1. Florida will return to the land of the living.
Athletic director Jeremy Foley has spoken forcefully in support of head coach Will Muschamp. That's not necessarily unusual, Foley speaks forcefully about what he had for breakfast. But it is significant, a sign that Foley believes the problems that led to a 4-8 record last season have been resolved. Florida is healthy again (problem 1); the offense has been retooled with the hiring of coordinator Kurt Roper (problem 2); and Florida is healthy again (it should be restated, because when 17 guys get hurt, including eight starters, that's a lot).
2. Baylor will not make the College Football Playoff.
The Bears' nonconference schedule includes SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. Was Incarnate Word not available? No other team in the Big 12 has a nonconference schedule without an opponent from the other big conferences. Baylor, like every other Big 12 team, has to fight the perception that comes with not having a conference championship game. If the Bears go 12-0, sure, they're in. But at 11-1, they will get squeezed out. And just so you know, Baylor plays Incarnate Word in 2019.
3. The surprise contender in the Pac-12 South will be Arizona.
If you think Rich Rodriguez lost his touch at Michigan, you haven't been paying attention to what the Wildcats have done the past two seasons. Rodriguez went 8-5 both years playing with a team not recruited for his spread system. He's in year three now, and as long as redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon takes care of the ball, Arizona will put up points. The Wildcats skip Stanford and Oregon State and get two weeks off in the first eight weeks of the season, which should keep them healthy for the stretch run. This is a good dark horse.
4. Miami tailback Duke Johnson will be a Heisman finalist.
At 5-foot-9, 206 pounds, Johnson is a combination of power and quickness that is ideal for today's offenses. He was on pace for a 1,700-yard season a year ago before an ankle injury knocked him out in the seventh game. Johnson has got a veteran offensive line in front of him, he has had a good August, and he has something to prove. Sign me up.
5. It won't get much better at Michigan.
The Wolverines found a way to go 7-6 last season despite an inconsistent offense. Doug Nussmeier has come in from Alabama to run the offense and the injured are healed, but the freshmen forced into action on the offensive line last season remain young. It has been 10 years since Michigan won a Big Ten title. This once-feared program has spent one week in the top 10 in the past six seasons. The schedule does no favors with visits to Notre Dame, Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. The Wolverines are what their record (15-11 the past two seasons) says they are.
6. It will get much better at Northwestern.
Even though the player expected to be the Wildcats' biggest offensive threat, Venric Mark, is playing for West Texas A&M, this is a veteran team with seniors and juniors starting at nearly every position. And these are upperclassmen with something to prove after the way they went 5-7 last season, losing two in overtime and two more by a field goal. If head coach Pat Fitzgerald is right, and the unionization issue knit his team together, this is a team good enough to win the Big Ten West.
7. Cincinnati, not Marshall, will win the major bowl bid that goes to the highest-ranked team among the American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt.
Marshall has a very good quarterback in Rakeem Cato and a veteran team. What the Thundering Herd don't have is a schedule that will impress the College Football Playoff selection committee. The Bearcats have a veteran team, and two marquee nonconference games (at Ohio State, at Miami). Cincinnati has an opportunity to make a run, and head coach Tommy Tuberville knows how to get his team there.
8. Trevor Knight still has some learning to do.
The Oklahoma sophomore played so well (32-44-1, 348 yards, four touchdowns) in leading the Sooners to their 45-31 upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl that he obscured all that happened before, a season in which he pretty much looked like a freshman. All of us are guilty of overloading the importance of a bowl game because it's the last thing we see. Oklahoma has experience on the offensive line to keep Knight upright, and a defense good enough to keep Knight from having to put a game on his shoulders. That's good, because he's not good enough to do that yet.
9. Navy will reappear in the top 25 for the first time in 10 seasons.
The Midshipmen are a veteran team that is going to make Ohio State work to win on Saturday, and Navy is playing a schedule that could easily have them 7-1 when they play Notre Dame at FedEx Field on Nov. 1. Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is 2-4 against the Fighting Irish, who narrowly beat the Midshipmen a year ago. Navy's biggest trouble is its schedule; the Midshipmen have a week off before four of their last five games. With an option offense that depends on timing, that might be an issue. If Niumatalolo figures that out, Navy will be back in the rankings.
10. My last bold prediction -- most of the above will be wrong.