My preseason Top 25 poll continues with teams Nos. 16-20:
2008 record: 9-4 (ranked No. 23)
Projected 2009 regular season record: 9-3 (losses at BYU (9/19); at Boston College (10/3); at Florida (11/28))
The 411: Optimism in Tallahassee abounds following the program's most successful season since 2004. The 'Noles capped a nine-win campaign with a 42-13 thrashing of Wisconsin in the Citrus Bowl, and it appears as if Bobby Bowden has enough talent and experience to make a serious run for his first ACC title in four years.
But it won't be easy.
The offensive line is young, and even though FSU led the conference in total offense a season ago, the Seminoles produced less than 200 yards per game through the air—a number that could be equally attributed to the line's inexperience with pass blocking as quarterback Christian Ponder's case of happy feet in the pocket.
In addition to the passing game, Bowden will have to instill some much-needed discipline in his team, both on and off the field.
Florida State was flagged for nearly 350 more penalty yards than its opponents in 2008, which is a headache that pales in comparison to the legal troubles of receivers Bert Reed, Cameron Wade, and Richard Goodman. The three players were charged with either felony or misdemeanor charges stemming from an on-campus fight last November.
19. Kansas Jayhawks
2008 record: 8-5 (unranked)
Todd Reesing and the KU offense have Jayhawk fans optimistic (Icon/SMI)
Projected 2009 regular season record: 8-4 (losses vs Oklahoma (10/24); at Texas Tech (10/31); at Texas (11/21); vs Missouri (11/28))
The 411: Using the mediocrity of the Big 12 North as one of its crutches, the Jayhawks will enter the 2009 season supported on the other side by its high-performance offense.
Kansas will no doubt get into the end zone, but if an outright Big 12 North title is going to be anything more than a pipe dream, then a relatively inexperienced defense has to emerge as the third support that balances everything out.
There's talent on both sides of the ball, but KU is replacing all three linebackers from 2008, which definitely won't help squash the notion that this team will be one-dimensional in 2009.
18. Utah Utes
2008 record: 13-0 (ranked No. 4)
Projected 2009 regular season record: 9-3 (losses at Oregon (9/19); at TCU (11/14); at BYU (11/28))
The 411: With road tests at Oregon, TCU, and BYU, another unblemished run through the schedule seems unlikely.
But one thing is set in stone: Nobody has more faith in this year's version of the Utes than head coach Kyle Whittingham—who admitted to being the lone constituent to vote Utah the No. 1 team in the country in last season's final poll—and rightfully so.
Led by NFL-ready safety/linebacker hybrid Steveson Sylvester, 11 total starters return, and assuming the Utes can squeeze out one or two tough wins away from Salt Lake City, another Mountain West title—and second straight BCS appearance—may not be out of the question.
Butch Davis is building a winner at Chapel Hill (Charlotte News/Observer)
2008 record: 8-5 (unranked)
Projected 2009 regular season record: 9-3 (losses at Georgia Tech (9/26); vs Florida St. (10/22); vs Miami (Fl.) (11/14))
The 411: There's no denying Chapel Hill is slowly becoming a two-sport town. Reclamation engineer Butch Davis—the same Butch Davis who extricated a downtrodden Miami program entangled in NCAA sanctions—is at it again.
And now he's stockpiled enough talent to make some championship waves in the ACC. However, while UNC is sure to progress again this season, concerns do exist, particularly on offense.
Sure, quarterback T.J. Yates (1,168 yards, 11 TDs in '08) and lead rusher Shaun Draughn (198 att., 866 yds) are back, but who will make up for the production lost on the team's three leading receivers a year ago?
Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster play on Sundays now, leaving a corps consisting of one junior and a handful of sophomores and freshmen to compensate for the 1,932 yards and 17 touchdowns that left along with the trio.
2008 record: 12-1 (ranked No. 13)
Projected 2009 regular season record:10-3 (losses vs Oregon (9/3); at Bowling Green (9/26); vs Nevada (11/27))
The 411: The BCS's red-headed stepchild, Boise State maneuvered its way through the regular season schedule unharmed for the second time in four seasons in 2008. The prize: a Poinsettia Bowl berth against No. 11 TCU.
It was hardly a reward befitting a program that's been so consistently good as the Broncos, but such is life for even a dominant team in a conference that's seen as irrelevant as the WAC—at least through the eyes of those who matter.
And because college football will continue to be about money and not necessarily common sense, Boise State should count on seeing more of the same injustice.
Furthermore, because major conferences like the Big 12 and SEC appear qualified to fill each of their two BCS bowl berths, Boise State—this decade's winningest program—will have to once again run the table if it hopes gain the benefit of the doubt.
Here's a scheduled breakdown of my Top 25:
Aug. 25: Nos. 21-25
Aug. 26: Nos. 16-20
Aug. 27: Nos. 11-15
Aug. 28: Nos. Top 10