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Inside the Pocket: 10 fearless college football predictions


We've reached the halfway point of the season entering Week 8, so it's time to take stock, gaze into the crystal ball and lay our football mind on the line with 10 bold predictions for the rest of the 2014 college football season. They might turn out to be wrong, but they look great at this point in the year.

1. The SEC West will remain undefeated outside the division. The best division in football moved to 26-0 at the halfway point against teams outside the SEC West. Things won't be so rosy inside the division, however, as everybody beats up on each other.

2. The Big Ten narrowly misses out on the College Football Playoff. Your No. 5 team in the selection committee's final standings is Big Ten champion Michigan State, to the dismay of Jim Delany.

3. But the Big Ten will have some stat leaders. Three Big Ten players will finish atop the FBS rankings for rushing yards, total offense and scoring at the end of the season. That, or couse, would be some combination of Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah and Tevin Coleman.

4. East Carolina winds up with the Group of Five bowl bid. The Pirates struggled on the road at USF on Saturday, but will still do enough to earn the bid as the highest-ranked non-Power Five team. The depth of the AAC plays a factor in the team edging out Colorado State in a weak Mountain West.

5. Marcus Mariota wins the Heisman Trophy. It got lost in the discussion after Oregon lost to Arizona, but the Hawaiian wonder has played just about perfect so far despite issues at offensive line and wide receiver. Mariota's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, has 17 touchdowns and no picks, plus five scores via his legs. He is on pace to break Russell Wilson's FBS passing efficiency mark and has an insane 80-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio for his career.

6. A quarterback will not go No. 1 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, while a running back will go in the first round. This has more to do with the NFL teams in contention for the No. 1 pick than the quality of players who are eligible at the quarterback position, but it will nevertheless hold true in the spring. Todd Gurley will go in the first round to break the streak of no running backs being chosen in that round -- even if he doesn't play another down of college football.

7. Marshall will be the only undefeated team at the end of the season. A season-ending contest against Western Kentucky might have sneaky upset potential, but otherwise it looks like the Thundering Herd are the only team that will run the table given the chaos we've experienced so far this year.

8. Tim Beckman is fired before Brady Hoke, who is fired before Will Muschamp. The coaching hot-seat action will get started quickly in late November. Don't be shocked to see Beckman out by Thanksgiving, with Hoke and then Muschamp to follow.

9. Connor Halliday tops 6,000 yards passing in a season in just 12 games. The Washington State quarterback is nearly on pace at the halfway mark and has only two defenses left on the schedule that might be able to slow him down even a little. He'll still need to put up huge passing numbers of 500-plus yards each game, but that's doable in Mike Leach's offense.

10. Division/conference winners are ... AAC: East Carolina.

ACC Atlantic: Florida State. ACC Coastal: Duke.

Big 12: Baylor.

Big Ten East: Michigan State. Big Ten West: Nebraska.

CUSA East: Marshall. CUSA West: Rice.

MAC East: Bowling Green. MAC West: Northern Illinois.

MWC West: San Diego State. MWC East: Colorado State.

Pac-12 North: Oregon. Pac-12 South: USC.

SEC East: Georgia. SEC West: Ole Miss.

Sun Belt: Arkansas State.

Stat of the week

In conference play, Pac-12 road teams are 14-4. So much for home-field advantage.

Stats to chew on

» Thanks to wins during the weekend, Saturday's showdown between Florida State and Notre Dame features two starting quarterbacks with a combined 35-1 record.

» Ole Miss shut out a Kevin Sumlin offense in the first half for the first time ever.

» Per the AP, the 119 points in the TCU/Baylor game was the most ever for a game between two top-10 opponents.

» Stanford has allowed fewer than 30 points in 29 straight games, the longest streak in the country. This despite playing in the highest-scoring conference in the country this year.

» The Big Ten says Michigan State's Jeremy Langford is the first player in the league with nine straight games of 100-plus yards rushing in the regular season since Curtis Enis back in 1996.

» Bob Stoops became the first Oklahoma coach ever to reach the 10-win mark against Texas. The Sooners also moved to 30-3 under Stoops when scoring a defensive touchdown in a game.

» A quarterback has thrown for 500-plus yards passing in a game 12 times at the halfway point of the season. It happened just eight times all of last year.

» Shaq Thompson has three touchdowns of longer than 50 yards this season and more defensive TDs than all but one TEAM.

» A Pac-12 player leads six of the major 11 offensive categories this season, and has two in the top five in eight of the 11 categories.

Quote of the Week

"I've known him since he was 21 years old, since he was a little babe coming into the pro football world. He's one of my closest friends, and we are both very passionate and very competitive. If you don't have that fire, then something's wrong in this business." -- Jim Mora to reporters after he got into a tiff with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich on the sideline against Oregon.

Sound from Saturday

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson scored his fifth touchdown of the season. Again, he's a linebacker.

Tweet of the Week

Sideline standouts

Gold medal:*Dana Holgorsen*. 17 fourth-quarter points AND he talked to his kicker for the first time all season.

Silver medal:*Steve Sarkisian*. The Trojans nearly blew their game against Arizona, but Sark went 2-for-2 in timeouts to ice the kicker -- and that ended up being the difference in the game.

Bronze medal:*Art Briles*. 21-point comebacks late in the fourth quarter aren't supposed to happen if you're a top-five team, but kudos to the Bears for pulling it off.

Pre-snap read

Notre Dame at Florida State: The Irish will need to play a perfect game if they want to pull off the road upset, and their comeback win over North Carolina doesn't exactly inspire confidence. With a big-game atmosphere at the Doak, an active FSU defense makes a difference and allows the Seminoles to survive their toughest test of the season.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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