With the '09 college football season quickly approaching, it is time to take a look at who should, in my opinion, start out in the top 25. It will be interesting to see throughout the year who will come out of nowhere to surprise fans, who will not live up to their lofty expectations, and who will wind up taking the claim as college football's top team.
You would have to be crazy not to have Florida as your No. 1 team. Returning 20 starters to their roster, it will be hard to defeat this well experienced team.
Their schedule is one of the more manageable schedules in the nation, but they do have a couple of tests that could trip them up @LSU, vs. FSU and their yearly battle with Georgia, who could surprise some people.
Overall, I do not see them losing more than two games, if they do at all.
Speaking of easy schedules, Texas is next. Having probably the easiest schedule that i have seen, I see only two games that this team has a chance of losing.
That game, of course, is against their hated rival the Oklahoma Sooners and against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Oklahoma always poses a threat because of their potent offense, but with four of their five offensive lineman leaving they may not put up too much against the Longhorn defense.
Oklahoma State on the other hand could sneak past Texas if they can get a couple stops on defense. All-in-all the worst that Texas will do is have a ten win season and make another trip to a BCS Bowl.
Oklahoma is my third ranked team to start the season mainly because of their quarterback Sam Bradford. Oklahoma, as i mentioned before, has basically a new offensive line that they are going to have to break in.
They should not get tested early but have to go to Miami, play against Texas, at Nebraska, who could be one of those surprise teams this year, and against the Cowboys.
Compared to the Longhorns this schedule is brutal with the chance to fall down the top 25 list, but with Bradford leading the Sooner offense, I do not see them losing too many.
However,I see them finishing no better than second in the Big 12 South.
The Buckeyes have a very special player at their quarterback position by the name of Terrelle Pryor. This amazing athlete gave opposing defenses fits last year and looks to be even better this year.
Jim Tressel has great players every season that seem to step up and fill the voids left by players who leave for the NFL. Those two factors could see the Buckeyes playing for a national championship if they do not slip up against USC or get over confident against Penn State or Michigan.
USC is another team that is looking for players to fill huge voids left by the NFL draft. Their offense is always good enough and Pete Carroll finds some of the best players in the nation on the defensive side of the ball to get the job done.
If Aaron Corp can step in and have half of the success as the last few quarterbacks, then look for USC to be right back in the hunt for another PAC-10 title.
The ACC is no match for this experienced team. They return 17 starters from last year's ACC Champion Team. Their biggest problem, however, is that they are inconsistent.
They beat Georgia Tech but lost to East Carolina. The defense is stout and Taylor is one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation, but we will know more about them after Sept. 5 when they play Alabama in the Georgia Dome.
The only question marks for this team are at quarterback and offensive line. First year starter Greg McElroy takes the helm and is going to try to prove that he can run the system that he has been waiting three years that John Parker Wilson has run.
McElroy's blockers will be inexperienced, but not without the size or talent. The offensive line has only had one A-Day game to show what they can do.
If the offensive line can give McElroy time to get the ball to his receivers, this team could surpass what last year's team was not expected by anyone to do.
Jevan Snead emerged as one of the nation's best passers. He lead the Rebels to the Gators only loss of the season. The biggest problem Isee with this team is that it is coached by Houston Nutt.
Not that he is not a good coach, it is that he has a history of underachieving. Last year, for instance, they defeated the Gators, but lost to the likes of Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina.
With the loss of a few key offensive lineman, it will be up to Snead again to put this team on his back if they have any chance to win the SEC.
Zac Robinson made a good choice to come back and play his senior year of football. The bad news is that they have to play Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma all in the same season.
Their offense is just as good as anyone else, but their defense is a typical Big 12 defense and gives up a lot of points. This being said, I see them finishing one place higher this year but still behind Texas and Oklahoma.
With only nine starters returning from last year's Big Ten championship team, it is hard to predict the Nittany Lions in '09. They get Iowa and Ohio State at home, but have to face Michigan and Michigan State at their places.
Not to mention that they have to face Illinois and Northwestern right away, which is bad because you have to fight for your life with those teams in hopes to leave with a win. Penn State has a tough road ahead of them so it will be interesting to see how they will turn out.
The Bears do not have much returning on offense, but what they do have coming back is all they will need to compete in the PAC 10. Best is one of the best running backs and Kevin Riley put up some decent numbers for the Bears last year.
The defense is still intact, returning eight starters. That is not saying a whole lot considering they gave up almost 20 points a game. Still, there is a better chance this year that they can sneak up on USC and steal the crown and go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 50 years.
There is only one team that I see on the Broncos schedule that stands in their way of an undefeated season. That team is the Oregon Ducks. That isn't saying a whole lot considering the Ducks only have 10 returning starters.
Their schedule after that has to be the easiest out of anyone else in the top 50. The only hiccup that could occur would be @ Fresno State or @ Bowling Green, both very winnable games.
Look for Boise State, another non-BCS conference school, to stir things up again this year.
This offense is probably the most explosive that the Ducks have seen in a long time. Putting up over 60 points three times and over 40 points four times last year, i see them as the front-runners in the PAC 10 this year.
It also helps that USC lost nine defensive starters and Sanchez to the draft last year. I see the Ducks taking the top spot this year, but don't think that Pete Carroll will allow it to happen if he can has anything to say about it.
With all five starters on the offensive line returning and their quarterback, the Seminoles should easily win the ACC Atlantic. The only rough spots in their schedule are against Georgia Tech and potentially at Clemson.
Their yearly showdown with Miami hasn't been too much trouble for them the past couple of seasons, and don't look for them to upset the Gators.
I do, however, have them picked to defeat the Hokies in the ACC championship game to reclaim the title.
The Cornhuskers had a glimpse of what football used to be like in Nebraska last year as they rolled off four wins in a row including a Gator Bowl win over Clemson.
They also scored 40+ points in their last three regular season games for the first time in eight years. They nearly took out Virginia Tech last year and have a manageable schedule this year.
Their only tests before a possible Big 12 championship game are @ Kansas and against Oklahoma. With that in mind, I would not be shocked if they wind up with a 10 win season for the first time in a long time.
The Bulldogs have huge shoes to fill now that Stafford and Moreno have departed. Joe Cox will have to come in and maneuver around a brutal schedule that includes Oklahoma State, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech.
It doesn't get much worse than that. The good news is that the entire, young, offensive line remains intact and, of course, it doesn't hurt to have a wideout like A.J. Green.
The defense leaves something to be desired, but everyone is healthy. It is going to be tough, but Richt is a great coach and if anyone can pull out a 10-win season out of this it is him.
The Yellow Jackets, at times, ran the option as well as it can be run last year, but at times sputtered as they were obliterated. If it were not for a fumble against Virginia Tech, they would have played, and probably won, against Boston College in the ACC Championship.
Though Dwyer is just a junior, he runs like a pro. He has great speed and cannot be taken down on the first wave of defenders. I look for them to be a force in the ACC this season.
The Tigers are a perplexing team. They have probably the most talent of any team, but somehow finished with an 8-5 record. This year should be different with the hiring of John Chavis.
That defense that was so horrible last year, and they are due for a huge turnaround. Chavis has a top 10 defense each year and this one should be no different. Especially since he has more to work with at LSU than he did at UT.
Most of their offense is back again this year.This should give the Bearcats the edge in a Big East conference that is up for grabs. Mardy Gilyard and Tony Pike return to help with this cause as they go up against the likes of Oregon State and South Florida.
The defense is the biggest cause of concern as they only have one returning starter. The Big East relies on defense about as much as the PAC 10 does, so that isn't that big of a disadvantage.
The loss of Greene (first name?) to the draft will hurt the offense but not too much. (First name?) Hampton had almost 500 yards and seven touchdowns on just 91 carries and should get most of the work load this year.
The defense has eight returning starters and should be just as stout. They could be a surprise team in the Big Ten.
Oregon State is my pick to win the PAC 10 this year. They would have done it last year if it were not for a bad game against their rivals Oregon. Both Rogers are back as well as most of their offense. If they can get by USC again, don't be surprised if they are seeing roses at the year's end.
Javon Ringer's departure will leave a big hole at running back. He accounted for almost 97 percent of the rushing yards.
They do have 14 returning starters on either side of the ball, which will help but having to replace a quarterback and a running back might prove to be too much.
Ohio State will win the conference anyway.
The Kansas Jayhawks is the only other team that has a chance to win the Big 12 North this year. Kansas has a much harder schedule that I don't think that they can get through without at least three losses.
Even though they have 15 returning starters, that schedule is too hard for the best in the country to make it through.
The good news for the Utes is that they play in the Mountain West Conference. The bad news is that they only have three starters returning on the offensive side of the ball. The other bad news is that they have to go to Oregon, TCU, and BYU.
Doesn't sound too bad to any other team, but when you have lost as much as they have, it is a different story.
Butch Davis has this team headed in the right direction. Last year was the best season that they have had in quite some time. With the core group returning on both sides of the ball, they should be a team on a mission.
I still think that they are a couple of years away from really contending for the ACC, but they are getting closer to being the team that Davis wants them to be.