Five Predictions of Varying Boldness: Alabama makes history; Mariota over Manziel

Alabama national championship

The trophy is taller than Nick Saban.

All this week CBR's contributors will be bringing you what we call "Five Predictions of Varying Boldness" for the upcoming season. Every day one writer will offer up five predictions that will either shock you, underwhelm you, or something in between.

First up is Allen Kenney.

Allen Kenney's Five Predictions of Varying Boldness

1. The best quarterback in country won’t play for Texas A&M (or Louisville or Alabama).

Much like 2008 or 2011, this season has a “year of the quarterback” feel to it. The star power under center should be pretty overwhelming. Johnny Manziel (assuming he’s playing), Teddy Bridgewater, A.J. McCarron, Tahj Boyd – we’re talking about a group of elite signal callers who stand to be first-round picks in April’s NFL draft.

The best of the bunch, however, will be piloting the Oregon Ducks. Marcus Mariota’s freshman season kind of got lost in 2012 amid Johnny Football’s heroics, but UO’s QB had a fantastic rookie season of his own. A dangerous runner in the open field, the 6-3, 214-pound Hawaiian gives the Ducks yet another dynamic weapon coming out of the backfield. He’s a polished passer, too, finishing 8th in the country last year in passer rating after throwing 32 touchdowns against just 6 interceptions.

Meet the best QB in college football in 2013. (Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports)

Mariota will turn plenty of heads this season, especially among pro scouts, and stands a good chance of taking home a Heisman when all is said and done this year.

2. Speaking of Louisville, the Cardinals won’t be playing in Pasadena.

There is a lot to like about Charlie Strong’s team coming off of its thrashing of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Strong has solid collection of talent, led by QB Teddy Bridgewater. Additionally, the Cards’ biggest flaw in ‘12, a lackluster running game, appears to have gotten a boost with the addition of erstwhile tailback Michael Dyer.

The lasting impressions of this squad following the Sugar Bowl blowout don’t exactly match up to how Louisville played throughout last season, though. More than half of the Cards’ wins came by a touchdown or less as they scuffled by a weak slate of competition.

Louisville does have the benefit of playing an even softer schedule this year, which does help its chances of running the table. Even so, look for the Cardinals to drop at least one game this season. In The American that won’t be enough to get a shot at the title.

Brian Kelly

Don't shoot the messenger, coach.

3. Notre Dame will take a huge step back.

ND is a rich man’s Louisville. On the back of a stout defense, the Fighting Irish went 5-0 in games decided by a TD or less last year. They had a slim margin for error in '12, and that's gone with the loss of quarterback Everett Golson to academic scandal.

Despite the talk about having confidence in Tommy Rees and his status as the team’s “closer” a year ago, Brian Kelly made his preference under center pretty clear. As a redshirt freshman, Golson could definitely do damage with his feet, but he showed flashes of being a decent pocket passer, too. He brought an added dimension to the O that Rees just can’t muster.

Without Golson, ND drops from a top five squad to a top 25 one.

4. Clemsoning will commence on Oct. 26.

Once again, Clemson has the look of an outside contender for the national championship. Not even that far outside, really – the Tigers are starting the season at No. 8 in the coaches poll.

Of course, aside from Gary Danielson, no one is really taking the Tigers seriously. It is Clemson, after all.

After starting the season 7-0, Dabo Swinney’s team will have us all wondering if this is the year when Clemson finally puts it all together. A week after knocking off ACC division rival Florida State, though, the Tigers will show their true stripes in a classic letdown loss in to Maryland, ending their shot at a title.

5. Alabama will win an unprecedented third consecutive BCS national championship.

In its final year, it seems only fitting that the always controversial BCS will let us all down and produce a clear one-versus-two championship game between undefeateds Alabama and Oregon.

Aside from a close scrape against LSU in early November, the Crimson Tide will work the rest of the SEC like a speed bag. A win over South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game will have unbeaten ‘Bama looking to make history.

The Ducks won’t have so easy of a time getting to Pasadena. Under first-year head coach Mark Helfrich, UO will barely survive upset bids from Stanford and Washington. Mariota will cement his Heisman Trophy in the Pac-12 title game when his team crushes USC and not-on-the-hot-seat head coach Lane Kiffin.

The Ducks put up a helluva fight when the two squads meet in January, but, once again, diminutive mastermind Nick Saban will find himself towering above his college football fiefdom with yet another crystal ball for his trophy case.

Paul Finebaum

(And if you think the Summer of Johnny Football has been insufferable, just wait until you get nine months of Paul Finebaum talking four-peat.)