Commentary

What does the next decade hold?

Originally Published: January 22, 2010
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Editor's note: Each day this week, ESPN.com will look back at the best in college football over the past 10 years. On Friday, Mark Schlabach looks into his crystal ball and ponders what we might see in the second decade of the 21st century.

The decade began with Boise State winning the Big West Conference championship.

Urban Meyer
AP Photo/Douglas C. PizacUrban Meyer started the decade as an assistant at Notre Dame. By 2010 he had a pair of national titles at Florida, with stops at Bowling Green and Utah in between.

It ended with the Broncos winning their second BCS bowl game.

When the calendar turned to the 21st century a decade ago, Brian Kelly was coaching at Grand Valley State, a Division II school in Michigan. The new decade begins with Kelly taking over Notre Dame, the most famous college football program in the land.

Florida's Urban Meyer and Boise State's Chris Petersen started the decade as wide receivers coaches at Notre Dame and Oregon, respectively. Ten years ago, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who stands to someday soon take over the Longhorns, was still an assistant coach at Valdosta State, a Division II school in south Georgia.

During the past decade, college football fans said goodbye to many of its most famous coaches, including Bobby Bowden, Lou Holtz, LaVell Edwards and Don Nehlen. They said goodbye -- and then hello again -- to Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson, Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier, all of whom scratched their longtime NFL itches before returning to the better sport.

So much can change in 10 years. The past decade brought us instant replay, spread offenses and coaches-in-waiting. We said goodbye to the Michigan dynasty (sort of), the Orange Bowl stadium and something called the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl.

The next 10 years stand to bring us so much more. Here's a look at what might transpire in college football over the next decade:

1. Widespread realignment

The Big Ten is exploring the possibility of adding a 12th team, and I'm betting it will be Missouri before the 2011 season. With 12 teams, the Big Ten can split into two divisions and stage a conference championship game. Who can't wait to flock to Detroit or Minneapolis in early December?

With Missouri leaving, the Big 12 will add TCU to its lineup of schools. Not to be left out, the Pac-10 will add Boise State and Utah, giving it 12 teams and a moneymaking championship game. The Big East will react by adding Memphis, East Carolina, Central Florida and Temple.

2. There will be a BCS plus-one
With Boise State, TCU and Utah joining BCS conferences, there will be less outrage from the football conferences that don't receive automatic BCS bowl bids. But with every BCS conference staging its own championship game, the BCS will finally adopt a plus-one model. The winner of two BCS bowl games will play in a BCS National Championship Game a week later.

3. Several big-name coaches will retire
We lost our share of great coaches during the past decade, and we'll stand to lose a few more over the next 10 years. Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Texas' Mack Brown, Kansas State's Bill Snyder, Penn State's Joe Paterno and Spurrier will hang up their hats during the next decade. Either Temple's Al Golden or Rutgers' Greg Schiano will inherit the unenviable task of replacing Paterno, major college football's all-time winningest coach.

Bobby Bowden/Joe Paterno
Al Bello/Getty ImagesCollege football said farewell to legendary coach Bobby Bowden in 2010. The next decade will (likely) see the end of Joe Paterno's tenure at Penn State.

4. The SEC will win at least four more national championships
The past decade ended with SEC teams winning four consecutive BCS national championships. Alabama will repeat as national champions in 2010 and will win at least one more title under Nick Saban, who will eventually become the sport's first $6 million coach. Florida's Urban Meyer will win at least one more national title before retiring, and current Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will guide LSU back to the promised land near the end of the decade.

5. 3-D TV will become the rage
College football fans will be captivated by much-improved 3-D technology, which will make them feel like part of the action. To almost no one's surprise, Big Ten players will look even slower in 3-D.

6. Boise State will play for a national championship

After breaking through the BCS ceiling at the end of the previous decade, Boise State will finish a future season with an undefeated record and will actually get to play for a national championship. The Broncos will beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, winning the game -- and a national championship -- on a fumblerooski play in the final minutes.

7. SMU will become the next BCS buster
It didn't take former Hawaii coach June Jones long to turn the Mustangs back into winners, improving from 1-11 in 2008 to 8-5 this past season. With Jones' run-and-shoot offense, SMU will become kings of Conference USA and will play in a BCS bowl game before the end of the decade.

June Jones
AP Photo/Marco GarciaIs June Jones poised to create the next decade's BCS buster at SMU?

8. Michigan will become relevant again
The Wolverines will return to national prominence -- under current LSU coach Les Miles or Stanford coach (and UM alumnus) Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines will stick with coach Rich Rodriguez for a couple of more seasons, before eventually pulling the plug on what has been a bad marriage. Rodriguez will return to his native West Virginia, where he'll unsuccessfully run for public office.

9. Notre Dame will win again
It will take a couple of seasons, but Kelly will eventually turn around the Fighting Irish. After beating Navy in the 2012 opener in Dublin, Notre Dame will stake its claim to the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. The Irish will give it back after losing to Army later that season.

10. Mike Gundy will turn 50, but Muschamp will be the man
Gundy will still be coaching Oklahoma State, his alma mater, when he turns 50 on Aug. 12, 2017. But Muschamp will own the Big 12 once he takes over Texas. Brown will coach two or three more seasons, before handing the reigns to Muschamp. The Longhorns won't skip a beat under their tough-nosed new coach.

11. A Florida quarterback will win the Heisman Trophy
The Gators will sorely miss departed quarterback Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. But sophomore John Brantley might be a better fit for Florida's high-octane passing attack. Brantley will lead the Gators to an SEC East title in 2010, and then he'll win the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 2011.

12. Bobby Petrino will change jobs again
When Meyer retires for health reasons at Florida, Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley won't have to look outside the SEC for a replacement. He'll turn to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who always seems to be looking for a better job.

13. Pac-10 power will move north
With Lane Kiffin taking over at USC, and former coach Pete Carroll bolting for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington will become the class of the Pac-10. Former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian seems close to turning the Huskies around, and the Ducks and Beavers will keep getting better under coaches Chip Kelly and Mike Riley, respectively.

14. The Big 12 North will close the gap
Nebraska finally found stability under coach Bo Pelini, who will bring the "Blackshirt" defense back to Lincoln. Once the Cornhuskers learn how to play offense as well as they play defense, they'll be a tough out for Big 12 South teams in the league's championship game. Kansas will get better, too, with former Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill returning to the Big 12 as the Jayhawks' new coach.

Bo Pelini
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireBo Pelini and Nebraska will lead the North as it tries to shift the balance of power in the Big 12.

15. BCS at-large bids will get scarce
Before it loses TCU and Utah, the Mountain West will qualify for automatic BCS status in 2012, which guarantees its champion will play in one of the four lucrative BCS bowl games. The addition of the MWC will leave only one at-large bid for BCS bowl games. After losing a couple of schools to Big 12 and Pac-10 expansion, the MWC will replace them with teams like Fresno State, Hawaii or Nevada.

16. The NCAA finally solves the Reggie Bush scandal
At the very end of the next decade, after former USC running back Reggie Bush has retired from the NFL, the NCAA will finally determine whether he received improper benefits while playing for the Trojans. Just days before USC's sanctions are announced in 2019, Kiffin will leave to become coach of L.A.'s new NFL franchise.

17. Famous names will dot the landscape
You might feel old when hearing the names of potential future stars: Collinsworth, Favre, Gretzky and Montana. A new generation of players with famous fathers and relatives stand to become the stars of tomorrow.

Nick Montana, son of Joe, might be Washington's quarterback of the future. Austin Collinsworth, son of Chris, is a defensive back headed to Notre Dame. Dylan Favre, nephew of Brett, is a record-setting quarterback headed to Mississippi State.

Next season, Trevor Gretzky, son of NHL legend Wayne, replaces Montana as the starting quarterback at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, Calif. One of Gretzky's favorite targets is Trey Smith, son of Hollywood actor Will Smith. And golfing legend Jack Nicklaus' grandson, Nick O'Leary, is a budding tight end at Dwyer High in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Mike Leach
John Albright/Icon SMIDon't be surprised to see Mike Leach resurface as head coach of BCS school.

One of the biggest stars in the recruiting class of 2011 is quarterback Kendal Thompson of Southmoore High in Moore, Okla. Thompson has already announced he'll follow his father, Charles Thompson, who played quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners.

18. Mike Leach will return as a head coach
Leach's high-powered offense won't be sidelined for long. Leach, who was fired by Texas Tech after allegedly mistreating a player who suffered a concussion, will be hired as Maryland's new coach by 2012.

Leach's relationship with Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, a former Maryland player, will make him a popular choice to replace current Terps coach Ralph Friedgen, who is nearing retirement.

19. Preseason polls will be abolished
Sometime during the next decade, the Associated Press and coaches' polls finally get it right and decide to abolish their preseason polls. The first polls won't be released until Oct. 1. Remarkably, Notre Dame will still be No. 1.

20. A Bowden will return to the sideline
For the first time in four decades, the 2010 season will start without a Bowden coaching at a major college program. Bobby Bowden was forced to retire after 34 seasons at Florida State, and Clemson fired his son, Tommy, midway through the '09 season.

But major college football won't be without a Bowden on the sideline for long. Tommy will return to coaching before the 2011 season, and brother Terry will land a midlevel FBS job after leading Division II North Alabama to a national championship next season.

Stay tuned. The next 10 years figure to be as much fun as the past 10.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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