Since the spring games concluded four months ago, there has been an endless amount of debate, discussion and conjecture about the future of the sport. Between new TV contracts, more conference alignment and the arrival of the first college football playoff, we have been subjected to way too much talking this summer.
Finally, the games are about to start. Many months ago, I shared what I thought success would be for UConn football in 2014. What will actually happen?
1) Barring injury, Chandler Whitmer won't play after September
The announcement of Casey Cochran as this year's starting quarterback came with a huge caveat from head coach Bob Diaco - namely that former starter Chandler Whitmer would see plenty of action. To many, this seemed odd and strange. It has been established that rotating quarterbacks is a recipe for disaster and rarely, if ever, works.
One of the notable exceptions to this rule is the work Brian Kelly has pulled off in his last two stops. In 2009, Kelly rotated Tony Pike and Zach Collaros during an undefeated regular season at Cincinnati. In 2012, Kelly rotatedEverett Golson and Tommy Rees during an undefeated regular season at Notre Dame. Arguably the only two recent instances of this working were witnessed by Diaco's own two eyes.
The Whitmer/Cochran situation seems to mirror the Golson/Rees situation at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly wanted Golson to be the starter, but knew that Rees could provide a calming influence if necessary. Against Purdue that year, Golson struggled mightily, which forced Rees to come off the bench and lead a late drive for a game-winning field goal.
I see a similar situation playing out for the Huskies in September, particularly with tough games looming against BYU and Boise State. Diaco wants to hand the keys to Cochran but needs to get Whitmer in the fold as the main backup, in part to prevent any possibility of burning Tim Boyle's redshirt year.
After five games through September, the Huskies have a bye week. That will give the staff two weeks to get Cochran ready to play all the plays. It may happen earlier if Cochran plays well, but he will take all of the first team snaps by the Tulane game on Oct. 11.
2) Geremy Davis will lead the AAC in receiving yards
Last year, Davis was third in the conference. This year, he will be first.
It's tough to overstate how much Davis means to this team. He is the best wide receiver UConn has had in the past 20 years, with the only possible exception of Marcus Easley. He changes how UConn can attack defenses. The offense under the previous regime was brutal, in large part because the passing game barely existed. Toward the end of last year, Cochran and Davis found a serious rhythm, culminating in a ridiculous performance in the finale against Memphis.
Davis is going to have a monstrous year. It's no stretch to think he could hit 1,300 yards if he stays healthy.
3) UConn will beat Boise State
Boise State has become a mid-major version of Texas or Florida, where they get preseason respect based solely on past results. Let's be very clear - this is not a vintage, Kellen Moore-led Broncos team. They are not Top 25. They lost five games last year. They are replacing Chris Petersen. They are replacing QB Joe Southwick. The Mountain West Conference has rapidly regressed in the past few years.
Those all make for appetizing angles to pick a UConn upset. But the angle I'm playing has to do with kickoff time.
Boise begins the season in Atlanta on Aug. 28. Then on Sept. 6, Boise State will host Colorado State at 10:15 p.m. ET, or 8:15 p.m. in Boise. When they play UConn a week later, the game will kick off at noon ET, or 10 a.m. in Boise.
So to recap - Boise State has two cross-country trips in three weeks with a new coach and a new QB. Their third game kicks off more than 10 hours earlier than the second one. We've seen in the NFL that West Coast teams playing 1 p.m. starts in the East have been brutal.
It's a recipe for that big home win. And it's the upset that keeps the bowl dream alive.
4) UConn will win one true road game
In a bit of fortunate scheduling, UConn only plays four true road games - the Army game is a road game, but at Yankee Stadium. The four trips are against USF, Tulane, East Carolina and Memphis. While East Carolina appears unwinnable, the other three are definitely within reason.
Last year, UConn was absolutely putrid in road games. The average score of the four road losses was 46-17. Even the win at Temple was a miracle, considering they were down 21-0 at halftime.
The two-deep is littered with underclassman and Diaco has already hinted that we'll see a lot of freshmen work their way into playing time. That's great for the future. It's not good for winning road games in the present. With their backs against the wall at 4-6, UConn finally breaks through against Memphis. Which leads to...
5) UConn will make a bowl game by beating SMU
Here's how I see the season playing out:
Wins - Stony Brook, Boise State, Temple, Army, at Memphis
Losses - BYU, at USF, at Tulane, at East Carolina, UCF, Cincinnati
UConn shows up to the Rent in December at 5-6 with a chance to play in its first bowl game in four years. As the college football world focuses on conference championships and playoff berths, UConn pulls off the victory of June Jones' last SMU team - that guy has clearly lost interest - and hits the magic six-win mark.
The reward? A trip to play in the BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl on the day after Christmas at the site of UConn's first men's basketball national title.
It's not the Fiesta Bowl, but it'll feel just as good. And the cost of attending will feature less zeroes.