Crystal Ball Run’s 2011 National Championship Picks


Over the last month, the boys at Crystal Ball Run have debated just about everything in the college football world to this point…except who they think will the National Championship.

Today, they do just that, as our six staff writers have three different National Champions among them, six different BCS National Championship Game participants, and interestingly, no two writers have the same National Champion and runner-up.

Who do the guys like? Let’s get to the picks!

Aaron Torres: To me, there’s no ‘secret sauce’ in picking a National Champion. There are so many factors, so many bumps and bruises and bounces that alter a National Championship race over the course of the year. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.” Well to get that Crystal Ball, you need both.

With that, I present you my 2011 BCS National Champions, the Florida State Seminoles.

On the field, they’ve got a defense that got better by the play last year under Mark Stoops, and return virtually every player of substance this year. They’ve got a quarterback who might not totally have it figured out yet, but is smart, savvy and has more game experience than you think. In his short career, E.J. Manuel has started a bowl game, an ACC title game, and a rivalry game at Florida. Understand that Manuel may be a “first time starter,” in theory. But there aren’t many guys who’ve played more big games then he has. And on the sidelines, the ‘Noles have the next great coach, Jimbo Fisher. As Michael Felder always says, there’s no better guy to learn from than Nick Saban, and Fisher soaked plenty up as his offensive coordinator down at LSU.

Then there’s the schedule. Yes the Noles have Oklahoma, but the game is in Tallahassee, and after that, everything else is manageable. There is no Virginia Tech or North Carolina from the Coastal, and the two other top teams from the Atlantic both come to Doak-Campbell, NC State and Maryland.

But back to that Oklahoma game for a second. After getting beat down in Norman last year, you don’t the Noles have had this one circled on their calendar for a long time? I sure do.

Finally, name me a team that has dealt with less off-season controversy than Florida State this summer. You can’t. To the best of my knowledge there haven’t been arrests, suspensions or bar fights. No speeding tickets, hanging with agents or coaching drama. I don’t want to jinx the boys down in the pan-handle, but I feel like everyone knows what’s at stake this year, and that if they stick together, something special might happen. So far, everyone has stuck to that plan.

Give me Florida State over Alabama in New Orleans.

I don’t know if the Seminoles are “back.” But they certainly have arrived.

Tom Perry: I see Aaron is drinking the Jimbo Fisher Kool-Aid.

It’s hard to argue that Florida State doesn’t have the potential to reach the BCS Championship, but have the Seminoles really improved that much that we should all forget how Oklahoma dominated FSU last year? Not likely.

There may not be a “secret sauce,” but there is historical data that can help you make a pick. So until someone beats the SEC you have to go with an SEC team to win it.

Alabama may be a trendy pick, but there might not be a team out there with as much depth and with Nick Saban you have to believe the Tide are going to be in the picture. Alabama’s defense is one of the best, if not the best, in the nation, and Saban totally understands that’s where you win championships.

The Tide will win their second championship in three years by beating Oregon in the title game.

Michael Felder: Oddly enough I’m the biggest Nick Saban fan but I don’t have his team going to the game. Therefore, I can’t pick him to demolish all souls on the way to his third BCS title.

However, I do have a coach adding hardware to an already stacked trophy case; Bob Stoops. The Sooners don’t have as “easy” a path as many folks believe; aTm is Top 10, Oklahoma State is a Top 15 team, Mizzou is in the Top 25 and Texas is still Texas, even after the rock bottom year and the coaching changes. That said, Stoops’ guys will make it look easy after they win the toughest game on their schedule; Florida State in Tallahassee in the September heat.

They’ll get that Crystal Ball by beating a Wisconsin team that back doors their way into the game courtesy of SEC West’s cannibalizing, OU beating FSU and Oregon’s stumbling. Oh, and by beating all of the teams that lineup in front of them too.

LuckMatt Yoder: I look into my Crystal Ball and all I see is red.  I see Stanford vs. Oklahoma in the title game.


These teams have arguably the two best quarterbacks in the nation – Andrew Luck and Landry Jones.  And, it’s more of an optimistic pick to finally free ourselves from the chains of the SEC (although ‘Bama is another popular pick).  I’m going with an upset and picking Stanford to win it all.  David Shaw is totally underestimated as a first year head coach, working with Andrew Luck throughout his time at Stanford.  The defense and running game is just solid enough to support Luck’s golden arm to a national title (have you seen Bob Stoops’ record in big bowl games?)… and his eventual reunion with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco.

Allen Kenney: Every year when I’m formulating my national championship pick, I always get caught up in the same dilemma: Should I pick based on who has the best team, or do I try to figure out which teams have the best chance of making it to the championship game?

This year, if I was going with the former approach, I’d take Alabama and Oklahoma. The Sooners and Crimson Tide have the best combinations of talent, experience and coaching of any of the legit title contenders. In a tournament on neutral ground, those are the two squads I’d pick to meet in the championship game.

Of course, it never works out that way.

I suspect the Sooners’ erratic play on the road will catch up with them again in 2011. A night game in Tallahassee would pose a daunting challenge for any team this year, and I’ve seen this movie enough times as an OU fan to know that it typically ends with a frustrating notch in the “L” column. The Sooners would be in good position to win out should it come down to a beauty contest among one-loss teams, but the Big 12’s new no-championship game policy would likely bite them in the ass.

I’m betting that big win over OU propels FSU all the way to New Orleans for the BCS title game. I see a significant gap between the rest of the ACC and Florida State and Virginia Tech. The ACC championship game in Charlotte could essentially turn into a play-in game for the national championship game, and I’ll ride out with the Seminoles on the strength of their talented defense.

On the other sideline in New Orleans, how do you go against Alabama? Even during last season’s “disastrous” 10-3 finish, the reality was that the Tide was approximately five quarters away from playing for the whole thing for the second consecutive year. That was with a defense that had barely been removed from the shrink wrap.

Slick Nick Saban has perfected a system for running a successful college football program that few coaches could likely pull off. He seems to eschew the Cam Newton types at QB, opting for efficient game managers who simply get out of the way, if they find themselves in trouble. His offensive philosophy instead centers around a forceful running game.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Saban stockpiles hulking bruisers to essentially wear opponents down and choke the life out of them.

It’s not a pretty style of play by any stretch, but it’s brutally effective. And that’s why I like ‘Bama to capture the crystal ball come January.

Kevin McGuire: Well I’m calling for Oklahoma as well, although I can’t say I’m too sure of it. Oklahoma has some bullets to dodge before playing for their first BCS since coming up short against Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer and Florida and a couple years back. The Florida State game will be a big one, but even if they do slip up in Tallahassee I think Oklahoma has what it takes to rebound and work their way back up the rankings. Texas will be better and the rivalry factor kind of scares me, but I think Oklahoma proves to be the dominant team this year, and I think Texas A&M is overrated and Oklahoma State just won’t have quite enough to knock off the Sooners. So I have Oklahoma representing the Big 12 in the BCS title, which I’m sure Dan Beebe would be thrilled with.

But who will they play? That’s where I’m going all over the place figuring out. I have Alabama representing the SEC yet again, and with the recent events taking place in LSU I am starting to feel much more comfortable with that decision. I thought coming in to the season that the Tigers would be Alabama’s biggest challenger in the SEC (West) but right now it seems to be more clear that Alabama is the team to beat. And as good as Alabama is, especially on defense, in the BCS championship game I’m going to look to see who has the advantage at quarterback, and with the Tide still trying to figure out who will be their starting quarterback, I give the edge to Oklahoma right now.

Sooners over Crimson Tide. Then Oklahoma to SEC, right?

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About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.