It’s a tumultuous time for college football. Every week new games are cancelled or postponed due to COVID and new players are opting out (though we don’t expect we would’ve seen much of Tate Martell in the first place). However, there’s one constant along with every other college football season; arguing over rankings. Here are ours, comprised of our writers votes. Feel free to let us know what you think in the forums (click “Sidelines Forums” in our menu and sign up!) or on Twitter.
Note: We are currently only ranking teams planning to play in the next week. This means the Big Ten, Pac 12, MAC and MWC have been left out of this poll.
Others Receiving Votes:
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In a year where almost nothing has been normal, there is one thing that is: Notre Dame is going to be hard to beat.
With 5th year senior and Heisman candidate Ian Book leading the offense, and play makers like Kyle Hamilton and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah leading the defense, Notre Dame is primed for another big year. Here are final score predictions for every Fighting Irish game this year; let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter!
Notre Dame opens the season in South Bend against Duke. Last season, Notre Dame easily defeated the Blue Devils 38-7, and I don’t expect this year to be any different. Because this is the first game of the season, Notre Dame will probably come out a little rusty. I expect Duke to keep it close in the 1st half, but Notre Dame eventually pulls away in the 2nd half and wins convincingly.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Duke 14
vs. South Florida
This should be Notre Dame’s easiest win of the season. Barring another 3 hour rain delay, Notre Dame should cruise to an easy victory to move to 2-0.
Prediction: Notre Dame 42, South Florida 13
at Wake Forest
In Week 4, Notre Dame travels to Wake Forest for their first road game of the season. Notre Dame should have no problem winning this game, but I still expect Wake Forest to keep it closer than it should be. Notre Dame will lead the whole game, and Wake Forest will score late to make the game look closer than it actually was.
The ACC has often been ridiculed as a “basketball conference”, yet they have 3 national champions in the last decade as well as a pretty impressive bowl record in the last few years. Regardless, the ACC plans to take the field this season, and thus we’ll be watching as always. Will Clemson steamroll the conference again? Will a Coastal underdog make the championship game? Check out our preseason rankings here for our predictions (Note, we’re including Notre Dame given this season’s unusual circumstances):
15. Boston College
Oh, Boston College. We so badly want you to succeed to make the ACC look better, but you just haven’t figured it out. Maybe new Coach Jeff Hafley will be the secret ingredient that brings the Eagles out of the basement. One good thing is this roster is very experienced, with 17 starters returning and many being Juniors or Seniors. The Eagles have Oregon-transfer AB Phil Jurkovec who recently had his waiver approved to lead the team, and RB David Bailey has shown a lot of potential. We expect a pretty dismal season, but at least the coaching change marks a new era – and possibly a turning point.
14. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets had a horrible 3-9 campaign last season, but it was entirely expected as they were transitioning from their long used Triple Option offense. Will it all come together in Year 2? Extremely unlikely. Changing an offense like that takes a lot longer, but at least Geoff Collins now has “his guys”. Plus, there’s consistency at QB with James Graham returning. Georgia Tech will not be competing for the championship, but they could pull off a surprise upset as there’s very little on the scouting report of what this offense will look like. Being unexpected may be their best advantage.
QB Tommy DeVito was the most sacked QB among Power 5 teams last season. His offensive line will have 2 new starters, for better or for worse. On the defensive side of the ball, only 4 players are returning. WR Taj Harris could be one of the best in the ACC, but will DeVito even be able to throw to him with defenses running him over? Dino Baber’s coaching is the only thing keeping this roster from the bottom of the ACC, but it could be enough to get them to a bowl.
12. Wake Forest
Wake Forest’s defense is experienced; they return all but 2 starters on that side of the ball and those players did fairly well last season (76th in scoring). The question is the offense; Wake had a top-20 offense last season but lost almost everybody, including QB Jamie Newman who transferred to Georgia. One of the few bright spots, WR Sage Surrat, who led all P5 players in receiving yards through 9 games last season, has opted out of the season.
11. NC State
NC State had trouble finding an identity last season, starting 3 different QBs. However, once they find their guy this season (it looks to be Devin Leary), they have enough experience on both sides of the ball to form a cohesive, competitive team. The Wolfpack is returning all but 7 starters on both sides of the ball, but most are only Sophomores and Juniors. Most people are underrating this Wolfpack team, but if they don’t get a solid connection between a QB and their experienced receivers, experience won’t matter and they’ll fall to the bottom of the ACC.
Article by: Andrew Sheridan (@SidelinesKState), Hunter Martinez-Buehrer (@Sidelines_OU)
We are only two weeks out from the first game of the Big 12 season! It’s been a long and confusing ride the past several months as the status of College Football in the Fall of 2020 has been in constant question. Alas though, we have arrived, so here it is:
The 2020 Preseason Big 12 Rankings
#10) Kansas Jayhawks
The Kansas Jayhawks have finished in the bottom two of the Big 12 every year since 2009. Several people have high hopes for the Jayhawks this season, but quite simply, we don’t see it happening. KU returns only 11 players on offense and defense combined, good for 9th in the Big 12. If you know simple math, you will realize this only accounts for 50% of total returning production. The Jayhawks also lose QB Carter Stanley leaving a big question mark at quarterback for 2020. On the bright side, the Jayhawks do return star running-back Pooka Williams, who is looking to have a break-out year in 2020. Can Les Miles find a way to improve the Jayhawks in year 2?
#9) West Virginia Mountaineers
Neal Brown enters year 2 as the head coach of the Mountaineers. The West Virginia offense seemed to find more of their groove as the 2019 season came to a close, but it was much too late to be effective on the season. If the offense can find more of a groove early on, this ranking might be too low, but until proven otherwise, the Mountaineers find themselves at the bottom of the pack. West Virginia returns lots of talent, including a highly experienced D-Line, but as mentioned before, the offense must find their groove early on in order to have a successful season.
#8) Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech returns just over 59% of their 2019 starting production. If Alan Bowman can stay healthy, the Red Raider offense could have a very successful offensive outing in 2020. Alan Bowman will be joined by a highly skilled receiving corp including veteran receivers T.J. Vasher and Seth Collins. However, the pass defense MUST improve vastly if the defense expects to have the same success the offense does. Last season, the Red Raider secondary finished ranked 128th in the country. In a conference like the Big 12, the 128th ranked secondary simply won’t cut it. Can Matt Wells find the answer in his 2nd season as the Texas Tech head coach, and can Alan Bowman stay healthy? Their season might depend upon it.
#7) TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs of TCU took a bit of a hit in 2019, going 5-7 after going 7-6 in 2018. Although the Horned Frogs don’t return many starters from 2019, the TCU defense should be stronger this year, especially in its backfield with Ar’Darius Washington, also known as the 2019 Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the year, leading it. However, the offense is where the real question lies and is the determining factor on how well Gary Patterson’s crew does this year. Max Duggan was supposed to lead the offense this season as a true sophomore after last year’s transfer party left him to take the starting job but has since been ruled out indefinitely due to a heart condition. This leaves even more question marks for the TCU offense. Many eyes will be on freshman Zachery Evans as well, as his production in the backfield with an offensive line that was very troubling last year. If the offense can click, watch out for TCU to turn some eyes this season.
#6) Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State went a surprising 8-5 in Chris Klieman’s first season as head coach. Klieman and company will look to build upon the success the Wildcats had in 2019 for the 2020 season. The biggest question-mark for the Wildcats coming into 2020 is the offensive line. The Wildcats lost all five offensive-line starters after last season which leaves a whole lot of inexperience up front. Josh Rivas will have to lead the Wildcat O-Line if they expect to have any sort of success. Collectively, the Wildcats only return 8 total starters from 2019, ranking 10/10 in the Big 12. K-State will need to rely heavily on Skylar Thompson’s experience as well as their Special Teams, which returns Preseason All-American Joshua Youngblood as well as kicker Blake Lynch. Can Chris Klieman lead the Wildcats to another successful outing in 2020?
#5) Baylor Bears
Ranking Baylor for the 2020 season was really difficult. In 2019, the Bears went a surprising 11-3 on the season. However, Baylor lost A LOT during the offseason. The Bears return a solid eight starters on offense including quarterback Charlie Brewer but are only returning three on defense. A lack of experience as well as a brand new coaching staff could bring a multitude of issues. Baylor is such an unknown team going into the season. The Bears could finish with 1 loss in conference play or they could only win 1 game in conference play. Honestly, who knows? Our prediction has Baylor finishing right at the middle of the pack because while the Bears do lose a lot on defense, their new coach was the defensive coordinator for the National Championship winning LSU Tigers. Surely, that means only good things for the Bears defense then, right?
#4) Iowa State Cyclones
Brock Purdy. That’s the name you continue to hear for the next 3 months. Iowa State’s success depends solely on Brock Purdy. If Brock Purdy has success, Iowa State will have success. If Brock Purdy has a bad day, well Cyclone fans, you better hope another player such as Breece Hall can have himself a day. Iowa State returns 12/22 starters from 2019, including 7 of those 12 on defense. Iowa State needs to find that ability to close out games in 2020, unlike in 2019 when the Cyclones lost four different games by seven or fewer points. If Matt Campbell and Brock Purdy can find success as well as the rest of the Cyclones can finish games out, Iowa State could potentially have a very successful season in 2020.
#3) Texas Longhorns
“HEY LONGHORN NATION”……okay, can we all agree that this has been played out a little too much? No? Okay. “WE’RE BAAAAAAAAAACK!” In all seriousness though, an 8-5 record and Alamo Bowl victory may not have been what Texas fans were hoping for, and so as you would expect, changes were made to Coach Tom Herman’s staff during the offseason. Chris Ash and Mike Yurcich take over the mantle of Defensive and Offensive coordinator respectfully. Sam Ehlinger, Keaontay Ingram, and Brennan Eagles will be the big names on offense with Tirak Black looking to make his name as a transfer from Michigan. 73% of the 2019 defense returns for the Longhorns this year and while not performing as well as expected last year, they look to improve under new leadership from Chris Ash. Ultimately, How the Longhorns do this season comes down to their performances against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. If they can win both or even one of those games, the Longhorns should stand a very good chance at making the Big 12 Championship Game.
#2) Oklahoma Sooners
Another year, another new quarterback for Lincoln Riley. This time, it’s Spencer Rattler who steps up to lead the offense along with seven returning starters. On the defensive side of the ball, the Sooners are ready to shake away the stigma of “Big 12 has no defense”. The defense returns eight starters from 2019 including Tre Brown, Ronnie Perkins, and Tre Norwood who will lead Alex Grinch’s group. As the Big 12 seems to have a normal league schedule with 1 non-conference game, this may seem like another Conference Championship appearance in-line for the Sooners, as they look to add a sixth championship win in a row. However, mid season roadtrips seem to be the achilles heel for this team. Our eyes this year are on the Iowa State game to see if Oklahoma can overcome the test of Brock Purdy in Ames. If they are able to do so, another Big 12 championship appearance and likely CFP appearance could be imminent. However, while the Big 12 typically runs through Norman, a different team looks to take the championship trophy on a detour route through a town about 90 minutes away.
#1) Oklahoma State Cowboys
What more can we say about the Oklahoma State Cowboys that the rest of the college football world hasn’t been thinking since Spring? They are returning 18 starters on offense and defense combined, as well as 6 specialists. Among them include Heisman Candidate Chubba Hubbard, Quarterback Spencer Sanders, Wide Receiver Tylan Wallace, and that’s just the offense! Although the defense is looking to grow from last year, they are bringing back a bunch of talent for Jim Knowles. Looking at the top 3 teams in our rankings, they have the best non conference test in the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (compared to Missouri State and UTEP), and will be the team that is tested the most, with away games at Oklahoma and Baylor while also having tough home games with Iowa State and Texas. This Cowboy team has a lot to look forward to, and if they play their cards right, should have a strong chance at not only appearing in their first ever Big 12 Championship Game (2011 did not have a championship game), but a chance at the College Football Playoff. To have this happen, the team needs to utilize the running potential of their Heisman Hopeful RB, their 2019 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year QB, their potential Biletnikoff Award winning WR, and a defense that is looking to make a tough stand this year. Bedlam should be the Game of the Year in the Big 12 this season, and if Oklahoma State can go to the Palace on the Prairie and stun the Sooners, the sky’s the limit.
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WEATHER: Cloudy with a chance of a stray shower or thunderstorm. Low 76. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 miles per hour. Chance of rain 20%
Central Arkansas: -4.5 -200 ML
Austin Peay: +4.5 +157 ML
ALL TIME RECORD: 2-0 (both meetings were won by Central Arkansas)
LAST MEETING: 9/17/19 (Central Arkansas won 24-16)
WHAT TO KNOW:
Austin Peay: History will be on the line, as a victory will give the Gov’s their 300th win in program history. They enter the game ranked 13th (STATS FCS). In addition, this will be the first game for interim head coach Marquase Lovings Howard, who was named interim coach on July 7th. He was the DL coach for team last season. Austin Peay returns 14 starters from last year. In addition, this will be the first neutral site game for the Gov’s since 1952!
Central Arkansas: UCA is just 7-7 in season openers since moving up to D1, but 2-0 all time against Austin Peay. The Bears are also ranked 11th in the STATS FCS rankings. UCA returns 17 starters from last season.
NICK’S FORECAST: Originally this game was going to be played in Conway, Arkansas, but the game was moved to Montgomery. With not every FCS conference planning on playing football in the spring, this is a great opportunity to see two top FCS teams in the lone Week 0 game that will hopefully draw some good ratings.
Austin Peay should be the stronger team on the field, and I do think this will be a close, low scoring game, but I feel Central Arkansas has enough to pull it off at the end. They are my pick to win the first college football game of the 2020 season!
NICK’S PICK: Central Arkansas
NICK’S BEST BET: Under 44
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The College Football Playoff isn’t even a decade old and it already has to adjust for a global pandemic. To be fair, the model itself doesn’t appear to be changing much – four teams will still compete in a tournament, with seeding set by the College Football Playoff committee. The semifinals will be at great locations this year; the historic Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. As far as the rankings, the first will come out Tuesday, November 17. The Playoff Selection show itself will be Sunday, December 20. That leaves one question – who will be in?
We’re highly expecting yet another undefeated regular season for Clemson. Their shortened schedule (with the Citadel being their only true out of conference game) leaves very few threats. Notre Dame is the only opponent that really jumps out as a test for Clemson, and while this will be a talented Notre Dame squad behind Ian Book’s leadership, it simply won’t be enough to cut it. The usual suspects like Pitt and Syracuse could provide a scare, but Trevor Lawrence’s talent and a great supporting cast (eyes on Etienne for best Running Back in college) mean they will waltz to another College Football Playoff appearance, where they’ll beat Alabama in yet another matchup but lose the title game to our next team.
Of all four teams we have projected to make the playoff, Georgia returns the most overall production (65%) with 10 starters. Plus, Jamie Newman is not only a Heisman candidate but a proven baller with experience carrying a roster further than it should’ve gone. So, what happens when he is on an already good roster? We predict a national championship. Georgia has been criticized for an unimaginative offense, but we believe bringing in Todd Monken as OC will help them finally piece together both sides of the ball, as LSU did last year on their undefeated championship run. Georgia doesn’t exactly have an easy schedule, and we predict them dropping 1 in the regular season to Alabama, but we think they’ll win the SEC title game and every game afterward.
Seems like OU is always the fourth seed, doesn’t it? We don’t predict that changing this season. Spencer Rattler has all the makings of yet another elite OU QB, and he already has some experience in Lincoln Riley’s system. The loss of Kennedy Brooks (who announced he’s opting out) certainly hurts the diversity of OU’s offense, but Jeremiah Hall can help open up the offense. Oklahoma State is the biggest threat on OU’s schedule and we predict them or Iowa State gets a win over the Sooners this season, but we ultimately expect Riley’s coaching, an elite QB in Rattler and a top of the league passing game to bring the Sooners to another College Football Playoff appearance (but yet another semifinal loss).
This will be an interesting year for Alabama. We just hit the first 2 year title drought for the Crimson Tide since 2013-2014. They’re QB situation is interesting, with Mac Jones coming back as the projected starter but high school phenom Bryce Young waiting in the wing. The Tide’s defense looks airtight, so most questions are on the offensive side of the ball, and Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith are pretty powerful answers. We think the Crimson Tide will go undefeated in the regular season but lose the SEC title game to Georgia. This sets them up for a rematch with Clemson, and a strategic Dabo will exploit their few weaknesses (likely via Etienne) to scrape past them.
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We’re in the midst of perhaps the craziest week of off season College Football has ever seen. The Big 10 and Pac 12, as well as MAC and Mountain West conference, have all announced they will be cancelling the fall season, perhaps playing in the spring. Many star players are “opting out”, instead choosing to prepare for the NFL draft.
However, there is a notable detail about these votes to cancel the season. The Pac 12 voted unanimously, but there were two dissenters in the Big 10; Nebraska and Iowa. These two schools had leadership vote to play in the fall.
So, why not let them?
It’s already the weirdest College Football off season, let’s make it weirder. Both Nebraska and Iowa are very much in the Big 12 footprint (Nebraska previously played in the conference), it wouldn’t be much additional travel for Big 12 teams. We are of course, not the first to suggest this, and Big 10 commissioner Kevin Warren already shot down the idea saying it wouldn’t be appropriate. Our (admittedly bad) proposal of the day? Nebraska and Iowa should just join the Big 12 permanently.
As noted, both schools already fall in the footprint of the conference. Furthermore, both have existing rivalries in conference, with Nebraska vs. Oklahoma and Iowa vs. Iowa State being long time feuds. This would also bump the Big 12 to twelve teams; a radical idea! The conference could then split into two six-team divisions, and add a little more sense to the Big 12 title game (especially since fans have long complained matching up the 2 best teams in conference reduces the chances of a Big 12 team making the playoff).
Money is the biggest downside, but it’s not all that bad. The Big Ten reportedly made $780 million total last year, giving $55 million to each of its full members. The Big 12 on the other hand made around $380 million, only giving $38.8 million to each member school. A $17 million dollar drop is a pretty big downside; but who is to say Big 12 revenue won’t skyrocket with the addition of these two teams? The move would add two historical football schools who have long been playing at the highest level. Nebraska vs. Texas and Nebraska vs, Oklahoma would surely be marquee games. Plus, both schools would be making money this season while the rest of the Big 10 will not, and will likely make less anyway if the season is pushed to the spring.
It’s not a good idea, but it’s a fun idea. And it will make the Big 12 a more competitive conference compared to the Big 10 and SEC, as well as actually having the same number of teams as its name. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
The 2019 UCLA football campaign was disappointing, to say the least. The Bruins went 4-8 overall, with their only wins coming from conference play. And to make matters worse, the team closed out the year on a 3 game losing streak, with an average loss margin of 24. It was the 2nd year of the “Chip Kelly experiment” down in Pasadena. If history has shown anything, the longest Kelly has held a coaching position was 4 years in 2009-12 with the Oregon Ducks. This 3rd year is vital. Either Kelly needed 3 years to build a culture and program, or the Bruins might once again have to look elsewhere.
Previewing UCLA’s Offense for 2020
In an eyeball test, the offense showed more promise than the defense last season. The Bruins averaged nearly 27 points per game, which was the middle of the pack in the Pac 12.
The quarterback is the most important position in an offense, and the Bruins have someone that can get the job done; Dorrian Thompson-Robinson. As a Bruin, he has a career 4012 yards, 28 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, with a 130.5 QBR. The junior also made the Maxwell Award watch list, after his record-breaking sophomore campaign. In a single season, a few of his stats made top 10 in program history; 21 touchdowns (10th), 2899 total yards (10th), and 216 completions (9th). Thompson-Robinson also set a school record of 564 yards of offense in a 32 point late-game comeback win at Washington State. Not only can he get it done through the air, but he is mobile enough to stretch drives. Last season, he ran for at least 35 yards in 7 games, which joins Josh Rosen, Cade McMown, and Brett Hundley as the only other Bruin quarterbacks to be that consistent. If Thompson-Robinson can’t handle the added pressure, the Bruins can turn to Colson Yankoff to take center, the transfer from Washington.
The running back is another high point in the Bruin offense. Demetric Felton is suited up for another year and is the program’s lead rusher. Felton should be a workhorse on the offense and has already he can handle that responsibility. In his sophomore year, he only had a total of 27 rushing yards. Last season however, that number skyrocketed to 331 total rushing yards. Joshua Kelley, another Bruin back, was drafted in the 4th round by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2020 NFL Draft, so prepare for Felton to have even more touches. Felton has proven to be a quality runner but is also more than capable of being an option at receiver. He averaged over 10 yards a reception per game in both his sophomore and junior campaign. Last season, Felton also set a school record for receptions in a season by a back (55). Finally, he is on the preseason Paul Hornung watch list. Similar to the quarterback, the Bruins can switch it up and go with another option, Britain Brown, the transfer from Duke. The only issue is that Brown ended with a season-long shoulder injury, so his reps may be diminished due to that.
The Bruins can go many different options with their choices at wide receiver. Kyle Phillips set a school record for catches in a season by a freshman (60). Jaylen Erwin is a nice second option and was a standout at Hutchinson CC, where Erwin was named to the All KJCCC All-Conference team in both 2017 and 2018. Or the Bruins can turn to the freshmen coming in, like Logan Loya. The 4 star from Garden Grove, CA had offers from Nebraska, Oregon, and USC. ESPN ranks Loya as a top 40 wideout in the nation. In his final year at St John Bosco, he had 72 receptions for 1109 yards and 9 touchdowns. To make things more promising, St John Bosco, was the number 1 ranked HS team in the nation.
Finally, the offensive line as a whole has shown to hold their own against defensive lines of all varieties. Jake Burton and Sean Rhyan are a great pair at tackle. Per PFF, Burton was the highest-graded player for the Bruins at 79.3 (43rd in the nation). When Burton and Rhyan are lined up together, they have the 40th best run-blocking unit in the country. Duke Clemins has shown to be versatile enough to be either the Bruins’ center or guard.
Previewing UCLA’s Defense for 2020
While the Bruins’ offense showed signs of potential, the defense leaves with questions. The unit was last in the conference in interceptions (5). For comparison, Oregon was first in the conference with 20. Because of the comparison outcry, the Bruins decided to part ways and get a new DB coach in Brian Norwood. Back in 2017, Kansas State was last in the Big 12 in yards allowed. In 2018 in Norwood’s debut, the Wildcats jumped to 4th in conference for yards allowed. It’s clear that the Bruins saw what Norwood did and want a similar result. The Bruins also addressed the secondary with incoming talent like the transfer from Stanford, Obi Eboh, or incoming freshmen John Humphrey and Jake Newman. Will the secondary improve with the new coaching hire and incoming fresh talent?
The defensive unit was 3rd in the conference in fumbles (17), and middle of the pack in sacks (27). Pretty solid numbers overall, that could have an upside. Osa Odighiziwa is going to be the linebacker, anchoring the line. The problem is after Odighiziwa, who is the Bruin’s second option? They lost a lot of starters in the linebacker unit who graduated. Will Carl Jones make a promising sophomore jump after doing quality work? Another question; how can incoming JUCO linebacker Caleb Johnson best be utilized at the Pac 12 level? Johnson, a high 3 star, is ranked the 2nd best inside linebacker in the nation. Or, will the Bruins look to youth and gravitate towards their recruiting class. Damien Sellers is seen as the 14th best outside linebacker in the country, who had offers from Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, and Texas. One thing is for certain, the Bruins gave up 35 points per game, so whomever the Bruins decide to roll with, has to make that number go down.
As a whole, due to COVID-19 making college football conference-only, the Bruins have the potential for 4 or 5 wins. They have games like Arizona and Oregon State that look to be headed towards the win column. Inversely, games like Cal and Utah present more problems than solutions. The rest are toss ups and hard to predict until the Bruins get some games under them. They had a huge comeback win vs Washington State – will that repeat? If the offense and defense are vastly improved, a win vs Colorado or Stanford is possible; but if the team performs how they did last year, not as likely anymore.
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