No. 7 Michigan State

Look up ranking “guts” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of a younger, braver me, a prognosticator much more willing to take long-leap chances.

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You would see me in 1997, when my pick of North Carolina as preseason No.1 in the Los Angeles Times lit up Clara’s switchboard in Mayberry.

This was before Twitter and Facebook so, by comparison, the news was basically spread by carrier pigeon.

I do, though, remember getting a call from a reporter in North Carolina suggesting I might need a frontal lobotomy, which reminded me of that ditty, “well I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than to have to have a frontal lobotomy.”

Thank goodness I never voted in the Associated Press poll or they may have revoked my license.

Anyway, my logic for North Carolina at No.1 was somewhat sane: The Tar Heels had rising star Mack Brown as coach, an NFL-loaded defense and a favorable schedule.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The way I saw it was all North Carolina had to do was beat ACC powerhouse Florida State in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina finished 11-1, No. 4 in the final USA Today coaches’ poll and Mack Brown got hired at Texas.

A year later, on a preseason visit to Austin, the new Texas coach shook my hand and offered an apology.

“I’m sorry,” Mack Brown said. “You were right. All we had to do was beat Florida State at home.”

It was also younger me who put Boise State at the top of my 2010 preseason leaderboard…damn you Colin Kaepernick!

Older me didn’t have the guts to do what I wanted to do this year: put Michigan State at preseason No.1

The Spartans have everything I’m looking for in a wild-hair pick for the title: they return 19 of 22 starters off a 10-3 team that slobber-clobbered Washington State in the Holiday. Those returning starters include the quarterback, running back and top five receivers.

Michigan State has a top-drawer coach, Mark Dantonio, and an unassailable schedule even though it sets up favorably.

Sparty’s relatively timid nonconference campaign—Utah State, at Arizona State, Central Michigan, is offset by playing in the grueling Big Ten East Division.

In other words: nonconference won’t like enter the selection committee discussion if Michigan State wins the Big Ten. Yet, the Spartans miss crossover Wisconsin in regular season and play Michigan and Ohio State in East Lansing.

Yes, this has the makings of a magical year.

"I thought last year we sort of reaffirmed ourselves as a football program and now we need to take another step forward and our players are very excited about that," Dantonio said at Michigan State's media day on Aug. 6.

I have a feeling I'm going to kick myself.[/membership]

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