If you’ve been studying up on the 2013 college football season, tell me who’s going to win the WAC?
Ha. Trick question.
There is no more WAC. The Western Athletic Conference has turned out the lights, a victim of realignment mania.
There’s no Big East, either. At least not for FBS football.
Say hello to the American Athletic Conference, in which Louisville and Rutgers are expected to contend for the title before they bail in 2014 for the ACC and Big Ten, respectively.
Kickoff is barely two months away, and, as usual, much has changed since 2012. I thought it might be a good time to offer a few reminders.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh moved to become also-rans in the ACC. A block of Conference USA has moved to the American Athletic Conference. And those Conference USA slots were replaced by a block from the Sun Belt.
Boise State and San Diego State are staying in the Mountain West after all, rather than jet across the continent to forge rivalries with UConn and South Florida.
Here in the SEC, it’s business as usual. No expansion this year. Texas A&M and Missouri know the secret handshake.
But business as usual means there is a defending national champion swaggering around and a posse of new coaches to clean up the dashed dreams of their predecessors.
One of the new coaches is named Butch Jones. You may have heard something about him. He’s pals with Erik Spoelstra, who’s pals with LeBron James.
Jones is one of four new coaches in the SEC, the biggest surprise among them being Bret Bielema. After three consecutive Rose Bowl losses at Wisconsin, Bielema deduced there was no possible scenario in which Arkansas could get to Pasadena.
All told, there are a staggering 31 new head coaches at 125 FBS schools. That’s one of every four.
The new coach most likely to win a crystal football this year is Oregon’s Mark Helfrich. He inherits a loaded team from Chip Kelly, who doesn’t have to worry too much about his 18 months of NCAA show-cause banishment as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Among the familiar names in new places, Skip Holtz takes over at Louisiana Tech, where being the son of a coaching legend apparently carries great clout.
Two coaches who are not in a new place — namely Tennessee — are Charlie Strong and Mike Gundy and both have potential top-10 teams at Louisville and Oklahoma State, respectively.
Bill Curry, meanwhile, has joined Phillip Fulmer and others in retirement. I thought Arkansas had retired John. L. Smith, but he turned up at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. The man still has bills to pay.
On the other hand,
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, 73, looks forward to hanging 50 on Charlie Weis and Kansas again.
Coaches on a seat that could get hot are headlined by Mack Brown at Texas and former Tennessee legend Lane Kiffin at USC.
I’m not sure of the temperature on Bo Pelini’s seat at Nebraska, but I read the Huskers haven’t won a conference title since 1999.
As far as the top players go, we’ll have to get by without SportsCenter standbys Matt Barkley, Denard Robinson and Manti Te’o. The All-Name team will need a new captain to replace Barkevious Mingo.
Johnny Manziel is poised to win the second of four potential Heisman Trophies at Texas A&M. That’s provided he can keep peace with the parking-meter patrol in College Station.
If Manziel falters, don’t rule out Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville is on an all-sports roll. Or what about Tajh Boyd, erstwhile Tennessee commitment, at Clemson?
Maybe this is the year a defensive player wins again. Jadeveon Clowney won’t pad his résumé by returning kicks, but he can make a big last impression on Nov. 30 by posterizing Boyd.
Before you know it, bowl season will be here.
But as to whom the Vols might play in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Shreveport, that’s a column for another day.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.