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Where is college football going to get extra freaky the fastest this year?  Here are your answers, and no, Illinois doesn’t count.  Things are about to get really mellow now that Tim Beckman is headed for an autumn in the tropics (or at the offices of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, but that’s another matter).

  1. Iowa. Think the natives are getting restless? After his big run from 2002-2004 (and a 2009 outlier), Kirk Ferentz has been good for 6-8 wins like clockwork lo these 16 years. This year, they open with Illinois State, who barely lost to four-time FCS champs North Dakota State in last year’s title game. If things go south on September 5th, this will get very ugly very fast. If they don’t, things won’t get weird until Wisconsin plows them in Week 5.
  1. Texas. Typically, a new football coach – particularly one with a track record like Charlie Strong’s – gets a few years to rebuild matters. Typically, a fan base isn’t nearly as obnoxiously smug and entitled as the Horns’. One 6-7 season later, with Texas now the fourth best program in, er, Texas, the long knives will be out quick, especially if things start 2-4, which is a distinct possibility when your first half includes Notre Dame, TCU, and both Oklahoma schools. If they lose at home to Cal in Week Three, the team should probably plan on relocating to Abilene.
  1. Florida. The last time the Gators dipped into the Mountain West for a head coach, they got Urban Meyer. Jim McElwain is not Urban Meyer. The best quarterback on the roster appears to be “none of the above”. The best running back on the roster just left the roster. The defense is led by the alleged DBU crew, which backstops the definitely not DLU and LBU crews. They won’t lose to a Georgia Southern this year, but happy days are decidedly not here again in the Swamp.
  1. South Florida. You hired a coach who went 16-20 in the Sun Belt? What did you expect? Last year, the disasters that were Tulsa and SMU spared USF from having only one win against an FBS opponent. Tulsa is not on the schedule this year, and Chad Morris is in at SMU. Welcome to the final year of the Willie Taggart era.
  1. USC. The Trojans are back! There’s a Heisman Trophy quarterback at Troy! A Pac-12 title and playoff berth are going to happen! Never mind the questions in the defensive front seven or the minor matter of what happens if Cody Kessler goes down (not that he’s playing behind a really young o-line or anything). Especially never mind that the fans are already halfway to demanding Sark’s head on a platter. One surprise loss – y’know, like Boston College, Arizona State, or Utah last year – and the torches and pitchforks will be out. Luckily, Sark’s training camp has been uneventful.
  1. USC. A year ago, the Gamecocks were feeling, er, cocky and hanging a 75-foot tall Spurrier on the side of Williams-Brice Stadium. 12 months later, after a horrific 7-6 flop, the D can’t possibly be anywhere near as bad as it was in 2014. Of course, the offense won’t be nearly as good with questions at quarterback and with no depth beyond Pharoh Cooper at receiver. The Spurrier Is Retiring talk will only heat up more.
  1. Utah. There’s talent everywhere, and the Utes have proved they belong in the big time. These should be the salad days in SLC, and they were until some jackass (hint: he’s the A.D.) decided to pick a fight with Kyle Whittingham, who really should be coaching somewhere better than this. If anything weird happens, and with Michigan and Oregon in the first month, that’s possible, tensions could escalate quickly, followed by – naturally – chaos.
  1. Washington State. Try this little crisis on for size: more consolidation is coming. Somebody – some Power 5 program from a small media market – is going to get left out. (Okay, several somebodies are going to be left out.) Things aren’t working out so hot for the Pirate. Things better improve quickly, before somebody in Pullman pulls the trigger in an attempt to make things look much better in the Palouse.
  1. Ole Mississippi State. The feel good stories of 2014 won’t get ugly this year, but there’s about to be a severe reduction in the feelgoodishness of things, particularly in Oxford, where there’s still a ton of talent on both lines but a lot of questions at the skill positions. In Stark Vegas, Dak Prescott might be the best quarterback in the game, but enough talent has moved on to Sundays that last year is about to look like the good old days.
  1. Colorado. The happy notes: best receiver in the conference and a talented quarterback. The bad notes: everything else. At least the Buffs miss Oregon and Stanf…just kidding. Welcome back to the cellar in college football’s other strongest division.
  1. Oklahoma. America’s most disappointing team, year in and year out, has a chance to lose to up-and-coming (but still 7-6 last year) Tennessee in Week Two. That might set a new land speed record for letting the air out of the Sooner Schooner’s tires.
  1. Arkansas. Apparently, a 2-6 SEC finish creates momentum. This season’s trendy pick for team on the rise, imagine what happens when the Hogs get done with that lollipop nonconference schedule and dive headlong into the SEC West while down a stud running back. Lucky for them, they only get Tennessee and Missouri out of the East. They’ll be better this year, but not that much better, which might mean #badkarma is back in Fayetteville.
  1. Cal. At last, things in Strawberry Canyon are back on track after we ran Coach Ted out of Dodge! We’ve got maybe the best quarterback in the conference. Look at that Bear Raid offense go! The defense is coming back out on the field? Oh hell, duck and cover, friends. If you can’t smell the trouble in this air, you’re not breathing deeply enough.
  1. Hawaii. Norm Chow deserves better. He hasn’t gotten it yet, and he isn’t going to this year. Starting with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State in the first five weeks isn’t going to help either.
  1. Vanderbilt. Vandy has absolutely no right to expect to be good, and the program has stayed well within its rights for decades…except for those three years that James Franklin was in the saddle. He’s relocated to Happy Valley, and things aren’t particularly happy in Nash Vegas. The non-conference schedule is loaded with trap games against mid-majors and the conference schedule is loaded with SEC teams. Derek Mason deserves better. Ask Norm Chow how that works out.
  1. Miami (FL). Al Golden has rebuilt a proud program in his image. Tragically, his image is 28-22 in four years, and nine of those wins came in 2013. Larry Coker got run for one seven-win season, and he won a national championship in Coral Gables.   Brad Kaaya had a promising freshman year, but he’ll be playing without Duke Johnson in the backfield this year, and if there’s one thing The U won’t stand for, it’s another Underperforming, Unexciting, Unexceptional season.
  1. Virginia Tech. There isn’t a more distinguished coaching career in the game today than Frank Beamer’s. There isn’t a more distinguished DC in the game than Bud Foster, who’s been playing Beamerball for 21 years. Imagine how close they are. Imagine how weird things are going to get if the Hokies put up their fourth straight 7ish-win season, and those “Frank should retire and Bud should take over” whispers get louder. This might not be the best year to open with an Ohio State team hellbent on revenge for their one loss last year.  Overall, things will be fine – just fine – in Blacksburg.
  1. Nebraska. Bo Pellini was mean. Mike Riley is nice. So very nice. Just like the typical Nebraskan, who is exceedingly nice. Unless, of course, the football team isn’t up to snuff. Then, the typical Nebraskan is slightly less nice. Plus, he owns a shotgun. Happy hunting, Riles.
  1. UNLV. You’re a traditional doormat. Expectations around your program are so low that things couldn’t possibly get weird. Unless, of course, you hire a dude straight out of a local high school power as your new head coach. That always works out well. Throw in a three-game opener with traditional mid-major power Northern Illinois, UCLA, and Michigan, and the Rebs might be best off betting their whole season on black.
  1. Kansas. God, what a mess. Lose the opener at home to a nine-win FCS squad – South Dakota State – and your new coach is going to start 0-12. Welcome to your Charlie Weis hangover, Jayhawks.