1-USC TROJANS. Their schedule, though with some nice non-conference roadblocks, isn’t as difficult to navigate thru as the other title contenders. They do have to replace 10 starters…but Carroll has prepared well with his recruiting. Also, Leinart + Bush looks to be a nice combo.
2-OKLAHOMA SOONERS. A nice stat for ya….Oklahoma averaged 50 points per game against the 7 bowl teams that faced last year. The offense is pretty much intact….with super stud recruit Adrian Peterson to help the running game. Oh, and they have the defending Heisman winner as their QB. There are big games against Texas and AT Kansas State looming…not to mention games at Oklahoma State and A&M. The question is….can this team, who blazed thru the regular season, get it’s confidence back after losing their two postseason games badly??
3-GEORGIA BULLDOGS. I like Georgia to win the whole thing….if they can get into the big game, that is. Many people don’t realize that the Dawgs have averaged 12 wins a season over the past 2 years. Their defensive front seven is sick!! Pollack should rack up some awards and Greene could be a dark horse Heisman contender. Their schedule does, however, feature LSU, Tennessee, Florida and at Auburn….and then possibly an SEC title game rematch with LSU. If they can get to the SEC championship game…they’ll be in a BCS game.
4-MIAMI HURRICANES. Two reasons I have them this high. One, I feel they will beat FSU in the opener and cruise thru the ACC. Two, the non-conference schedule isn’t that tough. Yeah, La Tech, Houston and Louisville could pull the upset…but it is highly unlikely. As for the new ACC…games at NC State, at Virginia and at G-Tech could slip them up [not to mention the finale against Virginia Tech]. They do have some serious question marks, though. Is Frank Gore fully recovered from his knee injury?? And can Brock Berlin be the man in Miami?? If those two things work out…they could make a title run.
5-LSU TIGERS. LSU will again be amongst the elite….but the lack of an experienced QB and have to replace some of their defensive front. Also, the schedule is crazy. They are AT Auburn, AT Georgia and AT Florida in a 4 week span. If they can get thru that okay…then they could run the table the rest of the way….before meeting Georgia or Florida again in the SEC title game.
6-FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES. The ‘Noles 3 toughest conference games are on the road. In Miami, Raleigh and College Park. Clemson and Virginia in Talahassee isn't a picnic, either. They get an advantage by playing both Duke and UNC [the two worst ACC teams] this year as well.....and missing out on the two "Techs"...Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The key is Chris Rix. He can play sooooo well…..then play sooooo bad. He stunk against Miami and Clemson….but did some nice things against NC State and Florida. Rix is, sad to say, the best QB in the ACC [Clemson's Whitehurst may have something to say about that]...a conference that has seen Rivers, Shaub and McBrien all graduate.
7-TEXAS LONGHORNS. Sorry, but I will start off by saying this: Mack Brown needs to prove he can win the big game. While at North Carolina….he failed to be able to beat the Mighty Seminoles. Now, at Texas, he can’t do the job against the Sooners. The Horns have no tough road tests…though Kansas and Colorado are formidable. Missouri does come to Austin…but the game on everyone’s mind is the OU-UT game. Cedric Benson is a legit Heisman guy who could be the next great Texas back. The QB, Young, has a year under his belt….but his receivers must step up into their new roles.
8-FLORIDA GATORS. Zook is on the hot seat…and needs this team to perform at a high level to keep his job….especially with a Spurrier out there jobless. Zook hasn’t won the SEC East or a bowl game. Unlike most years….the Gators schedule features only a few huge games. Georgia, FSU and Tennessee….teams they play every year. With Chris Leak entrenched as the starter from the beginning, the experienced offense should be ready to roll this year. The team was 8-5 last year….but lost a very close one in Miami and had one stolen away from them against Florida State. They were the only team to beat LSU…and they also popped Georgia. They did lose to Tennessee, Ole Miss and Iowa…..but only the Vols are back on the schedule.