The first National Championship game of the 2008 college football season will take place the night of September 13th at 8:00 p.m. in pleasant southern California.
The USA Today #3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will make the long trek to L.A., looking to begin another season in which they reach the title game and, this time of course, win. They will meet the hungry #2 ranked USC Trojans, a team still stuck with a bitter championship game taste of their own lingering from "the Vince Young game" back in '06.
The fact that this early season match up is indeed being played in the lovely laid-back state of California is what will do in the Buckeyes and end their title hopes. The Trojans are too solid of a team to lose such a big game at their own place.
Yes Mark Sanchez is a huge question mark, but the talent around him is exceptional and won't let him fail. And many would say that Sanchez has more talent than Ohio State starter Todd Boeckmann.
Everyone knows about USC's depth at running back- Heisman Candidate Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson (who could start for most D-1A teams), CJ Gable, and Marc Tyler. But watch out for the Trojan wideouts this year, Pat Turner and Vidal Hazelton are the perfect compliments to each other. Turner is a big guy- listed at 6'5" while Hazelton is a speedy deep threat. Both were big time recruits coming out of high school and now is their time to shine.
Rey Maualuga, Taylor Mays, and Brian Cushing are at the center of an outstanding USC defense that will hold down Ohio State and other opponents throughout the season.
Ohio State almost has to go undefeated every year to make it in the Big Ten with their weaker strength of schedule. Granted this year they made it a point to schedule tougher opponents like USC, the problem is they still have to win those games. If the Buckeyes lose in So Cal they allow the Trojans to be able to lose a game in the regular season and still get the best of Ohio State in the rankings.
With similar srength of schedules, this game is a could-be tie-breaker at the end of the year if both USC and OSU end up with one loss. Voters will favor the Trojans because of their head-to-head victory earlier in the season. USC would have to lose two or more games after they beat Ohio State (assuming they do) to fall behind the Buckeyes in the rankings.
The second regular season National Championship game will come when the 5th ranked Florida Gators take on top dawg Georgia in The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on November 1st. Ultimately I think the Bulldogs are overrated and will go down to the talented Gators.
Florida is loaded this year in what will be the third installment of the Tebow/Harvin duo. Along with the supporting cast of wide receivers, tight end Cornelius Ingram, and a solid O-line, UF will be providing unstoppable offense for the Fighting Urban Meyers.
At running back Florida returns Kestahn Moore the most experienced runner on the team. USC-to-UF transfer Emmanuel Moody also joins the backfield this year. Moody has high expectations for him after having a solid freshman season at USC. He was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school and some dubbed him the best runner in Texas his senior year. And yes there's also Chris Rainey, an undersized high school star who's been explosive since he reached Gainesville and has big play potential.
Brandon Spikes and Carlos Dunlap lead a Gators defense that will do more than just keep the UF offense on the field. They are fast and athletic and will force turnovers.
Florida will also have to lose two games- which is not improbable- to be ranked behind Ohio State at the end of the year should the Buckeyes lose to USC. If the Gators lose one game during the regular season but still manage to win the SEC Championship they will most likely leap-frog OSU based on strength of schedule- Florida has one of the toughest schedules in the country as it is.
Obviously if they beat Georgia and win the SEC Championship game the Gators will certainly be ranked ahead of current #1 Georgia. However, if they lose to Georgia during the regular season and run the table, winning the SEC Championship game, the situation will get a little stickier and would keep the Bulldogs in the mix. So we'll see what happens.
Forewarning: Watch out for Oklahoma this year too, they will certainly contend.
The post-season National Championship game (and the only one that counts) will be played on January 8th, 2009 in Miami. An in-state team and a team from thousands of miles away could face off. Two of the most successful programs in recent years. The Gators lead the all time series 1-0-1 and would have some serious home-field advantage over the Trojans.
What a match up that would be huh? Florida vs. USC. Of course this could all be wiped out by a Buckeye win on that fall night in September or a couple SEC wins by the 'Dawgs.