2008 Preseason Top 25 (teams 1-8)
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1 - Southern California Trojans….There are several reasons I could slide USC back a few spots in this poll; they have a new quarterback in either Mark Sanchez or Mitch Mustain, they have a trickier schedule than usual early in the season (traveling across America in week 1 to face Virginia and returning home the next week to host top 5 Ohio State), and they have offensive line questions. But when you combine the talent that has been accumulated across the board in the last three recruiting classes with Pete Carroll’s coaching ability, what you have as an end result is a national championship contender.
2 – Georgia Bulldogs…For some reason, my fingers have a hard time typing Georgia in at number 2. I know they are loaded on defense with athletes all over the place. I know that they have superb players at quarterback in Matthew Stafford and at running back in Knowshon Moreno. But what I also know is that UGA always manages to slip up somewhere during the season in a game it is not supposed to lose. Mark Richt deserves credit for his SEC Championships in 2002 and 2005. But for UGA to win it all, and not just the SEC, they can’t slip this year in a lesser game. The schedule is tough enough as it is, including an out of conference voyage to the desert to tangle with a good Arizona State team in week 4. Still I’ve got ‘em at number 2.
3 – LSU Tigers…After watching the Tigers torch Ohio State for the National Title in January, I have a hard time believing this 2008 version can’t be a top 5 team – and I don’t care who they lost! The Tigers are big and fast on both sides of the ball. Yes, they did lose a good bit of skill on O, but an early schedule of Appalachian State, Troy, and North Texas should allow for some adaptation. As usual, the week 4 game at Auburn will go a very long way in deciding who will be the SEC West Champion.
4 – Oklahoma Sooners…In the last ten years, OU has become a regular in preseason national top 5’s. And after finishing the season in the AP top 6 every season from 2000-2004, Oklahoma hasn’t been back at year’s end. But they are getting closer. They finished 22nd in 2005, 11th in 2006 and 8th in 2007. This year should see them back in the top 5 at the end of the year. They have strong players in quarterback Sam Bradford and running back DeMarco Murray, and I have seen OU’s defense enough through the Bob Stoops era to know it is national championship caliber even when losing a few studs. Trust me, there are guys who will fill in on D.
5 – Ohio State Buckeyes…Ok Buckeyes, which SEC team is going to pound you in a high-profile bowl game this year? That wasn’t meant as a joke, but more as a serious question. I think that Ohio State has one of the finest football programs in the nation from every standpoint; tradition, rabid fans, big and fast players, great stadium, you name it…But just you all wait and see: the stars will somehow align and Ohio State once again will be squared up somehow against an SEC opponent in January. A trip to Southern California in week 2 is not a guaranteed win, either. But let’s give OSU some slack. They did win it all in 2002, and playing for a BCS crown regularly is what every program strives for. The Buckeyes return almost the entire defense and have perhaps the nation’s top kicking duo in placekicker Ryan Pretorius and punter A.J. Trapasso.
6 – Missouri Tigers…Mizzou isn’t the national big name like Texas or Oklahoma or Nebraska, but the Tigers may be the class of the Big 12 this year. After a rise to national attention in 2007 with a number one ranking late in the season, Missouri again should spend some time near the top of the polls. QB Chase Daniel will be a Heisman candidate as long as the Tigers are winning, and with Mizzou starting the year with four straight winnable home games, that will probably be the case. Nearly the entire defense returns. The week 7 game at Texas will be huge.
7 – Florida Gators…After visiting the Swamp for the Tennessee game a year ago, UF has kind of become my ‘second team’ – that place was frigging awesome! With QB Tim Tebow back, Heisman Trophy in tow, and receiver extraordinaire Percy Harvin also back to help score touchdowns, don’t be surprised if the Gators aren’t the ones to ruin Georgia’s big dreams in ‘08. One thing the whole country knows is that Urban Meyer is a great coach, and he has the talent in Gainesville to challenge for the big time once again. The Hurricanes from down the road in Miami will come to the Swamp for a very intriguing game in week 2.
8 – Wisconsin Badgers…The Badgers, I feel, do not get enough respect. They have fielded very strong teams for years, but somehow they always seem to get lost in the national press after Michigan and Ohio State and Penn State from the Big Ten. 2008 should see them give those programs all they want in the quest for the league crown. The defense should be very good, and as is the case year after year after year, the Badgers will have an offensive line as good as any in America. Behind that line is a nasty trio of running backs in P.J. Hill, Lance Smith and Zach Brown. Think UW is going to try to run it down your throat? Yep. You might as well just get ready for it.
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