USC Trojans Have Easiest Path to 12-0

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IAugust 3, 2008

The preseason coaches' poll was released last week.  Given that preseason polls are meaningless (polls make no sense until October or so), it’s still fun to take a look at the poll’s Top 10 teams and try to figure out which has the easiest path to being undefeated.  (Naturally, teams outside the Top 10 may go undefeated as well, but let’s stick to the Top 10 for this exercise.)

Helping the Mountaineers is that many of the teams above them play each other during the season and will pick each other off, one by one.


Here’s the coaches' Top 10:

1. Georgia

It's nice to be No. 1, but how long will it last?  The Bulldogs must travel to Arizona State, Auburn, and LSU.  They get the “luxury” of hosting Tennessee, Florida (actually in Jacksonville), and Georgia Tech.  If they get through this schedule unscathed, then God love 'em and give 'em the crystal football.

P.S.: Chance of Knowshon Moreno sophomore slump—at least 40 percent.  Not to mention it looks like Coach Mark Richt has kicked a starter off the team every week over the summer.

Games against Top 25 teams: 5.


2. Southern Cal

Remember what the Trojans did to Nebraska at Lincoln in the second game of last year?  (Pictured here: USC offensive lineman looking for anyone, anyone, to block.)  That could be the same fate suffered by the Virginia Cavaliers, who for some inexplicable reason host USC in the first game of the year.  USC then travels home to host Ohio State in a game guaranteed to give one of the top three teams its first loss.

After that, the Trojans glide through a weak Pac-10 schedule (I never, ever trust Oregon.), with only Arizona State (at home) in the way of an undefeated season—unless Crazy Rick Neuheisel pulls something out of his hat in his first year at UCLA, that is.  Still, the Trojans have the easiest past to an undefeated regular season.

Games against Top 25 teams: 3.


3. Ohio State

The only thing worse than having to play a higher-ranked team early in the season is having to play them on the road.  tOSU travels to SoCal to play the Trojans on Sept. 13, a game that should be a national title knockout game, except that it’s so early in the season.  Other than that, the Buckeyes don't have a very challenging Big Ten schedule, with trips to Illinois and Wisconsin the only potential road bumps.

Thankfully for the Buckeyes’ bowl hopes, they’ll have several weeks to recuperate for their BCS bowl game from the exhaustion of running up and down the field at will against Michigan in their final game.  

Games against Top 25 teams: 5.


4. Oklahoma

Even assuming Big Game Bob hasn’t permanently turned into the Fiesta Bowl Fool, and the Sooners can shake off the whuppin’ the Mountaineers put on them in January, Oklahoma does not have the easiest schedule.  The Sooners won’t have to face Mizzou until the Big 12 title game, but they must play Kansas (at home), Texas (at home), and in the biggest test, Texas A&M on the road.

Don’t overlook the Sooners’ Sep. 6 home date against Cincinnati, which has an All-American defensive back and a fast, aggressive defense.  (And perhaps even 18th-year post-doctorate quarterback Ben Mauk, who will qualify for AARP after this game.)

Games against Top 25 teams: 3.


5. Florida

The Gators start with Heisman winner Tim Tebow and really quick wideout Percy Harvin.  The defense is a question.  Schedule-wise, they get LSU at home and travel to Georgia (actually to Jacksonville).  They must also travel to No. 18 Tennessee.  I don’t expect Miami to come back this year, nor do I expect Kentucky to stick around after the exit of their star quarterback. 

Games agaisnt Top 25 teams: 3.


6. LSU

Lost your starting quarterback to graduation?  Lost your intended starter to knuckleheadedness?  No problem!  Crazy ol’ Les Miles might have his fifth-string, 17-year-old freshman quarterback chucking it long on fourth down in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

To me, here’s the most fascinating game of the year: LSU hosts Appalachian State on Aug. 30.  Last year’s national champion versus last year’s national champion.  Intriguing!  After that, the Bayou Bengals must travel to Auburn and Florida before getting Georgia at home.  My guess is that LSU is out of the Top 10 by midseason.

Games against Top 25 teams: 3 (plus one against defending national champion Appalachian State.)


7. Mizzou

I don’t know why, but if you were to ask me which surprise team from last year—Kansas or Mizzou—is more real, I’d have to pick Mizzou.  Quarterback Chase Daniel and all-purpose man Jeremy Maclin, timed at 3.4 in the 40-yard-dash in street shoes, are a nice start.

On the schedule, the Tigers open at home versus a suddenly tough Illinois, which may end up being the hardest game on the schedule until the Big 12 title game, probably against Oklahoma.  Otherwise, the Tigers must get past Kansas at home and Texas on the road.

Games against Top 25 teams: 3.


8. WVU

The Mountaineers have a tougher-than-usual schedule this year, including home against Auburn (the coaches' No. 11) and on the road and at altitude against Colorado.  In conference, the Mountaineers have their two most important games at the end of the season, on the road against Pitt and at home (in December) against South Florida, which has beaten WVU the past two years (quarterback Pat White has only four losses on his college resume—two are from South Florida).  The Mountaineers should be favored in each game. West Virginia has the third-easiest path to an undefeated regular season.

Games against Top 25 teams: 2.


9. Clemson

The Tigers sit atop what looks like a weakish ACC, with only Virginia Tech likely to provide any competition—and that won’t be until the ACC title game.  It’s hard to imagine FSU making a program recovery until Jimbo Fisher takes over for the petrified and pickled Bobby Bowden, though Clemson must travel to Tallahassee to play the Seminoles.

Otherwise, it looks like only Virginia (shudder) and Georgia Tech (assuming they buy into Paul Johnson’s triple option wishbone, we broke our quarterback’s throwing arm just to make sure, run-based offense) have the best chance to serve up an upset dish of Tiger l’orange.

On the other hand, every year I expect Clemson to start 7-0, look unbeatable in one big TV game, then finish 8-4.  So why should this season be different?  Still, the Tigers have the second-easiest path to an undefeated regular season.

Games against Top 25 teams: zero.


10. Texas

Colt McCoy: I don’t trust him.  Mack Brown: I like him.  But I don’t think this is one of his best teams.  Combined with the schedule—at Oklahoma, home against Mizzou, at Texas Tech, and at Kansas—I think the Longhorns will be the first Top 10 team to exit the poll’s stratosphere.

Games against Top 25 teams: 4.