2008 Preseason Top 25 (teams 9-17)
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9 – Auburn Tigers…The bottom line here is that Auburn is just always a good football team. They find a way to win games, and they play full speed, lights out on every down. This year they will have a nasty and experienced offensive line and a nasty defensive secondary. They are trying to implement the spread offense with quarterback Kody Burns and that should work out in the long run. The spread worked in the Chick-Fil-A bowl against Clemson, giving War Eagle an overtime victory in Burns’ first start.
10 – West Virginia Mountaineers…The ‘Neers had a chance at a national title game a year ago, again mainly due to their schedule or lack of, but choked against lowly Pitt in their regular season finale…Ouch! Yeah, I know they beat Oklahoma by 20 points in the Fiesta Bowl, but that was one of those freaky-everything-go-your-way-we’re-so-jacked-up-its-insane kinda games. To the Mountaineers credit, they did schedule an away game at Colorado and a home date with Auburn for 2008, but the rest of the schedule is a joke. The toughest date outside of the two fore mentioned games is at Louisville – and the Cards just aren’t very good. West Virginia is a solid team with a very good backfield of QB Steve Slaton and RB Noel Devine, I just wish they played a few more major programs during the course of the season. But like they say, "you can only beat the teams set in front of you."
11 – Clemson Tigers…If anyone in America knows that Clemson and Coach Tommy Bowden need to get over the hump and win the ACC, it’s, well, Coach Bowden. Since 1999 with his arrival in Tiger Town, Clemson fans have been drooling for a trip to the BCS. Nine years later, it still hasn’t happened. But that isn’t to say that Bowden isn’t the man for the job in Clemson. His teams have been close so many times, and this 2008 squad has all the makings for an ACC Title. Cullen Harper is perhaps the best quarterback in the league, and he has help. The O-line is relatively young, but they are big, and they will make room for James Davis and CJ Spiller to gain yards. The defense is very solid and deep, though there are a couple of questions at linebacker. Up front and in the back, though, this defense is as good as any in the country. Clemson will put much more focus on special teams play in 2008 – an area that cost the Tigers dearly in 2007. With the ACC trying to work its way back to national respect, this is the Tigers best shot yet to take home the league Title.
12 – Texas Longhorns…The Longhorns have won 70 games in the last seven seasons, a clip of ten wins a year, including four straight bowl victories. Those trends will both have a good chance to stay alive as Coach Mack Brown has yet another deep and talented squad. Quarterback Colt McCoy, on pace to be a Texas legend, returns to try to move up in the ‘Horn record books. A stretch of games in the later part of the season will tell the story of the 2008 campaign. The Horns face Colorado away, OU in Dallas, and then host Missouri in back to back to back weekends. Winning each of those is a lot to ask of any program. They also face SEC foe Arkansas in week 3 in Austin in an intriguing inter-conference matchup.
13 – Oregon Ducks….The Ducks have lost both RB Jonathon Stewart and QB Dennis Dickson from last year’s squad, so on paper, you would think they would struggle this season. But Oregon has made a name for itself as a winning program, and I am willing to gamble on them as being a top 15 program in 2008. This fall’s Oregon schedule features no teams from outside the Pacific region, out of conference or not. Recent year out of region opponents have included teams such as Oklahoma and Michigan, but that will change in 2008, leaving a bowl game as the only shot for inter-regional play. Look for the Ducks, along with rising Arizona State, to be USC’s top contenders, in the Pac-10.
14 – Virginia Tech Hokies…This pick is sort of a gamble.The Hokies are lacking a true ball carrier, and have some holes on defense. But Coach Frank Beamer always fields a solid team, and I see no reason for 2008 to be any different. After the bad road loss to LSU early in 2007 and then the bowl loss to Kansas to end the year, VT hasn’t helped the ACC’s image much as the so called best team in the conference. Still, year after year after year, Beamer puts a hard-nosed, well disciplined team on the field capable of playing and beating anyone in America. The Hokies of 2008 will have yet another chance to show they can beat someone big from out of conference when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska mid-season to face the Cornhuskers.
15 – Texas Tech Red Raiders… It seems as if Graham Harrell has been quarterbacking Texas Tech since the 90’! Receiver Michael Crabtree is also back to give the Red Raiders yet another season of explosive O. But we already knew that Texas Tech was going to have a dynamic offense and score points. The key to them getting into the big time is the play of their defense, and for the first time under Coach Mike Leach, he feels their defense is up to par with his offense. That could result in a lot of W’s in Lubbock and Texas Tech challenging to make the BCS.
16 – Arizona State Sun Devils…Head Coach and Journeyman Dennis Erickson has done what many predicted he would do when he was brought to Tempe just two seasons back: bring the Sun Devils from being a pushover to being a formidable foe for even the top teams in their conference. After winning stints at Miami, Fl and Oregon State, Erickson took his first ASU team to a 10-3 record, number 16 final national ranking, and a Holiday Bowl berth. The defense is nothing special, so Erickson will have a challenge on his hand’s there. An early season game against Georgia will be a true gauge of how good his Sun Devils are.
17 – Tennessee Volunteers…The Eric Ainge era has finally come to an end, and the Vols will now see the ball in the hands of former Parade All-American Jonathon Crompton. He has the talent, no doubt about that, but his inexperience will have to go away quick. UT travels across the continent in week 1 to face UCLA. The Bruins are no national force, but they will be more than enough of a challenge for a season opener for a relatively untested quarterback. Head Coach Phillip Fulmer has the nation’s highest winning percentage of coaches who have coached over ten years, yet the folks in Knoxville are grumbling. Tennessee hasn’t won the SEC Championship since 1998 when they won the national championship – under Fulmer.
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