|Daily Blog •July 31, 2013|
A lot of people ask me if I have a favorite team. I was born and raised and still live in Cleveland, Ohio. I was a fan of many teams as a child but now that I put out a national magazine, I cannot afford to be a fan of any team. I have to pick the teams where I think they will finish each year. Every year I get accused for being a homer on some teams while also being accused by some fan bases for disliking their favorite team. I was doing a radio show last week and I was asked if I have a favorite team or teams. My response was a strong YES!
The interviewer was surprised by that answer and also eager to hear which team I would pick. My answer was my favorite team each year is the team I pick #1 in the magazine and my favorite teams are the ones I have picked higher than all the other major magazines out there. I then said that each year I establish a list of my favorite teams for that year. Keep in mind I could be a big fan of one team one year and the very next year be rooting against them in every single game.
I then give my favorite teams list to my wife. I wear a shirt and tie to work every day during the week and my tie is always a college team. I wear polo shirts during the weekend and when not at work and they are always different college teams. The list I give my wife is the ones to buy that I will be wearing for the upcoming year as these are the teams I will be the biggest fan of for the upcoming season. I was then asked “What teams will your wife be buying ties and shirts of this year? That was a great question and I thought I would answer it in a blog.
I went to preseason.stassen.com to find out where all the magazines have everyone ranked for the upcoming year. Here is the list of teams that I will be rooting for the most this year.
1. Alabama-The Tide are my pick to win the national title this year and I’m sure there will be a lot of prognosticators rooting for them as they are a consensus preseason No. 1 at this point among the major magazines. Two years ago, the Crimson Tide were my favorite team in the country and they delivered with a national title, can they do it again and make college football history by winning their fourth title in five years?
2. Tulane-This may come as a major surprise, but for the first time since I have been doing this blog (four years), the Green Wave make my favorite teams’ list. This year, Tulane returns 16 starters and my main set of power ratings call for them to be bowl eligible for the first time in 11 years. With that in mind, I picked them 3rd in the CUSA West division while no other preseason publication picked them higher than 5th. Needless to say, I will be a big Green Wave fan this year and will have to buy some merchandise.
3. Michigan St-Another team that has yet to appear as a favorite team of mine is surprisingly the Spartans who I picked to tie Nebraska in the Big 10 Legends division this year. I was the only preseason publication to pick them that high and while Lindy’s picked them to finish 2nd, Athlon, The Sporting News and USA Today all picked the Spartans to finish 4th in the division. After a disappointing season last year, I expect the Spartans will bounce back in a big way led by the Big 10’s best defense and a much more manageable schedule as they avoid Ohio St and Wisconsin from the Big 10 Leaders.
4. Colorado St-The Rams actually made my favorite teams list in 2011 and this year are back on it. I just got done talking to coach McElwain today and even with a tough schedule, I am still confident in my pick of the Rams finishing 3rd in the Mountain division. No other preseason publication picked them higher than 5th in the division, but with 17 returning starters, 8 of my 9 sets of power ratings call for Colorado St to get to their first bowl since 2008.
5. USC-Last year expectations were thru the roof for the Trojans and I actually took some flak in the preseason among Trojan fans for picking them #4 in the country unlike many experts who picked them #1. After their extremely disappointing 7-6 finish, the Trojan bandwagon is nearly empty, but I am back on it as this year I am the only major preseason magazine to pick them to win the Pac-12 South. I also am the only one to pick them in the preseason Top 20 (I have them #6) as only Lindy’s had them in the Top 25 (#25). With 15 returning starters, USC goes from a disappointing team to a Darkhorse National Title contender and they are clearly one of my favorite teams in 2013.
6. Texas-For the third consecutive year, the Longhorns are one of my favorite teams as I picked them to win the Big 12 while USA Today was the only other preseason magazine to do so. I also picked them #4 in the country as no other source picked them higher than 14th. The Horns are the most experienced team in the country and currently are favored to win all 12 of their games in Las Vegas. The last time I picked them to win the Big 12 was in 2009 and they went on to play for the national title that year. Look for the Horns to return to a BCS game this year for the first time since that 2009 national title appearance.
7. Virginia Tech-Two years ago, the Hokies made my favorite teams’ list and they started the season 11-1 before dropping their final 2. After a very disappointing 7-6 season last year that ended a streak of 8 consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more, the Hokies again make my list as they are my pick to win the ACC Coastal Division. I was the only preseason publication to pick them to win the Coastal outright (USA Today had them tied with Miami) and I also picked the Hokies to finish #12 in the country while no other publication has them in their Top 25. After a slow start their defense last year gave up just 80 rush ypg in their final 7 games and returns 9 starters this year. On offense, they have much more experience and depth surrounding QB Logan Thomas and should improve. After a probable loss to Alabama in the opener, look for the Hokies to start a new streak of 10 or more win-seasons.
8. Wake Forest-This is the first time the Demon Deacons have made my favorite teams list but they do return 15 starters and I like the fact that they’ll be running more option in the offense with a deeper QB corps. I picked them to finish 4th in the Atlantic Coastal division while no other publication has them higher than 5th and some have them picked last. Grobe is getting back to his roots and that is when WF is their most dangerous. I look for them to get back to a bowl this year as I will have to buy some Demon Deacon gear.
9. Arkansas-Arkansas along with USC last year were arguably the two most disappointing teams in the country but this year like the Trojans, the Hogs make my favorite teams list. Despite being picked last in the SEC West at media days, I picked them to finish 5th in the SEC West (only Sporting News had them that high) and I think they have a shot at going from only 4 wins last year to 6 or 7 this year. They should start the season 4-0 and then also get key games against Auburn and Mississippi St at home in SEC play. I talked with coach Bielema a few days ago and I like the fact that they will be very strong on both the offensive and defensive lines. This is not only one of my favorite teams but also one of the most improved teams in the country.
10. Houston-Just two years ago, the Cougars were one of my favorite teams and I wrote in my magazine that they had a great shot at going 12-0. They did indeed go 12-0 before being upset in the CUSA Championship game. After last year’s 5-7 disappointing season, the Cougars are back on my favorite teams’ list thanks to an underrated offense that returns 8 starters and has two great wide receivers in Deontay Greenberry and USC transfer Markeith Ambles. I picked the Cougars to finish 4th in the AAC this year while no other publication had them higher than tied for 4th and the Sporting News picked them to finish 10th. I look for the Cougars to be back in a bowl this year and could improve their win total by as many as three games.
11. Tennessee-The Volunteers made this list last year but disappointed me. However, they make the list again this year despite having a new coach in Butch Jones. Most publications look at who is returning at quarterback, running back and wide receiver and if you solely based your projections on that then the Volunteers would be in trouble this year. However, I like the fact that they have one of the better offensive lines in the country as they return 123 career starts and they also have a solid DL led by Daniel McCullers. I picked the Vols to finish 4th in the SEC East while every other preseason publication picked them 5th or lower. After missing out on postseason play each of the last two years, look for the Volunteers to be back in a bowl this year.
12. Marshall-The Thundering Herd were on my favorite teams’ list back in 2009 and now appear again for the first time since then. They are my #1 most improved team in the country thanks to the return of record-setting quarterback Rakeem Cato and seven other starters from the most explosive offense in CUSA. I picked them to win the CUSA East division outright with only Athlon doing the same while Lindy’s and the Sporting News picked them 3rd in the division.
13. UCF-The Knights made this list last year as they were my #1 most improved team in the country and did improve their win total by 5 wins. This year they again make my favorite teams’ list as I picked them to finish 2nd in the AAC while Athlon and Lindy’s picked them to finish 4th while the Sporting News picked them to finish 5th. Their conference slate is manageable as they avoid Cincinnati and play a couple of weak teams on the road in Memphis and Temple while getting key games vs Connecticut, Houston, Rutgers and USF all at home.
14. UAB-The Blazers made my favorite teams’ list back in 2010 and appear again this year. They return 16 starters and all 3 of UAB’s skill positions rank in my Top 5 in CUSA and they have an outstanding special teams’ unit. 4 of my 9 sets of power ratings call for them to be bowl eligible and I picked them tied for third in CUSA East while the other preseason publications had them 4th or lower.