Last year...I stood up on my blog and named USC #1 and Oklahoma #2. The two did eventually meet in the Orange Bowl with the Trojans being crowned National Champs. So, this year...I stand up here again with my SPORTZ TOP 12 and again have USC atop my preseason poll. However, I do have a surprise at #2 that many may feel is controversial. Maybe it is. But we got a few months to see how it goes. Check it out...
1-USC. Go ahead and make up those "Three-Pete" t-shirts with the mug of Pete Carroll on them. The Trojans are still stacked on the field. Off it, they lost Norm Chow which may hurt USC down the road...but not now. Leinart will try to defend his Heisman season...but it could be Reggie Bush that brings the hardware back to Los Angeles. I think they have the easiest schedule of the National Title contenders...and are really looking forward to running the table and playing in the Rose Bowl aka the National Championship.
2-MICHIGAN. Last year...I was all over the Big Ten. This year...I will show them some love. In my 2004 preview, I got many pieces of hate mail about not having the Wolverines or Buckeyes in my Top 12. Well, I was right to do so. This year, I am right to put them both here. Chad Henne and Mike Hart have a season under their belts and should be able to complete the Big Ten run that failed them last year. There are some land mines along the way...but I have them winning out and seeing USC in the Rose Bowl for the title.
3-OHIO STATE. These Buckeyes are loaded, too. But, I feel they will lose at Michigan on the final game of the season which will knock them out of the Rose Bowl picture. They also have that monster game hosting Texas early in the year. If they can get past that game...they should make a beeline for the Michigan game at the end. Lose that game...and it may be on to the Fiesta.
4-TEXAS. This has to be Texas’ year...right? Oklahoma is a tad down so the Horns may get some revenge. But the most important game may happen on September 10 when Texas heads to Ohio State. The winner of that game will most likely have the tiebreaker in voter’s minds for the rest ofthe year. Texas does have to go to Okie State and A&M...but can win those. The Big XII title game should be a breeze by comparison. I do think that the Horns may slip up in Columbus or Dallas [against OU] that will cost them the Rose Bowl berth. But if they blow by OSU...look out!
5-VIRGINIA TECH. How powerful this team will be depends on Marcus Vick. Has he put his problems behind him? We shall see. There is enough talent there to be the ACC champs and a ride to Pasadena. I think they may slip at home to the Canes or in Raleigh, Morgantown or Charlottesville and get the Orange Bowl bid. Not too shabby.
6-TENNESSEE. I love this team. Their defense should be wicked...and the offensive assault of Gerald Riggs and Erik Ainge should balance that side of the ball. However, this team has a tough road to follow. They go to Florida...to LSU..to Alabama...to Notre Damn with homers against Georgia and Fulmer’s favorite guy Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina [not to mention a possible beast in the SEC title tilt]. That sked makes me leery of putting them into the Rose Bowl...though they have the talent to get there.
7-MIAMI. The Canes found out that the ACC isn’t the Big East....well, except for that part of V-Tech beating them. Tech is still much better and they got ‘em in Blacksburg. Miami’s defense is suspect and could fail them against high profile offenses. Aside from roadies at Florida State and V-Tech...the rest of the sked seems fine for a run to the Sugar or Gator Bowl.
8-OKLAHOMA. Well, habit tells you to pencil the Sooners in for a BCS beat-down...but this is a team breaking in a new QB. That, plus everyone on OU’s schedule will pop in a tape of last year’s pasting to USC as a "how-to" to defend the Sooners. Their schedule is manageable to swim thru...and they may actually be 10-1 after the season...miss out on the Big XII title game [Texas should be in there] and get an at-large BCS bid.
9-LSU. Stop if you heard this before. The defense will be rabid and the running attack will be overwhelming...but the QB situation is up in the air. That last bit will separate them from the BCS realm. The Tigers also have the unfortunate luck to have to face the SEC East’s two toughest teams, Florida and Tennessee.....and should be one of them again in the SEC title game. That plus games at Bama and hosting Auburn will be too much for LSU to handle.
10-FLORIDA. I had Florida ranked high last year....and it was a bit of a reach...but I’m sticking with them this year. Now we get to see Chris Leak under the tutelage of the guy who helped make Alex Smith the #1 pick in the NFL draft. However, like Tennessee, the Gators face a tough SEC slate that has them hosting Tennessee and Florida State, at Bama, at LSU and also takes them to a certain ol’ ball coach.
11-LOUISVILLE. Welcome to the BCS!! The Big East lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College but didn’t lose it’s BCS bid. So Louisville, a newbie, should benefit off the bat. The Cards are in flux...as they are replacing LaFors and Shelton...but have capable stand ins with Brian Brohm and Michael Bush. They have Pitt and Syracuse coming to Louisville...and the toughest Big East game seems to be a trip to West Virginia which may decide the Big East crown. I feel they won’t lose a game and will be in Miami or Tempe in the new year.
12-IOWA. The Hawkeyes have a ton of talent and are trying to build off the momentum gained from beating LSU in the Cap One Bowl. However, they have both Michigan and Ohio State on their slate...and must go to Wisconsin and Purdue. They can afford to lose the first two if they win the second two. Do that...and they’ll be back on New Year’s Day.
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: Virginia Tech. They'll win the first ACC Title Game
DON'T SLEEP ON: Florida State. Stock is down in expanded ACC, but the Noles should win the Atlantic Division easily.
YOU SUCK!!!: North Carolina. Not only did they lose Durant, but they have one of the nation's toughest schedules.
BIG EAST CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: Louisville. The Cards may enter the bowl season undefeated
DON'T SLEEP ON: Syracuse. They have a gifted defense and the best home field advantage in the league.
YOU SUCK!!!: Cincinnati. UL's C-USA brother doesn't have such a bright outlook. The Bearcats lost 8 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense.
BIG TEN CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: Michigan. The Wolverines and Buckeyes will be on a crash course for their yearly rival game. Michigan will come out on top.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Purdue. Yeah, they lost Orton...but team is still loaded on offense and now has a defense to match.
YOU SUCK!!!: Indiana. When don't they suck??
BIG XII CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: Texas. This is the year they finally beat Oklahoma.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Iowa State. The Cyclones should come out of the North Division and could spring an upset on an unsuspecting Big XII title foe.
YOU SUCK!!!: Baylor. They are by far the worst team in this conference. Winning one game in the conference should be a challenge.
CHAMPION: UTEP. Mike Price has this team ready to make a big impact on the new look CUSA.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Memphis. A tough nosed defense and DeAngelo Williams could steal the Tigers a few wins.
YOU SUCK!!!: Central Florida. This team was 0-11 last year and now has a tougher schedule.
MID AMERICAN CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: Bowing Green. Omar Jacobs. Nuff said.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Northern Illinois. With BGSU moving to the East Division...NIU should rule out west.
YOU SUCK!!!: Buffalo. They have a D-I team??
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: Utah. Though Urban Meyer and Alex Smith are gone...the Utes have the experience and talent to win a wide open MWC.
DON'T SLEEP ON: BYU. The team looks to be heading back to it's offensive juggernaut roots.
YOU SUCK!!!: UNLV. A horrible defense and a young offense make for a long season.
CHAMPION: USC. There is no one in the Pac-10 that's in their league.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Arizona State. ASU has a killer defense and some surprising offensive talent.
YOU SUCK!!!: Stanford. This once proud program has sinked into the depths of the league.
CHAMPION: Tennessee. The Vols have the most talent in the league...and should win more of those tough games that anyone else.
DON'T SLEEP ON: South Carolina. Spurrier won't take losing in this conference lightly. This team will be ready to fling the ball around
YOU SUCK!!!: Vanderbilt. Well, this team did almost beat Tennessee last year.
SUN BELT CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: North Texas. Jamario Thomas is back after a stellar freshman season. He should keep the Mean Green as the Sun Belt's cream!
DON'T SLEEP ON: Troy. They have a tough defense, an upset ability and a bowl game under their belt.
YOU SUCK!!!: Florida Atlantic. Inexperience and probation status makes this a tough year.
WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
CHAMPION: Boise State. Great QB, RB, O-line and some nice defensive players. Could be best BSU team ever.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Louisiana Tech. Though BSU and Fresno are the top talents...La Tech is the final game on both team's skeds and could throw a monkey wrench in some plans.
YOU SUCK!!!: Idaho. This team is out of the geographic challenged Sun Belt but will find no love with their new WAC buddies.
CHAMPION: Navy. Remember, this team finished 10-2 and won a bowl game last year.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Notre Dame. Weis will have this team ready...but games at Pitt, Michigan, Washington, Purdue and homers with Michigan State, USC, BYU, Tennessee and Syracuse scare me.
YOU SUCK!!!: Temple. The Big East needed teams to fill their conference and STILL kicked out the Owls.