Give three things you're absolutely sure of going into this year.
1. There will be plenty of fireworks on kickoffs.
Everyone made a big deal out of the clock rule changes last year (which
were changed back this year), but that was nothing compared to what's
about to happen. Teams and coaches get a limited amount of time to work
on the basics, much less fine tune the special teams. Those who aren't
strong in kickoff coverage are going to get ripped apart now that
kickoffs are starting from the 30 instead of the 35. Those teams with
elite returners are going to have a serious advantage, since there won't
be many touchbacks. Expect a three-game adjustment period with some very
ugly results for some.
2. USC will lose a game.
Not only is USC the No. 1 most talented team in America, but it's not
even close. The second, third, and even fourth stringers are better than
most teams' starters, and it's gotten to the point to where other major
teams are bragging when they get a player recruited by USC, as if it's
now the gold standard. Even with all that talent that's come through
Pete Carroll's program, the team has only gone tape to tape once without
a loss, and this year's team isn't the 2004 squad.
While it's hard to come up with any one game that screams for a possible
upset, remember, no one saw the near-miss against Fresno State coming
two year ago. No one predicted the loss to Oregon State last year. USC
needing a win to play for the national title is like Tiger with a lead
on Sunday, it's over, but UCLA had other ideas last season.
Predicting a loss at Nebraska on September 15th is too obvious. The same
goes for the November 10th showdown at Cal. It's going to happen, but
it's going to be when everyone is assuming a Trojan win, like at Oregon
the week after the trip to Notre Dame, or at Arizona State before the
showdown against UCLA ... or in the BCS Championship.
3. This year will be better than last year.
It won't be 2005, but it'll be a lot more entertaining than 2006.
College football historians will easily be able sum up last year. Ohio
State was number one, wasn't really challenged until the Michigan game,
Troy Smith won one of the most boring Heisman races ever, and then
Florida obliterated the Buckeyes when the sports world was paying
attention to the NFL playoffs. Things will be far different this year
with a far more entertaining Heisman race, a national title chase, at
least for the number two spot if USC rocks out of the gate, that'll be
terrific, and overall, better teams and conferences. It'll be a wild
1) Colt Brennan will throw a touchdown pass in
2) USC will defeat Idaho.
3) Over 100,000 fans will attend at least one game
at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Seriously, folks, if you want your red meat, I
don't feel like giving it to you this year. I want to make you
wait--along with me--to actually see what will happen during the season
instead of pre-judging teams or looking ahead to certain matchups and
conferences. (This is something I should have done in prior seasons...)
After all, the ridiculously early hype of last
year's Michigan-Ohio State game (it started in SEPTEMBER, fer cryin' out
loud) was so great that it nearly gave Michigan an unfair place in the
BCS title game.
This season, it would be just as unfair to start
hyping the Florida-LSU game now, and to see the winner of that game
prevail in a BCS debate over (wouldn't it be ironic?) a Michigan team
that would be more deserving on the merits.
Let's not make bold predictions now (unless I am
forced at editorial gunpoint to do so). Let's actually watch the
football for a few months, and then get down to brass tacks in
mid-November and make the best of this horrible BCS system that, like it
or not, isn't going away anytime soon.
Give three things you're absolutely sure of going into this year.
A. 1. More
points will be scored this season in the Big 12 South than in any other
year. The offensive talent in that half of the conference is
overflowing. Texas returns seven offensive starters, not including star
running back Jamaal Charles, Oklahoma returns eight starters, not
including star running back Allen Patrick and upcoming stud DeMarco
Murray, Texas A&M returns nine starters, not including star Mike
Goodson, Oklahoma State returns one of the best QB-RB-WR trios in the
nation with Bobby Reid, Dantrell Savage and Adarius Bowman and Texas
Tech has QB Graham Harrell returning. And, Baylor…well, okay so Baylor
isn’t nearly as potent, but you get the point, right? Add to that the
fact that each team has serious defensive question marks and it’s a
fairly safe bet that the scoreboards will be exploding in ’07.
2. Notre Dame’s Evan
Sharpley may start the season as the Irish starting quarterback, but
won’t finish that way. Remember Todd Helton in 1994 at Tennessee? Held
the seat warm for some kid named Manning (in addition to another
freshman Branndon Stewart), then went and played major league baseball.
If Jimmy Clausen isn’t starting by the USC game, then he’s either a
fraud or Demetrius Jones is the real deal. Notre Dame has a monster
first half of the season, but a manageable second half, one that should
allow for Clausen to get experience, some W’s and a bowl trip under his
belt. Essentially, he can prep for a strong 2008 season.
3. Florida’s Tim Tebow
will throw the ball much better than anyone anticipates. Oh, and one
more, no university recruiting video will ever be worse than the
Appalachian State “Hot, Hot, Hot” video. Just go to You Tube and feel
Give three things you're absolutely sure of going into this year.
1. USC will win the Pac-10 in a walk. Although Cal and UCLA are quality
programs, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is no more pronounced than it
is in this conference. And while the Trojans have retooled for another
monster run toward a national championship, the other nine programs are
packed so tightly that they’ll cannibalize one another every Saturday
2. Week-in and week-out, the SEC will show the rest of the nation why
it’s still the deepest, most talented, and most exciting conference in
America. Don’t even waste your time debating otherwise. College
programs are only as good as their leaders, and the SEC boasts a
Murderer’s Row of head coaches that includes Urban Meyer, Nick Saban,
Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier, Phil Fulmer, Les Miles, and Tommy Tuberville.
3. Moving the kickoff back five yards to the 30 will prove to be a very
good rule change for the game. Let’s see, dramatically fewer touchbacks
and more open-field touches for some of college football’s most exciting
athletes—yup, that’s the definition of a win-win, particularly for fans.
I’m also 98% sure that …
Michigan will lose a game this year that it’s not supposed to. Yeah,
the Wolverines are all the rage in the Big Ten and the offense will be
nifty, but that offense wasn’t enough to overcome a defense that got
ripped by Ohio State and USC late in 2006. You know, the same defense
that’s trying to replace its best pass rusher, run stuffer, linebacker,
This will be the final collegiate season for Arkansas’ Darren McFadden,
Miami’s Calais Campbell, West Virginia’s Steve Slaton, and Ohio State’s
Malcolm Jenkins. They’ll be joined by another three dozen or so juniors
and redshirt sophomores that leave school early in order to be eligible
for the 2008 NFL Draft.
This, however, will not be the final season for Penn State’s Joe Paterno
provided the program can get a temporary restraining order that keeps
Andrew Quarless from coming within 50 feet of the head coach. Quarless
is the Lion tight end that inadvertently made contact with Paterno twice
in 2006, including one that fractured the octogenarian’s leg in a
November loss to Wisconsin.
For Alabama and its legions of loyal fans, Nick Saban will wind up being
worth every penny and all of the aggravation endured to land him.
Whether you like him or not, or believe his fat contract is a new sign
of the Apocalypse is irrelevant. The man knows how to build staffs,
recruit talent, and win. And that’s all the folks around Tuscaloosa
will need to know.
Just because they’re light on returning starters does not mean Florida
and Ohio State, last year’s top two teams, will fall as far as some are
suggesting. Both the Gators and Buckeyes are too well coached and
recruit too well for that to happen. Instead, prepare for the next wave
of mega stars that includes names like Chris Wells, Brandon Spikes,
Louis Murphy, and Lawrence Wilson, to name a few.
Even without Adrian Peterson, the Oklahoma running game will be as good
as ever. Running behind one of the nation’s nastiest offensive lines,
the tandem of senior Allen Patrick and redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray
won’t be far behind the dynamite one-two punches playing at Arkansas,
Clemson, and Texas A&M.
There isn’t a team on the West Virginia schedule that will slow down the
Mountaineer offense, provided QB Patrick White and RB Steve Slaton can
stay healthy for an entire season. White and Slaton are two of the best
home run hitters in the country, and the former is way underrated as an
efficient downfield passer. Toss in the occasional change-of-pace from
thundering FB Owen Schmitt, and you’ve once again got the ingredients of
an unstoppable attack in 2007.
Hawaii’s Colt Brennan will break a ton more career passing records while
becoming the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw 50 or more
touchdown passes in consecutive seasons. Much more than just a system
quarterback, he gets back his top three receivers and won’t face a
really good pass defense all season long. Plus, June Jones may not be
so quick to pull Brennan in blowouts as the Warriors try to impress
those voters controlling their BCS fate.
By the first week of December, Cal’s Jeff Tedford will be on the short
list of at least one NFL GM that’s looking to fill a head coaching
opening. These days, you can set your calendar by the interest in the
Out of Kyle Wright, Kirby Freeman, Drew Weatherford, and Xavier Lee,
neither Miami nor Florida State will be able to find a quarterback that
can build a bridge to the glory days when both passing games were
virtually unstoppable. While there are player development issues on
both campuses, could it be that some offensive recruits get way
overhyped just because they received offers from the ‘Canes and ‘Noles?
Those counting on Georgia Tech to plummet simply because Calvin Johnson
is in Detroit are about to be very surprised. Erratic quarterback
Reggie Ball is also gone, which is good news, both lines are terrific,
and running back Tashard Choice is about to make a surprise run at
All-America honors. The Jackets get Virginia Tech at Bobby Dodd,
meaning don’t count out a run for a second straight Coastal Division
Georgia QB Matthew Stafford will make huge strides from his true
freshman season. While some of the things that used to work in high
school didn’t last year, Stafford will improve his decision making, cut
down on his mistakes, and take the next step toward becoming the face of
the Bulldog program and a high NFL draft choice in 2010.
Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter will rebound nicely from last year’s
erratic sophomore season, in which very little went right on or off the
field. The nation’s pass efficiency leader in 2005, he’ll get a
much-needed boost from the presence of new head coach Dennis Erickson,
and an improved receiving corps that figures to be much more consistent
than last season.
“This year’s Boise State” will never materialize. TCU is the best of
the non-BCS programs, but an early season trip to Austin will end the
Frogs’ dreams of a perfect season and a January bowl game. Ditto
Southern Miss, which draws Tennessee on Sept. 8. Hawaii has the right
schedule to go 12-0, but the wrong schedule to get enough respect from
pollsters to earn an automatic at-large invite to a major bowl. Think
Tulane circa 1998.
Either West Virginia or Louisville will win the Big East. Yes, Rutgers
will prove it’s no one-hit wonder, but it’s asking too much for the
Knights to win the league when the expectations are much, much higher
than before last year’s magical season.
Texas QB Colt McCoy will blossom into a bona fide star in 2007. The
coaching staff didn’t throw too much at the first-year starter last
season, and yet he still accounted for 31 touchdowns to just seven picks
in an abbreviated redshirt freshman season. With a year in the vault
and a great supporting cast, he’s liable to author the best passing
season ever for a Longhorn quarterback.
UCLA will finish the season on the wrong side of pre-season
expectations. Sure there’s plenty of returning talent, but the offense
once again lacks game-breakers and Karl Dorrell still has to prove he’s
a big-time coach before the Bruins can be stamped a legit top 10 team.
After slipping in this area a year ago, USC will once again rank among
the nation’s leaders in takeaways. What do you get when you combine the
nation’s best defense with opponent’s playing catch up for three
quarters? Plenty of errant passes, poor decisions and balls left on the
Missouri QB Chase Daniel won’t win the Heisman, but he’ll put up Heisman-like
numbers in year two running the Tiger spread offense. As last season
proved, he’s a hand-in-glove fit for the offense, and the skill position
talent around him is outstanding. Bank on a number of offensive records
falling in Columbia this season.
While new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher will have a positive impact
on the Florida State offense, it won’t be as profound as Seminole fans
would like in Year One. Until the program gets better blocking and more
consistency from its quarterbacks, it’s going to look prolific against
the UABs and Dukes, and average against the Alabamas and Clemsons. One
thing that’s absolutely certain is that no matter how bad things get, no
one in Northern Florida will be pining for the return of Jeff Bowden.
Pittsburgh will once again underachieve as soon as the schedule stiffens
in the second half of the year. It’s been only two years, but the early
returns on Dave Wannstedt, now 11-12 at his alma mater, have not been
promising even as his recruiting classes shine. Plus, there’s a
palpable feeling in that locker room dividing Wanny’s kids and Walt
Harris’ recruits. It bears watching, especially if the Panthers lose a
game it shouldn’t early on in the year.
Utah QB Brian Johnson will pick up where he left off in 2005 and torch
the rest of the Mountain West. After wisely taking off last year to
heal his surgically-repaired knee, he’s bigger, stronger, and more
prepared to explode than at any point in his career.
Cal WR/PR DeSean Jackson will assume the unofficial title of “college
football’s most electrifying player”. Whether he’s fielding punts or
running routes, no player in the country is more dangerous or more fun
North Carolina State will make markedly fewer penalties, turnovers, and
generally silly mistakes under first-year head coach Tom O’Brien than it
did when Chuck Amato was roaming the sidelines. A classic
disciplinarian, the Wolfpack veterans will be suffering from a case of
culture shock in 2007.
If not in the opener against Georgia Tech, at some point this season,
true freshman Jimmy Clausen will make his debut as the Notre Dame
starting quarterback. He’s the franchise in South Bend, and there’s no
better time to begin the Clausen era than in a year when the Irish
likely won’t be fighting for a BCS bowl game.
Boston College QB Matt Ryan will flourish in Jeff Jagodzinski’s new
passer friendly offense and be head-and-shoulders better than every
other hurler in the quarterback-starved ACC. He’s a vastly underrated
quarterback that might be a household name if he didn’t play in a pro
sports town and was surrounded by more playmaking receivers.
While it probably won’t show up in the final standings, the off-season
hires of Butch Davis, Brian Kelly and Jim Harbaugh will all wind up
being really shrewd moves by North Carolina, Cincinnati and Stanford,
respectively. Check back in on these guys in 2008 after they’ve had a
year to learn the personnel and implement their systems
At least one player that’s getting absolutely no Heisman attention in
August will wind up in the top 10 when votes are tallied in December.
That’s been the trend so far in the 21st century.
If he hasn’t already, Lee Corso will officially jump the shark with his
antics this fall. It was fun for awhile, but am I the only person
that’s gotten really tired of his shtick? Kirk Herbstreit, meanwhile,
will continue to be the most rock-solid, informative broadcaster in all
of college football.
Brent Musburger will say “Beanie” at least 40 times during an Ohio State
game, sending scores of college students playing a Musburger drinking
game into a wicked state of inebriation on campuses across the country.