Posted: Wed October 16, 2013 12:01PM; Updated: Wed October 16, 2013 3:34PM

Alabama, Oregon lead SI.com's 2013 midseason Crystal Ball

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Trey DePriest; C.J. Mosley
Trey DePriest (33), C.J. Mosley (32) and Alabama seem set to make a charge at a third straight BCS title.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After an exciting first half of the 2013 college football season, plenty of key questions remain: Can the SEC extend its vaunted streak of seven consecutive national titles? Which team will emerge from the highly competitive Pac-12? Can Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel win his second straight Heisman Trophy?

SI.com college football contributors Stewart Mandel, Andy Staples, Pete Thamel, Zac Ellis, Martin Rickman Lars Anderson and Ben Glicksman share their predictions for the second half. For more midseason content, check out SI.com's Midseason All-America Team, offbeat first-half accolades, podcast roundtable, Halfway Heisman, Andy Awards and more.

SI.com's 2013 Midseason Crystal Ball
BCS Bowl Projections
 
Stewart Mandel
  Title Game   Rose   Sugar   Fiesta   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Andy Staples
  Title Game   Rose   Sugar   Fiesta   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Pete Thamel
  Title Game   Rose   Sugar   Fiesta   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Zac Ellis
  Title Game   Rose   Sugar   Fiesta   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Martin Rickman
  Title Game   Rose   Sugar   Fiesta   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Lars Anderson
  Title Game   Rose   Sugar   Fiesta   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
Ben Glicksman
  Title Game   Rose   Sugar   Fiesta   Orange  
  vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.   vs.  
 
National Champion
 
Mandel
I'm done picking against the Crimson Tide until I actually see another team hoist the crystal football. Some offenses may be flashier, but none has the collective talent of quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon and those receivers. Alabama's secondary has been in flux, but safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will return and the young corners will be fine by season's end.
Staples
The Crimson Tide don't appear as dominant as they did at this point in 2011 or '12, but they are good enough to go undefeated through the rest of their schedule, and then --with so much time to prepare -- beat Oregon or Ohio State in the BCS title game.
Thamel
We'll learn a lot more about the Ducks over the next few weeks, but it's clear so far that no one has been able to stop them. We can look forward to five weeks of comparing Oregon's speed to the SEC's speed.
Ellis
I'm changing my preseason pick. Alabama's wild win over Texas A&M stands as the one test we've seen the Crimson Tide face, and Nick Saban's crew hasn't been as dominant as many expected. Meanwhile, Oregon has looked impressive on both sides of the ball. The Ducks' underrated defense may be able to stop Alabama's offense; I'm not sure the Tide's defense could do the same to quarterback Marcus Mariota and company.
Rickman
Before the season, I thought the national champion would come out of the Pac-12. I still believe that. Alabama passed its first major test against Texas A&M, and aside from a Nov. 9 showdown with LSU, the Crimson Tide controls its own destiny. But Oregon is winning games effortlessly, and it has a better defense than anyone gives it credit for.
Anderson
The Crimson Tide are still a work-in-progress, but the offensive line and the secondary -- the team's two primary weak spots early in the season -- are improving with every game. No quarterback in the country -- strike that, no quarterback in recent memory -- is as clutch as McCarron on a big stage. He'll deliver another MVP-worthy performance in the national title game.
Glicksman
The Ducks were arguably one De'Anthony Thomas block away from playing in the national title game last season. This season, they'll meet Alabama in the matchup fans have been waiting to see. Mariota and the Oregon offense get the headlines, but once again, coordinator Nick Aliotti's defense deserves its due. The Ducks, who lost Dion Jordan, Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso from their 2012 defense, rank sixth nationally in scoring defense and 18th nationally in total defense.
 
Second-Half Surprise Team
 
Mandel
Close road losses to Arizona State and Ohio State have relegated the Badgers to the bottom of the polls (AP rank: 25). But their last six games are against Illinois, Iowa, BYU, Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State. Barring a rash of injures, Gary Andersen's team will win out.
Staples
After the Gamecocks lost in Athens on Sept. 7, you couldn't spell Citrus without USC (sorry, it doesn't work with Capital One). But with Georgia in disarray, with Florida's offense faltering and with surprise contender Missouri having lost quarterback James Franklin (shoulder) for the season's most critical stretch, South Carolina suddenly looks like the favorite again in the SEC East. If the Gamecocks can win the division, and if they can beat Clemson for the fifth consecutive time, they could be playing for more than the SEC title in Atlanta on Dec. 7 -- depending, of course, on what happens elsewhere in the country over the next seven weeks.
Thamel
The Beavers have quietly cobbled together a 5-1 start that includes a win at Utah (something even Stanford couldn't pull off). Oregon State still has the class of the league coming up on its schedule -- the Cardinal, USC, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon -- but don't be surprised to see the Beavers celebrating a few victories at In-N-Out Burger during that run.
Ellis
Take a look at the Badgers' remaining schedule. They don't face a team currently ranked in the Top 25 the rest of the way. Wisconsin has a couple of intriguing games against BYU and Penn State, but otherwise things set up nicely for running back Melvin Gordon and that rushing attack to make some serious noise in the Big Ten.
Rickman
After a preseason filled with injuries and an opening-week loss to Alabama, the Hokies were largely written off. More than a month later, many still don't see Virginia Tech as a BCS-caliber team. But coordinator Bud Foster's defense is good enough to keep the Hokies in any game, and if they can go into Miami and pull out a victory on Nov. 9, they might just win another Coastal Division title for coach Frank Beamer.
Anderson
The Badgers, who spanked Northwestern 35-6 last Saturday, will be favored in each of their remaining six games. And a 10-2 record should be good enough to earn Wisconsin a trip to the Big Easy for the Sugar Bowl.
Glicksman
The Spartans are exactly who we thought they'd be: a team with a loaded defense and a very shaky offense. But the Michigan State attack is finally showing signs of life, and quarterback Connor Cook (923 passing yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions) and running back Jeremy Langford (420 rushing yards, seven touchdowns) have been better of late. If the offense can continue to improve, then a team that features such defensive talents as end Shilique Calhoun, linebacker Max Bullough and cornerback Darqueze Dennard should make a run at the Legends Division title.
 
Second-Half Flop Team
 
Mandel
Season-ending injuries have cost the Gators starters at quarterback (Jeff Driskel), running back (Matt Jones), right tackle (Chaz Green) and kick returner (Andre Debose). Injury has also robbed Florida of its best defensive player (defensive tackle Dominique Easley). With games coming up against Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State, the Gators' best-case scenario may be 7-5.
Staples
Sorry this is so SEC heavy, but this one has blinking lights around it. The schedule -- with three games in as many weeks against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina -- was built to trip up the Tigers. After seeing what Missouri did in the first three quarters against the Bulldogs last Saturday, the idea of the Tigers going 3-0 in those games didn't seem so impossible. But when Franklin went down, that tilted the scales against them. Missouri will still likely have a season better than most of us idiots expected, but with Franklin out for three to five weeks it's going to be hard for the Tigers to cash in on this 6-0 start and win an SEC East title.
Thamel
The Cowboys are 4-1, but have looked pedestrian in a loss to West Virginia and win over Kansas State. And those teams are, well, pedestrian.
Ellis
A Gators team that still can’t find a groove on offense has plenty of challenges remaining. Florida’s defense is dominant, but quarterback Tyler Murphy and company continue to struggle. The Gators' offense must still face Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State, and it doesn’t seem like it has enough firepower to make a charge in the SEC East.
Rickman
It’s been a fun ride to 6-0 for coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders, but the bottom should drop out on them pretty soon. Texas Tech barely survived TCU on Sept. 12, and Iowa State gave the Red Raiders a closer-than-expected game last Saturday. With games left against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas, expect Texas Tech to suffer a handful of losses in the second half.
Anderson
The Bruins have been a nice story to date, and quarterback Brett Hundley has been impressive while playing his way into the Heisman conversation. But I think UCLA will lose its upcoming road games against Stanford and Oregon. Following those back-to-back defeats, coach Jim Mora’s squad will unravel over the final month of the season.
Glicksman
Given their second-half schedule, which includes games against USF (2-4), UConn (0-5) and Memphis (1-4), the Cardinals need to be consistently dominant to have even a slim chance of sneaking into the national championship game. That won't happen. In an upset, quarterback Blake Bortles and UCF will knock off unbeaten Louisville this Friday.
 
Best Bet to Bust the BCS
 
Mandel
While Fresno State is currently ranked higher, I don’t have faith in the Bulldogs’ defense to make it through the high-octane Mountain West unscathed. NIU’s MAC opposition is less imposing, with the exception of 6-1 Ball State.
Staples
The Bulldogs have a four-spot lead over Northern Illinois in the Coaches’ and Harris polls. The cancellation of the Colorado game might cost Fresno State with the computers, but the humans don’t need to see the Bulldogs beat up on the Buffaloes to appreciate them more. NIU’s two BCS-conference wins are Iowa and Purdue, and those likely won’t look too impressive once Big Ten play wraps. The catch is that neither Fresno nor NIU may get the chance to bust the BCS because of the quality at the top of the AQ leagues. If Louisville goes undefeated, it’s unlikely any AQ conference champ will be ranked lower than No. 16 in the BCS standings. It’s also unlikely either Fresno State or Northern Illinois climbs to No. 12 in the BCS standings to activate the other automatic berth trigger.
Thamel
No one. There's no upper-middle class in college football anymore. Programs like Utah and TCU have realigned to power conferences. Boise State is a tick off this year. Northern Illinois still has a few stiff tests remaining in the MAC. Someone in a Big Five front office will count a stack of money that comes with an extra BCS bid.
Ellis
The Bulldogs have already passed their biggest tests of the year with wins over Rutgers and Boise State. In fact, a Nov. 9 game at Wyoming might be the only significant regular-season obstacle remaining for quarterback Derek Carr and company. Don't be surprised if Fresno State emerges as this year's Northern Illinois, with Carr doing his best Jordan Lynch impression.
Rickman
The Bulldogs' schedule looks favorable, and the teams ranked above them in the polls are finally beginning to lose. Fresno State has an elite quarterback in Carr, and even in a pass-happy Mountain West, the odds of it making a BCS push are good.
Anderson
After beating two Big Ten teams in nonconference play -- Iowa (30-27) and Purdue (55-24) -- the Huskies survived Akron on Saturday to keep their faint BCS hopes alive. I don't think they'll bust the BCS because their defense is too vulnerable, but this is a team to keep an eye on in the second half.
Glicksman
It's time to stop looking at NIU's success as a surprise. The Huskies are 40-8 dating back to the start of the 2010 campaign, and they're well on their way to a fourth straight 11-win season. The scary part? Led by quarterback Lynch, running back Cameron Stingily and safety Jimmie Ward, this group might be the best of the bunch.
 
Heisman Trophy Winner
 
QB Marcus Mariota :: Simon Bruty/SI
Mandel
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State. The hype surrounding the 'Noles gifted redshirt freshman quarterback will go through the roof if he has a big game on Saturday against Clemson. It will be an incredibly tight race with Johnny Manziel and Mariota, but voters love the new kid.

Staples
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon. The guy is making everything look so easy right now. Last Saturday, Washington's defense -- which is very good -- was supposed to give Mariota his first real test. With his best back (Thomas) out with an ankle injury, his best tight end (Colt Lyerla) off the team and his best receiver (Josh Huff) missing plays with injuries, Mariota destroyed the Huskies. The craziest thing? Until Texas A&M offered Manziel a scholarship, Mariota and Johnny Football were set to be teammates at Oregon.

Thamel
Mariota. I'm sticking with my preseason pick. He's built enough momentum and has the right showcase games to win it.

Ellis
Mariota. I originally thought Mariota and Thomas would negate each other's Heisman chances. But seven weeks into the season, Mariota is the Ducks' unquestioned headliner. After turning in several dominant outings against lesser competition, Mariota upped his stock by picking apart Washington on the road last weekend. There might not be a defense that can truly contain Mariota this year.

Rickman
Mariota. Manziel is putting up deserving stats as well, but Mariota has made it look so easy through the first half of the season. His continued dominance is not only a testament to Oregon's scheme, but also to the Ducks quarterback, who is blessed with great athleticism and a tremendously strong arm.

Anderson
Mariota. As long as he doesn't get hurt, this is Mariota's trophy to lose. What's most impressive about Oregon's quarterback is his poise. No matter what the situation this season, the redshirt sophomore has maintained composure. He'll need to play the game of his life when he faces Alabama in the national title game for the Ducks to have a chance.

Glicksman
Mariota. I was really tempted to put reigning Heisman winner Manziel here, especially after his latest virtuoso performance in Saturday's comeback win at Ole Miss. But while Manziel is college football's most exciting player, Mariota is currently the most outstanding. In addition to accounting for 25 total touchdowns, Mariota has attempted 233 consecutive passes without an interception, a Pac-12 record.
 
First Player to Fall Out of Heisman Race
 
QB Tajh Boyd:: Richard Shiro/AP
Mandel
QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson. Saturday's showdown in Death Valley is an elimination game, and I've already made my pick known.

Staples
QB Aaron Murray, Georgia. If Murray could somehow drag the banged-up Bulldogs to the SEC East title, he would merit at least a trip to New York, if not the Heisman itself. But given Georgia's current DEFCON 1 situation at receiver, the odds of Murray hanging in the race are long.

Thamel
Boyd. I think Florida State wins at Clemson this weekend. The winning quarterback in that game will inevitably leap the other in the Heisman race. So Boyd's the best bet to fall off the radar.

Ellis
Boyd. I've been pretty high on Clemson's quarterback this season, but I'm wary of the Tigers' matchup with Florida State on Saturday. That game could ultimately squash Boyd or Florida State's Winston's Heisman chances, and the 'Noles are coming off a bye week and a rout of previously unbeaten Maryland. I think Florida State takes down the Tigers, effectively ending Boyd's campaign.

Rickman
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State. Miller has improved as a passer this year, but his split-second decision-making remains suspect. The Buckeyes have already played their toughest two-game stretch, and while Miller performed well against Wisconsin, he struggled at times against Northwestern, so much so that coach Urban Meyer thought about pulling him for backup Kenny Guiton. Miller should be able to put up big numbers against the bottom tier of the Big Ten, but his Heisman hopes are dwindling fast.

Anderson
Murray. He's probably already out of it, but I don't think Murray will even receive an invitation to New York for the Heisman ceremony. It's not really his fault. The Bulldogs' offense has been absolutely decimated by injuries, and after losing to Missouri on Saturday, one has to wonder if Murray regrets returning to Athens for his senior season.

Glicksman
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. Bridgewater is one of the very best quarterbacks in the nation, and he'll continue to be coveted entering next year's NFL draft. But after failing to wow voters last Thursday against Rutgers, he faces an uphill battle to catch candidates like Manziel, Mariota, Winston and Boyd.
 
Coach of the Year
 
Art Briles :: John Rivera/Icon SMI
Mandel
Art Briles, Baylor. The offensive guru should already be viewed as one of the best coaches in the sport for the resurrection he's performed in Waco. Leading the longtime Big 12 doormats to a league title and BCS berth will be a more tangible accomplishment.

Staples
Briles. Bet you thought I was going to say USC's Ed Orgeron because of the Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. I'll admit it. I thought about it. But if Briles can lead the Bears to their first Big 12 title, he'll deserve the honor.

Thamel
Gus Malzahn, Auburn. He put out the dumpster fire that Gene Chizik left behind and has Auburn playing well. Don't be surprised to see the Tigers pull a big upset -- Texas A&M? Alabama? -- before the season is over.

Ellis
Mark Helfrich, Oregon. With the Ducks on pace to reach their fifth straight BCS bowl, it's easy to forget that this is Helfrich's first year on the job. Sure, he inherited a stacked roster. But if he leads Oregon to a BCS title, he'll have folks in Eugene saying, "Chip who?"

Rickman
Briles. There's still a chance that Baylor won't win the Big 12, but the Bears are the clear frontrunners at this point. Most of the credit goes to Briles, who has completely transformed the program. Watching the Bears has been a joy through the first half of the season. They've slowly gathered a crop of incredible athletes, and now they believe they're going to win.

Anderson
Malzahn. The Tigers headman wins this in a landslide. A year after failing to win a single conference game, Auburn is 2-1 in the SEC (5-1 overall) and back in the Top 25. Last year, the Tigers simply gave up on Chizik midway through the season. Twelve months later, Malzahn, the former high school teacher and coach, has transformed the culture on the Plains.

Glicksman
Briles. When Robert Griffin III won the Heisman in 2011, Baylor was seen as a one-year wonder. Now, fueled by a prolific offense, it looks like the class of the Big 12. If the Bears make a BCS bowl, it'll be a credit to everything Briles has built.
 
Coach on the Hottest Seat
 
Charlie Weis :: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Mandel
Ron English, Eastern Michigan. One MAC coach (Miami of Ohio's Don Treadwell) has already been axed. English, 10-38 coming into the year, is off to a 1-5 start in 2013. That can't be good.

Staples
Charlie Weis, Kansas. The Jayhawks might have had their best shot at a Big 12 win last Saturday at TCU, but they lost by 10 points. Weis is 3-14 with wins against South Dakota State, South Dakota and Louisiana Tech. No one expects Kansas to win the Big 12, but at some point the Jayhawks will demand at least a few conference victories.

Thamel
Mike London, Virginia. Other than at Texas and USC, there isn't expected to be mass coaching turnover this year. Virginia should end up being one of the plum jobs available. The Cavaliers are just 18-25 in London's four seasons. They're 2-4 this season with a blowout loss to Ball State. What happens the rest of the way with Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech still left on the schedule?

Ellis
Weis. Kansas already has more wins (two) in 2013 than it had all of last season (one). But those came against FCS South Dakota and Louisiana Tech. The Jayhawks' next four games? Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State. That could spell the end for Weis, who won't last much longer with the nation's 115th-ranked total offense.

Rickman
English. Winning at Eastern Michigan is a struggle. But the Eagles don't even look competitive in the MAC right now, and they've been outright embarrassed at times. They lost 42-14 to Buffalo and 50-25 to Army, the latter a game in which Eastern Michigan allowed more than 500 rushing yards. Outside of a 6-6 season in 2011, English has gone 5-37. Change is likely on the way.

Anderson
Weis. In his two years at Kansas, Weis has a record of 3-14. He'll keep his job until the end of the regular season -- and then lose it the next day.

Glicksman
Weis. Kansas' last Big 12 win came on Nov. 6, 2010. That tells fans everything they need to know about Weis' tenure in Lawrence. Weis only stays if he can somehow convince hoops star Andrew Wiggins to strap on a helmet and shoulder pads.
 
A Bold Prediction
 
QB Braxton Miller :: Jay LaPrete/AP
Mandel
Ohio State will carry an 11-0 record and 23-game winning streak to the Big House on Nov. 30 ... and lose, thus squelching a potentially unbearable BCS title matchup controversy.

Staples
Four teams (Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State and Louisville) will finish the regular season undefeated. Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich will propose that the playoff start a year early and be declined. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will say the Buckeyes always wanted to play in the Rose Bowl anyway.

Thamel
The SEC's reputation will continue to take a hit. There doesn't appear to be any team in the SEC East that can stop Alabama if the Tide reach Atlanta. But if 'Bama loses to LSU, the SEC's run of national championships will likely be over. Regardless, this season has shown that the depth of the SEC simply isn't what it used to be.

Ellis
His surprising Red River Rivalry victory notwithstanding, Mack Brown's Texas tenure will end in a tailspin. The Longhorns will drop three straight to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor to close the season.

Rickman
USC will win eight games. No, really. OK, maybe I'm just a big fan of when coaches let kids be kids again, and interim coach Orgeron giving his linemen cookies is a great start. But there is so much talent on USC, and perhaps the Trojans benefitted from a fresh start. USC has the feel of a team that has learned from the past and moved on.

Anderson
Shortly after winning his fourth national championship in five years, Saban will sign a five-year contract extension with Alabama that ensures he is the highest-paid coach in America by $1 for the length of his deal.

Glicksman
After falling 89 yards short of Barry Sanders' single-season all-purpose yardage record (3,250 yards) last year, Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews rides a strong second half to snap the mark in 2013.
 
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