Mike Seba is an oracle of college football, a proud supporter of the University of Arkansas. But, I can’t get a Pig hat.
"This is the time of year when we are swamped," said Seba, the college football guru at Las Vegas Sports Consultants under head man Kenny White and that famed "notebook."
"I’m picking Notre Dame No. 1," Seba said. Charlie Weis is a great coach and the schedule is as easy as it has been in awhile."
Notre Dame was 9-3 last year and came within one play several times of beating Southern Cal in that incredible game at South Bend. On the surface, starting out 2006 facing Georgia Tech on the road and then Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks does not qualify as an easy schedule.
"I still think the schedule sets up well home and away," Seba said. USC is the toughest game and the Trojans aren’t as good as last year."
Ohio State, the other consensus selection with Notre Dame as a preseason No. 1, will drop out of the national championship talk early, according to Seba
"I think the Buckeyes have lost too many good players to the pros," he said. "They have good skill players, but are very young on defense. They will lose at least two games."
As for some of the year’s surprises, we’ll take them one at a time with comments from the head Hog.
WestVirginia: "Mountaineers are in a conference they can win. Rich Rodriguez is a great coach. This team could run the table, but the strength of schedule is not good. They could well be the 2004 version of Auburn."
California: "I really like the Bears, especially seeing the ”˜over/under’ at 9. I see 10 wins easily and possibly a BCS bowl bid if beat Tennessee in Knoxville. On a neutral field is better than a touchdown favorite. I think they’ll beat the Vols.
Nevada: "I like the WolfPack. They are right there in the WAC with Boise State and Fresno. They have a good returning contingent. Maybe a second place finish. Boise is the favorite."
Oklahoma: I would have to take the ”˜under’ if it’s 10. The QB situation is up in the air."
LSU: "The Tigers face a brutal schedule that will be cost them a national championship shot. The SEC top to bottom is by far the best conference in the country."
UNLV: "A mystery team. (Mike) Sanford is a good coach. I see the Rebels being two years away from being a contender. The ”˜over/under’ at five wins is the right number."
Top conferences: "SEC, Big 10, ACC, Big 12, Pac 10 in that order. Take Michigan, for example. I like the Wolverines, but they are going to struggle a bit in the Big 10 this year. Outside the Big 10, they dominate."
First week picks: "I would take the ”˜under’ in the USC-Arkansas game. It’s 51 right now. Arkansas has both its starting QB and RB out. The Trojans still have an excellent defense. I see a low scoring game."
"I like Nebraska at -20 to run all over Louisiana Tech. Cal at +2 is a good play. The Utah-UCLA game is dangerous.
The Utes just decided to redshirt their top QB Brian Johnson, which changes the complexion of the Mountain West. Now, TCU and BYU are the top teams with Utah third. Before with Johnson, I liked the Utes."
The 12th game: "It will make more teams bowl eligible. A lot more teams will be 6-6 and 7-5, giving the lower bowls more choices. It’s possible for Alabama, with a game in Hawaii, to play 15 this year if able to make it to the SEC championship."
Underrated: "Stanford. The Cardinal will be getting points a lot and capable of back door covers with a very good offense. Clemson will be very good. Wake Forest can be dangerous."
The worst team: "Temple. They are orbiting the MAC, not yet eligible for the league championship. The Owls are a bad football team."