College Football's Top Five Teams to Start the 2008 Season

Nick VandiverCorrespondent IJune 11, 2008

After the 2007 season, it was clear that this year's rankings were going to be very hard to create.  There were so many teams that had great years, and a lot of those teams have many of their skill players returning.

It's a constant debate—do you pick a team with a great offense?  Defense?  A balance of both?  There's no way to really tell who the best team is, but people try anyway.

Keep in mind, these rankings are based on how good I think the teams are going into the 2008 season.  This is not necessarily where I think they'll finish.

1) Georgia

The Bulldogs finished 2007 on a high note, absolutely crushing Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl.  The Warrior offense was one of the best in the nation, but the Georgia defense was too much for them to handle.  They don't have a lot of big name players defensively, but they have talent—and a lot of it.

On offense, Georgia still has talents Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.  Stafford was electric last year as the starting quarterback, and he proved he can throw touchdowns against any defense.  Moreno was just as good, rushing for the second-most yards in Georgia history by a freshman.

Expect Georgia to contend for the national title all year long.

2) USC

This is where it gets a little tricky.  Each of the next four teams could take this spot, but USC is my pick.  They have NFL-level talent on both sides of the ball, and their linebacking corps is arguably the best in the nation.  They did lose big parts of their defensive line in Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson, but USC has the talent to replace them.

Offensively, all the pieces are in place.  Vidal Hazelton seems to finally have it all together to be a number one receiver.  Joe McKnight has the talent to be in the Heisman race all year, and I think he has the talent to win it.

The only question is at quarterback.  Mark Sanchez isn't an established starter, and while he does have a strong arm, his decision-making abilities aren't the greatest.  If Sanchez can be decent, look for USC to stay in the top five most of the season.

3) Oklahoma

The Sooners had a terrible end to 2007, losing to West Virginia 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl.  They just couldn't seem to get themselves together and put points on the board.  Don't think that will carry over to this year.

Their offense will be in the top 15, with Sam Bradford leading the way at quarterback and DeMarco Murray taking the handoffs for touchdowns.  Juaquin Iglesias has to prove himself as a receiver.

Their defense will be in the top ten.  Their defensive line is stellar—maybe even the best in the country.  They lost Curtis Lofton, but their current starters have enough ability to hold down the fort.

In the secondary, Nic Harris will continue to be a rock.  An upset at TCU or Texas Tech might keep them from the national title, but they'll stay in the hunt for weeks.

4) Missouri

Here's where many people won't agree with me.  A lot of people say they're a one-year wonder and won't repeat their 2007 performance.  They're sadly mistaken.

Missouri has all the pieces in place to contend for the national title.  The only thing that stopped them last year was a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.

But none of that matters.  They still have the best senior quarterback in the country in Chase Daniel, who still has three of his top receivers from last year in Jeremy Maclin (consensus All-American), Tommy Saunders, and Danario Alexander.  Chase Coffman takes over tight end duties for Martin Rucker, and you should expect him to be just as good—if not better.

Tommy Chavis, Ziggy Hood, and Stryker Sulak anchor a defensive line that will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, even with the loss of Lorenzo Williams. Their linebacking corps is one of the top five in the nation, and their secondary returns the talents of a possible first round pick in William Moore.

Mizzou will be in the hunt for the BCS title game all year, and Chase Daniel will be one of the top candidates for the Heisman.


Here's my sleeper pick.  Florida's offense was phenomenal last year under the talents of Tim Tebow.  The defense wasn't the greatest, and they did finish the year on a low note by losing to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl—but Florida has too much talent to be weighed down by last year's mistakes.

Tebow had a great sophomore season, but he won't duplicate it.  Expect his numbers to be decently high, but nothing like last year.  He still has a great receiver in Percy Harvin, who'll be a first rounder next year.  Cornelius Ingram will catch a lot of passes at tight end.

The defense doesn't have anyone with huge numbers.  What they do have is 11 players who work together to get the job done.  Games at Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia keep them from the title game, but don't expect 2008 to be a disappointment.

There's bound to be controversy about these rankings, but each team deserves its spot.  2008 is going to be a great season with an exciting race for the national title.

In the end, only one team can win it.  I won't say who I think it will be, but whoever it is will have a high scoring offense, a good defense, and great special teams.

I'll say it again—2008 is going to be a great season.