The University of Iowa University of Iowa

College Football Preview: Non-AQ Predictions


By: Neal Ternes

Words and predictions for the non-AQ conferences and independents brought to you by Neal Ternes and Lars Headington of the College Football Preview Show.

Neal’s Predictions: BLUE Lars’ Predictions: RED

MAC West

Western Michigan Northern Illinois*
Toledo Toledo
Northern Illinois Western Michigan
Central Michigan Central Michigan
Eastern Michigan Ball State
Ball State Eastern Michigan

MAC East
Miami (OH)* Ohio
Ohio Temple
Temple Miami (OH)
Bowling Green Kent State
Kent State Buffalo
Buffalo Bowling Green
Akron Akron

The MAC is top heavy in both of its’ divisions this year.  Lars is more confident that NIU can recover after losing a star RB and head coach in the same year but I am more hesitant.  Western Michigan has an established coach and a bevy of returning starters and I like them to win their division.  I take Lars’ tact with my choice of Miami (OH) despite the fact they also lost a head coach.  The Red Hawks though have a ton of starters returning and I think they will make a second run to the conference title under former Michigan State OC Don Treadwell.

Sun Belt
Florida International* Troy*
Troy Florida International
Arkansas State Louisiana Monroe
Louisiana Monroe Middle Tennessee State
North Texas Arkansas State
Western Kentucky  North Texas
Middle Tennessee State Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic Western Kentucky
Louisiana Louisiana

Lars and I disagree again here on who will come out as the conference champion.  Lars makes the safer pick here with Troy who has won a share of the last five conference titles but I think FIU will make a repeat run this year under Mario Cristobal.  The really bold prediction here is Western Kentucky jumping up to the middle of the conference despite only winning their first game against FBS competition last season.  I think the Hilltoppers have momentum and could pass MTSU, FAU, and Louisiana while they are rebuilding this year.

Hawaii* Hawaii*
Nevada Nevada
Louisiana Tech Fresno State
Fresno State Louisiana Tech
Utah State Idaho
San Jose State San Jose State
Idaho Utah State
New Mexico State New Mexico State

If you listen on the podcast or live last Monday, you heard me announce my frustration that Lars stole my upset pick here.  Great minds do think alike I suppose.  Hawaii is flying a little under the radar this year but Lars and I both believe this will be another great year for the Warriors.  We flip flopped Idaho and Utah State, but the WAC will have quite bit of parity this season with many veteran teams returning and normal powers like Fresno State in rebuilding mode.  Predicting anything past Nevada is very difficult so don’t be surprised if this gets jumbled quite a bit during the year.

Conference USA West
Houston Houston*
Tulsa Tulsa
Rice Southern Methodist
Southern Methodist Rice
Tulane Tulane

Southern Miss* East Carolina
Central Florida Southern Miss
East Carolina Central Florida
Marshall Alabama Birmingham
Alabama Birmingham Marshall
Memphis Memphis

The return of Case Keenum to Houston has Lars thinking that the Cougars will win the Conference USA Title this season and we both agree that they are easily the class of the Western division.  However, I think Southern Miss will grab the East and come out victorious with superior defense, though it could just as easily be Central Florida, who won the conference and beat Georgia in their bowl game last season and also return a slew of talented players.

Mountain West Conference
Boise State* Boise State*
Texas Christian Air Force
Air Force Texas Christian
Colorado State Colorado State
Wyoming San Diego State
San Diego State Wyoming
UNLV New Mexico
New Mexico UNLV

Both of us think Chris Peterson and Kellen Moore are headed for another conference title and the most likely choice for a BCS buster.  We talked up Air Force on the show and Lars even picked the Falcons to jump TCU in the standings.  However, I am a firm believer in Gary Patterson’s defense, and even with a little rebuilding year I think the Frogs will still be an incredibly difficult team to beat.  The one other note is Lars’ (and Phil Steele’s) bold prediction that Mike Locksley’s New Mexico squad will escape the basement of the WAC.  Despite all of the high profile transfers the program has had, I still am not convinced the Lobos will find success under the former Illinois Offensive Coordinator.

Notre Dame Notre Dame
Navy BYU
Army Navy
BYU Army

As former KRUI host Mike Rabon would say, “Bold strategy Cotton”.  I don’t necessarily think Army will field a better team this year than BYU, but the schedules are not even comparable in difficulty.  BYU will have to travel to five Ole Miss, Texas, Oregon State, and TCU (played in Arlington) as well as host UCF and Utah.  With so many tough teams right out of the gate I have a hard time seeing the Cougars get bowl eligible while the Black Knights have a decent shot with their cushy slate of opponents.  We both agree that Notre Dame is the class of the independents but you will have to listen to the podcast to see if we think the Irish are headed back to the BCS.