50. Daniel Carney (BYU)
49. Cooper Teare (Oregon)
48. Luis Grijalva (NAU)
47. Miler Haller (Boise State)
46. Ryan Forsyth (Colorado)
The younger guys have been killing it this year. With Matthew Maton absent from Oregon's lineup, Cooper Teare has been a nice replacement as the Duck's ace. Luis Grijalva has given NAU an extra weapon to flex at one of the scoring positions. Admittedly, I don't like to pick younger guys to do well at NCAA's, but it's hard to pick against them this year. Be sure to keep an eye on Miler Haller as well. Yusuke Uchikoshi hasn't been the low-stick that Boise State was expecting, but Haller has stepped up and given the Broncos an extra guy to lean on.
45. Andrew Johnston (Air Force)
44. Clark Ruiz (Michigan State)
43. Jack Bruce (Arkansas)
42. Troy Reeder (Furman)
41. Nick Hauger (Portland)
The next set of five are an experienced group that have thrived in the longer distances during their careers. These five have shown great consistency and one of them will most likely break into the top 30. Watch out for Troy Reeder. He could be the x-factor that puts Furman on the podium.
40. Casey Clinger (BYU)
39. Robert Brandt (UCLA)
38. Josh Brickell (Furman)
37. Alex Ostberg (Stanford)
36. Aidan Tooker (Syracuse)
There is a lot of uncertainty with this group. Casey Clinger sits as the lone freshman in our predictions to earn All-American, but he has never raced a 10k before. Alex Ostberg has yet to race a 10k as well. He was held out of the lineup in the West region along with Robert Brandt. Aidan Tooker is in a similar boat by only having one 10k under his belt (which was two weeks ago).
35. Geordie Beamish (NAU)
34. Edwin Kurgat (Tenn. - Martin)
33. Ben Veatch (Indiana)
32. Andrew Jordan (Iowa State)
31. Aaron Templeton (Furman)
I am a big fan of Edwin Kurgat and Ben Veatch this season. Both of these individuals have quietly put together solid performances all season against some of the best competition in the nation. Aaron Templeton might also be one of the most underrated low-sticks of any team at NCAA's this Saturday.
30. Nadeel Wildschutt (Coastal Carolina)
29. Mickey Davey (Air Force)
28. Dillon Maggard (Utah State)
27. Jonathan Davis (Illinois)
26. Philo Germano (Syracuse)
Philo Germano is a postseason star and although his regular season performances haven't indicated that he can place 26th, some individuals are simply better on the big stage. One of the reasons why Air Force has been so successful this season is because of Mickey Davey. He has been consistent all season and was a top 10 finisher in the Mountain region. Also, who is Nadeel Wildschutt? Admittedly, I didn't know who he was before the Southeast Region Championships, but placing 4th in 29:03 in your first collegiate 10k is extremely impressive.
25. Ben Flanagan (Michigan)
24. Connor McMillan (BYU)
23. Hassan Abdi (Oklahoma State)
22. Jerrell Mock (Colorado State)
21. Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane)
I am banking on the experience and veteran status of this group to step up and be a big reason for why they do so well. A lot of these guys are also 10k oriented and have proven that they can compete with some of the best. Don't be surprised if Emmanuel Rotich has a big race. He may not have raced against elite competition during the regular season, but he is just as good as the other top guys in this field.
20. Clayton Young (BYU)
19. Jeff Thies (Portland)
18. Alex George (Arkansas)
17. Colin Bennie (Syracuse)
16. Amon Kemboi (Campbell)
Jeff Thies has been one of the more under appreciated runners this year and his West region race was a great display of his ability to run the 10k. Amon Kemboi has also shown that he can adjust to the competition at any stage, but he is still young which is a (very minor) concern. The rest of this group have great 10k experience and have been on this stage multiple times before. They are almost locks to be All-American.
15. Andy Trouard (NAU)
14. Vincent Kiprop (Alabama)
13. Lawrence Kipkoech (Campbell)
12. Jacob Choge (Middle Tennessee State)
11. Joe Klecker (Colorado)
Is Joe Klecker as good as his Mountain region win showed? How vulnerable is Vincent Kiprop after being the first of Alabama's top three to fall back in the 10k in the South Region Championships? Which Lawrence Kipkoech will we see? The one who ran 28:45 to win the Southeast region? Or the one who finished 23rd at Pre-Nats? Has Jacob Choge matured enough to thrive on the big stage compared to last year? Should we be concerned about Andy Trouard placing 18th in the Mountain region after placing 3rd all year? I like to think that these are all valid concerns which is the only reason why I have them outside of the top 10.
10. Tyler Day (NAU)
9. Jonathan Green (Georgetown)
8. Azaria Kirwa (Liberty)
7. Gilbert Kigen (Alabama)
6. Rory Linkletter (BYU)
Let's be clear, Rory Linkletter could easily win the national title on Saturday despite being projected to finish 6th. Others like Azaria Kirwa and Jonathan Green have been extremely consistent all season and hungry to prove that they are stars among the elites of the NCAA.
5. Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland)
4. Matthew Baxter (NAU)
3. Alfred Chelanga (Alabama)
2. Grant Fisher (Stanford)
1. Justyn Knight (Syracuse)
After Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse's monster performance in the West region, I am convinced that he can stick with the top guys in the nation. He has adjusted incredibly well to the collegiate scene and his experience on the global stage in cross country gives him an edge in this meet. Of course, what everyone wants to know is who wins overall. Knight was our preseason pick and we're sticking to our guns for this one. If it comes down to a kick, Knight will most likely have the edge. Of course, we've been wrong before.
31. Washington State Cougars
30. Navy Midshipmen
29. NC State Wolfpack
28. Princeton Tigers
27. Utah State Aggies
26. Boise State Broncos
It's obviously never fun to rank teams at the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil for prediction purposes. Teams like Princeton, Utah State, and Navy are solid teams that each hold a unique aspect strength. They are, however, inexperienced and young. That could definitely hurt them in the team standings. Other teams like Washington State and Boise State are great on paper, but they just haven't put it together on the same day this season. Hopefully, that will change on Saturday.
25. Ole Miss Rebels
24. Virginia Cavaliers
23. Oregon Ducks
22. Oklahoma State Cowboys
21. Alabama Crimson Tide
Oregon could come out and annihilate the field, but their older guys this season haven't done as well as I expected and I don't know how I feel about Cooper Teare leading this squad in a 10k at Nationals. Plenty of Mississippi's squad from last year graduated, so a lot of these guys don't have the experience of running on the big stage. As for Alabama, their top three should be able to muscle them through to a finish near the top 20. Of course, those 4th and 5th are obviously a concern.
20. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
19. Air Force Falcons
18. Virginia Tech Hokies
17. UCLA Bruins
16. Michigan Wolverines
All of these teams are strong through four or five scorers and even have some firepower up front. Michigan, Air Force, and Middle Tennessee State all have a talented top three that helps them give an edge in the team scoring. Virginia Tech and UCLA have a solid 1-2 punch up front and a respectable pack throughout the rest of their lineup. That said, these teams just simply don't have the overall fitness that the teams ahead of them do.
15. Southern Utah Thunderbirds
14. Iona Gaels
13. Arkansas Razorbacks
12. Washington Huskies
11. Texas Longhorns
Some may scoff at the idea of Texas placing 11th overall, but I really like the pack that this team has this year along with the underrated talented that they have at the front of their pack. Sam Worley was a DNF in the South Central region last week so if he finishes towards the top with the rest of his teammates then they end up defeating Arkansas for the title. Other programs like Iona and Arkansas are historically great squads and will most likely finish well because of their great experience.
As for Washington, they remind me of their 2015 squad which came out of nowhere to place 8th. I see them doing something very similar this year. And Southern Utah? They could place either 7th or 17th. They haven't been as consistent in the later portion of the season, but if Mike Tate and Kasey Knevelbaard return to the level that they were at in the Notre Dame race, then this team has a chance to get into the top 10.
10. Iowa State Cyclones
9. Michigan State Spartans
8. Colorado State Rams
7. Colorado Buffaloes
6. Portland Pilots
Some will scoff at the idea of Portland being outside of the top five after having such a dominant run in the West region. However, they only won their region by two points despite placing 1-2-4. As they have been all season, their bottom two scorers will be the difference makers in this meet for the Pilots. Others like Colorado State and Colorado have shown plenty of consistency and promise all season. Unfortunately, Dressel being out of the lineup is enough for me to keep Colorado off of the podium.
And what about Iowa State and Michigan State? I mentioned in our Updated Top 25 Teams that Iowa State was out of the top two late in the race at the Midwest regional. Yet, even with the odds against them, they pulled themselves together and got the win thanks to a strong last 2k. Andrew Jordan has not given me a reason to doubt him and Thomas Pollard did very well on this stage last year. Add in another potential low-stick with Dan Curts and this team could really be dangerous. As for Michigan State, they are an experienced squad who runs the 10k distance very well. They're a better team in the longer races and we saw that difference when they lost to Michigan at BIG 10's, but later won the Great Lakes title.
5. Stanford Cardinal
4. Furman Paladins
3. BYU Cougars
2. Syracuse Orangemen
1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
Gosh, there is a lot to digest here. Let's break this down...
Stanford is a great team with an abundance of talent. Grant Fisher is an ace, Alex Ostberg looks strong, and Steven Fahy could give this team a lethal 1-2-3. However, the rest of their squad is very young, Thomas Ratcliffe is most likely not running, and the veterans who have raced this season have not been very impressive. If you want to podium, you can't have this many uncertainties.
The Paladins are a team that I praised early on in the season and they have only backed me up since then. Templeton and Brickell give this team some talent up front, Troy Reeder is beginning to budge his way up in the pack, and the rest of the team hasn't been too far behind. They may not have the elite talent that the other teams do, but having a tight pack that is experienced and consistent can do some serious damage against teams that have even the most minor hiccups.
BYU is a team that could easily win the title (even by a lot). Still, when was the last time you saw everything go exactly as expected on the podium? The answer is usually "never". I don't really have a reason to be picking BYU at 3rd other than I like the experience and firepower that the teams ahead of them have.
Syracuse is a darn good team. Knight is an easy pick for top three, Bennie is one of the best #2 scorers in the nation, Philo Germano always peaks in the postseason, Tooker has not given us a reason to doubt him, and they actually have more than one guy who could give them an edge at the #5 spot. Everything would have to go perfectly, but this team is most likely hungry to take back the crown.
Northern Arizona. How could we pick against them? They've been at #1 for a heavy portion of the season after their miraculous performance at the Greater Louisville Classic. I would argue that they are even better than their squad last year. The way I see it, they have a top three that no other team except Alabama can match. After that, they have a variety of weapons to choose from. Want a consistent freshman with a lot of upside? Run Luis Grijalva. Won a potential sleeper pick? Choose Peter Lomong. Looking for some stability in the scoring? Pick Cory Glines. Want one of the best #4 scorers in the nation? Geordie Beamish is your guy. When you consider all of the names on this roster, I just don't see the Lumberjacks losing (especially with the experience of winning the title last year).
Whatever the result may be, just know that this could be one of the craziest team battles in a long, long time.