BTB Spring Football Part One: Emerging Stars
Part Two: Emerging Teams
Part Three: Heisman Candidates
Part Four: Preseason Top 25
It’s never too early to preview the 2008 season.
With the fifth and final installment of the spring football synopsis, Beyond the Bleachers is back with a look at important questions that must be addressed regarding college football programs and their players across the country.
Only 85 days until the ’08 season is finally here…
What are the most intriguing games of the 2008 season?
USC-OSU and Georgia-Florida seem to have the biggest implications. Regarding the Pac-10/Big Ten juggernaut matchup, each team needs this win if it looks to reach the BCS title game. Ohio State will essentially be eliminated from title contention if it loses to USC because of its presumed weak schedule—whether that ends up being true or not.
The Gators-Bulldogs game at the World’s Largest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville will most likely decide which team will win the SEC East and have the best shot at playing for the national title. It is highly unlikely that these conference rivals could ever play against one another in the BCS title game under the current system—even if they are the two best teams—so this game could end up being its own mini title game.
The Big 12 Championship game will be intriguing because there is a decent chance that at least one of the conference members playing will be in a position to play for the national title. Missouri may end up in a rematch against Oklahoma after losing to the Sooners twice last year. Or Texas Tech could even make a surprise entrance as the Big 12 South representative. Stranger things have happened. Kansas went 12-1 last year.
Speaking of Kansas, will the Jayhawks duplicate their spectacular 12-1 season in 2008?
With an upgraded schedule, signs point to no, but Kansas still should compete for a Big 12 North title. Criminally slept-on quarterback Todd Reesing has a year under his belt with plenty of weapons returning at receiver, so the offense should be clicking. But the Jayhawks D will have to stand up to the high-powered Mizzou, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech offenses.
How deeply will LSU be affected by the suspension of starting quarterback Ryan Perrilloux?
Not as much as one would think. Perrilloux was such a talented football player when he stayed out of trouble. He’s big, athletic, and has a cannon for an arm. While the LSU coaching staff had little confidence in his throwing ability, he could make the passes in a relatively controlled environment (He was 20 for 25 with three touchdowns and one interception against Middle Tennessee State) and was dangerous on the run.
That being said, LSU has such a dynamic offense that the loss of the quarterback won’t have such a strong effect as it would in a system like Florida’s. Whether Andrew Hatch or Jarrett Lee starts, he will have plenty of protection from the line as well as a surplus of skill position players at his disposal. Sure, Perrilloux’s skill and experience would help, but it’s not the end of the world now that he’s gone.
Can the Big Ten rebound after a weak 2007 season?
One of the biggest hot button topics during the offseason has been the supposed weakness of the Big Ten Conference over the past few years. Suddenly, the Big Ten is too slow for the other conferences. Suddenly, the Big Ten is the only conference which plays a relatively weak out of conference schedule. Suddenly, the Big Ten is a second-tier conference.
Proponents of this idea overwhelmingly cite the fact that Ohio State has been blown out in the last two national championship games and is 0-9 against the SEC since 1931. The reality of the situation is that while the Big Ten had a weak year in ‘07, the conference still remains among the top four in college football and isn’t far removed from being the best for a period.
It is unknown, however, whether the Big Ten can rebound in 2008 because the conference is going through an identity change. Joe Paterno will be running some spread in his offense. Rich Rodriguez is bringing his versatile spread to Michigan. Ron Zook has brought his coaching tactics from his days at Florida up North. Even Jim Tressel is shying away from his traditional “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense.
Michigan could be 10-2 or it could be 6-6 next year. Penn State could be 11-1 or 7-5. Minnesota might reach seven wins or it could have zero. The only reliable teams this year are Ohio State and Wisconsin. Each should win at least nine or 10 games.
Can Ohio State make it to the National Championship for a third straight year?
Although there may be a mass uproar from many college football fans who are simply tired of seeing them these past two years, especially in SEC country, an undefeated season including a win over USC should merit OSU either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. While beating USC would give the Buckeyes legitimacy, the program would have a bull’s eye on its back for each conference game. Away games at Memorial Stadium in Champaign and Camp Randall Stadium in Madison will go a long way toward determining whether the Buckeyes can first win the Big Ten.
Speaking of the Buckeyes, how much will blue chip recruit Terrelle Pryor play his freshman year for the Buckeyes?
First Pryor was being compared to Vince Young. Now, analysts are saying his role will be more like Tim Tebow’s was as a freshman for Florida. Honestly, I have no idea since the kid is probably just graduating from high school. As long as he isn’t being compared to Ryan Perrilloux, the Buckeyes will be pretty well off with this kid.
Does Alabama finally beat Auburn in ‘08?
For those who weren’t aware, Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers have beaten the Crimson Tide an impressive six times in a row—including four times consecutively at Bryant-Denney Stadium. This year, Alabama will be in much better position to beat Auburn with Nick Saban entrenched as the head coach in his second year. Alabama may also be able to take advantage of the Tigers’ change of personnel with new coordinators Paul Rhodes from Pitt and Tony Franklin from Troy—each brings different schemes to his side of the ball.
Can any team in the Pac-10 finally supplant the USC Trojans?
Arizona State has a veteran squad, but aside from the Sun Devils, early indications show that the Trojans will most likely hoist the Pac-10 trophy for the seventh straight year. Cross-town rival UCLA is a complete unknown this year with new head coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Cal lost several key players on offense including DeSean Jackson and Justin Forsett. Oregon also lost several offensive weapons (Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart). From the looks of it, USC’s biggest opponent will be itself. Oh, and Jim Harbaugh.
Is Mark Sanchez the next great quarterback out of USC?
While Sanchez may not be as physically gifted as Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart, he has the confidence, charisma, and savvy that has typified the USC program ever since Pete Carroll stepped on campus. Sanchez also performed admirably during the time he started in place of injured starter John David Booty. Sanchez might not be the future first pick in the NFL Draft, but he should do very well as a full-time starter at USC.
Which coach is on the biggest hot seat?
It seems like a few coaches in particular need their programs to have winning records and make a bowl game in 2008 or their coaching tenures will be cut short. In my opinion, these coaches are Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Ty Willingham of Washington, and Mike Stoops of Arizona. Willingham and Stoops have had a few years to make strides to resurrect their programs but have made little progress. Ferentz had early success after making it to the Orange Bowl in 2003, and then blowing out Florida in the Outback Bowl and beating LSU in the Capital One Bowl in consecutive years. But after a few years of mediocrity and a rising toll of criminal activity among the players, his time may be up soon.
Additionally, if Charlie Weis has another losing season, he may be out too. To see who else is on the hot seat, check out Coaches Hot Seat.
Can June Jones resurrect a floundering SMU Mustangs program?
SMU made great strides toward its football program by just getting Jones as their head coach. A well-known veteran in the coaching ranks, Jones attracted some very good talent out to Hawai’i and can presumably get even better players in the fertile crescent of recruiting that is Dallas prep football. Coach Jones has the schemes and should get the talent to build SMU back into a respectable mid-major program.
It is hard to say whether SMU can ever return to its prominence of the 1980s, but within a few years the program may be able to get to the level that teams like Louisville, Utah, Boise State, and TCU have reached in the last decade.
Who will win the Heisman next year?
I definitely didn’t see Tim Tebow coming last year so maybe I should pass on this one. Maybe Beanie Wells or Chase Daniel?
Will Tommy Bowden finally bring his Clemson Tigers an ACC title?
Clemson went 9-4 last year, but that record would be an extreme disappointment for this darkhorse national title contender. If there’s any year that Coach Bowden leads his program to an ACC title, this has to be the year. Clemson has several potential stars on defense including safety Michael Hamlin and defensive ends Ricky Sapp and DaQuan Bowers. The offense is stockpiled with talent at the skill positions as well.
On paper, Clemson seems to be the class of the ACC. In fact, if the Tigers have a mediocre season, things may get a little uneasy in Death Valley.
Are Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree able to duplicate their gaudy numbers from last year?
If Texas Tech wants to win the Big 12 this year, they may just have to.
Will Notre Dame make a bowl game this year?
As said earlier, Charlie Weis had better hope his team can make it over the hump and return to a bowl game or his job may be in serious jeopardy. The top 10 recruiting classes that Weis has accumulated should finally make their impact in the next year or two. These recruits must especially emerge on the offensive and defensive fronts, where the Fighting Irish were clearly overmatched in the majority of their contests. A somewhat competent running game would also help.
As far as their bowl chances go, Notre Dame has a good shot at going to some kind of bowl next year, but they must beat up-and-coming programs like North Carolina or Pittsburgh or another 3-9 season may be on the horizon.
How will new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp motivate an underachieving Texas defense?
I don’t have any specific reasoning or logic on how this will occur, but wouldn’t you be fired up if your coach got pumped up like this?
Who will assume the role of Glenn Dorsey as the preeminent defensive player in college football?
Rey Maualuga, the linebacker from USC, looks like he may be the man next year. For those of you who are unfamiliar, just take a look at the hit he made on Juice Williams last year in the Rose Bowl.
Which of the high profile I-AA quarterbacks (Perrilloux, Rhett Bomar, formerly of Oklahoma, and Bobby Reid, formerly of Oklahoma State) will emerge next year?
Reid is playing for Texas Southern, which did not win a game last year and Bomar had a relatively disappointing season for Sam Houston, so Perrilloux should emerge, almost by default. Once the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country, the embattled quarterback should pick apart the lesser competition as long as he has a little protection and decent enough receivers.
Perrilloux has done his work to recruit fellow former high school phenom Fred Rouse to play with him at Jacksonville State University. Who knows, if things go well, we may end up seeing RP play on Sundays. Then again, he may not even make it to JSU in the first place.
Does the Big East have any title contenders outside of West Virginia?
South Florida looks like the certain No. 2 team in the Big East. Phil Steele even has USF as a top-10 team in the country. Beyond the Bulls, it’s anyone’s guess which team will emerge as a Big East contender. Pittsburgh has some hype built up after returning so many starters on both sides of the ball, but they still don’t have a proven quarterback. Likewise, UConn has plenty of returning starters.
Mel Kiper Jr. says that Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell is the best in his class, but do the Cardinals have any semblance of a defense? How does Rutgers replace Ray Rice? There are too many questions for the Big East, but it doesn’t look like there’s much separation between No. 3 and No. 8.
Will 2008 be more déjà vu for Bob Stoops?
After winning his first two appearances in BCS games, Bob Stoops had already reached the pinnacle of success for his football program during his short tenure as head coach for Oklahoma. From there his Sooners have had successful regular seasons, but have disappointed in their past four BCS appearances, dropping their last four contests.
Stoops’ team will be in a position to possibly play for the national title again, but another loss would be devastating. Like the Buffalo Bills in the early '90s or the Detroit Pistons with Flip Saunders, consistently losing at the highest level can take its toll on a program.
Of the coaches in their first years at their respective schools, who will provide the quickest turnaround?
Bo Pelini. Nebraska could not have been worse on defense last year after yielding 76 and 45 points to Kansas and Oklahoma State, respectively. Pelini is a former defensive coordinator whose first objective will be to turn around the defense. The Cornhuskers won’t necessarily earn their Blackshirts back overnight, but Pelini is exactly the type of coach the program needs.
Will Duke win an ACC game this year?
Former Tennessee offensive coordinator and Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe will attempt to do something which has not been seen at Duke since Steve Spurrier did so in the late '80s: consistently win in the ACC. The first step will be Duke winning a conference game this year.
Cutcliffe seems to have the Blue Devils on the right track. During spring practices, he had his players collectively lose 1,000 pounds so they could become a faster unit. Cutcliffe may even be able to get some decent recruits to come to Duke with his recruiting ties in the South. His players aren’t really there yet, so for now, effort might be able to buy them a game against either UNC or NC State.
Where will Bobby Petrino be at the end of the 2008 season?
Let’s say Arkansas for now, but the fact that there is no definite answer to this question is a bad sign for Razorbacks fans.
Which school will Jenn Sterger be rooting for this year?
Before, it was Florida State. Last year, it was South Florida. So she may be a bit of a bandwagon fan, but as long as she’s on those sidelines it really doesn’t matter who she’s rooting for. And she knows her sports, too. (Jenn, if you stumble upon this, call me sometime.)
How long do we have to wait until we see Erin Andrews back on the sidelines?
I never thought I’d hear of a sideline reporter who gained this much popularity, but people LOVE this woman and I won’t disagree. For those of you who just can’t wait to see her, I’m sure she’s doing some random college baseball game because it seems she works 24/7.
What philanthropic endeavor will Tim Tebow take on next?
So how does one top going to volunteer in the Philippines and circumcising little children? And he’s smart and good at football? I’m starting to think this guy isn’t human or there’s some really big secret he’s hiding…
Who isn’t Facebook friends with Pete Carroll yet?
If you haven’t requested his friendship, go ahead. Looking at his Facebook page reminds me why his life > the rest of ours.
What does Lee Corso do with himself during the offseason?
No seriously, I’m asking you. What do guys like Corso, Kiper, and Vitale do when they aren’t on TV being fanatical about their sports? It has to be a long offseason.
Which new hip hop dance will Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson do on their next CBS broadcast?
Inspired by Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown doing the Soulja Boy dance on the sidelines, Danielson and Lundquist performed their own interpretation in the booth during a CBS broadcast. If they ever do something like that again, I don’t know what I’d do with myself.
Moments like these are the reasons why I’ll be counting down the days until next season.