Don’t you wish you could have predicted Texas’ 5-7 debacle or Auburn’s BCS Championship? Had those statements been made prior to last season, most would have considered them gibberish. But as bettors, we know outlandish outcomes happen all of the time and accurately calling for one can be extremely satisfying. Each year the Sportsmemo Handicappers try their best to provide a couple of potential long shots for the upcoming season. Poorly named but wildly popular, he are our BOLD PREDICTIONS for the 2011 seasons.
Erin Rynning’s Bold Prediction – UCLA will win the PAC-12 Championship
Obviously, representing the PAC-12 South is on the bold side to begin with, but winning the league is admittedly pretty far out. What’s perhaps even loonier is that the Bruins could start the season 2-4 and still achieve what I’m calling for. Of course, for any of this to occur, UCLA needs to be much, much improved. I believe they will be after a horrendous injury-filled season and brutal schedule. The Bruins return as many as 17 starters and will enjoy much more depth after battling the injury bug in 2010. Norm Chow is gone and Pistol offense guru Jim Mastro is in as well as new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson. They’ve added a lot of bells and whistles to the offense which will make for an improved passing game. As mentioned, they have a tough early slate with games at Houston, vs. Texas and road trips to Oregon State and Stanford. But the back half of the schedule is manageable and if things come together, I can see this team shocking a lot of people.
Teddy Covers’ Bold Prediction – Andrew Luck won’t even be a Heisman Finalist
The Cardinal are not going to be anywhere near as they were last year, leaving ultra-hyped (cover of ESPN the magazine AND Sports Illustrated) Andrew Luck poised to take a fall. As usual, the national media focuses on the sizzle, not the steak. Last year he Cardinal offensive line was as good as or better than any other front five in football. This offseason, they lost a pair of three-year starters and a third All-Pac-10 performer to graduation. They also lost their top two receivers while star fullback Owen Marecic (a blocking behemoth) was a fourth round pick of the Cleveland Browns. Meanwhile, former head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff were absolute monsters at motivation and preparation. After losing Harbaugh, associate head coach Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, first-year, first-time head coach David Shaw has enormous shoes to fill with much less fiery personality than his predecessor. I’m not only calling for Luck not to win the Heisman but he won’t even receive an invite to the Downtown Athletic Club this December!
Andrew Lange’s Bold Prediction – Illinois will win the Big Ten Championship
The “boldness” of this one was bumped up a couple notches after Wisconsin and Russell Wilson looked like a red and white version of the Chicago Bears circa ’85 last night against UNLV. My reasoning starts with the concept of second-year everythings: quarterback, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. Last year we got a few glimpses of what this team is capable of and this year they have what it takes to put everything together. But beyond the projected improvement is that Illinois plays one of if not the easiest schedule in the Big Ten. The Illini skip Nebraska, Michigan State and Iowa in the regular season and face division foes Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan and New England Wisconsin in Champaign. That leaves road games against Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State. All we need if for as little coaching as possible from Ron Zook and this one is in the bag!
Marty Otto’s Bold Prediction – TCU will lose more games the first two weeks of 2011 than they have the last two seasons combined
After going a perfect 13-0 last year and 12-1 in 2009 the Horned Frogs are clearly in a period of transition having lost more than half of their starters from a season ago – many of whom were multi-year starters. While Gary Patterson has improved the level of the program during his tenure there are clearly cycles to how this program wins. Build the talent, keep that talent, peak that talent and then start over.
In 2002 and 2003 TCU went a combined 21-4 before going 5-6 in 2004. That year they had to completely reload the defense, showed surprisingly bad numbers and couldn’t maintain their level of success from the previous two seasons as a result. In 2005 and 2006 with continuity at quarterback and for the most part on defense, the Frogs rebounded to go a combined 22-3. In 2007, the first year Andy Dalton came into the mix along with eight other new offensive starters, the Frogs showed poor offensive numbers while trying to develop the new players and as a result went 8-5. Dalton would go on to start for four years and had a solid cast of returnees with him each season as he guided TCU to 11-2, 12-1 and 13-0 marks in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
But here we are again in what looks to be a down cycle. TCU starts with two straight tough road games at Baylor and Air Force while trying to break in a new signal caller, four new starters on the offensive line and while trying to find a replacement for ultimate weapon Jeremy Kerley. And don’t forget, the defense is without six starters from a year ago.
Baylor is a real threat with Robert Griffin and revenge on their minds from last year’s drubbing. It’s the only game in town, a primetime ESPN tilt tonight. Air Force’s tricky option offense returns some real talent and a solid defense that helped them match their best season (9-5 in 2010) of the last decade. The last time TCU came to Colorado Springs, where the Falcons are 19-5 SU since 2007, they barely escaped with a 20-17 win (never really sniffing an ATS win). The trip prior? The rebuilding year in 2007 where the Frogs lost outright in OT despite laying more than a touchdown.