Yesterday, we looked at what the coaches got right—for the most part. Today, I'm going to spotlight what they got wrong.
There are several teams that are trendy picks to make a serious run this season that I have some major problems with. There are also some really average teams that the coaches have anointed worthy of Top 25 consideration.
Again, my list is based totally on the strength of the rosters, with a tiny bit of weight given to the strength of schedule.
Yes, I am fully aware that Ron Zook is a master recruiter and that the Illini finished 9-4 last season after amassing only two wins in 2006. But they sorely lack an experienced back following the loss of Rashard Mendenhall, and I'm not convinced that Juice Williams can win games with his arm—although his running ability and his playmaking skills are unquestionable.
On defense, J Leman is a huge loss at linebacker, but this unit is actually not that bad. There are several potential leaders on this unit. However, it remains to be seen if the Illinois defense can compensate for the offensive drop-off that is sure to occur.
Trips to Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin highlight a tough schedule that also includes a visit from Ohio State and a neutral site matchup with Missouri to open the season. The coaches rank them 19th, but I don't see this team winning any more than eight games.
4. Texas Tech
This may be the trendiest pick in the country. Nobody questions the talent on offense, where Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree form the nation's most explosive quarterback-wide receiver tandem. This team can put up 60 points at the drop of a hat.
But the defense...oh, the defense. This is a defense that will have to improve tremendously for Mike Leach to get to the Big 12 title game for the first time.
There was some life in the D a season ago, especially in the Oklahoma game. But I don't know if the Red Raiders can stop their opponents on a week-to-week basis and allow the team to take the next step.
The schedule isn't too difficult: Oklahoma and Kansas are by far the toughest road tests. Also, Texas comes to Lubbock. I still see this team, which the coaches picked 14th, as an 8-4 team.
This is the one that puzzles me the most. All offseason, the talk has been about the Wolverines under Rich Rodriguez and how there isn't a prototype quarterback in the stable to run his offense. Then there were the defections and unrest. It was tumultuous, to say the least.
So the coaches vote the Wolverines 24th in the preseason poll. Yeah, that makes total sense.
The fact is that Rodriguez is attempting to "change the culture" in Ann Arbor. We all know that means there will be some growing pains as his plans begin to take shape.
There is some talent on defense, and the offense won't be atrocious, but it's going to take some time to adapt to the spread.
Trips to Penn State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame—yes, I said Notre Dame—will be tough. Due to the changing of the guard, there may be a couple of embarrassing losses in there, depending on how quickly the team is willing to mold itself around its new head coach. I predict 7-5 or 6-6 for this bunch.
I know that Tiger Nation thinks there will be a repeat this year, but this is me officially bursting your collective bubbles.
This roster is immensely talented—Les Miles has continued Nick Saban's legacy of great recruiting classes. The defense is big, strong, and fast.
There are also plenty of playmakers on the perimeter. The problem is that there is nobody to get them the ball.
Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch and freshman Jarrett Lee will duke it out to win the job, but neither is the quarterback that Matt Flynn (or even Ryan Perrilloux) was.
Plus, in the uber-tough SEC, wins will be difficult to come by, especially with a schedule that includes trips to Auburn and Gainesville.
I'm not dumb enough to think that LSU won't win nine or 10 games this season, but this is not a national championship contender.
1. Virginia Tech
Frank Beamer is a super coach, maybe the best in the game today. His special teams are the best in the business, and he always gets the very most out of his team.
This year, however, the coaches have really miscalculated in putting this team 15th in the preseason poll.
The two-headed monster of Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon returns at quarterback. The two-man system could work out great, but it could just as easily backfire, especially considering the lack of any semblance of a running game after the loss of Branden Ore.
Although the offensive line is considered a strength, the receiving corps has been totally decimated and lacks experience as well as ability across the board.
Defensively, the Hokies will be good despite losing several key components from last year's squad.
Victor "Macho" Harris is as good as it gets at cornerback, and the D-line is experienced. Beamer consistently does a good job getting his defense to make plays, and this year should be no exception.
The schedule isn't tough at all, especially considering the absence of Clemson and Wake Forest. The Hokies may win eight games due to a lackluster year for the ACC, but this will be the most difficult coaching job that Frank Beamer has faced.
I expect plenty of hateful comments from Illini, Raider, Wolverine, Tiger, and Hokie fans in response to this list. But isn't that what it's all about?
Tomorrow, I'll talk about five teams who will burst onto the scene in 2008. Thanks for reading!