2008 College Football Season Preview

A Dramatic Repeat of 2007 NCAA Football Season in 2008? Possibly!
By David A. Lane Predictem.com

College football might have enjoyed one of its most interesting, intriguing, and memorable seasons in some time last year as teams like Kansas, Missouri, and the University of Southern Florida made their way into the top five of the Bowl Championship Series rankings for the first time ever. The inaugural weekend gave us an upset of ranked Michigan to Appalachian State- the first time a ranked team has ever lost to a lower division non bowl eligible opponent (used to be called Division 1A or 2). Unlike many prior seasons where bowl games were all but decided by November, last years BCS schedule of games couldn’t even be made until the very last weekend of play in early December. Never before have so many top ten ranked teams been knocked off before as parity ruled- and, indeed, parity could be the reason for renewed hope this season.

Many of the usual teams take their places in the top ten rankings again this season although whether they can hold their respective rankings any better this year than last remains to be seen. According to the online book sportsinteraction.com they have these teams in their top ten to win the 2009 BCS National Championship along with last years record and the current listed odds for each to win it all.

1. USC (11-2) 3.75
2. Georgia (11-2) 5.50
3. Ohio State (11-2) 6
4. Oklahoma (11-3) 6
5. Florida (9-4) 6.50
6. LSU (12-2) 13
7. Texas (10-3) 13
8. Missouri (12-2) 16
9. Va. Tech (11-3) 16
10. Auburn (9-4) 21
10. Clemson (9-4) 21
10. W Virginia (11-2) 21

What seems apparent is that the difference between a chaotic and a more normal season rides on the failures or success of both Ohio State and USC.

One of the biggest reason for the Ohio State Buckeyes being so highly ranked is that theyve just played in (and lost) consecutive championship games and are returning nine players on offense and nine as well on defense this year. They also have a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Chris Wells who ran for over 1600 yards and had 15 touchdowns last year. Buckeyes have a HUGE game ahead of them on September 13 at USC that will mean a lot for both teams and surely will have an effect on the number one ranking early on. Thanks to their dominance over the Big Ten in recent years, the perception is, and perhaps rightly so, that their road to the National Championship game is much easier than in other conferences such as the South Eastern Conference.

USC lost 10 players to the NFL draft yet are highly ranked again with reportedly improved defense, strong offensive line, and quality backs according to Coach Pete Carroll, plus the addition of a new quarterback in Mark Sanchez. Since they have dominated so often before it seems they also have a somewhat easier track than most schools to get to the championship game. However, as we saw in last years huge upset loss to Stanford, they can also be very overrated.

If those two schools stumble a couple of games each, and we know one will lose on September 13 already since they play each other, the whole thing should open up again for many other schools. SEC schools Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Auburn, among others, all have very good teams but these teams usually have ridiculously difficult conference schedules making each game a dog fight and with it lowering the chances of one of them potentially being a national champion. Georgia had a terrific year and got very close to winning it all last year, however, things still didnt fall right enough for them. Even though the Bulldogs would be my favorite choice, Im afraid that the Florida Gators and quarterback Tim Tebow will prevail in the SEC despite their own very nasty schedule.

If the top two teams OSU and USC slip, then the SEC teams alternating wins and losses will only lead to more continued chaos. The next teams in the rankings are the Big 12 teams Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri, none of which have been very consistent. It would seem that Oklahoma would have the inside track here but something tells me not to count on them (perhaps the memory of losing money on them at Texas Tech last season?) again. Quarterback Sam Bradford leads a very talented and underachieving squad.

The Texas Longhorns have a relatively decent schedule overall and an accurate junior QB in Colt McCoy to run their high powered offense. The offensive line must keep McCoy healthy behind them because hes the engine the makes the offense go. Major question marks reside on defense though where they were among the worst in the country.

Missouri had quite a meteoric rise last season and it appears as though it were no accident. With returning quarterback Chase Daniel operating the offense and wide receiver/game breaker Jeremy Maclin as one of his weapons, anything is possible. The Tigers also return nine starters on defense and benefit from what appears to be an easy schedule. There is a very good chance they could find their way back to contending if things fall just so, and they just might!

Atlantic Coast Conference teams Virginia Tech and Clemson have the next best chance according to the rankings. Problem is, the Hokies lost a lot of players on both offense and defense and are still unsettled at the quarterback position, not making them look much like a potential champ. Clemson Tigers are definitely the favorite to win the conference for the first time in a long, long, time. 15 of the starters return but it is the offensive line that needs the most rebuilding, and, will end up being the key that will carry or bury them. They have a balanced offense, solid secondary, and strong defensive line but their young linebackers will also have to learn fast by being thrown into the mix. Theyre a good team but not national championship good!

Finally, this brings us to the West Virginia Mountaineers who had a terrific chance to make it to the BCS Championship game last season in their final regular season game, only needing a win over Pitt to get in. They couldnt get it done then and with the loss of star running back Steve Slaton to the Houston Texans, it wont make it any easier to get it done now. Messy loss of Coach Rich Rodriguez to Michigan still looms as well. This team has been through lots of turmoil lately so if they have chip on their shoulders they may surprise, but not enough to win it all.

As one can see, this is no sure thing by any means. Lots of different teams have a chance to go all the way as there seems to be no clear cut favorite. If forced to take two of them who might play in the National Championship game Id go with Florida because of strength of schedule and USC because if they beat Ohio State, they can possibly still lose two games and make it to the championship.

One of the most telling statistics is that in the last three weekends of college football last season, the top two teams only won once out of six tries- all with the BCS Final on the line. Obviously, thats parity at its greatest and drama at its finest. Try picking a champion or championship game out of these top ten teams and one can see why this season surely can be a lot like the last!