SI.com's Midseason Predictions
Posted: Wednesday October 20, 2004 12:51PM; Updated: Wednesday October 20, 2004 1:35PM
SI.com's college football gang -- Kelley King, Stewart Mandel, B.J. Schecter and Luke Winn -- offer their personal prognostications for the second half of the season.
HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER
King: Matt Leinart, QB, USC. Who should win it if he keeps up his level of play? Oklahoma true frosh Adrian Peterson. Who will? The junior leader of USC's explosive offense. Given the Trojans' smooth second-half schedule, and the improvement of younger receivers, Leinart's numbers -- and profile -- will only grow.
Mandel: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Cal. Kyle Orton cost himself too much, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush will cost each other votes, Adrian Peterson will fade down the stretch, but Rodgers will keep putting up ridiculous numbers and winning games.
Schecter: Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma. A freshman has never won the award and he'll have an uphill battle, but Peterson is the best player in the nation, period.
Winn: Leinart. He's currently in the middle of the pack. But remember, Leinart is a second-half kind of guy -- most of his damage was done late last season -- and the Trojans' toughest tests are already out of the way.
NAGURSKI TROPHY WINNER
King: Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas. The leader of a defense that should allow Texas to win out post-Oklahoma, Johnson is the Horns' new single-season forced fumble record-holder -- and biggest playmaker, period.
Mandel: Johnson. Not only is he the nation's best defensive player, in a fair and just world he'd be right up there with the aforementioned players for the Heisman.
Schecter: Johnson. He was the best player on the field not named Peterson in the loss to Oklahoma and in just six games has 76 tackles, 10 for loss, and an astonishing seven forced fumbles.
Winn: Johnson. He's a fumble-creating machine ... and clearly the best linebacker in the nation.
SECOND-HALF SURPRISE TEAM
King: Virginia Tech. While Virginia and Miami are worrying about each other, the Hokies (5-2) could easily sneak up on either team. This is a dangerous squad with the speed to match up against the ACC's best.
Mandel: LSU. With a confidence-building win at Florida, particularly for QB Marcus Randall, and their toughest games behind them, the Tigers might not lose again.
Schecter: Virginia Tech. The Hokies came oh-so-close against USC and lost to N.C. State by a point. Don't be surprised if Tech upsets Miami on Dec. 4.
Winn: N.C. State. The Wolfpack are off the national radar, but people will be talking when Amato's bunch wins four of its last five.
SECOND-HALF FLOP TEAM
King: Arizona State. Its 45-7 loss to USC revealed as much about the Sun Devils' shortcomings as the Trojans' dominance. With UCLA, Cal and Stanford on the docket, ASU could easily tumble.
Mandel: Oklahoma State. Congratulations to the Cowboys on their 5-0 start, but they're a one-dimensional team that got exposed by Texas A&M.
Schecter: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys enjoyed quite a run in jumping out to a 5-0 start. But with remaining games with Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, reality will set in.
Winn: Georgia. Two second-half losses (to Florida and Auburn) wouldn't be considered a flop for a lot of teams ... but the Dawgs had serious national-title aspirations.
NEXT COACH ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK
King: Ron Zook, Florida. Losses to Georgia and Florida State on top of last week's frat house debacle could send a demanding Gator nation over the edge.
Mandel: Ron Turner, Illinois. The Illini have gone 8-23 since winning the Big Ten in 2001, including 12 consecutive conference losses. There's no surviving that.
Schecter: Rich Brooks, Kentucky. It is unlikely that Steve Spurrier would want to coach at a basketball school, but the 'Cats are 1-5 and school officials realize that Brooks was a bad hire.
Winn: Keith Gilbertson, Washington. What a miserable season in Seattle.
NEXT COACH TO LAND A BIG GIG -- OTHER THAN URBAN MEYER
King: Dan Hawkins, Boise State. The offensive guru is pointed towards a third-straight undefeated WAC season at Boise State, the launch pad of Houston Nutt (Arkansas) and Dirk Koetter (Arizona State).
Mandel: Bobby Petrino, Louisville. The Cardinals' offensive display against Miami raised a lot of eyebrows around the country -- ADs included.
Schecter: Hawkins. The offensive innovator has taken the Broncos to new heights and would be a good fit at Washington.
Winn: Randy Shannon, Miami. Top defensive assistants Mike Stoops and Mark Dantonio earned head jobs last season; Shannon should be the next one. The 'Canes' D didn't have great showing against Louisville, but they carried the team early on.
WHICH TEAM WILL FINISH WITH MORE WINS: PENN STATE ... OR RUTGERS?
King: Penn State. The Nittany Lions will feed off of a not-so-terrible loss to Purdue and scrape together at least two W's among Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan State. After struggling to score on Temple, Rutgers will be hard-pressed to get one victory off of Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Boston College, Connecticut and Navy.
Mandel: Scarlet Knights, 5-4. That darn New Hampshire game could cost Rutgers a bowl berth.
Schecter: Hmmm. Let me toss a coin. Wait, this one is two-sided. Rock, paper, scissors... Aw, heck. Penn State because JoPa has to get a break.
Winn: Rutgers ... the Scarlet Knights already have a two-game lead, and the Nittany Lions don't have a gimme left (even a win at Indiana is not a lock). PSU fans can look on the bright side; they won't get Gameday in State College anytime soon, but Cold Pizza will be visiting Friday.