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ACC shut out, SEC beat up and other bold predictions

It has been more than seven months since Ohio State defeated Oregon 42-20 in the first College Football Playoff National Championship.

As we prepare to kick off another college football season on Thursday night, it's as good a time as any to take a look back at what I predicted (correctly and incorrectly) in my bold predictions for 2014.

I correctly told you the SEC wouldn't win a national title for the second straight season (alas, I picked FSU to win a second consecutive championship). I correctly predicted an SEC running back would become the sport's next superstar (I chose Alabama's Derrick Henry, not Georgia's Nick Chubb) and that there would still be plenty of controversy even without the BCS (hello, Baylor and TCU).

Here's what else I guessed right: I told you Florida would make a bowl game (the Birmingham Bowl counts), but I wrongly predicted that Gators coach Will Muschamp would save his job (he's now coaching defense at Auburn). I also wrongly guessed that Charlie Strong would lead Texas to a winning record in his first season (the Longhorns went 6-7).

When the dust settled, I was better than even in 2014, which is more than Michigan can say about last year.

Here are 10 more bold predictions for 2015:

1. The ACC gets left out of the College Football Playoff

Last season, the Big 12 was left on the outside looking in, after eventual national champion Ohio State jumped into the top four -- ahead of Big 12 co-champs Baylor and TCU -- on the final weekend of the regular season.

This season, the Bears and Horned Frogs are good enough to get through October unscathed, but both of them will drop at least one game in November. They'd better hope there aren't many other undefeated or one-loss teams from the Power 5 conferences. The fact the Big 12 still isn't playing a conference championship is potentially a Texas-sized problem with the selection committee.

My prediction for the CFP field: undefeated Ohio State from the Big Ten, 12-1 Oregon from the Pac-12, a two-loss SEC champ (more on that below) and 11-1 TCU. This year, it's the ACC that's going to be left out of the CFP party. I think Clemson is going to be good, but might still be a year away from being a legitimate contender. FSU is going to have some growing pains after losing so much firepower to the NFL draft, and Georgia Tech's schedule looks too difficult.

2. At least one team from outside the Associated Press preseason top 10 makes the playoff

My esteemed ESPN colleague Kirk Herbstreit has predicted that three teams from outside the AP preseason top 10 will make the playoff: No. 14 LSU, No. 15 Arizona State and No. 19 Oklahoma. I'm buying Herbstreit's logic that it's going to be a very volatile 2015 season. Rarely have there been so many traditional powers with so many questions heading into the season.

I think at least one team from outside the top 10 (and possibly two) is capable of making a CFP run, including the aforementioned teams, as well as No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 13 UCLA and No. 21 Stanford. I'd give the Fighting Irish the best odds at finishing in the top four heading into the season.

3. TCU will break the NCAA record for total offense

Last season, the Horned Frogs averaged 533 yards of offense and 46.5 points, which ranked in the top five among FBS teams. TCU's fast-paced, spread offense should be even more explosive in Year 2 under co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, especially with quarterback Trevone Boykin coming back under center.

The Horned Frogs will light up scoreboards across the Big 12, and they'll break the NCAA single-season record for total offense set by Houston in 1989 (624.9 yards). They'll also come up just short of breaking the 71-year-old NCAA single-season record for scoring, set by Army with 56 points per game in 1944.

4. Jim Harbaugh skips his pregame handshake with Urban Meyer

When Ohio State's Nov. 28 trip to Michigan finally arrives, I won't be surprised if Harbaugh avoids the traditional pregame handshake with Meyer at the Big House. Instead, Harbaugh will probably be standing on the sideline shirtless and screaming at Meyer to get off his lawn.

With Harbaugh taking over the Wolverines, Michigan-Ohio State seems destined to become the sport's most important rivalry again. But not this year, as Ohio State will steamroll the Wolverines en route to a perfect 12-0 regular season. This time, it will be Harbaugh asking, "What's your deal?"

5. A running back wins the Heisman Trophy

Quarterbacks have recently had a stranglehold on the Heisman Trophy, with each of the past five winners playing under center: Oregon's Marcus Mariota (2014), Florida State's Jameis Winston (2013), Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (2012), Baylor's Robert Griffin III (2011) and Auburn's Cam Newton (2010).

The last non-quarterback to win the stiff-arm trophy was Alabama tailback Mark Ingram in 2009. A running back will win it again this season, with Georgia's Chubb, LSU's Leonard Fournette and Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott being the most likely preseason candidates. My guess: For Chubb, hoisting the Heisman Trophy will be nothing after carrying Georgia's offense all season.

6. Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams will be a Heisman finalist

It took Adams about two weeks to win Oregon's starting quarterback job after arriving late for preseason practice. Ducks coach Mark Helfrich believes Adams, an Eastern Washington transfer, is going to be that good running his team's spread offense. In three seasons at the FCS level, Adams threw for 10,438 yards with 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. Adams will have a lot more talent around him at Oregon, and he'll be good enough in his only FBS season to earn an invitation to the Heisman Trophy announcement in New York.

7. The SEC will have a two-loss champion

There has been little margin for error in what was the sport's toughest conference over the past decade, but there doesn't appear to be a dominant team this season. Alabama still hasn't named a starting quarterback, Georgia just named a Virginia transfer its starter, and Auburn's defense was horrific at times last season.

I think there are as many as five teams that could win the SEC West, and potentially three that could win the SEC East. Regardless of which teams come out on top, they're going to have blemished résumés at season's end. For the first time since 2007, when LSU lost twice in overtime and then beat Tennessee 21-14 in the SEC championship game, the SEC champion is going to have two losses. But the SEC's depth and schedule strength will be enough for the league's champion to secure a spot in the four-team playoff. If we learned anything during the first season of the CFP, it's that the selection committee really values conference championships.

8. Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton plays in a New Year's Six bowl

If you're a fan of underdogs and happy endings, Utah State might be the team to cheer for in 2015. Keeton, who missed 19 games the past two seasons because of knee injuries, is back for one more season after receiving a medical hardship from the NCAA. When Keeton is healthy, he's one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the country.

The Aggies bring back a stingy defense (19.7 points per game in 2014), and they might be the team to beat in the Mountain West if Keeton can stay on the field. Utah State will have to survive early road trips to Utah (Sept. 11) and Washington (Sept. 19), along with home games against Boise State (Oct. 16) and BYU (Nov. 28). The Aggies probably can't afford more than two losses if they're going to be the highest-rated team from a Group of 5 conference at season's end, but I like their chances.

9. Steve Spurrier will retire

If there's anything Spurrier despises more than Clemson, it's losing. He has spent most of his coaching career (except in the NFL) winning big, and he has taken South Carolina to unprecedented heights, winning 33 games from 2011 to 2013. But then the Gamecocks slipped to 7-6 last season, and Spurrier suggested that their 7-6 season was just as good as those of Arkansas and Tennessee, which finally seemed to turn the corner in 2014 after hard times.

The Spurrier who won six SEC titles and the 1996 national championship at Florida was never satisfied with being mediocre. The Gamecocks' roster suggests they'll be mediocre again this season. Quarterback Connor Mitch has attempted six passes, and two of South Carolina's top three receivers have never caught a pass in a game. The defense was an absolute mess last season.

Spurrier, 70, has said he'd like to coach two or three more seasons, but he's not going to hang around if the Gamecocks are mediocre or worse again.

10. Butch Davis will be named someone's coach

Davis, who hasn't coached since he was fired by North Carolina in July 2011, might be the most qualified unemployed coach in America. He went 51-20 in six seasons at Miami from 1995 to 2000 (the Hurricanes won a national title under Larry Coker the year after he left), and he was about to have UNC rolling before he was fired as part of the school's investigation into academic misconduct. An NCAA investigation revealed that UNC's cheating was going on long before Davis arrived in Chapel Hill, and he was never mentioned in the university's response to the NCAA inquiry.

If Al Golden can't turn around the Hurricanes this season, Davis might be the coach who can do it. Golden, who is 28-22 in four seasons at Miami, might have the hottest seat in the country heading into the season. The Hurricanes have won more than seven games only once in his four seasons and they're 16-16 against ACC foes.