The first half of the 2014 college football season is in the books, and it’s time to revisit the preseason predictions and make a few changes for the next eight weeks.
No conference, team or player performs exactly how most expect from the preseason, so it’s only natural to have changes of opinion in several different areas by the midpoint of the season.
That’s the case in 2014, as it’s been an unpredictable season, and more chaos should be anticipated over the next two months.
Before Week 8 officially starts the second half of the season, let’s take a look at 20 predictions that are sure to be right by December.
First-Half Awards and Second-Half Predictions
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20 Predictions for the Second Half of the 2014 Season
1. Florida State Finishes the Regular Season Unbeaten
See a loss on Florida State’s schedule? We don’t either. The Seminoles will head into college football’s playoff with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and a 29-game winning streak. Games against Louisville, Florida and Notre Dame are tough, but the Seminoles will be unbeaten going into the first playoff matchup.
2. Every Pac-12 Team Has At Least Two Losses
On paper, that seems like a far-fetched idea. But take a look at the standings after Week 7: Every team already has at least one loss in conference play. Oregon, Stanford, USC and Arizona are the frontrunners for the Pac-12 title, but there’s no dominant team in the league this year. The Ducks were the favorite by Athlon’s editors to win the Pac-12 title in midseason predictions. However, will Oregon navigate its remaining schedule – Washington, California, Stanford at Utah, Colorado and at Oregon State – unbeaten? The guess here is no. A two-loss team wins the Pac-12 title in early December.
3. Oklahoma Rebounds to Win the Big 12
Oklahoma needs a little help to win the outright conference title, as TCU holds the tiebreaker over the Sooners. But Bob Stoops' team will have an opportunity to work their way back to the top of the Big 12 over the next few weeks, starting with Saturday’s matchup against Kansas State. After playing the Wildcats in Week 8, Oklahoma hits the road to take on Iowa State before Baylor – which has never won in Norman – visits on Nov. 8. With the Bears coming to Norman, Oklahoma wins that game and finishes 11-1. That’s enough to win the Big 12 title.
4. Florida Barely Makes a Bowl
With the opener against Idaho canceled due to weather, Florida doesn’t have much margin for error to make a bowl game. At 3-2, the Gators need three wins to play in a bowl after missing out on the postseason last year. Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky should be wins, which leaves Florida with matchups against Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State to get win No. 6. It won’t be easy, but the Gators win one of those games and finish with a 6-5 regular season mark.
5. Justin Fuente is a Hot Commodity for Open Coaching Jobs
Memphis has made significant progress under Justin Fuente over the last three years. The Tigers went 3-21 under Larry Porter, but Fuente has guided the program to 10 wins since 2012 and is on track to make a bowl this season. Memphis is 3-3 after six contests this year and has a good opportunity to finish in the top four of the final American Athletic Conference standings. Fuente is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks, and his rebuilding efforts should draw the attention of open jobs (Kansas) in the Power 5 conferences this offseason.
6. Arkansas Wins a Game in SEC Play This Year
That prediction may seem like no big deal, but Arkansas has a 15-game losing streak in SEC play. The Razorbacks have been close to breaking through in 2014, losing by seven to Texas A&M and by one to Alabama. A tough schedule may prevent a bowl appearance, but coach Bret Bielema gets a win in SEC play this year, setting up Arkansas to take another step forward in 2015.
7. Clemson Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris is Hired as a Head Coach
Morris is one of the nation’s top assistant coaches, and he’s ready for his chance to run a program. The Texas native has worked as an assistant on the FBS level since 2010, with the last four years coming at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. Considering his ties in the state of Texas, SMU or Tulsa (if Bill Blankenship doesn’t return) would be a good landing spot for Morris.
8. East Carolina Represents the Group of 5 in New Year’s Bowls
With wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech, East Carolina has the best resume from a Group of 5 school for a spot in college football’s top bowl games. The bigger question: Could East Carolina lose a game in conference play and still get the bid? An undefeated Marshall is in the mix, but strength of schedule is not on the Thundering Herd’s side.
9. One SEC Job Will Open This Offseason
Florida is the job most likely vacancy, but would Dan Mullen leave Mississippi State for Michigan or to replace Will Muschamp in Gainesville? How about Les Miles if Michigan is open? The guess here is the SEC will have at least one new coach in 2014.
10. SMU Finishes 0-12
The Mustangs are 0-5 entering Week 8 and still have to play Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF and Houston. Games against UConn, Tulsa and USF are more manageable, but SMU has just four offensive touchdowns all year and has been outscored 247-36 this year. Interim coach Tom Mason has a tough assignment to guide this team to a win in the second half of 2014.
11. Three Big Ten Running Backs Earn All-America Honors
Three of the nation’s top four leading rushers (yards per game) hail from the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon has 1,046 yards and 13 scores through six games, while Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah has 878 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. But the player no one is talking about – Indiana’s Tevin Coleman – leads the nation by averaging 176.7 yards per game. All three running backs will earn All-America honors in December.
12. Georgia Wins the SEC East…With or Without Todd Gurley
Georgia took a step forward in the SEC East title race with a 34-0 win over Missouri last Saturday. The convincing win over the Tigers came without running back Todd Gurley, and the junior’s status for the rest of the year is uncertain due to an investigation into violation of NCAA rules. Regardless of whether or not Gurley returns won’t matter: Georgia will win the East Division. The Bulldogs still have to play Auburn, Florida, Kentucky and Arkansas, but Georgia is the best team in the division and will find a way to get to Atlanta.
13. Miami Finishes 7-5
Miami is still looking for its first appearance in the ACC Championship game. And barring a sweep of the remaining schedule, the Hurricanes will have to wait another year to play in the conference title game. Miami is 4-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play after Week 7, and Al Golden’s team still has to play Florida State, Virginia Tech and Virginia. Road trips to Tallahassee and Blacksburg result in losses, leaving Miami a disappointing 7-5 before the bowl season.
14. The SEC West Champ Has One Loss
The SEC’s West Division is the best in college football. Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Alabama all rank as top 10 teams following Week 7, and the depth extends to talented teams like Texas A&M and LSU, along with an improving Arkansas’ squad in Bret Bielema’s second year. Even though Mississippi State and Ole Miss are unbeaten in conference play after three games, it’s tough to envision both making it through the regular season without a loss. The West Division is simply too tough for the champion of the division to make it through without a loss.
15. Virginia Tech Emerges to Win Coastal Division
Good luck sorting out the Coastal Division at the midpoint of the 2014 season. Virginia and Georgia Tech – two teams picked near the bottom of the Coastal – are at the top, and North Carolina and Miami are a combined 1-4 in conference play. No team is going to go through the Coastal with an unbeaten record, and it’s unlikely one loss wins the division. But after sorting out the schedules for the rest of the way, it’s apparent Virginia Tech has a good shot to rebound and win the division. The Hokies play two of their toughest games – Miami and Virginia – at home and catch Wake Forest (the ACC’s worst team) in crossover play.
16. Washington State QB Connor Halliday Falls Short of Single-Season Yardage Record
After seven games, Halliday has 3,344 passing yards. To break the NCAA single-season record held by Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons (5,833 yards), Halliday needs to average at 498 yards per game over his final five contests. With Washington State at 2-5, it’s unlikely Halliday will get an opportunity to play in a bowl this year. Averaging 498 yards per game isn’t out of the question, especially since Halliday has three 500-yard games in 2014. The guess here is Halliday surpasses 5,000 yards but falls short of Symons’ record.
17. Michigan Finishes With a Losing Record
At 3-4 through seven weeks, Michigan needs three wins over its final five games to make a bowl. With trips (and likely losses) to Ohio State and Michigan State ahead, that leaves the Wolverines with no margin for error in their other three games. Assuming Michigan loses to the Wolverines and Buckeyes, it has to sweep these matchups: Indiana, at Northwestern and Maryland. It’s not out of the question, but Michigan needs major improvement from its offense to sweep that stretch.
18. One Mississippi School Makes the Playoff
Take your pick: Mississippi State or Ole Miss will make the college football playoff. Expect Alabama to improve over the second half of the season, and if that happens, the Crimson Tide will be the biggest obstacle to the Rebels and Bulldogs in the division. And of course, it’s also too early to discount Auburn and its explosive offense from making a run at a playoff spot. But the guess here is at least one team from the SEC makes the playoff – with one coming from the Magnolia State.
19. Marshall Doesn’t Lose a Game in 2014
Unless Marshall gets the spot from the Group of 5 in one of the New Year’s Day bowls, the Thundering Herd should go 14-0. Check out the remaining schedule for Doc Holliday’s team: at FIU, FAU, at Southern Miss, Rice, at UAB and Western Kentucky. Assuming Marshall wins the East Division, it will play in the C-USA Championship and should be a heavy favorite over the West Division champ. Unless there’s a switch in bowl tie-ins to get Marshall in a higher-profile spot, the Thundering Herd won’t have a major obstacle in C-USA’s designated bowls to an unbeaten record.
20. The Heisman Winner is…
Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. But Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a close second. This year’s race is close, and with both teams likely to lose a game before the year ends, this battle will go down to the final week. Oregon still has to play Stanford’s rugged defense, while Mississippi State has a favorable stretch of games before playing Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. The late-November matchups against the Crimson Tide and Rebels are a good opportunity for Prescott to build his Heisman resume. If Mariota or Prescott doesn't win the award, keep an eye on Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.