FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2007: THE NATION
1. Can anyone knock off Southern Cal? And will it matter if they do? There are plenty of suspects -- among them Cal, UCLA, Nebraska, Oregon and even Oregon State -- but someone will have to beat the Trojans at least once to keep them out of the NC game. (Yes, C&F is well aware he left Notre Dame off the list. It was intentional.) If not, go ahead and put the other USC in Notre Dame around New Year's Day and John David Booty in New York as a Heisman candidate.
2. BCS controversy. There will be one. An undefeated Hawaii or Boise State complaining about two one-loss BCS teams making the NC game? Three -- or even four -- undefeated teams? Three -- or even four -- one-loss teams with a credible case to take on an undefeated No. 1? With a Hawaii or a Boise State thrown in for fun? Keep watching; something will happen.
It will happen. But why?
3. Is the Big East for real? Last year's biggest bowl wins for the Big East (Louisville over Wake Forest, West Virginia over Georgia Tech) didn't keep the momentum going for a conference that still bases its reputation on a long-ago night in the Georgia Dome. Another strong season by Rutgers, as well as South Florida proving its worthiness to be mentioned in conversation (by beating Auburn?), could finally bring some respectability. But don't count on it -- a few bowl wins over SEC teams and perhaps well-regarded ACC teams would probably have to be thrown in to be considered a "real" BCS league.
4. Mid-major mania. Boise State's win in the Fiesta Bowl has everybody trying to figure out who will be the "next" Boise State. First of all, there will never be another Boise State -- and anyone who watched that game as it unfolded knows why. There was something seemingly unbelievable about it, something that captivated even someone with no interest in the WAC or the Big XII. And even if there is another one, it come just like it did in 2006 -- when we least expect it.
5. Can the ACC bounce back? Not back to the NC game; that's still a year or two off. But can they at least be regarded as on the same level as the SEC, Big Ten, Big XII or Pac-10? Much will depend on how a few teams perform, namely: Virginia Tech, Florida State and Miami. Like it or not, as goes these teams (in the public eye), so goes the league.