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Posted: Thursday October 20, 2011 9:43AM ; Updated: Thursday October 20, 2011 1:51PM
SI.com's 2011 Midseason Crystal Ball
A lot can change in seven weeks. After providing their original forecasts back in August, SI.com college football analysts Stewart Mandel, Andy Staples, Holly Anderson, Austin Murphy, George Schroeder, Cory McCartney, Bill Trocchi and Mallory Rubin offer their revised predictions for the rest of the season. For more content at the midway point, check out SI.com's midseason All-America Team, midseason podcast roundtable, midseason awards, midseason reader poll and more.
BCS Bowl Projections
 
Stewart Mandel
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Andy Staples
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Holly Anderson
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Austin Murphy
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
George Schroeder
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Cory McCartney
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Bill Trocchi
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Mallory Rubin
  Title Game   Rose   Fiesta   Sugar   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
National Champion
 
Mandel
The Tide defense is otherworldly. They get LSU at home, should face little resistance in the SEC title game and can slow whatever explosive offense they face in New Orleans.
Staples
The Tigers still have to go to Tuscaloosa, but their defense is one of the few that can cause enough chaos to unsettle Alabama. Against Oklahoma, LSU's speed would make it possible to pressure Sooners quarterback Landry Jones -- something most defenses simply can't do. (Note: If Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware are suspended for the Alabama game as well as the Auburn game, all bets are off.)
Anderson
Based on the stumbling blocks Alabama has left versus those remaining for LSU. Their November 5 meeting is of course crucial, but beyond that the Tigers still have to get past Arkansas, while the Tide's strongest remaining opponent is a depleted Auburn squad.
Murphy
Les Miles' top-notch crisis management skills ensure that the Tigers overcome this week's drama. The Hat also figures out some way to turn his two-QB system into a plus, rather than a team-dividing distraction. Something tells me that Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware will be back before the de facto national title game, in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5.
Schroeder
Through no fault of their own, the Sooners have fallen from their preseason No. 1 perch. But while Alabama and LSU have been impressive, Oklahoma has been, too. We knew about Landry Jones and his fleet of talented receivers; now we know the Sooners have a serious defense. This might be college football's most complete team, good enough to break the SEC's stranglehold on the crystal football.
McCartney
The defense is stifling and the Trent Richardson/Eddie Lacy running back combination is tough to stop. But it's the continued improvement of quarterback AJ McCarron that may make this the nation's most complete team, and the SEC's sixth straight national champ.
Trocchi
Playing LSU at home tips the scales to the Tide. Nick Saban's defense is overflowing with NFL prospects and Trent Richardson gives the Tide the running game necessary to grind out enough offense to win every game.
Rubin
The Tide will secure a berth in the national title game by winning the de facto title game against LSU on Nov. 5. Alabama's defense is one of a handful capable of slowing Landry Jones and the Oklahoma offensive machine, and the Trent Richardson-led 'Bama offense can grind out points against Travis Lewis and the Sooners D.
 
Surprise Team
 
Mandel
The 'Canes are better than their 3-3 record, having suffered three last-minute losses. Jacory Harris is much improved. They can't win the ACC, but they'll play spoiler.
Staples
With games against Stanford (Saturday) and Oregon (Nov. 5), the Huskies may have more say in the race for the Pac-12 North title than originally expected.
Anderson
I know, the Cowboys are No. 4. But it will be very, very surprising when they make it past Baylor and Kansas State to Bedlam, undefeated, for a showdown with the Sooners.
Murphy
With sophomore quarterback Keith Price flat-out blowing up and a defense solidified by markedly improved play up front, the Washington Huskies catch Oregon looking ahead to Stanford, and finish with 10 wins.
Schroeder
Kansas State is actually the first half's surprise team, but I'll go with them here. Bill Snyder is leading a second revival in the Little Apple. K-State won't remain unbeaten -- after Kansas comes Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. But don't be surprised if Snyder's bunch pulls a big upset, and then keeps rolling.
McCartney
The Hurricanes have a budding star in running back Lamar Miller and Jacory Harris is quietly having his best season. With four of their last five remaining ACC games coming at home, the 'Canes may be a dark horse contender in the Coastal Division.
Trocchi
The Irish are currently unranked, but Brian Kelly's team will be favored in its next five games and should enter the Stanford finale on a nine-game win streak. A win there, and Notre Dame would go from out of the polls to into the BCS in seven weeks.
Rubin
Remember when Mark Richt's ouster seemed imminent? The Dawgs have won five straight since starting 0-2 and stand poised to benefit from South Carolina's misfortunes. The Gamecocks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, but the Bulldogs hold an edge or two of their own: schedule (Florida, New Mexico State, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech follow the bye) and health.
 
Flop Team
 
Mandel
The Gamecocks were living dangerously even before losing star running back Marcus Lattimore for the season. Without him, Steve Spurrier's team won't win the SEC East.
Staples
Just look at the schedule. Oklahoma comes to Manhattan on Oct. 29. The Wildcats go to Oklahoma State on Nov. 5. Texas A&M comes to Manhattan on Nov. 12. No team in the country will face a tougher three-game stretch this season.
Anderson
The Nittany Lions are ranked right now, clocking in at No. 21 in the first BCS standings of the year, by virtue of running up six early wins of suspect quality while also Being Penn State. They have about two-thirds of a working quarterback and play Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin in a row to close out the season.
Murphy
It was fun while it lasted, but last week's ugly loss to Michigan State portends another second-half swoon for Big Blue, which finishes with Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State. Stop Denard Robinson, stop the Wolverines.
Schroeder
Everyone knew the Gamecocks were a cut below SEC West powers Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, but we had them going to the Sugar Bowl in SI.com's Preseason Crystal Ball. Wrong. Now, the question is whether South Carolina can get to Atlanta, never mind the 6-1 record. Stephen Garcia blew his five hundredth chance, and then Marcus Lattimore blew out his knee. The Gamecocks didn't look very good when those guys were playing - and the road to the SEC East title looks very difficult.
McCartney
Bill Snyder is working wonders with a team that our own preseason projections slated for five wins. But the Wildcats are about to enter a stretch of four straight vs. ranked opponents, including consecutive matchups against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. It may be too much to expect the Wildcats' 94th-ranked offense to come through if the defense falters.
Trocchi
Hate to rain on the parade of the Wildcats, who have a nice story going in the Snyder Era II, but the rain is about to come down. Hard. K-State, which has won five of its six games by seven points or less, faces Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas in four straight weeks. Get your umbrellas.
Rubin
The Wildcats will likely be undefeated heading into their Week 9 matchup with Oklahoma. They might finish with four losses. Consecutive games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas is as brutal as it gets.
 
Heisman Trophy Winner
 
QB Andrew Luck :: Landov
Mandel
Andrew Luck, Stanford QB. Despite having yet to play a big national game, Luck remains atop every online Heisman poll, which means it's his trophy to lose. And he won't, continuing to shred Pac-12 defenses to stave off Russell Wilson, Trent Richardson and others.

Staples
Luck. I wish voters would consider critical players at other positions such as LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu or Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones, but they won't. Luck, who doesn't get a ton of publicity at Stanford, will stay in the front of voters' minds as talking heads debate which sorry NFL team will draft him.

Anderson
Luck. As if he didn't already have a leg up in the race by being a quarterback on a winning team and reasonably good-looking, Andrew Luck is now just showing off by making ridiculous sideline catches and aw-shucksing the idea that NFL teams might want to tank their seasons to draft him.

Murphy
Luck. He'll go wire to wire, from preseason favorite to actual winner. Leading the game-winning touchdown drive against Oregon on Nov. 12 will put him over the top.

Schroeder
Luck. Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Trent Richardson and others have made very nice pushes. All Luck has done is solidify his preseason status as the No. 1 candidate. His one-handed grab, heading out of bounds, on the quarterback-throwback is the Heisman highlight we'll see from now 'til New York. If Luck beats Oregon Nov. 12, start engraving his name.

McCartney
Luck. The preseason favorite has done nothing to hurt his standing and is on pace for more yards and touchdown passes than last year when he was runner-up. If he can dominate a Nov. 12 date with Oregon and put the Cardinal in line for a BCS bowl, the trophy may be his.

Trocchi
Trent Richardson, Alabama RB. The Crimson Tide will lean on Richardson in their showdown with LSU, and the junior will put himself in the driver's seat with a huge game against the Tigers. The college football world will have full attention on that game, and Richardson usually comes up big in big games.

Rubin
Richardson. If Stanford makes the BCS, Andrew Luck will win the Heisman. It really is that simple. If, however, the Cardinal come up short against Oregon or Notre Dame (or both) after coasting through a cakewalk of a schedule, the Heisman doors will open. Richardson will continue the trend of the Heisman going to the best (skill position) player on the best team. And he'll have earned it after dominating college football's best conference.
 
First Player to Fall Out of Heisman Race
 
RB LaMichael James :: Steve Conner/Icon SMI
Mandel
Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB. It's a shame, because Griffin was the best player in the country the first half of the season, but Baylor is going to lose more games, and as it does, RGIII will fall off the radar.

Staples
Griffin. Griffin is great, but unless he can pull an upset or two against the titans of the Big 12, he'll drop off most ballots.

Anderson
LaMichael James, Oregon RB. Through no fault of his own, James will fall to the back of the pack thanks to injury and having a capable backup in Kenjon Barner.

Murphy
Denard Robinson, Michigan QB. The Spartans provided the blueprint: When teams crowd the box and tell Robinson, "Beat us with your arm," he won't.

Schroeder
James. After gaining only 54 yards against LSU, many discounted his chances. All James did was start putting up even bigger numbers and more highlights than last year. But just as he was getting back into the race, his Heisman hopes were dislocated along with his right elbow. If he makes it back into the Ducks' lineup in a hurry -- and keeps putting up huge stats -- James might still make it to New York, but he won't win.

McCartney
Robinson. The margin for error is slim after a woeful performance against Michigan State, the best defense he's likely to see. Add in that the Wolverines still have two opponents who rank in the top 18 in total defense (Illinois and Ohio State) awaiting them, and Robinson may disappear from the race for the second straight year.

Trocchi
Griffin. Absolutely love Griffin, but he's got a bye week following a 17-point loss to Texas A&M. Another expected loss after the break to Oklahoma will pretty much put him out of the discussion given all the players on undefeated teams still vying for the award.

Rubin
James. The easy answer is Denard Robinson, but he was barely a threat to earn a ticket to New York even before the Spartans knocked off the Wolverines. I'm going with James, who will suffer from two developments: missing time due to an elbow injury, and the 'system running back' label that's sure to spring back up after Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas seamlessly stepped into James' place.
 
Coach on the Hottest Seat
 
Houston Nutt :: Don McPeak/US PRESSWIRE
Mandel
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss. He's already the first coach in school history to lose nine consecutive SEC games. That streak might not end for several more weeks, by which time he'll likely be a lame duck.

Staples
Rick Neuheisel, UCLA. When your athletic director says you're day-to-day, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Anderson
Houston Dale Nutt. It's a messy crying shame. May he live a thousand years and coach for a thousand and one. Don't look for Ole Miss to improve with his ousting, either; remember the last hire this administration made? The problem's upstairs.

Murphy
Nutt. Looking beyond the obvious answer -- Neuheisel -- our gaze comes to rest on Nutt, who is excellent company and a formidable road warrior. But the Ole Miss coach is an Ed Orgeron-like 2-4, coming off a 4-8 season. Yes, his buyout is pricey, but this is the school that fired David Cutcliffe after a 10-3 season.

Schroeder
Nutt. The only thing saving Nutt might be the necessity for AD Pete Boone to get fired first. Odds are, they'll both be gone at season's end. Nutt's Rebels have lost nine straight SEC games. No other Ole Miss coach has ever put together a streak that long, which is why Nutt may not be long for Oxford.

McCartney
Nutt. After going 4-8 last year, his Rebels are O-fer in the SEC and are struggling on both sides of the ball, ranking 117th in total offense and 106th in defense. Those consecutive nine-win seasons seem like ancient history now, don't they?

Trocchi
Frank Spaziani, Boston College. The Eagles are 1-5, with the one win over UMass, and there aren't any sure victories left on the schedule. Spaziani took over a program that averaged 9.6 wins per year the previous five seasons and that total has dipped to eight, seven and now just a few this year under his watch.

Rubin
Neuheisel. Who would have guessed Mike Stoops would be the first Pac-12 coach to get the boot this season? Neuheisel's fate has been sealed for a while now, and a five- or six-win season won't (and shouldn't) be enough to save him. The Bruins barely beat bad teams and get blown out by good teams. They've been plagued by bad quarterback luck, but at some point the excuses have to give way to change -- and progress.
 
A Bold Prediction
 
Boise State fans :: Steve Conner/Icon SMI
Mandel
If my projected BCS lineup stands, Boise State will knock off LSU in the Sugar Bowl, causing a public outcry for AP voters to give the Broncos a share of the title.

Staples
Stanford and Wisconsin will each finish undefeated and get shut out of the BCS title games by undefeated teams with better résumés. We'll find out exactly how much the Pac-12 and Big Ten love the Rose Bowl instead of a seeded plus-one system similar to the one the SEC and ACC proposed a few years ago. (The answer? Not as much as they thought.)

Anderson
Houston will end the season undefeated but be shut out of BCS bowl games entirely in Case Keenum's final season thanks to strong seasons from AQ conference teams.

Murphy
Despite losing his top running back and starting quarterback, the ageless, mirthless Bill Snyder coaches Kansas State to a 10-2 season and wins at least one Coach of the Year Award.

Schroeder
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, en route to yet another perfect regular season, achieves passing perfection against TCU's suddenly porous defense. Playing almost the whole way -- unlike in so many of the Broncos' blowouts -- Moore completes all 27 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Afterward, the Heisman finalist still goes unrecognized in airports.

McCartney
The BCS slate will feature an unprecedented six undefeated teams. The most we've seen in the 13 years of the system was five in 2009, but with threats in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, along with Boise State, that record will be broken.

Trocchi
Sticking to my preseason prediction (with one minor change): After another undefeated regular season, Chris Petersen accepts the job at UCLA but still coaches Boise State in the Orange Bowl against Notre Dame Clemson.

Rubin
After failing to place teams in the national title game and failing to earn two BCS bids, the stubborn Big Ten and Pac-12 brass will concede change is needed and officially endorse a plus-one.
 

 
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