Against the tide of an emerging preseason consensus ... against the wishes Fox, which frowns on televising re-runs in January ... against my better judgment...
Ohio State is No. 1.
|James Laurinaitis is returning to feast on the weak Big Ten. (US Presswire)|
I know, it's getting bo-ring. How long, you ask, can this cow be milked?
Answer: Grab an udder, Zeke.
Ohio State looks like the best thing on 44 legs right now. That is a reference to the starting 22, of which 18 are returning starters. We're talking some of the nation's best, most-decorated players -- tailback Beanie Wells, linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. Heck, quarterback Todd Boeckman already is rated one of the best quarterbacks available in the 2009 draft.
Oh, there's this Terrelle Pryor kid too.
I can feel Georgia Nation's hate right now. Like everyone else, I was falling in love with the Bulldogs. They had the momentum, the coach, the talent. But Georgia did lose twice last season and didn't play in the SEC title game. (The truth hurts, so does a three-touchdown loss to Tennessee) The Dawgs are going to have to do better than that -- then win the SEC championship game -- before getting to South Florida.
Ohio State? Jim Tressel has coached his Bucks to three of the last six BCS title games, winning one, so let's not go into full mock mode here. However, the Big Ten has become so soft that even if Ohio State loses to USC on Sept. 13, it should be able to recover to play for the national championship.
This being Ohio State, though, there's always a chance -- make that a probability -- for a third consecutive national championship for the SEC. The Bucks are 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games and Georgia is sitting there at No. 2 ready to rip out its chunk of scarlet-and-gray flesh.
The post-spring top 25
1. Ohio State: Thirteen juniors explored the draft, only one declared -- Vernon Gholston. That should tell you that the Bucks are absolutely loaded. Mix in the roll of baby-soft Charmin known as the Big Ten schedule and this is the team to beat.
Pre-spring : 4
2. Georgia: Upon further review the schedule is too tough and the questions too significant to keep the Dawgs at No. 1. That back-to-back at LSU and against Florida in Jacksonville is daunting. That's not to say they can't get to the BCS championship game.
3. Oklahoma: If the Sooners didn't have to play bowl games, they'd be the team of the decade. Unfortunately, Bob Stoops has lost four consecutive BCS bowls. That's enough motivation for OU to win its sixth Big 12 title since 2000.
4. USC: Mark Sanchez all but won the quarterback job in the spring. If tailback Joe McKnight makes up for a dropped class in summer school, he will be used Reggie Bush-style. Uh, that would be on the field, not in the courtroom.
5. Missouri: The offense and defense will be better. Heisman finalist Chase Daniel will be throwing to All-American Jeremy Maclin. Watch out for potential All-American safety William Moore.
6. Florida: The only questions are the defense and how to keep Tim Tebow upright and healthy. Forget about winning another Heisman, Tebow has to become more of a pocket passer. Tailback Emmanuel Moody had some problems picking up the spread in the spring.
7. Kansas: New defensive coordinator (Clint Bowen), but perhaps a better defense. The spring was spent breaking in a couple of new offensive tackles. Todd Reesing and the rest of the Jayhawks aren't going away.
8. Texas: New DC Will Muschamp doesn't have the horses yet but his scheme will be enough to keep the Longhorns in national championship contention. The offense is solid with QB Colt McCoy and TB Vondrell McGee. Expect an eighth consecutive 10-win season.
9. West Virginia: Is there a more elusive quarterback than Patrick White? Is there a faster breakaway runner than Noel Devine? The Mountaineers remain the class of the Big East in Bill Stewart's first season.
10. Auburn: Guess who just became the favorite in the SEC West with Ryan Perrilloux leaving Baton Rouge? The Fighting Sabans get most of the headlines in the state, but Tommy Tuberville and his re-tooled offense will walk the walk.
11. Texas Tech: The Defense Department doesn't have this much firepower. The defense should be decent too. This is Mike Leach's best team in Lubbock. If Texas Tech doesn't challenge for the Big 12 South title this season, it never will.
12. Illinois: Heart-and-soul guys J Leman and Rashard Mendenhall are gone. Few in Champaign are sweating, though. The Illini will know where they're heading by early October. By then they will have played Missouri and taken trips to Penn State and Michigan.
13. Clemson: One returner in the offensive line. Other than that the Tigers are loaded with perhaps the best backfield in the country (Cullen Harper, James Davis, C.J. Spiller). Nothing less than an ACC title will do.
14. BYU: The Cougars start the season with the nation's longest winning streak (10). That, and the best BYU team since the LaVell Edwards' days.
15. Wisconsin: Spring ended with the quarterback situation unsettled. But who needs a rocket arm with the Badgers' running game and tight end Travis Beckum?
16. LSU: Perrilloux leaving will cost Les Miles the SEC West. A schedule that includes eight home games will soften the blow. The season opener against Appalachian State just became huge with an inexperienced quarterback playing against the defending I-AA champions. Don't laugh. Ask Michigan.
17. Virginia Tech: The defending ACC champs will take a tumble this season. It's a positive that tailback Brandon Ore was kicked off the team but that doesn't mean the Hokies won't miss him. There's a lot of rebuilding to be done here.
18. Arizona State: Dennis Erickson won 10 games and a share of the Pac-10 title in his first season. The Sun Devils won't surprise people this year but they will be solid. The offensive line must be shored up. The 55 sacks allowed were third-worst in the nation.
19. South Florida: Ranked No. 2 at one point, the Bulls slumped, finishing 5-4. If the Bulls make it to Dec. 6 in the Big East title hunt, it will be a good year. The regular season ends that day at West Virginia. Most of the offense is back. The defense still has All-American defensive end George Selvie.
20. Tennessee: Phil Fulmer just keeps re-inventing himself. From the depths of SEC hell, he coached the Vols to the SEC title game in 2007. They'll finish third in the East (at best) this season. Wait, isn't that what folks said last season?
21. Connecticut: How many remember that the Huskies shared the Big East title last season? Thought so. Randy Edsall is developing into one of the nation's hottest coaches with a bunch no-name players.
22. Pittsburgh: The feel good vibe from the West Virginia win hasn't diminished yet. Dave Wannstedt might finally be putting it together. Tailback LeSean McCoy was a freshman All-American who surpassed some of Tony Dorsett's freshman numbers. Linebacker Scott McKillop led the nation in tackles.
23. Michigan State: The Spartans seem to be everyone's sleeper for '08. This is a program ready to turn the corner. All six of Michigan State's losses were by a touchdown or less. Tailback Javon Ringer was held out of the spring because of shoulder surgery.
24. Fresno State: If The Bulldogs get past Rutgers, Wisconsin, UCLA and Boise State, they could be playing in the Orange Bowl. What's more likely is that Pat Hill will upset at least one of those teams and win nine games.
25. Cincinnati: The spring was spent hoping that quarterback Ben Mauk would get a sixth year of eligibility. The NCAA shot him down. Mauk isn't through appealing but senior Dustin Grutza (24 career touchdown passes) will be capable. Brian Kelly has 16 starters back.