Contenders and Pretenders
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Now that a week of games have been played, we have something to go off of - even if just a hint. Here we will look at a few teams that seem to be for real, and a few teams that are built-up aplenty, but may or may not be worth their weight in media gold. I am talking about the teams that are too hyped for a national title, or are just right for a national title. This article could possibly be better in a few weeks, so we will do it again then!
Contender: LSU. The Tigers have dudes across the field that will play on Sunday. They aren't necessarily superstars, but guys at positions such as the offensive and defensive lines that don't get the spotlight but are just as important as anywhere. Against Oregon, I predicted that the LSU defense would win the game as Oregon would struggle against guys that were that good and athletic at all eleven spots. Sure enough, four turnovers led to 20 points and a win. I see this team having the depth to go the distance. Year in and year out you see them at or somewhere near the top of the recruiting rankings, at least as much as anybody else out there. QB Jordan Jefferson will return soon, and the LSU offense should step it up a notch with that. The D is already there...
Contender: Stanford. There is just no doubt in this college football universe that Andrew Luck at QB is the real deal and will be a regular for some NFL team for years to come. Former Coach Jim Harbaugh, who departed Stanford a year ago for the NFL, was a huge key to the success and attitude turn-around of the Cardinal. But even with him gone, Luck will bring pain to the opposition. In their opener - and yes, I know it is not exactly the stiffest competition - Luck and company put up 57 on San Jose State. And with the backup defense pitching a shutout in the second half (57-3 final), they will play enough defense to outscore most every team on their schedule. I know Oregon could have played better against LSU, and they will make adjustments and improve, but I think Stanford may, in fact, be the best team in the Pac 12 this year...
Contender: Virginia Tech. Year after year after year, folks talk about Frank Beamer being one of the top coaches in college football. And I think he is - no argument here. But for whatever reason, he has yet to put it all together, really bring home the big one...Well, this year I think he will give it a good shot. In recent seasons, Tech has stubbed their toe to some should-wins, but they won their tricky opener this year against Appalachian State by scoring 66 points. I am not sure why VT plays four relatively weak non-conference games consecutively to start the year, but they do. But I won't bash them because in past years they have always played quality early, and ECU away can be tricky still this coming week. I think VT is for real, and with no FSU on the schedule, and Clemson and Miami at home, this team has an extremely strong chance to finally have that monster year under Beamer...
Pretender: Texas A&M. The Aggies are ranked 7th right now in the AP poll released this afternoon. They are 1-0, defeating SMU, 46-14. I am not here to bash A&M, but I am just not sold yet. Head Coach Mike Sherman is 19-19 after three seasons, but I must give him credit for improvement. Still, despite the "improvement" I look at the 2010 losses. I see five tough teams they played on their 2010 slate, and they lost to four of them (including a 17-point loss to LSU in the Cotton Bowl). It isn't that I think TAMU just plain sucks or is no good. They are pretty good. But I just do not see them being #7 in the country and I think this will play out soon enough...
Pretender: Florida State. Obviously, since they are on my squad's schedule, I would want them to be as built-up as possible, so the ranking is fine by me. But I think this team is overhyped, and much of this has to do with FSU's name and a returning QB (EJ Manual) who is talented as all get out, but still a bit, well, I can't even think how to word it. I think they are good, yes. I think they are top 15. But I don't know if they are #5 (AP, just came out). They play Oklahoma in eleven days in Tallahassee. We will know a lot more about the Jimbo-Noles then...
Pretender: Oregon. Look, remember we are talking about "contenders" and "pretenders" on a national championship scale, here. The Ducks are damn good, and will win nearly all games on their schedule. But after a top five preseason ranking, they have a loss already, and I see a few games on their schedule that could be losses two, three and maybe even four. Stanford late stands out as especially tough. As far as national titles go, the Ducks could certainly still climb their way from AP #13 to #2 and get into the BCS National Championship Game. There just so happen to be 13 weeks left to play. But I just think Oregon will get beat again somewhere along the way, and a national championship appearance is not in the works for the 2011 season...
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