As the bowl games wind down and the 43-year-old accountant who "doesn’t even like football" sits safely atop your office pool standings, there becomes only one thing left for us non-Buckeye/Tiger fans to focus our attention on: next year.
My friend put it best: "I could actually impregnate a woman and become a father before college football kicks off again."
But if that’s not your idea of a good time, try taking a stab at next year’s preseason rankings instead.
Not sure where to start? Here’s some help.
First, remember that college football seasons often carry a theme throughout the year. 2006 felt like an election year, pitting the SEC and Big Ten conferences against one another in a bitter national debate. Michigan vs. Florida for the right to play the almighty Ohio State Buckeyes. ESPN and CBS commentators were even joining in the war of words.
The polarizing effect was reminiscent of what remains after a year of mudslinging between Democrats and Republicans. And in the end, a "surprise" champion was crowned, and the term "SEC Speed" replaced "three yards and a cloud of dust" in our sports lexicon.
2007 was the year of the upset. Of uncertainty. Of undefeatable teams falling to unimaginable opponents. And most of all, it was a year where young, underdeveloped teams often flashed their gaudy talent before tripping over their own shoelaces.
Regardless of the outcome in the BCS National Championship game on Monday, which features two teams who both lost games in November, this will go down as the year of the unfinished product.
This would naturally make next year the big one—the year of the powerhouse! A season where elitist fans will likely have a primed and polished team on the field to back up their craziest fantasy predictions. There will be no two-loss teams playing in the title game, and one loss might be enough to end your season a week too early.
So call me crazy and throw stones as I climb out on this limb and predict the preseason Top 10. (Sorry WVU fans. Your absence is not from a lack of respect; it’s from a lack of knowledge about who will return and who will coach your team.
10. Clemson Tigers – Like those few great shots in the middle of a disappointing round of golf, the Tigers win just enough games to keep you interested. They are my wild-card selection and are only here because of two things—CJ Spiller, and a hunch that sooner or later, they’ve got to get to the ACC championship game.
9. Auburn Tigers – The team who always comes to play defense has now decided to adopt the spread offense. Personnel typically takes a year or two to match a new system, but as soon as the Tigers can consistently score points, look out.
8. Missouri Tigers – Chase Daniel should return for his senior season and Jeremy Maclin will be just a sophomore. However, their days of sneaking up on teams are over. And unfortunately Oklahoma is on this list, too.
7. LSU Tigers – No, tigers are not my favorite animals. The Bayou Bengals will lose a bit too much veteran leadership to expect another SEC championship, let alone a national title shot. But at a school where three-star recruits are tackling dummies, a short hangover is all that should be expected. QB Ryan Perriloux will be a household name by October.
6. Virginia Tech – Playing (and beating) Clemson in the ACC Championship game will send the Hokies to yet another BCS game, but falling short of the real prize once again. Replacing 10 senior starters will be a challenge, but the slumping ACC allows room for error.
5. Oklahoma Sooners – Losing only a handful of seniors on defense and returning nearly everyone on offense earns them this spot. DeMarco Murray will emerge as the next great Sooner tailback. Sam Bradford will hit the weights and continue his accurate passing attack. But will the Sooners have enough to avoid another inexplicable loss in the Big 12? How in about a bowl game? This team’s potential is unlimited, but there always seems to be a little something missing.
4. Florida Gators – Capital One bowl blunder aside—if you think the Gators had talent on offense this year, you haven’t seen anything yet. USC transfer RB Emmanuel Moody will provide the third dimension for Florida’s spread offense, along with Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin—the once and future Heisman kings. However, the defense must look itself in the mirror and improve dramatically if the Gators expect to win any more team trophies.
3. Ohio State – This is a tough team to handicap, due to the potential exodus of up to 11 juniors to the NFL. However, only two senior starters graduate, and the majority of those with their toes in the professional water should return to Columbus. There are very few reasons not to expect the Buckeyes to be in the thick of things all year long once again, but an early battle with USC is one of them. Beanie Wells will replace Mike Hart as the featured Big Ten back. That’s a good thing, right?
2. USC Trojans – Some key losses at QB, OL, and in the front seven on defense throw up an initial red flag. But this is USC, the one team who defies recruiting logic year after year. They don’t reload. They use the bigger gun in their other hand. The battle between Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain will be exciting for Trojan fans, but it may turn out to be an audition for the guy who will simply hand the ball to Joe McKnight. Not even complacency will stop the Trojans next year.
1. Georgia Bulldogs – Six seniors will depart a Bulldog team that, over the last half of the season, was hotter than spilled coffee in your lap. But none of those seniors are named Knowshon Moreno, which is all you need to...um..."Know."
If you haven’t seen this kid play tailback, do yourself a favor and make an effort to do so early and often. He runs with what I like to call energetic insanity. And when defenders realize that he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, it's too late. Matt Stafford will be calmly lofting a picture-perfect deep ball over opposing DBs' heads.
The Super Bowl was played in Jacksonville a few years ago, but next year’s "Cocktail Party" match-up between Georgia and Florida may be a tougher ticket. Winner will take all in the SEC East and, barring a bonehead collapse against a lesser team, they will be packing their bags for Miami in the BCS Championship Game.