I ought to do it before the season starts, right?
Big 12 (predicted order of finish and records)
Missouri Tigers (11-1) – Last season was anything but an aberration for the Tigers, winning the Big 12 North and topping the national polls at one point. However, they only reached the Cotton Bowl in 2007, leaving a lot to be desired by both coach Gary Pinkel and Heisman candidate Chase Daniel under center. It will be a disappointing campaign for one of the nation’s most talented teams if they lose more than once and don’t reach a meaningful BCS bowl.
Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) – The Sooners come into 2008 with tremendous expectations, many of which lie on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford. A loss in last year’s Fiesta Bowl was a step back for Bob Stoops’ ever consistent squad, and with an easy non-conference schedule and not a tough road game within the Big 12, it should lead to double-digit victories for Oklahoma and a tenth straight appearance in a bowl game.
Texas Longhorns (10-2) – The Big 12 comes into 2008 with three teams in the Top 10, the last of which is Mack Brown’s Texas squad. Texas lost a number of players to the NFL, but the program is never lacking talent, resulting in tremendous success in the past decade. Colt McCoy is now one of the best field generals in all of college football, and even after losing his top running back and wide receiver, the wealth of talent on the roster should lead to at least nine wins.
Kansas Jayhawks (9-3) – Don’t expect another 11-1 season from last year’s breakthrough program because the conference is so tough, but 9-3 is a safe bet for the Orange Bowl champs. The schedule could be testing for such a young team (9/12 roadie at USF), but they proved that they could knock off any opponent (except Mizzou) last season. Another great season from Todd Reesing is needed for Kansas’ success in 2008.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-3) – If you’re looking for a possible sleeper in the Big 12, this is it. Coming off of a 9-4 campaign and a Gator Bowl win, the lethal combo of gunslinger Graham Harrell and his favorite target Michael Crabtree are sure to put up exorbitant offensive numbers en route to another bowl. The non-conference schedule is soft for the Red Raiders, so watch out for the exciting, young team.
Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-6)
Colorado Buffaloes (5-7)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-7)
Kansas State Wildcats (4-8)
Iowa State Cyclones (3-9)
Baylor Bears (2-10)
Pac-10 (predicted order of finish and records)
Arizona State Sun Devils (10-2) – You heard it here; Arizona State will win the Pac-10. This prediction will either be made or broken by the results of a 9/20 showdown with Georgia and their 10/11 trip to USC. Dennis Erickson’s squad, led by senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter is clearly a team on the rise with worlds of talent, and if they can run the table in the Pac-10 and win at least one of those two enormous games, the Sun Devils, in my opinion can win the Pac-10.
USC Trojans (10-2) – There’s plenty to like about the defending conference and Rose Bowl champs, but many are overlooking the lack of experience at both quarterback with the inexperienced Mark Sanchez, and running back with two newcomers. It is very possible that USC goes undefeated and wins it all, but they could easily lose three or four games if they don’t prepare these inexperienced kids for the Buckeyes and the rigor of the Pac-10 conference.
Oregon Ducks (8-4) – Oregon will have to learn to live without Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart leaving for the pros, but they return enough talent on both sides of the ball to be considered one of the top teams in the conference. As long as whoever plays quarterback is adequate and the team avoids another injury-filled season, the Ducks under Mike Bellotti should contend in the upper echelon of the conference.
Oregon State Beavers (8-4) – The Beavers have developed a nice program with 19 victories in the past two seasons, and coming off a nine win season that included a bowl victory, return a number of offensive starters, and though a tough early schedule may trip them up before the heavy hitting Pac-10 schedule sets in, Oregon State looks to continue the recent winning trend into 2008.
UCLA Bruins (7-5)
California Golden Bears (6-6)
Arizona Wildcats (5-7)
Washington Huskies (5-7)
Washington State Cougars (4-8)
Stanford Cardinal (3-9)
SEC (predicted order of finish and records)
Georgia Bulldogs (11-1) – I’m tempted to predict Georgia going undefeated if not the relentless SEC schedule, but this team blew up (in a good way) winning 12 of their last 13 and destroying Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl last year. All the ingredients are for a national championship with an explosive and balanced offense and a fast and physical defense. Everything is predicated on beating Florida, which will require big-time efforts from Stafford and Moreno. Look for Georgia to do huge things in 2008.
Florida Gators (10-2) – Florida’s season, like it did in 2007, depends on the play of its defense. If the Gators can stabilize their defensive line and secondary, defending Heisman Tim Tebow will help lead to Florida to SEC supremacy. That places a lot of pressure on a team that should have won more than nine games last season, but they undoubtedly have enough talent to win at least ten games and reach a BCS bowl game.
Tennessee Volunteers (8-4)
South Carolina Gamecocks (7-5)
Kentucky Wildcats (5-7)
Vanderbilt Commodores (3-9)
LSU Tigers (10-2) – The defending champs come into this season with a somewhat different look with less than ten returning starters, but are still loaded at most positions. The schedule looks rather easy at first glance, but inexperience at quarterback could hold Les Miles’ team back a bit and be the main impediment to another memorable season and championship season for LSU. Look for LSU to at least reach the conference title game this season.
Auburn Tigers (9-3) – Auburn has questions to answer, as does every other team in the SEC West. The Tigers face most of their tough SEC opponents at home, despite a tough 10/23 trip to WVU, but have enough talent and depth to make winning the West a realistic goal. For that to happen, the quarterback, receivers, and the young defense must step up quickly. Tommy Tuberville’s squad could challenge LSU for an SEC West title.
Alabama Crimson Tide (7-5)
Arkansas Razorbacks (6-6)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6)
Mississippi Rebels (4-8)
Other Notables (predicted order of finish and records)
BYU Cougars (10-2) – BYU’s non-conference results will go a long way in determining whether the Cougars can sneak their way into the BCS. Yes, smaller BCS conference teams (Hawaii, Boise State) have reached the BCS, but that isn’t a lock every year depending on the depth among major conferences. BYU has the talent to get it done this season, but in order to do so they must win every game within the conference.
Fresno State Bulldogs (9-3) – After watching Hawaii and Boise State reach the BCS the past two years, Fresno State looks to compete on that level in 2008. Given the schedule, the Bulldogs will probably not lead Fresno State to the promised land, but they definitely have a shot at securing the WAC championship for the second time under the direction of coach Pat Hill.
Boise State Broncos (9-3) – The Broncos’ schedule sets up nicely for another trip to the BCS; wins over Oregon and/or Fresno State would go a long way in securing a berth. However, the Broncos need playmakers to emerge on defense, and the offensive line must prove it can maintain enough presence to aid power back Ian Johnson.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-6) – It can’t get much worse for Notre Dame than last season, and it shouldn’t this year with a relatively easy schedule, with four out of the first five at home, helping Charlie Weis’ young squad gain confidence. A winning season isn’t out of the realm of possibility if quarterback Jimmy Clausen can mature enough to take control of ND.
Big 12's Top 10 Players
1) Chase Daniel, QB - Missouri, Sr.
2) Sam Bradford, QB - Oklahoma, So.
3) Graham Harrell, QB - Texas Tech, Sr.
4) Colt McCoy, QB - Texas, Jr.
5) Todd Reesing, QB - Kansas, Jr.
6) Michael Crabtree, WR - Texas Tech, So.
7) Duke Robinson, OG - Oklahoma, Sr.
8) Jeremy Maclin, WR - Missouri, So.
9) William Moore, S - Missouri, Sr.
10) Phil Loadholt, OT - Oklahoma, Sr.
Pac-10's Top 10 Players
1) Rudy Carpenter, QB - Arizona State, Sr.
2) Rey Maualuga, LB - USC, Sr.
3) Fili Moala, DT - USC, Sr.
4) Brian Cushing, LB - USC, Sr.
5) Alex Mack, C - California, Sr.
6) Taylor Mays, S - USC, Jr.
7) Max Unger, C - Oregon, Sr.
8) Jeremy Perry, OG - Oregon State, Sr.
9) Jake Locker, QB - Washington, So.
10) Jaison Williams, WR - Oregon, Sr.
SEC's Top 10 Players
1) Tim Tebow, QB - Florida, Jr.
2) Knowshon Moreno, RB - Georgia, So.
3) Matt Stafford, QB - Georgia, Jr.
4) Percy Harvin, WR - Florida, Jr.
5) Michael Oher, OT - Mississippi, Sr.
6) Andre Smith, OT - Alabama, Jr.
7) Tyson Jackson, DE - LSU, Sr.
8) Ricky Jean-Francois, DT - LSU, Jr.
9) Brandon Spikes, LB - Florida, Jr.
10) Eric Berry, S - Tennessee, So.
I ought to do it before the season starts, right?