*UPDATE* - This has since been updated. Click the "Top 25" at the bottom of this article for the most recent versions.
Some might say I'm crazy, I think I'm just informed. I released my Top 25 Heisman Candidates 3 days after the 2007 Winner was announced, and 2 days after Double D-Bow finished Thanking God and his acceptance speech. So the question remains, why has it taken me so long to put up my Top 25. The BCS Title game was weeks ago. I apologize for the delay and without further adieu, here it is your 2008 Top 25 team in College Football. In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that it is rather extensive...and very long so make sure you're comfortable.
1. Georgia: They are tops among teams returning major talent. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are top 10 Heisman Candidates in my book and look to cause some serious damage to opposing teams. And their Defense? They held a Hawaii team that averaged 46.16 PPG to only 10 pts, 7 of which coming late in the 4th quarter by a (keep a look out for this kid next year) Tyler Graunke TD pass. If they can stay healthy and avoid some of the offensive stalls (S. Carolina game last year Stafford was 19/44 passing) they are looking at the title game.
Schedule Hurdles: September 20 at Arizona State will be the first major test, both should be unbeaten when they meet in Tempe. Then of course the late season SEC match-ups at LSU and Auburn, Home against Tennessee and the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville vs. Florida.
2. Oklahoma: Bradford excelled last season, and he happened to be a True Freshman starting at the Quarterback for a Major College Football team. The loss of Malcolm Kelly as Bradford's target won't be easy to take, but for a QB who threw for 3121 yards and 36 TDs last season, I think it might be something they're able to overcome. Juaquin Iglesias was the team's top receiver last year, though less explosive than Kelly, and Fiesta Bowl standout (4 rec. 129 yds, TD) Quentin Chaney should step up. Also available, especially in the Red Zone is Jermaine Gresham, the 6'5" TE wrangled 11 TDs on 37 receptions. Where's Denny Green to tell us that all he does is catch Touchdowns. The Defense loses some key players, especially in the secondary, but this is Oklahoma, Bob Stoops does Defense and he does it well. Now only if he could win a Bowl Game.
Schedule Hurdles: September 6 Home vs. Cincinnati could be a hiccup and then of course the Texas game in early October (Dallas). They will also get Texas Tech and Kansas at home this year.
3. USC: One of the only things that could stand in USC's way this season is all of the talk surrounding Coach Pete Carroll listening to offers at the next level. Distractions of this caliber are rarely good for a program. Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain are both highly capable Trojan leaders and as I mentioned during the Rose Bowl, Joe McKnight scares the hell out of me and Staffon Johnson performed admirable last season at RB. They're Offensive backfield looks good, really good. They're losing a couple key offensive linemen but due to injuries last season they learned how to play without them a little bit and this year's starters got a little more game experience. You can never say enough about game experience especially on the Offensive Line, the game moves so fast. One of the biggest gaps to fill receiving, with the loss of Mackey Award winning Tight End Fred Davis. But they have some young talent ready and waiting as well as Arkansas transfer Damian Williams. Defensively they lose Sedrick Ellis (Whose draft stock is rising and I predicted him 4th before all of the increased focus) and they lose LB Keith Rivers, but should be able to contain and outscore their opponents.
Schedule Hurdles: Day 1 - January is basically a Schedule Hurdle. SC in my mind is playing one of if not the toughest schedule of anyone. They start @ Virginia, then Home for Ohio State then the next 7 games of Conference play present some challenges including Saturday October 25 in Tucson. Homecoming for Arizona. If you are unaware of my stance on playing the Kitty Kats at homecoming read this, (I was subsequently right of course) as well as look at the picture on the right side of the screen UA 52 UCLA 14 from a couple years ago, yet another homecoming upset. It's what we do, we dismantle top teams in October and then rush the field.
4. Florida: They got Double D-Bow trying to win back to back Bronze Stiff-Arms. They're leading rusher is also trying to win the BSA, of course that would be D-Bow as well. Which leads to my major concern with the Florida program. Their leading rushers were their QB and a WR. In fact D-Bow and WR Percy Harvin had 1559 of the teams 2602 yards and 29 of 39 rushing TDs. Harvin will be back and actually at this moment of thought has just replaced Ryan Mallet on my 2008 Heisman Candidate list. With Harvin and D-Bow making up all three parts of a triple threat offense, and USC transfer Emmanuel Moody waiting in the wings things look good for Florida offense. Defensively they should be better than last season (9 out of 11 starters last season were first-year starters) and experience should make them a step quicker and smarter.
Schedule Hurdles: The test for their Defense will come in week one vs. Hawaii, just because they lost Jones and Brennan, don't count out Hawaii, Graunke put up 10 TDs as a back-up last season. They get LSU and S. Carolina at home but travel to Tennessee and of course the World's Largest Cocktail party in J-Ville vs. GA.
5. The Ohio State University: Biggest loss might be in prospected 1st rounder DE Vernon Gholston. But the biggest off-season acquisition for Ohio State came in the form of James Laurinaits sticking around another year. QB Todd Boeckman and RB Chris "Beanie" Wells could be finalists for the BSA and should lead this offense well. The defense should be able to overcome the loss of Gholston and actually might be able to improve in the off-season. This is a team that wasn't supposed to accomplish what it did last season and was motivated to get back. Tressel might be able to push them into the BCS for an unprecedented 3rd straight appearance. Hopefully the tougher non-conference schedule this year and an improved Big Eleven will make for tougher tests and better play heading into it.
Schedule Hurdles: OSU will not only be playing USC but will be traveling out West on September 13 (which 4Real and I may be attending) to do it. They will follow that up with a trip back to the Horseshoe to play the Trojans again, this time the Trojans of Troy who had a moderately successful 2007 8-4 run, with a Bowl loss to FAU. As for Big Eleven play they'll sidestep Wisconisin but they will go on the road to Champaign to try and avenge the loss to the Illini last year. They will also be at home against Penn State and Michigan.
6. Mizzou: Double D attack of Daniel and Derrick Washington will have to make this a strong offensive team heading into '08, it looked more promising when Tony Temple was appealing his redshirt status for another season at Mizzou, but according to the AP yesterday, Temple has dropped his appeal and will not return to Missouri for a redshirt Sr. Season. Missouri still has Maclin as a target for Daniel but will miss TE target Martin Rucker. Offense should not be a problem with 2 Heisman worthy candidates in Daniel and Maclin and 10 defensive starters. Their incoming recruiting class isn't too bad so far either.
Schedule Hurdles: Ready to make a run from day one Mizzou plays host to Illinois in most likely the most competitive week one match-up we'll see in '08. Their Big XII schedule is pretty weak, other than a road trip to Texas and the neutral site Border Showdown with Kansas, which could allow for another trip to the Big XII Championship and a BCS bid, which they narrowly missed out on last year.
7. LSU: Defending champs lose a little ground, but more importantly lose a lot of talent. Offensive trio of Flynn, Terry Bradshaw's 2nd cousin Jacob Hester, and top WR prospect Early Doucet all are draft bound. They also lost thier Top DT, LB, and DB in prospected #1 pick and all everything Award Winner Glenn Dorsey, Ali Highsmith, and Thorpe Award runner-up (to Antoine Cason) Craig Steltz. They also will be losing D Coordinator Bo Pelini to Nebraska. These are MAJOR gaps to fill but Ryan Perrilloux might be able to eclipse what Flynn did judging by some of his 2007 bright spots. Keiland Williams should step up and get some good yardage and WRs Brandon LaFell and Demetrius Byrd should be nice targets for Perrilloux. A lot of things will have to fall into place perfectly to see LSU trying to repeat.
Schedule Hurdles: The Tigers face Troy in week 2 but it shouldn't be too difficult. The month of October could be a lot to overcome for these guys going on the Florida and South Carolina and then seeing Georgia in Baton Rouge. If they make it through that 3 game stretch without a loss, they should definitely be looking at a top BCS game and the SEC championship.
8. Texas: Colt McCoy was born and bred to be a Texas QB, and going into his Junior Season it's time to prove it. The Longhorns have been successful compared to most other teams in the last few years but not for Texas standards. Colt's turnovers, 18 INT in 2007 and 4 Fumbles in the Holiday Bowl (1 lost, 1 converted into a TX TD) are becoming a problem in Austin that needs to be resolved for success. Mack Brown is a damned good coach, and he wants to prove that his BCS win over USC a couple years ago was not only because of Vince Young (even though Vince did single handedly defeat the Trojans in one of the most amazing College Football performances ever.) Losing Jamaal Charles and Jermichael Finley will be tough for Texas to overcome, meaning more pressure on the shoulders of McCoy. This season will revolve completely around McCoy. A Heisman worth campaign should lead the team to a top record and possibly to the Big XII Championship.
Schedule Hurdles: Oct.11 Texas meets Oklahoma in Dallas for the Red River Shootout. A win there catapults this team into the driver's seat in the Big XII but tough road tests against Texas Tech and Kansas could end BCS chances in November.
9. West Virginia: We are entering into the Bill Stewart era in Morgantown and WVU is ready. The Loss of Slaton will not be easy to overcome, but Pat White coming back solidifies this offense and Noel Devine will be looking to impress but they won't have top Full Back Owen Schmitt back there to help carry the load. Bill Stewart did a nice job of focusing and preparing the players for the Fiesta Bowl, but will he be able to do it for an entire season. When WVU loses will comparisons be made to the Rodriguez led team of 2007. The loss of leading Receiver Darius Raynaud is not easy to overcome. 8 seems high for WV but the Big East doesn't look to be as competitive as last year so they should be able to have a pretty nice record.
Schedule Hurdles: Auburn in week one will be a daunting task and the difference between starting the season in the Top 15 and ending the season in the Top 15. A win almost ensures a bowl game since the rest of the schedule is rather soft and the only other hiccups are the rest of the Big East which WV looks to be distancing itself from.
10. Clemson: Someone from the ACC has to stand out and with the Hurricanes playing like the Orange Bowl looks it's not going to be Miami. Tommy Bowden has been making strides each year and '08 looks to be the year that he makes it into the Top 10 and possibly heading to a BCS game. Most of their Offensive weapons will be back, but most of their offensive line will not. That looks to be a serious spot for concern. It looks like most of the defensive starters will be back for '08 as well. And Top Recruit 5 Star DeQuan Bowers should make an immediate impact on the Defensive Line, plus he's a December Graduate which means he will have Spring Ball to learn a lot of the Defense. It's still early for some recruits but this is definitely one of the top recruiting classes in the country. 2008 will be a good year for Clemson, 2009 might be THE year for the Tigers.
Schedule Hurdles: S. Carolina at the end of November could be a good late season match-up, but the Tigers look to be the cream of the ACC crop. They'll have to go against Virginia, Florida State, and Wake which won't be walkaway victories but Clemson should be able to walkaway with the W.
11. Auburn: The Tigers had a good 2007 season which culminated in an overtime win against Clemson and an 8-4 record. The biggest questions surrounding Auburn's 2008 campaign are centered around replacing QB Brandon Cox with Sophomore Kodi Burns. This could be promising for Auburn with Cox's 13 INTs last season overshadowing his 9 TDs and 2000 yards as well as Burns' mobility. The Tigers also return top rushers Ben Tate and Brad Lester and top receivers Rodgeriqus Smith and Montez Billings. The even bigger questions though aren't suiting up in the fall. The coaching carousel went through Jordan Hare Stadium this off season with both Offensive and Defensive Coordinators leaving. Auburn stole away Troy's Tony Franklin to attempt to install the Spread in Alabama.
Schedule Hurdles: They start September on the Road up to Morgantown and the rest of September doesn't look much easier playing host to LSU and Tennessee. Wins in those games could mean that the November 15 game hosting Georgia could be one of the best games of 2008.
12. Wisconsin: If P.J. Hill can stay healthy he'll have the bulk of the carries for a Wisconsin team looking to improve. If he can't do it Smith and Brown proved they can filling in for Hill last season. Transfer Allan Evridge will be looking to get some PT replacing departed Tyler Donovan. TE Travis Beckum (no relation to Posh and Becks) will be returning and looking to add on to his two previous 900+ yd receiving seasons. The defense is going to have to prove it's muster in the Big Eleven and shut some teams down, relying on your offense in a shoot-out is typically not the way to win in the NCAA. They allowed over 21 PPG last season.
Schedule Hurdles: An early match-up with Fresno State is crying out for Fresno to have their first big win of the season and Wisconsin needs to hold up to have a successful 2008. Playing Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Illinois in a 5 week span doesn't bode well for a team new to the pressure of Top 25, but luckily only Michigan is on the road during that stretch.
13. Texas Tech: This record setting offense is ready to show it's serious firepower. Unlike Wisconsin, this is a team that can play a shootout and win. They put up at LEAST 31 pts every single game last season and were over 40 8 of 12 games. Harrell's back and with his 5700 yds passing, and he's looking at 6000 this year potentially. Freshman phenom Michael Crabtree will be a Sophomore, and he will be double-teamed every game, but still could haul in 2000 yds receiving. RB Shannon Woods is back to help in the Red Zone (8 TDs last season). Plus the 5 guys who limited Harrell's time on the turf are all returning aiming to drop those sacks down from 16. As I mentioned the defense is more of an afterthought here, but they will be strong on D returning 8 Starters.
Schedule Hurdles: Late season Big XII contests look to be in the way going to Kansas in October, hosting Texas the following week, and heading to Oklahoma on the 15th of November.
14. Kansas: Surprised everyone in the world with their run last season losing once in the regular season. Of course they played one of the weakest schedules in all of College Football so when they beat Va. Tech in the Orange Bowl they opened some eyes. QB Todd Reesing will be returning and looking to improve on last season's coming out party in which he threw for 33 TD and 7 INT. They are losing leading rusher Brandon McAnderson, but back-up Jake Sharp fared well last season, and Reesing isn't afraid to use his legs either. On Defense 9 of 11 starters will be returning. People will be gunning for the Jayhawks this year and it's time to show if last year was a fluke or not.
Schedule Hurdles: Their non-conference doesn't get much harder than last season but they will be playing at South Florida in Mid-September. This year they drew the tough road through the Big XII having to visit Oklahoma and end the season with back to back home games against Texas and Mizzou.
15. VT: VT is looking to rebound off a slightly down emotional 2007 season and loss in the Orange Bowl. Starting QB Glennon is back, and dual threat back-up Tyrod Taylor is too. RB Brendan Ore will be looking for his first 1000 yd season in his Sr. yr. The biggest hit felt in Blacksburg is the loss of their Top 4 receivers, that's about 2000 yds and 15 TDs from last season that won't be back, or the equivalent of 1 Michael Crabtree. They're losing 6 starting Defensive standouts including LB Xavier Adibi.
Schedule Hurdles: This season is a good year to have to rebuild a little bit. Road games to Nebraska and Florida State and a home game against Virginia look to be the only possible major struggles the Hokies face, at least until possibly meeting Clemson in the ACC Championship.
16. Arizona State: Surprised many last season firing out of the gates to one of their best starts in the last decade, but 2008 doesn't look to repeat such success. Sure Scum Devils are among the top 3-4 teams in the Pac-10 but they're losing RB Ryan Torain and Incoming backstabber/RB Ryan Bass won't likely make an immediate impact in Tempe. We saw a lot of ASU's weaknesses come out in their Holiday Bowl loss to Texas, beaten in almost every facet of the game. The bright spot is the return of QB Rudy Carpenter for his Sr. Season, Keegan Herring will likely become the every down back and most of the receiving corps will still be around. The defense will get hit, but it should be able to recover for a successful season. Rather than being disappointed with a Holiday Bowl berth as they were last year, it looks as if the Devils should be excited for the bid.
Schedule Hurdles: The Devils will start out slow but their 4th game against Georgia could be one of the top games of the year. That starts a 5 game stretch where the Devils will have to be playing their best, going on the road to Cal and SC, playing host to Oregon then heading up to Corvalis.
17. Oregon: No Dixon, No Stewart, how could the Ducks possibly be # 17 especially after finished 23/24 in the polls last season. Well unless the Sun Bowl was a mirage, incoming QB Justin Roeper is ready to heal the wounds in Eugene of the what could have been 2007 squashed on the 37 yard-line at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. Jeremiah Johnson should be ready to go this fall after rehabbing his ACL injury that kept him out of the last 7 games last season. They're going to have to shore up their defensive interior to compete, but I think they've got the talent to do it. The return of Safety Patrick Chung should help the Oregon defense immensely.
Schedule Hurdles: Games at Purdue and home against Boise State highlight the non-conference schedule for the Ducks who then must go through the top to bottom improved Pac-10.
18. BYU: Quite simply they've been making noise, and are finally ready to be heard. After back to back double digit win seasons and bowl berths they are ready to get some recognition from day one. The defense was impacted a little bit but the offense will remain almost perfectly in tact. Expect incoming True Freshmen Uona Kaveinga to make an immediate impact in Provo. In another case of mid-major supremacy don't be surprised to see BYU going to another bowl this year and getting a little more attention.
Schedule Hurdles: Sticking with their history of scheduling Pac-10 teams they will be heading to Washington but more importantly will be hosting UCLA. The only tough conference game they're going to see will be at Air Force in the second to final week of the season.
19. Penn State: The Nittany Lions are ready for 2008 and should be competitive within the Big Eleven. The things separating them from OhSt and Wisc are minimal and a couple wins in those games would move the JoePas higher in the Top 25 for sure. They lost QB Anthony Morelli who was a good team leader and QB and as much as they'll miss his 2651 yds they won't miss his 2:1 TD to INT ratio. Daryll Clark will have the pressure on him since he will be leading a team where almost every other starter has been there before and he hasn't . The defense will be key for the '08 JoePas.
Schedule Hurdles: Non-Conference should be a cake walk with only visiting Oregon State being worhty of a little worry, but PSU should get by them. With Home games against Illinois and Michigan and Road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State being the true tests.
20. Illinois: Juice Williams is back, so is Eddie McGee. Rashard Mendenhall is not. If Juice can cut the INTs, a lot, they should be able to adjust. Especially with the Rose Bowl defeat showing us how much they relied on Mendenhall. Illinois can continue to build on last season's success and Zook's coaching or fall back down to middle of the Big Eleven. Zook is, and always has been a great recruiter and last season's Rose Bowl run has helped him immensely. Williams will be the Veteran leader, and will be leading a lot of young, raw, talent out to the field. If they can finish in the Top 25 consider it a good year for the Illini since it's potentially a rebuilding year. And look out for 2009, Juice's Senior year. This year's Illini could be the definition of one year away.
Schedule Hurdles: Labor Day weekend and "The Arch Rivalry" game with Mizzou will be a big challenge and set the tone for 2009. After that it's clear sailing until they play the rest of the Big Eleven.
21. Tennessee: Erik Ainge is gone and the success of the 2008 Volunteers lies on the shoulders of Jonathon Crompton or one of two back-up Sophomore's who never saw the field last year. There aren't any QB's coming in yet in this year's recruits so the position is a little thin. RB Arain Foster had a successful scope job last week and will be ready by spring. RB Montario Hardesty isn't a scrub either and will get help carry the load that will be ground heavy. Lucas Taylor will be a down field target at times and he will lead the receiving corps. Two question marks are the recent off field issues that have been facing the program and whether or not their defense will be able to tighten up a little bit and limit the PPG (after allowing 23 last season).
Schedule Hurdles: Mid season stack up of Florida, at Auburn and at Georgia, then a lesser test against S. Carolina a couple weeks later.
22. Virginia: Cavaliers Defense limiting Texas Tech to 31 points was no small feat. It was the fewest points the Rebs put on the board all season. The only major loss from that defense is top pick Chris Long. Most of their offense is coming back as well as getting back top receiver Kevin Ogletree who missed 2007 with a knee injury as well as RB Cedric Peerman who had 585 yds in 5.5 games. Especially in the weak ACC Virginia could surprise and contend with Clemson and Va Tech.
Schedule Hurdles: Clemson at home and at Va Tech look to be the only real challenges. Unless Florida State or Wake step-up.
23. Michigan: The Rodriguez era is officially beginning and TENTATIVELY I'm putting Michigan in here, of course they don't have a QB right now but are heavily recruiting Terrell Pryor, the nation's top recruit. On record in more than a few places is the already possible questionaly recruiting in Ann Arbor with the pictures of Pryor and a Corvette surfacing. With Mallet gone it really is Pryor or nothing in Ann Arbor. No Henne, No Manningham, no Arrington, no Hart, no Long, and some defensive losses to might have Michigan falling out of the Top 25 early, and not returning at all. Already the pre-season no.5 in the Big Eleven. This could be worse than last year's loss to Appy State. It's a clean state for Coach Rod, we'll have to see if leaving Morgantown was worth it.
Schedule Hurdles: Luckily for the Wolverines they don't play games on the road ever with Notre Dame the master of futility Michigan officially doesn't play a challenging out of conference game but Wisconsin, Illinois, and Penn State in a 4 week span has the Wolverines lucky to be 2-2 when it's done.
24. S. Carolina: Could be a good season for the Gamecocks and Spurrier after last seasons 6-6 (0-5 in the last 5) epic collapse look for a resurgent 2008 team. Will be overshadowed by the rest of the SEC but as a curse also being a blessing, this gives them ample opportunity to tumble one of the SEC golliaths and move up the rankings. That 6-1 record last year was not a complete fluke and they just need to avoid the complacency. We all know Spurrier is a hell of a recruiter and we'll see more of his recruits take the field this year.
Schedule Hurdles: One of the toughest schedules we'll see full of names like Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Florida and Clemson gives lots of opportunites for upsets.
25. Fresno State: Tim Brandstater will have the stage to show those on the west coast his talents, and RB Ryan Matthews looks to build on a outstanding Freshman season. We have had a WAC team go to a BCS game in the past 2 seasons. It's not going to be Boise State or Hawaii. Most likely it won't be Fresno State either, but they look to be the class of the WAC right now. And even though it's a mid-major, being the best in a conference usually gets some votes and garners some attention.
Schedule Hurdles: Tough opener at UCLA could detour the Bulldogs hopes at a Top 25 season, and Wisconsin visiting a couple weeks later only makes it harder. From there on out they're in conference play and should hold up against most other WAC teams.
Just missing the cut are Pitt, South Florida, Wake, Arizona, Cal, and UCLA (with the addition of Norm Chow).
That's it for now feel free to Comment or e-mail me if you think I'm wrong. These will likely change after Spring Ball but who knows.
*UPDATE* - This has since been updated here.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
*UPDATE* - This has since been updated. Click the "Top 25" at the bottom of this article for the most recent versions.