College football kicks off its season this weekend with a monopoly on its hands, and it has the Southeastern Conference to thank for turning the tables on the rest of the collegiate landscape.
Defending champion Alabama made it four straight years of at least one SEC team being in the national title game. And that trend doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon. Alabama, Florida and Auburn give the SEC a legitimate shot to have a representative in five straight title games, forcing perennial powerhouses such as Ohio State (Big 10), Texas (Big 12) and Miami (ACC) to battle it out for the other spot in the championship.
Prediction: While college football would love a reprieve from the SEC’s recent dominance, it won’t be this year. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram’s recent knee surgery hurts Alabama’s chances, but it still won’t stop the Crimson Tide from making it back-to-back national championships with an emphatic victory over Ohio State.
5 teams that could win it all
Alabama Crimson Tide
The injury to Ingram, below, puts a dent in Alabama’s championship hopes. Good thing coach Nick Saban has receiver Julio Jones and backup running back Trent Richardson to pick up the slack.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Coach Jim Tressel is banking on a banner year from quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Expect the Buckeyes to make it back to the national title game if their offense clicks early on.
Quarterback Jacory Harris will need to build on last season’s success if the Hurricanes want to contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference. A Sept. 11 showdown at Ohio State could make or break the season.
Boise State Broncos
The Broncos are finally getting the respect they deserve. A second consecutive undefeated season could be in the cards if they can get past Virginia Tech on Sept. 6.
John Brantley will try to fill the gaping hole left by three-year starter Tim Tebow. Even with a new quarterback under center, don’t expect the Gators to skip a beat.
5 Heisman Trophy candidates
Sr., QB, Houston
Keenum put up video game numbers last year for the Cougars, leading the country with 5,761 passing yard and 44 TDs. If Houston goes undefeated and Keenum puts up similar numbers, it could be his season.
Jr., QB, Boise State
As Moore goes, so goes Boise State’s national title hopes. Bettering the 3,356 passing yards and 39 TDs from last season would catapult him into the discussion.
Jr., QB, Ohio State
Pryor grew by leaps and bounds at the end of last season. If he can build on that momentum and lead Ohio State back to the title game, he’ll be in the mix.
Sr., QB, Washington
Locker, considered by most to be the top quarterback prospect last season, snubbed the NFL for his senior year. Big passing numbers and a win against Nebraska or USC would vault him to the top of the list.
Jr., RB, Oregon State
Rodgers is the dark horse of the bunch. A big season of 1,600-plus yards and at least 20 TDs could earn him a trip to New York.