2008 Spring Preview - The Big Buzz
Florida State DE Everette Brown
Florida State DE Everette Brown
Posted Mar 7, 2008

What will be some of the hot stories in 2008? From the SEC's non-conference schedule to two rising Pac 10 teams to the potential of Alabama to the need for the ACC to get big years from Miami and Everette Brown's Florida State, here are some of the big things everyone will be buzzing about.

Spring Preview 2008

The 20 Big Questions - No. 8

By Pete Fiutak 

- The 2008 Big Spring Questions  
No. 20 - Top 40 Non-Conference Games
No. 16-19 - BCS Busters, Rule Changes & More
No. 15 - Ranking the Conferences
No. 14 - Who Could Be This Year's Kansas?
(breaking through big after a bad year)
No. 13 - 5 Teams That Could Tumble

No. 12 - Who Could Be This Year's Missouri?
(going from good to special)
No. 11 - Ten Coaches Who Need Big Seasons
No. 10 - The New Superstar Coaches

No. 9 - Everyone Will Be Complaining About ...

8. Everyone will be in love with ...

The SEC coaches and non-conference schedule
You can point to the good old days of the SEC when Bear Bryant led a golden age of legendary coaches, but on sheer talent it doesn't get much better than Nick Saban, Tommy Tuberville, Bobby Petrino, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Phil Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, Les Miles, Sylvester Croom and Houston Nutt. Give Bobby Johnson and Rich Brooks a bigger, badder program to run and see what they'd be able to do. No other conference in America can come remotely close to the SEC when it comes to top-flight head men, and it's going to show in yet another fantastic season.

Schedule-wise, the SEC hasn't exactly gone out of its way to seek out nasty non-conference games over the years. "The league schedule is hard enough," SECers would say. Not this season. You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest conference in the world, the SEC is going out of its way to prove it deserves its reputation. Oh sure, there are a whole slew of Sun Belt battles to get sleepy over, but there's also a ton of appointment television to be had.

Alabama is facing off against Clemson, probably the best team in the ACC this season, in Atlanta. Arkansas is going to Texas. Auburn hosts Southern Miss and goes to West Virginia. Florida goes against Hawaii (fine, so that sounds better than it'll actually be), Miami, and finishes up the regular season at Florida State. Georgia travels to Arizona State and finishes up with Georgia Tech. Kentucky has its rivalry date at Louisville. LSU faces Troy in the lightest of SEC non-conference schedules. Ole Miss goes to Wake Forest. Mississippi State goes to Georgia Tech. South Carolina plays NC State and finishes up with its rivalry date at Clemson. Tennessee goes to UCLA. Vanderbilt finishes up with the regular season at Wake Forest. That's 11 very good, very interesting road tests that could cement once and for all that the SEC is the best in the business. Or it could go to show that it's just like everyone else. At least the games are being played.

Rick Neuheisel and his coaching staff
UCLA just became one of the most interesting programs in America. Say what you will about Slick Rick Neuheisel and his past, but the guy is a solid coach who appears to have learned from his mistakes. For a Bruin program desperate to emerge from the big Trojan shadow, Neuheisel's about to put UCLA squarely in the national spotlight for football for the first time in a long time. He'll be the head of PR in the battle with Pete Carroll to woo the media, but it's the hire of Norm Chow to run the offense, and the shocker of being able to keep DeWayne Walker to run the D, that gives UCLA the potential to become a powerhouse. If USC is finally nailed by the Reggie Bush situation, then all of a sudden the balance of Pac 10 power could take a drive a few miles north.

Arizona State
Quick, name the current college football head coaches with more than one D-I national title. If you're in Baton Rouge, you'd say Pete Carroll has one, but let's give him a one-plus. There's Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, and, uh ... Dennis Erickson?! Yup, the Arizona State head coach has two from his days at Miami, and now he's finally in a situation again where he can get the top talent to make a big program shine. He did a masterful job with Oregon State, and was wonderful last year with an average Sun Devil team, and now he's getting the pieces in place to create a perennial Pac 10 power. It might take another year, but this is a team no one's going to want to deal with in the near future.

The Tide is about two years away from getting to play in the SEC national title musical chairs game, but this season's team should be just good enough to be in the hunt for the West championship. If Bama can own the home games, which should be a relative walk in the park until the Iron Bowl against Auburn, this could be one of the breakthrough teams of 2008. The problem will be the road dates against Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU, along with the neutral site game in Atlanta against Clemson. Even so, Nick Saban's club should be just experienced enough, and just good enough, to win two of those five games and be in the mix for a ten-win season that would set the tone for a potentially monstrous 2009.

The future of Miami and Florida State, and the potential of the ACC
The ACC is desperate for a little bit of star power. Let's face it; Virginia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest, as good as they've been, don't exactly bring sexy back. It's not fair, but just like the Big Ten needs Ohio State and Michigan to be good, and the national perception of the Big 12 is better when Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska are strong, the ACC needs Miami and Florida State to be Miami and Florida State.

The ACC's dream of being the next SEC could potentially come true in the next few seasons if Jimbo Fisher is the answer to turning around the Seminoles, and if Randy Shannon's fantastic 2008 recruiting class plays up to its potential by 2010. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest, along with Clemson this year, will have to keep on being underappreciated. If the Noles and the Canes can make a positive step forward, and if Duke can improve under David Cutcliffe, and if Maryland can do a bit more than tread water in the mediocre bowl pool, and if Georgia Tech really can run the option under Paul Johnson, and if Tom O'Brien can build on the momentum from the end of last year, and if Butch Davis really does have something cooking in Chapel Hill, and if things don't slip too much, if at all, at Virginia under Al Groh, yeah, the ACC could really be the nation's second best league.