Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Football Preview Pt. 2 (College Edition)

It’s almost time for College Football to rescue us from the boredom that is August. Forget NFL preseason, the NCAA’s playoffs essentially begin a week from tomorrow. That’s what I love about NCAA football the most, every single game counts. That said, you almost certainly have to go undefeated to guarantee yourself a shot at the national title. And if you aren’t in a major conference, no losses probably won’t be enough to get you a title shot. (see Boise St. – 06, Utah – 04)

That said, you shouldn’t judge College Football by who the best team is, but who has the best chance to go undefeated. Without further ado, here’s my NCAA top 15, based on who has the best chance to win the title.

15. Florida State – Bobby Bowden has been somewhat down in recent years, but he’s far from out. This year, he could be 9-0 headed into a match up with Virginia Tech. The tough part about that game is that it’s in Blacksburg. The good thing is Tech always struggles against FSU. Their final game of the season is against Florida in the Swamp, which will also be a very tough game. The Seminoles are more experienced than the Gators, which will help them. Unfortunately, I expect them to finish the season 10-2.

14. Penn State – The Nittany Lions had a decent season last year, following their surprise 2005 run to a BCS game. This year, they are poised for another great season. Their biggest challenges seem to be Michigan on the road and Wisconsin at home. If they can somehow knock of the Wolverines, they should have an inside track to the title game.

13. Rutgers – Rutgers is actually ranked this year, which is a major benefit for the Scarlet Knights. It’s hard to get the poll points needed to have a good BCS average if you begin the season unranked. The voters don’t usually pay attention to everyone, and a team like Rutgers off 2006 can get lost in the shuffle until it is 8-0. However, just like last year, they still have to beat West Virginia and Louisville to have a chance. I don’t think they can defeat either.

12. Cal – Cal is slightly overrated to me, as they are quarterbacked by the very overrated Nate Longshore. That said, they still have DeSean Jackson, Justin Forsett, and a very talented secondary on the other side of the ball. Too bad they have to play UCLA on the road.

11. UCLA – Karl Dorrell has rebuilt the Bruins program. They are also energized after knocking off USC and preventing the Trojans from once again making it to the National Championship. This year, the Trojans may be the only team standing between them and a shot at the title. UCLA is poised to have a sleeper/breakout season. If they can get past pesky Oregon State and Arizona and topple overrated Cal at home, their Dec 1 showdown with USC should be one for the ages.

10. Louisville – Louisville did a good job replacing Michael Bush last year. This year they have to replace Bobby Petrino as well. As long as the new coach doesn’t stop throwing the ball, they should remain a very formidable team. They’re also aided by a creampuff schedule. If they knock of West Virginia, they’ll have a great chance, but the computer (and games against Murray State and Middle Tennessee) may ultimately seal their fate.

9. Arkansas – Once again, the Razorbacks are a major sleeper. Mitch Mustain and his band of merry men are gone, and the Hogs can concentrate on playing the best players on their team. Fortunately for them, those players include Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Casey Dick. Another positive for Arkansas is the fact that they only have 4 road games: Alabama on Sept 15, Mississippi on Oct 20, Tennessee (overrated) on Nov 10, and LSU (slightly overrated) on Nov 24.

8. Florida – Right now, Florida has 5 ranked teams on their schedule, in addition to a road games at South Carolina and Kentucky. Couple that with all their loses from last year’s title team and it will be very tough for the Gators to repeat. However, Tim Tebow is the best quarterback for Urban Myer’s offense and Percy Harvin’s 2008 Heisman campaign will begin this year.

7. Virginia Tech – The highest ranked ACC team (#9) has a tough road ahead for a chance at the title. After a warm up against East Carolina, they essentially start the season on the road against LSU. They also have a road game against Clemson who’s always tough at home and could potentially face Florida State twice this season. The Hokies do have a top 3 defense and a decent offense, and they will have the nation behind them as they will put Virginia Tech in the national spotlight for the first time since the Cho Massacre.

6. Wisconsin – Wisconsin is a sleeper program. They are normally good, they have a ton of NFL players and a ton of players on their team that will play on Sundays soon. Yet, besides P.J. Hill, they field a team of unknowns. If they are able to knock off their major Big Ten rivals (Penn and Ohio St, and Michigan) it will be hard to deny them a chance at the title.

5. LSU – A lot is riding on the arm of Matt Flynn as he leads the #2 Tigers this season and has to follow in JaMarcus Russell’s footsteps. I think LSU is overrated, but they do have a somewhat favorable schedule in their favor. All of their games against ranked opponents come at home. Yet, four ranked opponents will be hard to beat anywhere, and they also have to travel to Kentucky and Alabama. I expect at least one, if not two losses for LSU this year.

4. West Virginia – WVU is the most electric team in college football. Pat White and Steve Slaton always put on a show in Rich Rodriguez’s fastbreak offense. Just like last year, the only thing that seems to be in their way is themselves. That and a creampuff schedule. They should run the table in the Big East this year, but could also end up as the 3rd wheel, like Auburn a few years back.

3. Michigan – Michigan is this year’s Ohio State; a tough Big Ten team with everyone coming back following a great season. This year, they get Ohio State at home, who should be down anyway. Also at home, they face Penn State, and they must travel to Wisconsin towards the end of the year. They tool, have a good chance of going undefeated, and a better chance of making it to the title game than the Mountaineers because of their conference affiliation.

2. Texas – Texas is stacked. They also play in the suspect Big 12. Oklahoma and Nebraska are very overrated, and Texas shouldn’t have any problems with them. The team they should have problems with, a team they always struggle against, is Texas A&M, which will have the 12th man in their favor for this season’s match up. If they get past the Aggies, it could be UCS/Texas pt. 2.

1. USC – USC has the most talented team in the nation. They always have a crazy recruiting class, their defense will be immaculate, and John David Booty is an excellent QB. The ball is in their court, and they should go all the away unless they have a mental lapse somewhere down the road.

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