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Westsider Rider

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Preseason Top 25

I know I'm late to the party but here's my preseason top 25:

1. Auburn - I made this pick back a few months ago and they're starting to pick up some steam in the media as a possible NC winner. I really like what they have coming back with Brandon Cox and Kenny Irons as well as the way their schedule sets up with home games against LSU, Florida and Georgia. Only question is will it be the curse of 3 years ago when they were picked to be #1 preseason and then started off the year 0-2.

2. Texas - the defending national champions may have lost Vince Young but they have so much coming back especially on the defensive side of the ball. Colt McCoy will have an experienced offensive line to protect him and playmakers galore with him as well.

3. LSU - a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, I think they continue where they left off the whooping they gave Miami in the Peach Bowl last season.

4. California - The Golden Bears are my sleeper pick to win the NC this season. Their defense is underrated playing out in the Pac-10 and combine that with a great offense this team could make some noise this year. QB play should improve greatly with the return of Nathan Longshore, the starting QB until he suffered a season ending injury against Sacramento State. Combine Longshore, a former Elite 11 QB, along with DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan at WR and throw in the best RB core in the country with Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Marcus O'Keith and you've got a potent offense as well. The November 18th matchup at USC should determine the Pac-10 title and the winner could possibly be in line to play in Glendale on Jan 8th.

5. USC - when Pete Carroll was hired by USC, many people questioned the move. I know plenty of USC fans and alumni who were upset by it and expected Paul Hackett part II, they're not saying that anymore. Carroll has done an unbelievable job rebuilding the USC program and it continues on its roll as it will reload following the departure of Bush, Leinart and White. John David Booty has been named the starter and he should be fine especially with that OL and any QB will look a lot better when throwing the ball to Dwyane Jarrett and Steve Smith. The question on offense is who will play RB? Chauncey Washington has gotten a lot of hype while there are a number of freshmen that could come in and get major PT, also can't forget Desmond Reed coming back from injury could play a part.

6. Florida State - I believe this is the year the Seminoles make another run at the National Championship, although Jeff Bowden could be the one who stops it. Florida State has plenty of firepower on offense with Lorenzo Booker, Antone Smith, Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg they can put the points up on the board. The defense led by Buster Smith will be very good and we will see if Myron Rolle lives up to the hype, at least we know he's getting a great education there.

7. Ohio State - the Buckeyes, who are ranked #1 by many others, start out at #7 here because I believe people are overlooking the fact that the defense has lost 9, count em 9 defensive starters. Offense is what everyone likes to look at and OSU has got that with Troy Smith leading the charge. But Tresselball is played with Defense and Special Teams and there are questions for both of those this season. In addition to the losses on D, the Buckeyes have always had great placekicking with Nugent and Huston, but now a new, unproven kicker will take their place and it could be the difference between playing in Orlando or playing in Glendale or Pasadena.

8. West Virginia - the Mountaineers, coming off their 11-1 season including an upset of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, are ready to try to make their run for the national championship. Many have them higher due to their schedule which includes one tough game at Louisville but that was the excuse that many had for putting Purdue in the top ten last year. Pat White and Steve Slaton form a backfield that was tough to stop last season but I have a feeling that the Mountaineers could be this year's Purdue, a team ranked high due to schedule, but ends up falling apart.

9. Notre Dame - if you believe that hype coming out of South Bend, then you will know that the Fighting Irish are returning to glory again, not like with Willingham but this time for real since Charlie Weis is god. I am not so sure of that yet. It's difficult to anoint Coach Weis yet considering he went 9-3 on a schedule that did not turn to be as nearly as difficult as initially expected. The offense will be as good as expected with Brady Quinn, Darius Walker and OMG Shirtless WR Jeff Samardzja or however you spell it. The questions come on the defensive side of the ball as it wasn't great last year and I don't see it getting much better.

10. Michigan - lying in the background are the Michigan Wolverines, coming off a disappointing 7-5 season there's a lot of change in store, as there are new coordinators on both sides of the ball with the promise of a more aggressive defensive scheme. All the leaders on offense are back with Henne, Hart and Breaston. Last year I did not realize how important Mike Hart was to this team as I thought Grady and Max Martin could pick up any of the slack if Hart went down, man was I wrong. As long as Hart is healthy Michigan will be fine, although I believe that Grady with another year under his belt will be capable to fill in to give Hart a rest. I'm also very excited to see Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown as they will bring a change of pace to Hart. The D has playmakers led by Lamarr Woodley and Leon Hall, now we will see if Coach English will unleash them as the talk has been about being more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. This year will be determined by September 16th at Notre Dame, a win there could propel us back into the National Championship talk, a loss will mean all the talk during the summer was just that talk, much like the previous few seasons.

11. Florida - the Gators begin year two in the Urban Meyer era and it is also the last year for super heralded recruit Chris Leak who came to Florida under [name redacted] and encouraged other recruits to join him in Gainesville to win national championships, as he said when he committed at the U.S. Army All-American game a few years back. I heard on ESPN that year 2 is always the year for Urban Meyer coached teams so we shall see.

12. Georgia - the Bulldogs lose their QB but not much else on the offense as their three headed rushing attack along with Mohammed Massaquoi will help ease the pressure off of Joe Tereshinski III as the new QB.

13. Louisville - Brian Brohm and the other Bush, Michael can make a lot of noise this year starting with their September 16th date against Miami.

14. Oklahoma - Bomar's gone but Adrian Peterson is not, that's good enough for me.

15. Iowa - Kirk Ferentz, best coach in college football IMO, along with Drew Tate will contend for the Big Ten this year, they get Ohio State at home but they will play at Michigan.

16. Miami - plenty of talent, but too many off the field problems.

17. Penn State - not sure what Morelli can do, also the OL will have to be rebuilt.

18. TCU - Horned Frogs are the favorite to take advantage of the new 5th BCS Bowl and get in as the highest rated non-BCS school.

19. Oregon - Ducks have a lot coming back with QB's Dixon and Leaf along with Johnathan Stewart and Cameron Colvin.

20. Clemson - A lot of people have the Tigers ranked higher but I want to see them in action before I do. I don't see how losing Charlie Whitehurst will make them better, although they have a top NFL prospect in Gaines Adams and freshman RB C.J. Spiller has impressed but I need to see something on the field.

21. Texas Tech - Graham Harrell steps into the starting QB position at Lubbock, you can mark him down for 4000+ yards and 30+ TD's, but they will miss Taurean Henderson.

22. South Carolina - Steve Spurrier and Sidney Rice, enough said.

23. UCLA - the Bruins coming off a 10-2 season will have to prove it wasn't a fluke. The Ben Olson era begins in Westwood, we will see if all the hype was true, it would also help if their defense actually came to play.

24. Tennessee - trying to bounce back after a disappointing 5-6 campaign doesn't seem so easy when they open with Cal.

25. Nebraska - Coach Callahan is starting to get players that fit his system and the Cornhuskers should be on their way back. Expect big things from Marlon Lucky.

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