College Football Preview
By Steve Kish
As summer turns into fall and baseball season comes to a close we
welcome back the 100,000 seat venues of college football. We welcome
back the fight songs, the cheerleaders, the mascots. Oh how we linger
for the dotting of the i in Script Ohio, the Gator Chomp, Jump Around
in Madison, and every other great tradition. Oh how we just love
college football. Only in this great sport can on loss at the wrong
time in the schedule can knock you out of a national title, well for
this year and next.
The preseason rankings are out. Yet what do they really tell us? Does
Nick Saban know how good the teams on his schedule are? In some
respects yes, in others no. Paper can say one thing and then the play
on the field says another. Lets go over these rankings.
As usual the SEC is dominant, number 1 and 2 in LSU and Alabama, five
in the top 10 and seven overall in the poll. The Pac 12 is uniquely
represented in the preseason poll. Non probation USC comes in at 3 and
Oregon is 5th, and a Luck free Cardinal is ranked 18th. USC is sitting
the the perfect spot. Sitting third doesn’t put as much pressure as
first or second would have. Matt Barkley is the Heisman favorite going
into this season, his senior year. He showed what kind of man he is by
turning down millions from the NFL to finish what he started at USC.
With the addition of Silas Redd they have to be clear favorites in the
Pac 12 and are absolutely national championship contenders. Their
toughest challenges with be on Nov 12th and Nov 24th when Oregon and
Notre Dame come to the Coliseum.
Oklahoma comes in 4th and brings high expectations with Landry Jones
and that receiving core. They have a tough schedule with Notre Dame,
West Virginia, and new Big 12 member TCU in their way. The Big 12
looked to be in perpetual destruction mode and they now have six teams
ranked in the preseason Top 25 with West Virginia (11), Texas(15),
TCU(17), Oklahoma State(19), and Kansas State(21). TCU comes in
wanting to prove it can compete with so called big dogs of college
football on a week to week basis. We have seen them take on all
comers, win the Rose Bowl, yet we still question if they are a top
college program. Texas has the premier defense in the Big 12 but can
they get the offense to score enough or at least stay on the field
long enough to let the defense rest. Oklahoma State was an Iowa State
from playing for the National Championship. They have lost Weeden and
Blackmon, but they had depth and new players will get their chance to
shine. Bill Snyder will have Kansas State ready, he knows how to plan
for opponents and adjust. Will his team have enough talent to compete
in a vastly talented Big 12.
The ACC’s top hope is Florida State(7), EJ Manuel is in his Senior
year and the offense goes as he goes. Manuel has been up and down in
his college career, the Seminoles need a Heisman trophy like season to
contend for a National Championship. Clemson(14) and Virginia Tech(20)
are the other ranked ACC teams. Clemson has a troublesome schedule to
navigate. With trips to Auburn(25) the first week of the season and
Florida State and then home games against Virginia Tech and South
Carolina(9) pose a difficult path to an ACC Championship, let alone a
National Championship we shall see where Tajh Boyd can lead them.
Virginia Tech is a sleeper, Frank Beamer always has his teams
prepared. With Logan Thomas conducting this offense they can surprise
Florida State and Clemson. With a rather weak non conference schedule
Va Tech could go undefeated IF they can upset Florida State and
The Big Ten may be down this year, with Ohio State on probation, Penn
State just crushed with penalties and sanctions and other teams
replacing key veterans. Yet on Sept. 1st at 7p.m. the Michigan
Wolverines can prove they are elite, they can compete, that Brady Hoke
has brought them back from near progam death with Rich Rod at the
helm. Michigan(8) faces Alabama(2) at the House Jerry Built. Yes it is
a “neutral” site, but Alabama is a lot closer to Texas then Michigan
is. The crowd will be pro Bama, Denard Robinson will have to be at his
best. The Michigan defense led by Jordan Kovacs must be immoveable. If
this Michigan team can beat Saban and Alabama they will send
shockwaves throughout college football. A win over Alabama the
reigning National Champion puts them in the drivers seat the rest of
the season. With Notre Dame and Michigan State, Nebraska and a nothing
to lose Buckeye team on the schedule Michigan has a tough road even
after Alabama. Michigan could easily be 2-2 after week four or they
could be 4-0 and possibly the number one team in the nation.
The Big Ten’s other ranked teams are Wisconsin(12), Michigan
State(13), and Nebraska(16).
Boise State(22) and Notre Dame(24) are interesting teams. Boise ina
lame duck year with the WAC before joining the BIg East. Notre Dame is
well Notre Dame, will they rise to past glory years or will they get
the hopes up of the Irish fans yet again. Boise has a friendly
schedule Boise’s biggest challenge is Michigan State opening weekend.
Notre Dame has its usual foes of Michigan and USC to contend with
along with a trip to Ireland to face Navy and Oklahoma on the
schedule. Familiarity will be a kind friend to the Irish and Brian
Kelly when it comes to Michigan and USC.
After all this we are back to the SEC, the NFL minor leagues. Lets
just call this league and these teams as they are. They are head and
shoulders above the rest of college football. Universities want to
move into the league to be able to recruit better, and be viewed as
the best of the best. With seven teams in the polls and a possibility
of adding Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M in the polls
after the first four weeks of the season, that would give the SEC
almost half the teams in the the top 25. Georgia(6), South
Carolina(9) and Arkansas(10) are all legitimate National Championship
game contenders. With a few lucky bounces Florida(23) or Auburn(25)
could make noise in the SEC.
This college football season is no different from the last or the one
before that or before that. Yet every year your team could be that
team. Could be Auburn, come out of pack and win it all. One loss at
the wrong time and it’s over, but that last second upset could change
a team’s destiny. This is college football and this is why we love it.