Monday, July 7, 2008

2008 College Football Preseason Top 25 ver. 2.0

*This has been updated! Click the "Top 25" Link to see the most recent Top 25 Posts*

Ok we're looking at T Minus 53 days until my beloved Kitty Kats kick off against Idaho at Arizona Stadium, 51 days until the official kickoff to the College Football season. The best 4 and a half months of the year. The fact that we continue to cover and discuss College Football through February and begin preseason coverage starting in June, breaking that down to 9 months of coverage here on The BearDown, you better believe we're counting down the days until late August. I can smell Corso's Aqua Velva already. I can't wait for Herbstreit's dead accurate crazy upset predictions. So as promised last week in my Conference by Conference breakdown I would deliver my Re-Vamped Top 25 list this week.

If you would like to, you may refer to my Original Top 25, published in January. This 2008 College Football preseason rankings of the Top 25 will be updated again a few more times going into the season, and Every Monday during the season. The first number is their BearDown rank (According to me), the number in the parenthesis is their old rank (in January). There is also a mention of schedule hurdles they need to overcome and a list of All-Americans on their roster, according to The Beardown All-Americans

1. (2) Oklahoma Sooners
Moving up a spot in my book Oklahoma sits atop this board. I'm putting a lot of faith in a True Sophomore if I'm one of the Norman faithful. Sam Bradford was great last season. He rarely, very rarely showed any signs of being a True Freshman taking his first snaps. Especially with the pressure of being a True Freshman starter for Oklahoma. Oklahoma quarterbacks are not typically known as passing leaders but Bradford put up monster numbers last year (3,121 yards, 36 TDs). The loss of receiver Malcolm Kelly (49 Rec. 821 yds, 9 TDs) won't be easy for the Sooners, but they may be able to recover. But team leader, Juaquin Iglesias, in yards and receptions will be Bradford's target once again and Redshirt Freshman Tyler Stradford hopes to deliver as Kelly's replacement. Quentin Chaney made a showing the Fiesta Bowl so perhaps he will be able to make a name for himself in his Senior Year. Outstanding TE Jermaine Greshman will also be an offensive threat. The Sooner Offensive Line is strong, as usual, and there are 5 Sooners on the Bednarik Award Watch List. The Award given to the outstanding defensive player. Bob's Troops are typically pretty damn strong defensively. The only real thing standing between OK and the BCS Championship is Oklahoma's recent Bowl Record (4-5 under Stoops, 1-4 in the last 5).

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.

BearDown All-Americans: OT Phil Loadholt, OG Duke Robinson, DB Nic Harris, QB Sam Bradford, TE Jermaine Gresham, DE Auston English.

2. (3) USC Trojans
Also moving up a spot in the recent Top 25 breakdown are the Men of Troy. Mark Sanchez looks to have the nod of Coach Carroll heading into the season, but competent and capable Mitch Mustain will be right there. Now as we all know 10 Trojans were drafted a couple months ago. 2 of which were starting Offensive Linemen and USC lost 2 other Offensive Linemen who went undrafted. In retrospect, the Offensive Line injuries they suffered last year were a blessing in disguise because the guys stepping in this year have game experience which is the only kind that matters on the line. There are some big cleats to fill there but as we have seen over the last decade USC has talent to spare. Early miscommunications on the line might lead to a few extra sacks and a rough start to the season for their RB core, but hopefully, for their sake, they can get all of those issues out of the way in the Virgina game and the next two weeks of practice before the Ohio State game. Joe McKnight is a freak and will be able to produce in the SC backfield and there are many other Running Backs ready for competition. The USC RB situation is never in doubt. If one of them can't handle it, one of the other 29 5-Star recruits will be able to step in. Really trying to do a position by position breakdown for USC is pointless because they are always a top recruiter. Guys go there knowing their going to sit on the bench for two years to explode and win Awards in their Junior or Senior year. TE Fred Davis is gone, but there are two young talents battling for the job who would start anywhere else. They lost 5 starters on their defense and might be better off this year, which is hard to say.

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 followed by 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. Sorry, got off track there. USC will play one of the toughest schedules, and holding out against these top teams, and NOT losing the Stanford should put USC in the Top 2 going into the BCS Championship Game.

BearDown All-Americans: DT Fili Moala, DB Taylor Mays, RB Joe McKnight, LB Brian Cushing, LB Rey Maualuga, DB Kevin Ellison.

3. (1) Georgia Bulldogs
My Opening Number 1 team is down 2 spots, Georgia is Free Fallin'. Reason number 1 for their slippage, off-field issues. I still think they are the top team I still think everything I said before is dead on, "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." It's all still true. Flat out they are the best team in the country STILL going into the 2008 season, the problem is, half of their team might be in jail or on probation. Plus constant media attention and questions might mess with these 18-21 year old minds and get them off track. If they stay on track, stay out of jail, and (as mentioned above) avoid any offensive stalls in production, they will be in the Title Game. They've got the talent.

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. We'll see pretty early on just how good this team is and if they'll have enough to win it all.

BearDown All-Americans: RB Knowshon Moreno, LB Dannell Ellerbee.

4. (5) Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes have been to the last two BCS Championship games and has walked away with a pair of beat downs. Ohio State's success has been predicated on a strong defense. It hurt to lose Vernon Gholston to the draft but keeping Laurinaitis is like the prize at the bottom of the cereal. The '06 Nagurski Trophy winner and '07 Butkus Award winner is a monster, or should I say, and Animal. Sorry, I can't help it. If you don't get the joke, google it. The defense will continue to be strong and Ohio State is quickly becoming Linebacker U. On the other side of the ball Boeckman and Beanie are on the Bronze Stiff Arm watch list, and there are a couple of nice receiving targets for Boeckman in WRs Robiskie and Hartline. They lost to Florida and were focused on making it back to the BCS Championship when they weren't supposed to. They had the drive to get there again but couldn't get past LSU. If losing once was enough to push them back again, then losing twice might be enough to get them over the 2 year hump.

Schedule Hurdles: OSU will not only be playing USC but it will be at the Memorial Coliseum on September 13. They will follow that up with a trip back to the Horseshoe to play the Trojans again, but 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.

BearDown All-Americans: LB James Laurinaitis, DB Malcolm Jenkins, RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, WR Brian Robiskie, LB Marcus Freeman, DB Rashad Johnson.

5. (4) Florida Gators
When he's not circumcising kids in foreign countries Double D-Bow is throwing and running Touchdowns. All season long the question will be there, constantly. Can he...Will he? Is it possible to win back to back BSA's. He already was the first Sophomore to take one home so breaking long standing traditions isn't out of the realm of possibility for this guy. Really the only problem facing the problem is if Timmy Boy goes down with an injury. Having a dual threat like that is great, until they get injured and you lose your leading passer and rusher. WR Percy Harvin is ready to turn some heads and he'll be in contention for the pose award. Former Trojan RB Emmanuel Moody will be stepping in there to help out the leading Florida Rushing tandem of the aforementioned QB and WR. They return most of their starting defense, most of which (9) were first year starters. They will be solid. The World's Largest Cocktail Party in J-Ville will most likely determine one of the National Champion participants.

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, Tucson Bred 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, as mentioned before, will be the true test of their season.

BearDown All-Americans: LB Brandon Spikes, PR Brandon James, QB Tim Tebow, WR Percy Harvin.

6. (6) Missouri Tigers
The first of 3 teams that didn't move an inch, despite all movement surrounding them. The Double D attack of Daniel and Derrick Washington will have to make this a strong offensive team heading into '08. They'll have to make up for the loss of Offensive threat Tony Temple. Mizzou has Maclin, and I don't want to see Tigerfan holding that sign up on ESPN next season. That's straight BD Copyright. Jeremy Maclin is a stud and will make a big splash this season. Daniel Washington, and Maclin will be a force to be reckoned with. Their defense aint too shabby and they will have their work cut out for them as they're going to have to hold back the Sooners and Texas Tech's Offensive outbursts. They were in the running until the Big XII Championship last year and haven't lost a whole lot other than Temple and TE Martin Rucker. TE Chase Coffman should be at the very least an adequate replacement for Rucker. He should put up some solid numbers and could very possibly eclipse Mr. Rucker.

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.

BearDown All-Americans: QB Chase Daniel, WR Jeremy Maclin, DB William Moore, TE Chase Coffman.

7. (10) Clemson Tigers
The best the ACC has to offer, by far is Clemson. And before I get into this I, still holding a grudge against the Moron Clemson fan from the last post, would like to point out, once again Clemson is in my Top Ten, in fact they have moved up to Number 7. So please don't comment on the bottom that,

"Anonymous said... This is awful. you dont even have clemson in the top 25 when they are returning 15 starters and have the number 2 recruiting class in the nation. Not to mention having a tandem of FOUR top 10 RB recruits. In addition Cullen Harper will have his name in the heisman running this year. Check your facts next time."

Way to capitalize the word FOUR but not clemson or heisman. Anyhow please read before commenting, especially when I had them in the Top Ten and the reasons you mentioned were the exact same reasons I had them in the Top Ten. As I said before Tommy Bowden has improved the Tigers over the past couple years and they have an outside shot at the BCS Championship. If only they played in a major conference. Regardless expect to see them in the Top Ten all season and depending on things fall above them, they could be in contention. 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. But I'll check my facts next time, and yes I'm running this into the ground. I have mentioned this idiot who can't read in multiple posts, and will continue to do so until I get an apology for him reading Number One, NOT seeing Clemson and berating me for "skipping" Clemson in my Top 25.

Schedule Hurdles: There aren't many hurdles to overcome but S. Carolina at the end of November has potential as 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 easy victories but Clemson should be able to walkaway with the W in all of those.

BearDown All-American: DE Ricky Sapp.

8. (9) West Virginia Mountaineers
Depending on how much media attention is placed on the lack of Rich Rodriguez in Morgantown will be something we need to see develop. They beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl right after the loss of Rodriguez so it looks like Bill Stewart will be able to keep the players in line despite media attention. They look to rebound and have another BCS potential year with the return of White and Noel Devine. The only 3 reasons they aren't a little bit higher is that they were successful last year under RichRod's Spread offense, they lost Steve Slaton, and they lost leading receiver Darius Raynaud. We also still have to see what Stewart will do with the reigns and if the Spread will remain. The Big East won't be as competitive as it was last year and the Mountaineers should be at the top come December.

Schedule Hurdles: Auburn in week one will be a daunting task, in fact THE 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, as I mentioned, WV looks to be distancing itself from the pack.

BearDown All-Americans: RB Noel Devine, OG Greg Isdaner, OL Ryan Stanchek.

9. (11) Auburn Tigers
The third best Tiger Team on this list, but not the last, moves up a couple spots in Version 2.0. The 8-4 record should definitely improve this year, especially with the promising OT victory over Clemson last season. The number one question Tigerfans are looking at right now is whether Kodi (with a K) Burns can step in for QB Brandon Cox this year. Burns is more mobile and doesn't have the history of poor decisions that Cox had (13 INTs). But he is relatively unproven and young. The rest of their offensive weapons (Tate, Lester, Smith, and Billings) will be back to make things easier on Burns. The other major change in the Tiger program was the pilfering of their coaching staff, both coordinators have left Auburn, but Auburn brought in Troy's Tony Franklin to install the Spread which should be beneficial to Burns and the quick attack of Auburn's offense.

Schedule Hurdles: Week One starts the uphill battle on the Road in Morgantown and the rest of September doesn't look much easier though they are playing host to LSU and Tennessee. Wins in those games could mean that the November 15 game, again at home, versus Georgia could be one of the best games of 2008. The Tigers have one of the toughest schedules but Jordan Hare Stadium will be rocking with all of the solid home games. If home field advantage holds true, Auburn's got a shot.

BearDown All-Americans: DT Sen’Derrick Marks, P Ryan Shoemaker.

10. (13) Texas Tech Red Raiders
I'll be the first to admit, I don't know what the hell to expect from TTech. At 10 I think their too high and too low. Are they really the 2nd best in the Big XII South? Is Texas Tech really better than Texas? It seems so wrong to me, but their offense is just too good to rank outside of the Top Ten. It's gaudy and it makes the Turn of the Century Rams "Greatest Show on Turf" look like they were running the Wishbone. When you're putting up 31 points a game and it's your LOWEST production get outta here. They put up 40 points in 75% of their games. Graham Harrell's back and Michael Crabtree is, well look him up. All 5 Starting Linemen return (only allowed 16 sacks), RB Shannon Woods is back. They have a defense too, 8 of 11 starters will be back. No Offense to their D, I'm a Defense fan, but no one in Lubbock knows any of their names so I don't bother either. It's not even that they're subpar in any way, they're good, but as long as they can limit the opposition to under 30 points it should be a Win.

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.

BearDown All-Americans: WR: Michael Crabtree. (Harrell is on the BSA Watch List, but he didn't make the All-American list due to only 4 spots available.)

11. (8) Texas Longhorns
They slipped a little bit. Not because of anything they have or haven't done over the last 6 months, it's just that second thoughts on WVU, Aub, and TTech made them move up a bit. I still think that Colt McCoy is a born and bred Texas Quarterback. He's had moments of greatness, but this year needs to be his coming out party. 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. Bottom Line, that's the reason they're number 11 and not higher. I'm a Mack Brown guy, part of me wants Texas to flop this season and see him on his way out the door, Arizona would jump on him in a second if Stoops can't get his troops in line this year. This season for Texas is on McCoy's shoulders 100%, it's that simple this team will live and die with their QB even more than they did when Vince Young beat USC for the Championship. The schedule hurdles they face this year are going to be huge in an even more competitive Big XII than other recent years. (4 in the Top 11).

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.

BearDown All-Americans: Zero, but the Teams' success, as mentioned above, will lie with Colt. A Heisman candidate worthy season will catapult him to All-American Status.

12. (14) Kansas Jayhawks
A Surprise to many last year, apparently Kansas has a football team in addition to a basketball team. Many of us were unaware. Under Head Coach Mark Mangino the Jayhawks had Huge Success last season and look to continue the streak of Big XII annoyance to the traditional powers. They finished the season with 1 loss and took Coach Mangino from a 25-35 career record at KU to 37-36. It appears, to me at least, that Kansas will fall out of National Championship Contention due to Oklahoma, Missouri, and the Texas schools looking so powerful, but Kansas won't go away and could definitely avenge their loss to Mizzou last season (which took them out of National Championship Contention) and be playing for the Crystal Football. What's the downside to Kansas? One of the weakest schedules in the history of sport. It made Duke Basketball's nonconference schedule look like Arizona's. Then of course when they beat VTech in the Orange Bowl, many people were shocked and realized, maybe they really were for real. Reesing (33 TD 7 INT) is returning and has garnered some national attention, they also return 9 of 11 defensive starters.

Schedule Hurdles: Chances are they are heading into conference play with a nice record and a number next to their name. Their non-conference doesn't get much harder than last season but they will be playing at South Florida in Mid-September. They also drew the tough road through the Big XII this year having to visit Oklahoma and end the season with back to back home games against Texas and Mizzou after last season's easier Big XII schedule.

BearDown All-American: QB Todd Reesing.

13. (7) LSU Tigers
The biggest fall of the Top 25 thus far, LSU. Why? Gone on Offense: Flynn, Doucet, Hester, and now Perriloux. Gone on Defense: Highsmith, Dorsey, and Steltz. Gone in the Booth: Bo Pelini LSU is LSU and is the only multiple BCS Champion of the last 10 years. LSU is good and the SEC is so muddled but Georgia, Florida, and Auburn will shine above the others in the SEC, but the media bias surrounding the SEC should put LSU in the Top 25 for the first part of the season. There are too many holes to fill for LSU to have a decent shot at the Title game, and most likely they won't venture inside of the Top Ten too often.

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 though going on the road to Florida and South Carolina and then seeing Georgia in Baton Rouge. If they make it through that 3 game stretch without a loss, they could definitely be looking at a top BCS game and the SEC championship, chances are they aren't going to make it through the SEC without at least 2 losses.

BearDown All-Americans: WR Demetrius Byrd, DE Tyson Jackson.

14. (12) Wisconsin Badgers
No fault of their own, Wisconsin has slipped 2 spots. Why? Because Kansas and Texas Tech made a believer out of me, and the Big Eleven isn't going to get the same media cred of the Big XII and SEC. P.J. Hill will shoulder the load for the Badgers and he's shown in the past that if he can stay healthy, he can do that. They've got a TE, Beckum, with back to back 900+ yd seasons. and transfer QB Allan Evridge could make an immediate impact. They, like Texas Tech, are going to rely on outscoring other teams, especially once Big Eleven play rolls around. Their offense isn't a powerful though which is why they will drop a couple games where they're outscored. Allowing, on average, 21+ PPG is not common of a Top 25 team.

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 the only traveling they'll do is to subpar Michigan during that stretch.

BearDown All-Americans: TE Travis Beckum, PR David Gilreath, RB P.J. Hill.

15. (18) BYU Cougars
Moving up 3 spots BYU making the first appearance of a mid-major. The pride of the Mountain West Conference BYU has been hovering the last couple years. They've been overlooked by many but they're starting to get their name out there. After back to back double digit win seasons and bowl berths they are ready to get some recognition from the opening whistle, not week 9. The defense took a minor hit but remarkably the offense will remain almost perfectly in tact. Losing near verbal commit ILB Uona Kaveinga to USC hurt a little bit because he would have made an immediate impact. Soft conference could lead BYU to a BCS game this season, trying to pick up where Hawai'i left off last year.

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.

BearDown All-Americans: OG Ray Feinga, OL Dallas Reynolds.

16. (16) ASU Sun Devils
Despite the movement everywhere else (except #6) ASU stays right where they were. Everyone knew you couldn't write them off entering into the Erickson era, but no one was expecting BCS talk in Tempe in October. It was one of their best starts of the last decade. Unfortunately, they probably won't be as successful. They should still be a very successful team in 08. Sure the Scum Devils should be the #2 team in the Pac-10 but they're losing RB Ryan Torain and Incoming 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. Rudy Carpenter has grown over the last 4 years, but it has been too slow of progress from what was expected out of him in '04. This is his year to make a statement if he wants to play on Sundays.

Schedule Hurdles: The Devils will start out slowly but surely with a soft schedule, 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 Corvallis. If they go 3-2 during that 5 game span, they look to be going to a nice Bowl Game, but won't be in any BCS conversations. Going 5-0 is not very likely.

BearDown All-American: PK: Thomas Webber.

17. (15) Virginia Tech Hokies
Emotions ran high last season in Blacksburg, but the season wasn't what was expected and the crushing loss to Kansas in the Orange Bowl didn't help. They've got Dual quarterbacks, led by starter Glennon. And it's not a QB Controversy. It's a carousel and it's a good thing for the Hokies right now. If you disagree, go ask Tebow and Leak after the '07 BCS game. RB Brendan Ore will shoulder the load of the rushing game, unless back-up QB Taylor sparks the running game with scrambles. Unfortunately their 4 top receivers are gone. As I said before, that's 2000 yards and 15 TDs (or 1 Michael Crabtree) that they have to replace. 6 of their 11 Defensive starters have gone away too. Luckily they play in the ACC and it's a good year to rebuild in the ACC.

Schedule Hurdles: Road games to Nebraska and Florida State and a home game against Virginia look to be the only possible struggles the Hokies face and those all seem attainable. They should be comfortable, close at times, until meeting Clemson in the ACC Championship.

BearDown All-Americans: Zero, they lost too much talent, but it's possible that Tyrod Taylor makes some noise going into the '09 season in much the same way Double D-Bow did in Florida.

18. (21) Tennessee Volunteers
Another big jumper in today's reset the Vols jump up 3 spots. Tennessee's season can be summed up in three words. Crompton, Foster, and points. They are the offensive hope of the Volunteers '08 success. Some offseason problems were around last season and the early offseason but those have gone into the distant memory of the Tennessee faithful. Tennessee needs, absolutely NEEDS to tighten up the Defense even more so than Wisconsin. Tennessee's woes were on the defensive side of the ball last season giving up 23 PPG. Bottom line, Tennessee could be a surprise to many this season or could be out of the Top 25 by week 6, possibly earlier. They hit a rough spot in the SEC schedule and need to escape as unscathed as possible to vie for a top tier bowl game. BCS is pretty much out of the picture in Knoxville.

Schedule Hurdles: Mid season stack up of Florida, at Auburn, and at Georgia, then a lesser test against S. Carolina a couple weeks later. No one wants to run through three of the Top Ten in a 3 week span.

BearDown All-American: OL Anthony Parker.

19. (17) Oregon Ducks
I know what you are thinking. They barely finished in the Top 25 last season, No Dixon, No Stewart, and Sophomore Quarterback with 2 games under his belt. How can they be in the Top 20. How did they possibly move UP in the rankings from last season. Well I took all of that into account and that's why they're 19 instead of 17 this go around, but guess what, they're still a Top 20 team. Especially when that Sophomore QB with 2 games of experience is Justin Roper, who set a record for TD passes (4) against South Florida in the Sun Bowl, threw 30/55, 324 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT and QB Ratings of 118.78 and 151.07. Eugene is excited about this guy for sure. Jeremiah Johnson will be back after missing 7 games last season. The Defense will be lead by Patrick Chung but will need to work well together in the interior.

Schedule Hurdles: Games at Purdue and home against Boise State highlight the non-conference schedule.

BearDown All-Americans: OL Max Unger, LB Jerome Boyd, DB Patrick Chung.

20. (19) Penn State Nittany Lions
They slipped one spot, and I'm not sure where they will be come August. They've had some off-field issues, more than their share. The Ghost of JoePa is in his last contract year. There will be an obscene amount of media questions and other issues interfering week in and out for these guys. They've been passed by by Wisconsin, but they're not out of anything yet. They face the Buckeyes and Badgers and wins in both of those games will skyrocket them up the charts. Morelli, his leadership, and 2600 yards are gone but luckily for Penn State so too is his 2:1 TD to INT ratio. They have kept a good portion of the rest of the team in place though and their defense is strong.

Schedule Hurdles: Non-Conference should be a cake walk with only visiting Oregon State being worthy of a little worry, but the JoePas should get by them. With Home games against Illinois and Michigan and Road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State being the true tests the Big Eleven could be a mess this year and they may all beat up on each other.

BearDown All-Americans: KR A.J. Wallace, LB Sean Lee.

21. (20) Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois (pronounced Ill-i-noy not Ill-i-noise, alright?) surprised everyone last year, including Ron Zook and company. Juice is back and he's pretty dangerous. Eddie McGee is too. Mendenhall is not. That one will definitely hurt the Men from Champaign, they relied on Mendenhall especially when Juice's inconsistency takes over. If Juice can work on the interceptions and get more accurate with his passing, they will be poised to make more noise in the Big Eleven for a second straight year. Zook is, and has always been, a great recruiter. He and Williams will be the leaders (one on the other off the field). They 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. This has all the makings of the one year away team if Juice returns for his Senior year.

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.

BearDown All-American: DB Vontae Davis.

22. (UR) Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The first of 2 newcomers to my Top 25 list. I don't have a whole lot of reasons for this one. I just think they could be one of those potential spoiler teams. They've been above average the last 2 years and are looking for a 3rd straight winning season. Again, the ACC is pretty weak and so too is their schedule. They have some very talented players on this year's roster, guys who could be in the Top 25 in almost every position. They are going to be one of those quiet teams. No one will be jumping onto the scene in Heisman talks, but they're going to compile at least 8 but more likely 10 regular season wins. Weak Schedule in their favor big time in '08.

Schedule Hurdles: Hosting Mississippi in week one won't be the easiest game of the season, but shouldn't be too tough. They go to Florida State and Miami but I think Wake has the edge against both of them. The true test is Clemson, and the Tigers are coming to Winston-Salem.

BearDown All-Americans: None, sorry Deacon fans.

23. (25) Fresno State Bulldogs
Lookout WAC. Traditional WAC powers (of the last few years) Boise State and Hawai'i are going to slip down and Fresno State will be the new "Leader of the WAC". 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. 16 starters return from the 9-4 team.

Schedule Hurdles: The Bulldogs hopes at a Top 25 season are going to be on the line in week 2 with a visiting Wisconsin. UCLA a couple weeks later won't be the easiest of games, but from there on out they're in conference play and should hold up against most other WAC teams. Even if they drop one or possibly both of the above games, dozing through the WAC could leave them ending near where they started the season, bottom of the Top 25.

BearDown All-American: KR A.J. Jefferson.

24. (24) South Carolina Gamecocks
The last of the 3 teams that didn't move in the last 6 months the Gamecocks sit tight in the rear of the Top 25. (Please don't make the obvious gay joke out of the last sentence, I beg you). They went 6-6 last season, but finished 0-5 in the competitive SEC, and pretty much gave up at the end of the season. I don't see Spurrier letting that happen again this season. They WILL upset one of the Top 25 teams in October or November. Potentially at the end of the season when they face Florida and Clemson back to back. More than likely though expect a tough game, at home, versus the Volunteers. Spurrier is a top recruiter and some of these kids are going to take the field this year. Much like Illinois this could a team that's a year away who just need a little experience.

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 The Upset, possibly more than 1.

BearDown All-Americans: DE Eric Norwood, DB Captain Munnerlyn.

25. (UR) Pittsburgh Panthers
Narrowly missing out in my last Top 25 list, they were the number 1 alternate. Well this time around they're here. Namely on the abilities Lesean McCoy. Kid is an going to make a name for himself outside of the Pittsburgh general area. He will be mentioned in the same sentence as the Heisman at one point, probably around Week 5 and potentially he could be at the New York Athletic Club striking the pose. Losing Maurice Williams really hurts the Panthers so we'll have to see what develops. A soft schedule and soft Big East will allow for Pitt to move onto some radars come bowl season.

Schedule Hurdles: At South Florida and At Notre Dame could be hiccups that bring Pitt down before the big Showdown against West Virginia that just might determine the Big East Champ at the end of November.

BearDown All-Americans: RB LeSean McCoy, LB Scott McKillop.

Fell out of Top 25: Michigan and Virginia
Keep an eye on: South Florida, Arizona, Cal, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Bama.

3 comments:

jeremy said...

ummm... Regarding BYU their only tough conference game is against an Air Force team that lost 95% of their offense??

Try a road game against TCU, or even the biggest game at Utah where the last 3 games have been decided on the last play or overtime.

Also, a soft league?? maybe in the bottom but the league could have 3 teams ranked by years end.

Willo said...

I like your Top 25. I do have a complaint as a UGA fan though. If you think they are the best team in the country, don't punish them for a few minor off-field problems. Every team has a few of these. What do you expect from 70+ 18 to 21 year old student athletes that are away from home for the first and possibly only time. Unfortunately, if you're a possible contender for the NC, then it's much more apparent. That's like punishing a team in your pre-season rankings for their schedule strength. I find that utterly ridiculous. Either you think a team has the ability to win a NC or not. I think it's unbelievably hyppocritical that schedule strength is so important as the season comes to a close, yet it hurts you before a game's even played. Come on. Good choices though. I really think the top 3 is a toss-up between UGA, OSU, and Oklahoma. I have a hard time justifying USC in there because we've yet to see what Mustain or Sanchez can really do. QB is much too important a position to just gloss over. Check out my blog at the below link. I'm in the middle of my top 26.

http://www.willo13.wordpress.com

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