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July 15, 2010

Buchanan: 25 things to watch in 2010

Fans of the Southeastern Conference could be chanting "S-E-C, S-E-C" in celebration of a fifth consecutive national championship.

A sophomore could win the Heisman for the fourth consecutive year. Or there could be a repeat Heisman recipient for only the second time in history.

A rabid fan will attend his 400th consecutive game, an iconic coach is nearing his 400th win and a running back needs to gain a bit more than 400 yards to set a school rushing record.

One team hopes to continue a home winning streak, one hopes to extend the longest current bowl winning streak and one could become the first team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play for the BCS national championship.

There are a lot of records and milestones within reach, trends to continue and skids to end in the upcoming season, which begins seven weeks from today.

Here are 25 things to look for this season.

25. TCU's Andy Dalton will become the Horned Frogs' all-time winningest quarterback. He's led 29 career victories as a starter, which ties him with legendary Slingin' Sammy Baugh for the most in school history. TCU opens against Oregon State at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. If Dalton doesn't pass Baugh in that one, count on a win the next week, when the Horned Frogs are at home against Tennessee Tech.

24. A strong season could establish Mike Riley as the most successful coach in Oregon State history. Riley, who has led the Beavers to 64 wins, needs 11 victories to pass Lon Stiner as the school's winningest coach. A difficult schedule that includes TCU and Boise State in non-Pac-10 play will make reaching the milestone difficult. Riley's cause will be aided by the presence of senior wide receiver James Rodgers, who needs 530 all-purpose yards and 61 receptions to set school career records in both categories.

23. Navy aims to post at least eight wins for the eighth consecutive season. Their current seven-year streak with at least eight wins already is the longest in school history. The Midshipmen's hopes of continuing that trend depend heavily on quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who will try to match the NCAA record of 27 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback he set last season. Dobbs could also become the first quarterback in Naval Academy history to twice reach 1,000 yards rushing and passing.

22. Six schools (Akron, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Temple and Utah State) will play the 1,000th game in school history. Seventy-three FBS schools already have reached that plateau.

21. Seven coaches have a shot to reach the 100-victory mark for their careers. The seven: Indiana's Bill Lynch and Florida's Urban Meyer need five wins; Iowa's Kirk Ferentz needs seven; Wake Forest's Jim Grobe needs eight; N.C. State's Tom O'Brien needs nine; and Georgia's Mark Richt and Arkansas State's Steve Roberts need 10. Twenty current coaches already have hit that plateau.

20. If Richt were to win 10 this season, he will have done it with Uga VIII looking on. Uga VII died of heart-related causes in November, and "Russ," the 5-year-old half brother of Uga VII, served as the interim mascot for the final two games of the 2009 season. Russ will continue as the interim until a permanent replacement is selected sometime during this season.

19. Penn State RB Evan Royster eyes school record. Royster, seeking his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, needs 480 yards to break Curt Warner's school career rushing record of 3,398 yards.

18. Northwestern and Illinois will play at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20. That game will mark the first football game at Wrigley since the Bears played there in 1970. It will be the first college football played there since 1938.

17. Utah can extend the nation's longest active winning streak in bowl games and come within one of equaling the NCAA record. The Utes have won nine consecutive bowl games, which is tied for the second-longest bowl winning streak in NCAA history. Florida State holds the record with 11 consecutive bowl wins. Utah, which is 12-3 in bowl games, also has won 17 consecutive home games.

16. Nebraska can extend the nation's longest winning streak in season openers. The Huskers have won 24 openers in a row since falling to Florida State 17-13 in 1985. Go ahead and book the 25th win. Nebraska opens against overmatched Western Kentucky.

15. Texas is trying to post its 10th consecutive season with at least 10 victories. This is the nation's longest current active streak.

14. Circle Oct. 16 for perhaps the season's nastiest game - Nebraska already has. The university recently released a video proclaiming Nebraska's assets, then posting the date of the game against Texas, which has won five in a row over the Huskers. This is the last season in the Big 12 for Nebraska, which is joining the Big Ten in 2011. No doubt, the Huskers would dearly love to exit with a victory over Texas, which has been a thorn in their side ever since the Big 12's inception.

13. UCLA kicker Kai Forbath eyes record. Forbath, a senior who was the Groza Award recipient in '09, is 15 field goals away from matching the NCAA career record of 87, held by Georgia's Billy Bennett (2000-03).

12. USC and Florida State will start new eras without legendary coaches. Pete Carroll has left for the NFL, leaving USC under the guidance of Lane Kiffin. Bobby Bowden's retirement started the reign of Jimbo Fisher. USC posted 97 victories, seven Pac-10 championships and two national titles (a BCS and an AP) under Carroll. Bowden won 389 career games and led FSU to two national championships.

11. SMU super fan Paul Layne will attend his 400th-plus consecutive Mustangs game. Layne, a former SMU cheerleader, has attended every SMU game (home and away) for the past 37 years, since he was a freshman at the school. That's 393 in a row. He would have already surpassed 400 if not for the "Death Penalty" that prevented SMU from fielding teams in 1988 and '89. During his streak, Layne, 55, has seen the Mustangs play in Honolulu and Tokyo, among other places. He attended a game despite having a case of the chicken pox. Layne's 400th game will be Oct. 16, when the Mustangs travel to Navy.

10. Central Michigan senior linebacker Nick Bellore has started all 41 games of his career. If the Chippewas play a postseason game, he could set an FBS record for consecutive starts. The current record is 53 by former Oklahoma cornerback Derrick Strait. Bellore also needs 109 tackles to set a school career record. His lowest tackle total in his three seasons was 102 as a true freshman.

9. Look out for sophomores in the Heisman race. Each of the past three Heisman recipients was a sophomore. Some of those who would seem to have the best chance to extend that streak to four are Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams, Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon running back LaMichael James.

8. With one win, Oklahoma would become the eighth program in NCAA history with 800 victories. That should come in the season opener against Utah State. Not only is Utah State overmatched but the game is in Norman, where the Sooners have won 30 in a row. They will try to extend the home-field winning streak to 36 this year, but beware a clash with Florida State in Week 2.

7. Alabama running back Mark Ingram could join Ohio State's Archie Griffin as the only repeat Heisman winner. Ingram is the third consecutive Heisman recipient to return for another season.

6. Ohio State can capture its sixth consecutive Big Ten championship (won outright or shared). That would tie the league record, set by Ohio State from 1972-77.

5. With a mere six victories, Penn State's Joe Paterno would become the first FBS coach to post 400 career wins. He'll be just the third among coaches in all divisions to reach the mark.

4. Houston QB Case Keenum will make a run at becoming the first FBS player to pass for 6,000 yards in a season and/or the first player to post three 5,000-yard passing seasons in his career. Keenum needs to throw for 4,167 yards to become the NCAA FBS career leader. Last season, Keenum threw for 5,671 yards. Eight opponents on the Cougars' schedule this season ranked 73rd or worse in pass defense last season. Another opponent is FCS member Texas State. Bombs away.

3. Can Boise State go undefeated and get a shot at the BCS national championship? No team outside the six automatic qualifying conferences has played for the national title, but Boise State could change that. If the Broncos open with a win over Virginia Tech and add a victory over Oregon State on Sept. 25, they will have a great chance to go unbeaten. The debates that would follow would be epic.

2. The SEC hopes to continue to dominate the national championship. SEC teams have won the past four national championships. Alabama likely will be ranked No. 1 entering the season, while Florida and LSU never can be counted out. The greatest threats outside the SEC would appear to be Ohio State, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Oregon and Boise State.

1. Alabama is trying to become the first team to win back-to-back BCS national championships. Florida State, Miami and USC returned to the BCS championship game the season after winning the national title - but each lost. The last team to capture back-to-back national titles was Nebraska in 1994-95.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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