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College Football's Second-Half Predictions for 2012


The first half of the college football season provided plenty of twists and turns, but the second half is really when the national championship and the conference title races will be decided. With most teams finished with their non-conference games, the focus shifts to conference play, which is arguably the best stretch of the season. And the best news for college football fans? None of the six BCS conferences is decided, which means there are plenty of big games in the second half of the year.

If you can’t watch any more games the rest of the season, don’t worry: We have predicted how the conference and national title races will play out, along with a few random predictions to monitor over the next seven weeks.

ACC Second-Half Preview and Prediction

Barring a lot of chaos, the ACC won’t have a team play for the national title this season. However, the conference title race could be one of the nation’s most intriguing battles. North Carolina has the inside track on the Coastal Division but is ineligible to play for the conference championship. Miami and Virginia Tech would be next in line, but neither team has seized the No. 1 spot. Until a surprising 17-16 loss at NC State, Florida State was in the mix for the national championship. The Seminoles are the favorites to win the Atlantic title but need NC State to lose at least once. Surprisingly, the only undefeated team in ACC play is Maryland. After a disastrous first season, Randy Edsall has the Terrapins moving in the right direction.

Predicted Atlantic Division Winner: Florida State

Predicted Coastal Division Winner: Virginia Tech (North Carolina ineligible)

Predicted ACC Championship: Florida State over Virginia Tech

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20)
Florida State at Miami (Oct. 20)
Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1)
Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8)
NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17)

Big East Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The Big East has unfairly been a national punching bag for the last two seasons, but this season the conference has three teams ranked inside of the top 25 in the BCS standings. Louisville was the preseason favorite, but Rutgers and Cincinnati are a combined 11-0 through the first seven weeks. The middle of the conference is jumbled, but newcomer Temple is a surprising 2-0, and Pittsburgh has shown flashes of promise. The Bearcats have quietly flown under the radar, thanks to a relatively soft schedule. However Cincinnati's Oct. 26 date at Louisville will provide a better assessment of where this team stands. If Rutgers and Louisville continue on their current respective courses, these two teams should be unbeaten for a Nov. 29 showdown in New Jersey, which should decide the champion of the Big East.

Predicted Champion: Louisville

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Cincinnati at Louisville (Oct. 26)
Rutgers at Cincinnati (Nov. 17)
Rutgers at Pittsburgh (Nov. 24)
Louisville at Rutgers (Nov. 29)

Big Ten Second-Half Preview and Predictions

With NCAA sanctions banning Ohio State and Penn State from postseason play, the Big Ten is without a team in the top 25 of the BCS standings. The conference also struggled to earn respect in the non-conference portion of the schedule, which makes bowl season even more important for this league. After Wisconsin’s win over Purdue last Saturday, the Badgers are the clear frontrunner in the Leaders Division. The Legends Division race should be one of the most intriguing battles the rest of the way, with Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan State and Nebraska all harboring division title hopes. Michigan is getting better on defense, while its offense remains deadly with Denard Robinson at quarterback. The Big Ten has taken some hits this year but expect at least two teams to finish in the top 25 of the BCS standings.

Predicted Leaders Division Champion: Wisconsin (Ohio State ineligible)

Predicted Legends Division Champion: Michigan

Predicted Big Ten Championship: Michigan over Wisconsin

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Nebraska at Northwestern (Oct. 20)
Michigan State at Michigan (Oct. 20)
Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
Nebraska at Michigan State (Nov. 3)
Ohio State at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)
Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)

Big 12 Second-Half Preview and Predictions

With nine teams likely to get bowl eligible, the Big 12 isn’t far behind the SEC in terms of overall depth. Kansas State is the conference’s only unbeaten team, but five teams have just one conference loss, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. The Mountaineers host the Wildcats this Saturday and can jump back into the Big 12 title picture with a victory. Oklahoma’s win over Texas last week clearly shows the Sooners will be a factor in the second half of the season, while Texas Tech is a much-improved team, especially on defense where it ranks fourth nationally in yards allowed. With six one-loss teams still in the mix for the conference title, this race will likely go down to the final week of the season. Kansas State’s match-up with West Virginia this Saturday will be huge, but the Oklahoma-West Virginia and Texas Tech-Kansas State games also will be critical to the title picture. Considering how tight this conference is, it’s unlikely the champion will make it through with just one loss.

Predicted Big 12 Champion: Kansas State

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20)
Texas Tech at Kansas State (Oct. 27)
TCU at West Virginia (Nov. 3)
West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10)
Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 17)
Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1)

Pac-12 Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The Pac-12 was widely believed to be a two-team race in the preseason, but there’s more depth than expected, especially with Oregon State’s rise into the top 10 of the polls and Arizona State’s 5-1 start. USC suffered an early setback against Stanford, but the Trojans have won three in a row and should be 7-1 heading into a Nov. 3 showdown against Oregon. The Ducks have cruised to a 6-0 start, but the schedule gets considerably tougher in the second half of the season, as they have to hit the road to play Arizona State, USC, California and Oregon State. If the Trojans want to get back in the national title discussion, they have to beat Oregon on Nov. 3. However, if the Ducks can knock off USC in the regular season and in the Pac-12 title game, they will have a strong resume and a likely spot in the BCS Championship.

Predicted Pac-12 North Champion: Oregon

Predicted Pac-12 South Champion: USC

Predicted Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Oregon at Arizona State (Oct. 18)
UCLA at Arizona State (Oct. 27)
Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
Oregon State at Stanford (Nov. 10)
Arizona State at USC (Nov. 10)
Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 17)
USC at UCLA (Nov. 17)
Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)

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SEC Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The toughest conference in college football features seven ranked teams, including four among the top 10 in the BCS standings. The East Division appeared to be a two-team race between Georgia and South Carolina in the preseason, but at this point Florida looks like the team to beat. The Gators have already knocked off LSU and Texas A&M but must play South Carolina and Georgia in the next two weeks. The Gamecocks have a chance to stake their claim for the division title in Gainesville this week and already own a tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. Alabama and Mississippi State are the only unbeaten teams in the West, but the Crimson Tide are an overwhelming favorite to win the division title.

Predicted East Division Winner: Florida

Predicted West Division Winner: Alabama

SEC Championship Prediction: Alabama over Florida

Key Conference Games to Watch:

LSU at Texas A&M (Oct. 20)
South Carolina at Florida (Oct. 20)
Florida at Georgia (Oct. 27)
Mississippi State at Alabama (Oct. 27)
Texas A&M at Mississippi State (Nov. 3)
Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
Texas A&M at Alabama (Nov. 10)

10 Random Predictions for the Second Half of the 2012 Season

National Championship will be...Alabama vs. Oregon
The SEC’s streak of national champions will continue for one more season. The Crimson Tide will survive a road date at LSU and the SEC title game to finish 13-0 and should be heavily favored in the national championship. Oregon will have to beat USC twice, but the Ducks should find a way to make their second BCS title appearance under coach Chip Kelly.
Predicted National Champion: Alabama

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BCS Bowl Predictions:

Rose: USC vs. Michigan
Fiesta: Notre Dame vs. Kansas State
Sugar: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Orange: Florida State vs. Louisville

The Heisman winner will be...Geno Smith
Sure, Smith had an off day in Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech, but every candidate gets a mulligan. The senior will have a couple of opportunities to regain the lead, especially in match-ups against Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma. Smith’s first-half resume is rock solid, as he has yet to throw an interception and leads the nation in passing efficiency. Expecting the senior to not throw an interception the rest of the way is nearly impossible, but as long as West Virginia keeps winning, Smith should be the No. 1 candidate to hoist the Heisman in early December.

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Ohio State will finish unbeaten
The Buckeyes are far from a perfect team, but the schedule sets up favorably for a 12-0 record. Home games against Purdue and Illinois should be easy wins, while road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State will be swing games, along with the finale against rival Michigan. Winning in Madison and Happy Valley won’t be easy, but the Buckeyes should emerge victorious, and there’s plenty of incentive to avenge last season’s loss to Michigan. If Ohio State finishes 12-0, the decision not to take a bowl ban after a disappointing 6-6 regular season in 2011 will be a colossal failure by the athletic department.

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Notre Dame will finish 10-2 and play in a BCS bowl
With wins over Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford, the Irish have to be considered a legitimate national title contender. The defense is one of the nation’s best and has not allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points in a game this year. Although the defense is capable of winning a BCS title, the offense has been inconsistent, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson is still developing as a passer. With a schedule that features BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest, the Irish should easily reach 10 victories but losses against Oklahoma and USC will end any hope of playing for the national championship.

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Oregon State’s Mike Riley will win coach of the year honors
The Beavers were picked by many to finish last in the Pac-12 North this season, but Riley and his staff have developed Oregon State into one of the most-improved teams in the nation. The Beavers are off to a 5-0 start, which includes a victory at BYU with their backup quarterback. The schedule sets up nicely for a run at 10 wins, especially with only two road games remaining the rest of the year. Even if Oregon State finishes 9-3 or 8-4, Riley will be a clear favorite to take home coach of the year honors. 

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Derek Dooley and Gene Chizik will return for 2013
Dooley and Chizik rank near the top of the hot seat watch after seven games and how well their respective teams perform in the second half of the season will be crucial for their long-term future. Dooley is just 14-17 through his third season, while Chizik is 31-15 in his fourth year. Although Chizik has a winning record, take out the 14-0 national title season in 2010 and his record stands at a mediocre 17-15. Dooley didn’t inherit a great situation at Tennessee, but the Volunteers are 1-10 in their last 11 SEC games. Even though both coaches will fail to meet preseason expectations, a coaching change at either school would be a surprise. The Volunteers really can’t afford to have their fourth head coach in six seasons, while Chizik’s national title probably buys him another year. Assuming both coaches survive for 2013, they will have to win early to save their job for 2014.

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No BCS Buster in 2012
Boise State was the only team outside of one of the big six conferences to crack the first release of the BCS standings. The Broncos should climb in the rankings, especially with four out of their next five opponents having only one win this year. The biggest obstacle will be a road date at Nevada in the season finale, which could decide whether or not Boise State will climb high enough in the standings to make a BCS bowl. However, the Broncos lost their last meeting in Reno and struggled on the road against New Mexico and Michigan State this season. If Boise State doesn’t qualify, Louisiana Tech and Ohio are the only other candidates who could potentially crash the BCS. Losing to Texas A&M likely ended any hopes the Bulldogs had, while Ohio’s narrow victories against MAC bottom-feeders UMass, Buffalo and Akron won’t be enough to push it high enough in the polls. Boise State is the non-AQs best shot at a BCS bowl, but the Broncos may not escape Reno with a victory.

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Boston College’s Frank Spaziani will be the first BCS coach fired
Spaziani was already in serious trouble with Boston College’s 1-5 start, but the school recently hired a new athletic director and all signs point to a coaching change at the end of the year. Spaziani is 21-24 through four seasons, and the program’s win total has declined every year since 2009. Boston College isn’t an easy job, but the Eagles made a bowl game every season from 1999-2010.

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There will be an unexpected BCS job become available this offseason
Even though all signs point to a relatively quiet coaching carousel this offseason, there’s always a job that becomes unexpectedly available. No one expected Todd Graham to leave Pittsburgh after one season and of course, Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle incident in April. Who knows, maybe Chip Kelly decides to revisit the NFL again? Maybe Steve Spurrier decides to retire at South Carolina? Expect one surprise BCS job to be open at the end of the season. 

Conference realignment is over…for now
The days of crazy realignment rumors should be over at least for the next few months. The Big 12 is committed to 10 teams, and the ACC isn’t likely to add any other members unless Notre Dame wants to join for football. The Big East wants to add another team for football, but the conference isn’t in any rush since Navy doesn’t join until 2015. College football’s landscape will have more changes but at least for the rest of this season, conference realignment will stay in the background. 

by Steven Lassan

Follow @athlonsteven

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