AAC)

 

20. Utah (P12)

60. Buffalo (MAC)

100. Miami OH (MAC)

 

21. Penn St. (B10)

61. Kentucky (SEC)

101. Duke (ACC)

 

22. LSU (SEC)

62. Stanford (P12)

102. S. Florida (AAC)

 

23. Nc State (ACC)

63. Louisville (ACC)

103. So. Miss. (CUSA)

 

24. Indiana (B10)

64. Oregon St. (P12)

104. Colo. St. (MW)

 

25. Houston (AAC)

65. Kansas St. (XII)

105. Arkansas St. (SB)

 

26. Liberty (Ind.)

66. C. Florida (AAC)

106. C. Mich. (MAC)

 

27. Pitt (ACC)

67. Maryland (B10)

107. Troy (SB)

 

28. Minnesota (B10)

68. Ga. Tech (ACC)

108. SMU (AAC)

 

29. C. Carolina (SB)

69. Texas (XII)

109. Mid. Ten. (CUSA)

 

30. Boise St. (MW)

70. Wash. St. (P12)

110. Air Force (MW)

 

31. California (P12)

71. La. Tech (CUSA)

111. Illinois (B10)

 

32. BYU (Ind.)

72. Toledo (MAC)

112. Utah St. (MW)

 

33. Auburn (SEC)

73. W. Virginia (XII)

113. E. Mich. (MAC)

 

34. UTSA (CUSA)

74. Hawaii (MW)

114. W. Ky. (CUSA)

 

35. Virginia (ACC)

75. No. Illinois (MAC)

115. Vanderbilt (SEC)

 

36. Iowa (B10)

76. Arkansas (SEC)

116. Rice (CUSA)

 

37. San Jose St. (MW)

77. Baylor (XII)

117. UNLV (MW)

 

38. TCU (XII)

78. App. St. (SB)

118. Old Dom. (CUSA)

 

39. Ball St. (MAC)

79. Missouri (SEC)

119. Temple (AAC)

 

40. Washington (P12)

80. Ohio (MAC)

120. FL Int'l (CUSA)

 

 

CONFERENCE CAPSULES

American Athletic Conference

  1. Cincinnati Bearcats* -- could claw way into CFP, with valuable nonconference road games
  2. Houston Cougars -- need fewer sour notes from QB Clayton Tune
  3. Tulane Green Wave -- look to new coordinators to make a big splash
  4. Memphis Tigers -- gave opponents death in last 15 games in the Liberty Bowl
  5. Central Florida Knights -- still trumpeting QB Gabriel, but their defense keeps blowing it
  6. Navy Midshipmen -- far from the greatest, even with a goat on their sideline
  7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane -- lost their luster in brawl-marred bowl loss to bad team
  8. East Carolina Pirates - get their booty kicked for another long season
  9. South Florida Bulls -- With no bull rush, opposing offenses toro them a new one
  10. SMU Mustangs -- Bentley IV should reach the M-yard rushing mark this year
  11. Temple Owls -- Is Re-al the big cheese at quarterback this season?

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The College Football Czar would have preferred that this league remain split into divisions, so that at least the championship game would be played between two teams that had won something. Instead, it will almost surely be the Bearcats facing a team whose greatest accomplishment is having finished a very distant second, and probably winning a three-way tie-breaker to boot. Luke Fickell's UC club, if it has another undefeated regular season, should make it into the final four this time, for the following reasons: first, they would by then be 13-0 instead of 9-0, and second, they would have scored back-to-back road victories against Indiana and Notre Dame. Last year's abbreviated nonconference slate of Army and I-AA Austin Peay can't compare.

Atlantic Coast Conference (atlantic division)

  1. Clemson Tigers* -- Paw Boys must make an impression in their opener vs. Georgia
  2. Boston College Eagles -- composed QB Jurkovec has become the cool jerk on campus
  3. Nc State Wolfpack -- unsettled QB position makes RB Bam Knight their big hitter
  4. Florida State Seminoles -- Will Milton the Toaster add some pop to this offense?
  5. Louisville Cardinals -- two-headed QB Malik/Micale too often got in his own way in 2020
  6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons -- too much "con" to this D in recent years
  7. Syracuse Orange -- Otto tear it all down, starting with that stinkin dome, and start over

Atlantic Coast Conference (coastal division)

  1. North Carolina Tar Heels -- Howell could take a 3-hour tour behind this veteran OL
  2. Miami Hurricanes -- Prevailing winds are forecast throughout November schedule
  3. Pitt Panthers -- Izzy ready to carry their ground game, or iznty?
  4. Virginia Cavaliers -- dual-threat Armstrong getting stretched a little too far
  5. Virginia Tech Hokies/Gobblers -- Pokey offense needs to be shaken all about
  6. Georgia Tech Yellowjackets -- Ramblin Wreck continues a rough gear shift under Collins
  7. Duke Blue Devils -- fans must wish they'd gone down to Georgia, and stayed there

Outlook: Although the Czar still expects the Son of Clem to come through the conference title game, the gap should close somewhat between them and Coastal contenders UNC and Miami. For this league to challenge the SEC for supremacy, however, Florida State and Virginia Tech must return to traditional form, and that does not appear likely to happen anytime soon.

Big Ten Conference (east division)

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes* -- Many fans nationwide will jump on the Colum-bus if they start 2-0
  2. Penn State Nittany Lions -- could contend if they can keep their Nittany mitts on the ball
  3. Indiana Hoosiers -- lack of ground game keeps things from coming up roses in Bloomington
  4. Rutgers Scarlet Knights -- veteran Jersey Boys put on their big boy pants
  5. Michigan Wolverines -- maize and blue remain lost in a labyrinth of their own making
  6. Maryland Terrapins -- scheme doesn't exactly fit QB Tualia Tagovailoa tua-T
  7. Michigan State Spartans -- still no offensive thrust in East Lansing

Big Ten Conference (west division)

  1. Wisconsin Badgers -- Berger brings the beef back to their ground game
  2. Minnesota Golden Gophers -- Don't expect a hole lot of improvement on defense
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes -- depleted D could cost them in difficult owa-games
  4. Northwestern Wildcats -- Is Hilinski the missing link to their first title since '95?
  5. Purdue Boilermakers -- WR Bell beats opponents like the World's Largest Drum
  6. Nebraska Cornhuskers -- N-men are getting their Zs while forgetting to lie down
  7. Illinois Fighting Illini -- new coach is a Bielema, while others remain skeptical

* projected conference champion

Outlook: In spite of increased parity around the league, it should still be the Buckeyes and Badgers squaring off in the title game for the fourth time in seven years. The soupiness throughout the rest of the standings could provide for some big surprises from the likes of Purdue and Rutgers. With both Michigan schools in disarray, it won't take much of a turnaround to push PSU back into second place.

Big Twelve Conference

  1. Oklahoma Sooners* -- Home fans aren't hissing Rattler anymore
  2. Iowa State Cyclones -- veteran Clones are identical to last year's 9-game winners
  3. Oklahoma State Cowboys -- Mike's a man again, after regaining control of his club
  4. TCU Horned Frogs -- QB Max Duggan returns, with a deep and productive backfield
  5. Kansas State Wildcats -- Skylar hopes for a smoother ride than in injury-shortened 2020
  6. Texas Longhorns -- The naysayers are already circling around Sark in Austin
  7. West Virginia Mountaineers -- nation's #1 pass defense takes on Tua-II in season opener
  8. Baylor Bears -- cupboard is bare, because food makes the Waco kids sick!
  9. Texas Tech Red Raiders -- had enough luck to land Shough the Duck, who can chuck
  10. Kansas Jayhawks -- They'll see if less Fewer is more, or however that goes

* projected conference champion

Outlook: This disintegrating conference looks remarkably solid this year, with seven quality teams out of ten. ISU's team hasn't changed much this year, but its schedule has. Their significantly tougher second half includes a stop in Norman just before Thanksgiving. The team that upset the Cyclones in last season's opener, Louisiana-Lafayette, will be Steve Sarkisian�s first opponent as head coach of the Longhorns.

Conference USA (east division)

  1. Marshall Thundering Herd -- When this herd is spreading, there's no immunity
  2. Charlotte 49ers -- Pick-Cs misplaced their magic dust during a 2-4 semi-season
  3. Florida Atlantic Burrowing Owls -- skid to end 2020 nothing to bury their heads over
  4. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders -- a MUST-win season for MTSU coaching staff
  5. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers -- Too many I-AA transfers take them for a tumble
  6. Old Dominion Monarchs -- lion kings' circle of life spent 2020 in cryogenic suspension
  7. Florida International Golden Panthers -- 0-5 shortened season an exercise in FIU-tility

Conference USA (west division)

  1. UTSA Roadrunners* -- It won't take a super-genius to guide them to a league title
  2. UAB Blazers -- When you breathe fire, do you really need to play in Protective Stadium?
  3. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs -- can't run with big dogs, getting under 100 ypg on the ground
  4. Southern Miss Golden Eagles -- got a meltdown on their hands at M.M. Roberts Stadium
  5. Rice Owls -- Last year's D was owl right, but didn't face Arkansas, Houston, Texas
  6. North Texas Mean Green -- New DC Phil Bennett must do a bang-up job in Denton
  7. UTEP Miners -- still need lots of elp in the West Texas town of El Paso

* projected conference champion

Outlook: Texas-San Antonio is poised to become everybody's new favorite group-of-five team, but they won't win the division without a battle from Alabama-Birmingham, which opens its new 47,000-seat stadium at long last. The methodical moo-men should walk away with an East division that lacks an obvious challenger. ODU, the only Division I-A program to sit out last season entirely, will be happy just to get back on the field in its opener at Wake Forest.

Independents

  1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish -- So much turnover should be good for growing potatoes
  2. Liberty Flames -- far from lame, with 10 offensive starters back from last year's 10-1 team
  3. Brigham Young Cougars -- Power-five-heavy schedule gives them more to prove in Provo
  4. Army Black Knights -- QB Christian Anderson tries to give their story a happy ending
  5. Umass Minutemen -- a slew of big-league transfers answers Coach Bell's alarm
  6. Uconn Huskies -- using d-Conn on this dying program would be more humane
  7. New Mexico State Aggies -- How in tarnation did they get whupped by Tarleton State?

Outlook: The Fighting Irish are back to Independent status for the time being, which is a good thing, because they'd never contend for an ACC title with nine offensive starters gone. With what should be another outstanding season, Liberty puts itself up for bids for conference affiliation, whenever the anticipated chain-reaction realignment begins. BYU battles five Pac 12 opponents, as well as Boise State, Baylor, and former coach Bronco Mendenhall's Virginia Cavaliers.

Mid-American Conference (east division)

  1. Kent State Golden Flashes -- Senior dual-threat QB Dustin Crum takes the cake
  2. Buffalo Bulls -- RB Kevin Marks is the new ramrod on this cattle drive
  3. Ohio Bobcats -- Can mature team keep bobbing along without Coach Solich?
  4. Miami OH RedHawks -- OH Mi, what a foreboding road schedule
  5. Bowling Green Falcons -- BG might not have beaten the Bee Gees last season
  6. Akron Zips -- If they came in a zip file, you'd delete it without opening

Mid-American Conference (west division)

  1. Ball State Cardinals* -- return of entire OL keeps conference champs rolling
  2. Toledo Rockets -- too many participants in Toledo shuffle at quarterback
  3. Northern Illinois Huskies -- Lombardi isn't everything for this team, he's the only thing
  4. Western Michigan Broncos -- must be way faster than O.J.'s Bronco to elude this year's foes
  5. Central Michigan Chippewas -- could stand to get a bit chippier on defense
  6. Eastern Michigan Eagles -- Emus take flight, because they sure can't run the ball

* projected conference champion

Outlook: In a small conference renowned for its prolific quarterbacks, BSU's Drew Plitt and K-State's Dustin Crum should lead their teams to their respective division titles. Watch for a big reversal for the NIU team that went 0-6 with eight freshman starters a year ago. Buffalo tries to keep in contention despite the loss of head coach Lance Leipold, who repeats Turner Gill's mistake of leaving UB for Kansas.

Mountain West Conference (mountain division)

  1. Boise State Broncos -- could get broken by UCF, Okie State, BYU
  2. Wyoming Cowboys -- Xazavian's value is even greater in the backfield than in Scrabble
  3. New Mexico Lobos -- Things have finally taken a right turn in Albuquerque
  4. Colorado State Rams -- down but not out in Canvas Stadium
  5. Air Force Falcons -- whole new offensive line keeps Lightning Eleven in a bottle
  6. Utah State Aggies -- hope to return to USU-al after a tumultuous 2020 season

Mountain West Conference (west division)

  1. Nevada Wolf Pack* -- most underrated pack since Stroh's introduced cases of 30
  2. San Jose State Spartans -- returning Sparty starters include all 11 on defense
  3. Fresno State Bulldogs -- need to let RB Ronnie Rivers run more freely
  4. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors -- Road Warriors visit the mainland 7 times, starting at UCLA
  5. San Diego State Aztecs -- Last year's #3 defense is already ancient history
  6. UNLV Rebels -- biggest losers in Las Vegas, next to Evander Kane, of course

* projected conference champion

Outlook: BSU is still good enough to win its division, but it's dominance over this league continues to slowly erode, as Nevada joins defending champion SJSU as teams now able to stand toe-to-toe with them. The defensive depth of the MWC continues to improve with the addition of coach Steve Addazio at Colorado State.

Pac 12 Conference (north division)

  1. Oregon Ducks* -- 2020 opt-outs gave new starters a chance to get their feet wet
  2. California Golden Bears -- OC Musgrave must exhume this moribund offense
  3. Washington Huskies -- ambitious young team may be out over its 'skies
  4. Stanford Cardinal -- What they'll use for a QB this year is a mys-tree
  5. Oregon State Beavers -- scrappy team dammed by a dearth of big playmakers
  6. Washington State Cougars -- Rolovich's run-and-shoot keeps things wacky at Wazzu

Pac 12 Conference (south division)

  1. USC Trojans -- steady Slovis wins the race to a division repeat
  2. Utah Utes -- salty defense led the league against the run in 2020
  3. Arizona State Sun Devils - Will ASU-against-the-world mentality succeed?
  4. UCLA Bruins - Mich transfer Charbonnet adds bubbly to blue bears' backfield
  5. Colorado Buffaloes -- hard to Noyer QBs when yer starter transfers on short notice
  6. Arizona Wildcats -- The bear that's down in Tucson must be on top of the wildcat

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The Czar expects a repeat of last year's conference championship game, but with the eventual winners from UO actually belonging there this time. Four of the Fighting Ducks' five best players departed before last season, as the Pac 12 dawdled around with the idea of playing spring ball. Cal emerges as a possible long-term rival to Oregon, the Golden Bears having a coaching staff stocked with yellow-helmet-era Duck players. Chip Kelly finally has a chance for a breakthrough year with the Bruins, in his fourth season after taking over a team that was a total misfit for his system. It is not yet known what the result of the ASU investigation will be, but the Czar is guessing that at the very least, the Sun Devils will be bowl-ineligible this year.

Southeastern Conference (east division)

  1. Georgia Bulldogs* -- Coach Smart is pursuing the CFP championship -- and, loving it!
  2. Florida Gators -- departure of offensive leaders Pitts, Trask leaves them a tall task
  3. Tennessee Volunteers -- left out to'o dry by LB's transfer to conference foe Alabama
  4. Kentucky Wildcats -- Yuck to UK's schedule, in conference and out
  5. Missouri Tigers -- MO is less, without a ground game left to speak of
  6. South Carolina Gamecocks -- son of coaching legend can't beam them out of sixth place
  7. Vanderbilt Commodores -- a less manly Nashville group than The Chicks

Southeastern Conference (west division)

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide -- need a new pack o' derm, after offseason offensive exodus
  2. Ole Miss Rebels -- QB Corral has a smorgasbord of choices at wide receiver
  3. Texas A&M Aggies -- with QB questions, they need RB Spiller to be their picker-upper
  4. LSU Tigers -- Can the defense keep up with Daronte Jones as new coordinator?
  5. Auburn Tigers -- SEC defenders still have QB Nix to kick around
  6. Arkansas Razorbacks -- let close games slip away like greasy-thingeys last season
  7. Mississippi State Bulldogs -- QB Will Rogers met lots of men he didn�t like in 2020

* projected conference champion

Outlook: The Czar anticipates a decline for this conference in general, with the East division being especially weak. The Tide always seems to have a seamless transition after losing a lot of talent in one year, but having to replace their starting QB, top running back, electrifying wide receiver, offensive coordinator and four of his assistants should be enough to keep them out of the CFP. One-time Bama OC Lane Kiffin and his Rebels should challenge Bama in the West division, which may have five of the league's six best teams this season.

Sun Belt Conference (east division)

  1. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers* -- lots of CCs of adrenaline left from last season
  2. Georgia State Panthers -- loaded lineup takes aim at Army, UNC, Auburn
  3. Appalachian State Mountaineers -- hope thrice is nice for journeyman QB Brice
  4. Georgia Southern Eagles -- Statesboro Blues can put a bruising on SBC favorites
  5. Troy Trojans -- little chance to succeed in this division for the Old College Troy

Sun Belt Conference (west division)

  1. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns -- At 24-4, QB Levi Lewis has winning in his jeans
  2. South Alabama Jaguars -- Too many moving parts during transitional year in Mobile
  3. Arkansas State Red Wolves -- could get a breakout season from QB Hatcher
  4. Texas State Bobcats -- lots more losses for Los Gatos Robertos
  5. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks -- Will Terry Bowden's re-return amount to more than Zip?

* projected conference champion

Outlook: We ought to be treated to the postseason clash between CCU and ULL that got called off a year ago, each team entering 2021 in excellent position to repeat last year's division title. However, both teams must face small-conference giant-killer Georgia Southern on the road. Perennial powerhouse App State lurks ominously in the background, coming off a 9-3 season and a blowout win at the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl.

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. 4

Alabama vs. Miami -- The College Football Czar expects this to be a down year for the SEC in general, due primarily to a lack of experience at the quarterback position. Based on Bama's recent history, there's every reason to expect Bryce Young to become a superstar over the course of the season, but this is Week 1, and the Crimson Tide aren't opening against Missouri this year. On the other sideline stands D'Eriq King, who is eager to prove his value to the pros after ending the 2020 season with a gruesome knee injury.

Fresno State at Oregon -- The Fighting Ducks' national title hopes depend largely on the development of ballyhooed freshman quarterback Ty Thompson, but it will be a surprise if he has already won the starting job in time for this season opener. They will also depend on the outcome of UO's Week 2 clash with Ohio State, which could leave them vulnerable to a sneak attack a week earlier. The Bulldogs are hopeful that they're on track to return to their glory years of the late 90s and early aughts, when they lost five straight to their rivals to the North, but by a total of only 20 points, with two of those battles being decided in overtime.

Sept. 11

Ball State at Penn State -- The Nittany Lions open the season with a possible Big Ten championship preview at Wisconsin. Two weeks later, they host a rare nonconference blockbuster against Auburn. In between, they welcome the defending MAC champions from Muncie, led by super-senior quarterback Drew Plitt, who hasn't had a multiple-INT game since Halloween of 2018. That could put a lot of pressure on a PSU team whose turnover margin was minus-7 during last year's nine-game campaign.

Sept. 18

Coastal Carolina at Buffalo -- Can you believe the Bulls outgained the famously prolific CCU offense by 61 yards per game last year? Now, they get some more toughness on the other side of the ball, with former Michigan State defensive coach Maurice Linguist taking over the head job at UB. If the Chanticleers pick up where they left off last year, that might not be such a good thing. They seemed to lose momentum after their big win over BYU, nearly getting tripped up by Troy to end the regular season, and then dropping the Cure bowl against Liberty in OT. Moreover, opponents have by now had a whole offseason to study Jamey Chadwell's innovative shotgun-based triple-option scheme.

Oct. 16

Oklahoma at TCU -- A week after the Sooners' big Red River game against Texas, they travel to Texas Christian, which will soon be the class of the remnants of the Big XII before it dissolves altogether. The pending departure of OU and Texas to the SEC will anger and inspire the Horned Frogs, who are about to return to the days when they were known as the Boise State of the South.

Central Florida at Cincinnati -- Last year in Orlando, the Knights threw a scare into UC in a three-point decision, in which they beat up the Bearcat defense for 33 points, nine more than anybody else all season. UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who has thrown for more than 3,500 yards in each of the past two campaigns, is now a seasoned junior, leading a team that has found holes in Luke Fickell's defense over the past four years that nobody else knew existed.

Nov. 13

Notre Dame at Virginia -- Admittedly, this game would be far more dangerous for the Fighting Irish if it occurred earlier in the season. By this point, their nine new offensive starters should be fairly well broken in, but will their passing game, led by Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan, be equipped to exploit UVA's pass defense? If not, they could get bogged down by Bronco Mendenhall's team in their first road game in over a month. The Golden Domers are back to playing a schedule that's up to their traditional standards, but the weakest part will probably be their last two games against Georgia Tech and Stanford. If by this clash with the Cavaliers they've successfully fended off USC and North Carolina, they may not be able to resist the temptation to start coasting.

WHAT REALIGNMENT MIGHT LOOK LIKE

You've probably already seen plenty of speculation about how Division I-A realignment might shake out in the aftermath of the latest SEC expansion, but most of these scenarios, you'll have noticed, have been quite stupid. Here is what the College Football Czar considers to be a more reasonable guess at how the conference alignments might look by 2025. You'll see that it is comprised of eight 16-team leagues that would follow a similar pod structure to the SEC. The Czar is projecting the dissolution of both the Big XII and Conference USA, and surmising that both Uconn and Umass will be left adrift as Independents, probably to drop out of major college football in the near future.

SEC: Pod 1 (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina); Pod 2 (Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt); Pod 3 (Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi St., Ole Miss); Pod 4 (Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M)

ACC: Pod 1 (Boston College, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse); Pod 2 (Nc State, N. Carolina, Virginia, Va. Tech); Pod 3 (Clemson, Duke, Ga. Tech, Wake Forest); Pod 4 (Central Florida, Florida St., Miami, South Florida)

Big Ten: Pod 1 (Maryland, Michigan, Ohio St., Penn St.); Pod 2 (Indiana, Michigan St., Notre Dame, Purdue); Pod 3 (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern); Pod 4 (Kansas, Kansas St., Nebraska, Wisconsin)

Pac 12: Pod 1 (Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, Washington St.); Pod 2 (California, Stanford, UCLA, USC); Pod 3 (Arizona, Arizona St., Nevada, UNLV); Pod 4 (Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado, Utah)

AAC: Pod 1 (Liberty, Navy, Rutgers, Temple); Pod 2 (Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, West Virginia); Pod 3 (Houston, SMU, TCU, Tulane); Pod 4 (Baylor, Oklahoma St. Texas Tech, Tulsa)

Mtn. West: Pod 1 (Boise St., Colorado St., Utah St., Wyoming); Pod 2 (La. Tech, North Texas, Rice, Texas St.); Pod 3 (New Mexico, New Mexico St., UTEP, UTSA); Pod 4 (Fresno St., Hawaii, San Diego St., San Jose St.)

MAC: Pod 1 (Army, Akron, Buffalo, Kent St.); Pod 2 (Marshall, Miami OH, Ohio, W. Kentucky); Pod 3 (Bowling Green, E. Michigan, C. Michigan, Toledo); Pod 4 (Ball St., Iowa St., No. Illinois, W. Michigan)

Sun Belt: Pod 1 (Appalachian St., Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion); Pod 2 (FAU, FIU, Ga. Southern, Georgia St.); Pod 3 (S. Alabama, Troy, Middle Tennessee, UAB); Pod 4 (Arkansas St., ULL, ULM, Southern Miss)

 

BOWL PROJECTIONS

Enjoy the bowl games while they last, because once the playoff-mongers have prevailed, there will be nothing on TV between Christmas and New Year's except cable news retrospectives about all the famous people who died in the past year. Give the College Football Czar the Cheez-It Bowl over that any day. Just for fun, here are the Czar's projections for this season's bowl matchups.

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

Orange ..... Dec. 31 ..... Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist ..... Georgia vs. Oregon

Cotton ..... Dec. 31 ..... Semifinalist vs. Semifinalist ..... Oklahoma vs. Cincinnati

CFP Championship ..... Jan. 10 ..... Orange winner vs. Cotton winner ..... Georgia vs. Oklahoma

Bahamas ..... Dec. 17 ..... MAC vs. CUSA ..... No. Illinois vs. Fla. Atlantic

Cure ..... Dec. 17 ..... Group-of-five ..... Charlotte vs. Fresno St.

Boca Raton ..... Dec. 18 ..... Group-of-five ..... W. Kentucky vs. Ga. Southern

New Mexico ..... Dec. 18 ..... CUSA/MWC/AAC ..... New Mexico vs. Middle Tennessee

Independence ..... Dec.18 ..... Pac 12 vs. Army** ..... S. Alabama* vs. Army

Lendingtree ..... Dec. 18 ..... MAC vs. Sun Belt ..... Toledo vs. Georgia St.

LA ..... Dec. 18 ..... Pac 12 vs. MWC ..... UCLA vs. Nevada

New Orleans..... Dec. 18 ..... Sun Belt vs. CUSA ..... La.-Lafayette vs. UTSA

Myrtle Beach ..... Dec. 20 ..... AAC/ MAC/Sun Belt ..... C. Carolina vs. Ohio

Famous Idaho Potato ..... Dec. 21 ..... MAC vs. MWC ..... Kent St. vs. Boise St.

Frisco ..... Dec. 21 ..... Group-of-five ..... San Jose St. vs. La. Tech

Armed Forces ..... Dec. 22 ..... AAC vs. CUSA ..... Tulsa vs. Marshall

Gasparilla ..... Dec. 23 ..... AAC/CUSA vs. BYU** ..... C. Florida vs. Brigham Young

Hawaii ..... Dec. 24 ..... MWC vs. AAC ..... Hawaii vs. Memphis

Camellia ..... Dec. 25 ..... MAC vs. Sun Belt ..... Buffalo vs. Appalachian St.

Quick Lane ..... Dec. 27 ..... Big Ten vs. MAC ..... Michigan vs. Ball St.

Military ..... Dec. 27 ..... ACC vs. AAC ..... Va. Tech vs. Tulane

Birmingham ..... Dec. 28 ..... AAC vs. SEC ..... UAB* vs. Auburn

First Responder ..... Dec. 28 ..... AAC/ACC/Big XII ..... Louisville vs. Arkansas St. *

Liberty ..... Dec. 28 ..... SEC vs. Big XII ..... Missouri vs. W. Virginia

Holiday ..... Dec.28 ..... ACC vs. Pac 12 ..... Boston College vs. Utah

Guaranteed Rate ..... Dec. 28 ..... Big XII vs. Big Ten ..... Kansas State vs. Iowa

Fenway ..... Dec. 29 ..... ACC/Notre Dame vs. AAC ..... Notre Dame vs. Houston

Pinstripe ..... Dec. 29 ..... Big Ten vs. ACC ..... Rutgers vs. Pitt

Cheez-It ..... Dec. 29 ..... Big XII vs. ACC ..... Oklahoma St. vs. Miami

Alamo ..... Dec. 29 ..... Big XII vs. Pac 12 ..... Texas vs. California

Duke�s Mayo ..... Dec. 30 ..... ACC vs. SEC ..... Nc State vs. Kentucky

Music City ..... Dec. 30 ..... SEC vs. Big Ten ..... Tennessee vs. Minnesota

Peach ..... Dec. 30 ..... At-large vs. At-large ..... Clemson vs. Wisconsin

Las Vegas ..... Dec. 30 ..... Pac 12 vs. SEC ..... Stanford vs. Purdue*

Gator ..... Dec. 31 ..... SEC vs. ACC ..... Liberty* vs. Florida St.

Sun ..... Dec.31 ..... Pac 12 vs. ACC ..... Washington vs. Virginia

Arizona ..... Dec. 31 ... MWC vs. MAC ..... Wyoming vs. W. Michigan

Outback ..... Jan. 1 ..... Big Ten vs. SEC ..... Indiana vs. Florida

Fiesta ..... Jan. 1 .... At-large vs. At-large ..... Ole Miss vs. N. Carolina

Citrus ..... Jan. 1 ..... Big Ten vs. SEC ..... Penn St. vs. Texas A&M

Rose ..... Jan. 1 ..... Big Ten vs. Pac 12 ..... Ohio St. vs. USC

Sugar ..... Jan. 1 ..... SEC vs. Big XII ..... Alabama vs. Iowa St.

Texas ..... Jan. 4 ..... Big XII vs. SEC ..... TCU vs. LSU

Redbox ..... TBA ..... Big Ten vs. Pac 12 ..... Northwestern vs. Oregon St.

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

** If eligible

The College Football Czar