2009 NCAA College Football Preview: Top 25 Teams, Top Players, and Award Predictions
We can all only hope that the 2009 NCAA college football season will be as thrilling, exciting, and action packed as the previous year.
The teams that headlined 2008 return some of their big time studs, while others are in the rebuilding stage after a hard lick from the NFL draft. Some teams are also welcoming in a lot of new talent from the junior college and high school ranks.
2009 should be an exciting season to look forward to. The teams will be very talented, there are many blockbuster games on the schedule, and of course there is the season-long debate for whether or not Tebow or Bradford will win the Heisman trophy.
OK, maybe it won't be just between those two, but some experts believe it will be.
Here's the list for the top 25 teams of 2009.
No. 25: Michigan State Spartans
2008 for the Spartans was pretty successful. A 9-4 record, 6-2 in the Big Ten. They had a tough loss to Georgia in the Citrus Bowl, 12-24, but the season as a whole was very solid.
The Spartans will go for a new look on offense this season. They lose the 1,000+ yards of rushing from former Spartan great Javon Ringer, and the solid quarterback play of Brian Hoyer.
The key for the Spartans in 2009 will be its ability to have good, consistent play at the quarterback position, and it's good defensive play.
If they can get those two things down, and keep them both consistent, they could have another solid 2009. They should also benefit from staying away from the Buckeyes this year.
Biggest Losses: Javon Ringer(RB), Brian Hoyer(QB)
Best Returning: Greg Jones(LB), B.J. Cunningham(WR)
Top Recruits: Edwin Baker(RB), Denicos Allen(S)
Key Games: Michigan, Penn State
2009 Predictions: 8-4(5-3 in Big Ten)
No. 24: Utah Utes
Coming off a 13-0 season, including a huge win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS Sugar Bowl, Utah Utes fans are very excited for the 2009 season.
As I would love to see Utah have as much success in 2009, which I think they will, it just won't be as sweet as '08.
The Utes will have to rely on a newcomer at quarterback, who the Utes believe will be Corbin Loukes. Utah had the luxury of having Brian Johnson, close to 3,000 yards passing in 2008 and the Sugar Bowl MVP, playing behind center.
Utah will also have a solid tailback in Matt Asiata.
Overall 2009 could be a big year for Utah, then again it could be a big bust. Don't expect them to run the table again and take down another college football power like they did a season ago.
Look for Utah to still be solid, compete, and probably win the Mountain West again.
Biggest Losses: Brian Johnson(QB), Sean Smith(CB)
Best Returning: Matt Asiata(RB), Brad Clifford(TE)
Top Recruits: Terrance Broadway(QB), Marcus Murphy(RB)
Key Games: Louisville, TCU, BYU
2009 Predictions: 10-2(7-1 in Mountain West)
No. 23: Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles will welcome back legendary coach Bobby Bowden for at least one more year in 2009, and will hope to get back to it's old ways of playing football.
Bowden is coming off a solid season at FSU, posting a 9-4 record, 5-3 in ACC play, and a blowout win over Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Bowden will welcome back some talented kids, and will have some fresh newcomers who can contribute right away.
The keys for the Seminoles in '09 will be their ability to limit big plays for opposing offenses. Last season they gave up 30 or more points three different times, but all four of their losses, outside of the Georgia Tech loss, was by nine or more points.
Overall look for the Seminoles to compete to win the ACC. They get back a solid core of defenders, and the quarterback play should be solid. The offensive line is experienced and should provide much support for Ponder, or whoever is behind center.
Biggest Losses: Greg Carr(WR), Myron Rolle(LB), Everette Brown(DE)
Best Returning: Rodney Hudson(OL), Pat Robinson(LB), Christian Ponder(QB)
Top Recruits: Jacobbi McDaniel(DT), Greg Reid(CB)
Key Games: Florida, North Carolina, Clemson
2009 Predictions: 8-4 (5-3 in ACC)
No. 22: North Carolina Tar Heels
2008 was a very successful year for the North Carolina Tar Heels and it's college football guru head coach, Butch Davis.
Davis, in just his second season as a Heel, led Carolina to an 8-5 record, and wins over Notre Dame, UConn, and Georgia Tech. Davis also put together a heck of a recruiting class, much like he has for the 2009 Tar Heel squad.
The importance for Carolina to have success in 2009 will be on the shoulders of it's quarterback, T.J. Yates. He has the ability to run, make plays with his arm, and he is a smart and quick thinker. Yates has all the tools to be a good NFL prospect, and can help lead the Tar Heels to another solid season.
The defense should be solid again in 2009, returning nine of it's 11 starters from a year ago. The defensive backs are among some of the best in the country, picking off 19 passes a year ago which was tops in the country.
Look for Carolina to have much success in '09 behind Davis. Yates should have a great year, and the guys coming back around him should put together a nice football team in the ACC this upcoming season.
Biggest Losses: Brandon Tate(WR/RB), Hakeem Nicks(WR)
Best Returning: T.J. Yates(QB), Shaun Draughn(RB)
Top Recruits: Brennan Williams(OL), Donovan Tate(S)
Key Games: UConn, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech
2009 Predictions: 8-4 (5-3 in ACC)
No. 21: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
A much needed 7-6 season, which I know is hard to say with the name Notre Dame, in 2008 was a big confidence booster for the Fighting Irish.
Coming off a dismal 3-9 season in '07, anything over five wins would have meant improvement in 2008.
Charlie Weis and the Fighting Irish showed a lot of downside in 2008. They had close losses to Pitt and North Carolina, and then a big loss to Syracuse, 23-24. Notre Dame showed they could play in games against top teams, but couldn't pull them out. As for the Syracuse loss, I have no clue what to say about that one.
That kind of threw a monkey wrench into the whole thing didn't it?
Still Weis has a lot coming back in 2009. Nine starters on offense, including four offensive lineman, and six on defense. They also return a big play maker in Golden Tate, and it's solid quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
The Irish can have a solid year in 2009. The schedule is in their favor, as USC and Pittsburgh seem right now to be the only tough games. Look for Weis and Notre Dame to improve from a season ago.
Biggest Losses: David Grimes(WR), Justin Brown(DE)
Best Returning: Golden Tate(WR), Jimmy Clausen(QB), Armando Allen(RB)
Top Recruits: Cierre Wood(RB), Tyler Stockton(DT)
Key Games: USC, Boston College, Michigan
2009 Predictions: 8-4
No. 20: Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks and head coach Mark Mangino are coming off a pretty solid 2008. It may not have been what Kansas fans expected, or wanted, but it wasn't too shabby.
Of course coming off a year like 2007 that Kansas had, it's hard to follow that up well. Especially if your program isn't used to doing it in the first place. But all in all, 2008 was a big step ahead for Kansas in trying to win the Big 12 title.
Kansas started the 2008 season off on a good note, winning five of it's first six games. Then things tailed off and the Jayhawks finished the year winning just three of it's final seven games.
A 7-5 regular season mark wasn't exactly what we all expected from Kansas, but with the way the Big 12 was in 2008, I'm sure Jayhawks fans were happy with what they got.
They did finish the year off on a good note, downing Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, 42-21.
Look for Kansas to have a pretty good 2009 season. Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State will be the front runners in the Big 12, but the Jayhawks are not far behind.
Biggest Losses: Dexton Fields(WR), James Holt(LB)
Best Returning: Todd Reesing(QB), Dezmon Briscoe(WR), Darrel Stuckey(CB)
Top Recruits: Prinz Kande(CB), Kevin Young(DE), Jordan Webb(QB)
Key Games: Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri
2009 Predictions: 8-4(5-3 in Big 12)
No. 19: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska might not have returned back to the golden days of Cornhusker football, but a 9-4 season and a Gator Bowl win over Clemson sure ignited the fan base, and has built hope for 2009, and for the future.
In his first season as a head coach, and at Nebraska, Bo Pelini put together a solid season. Many thought Pelini and Nebraska would have an OK year at best, and after it's slow start many stuck to their gun.
The Cornhuskers started the year off 3-3, but would win six of it's last seven games.
The key to success for Pelini and the Cornhuskers in '09, is to keep playing solid defense. The offense has took a hit after losing it's quarterback in Ganz, but Pat Witt should fill in nicely.
That being said, the key is defense. They gave up 28 points or more in all four of their losses and that's something that will have to change in 2009.
Look for Nebraska to have another good year under Pelini. He has brought in some solid newcomers, and is returning enough to make a run for the Big 12 south title.
Biggest Losses: Joe Ganz(QB), Marlon Lucky(RB)
Best Returning: Ndamukong Suh(DT), Anthony West(CB)
Top Recruits: Cody Green(QB), Eric Martin(LB), Kenny Cooper(TE)
Key Games: Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas
2009 Predictions: 8-4(5-3 in Big 12)
No. 18: Pittsburgh Panthers
2008 was very successful for the Pittsburgh Panthers and head coach Dave Wannstedt.
The Panthers won nine games, but lost its bowl appearance to Oregon State.
That bowl game was pretty unusual by the way. The final score was 3-0. Pittsburgh hadn't been shut out all year, and it's lowest scoring total prior to that was 17.
The keys for the Panthers to have more success in '09 and compete for the Big East championship, their offense has to get going, and stay going all year long.
Now that it's go to guy, LeSean McCoy is gone to the pro ranks, it will have to rely heavily on quarterback Bill Stull and other newcomers to the offense. Stull had a successful 2008 season, but he will need to build up and have an even better '09 if Pitt wants to have any type of success.
Watch out for the Panthers in the Big East, they should be a top-three favorite to win it.
Biggest Losses: LeSean McCoy(RB), Scott McKillop(LB)
Best Returning: Bill Stull(QB), Aaron Berry(CB)
Top Recruits: Dan Mason(LB), Tyrone Ezell(DE), Kolby Gray(QB)
Key Games: N.C. State, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Notre Dame
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-1 in Big East)
No. 17: California Golden Bears
2008 was a big step forward for the California Golden Bears and head coach Jeff Tedford.
The team finished 9-4 and earned an Emerald Bowl win over Miami that has helped set the tone for the 2009 season.
Don't forget the return of one of college footballs most talented, flashy, and quickest players, Jahvid Best.
The Golden Bears should have a better season than they did in '08. With Nate Longshore finally gone (it seems like he has been at Cal for about 10 years) Kevin Riley can focus on what he needs to do and not be so worried about Longshore.
As for Best, he should have another Heisman-like season. Look for him to top 1,650 yards and close in on 20 touchdowns. That is of course if he stays healthy.
The Golden Bear defense should be solid in '09. They need to limit big play opportunities from opposing offenses, and close in on the quarterback more.
Look for California to be successful in 2009, and challenge USC for the Pac-10 crown.
Biggest Losses: Nate Longshore(QB), Cameron Morrah(TE)
Best Returning: Jahvid Best(RB), Kevin Riley(QB), Syd'Quan Thompson(CB)
Top Recruits: Steve Williams(CB), Allan Bridgford(QB)
Key Games: Minnesota, UCLA, USC
2009 Predictions: 10-2(7-2 in Pac-10)
No. 16: Iowa Hawkeyes
The Iowa Hawkeyes became a surprise team in 2008 to many college football viewers, and experts across America.
They came out of the gate 3-0, then lost three in a row. They rallied to finish the season strong, and as hot as any other team in the country, winning six of its final seven games, including a thrashing of South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, 31-10.
Iowa had much success in 2008 thanks to it's big play at running back from it's star, Shonn Greene. He was the only running back in the NCAA last season to run for over 100 yards in all of the games he played in.
The Hawkeyes will be hurt from the loss of Greene, but the tailback play is pretty talented and deep so it can be replaced.
The Iowa defense will be it's best attribute. They return all their defensive backs, and linebackers, including it's hard hitting athlete Pat Angerer.
Iowa should have a solid season, and be a dark horse to win the Big 10. They could surprise a lot more footballs fans in '09.
Biggest Losses: Shonn Greene(RB), Brad Fletcher(CB)
Best Returning: Ricky Stanzi(QB), Pat Angerer(LB), Bryan Bulaga(OL)
Top Recruits: Keenan Davis(WR), Jordan Cotton(WR), Brandon Wegher(RB)
Key Games: Arizona, Penn State, Ohio State
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-2 in Big 10)
#15: TCU Horned Frogs
What a 2008 the TCU Horned Frogs put together. The team put together a 11-2 record, with it's two losses coming at the hands of BCS participants Oklahoma and Utah.
The Horned Frogs were three points away from taking down the BCS Sugar Bowl champions, The Utah Utes. If they won that game, you probably wouldn't have seen them in the Sugar Bowl, but they would have made it to a better bowl than the Poinsetta.
They had success in '08 thanks to the big play from it's two top players, Andy Dalton at quarterback and Jerry Hughes on the D-line. Hughes led the country in sacks in 2008, with 15. Look for Dalton to have another successful season in 2009, and expect much of the same from Hughes on defense.
TCU should put together a solid run in '09, and this time around it could be them playing in the BCS game, busting the big time power programs bubble.
Biggest Losses: Aaron Brown(RB), Walter Bryant(WR)
Best Returning: Andy Dalton(QB), Jerry Hughes(DT), Jimmy Young(WR)
Top Recruits: Malcolm Williams(S), Casey Pachall(QB), Ty Horn(OL)
Key Games: Utah, Virginia
2009 Predictions: 12-0(8-0 in Mountain West play)
#14: Georgia Bulldogs
After being a BCS champion favorite in 2008, the Bulldogs have went back to the drawing board for 2009.
After being ranked #1 in the country, then taking a 41-30 loss to Alabama in the 5th week of the season, Georgia finished the year off at 6-2, and 10-3 overall.
Now it's 2009, and Georgia has lost a lot off it's 10-3 squad from a year ago. Gone is the big play arm of Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in this years NFL draft, and the amazing play maker in Knowshon Moreno. Coach Mark Richt has put together another solid recruiting class, but can these newcomers contribute off the bat?
Their keys in 2009 is to play better defense, and get solid play from your quarterback. Joe Cox should be the starter for the Bulldogs. How long he can stay there is a question that will be answered.
Look for Georgia to stay about where it was in 2008. Even though they lost a lot, they are bringing back enough to stay a top dog in the SEC and in the top 12-20 in the rankings all season long.
Biggest Losses: Matthew Stafford(QB), Knowshon Moreno(RB), Asher Allen(CB)
Best Returning: A.J. Green(WR), Reshad Jones(DB)
Top Recruits: Marlon Brown(WR), Branden Smith(CB), Aaron Murray(QB)
Key Games: Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Florida
2009 Predictions: 9-3(6-2 in SEC)
#13: Oregon Ducks
The Ducks are coming off a solid 2008 season where they posted a 10-3 record, and a huge Holiday Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.
Many didn't see Oregon as a top team in the Pac-10 entering the 2008 season. Oregon provided a much needed spark on the offensive side of the ball, and big plays on defense which helped silence their doubters throughout the season.
It's losses on offense will be a blow to Oregon, and the defense also loses a bit. Overall, Oregon does return enough to make a strong push for the Pac-10 title. They will need big play on both sides of the ball again, and they will need it for the entire season.
The Ducks should contend in 2009. The schedule is on their side, and they do play USC and Oregon State at home.
Biggest Losses: Jeremiah Johnson(RB), Jaison Williams(WR), Terrance Scott(WR)
Best Returning: Jeremiah Masoli(QB), LeGarrette Blount(RB)
Top Recruits: Cliff Harris(CB), Mike Clay(LB), Diante Jackson(WR)
Key Games: USC, Arizona State, Oregon State, Boise State
2009 Predictions: 10-2(7-2 in Pac-10)
#12: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The 2008 season was a very exciting one for Yellow Jacket fans, and for it's first year head coach Paul Johnson.
Many didn't believe Johnson could get the job done at Georgia Tech. He spent the '08 season hushing up his doubters.
Johnson and his new triple-option spread offense shined throughout the ACC, and in the country. His biggest win of the 2008 season, a 45-42 upset win over the Georgia Bulldogs.
Look for the Yellow Jackets to continue to succeed in 2009. They return a lot from last year's team, and are also bringing in a very solid recruiting class.
The keys will be their defensive play, and if the offense can stay consistent. Even a year ago with it's success the offensive game wasn't always at it's best, or even close to it. Their huge 3-38 loss to LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl should ignite this team for the 2009 season.
Biggest Losses: David Brown(OL), Mike Johnson(DE), Vance Walker(DT)
Best Returning: Josh Nesbitt(QB), Jonathan Dwyer(RB)
Top Recruits: Roderick Sweeting(CB), Stephen Hill(WR)
Key Games: Clemson, North Carolina, Florida State
2009 Predictions: 9-3(6-2 in ACC)
#11: Penn State Nittany Lions
2008 was a very successful season for coach Joe Paterno and his Penn State Nittany Lions.
Well all except their 38-24 loss to USC in the BCS Rose Bowl.
The Nittany Lions had much success in 2008 because of their excellent wide out play. Now that all of that is pretty much gone, it will be hard for quarterback Daryll Clark to have as much success as he did in '08.
The Penn State defense should be solid with the returns of Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee, who missed all of last season due to an injury.
Clark should still have a great 2009 season, barring any injuries to him or his wide outs.
The Nittany Lions will welcome back Evan Royser, an 1,000 yard rusher a season ago and a big play making tailback.
I look for Penn State to be solid, but not as good as the 2008 squad. Their defense and receiving aspects have lost a lot, which will hurt them in 2009. They should still have success though.
Biggest Losses: Derrick Williams(WR), Deon Butler(WR), Jordan Norwood(WR), Aaron Maybin(DE)
Best Returning: Daryll Clark(QB), Evan Royster(RB), Navarro Bowman(LB)
Top Recruits: Eric Shrive(OL), Gerald Hodges(LB), Justin Brown(WR)
Key Games: Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-2 in Big 10)
#10: LSU Tigers
Look for the Tigers to come back on strong from their down 8-5 season in 2008.
LSU was coming off a stellar 2007 season that saw them defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS title game, and claim a national championship.
Things should be positive for head coach Les Miles and his LSU Tigers in 2009. Of course the quarterback question is many Tiger fans' biggest concern, but Jarret Lee should win the job and he should have more than enough talent around him to have success.
Charles Scott, the Tigers top running back a year ago, is also coming back. Scott is a top tailback in the SEC and in the nation. If Miles can use him right, Scott could rack up over 1,400 yards rushing in 2009.
The LSU defense should be strong. The losses of Tyson Jackson will be a blow, but they also get back All-SEC performer Rahim Alem.
Look for the Tigers to be tough in 2009. Miles has put together a good recruiting class, and is welcoming back a lot of talent. The Tigers could be in the running for another big time BCS bowl bid.
Biggest Losses: Tyson Jackson(DE), Marolin Favorite(DL), Curtis Taylor(S)
Best Returning: Charles Scott(RB), Brandon LaFell(WR), Charles Alexander(DL)
Top Recruits: Rueben Randle(WR), Craig Loston(S), Russell Shepar(QB)
Key Games: Georgia, Florida, Alabama
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-2 in SEC)
#9: USC Trojans
The Trojans will have to rely much on their name in the upcoming season in the rankings rather than the returning players they have coming back.
Coming off a 2008 season that saw the Trojans post a 12-1 record, down Penn State 38-24 in the BCS Rose Bowl, and win it's seventh straight Pac-10 title, things won't be easy to repeat in 2009.
Carroll is known for not rebuilding, but reloading, but even in 2009 things won't be so easy. He has had the talent to fall back on when his big timers have departed. After Palmer, there was Leinart, and after him there was Booty and Sanchez. Now the offense will rely on the shoulders of three guys bidding to win the starting job.
Right now the runaway favorite would be Mitch Mustain, the Arkansas transfer. Mustain actually has experience on his side, and it came in the rough and tough SEC. He should be the starter once season rolls around, but who knows if he will stay there. Aaron Corp and freshman newcomer Matt Barkley are also competing heavily for the job. Those are three solid guys who should all see time under center in 2009.
The defense is taking a huge hit as well. Carroll will have to rely on many newcomers to it's defense in the upcoming year. It must replace it's entire linebacker core, and it's two stud defensive ends from 2009. Taylor Mays, a top defensive back in the country, is returning.
The Trojans will have to go on the road for some of it's toughest games. They go to Ohio State, Oregon, Washington, Cal and Notre Dame.
Look for USC to be a top dog in the Pac-10 in 2009, but I don't see them winning it for an eighth straight year. Carroll has pulled a lot from his sleeves over the years, but I don't believe this USC is even close to his teams of the past. Look for them to have success, but nothing like the past couple of years.
Biggest Losses: Mark Sanchez(QB), Pat Turner(WR), Brian Cushing and Ray Maualuga(both LB)
Best Returning: C.J. Cable(RB), Damian Williams(WR), Taylor Mays(S)
Top Recruits: Matt Barkley(QB), T.J. McDonald(S), Devon Kennard(DE)
Key Games: Ohio State, Arizona State, Oregon
2009 Predictions: 9-3(7-2 in Pac-10)
#8: Ole Miss Rebels
Boy oh boy, what a year Ole Miss and first year head coach Houston Nutt put together.
Ole Miss had wins over Florida, (the only team to beat the Gators) LSU, and they took down Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, 47-34.
Nutt helped the Rebels to it's best season in quite some time. He helped them to a 5-3 record in the SEC, after they had gone 3-21 in SEC from 2005-2007. Nutt's offensive attack, and defensive mind games paid dividends for the Rebels in '08, and it's paved the way for his team to be ranked so high in pre-season polls and rankings all over the country.
Look for the Rebels to have much success in 2009, more than in 2008. They return back a lot, but they do also lose quite a bit. Their schedule is solid, and no team should give them any fits.
Ole Miss should be a top contender in the SEC in 2009, and they could possibly win the conference. I know, I know, I'm crazy to think someone could actually challenge the Gators for it.
Wait a second, wasn't Ole Miss the only team a year ago to beat the Florida Gators?
Biggest Losses: Mike Oher(OL), Mike Wallace(WR), Chris Bowers(DE)
Best Returning: Jevan Snead(QB), Dexter McCluster(WR), Marcuse Tillman(DL)
Top Recruits: Bobby Massie(OL), Craig Drummond(DL), Rodney Scott(RB)
Key Games: Alabama, Tennessee
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-2 in SEC)
#7: Virginia Tech Hokies
2008 wasn't supposed to be the Hookies year to go 10-4, win it's fourth ACC title in six seasons, and take down Cincinnati in the Fedex Orange Bowl.
Well Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer decided he would let his group of youngsters get started a year early to build the hype up for 2009.
Even though the Hookies lost three games in ACC play, the conference was down just enough for them to sneak into the title game, which they defeated Boston College 30-12. Their huge ACC championship win provided a much needed spark for it's BCS birth in the Orange Bowl against Cincinnati. The momentum carried over to the Hookies bowl victory, taking down the Bearcats 20-7.
Look for the Hookies to have much success in 2009. The ACC should be better than it was in '09, but Virginia Tech should also be better than it was a year ago. Don't look for them to have another loss to an East Carolina, or see them struggle against the ACC's weakest teams.
Their offense will be solid as they will welcome back a lot of play makers, and the defense will return enough athletes and hard hitters to elevate the Hookie's chances of getting back to the BCS.
Look out for coach Beamer and his Virginia Tech squad in 2009, they could be a dark horse to make a run for the national title.
Biggest Losses: Sean Glennon(QB), Victor Harris(CB)
Best Returning: Tyrod Taylor(QB), Darren Evans(RB), Jason Worilds(DE)
Top Recruits: Logan Thomas(TE), David Wilson(RB), D.J. Coles(WR)
Key Games: Nebraska, Boston College, Georgia Tech
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-2 in ACC)
#6: Alabama Crisom Tide
2008 was a solid season for the Alabama Crimson Tide and second year coach Nick Saban.
Well, up until the final two games of the year, which happened to be the biggest two games of the Crimson Tide's season: The SEC title game, and the BCS Sugar Bowl.
In the SEC title game, Alabama hung in with the Florida Gators for the entire game pretty much, but couldn't close it out and took a 20-31 loss. In the Sugar Bowl, it was all Utah. Many experts and college football fans thought Alabama was still the top team in the country even after it's loss to Florida, and that they would blow out the Utes. Well Utah put it all over Nick Saban and his bunch.
Look for that game to be used as motivation for Alabama in '09.
The big questions are coming on the offensive side of the ball. After losing Parker Wilson at the quarterback spot, and Coffee in the backfield, things can be tough for the Tide in crucial times in '09. The favorite for the starters at those two positions for now are Greg McElroy and Mark Ingram.
They have lost quite a bit on both sides of the ball, but Saban brought in a great recruiting class a year ago, and an even better one for 2009.
They should have much success in the SEC, being the second-best team in the conference. Their schedule favors them as they are staying away from Georgia, and Florida in the regular season. Look for them to really challenge the Gators for the SEC crown, and look for Alabama to make a hard run for another BCS appearance.
Hopefully this time it doesn't end up in upset fashion.
Biggest Losses: John Parker Wilson(QB), Glen Coffee(RB), Andre Smith(OL)
Best Returning: Julio Jones(WR), Terrence Cody(DL), Rolando McClain(LB)
Top Recruits: Trent Richardson(RB), Nico Johnson(LB), D.J. Fluker(OL)
Key Games: Virginia Tech, LSU, Tennessee
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-2 in SEC)
#5: Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Oklahoma State Cowboys provided talk all around the country in 2008 as a very surprising team. They joined the other Big 12 surprise team, Texas Tech, to help the Big 12 be the most dominant conference in America a year ago.
Cowboy and Big 12 fans shouldn't have any worries for '09, they should be stronger than they were a season ago with all they have returning.
Last year they began hot, starting off at 7-0 before heading into Austin, where the Longhorns of Texas took them down 24-28. That loss started the down hill slide for head coach Mike Gundy and his Oklahoma State Cowboys as they lost four of their next six games, including it's 31-42 loss in the Holiday Bowl to Oregon.
Look for the Cowboys to be a top team in the Big 12 again in '09. Texas and Oklahoma may be the runaway favorites, but don't count out the Cowboys. They return a lot, and have a very electric and solid coach in Gundy.
Their offense should be very solid with the returns of Robinson, pictured, and it's star wide out Dez Bryant. The defense should also be solid as it returns enough athletes to provide a spark to last the entire season. It will also welcome back a big play maker in Kendall Hunter, a top running back in the Big 12.
The Cowboys will be tough to handle in 2009, they could also be a huge dark horse for not only a big time BCS bid, but a run for a national title.
Biggest Losses: Brandon Pettigrew(TE), Jacob Lacey(CB)
Best Returning: Zac Robinson(QB), Dez Bryant(WR), Kendall Hunter(RB)
Top Recruits: Dexter Pratt(RB), Jeremy Smith(RB), Brandon Webb(OL)
Key Games: Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma
2009 Predictions: 10-2(6-2 in Big 12)
#4: Ohio State Buckeyes
A lot more was expected from the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2008 than a 10-3 record, a loss to Penn State, and a huge Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas in the late seconds of the second half.
It also wasn't expected to see Terrelle Pryor as the full time quarterback after just the third game of the year.
We all knew the Ohio State-USC match up of 2008 went in USC's favor, but we didn't expect the Buckeyes to be shut out of the end zone, for a 35-3 slaughter loss in L.A.
2008 had its highs, then its lows. A shot at the Rose Bowl went out the window after a tough 6-13 loss to Penn State. Even though the Buckeyes absolutely blitzed Michigan, 42-7, a 10-2 regular season just wasn't good enough for many Buckeye fans.
Look for Ohio State to have a great 2009. They do have USC again, but this time it's in Columbus, and this time Pryor is a year stronger and a year better. How scary is that? Pryor can be a breakout player in 2009 and his numbers should be much better as he will see so many more snaps.
The defense has lost a lot, but it will bring back some quality talent. Look for the offense to have a different look without Beanie Wells in the backfield, and Robo, Brian Robiskie, running his trademark routes and making huge catches.
The Buckeyes should compete for another national title in 2009. Say what you want, but the Big Ten is weak, they don't play anybody, the Buckeyes are overrated, give this team the respect they deserve.
Biggest Losses: Beanie Wells(RB), Brian Robiskie(WR), James Laurinitas(LB), Malcolm Jenkins(CB)
Best Returning: Terrelle Pryor(QB), Kurt Coleman(DB), Ray Small(WR)
Top Recruits: Dorian Bell(LB), Melvin Fellows(DE), Corey Brown(CB)
Key Games: USC, Penn State, Michigan
2009 Predictions: 11-1(7-1 in Big-10)
#3: Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns are coming off an amazing 2008 season. A 12-1 record and they were the only team to take down the Oklahoma Sooners in the regular season. The team also had a huge BCS Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State.
Not to bad, huh?
Look for much of the same in 2009, but the Oklahoma game is a big toss up and it's a game I can't wait to see.
Texas should have a solid offense with the returns of quarterback Colt McCoy, a Heisman favorite, and his go to guy, Jordan Shipley. Those two should hook up multiple times each and ever game, and they are right away the deadliest one-two punch, not only in the Big 12, but possibly in the country.
The defense should be very solid in 2009. They will return the services of All-Big 12 performer Sergio Kindle. They also return some solid athletes and big defensive lineman who can create problems up front.
They have some tough away games, at Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Baylor.
The Longhorns should have a very solid 2009 season. The Big 12 will be tough again and it will be exciting to see how it all plays out. Look for Texas to make a run all season long for that No. 1 ranking, and be ready for that big date with Oklahoma on October 17, in Dallas.
Biggest Losses: Chris Ogbonnaya(RB), Quan Cosby(WR), Brian Orakpo(DE)
Best Returning: Colt McCoy(QB), Jordan Shipley(WR), Sergio Kindle(DE)
Top Recruits: Alex Okafor(DE), Greg Timmons(WR), Garret Gilbert(QB)
Key Games: Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas
2009 Predictions: 11-1(7-1 in Big 12)
#2: Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners are coming off a disappointing end to a great year in 2008.
They posted an 11-1 regular season record, won the Big 12 title, scored over 60 points in five straight games, and made it to the BCS title game.
They happened to lose that title game to Florida, 14-24.
The good news for Sooner fans in 2009 is that you will see your Heisman winner of 2008 calling the shots behind center for you, and you will return enough talent around him, and on the defensive side of the ball, to have another heck of a year in 2009.
Sam Bradford, the Heisman winner, should have an amazing 2009 season. He has lost a lot of targets from a year ago, but he also will get back Demarco Murray, a big time play making tailback who can also catch the ball well. He also will welcome back Jermaine Gresham, a top tight end in the country. His lack of wide outs could cause a decrease in his numbers, but Sooner fans shouldn't worry. His wide outs may not be well known right now, but I guarantee they will be come seasons end.
The defense is the key for the Sooners in 2009. They get back four All-Big 12 selections in Gerald McCoy, Jeremy Beal, Travis Lewis, and Dominique Franks. The defense should be very solid and is looking to be the Sooners best attribute outside of Bradford in 2009.
Bob Stoops has brought in a heck of a class for this upcoming year, full of kids who should be able to contribute when needed.
Look for the Sooners to stay atop the Big 12, and the national rankings all year long. Their showdown with Texas in Dallas should be the biggest hyped game of the year.
I'm looking for Oklahoma to return back to the BCS, maybe not the title game, but they have a very good shot at doing it.
Biggest Losses: Juaquin Iglesias(WR), Nic Harris(S)
Best Returning: Sam Bradford(QB), Demarco Murray(RB), Jermaine Gresham(TE)
Top Recruits: Jamarkus McFarland(DT), Gabe Lynn(DB), Ronnell Lewis(LB)
Key Games: Texas, Miami, Oklahoma State, Kansas
2009 Predictions: 11-1(7-1 in Big 12)
#1: Florida Gators
With all the Gators have coming back in 2009, how can they not be the obvious No. 1 selection on this list?
I mean, not only do they get back the true beast and monster of college football in Tim Tebow, but they also return so many tough athletes on offense.
Oh, and they get back all 11 starters from it's amazing defense in 2008.
The Gators took one tough loss in 2008, a heart crushing 30-31 loss to Ole Miss early in the season.
After that tough loss, the man made of steel took it upon himself to lead the Gators to 10 straight wins, with six of those wins coming against top 25 teams, and two of them came against No. 1 ranked teams.
The Gators have returned so much, but they are also going to have to rely on other athletes to step up and take the place of the key departures of Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy.
The defense will be very, very solid. They get back all 11 starters and it's not every year a defense can do that, especially a team coming off the type of year this defense had. After giving up 31 points to Ole Miss in it's lone loss of the year, the most points the Gators gave up was 21 against LSU. Look for this defense to dominate just about every offense it goes up against outside of the BCS championship game.
Yes, I am going on the record and saying they are in the title game for the second straight year, and the third time in four years.
The Gators will have a very solid season in 2009. Tebow will contend for the Heisman, again, and the defense will hold strong and steady. Coach Urban Meyer has a heck of a recruiting class coming in, and more than enough talent coming back to have another strong year.
Florida will be a tough match up for any team next season, I don't care who it is.
This could be a special season for the Gators and head coach Urban Meyer, back-to-back national titles would be a nice addition to his already impressive resume.
Biggest Losses: Percy Harvin(WR), Kestahn Moore(RB), Louis Murphy(WR)
Best Returning: Tim Tebow(QB), Brandon Spikes(LB), Major Wright(DB)
Key Games: LSU, Georgia, Florida State
Top Recruits: Jelani Jenkins(LB), Andre Debose(WR), Gary Brown(DL)
2009 Predictions: 11-1(7-1 in SEC)
The Top Players/Misc. Awards and Notes
Here's my list of the top players to watch out for in 2009.
The best player to watch for: Tim Tebow(Florida)
The top quarterback to watch for: Sam Bradford(Oklahoma)
The top running back to watch for: Jahvid Best(Cal)
The top wide out to watch for: Dez Bryant(Oklahoma State)
The top defensive lineman to watch for: Terrence Cody(Alabama)
The top linebacker to watch for: Brandon Spikes(Florida)
The top defensive back to watch for: Eric Berry(Tennessee)
The most overrated player of 2009: Jimmy Clausen(Notre Dame)
The most underrated player of 2009: Zac Robinson(Oklahoma State)
The breakout player of 2009: Terrelle Pryor(Ohio State)
The top freshman of 2009: Jarvis Giles(South Carolina)
The coach of the year in 2009: Butch Davis(North Carolina)
The surprise team of 2009: N.C. State/Northwestern
The most exciting game of the year to watch: USC vs Ohio State/Texas vs Oklahoma
The most overrated team of 2009: Notre Dame/USC
Predictions for the Award Winners of 2009
Heisman: Tim Tebow(Florida)
Bednarik: Brandon Spikes(Florida)/Eric Berry(Tennessee)
Biletnikoff: Dez Bryant(Oklahoma State)
Butkus: Pat Angerer(Iowa)
Lou Groza: Matt Bosher(Miami)
Ray Guy: Bryan Anger(Cal)
Lombardi: Brandon Spikes(Florida)/Eric Berry(Tennessee)
John Mackey: Jermaine Gresham(Oklahoma)
Maxwell: Tim Tebow(Florida)
Bronco Nagurski: Eric Berry(Tennessee)/Taylor Mays(USC)
Davey O'Brien: Colt McCoy(Texas)
Outland: Terrence Cody(Alabama)/ Ndamukong Suh(Nebraska)
Jim Thorpe: Eric Berry(Tennessee)/Taylor Mays(USC)
Doak Walker: Kendall Hunter(Oklahoma State)/Evan Royster(PSU)