Here are some prognostications for what will be a competetive and exciting college football season.
January 1 – Rose BowlOhio State vs. California
For the first time since the Eisenhower Administration, the Golden Bears will be playing in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, will capture their fourth straight Big-10 Championship under Head Coach Jim Tressel, thanks in large part to running back Chris Wells and the quarterback tandem of first-year Terrelle Pryor and super senior Todd Boeckman. Ohio State’s defense, though, is the reason the Buckeyes knock off the Bears.
January 1 – Orange Bowl Wake Forest vs. Georgia
The Demon Deacons will win the ACC Championship thanks in large part to deadly accurate quarterback Riley Skinner. They will now be playing in a bowl game for the third straight year-a first in program history. They will meet up with a powerful Georgia team that may feel slighted not to be playing in the National Championship game against USC. The Bulldogs flatten the overmatched Deacons in this one.
January 2 – Sugar Bowl LSU vs. Oklahoma
Oklahoma will look to get revenge on LSU after the Tigers knocked off the Sooners 21-14 in the 2004 Sugar Bowl to win the National Championship. Quarterback Sam Bradford, receiver Juaquin Iglesias and tailback DeMarco Murray will look to lead a high-powered offensive attack past LSU, but the Tigers and coach Les Miles have other plans and will take out the Sooners in this game.
January 5 – Fiesta Bowl Missouri vs. West Virginia
Heisman candidate Chase Daniel’s right arm will lead Mizzou to a Big-12 Championship and the right to face West Virginia in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. The Mountaineers, in their first season under head coach Bill Stewart, feature one of the top rushing offenses in the nation, but in the end, Chase Daniel and Co. are too much to handle.
January 8 – BCS National ChampionshipFlorida vs. USC
The Trojans, loaded with more raw talent than any team in the nation, will steamroll through the 2008 season to win the Pac-10 title with a perfect 12-0 record. The schedule will play to the Trojans’ favor, as they face each of their toughest opponents-Ohio State, Oregon, California and Arizona State-at Los Angles Memorial Coliseum. They will match-up against a Florida team led by All-American quarterback Tim Tebow and dual threat Percy Harvin, who will lead the team in both rushing and receiving. The Trojans, however, led by their stout defense, will be able to slow down the Gators just enough to capture their first National Championship in four years.
Most overrated – Clemson
Clemson returns eight starters, including quarterback Cullen Harper, James Davis and C.J. Spiller, from an offensive unit that last season riddled the scoreboards for a record-breaking 430 points. So why am I predicting the Tigers to be one of the nation’s most disappointing teams in 2008? Aside from an embarrassing 34-10 loss to No. 24 Alabama in the season opener, Clemson has never fared well against top teams. Yes, the offense did score 38, 42, 44, 47, 49 and 70 points on separate occasions last season. But the Tigers’ record numbers were put up against perennial bottom-dwellers in Furman, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke, Louisiana-Monroe and Central Michigan, respectively. When Clemson squared off against the likes of Florida State, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Auburn, Boston College and Georgia Tech, the team averaged a modest 20.0 points per game. While Clemson is a trendy pick for many college football experts, the Tigers continue to struggle against teams in the Top 25.
Most underrated – California
A lot of people are forgetting about the Golden Bears, a team that at one point last season was 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. The root of the Bears’ second-half debacle was inconsistent play from quarterback Nate Longshore, who injured his leg in a September 29 game against Oregon and was never the same. In fact, he was so bad that Cal fans began chanting “Riley” in hopes that coach Jeff Tedford would replace Longshore with redshirt freshman Kevin Riley. Tedford finally answered the fans’ calls in the Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force when Riley was named the game’s MVP after he rallied Cal from a 21-0 deficit to a 42-36 victory.
Tedford named Riley the starter over Longshore before the season opener against Michigan State, and the sophomore proved himself once again, completing 17 of 24 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears’ 38-31 win. The Bears seem to have found their first steady quarterback since Aaron Rodgers roamed the Berkeley campus in 2004.
Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
The Heisman front-runner has to be Tebow, who won college football’s most coveted award last season when he torched defenses for 32 touchdowns through the air and 23 on the ground. Florida’s offense should thrive in 2008, and Tebow’s Heisman status will benefit as a result.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, UGA
The sophomore will be in the limelight all season as he looks to build upon a season in which he rushed for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s already off to a good start. Three of Moreno’s eight carries went for touchdowns in Georgia’s 45-21 win over Georgia Southern last Saturday.
Pat White, QB, West Virginia
White, a lankier and quicker version of Tebow, returns for his senior year at West Virginia, where he has been successful in running the spread offense. He already holds the Big East record for career rushing yards by a quarterback with 3,506, and without graduated running back Steve Slaton around, he will be in the spotlight in his senior season.
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
As a redshirt freshman, Bradford had a higher quarterback rating (176.52) and threw for more touchdowns (36) than Tebow. Bradford began his sophomore campaign on a high note, completing over 75% of his passes in OU’s 57-2 win over Chattanooga last Saturday.