2007 College Football Preview, college football rankings, preseason predictions

2007 College Football Preview

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Is there anything more inane than college football preseason rankings? I mean, is there any fan – besides maybe the ones whose team is ranked No. 1 – ever happy with how the AP or USA Today ranks the top 25?

“USC isn’t the topped ranked team in the nation – look how they lost to UCLA and Oregon State last year!”

“West Virginia and Louisville aren’t top 10 programs – they don’t play anybody!”

“Florida never gets the respect they deserve!“

Please, somebody start handing out tissues before we’re all standing in a Lake Michigan-sized puddle of tears…. Wait, did someone say Michigan? “They shouldn’t be ranked in the top five – USC trounced them in the Rose Bowl last year!”

Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter if USC is ranked No. 1 or Florida is No. 24. It means nothing right now. So with that, instead of doing my own preseason poll, why don’t we look at the top three questions that are most important heading into the college season?

  1. With the 2008 draft seemingly right around the corner, keeping an eye on certain players is always exciting. So which players on top ranked teams are NFL bound?
  2. Of the top 15 ranked teams, which ones have the most legitimate shot at playing for a national title, and why or why not?
  3. For the top ranked teams, what games are can’t miss?

Using the AP’s Top 25 Poll, I’m going to help answer those above questions in relation to the first 15 teams. Remember, these aren’t my rankings – I’m just using the AP’s poll as a template to answer the three questions. Also, just for fun, at the bottom of this preview you’ll find a couple of predictions.

So everybody can put the tissues away for the time being and just savor the fact that another college football season is upon us.

1. USC Trojans
NFL Bound Players: Sam Baker, OT; Sedrick Ellis, DT; Keith Rivers, LB; Terrell Thomas, CB; Lawrence Jackson, DE; John David Booty, QB; Chauncey Washington, RB; Fred Davis, TE; Drew Radovich, OG
As anyone can see from the above collection of NFL bound players, the Trojans are absolutely stacked with talent. It’s easy to understand why the AP has them ranked No. 1 to start the season, but there’s also reason for doubt as far as reaching the title game. The most daunting task is their schedule, which features six road games, including at Nebraska and California. With how USC seems to trip up as the season wears on, it’s a long shot they stay unscathed the entire year, but they certainly have the talent and coaching to make a run.
Must Watch Game: at UCLA, December 1

2. LSU Tigers
NFL Bound Players: Glenn Dorsey, DT; Early Doucet, WR; Matt Flynn, QB; Jacob Hester, FB; Will Arnold, OG; Keilen Dykes, DT; Ali Highsmith, LB; Chevis Jackson, CB; Jonathan Zenon, CB
Losing stud quarterback JaMarcus Russell to the pros will hurt, but the Tigers boast one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. Tackles Glenn Dorsey and Keilen Dykes make up one of the best defensive tackle combos in the country and the secondary is fantastic as well. Florida, Virginia Tech and Auburn are the toughest match ups, but unlike USC, who has to play all their hard-hitting games on the road, the Tigers get their bigger opponents at home. So as long as the offense stays mostly turnover-free in games, LSU might have the best shot of any of the top 15 teams at playing for a nation title.
Must Watch Game: vs. Florida, October 6

3. West Virginia
NFL Bound Players: Steve Slaton, RB; Owen Schmitt, FB; Darius Reynaud, WR; Antonio Lewis, CB; Eric Wicks, S.
Steve Slaton and Pat White form the most exciting backfield in the nation, but other than back-to-back games against Rutgers and Louisville, WVU’s schedule is a cakewalk. And there’s nothing college football criers hate more than a team with a weak schedule. Mark my words, however, what will essentially end up happening is the same thing that occurred last year, when the top three programs in the Big East beat themselves. A one-loss Big East team cannot play for the national title and even if the Mountaineers get past Rutgers and Louisville, they’ve got a trap game on November 17 against Cincinnati.
Must Watch Game: vs. Louisville, November 8

4. Texas Longhorns
NFL Bound Players: Frank Okam, DT; Limas Sweed, WR; Tony Hills, OT; Billy Pittman, WR; Robert Killebrew, LB; Marcus Griffin, S
This is an interesting team and certainly one that could sneak up on people and legitimately compete for a national title. Sophomore QB Colt McCoy is an outstanding player who has a bright future, but there’s going to be a ton of pressure on him to carry the offense. At least he has a solid offensive line and an excellent receiver corps led by Limas Sweed. The defense is where the question marks are raised, with the secondary taking a huge hit losing three starters. The schedule is tough, but other than Oklahoma, there isn’t a significantly daunting opponent.
Must Watch Game: vs. Oklahoma, October 6

5. Michigan Wolverines
NFL Bound Players: Jake Long, OT; Chad Henne, QB; Mike Hart, RB; Adam Kraus, OG; Shawn Crable, LB; Jamar Adams, S
Chad Henne, Mario Manningham, Mike Hart and Jake Long are all returning to an offense that looks like a juggernaut. However, there are major concerns on defense, where UM has to replace eight players, including three starters on the defensive line. Ohio State and USC thrashed UM in the final two games last season, raising doubt that the defense can survive the entire 2007 schedule. However, Wisconsin proves to be the only daunting road test, so if the offense is as good as advertised and the defense can overachieve, the schedule is favorable enough for this team to make a national title run.
Must Watch Game: vs. Ohio State, November 16

6. Florida Gators
NFL Bound Players: Derrick Harvey, DE; Andre Caldwell, WR; Tate Casey, TE; Drew Miller, C; Tony Joiner, S
Even though they return six starters on offense - including three along the line - the defending champion Gators find themselves sixth in the AP poll . Tim Tebow will get a shot to be the full-time starter under center, but questions remain about who will carry the ball. There are also issues on defense, where the unit lost more players this year than any other team in the SEC. At least the fill-ins have starting experience and boast monstrous DE Derrick Harvey and hard-hitting SS Tony Joiner. The schedule is yet again challenging, but if 2006 was any indication, Urban Meyer’s group is resilient.
Must Watch Game: at LSU, October 6

7. Wisconsin Badgers
NFL Bound Players: Paul Hubbard, WR; Nick Hayden, DT; Ken Debauche, P
UW is loaded with talent and returns 16 starters from 2006. Bowling ball runner P.J. Hill will again carry the offense, but either Tyler Donovan or Allen Evridge will have to step up at QB for this team to have a legitimate shot. The defense is solid, led by a stout linebacker corps and CB Jack Ikegwuonu, but did they benefit from a weak schedule last year? Wisconsin will be in the national title talk all year since they don’t play Michigan or Ohio State until November. However, is this team really as good as they look on paper or will they fizzle against UM and OSU in the end?
Must Watch Game: vs. Michigan, November 10

8. Oklahoma Sooners
NFL Bound Players: Joe Jon Finley, TE; Darien Williams, S, Allen Patrick, RB
The Sooners boast eight returning starters on offense and seven on defense, but the departures of Adrian Peterson and QB Paul Thompson will be difficult to overcome. Bob Stoops believes Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray will fill in nicely for Peterson, but questions remain at quarterback. At least whoever takes over under center can be secure in the fact that four starters return on the o-line. Stoops is a masterful defensive technician and if Patrick and Murray can carry the load on offense, OU has a shot at a title if they can beat Texas and instate rival OK State. It also helps that the Sooners don’t have to play an upstart Nebraska program like UT does.
Must Watch Game: at Texas, October 6

9. Virginia Tech
NFL Bound Players: Eddie Royal, WR; Duane Brown, OT; Chris Ellis, DE; Carlton Powell, DT; Xavier Adibi, LB; Vince Hall, LB; D.J. Parker, S.
If they can upset LSU in Week 2, the Hokies could be one of the surprise teams in 2007. Frank Beamer is one of the best coaches in the nation and will certainly have the defense and special teams units consistently playing at the top of their game. Everything will probably come down to if QB Sean Glennon and RB Branden Ore can step up their games, however. On top of usually tough ACC opponents like Clemson, Miami and Virginia, out of conference games against LSU and Florida State may determine whether or not this team is for real.
Must Watch Game: at LSU, September 8

10. Louisville Cardinals
NFL Bound Players: Brian Brohm, QB; Harry Douglas, WR; Gary Barnidge, TE; Malik Jackson, LB; Art Carmody, K
Gone are Bobby Petrino’s spread formations and power running game, but Heisman hopeful Brian Brohm returns under center, which provides a huge lift for UL. Brohm has the luxury of throwing to Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia, who have blossomed into fine receivers, but can the Cardinals put up 30-plus points a game again this season without Petrino? The defense lost stud DT Amobi Okoye and all four defensive backs, but the linebacker corps is solid and the special teams should be outstanding too. Louisville is going to have the same issues as West Virginia, however, in that their weak schedule will cost them in the BCS rankings.
Must Watch Game: at West Virginia, November 8

11. Ohio State Buckeyes
NFL Bound Players: Malcolm Jenkins, CB; James Laurinaitis, LB; Kirk Barton, OT
The Buckeyes were trampled in the national title game and then had their roster ransacked after losing Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez and Antonio Pittman. However, Jim Tressel is an outstanding offensive mind and RB Chris Wells is set to have a breakout year. The biggest question is at QB and it’ll be interesting to see who emerges from the trio of Todd Boeckman, Antonio Henton and Robbie Schoenhoft. Defensively, Malcolm Jenkins is a stud at corner and the linebacker corps boasts two standouts in James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman. The schedule is weak on the whole, but getting Michigan and Wisconsin will be tough for this rebuilding program.
Must Watch Game: at Michigan, November 16

12. California Golden Bears
NFL Bound Players: Desean Jackson, WR; Justin Forsett, RB; Robert Jordan, WR; Craig Stevens, TE; Thomas DeCoud, S
The Golden Bears of 2007 will probably look similar to the Golden Bears of 2006. The offense looks scary again with QB Nate Longshore and receivers Desean Jackson, Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins returning for another year. Defensively, however, Cal has some issues, especially in the front seven. Not that the defense was very good last year, but they only have five returning starters, three of which are in the secondary. They’ll score a ton of points and will benefit from playing Tennessee, USC and UCLA at home, but the defense is going to have to play over its head in order to keep Cal undefeated or at one loss.
Must Watch Game: vs. USC, November 10

13. Georgia Bulldogs
NFL Bound Players: Kregg Lumpkin, RB; Thomas Brown, RB; Brandon Miller, LB; Brandon Coutu, K
UGA surprised some people last year by finishing 9-4, but this team isn’t the 13th best program in the nation as the AP suggests. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was a bright spot at the end of last year and will improve, but the offensive line is young and inexperienced. The defensive line isn’t much better and the secondary can be had with smaller corners who aren’t the best of tacklers. With the lack of superior playmakers on either side of the ball and a tough SEC schedule that features Tennessee, Florida and Auburn, the Dawgs are likely to struggle this year.
Must Watch Game: vs. Florida, October 27

14. UCLA Bruins
NFL Bound Players: Chris Markey, RB; Michael Pitre, FB; Shannon Tevaga, OG; Bruce Davis, DE; Kevin Brown, DT; Christian Taylor, LB; Trey Brown, CB; Chris Horton, S; Dennis Keyes, S
The Bruins put themselves on the map after beating USC last year and they certainly have an intriguing group of talent. The defense is outstanding, returning 10 starters including four in the secondary. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they can compete with the powerhouses, but it’s definitely a solid unit and one that will keep UCLA competitive all year. Offensively, RB Chris Markey is the rock, but inconsistent play at quarterback held this team back last year and might do so again this season. If either Ben Olson or Pat Cowan can assert themselves at the beginning of the year, the Bruins might surprise some people.
Must Watch Game: vs. USC, December 1

15. Tennessee Volunteers
NFL Bound Players: Erik Ainge, QB; Chris Brown, TE; Brad Cottam, TE; Eric Young, OT; Antonio Edwards, DE; Jonathan Hefney, S
Just when everyone thought Phillip Fulmer had lost his mojo, the Vols blasted Cal in the 2006 opener and all of a sudden UT was a contender again. However, Fulmer’s got an uphill battle in having to replace 11 starters, including most of his receiving corps, offensive line and six players on defense. Quarterback Erik Ainge is steady, but he won’t get much help from the running game again this year and losing deep threat Robert Meachem was a huge blow. The schedule is unforgiving as well, as the Vols will have to travel to Cal in the opener, and then hit the road again at Florida in December.
Must Watch Game: at Florida, December 16.

2007 College Football Predictions

Best odds for the national championship: USC vs. LSU (duh!)

Actual national championship prediction: LSU over Texas

Sleeper to play in the title game: Oklahoma

Deep sleeper to play in the title game: Virginia Tech

Heisman Trophy prediction: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

Sleeper Heisman prediction: Allen Patrick, RB, Oklahoma

Questions or comments? Send them to astalter@bullz-eye.com.