Season tickets are arriving in the mail. Teams are strapping up their pads. Predictions and analysis flood media outlets such as ESPN, Fox Sports, and Bleacher Report. Your Sports Illustrated college football preview with the regional cover arrives.
Ready or not, the 2008 college football season has arrived and has captivated the attention of the sports world. There is a lot of uncertainty heading into the season.
Many fans wonder, how good is our new recruiting class? Will Coach (insert name here) finally deliver on his championship promise? Is it too early to make flight reservations for Miami in January?
There's no need to worry, college football fans. I am offering you five guarantees you can count on for the 2008 season of college football.
1. Tim Tebow will not repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner.
As a Gators fan, it pains me to make this statement. However, I must face the truth.
Tebow had insane stats last season, racking up 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns through the air. In addition, he led the Gators with 895 rushing yards and set the SEC record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with 23.
This season, however, the Heisman field is crowded. With the likes of Ohio State halfback Chris Wells, Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, and Georgia halfback Knowshon Moreno competing, Tebow will have a tough time defending his title.
Florida will also field a strong running game this season, as opposed to last fall, limiting Tebow's carries and rushing touchdowns.
Tebow will be a finalist, no doubt about it. However, he will not be giving an acceptance speech in New York this December.
2. The Missouri Tigers will win the Big 12.
Although Missouri is a popular pick to win the conference, many experts are going with Oklahoma as the 2008 Big 12 champion. However, I firmly believe that Missouri is the team to beat in the Big 12.
Led by 2007 Heisman finalist quarterback Chase Daniel, the Tigers return six starters on offense, including All-American receiver Jeremy Maclin. Daniel and Maclin should connect for a lot of yardage and many touchdowns in 2008.
If that's not enough, Mizzou returns nine starters on defense and plays two of its toughest opponents, Illinois and Kansas, at neutral sites. Even if the Tigers stumble at Texas in mid-October, they should still win their division and the conference.
3. The winner of the Brigham Young-Utah game will win the Mountain West Conference and crash the BCS party.
BYU and Utah are loaded. Although the Cougars only return three starters on defense, the offense should be able to pick up the slack. Quarterback Max Hall returns to lead the offense after recording 3,848 passing yards in 2007, the best total in the Mountain West.
As for the Utah Utes, the running game will be lethal thanks to senior halfback Darrell Mack. Mack amassed 1,204 rushing yards on only 253 carries last season, recording a phenomenal average of 4.8 yards per carry.
Mack will be running behind an experienced offensive line that returns four starters from the previous season. Right guard Robert Conley and the rest of the line will pave the way for Mack to eat up tons of yardage throughout the 2008 season.
With the exception of a trip to Michigan for the Utes and a visit from UCLA for the Cougars, Utah and BYU should breeze through their schedules to their climactic showdown in the final week of the regular season.
The winner in this showdown will be looking to upset the at-large team they face in a BCS bowl game.
4. South Florida will challenge West Virginia for the Big East title.
In one of the feel-good stories of 2007, Coach Jim Leavitt led South Florida to upset victories over Auburn and West Virginia, catapulting the Bulls to the No. 2 ranking in the Top 25.
After just missing out on a Big East title in 2007, Leavitt and the Bulls are hungry for a conference championship and a trip to the BCS.
South Florida’s BCS hopes rest on the shoulders of dual-threat quarterback Matt Grothe. Grothe led the Bulls in total offense, accumulating 2,670 passing yards and a team-high 872 rushing yards.
The emergence of sophomore running back Mike Ford should lighten Grothe’s running load and give him the opportunity to connect with wide receiver Marcus Edwards and tight end Cedric Hill more often. Grothe’s effectiveness and his health will determine how far the Bulls go in 2008.
Although USF will push hard for the Big East title, West Virginia will still win the conference championship, despite the loss of head coach Rich Rodriguez to Michigan.
With quarterback Pat White and tailback Noel Devine in the backfield, defensive coordinators will be terrified to see the Mountaineers on their schedule. Look for new head coach Bill Stewart and the Mountaineers to pick up where they left off in last year’s Fiesta Bowl and take the Big East crown in 2008.
5. The winner of the Florida-Georgia game will face the winner of the Ohio State-USC game in the BCS Championship Game.
It’s a foregone conclusion, in my opinion. These four teams are all ranked in the Preseason Top Five, thus giving them a computer advantage in the farce known as the BCS.
In addition, the Gators, ‘Dawgs, Buckeyes, and Trojans are all very talented teams that will contend for their conference titles and a chance to play for the BCS title in Miami.
After their early season clash, the Buckeyes and the Trojans both have clear paths to the national championship game. Ultimately, it will come down to who emerges victorious once the dust settles at the Coliseum on September 13.
As for the “Worlds’ Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” I believe that the Gators and the Bulldogs will both be undefeated when the two meet in Jacksonville, Florida on Nov. 1.
In perhaps the most highly anticipated game in the rivalry’s history, the nation will find out if Florida’s defense has improved enough to contain Heisman hopeful halfback Knowshon Moreno.
If I had to make a prediction right now, I’d say that we will see the Trojans and Gators knocking heads in Miami come January 2009.
These are my five guarantees for the 2008 college football season. Feel free to agree or disagree. Let the discussion begin!