What happens when you combine the idea of playing football for glory instead of money with players who are in the prime of their athleticism? The answer: college football. While I am still a huge critic of the BCS system, there is little else that tops a close game between two storied rivals on a Saturday afternoon. Last season was headlined by Boise State’s electrifying overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, arguably the most exciting game in NCAA history, and Florida’s blowout of Ohio State in the National Championship Game. With that said, here are my Top-10 teams for the 2007 College Football season.
10. Rutgers – As the feel-good story of last season, Rutgers overcame decades of ineptitude to finish the season with an 11-2 mark. Hard-nosed running back Ray Rice will lead the offensive charge and may very well be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. Throw in a relatively easy Big East schedule with only two ranked opponents and you can expect to see Rutgers playing in a bowl game more important than last year’s Texas Bowl.
9. Ohio State – Last year, the Buckeyes were the consensus top-ranked team in the country and it stayed that way until they were thrashed by the Gators in the Championship Game. QB Todd Boeckman may struggle to fill the shoes of Troy Smith, but the Buckeyes have built a team of strong underclassmen who are just waiting to showcase their skills; don’t count them out.
8. Wisconsin – The Badgers will fight it out with conference rival Ohio State for second place in the Big Ten after finishing last year with an impressive 12-1 overall record. Look for running back P.J. Hill to have a strong season behind a sturdy offensive line, despite the loss of the immensely talented offensive tackle Joe Thomas. Wisconsin has managed to fly under the radar for most of the off season, so expect them to pull off some serious upsets.
7. Louisville – With much of its starting offense returning including future superstar QB Brian Brohm, Louisville will run wild over a majority of its Big East rivals. How they will deal with Coach Bobby Petrino’s jump to the Atlanta Falcons, which he is surely second-guessing now with the Michael Vick situation, is the only real question mark for the Cardinals.
6. Florida – Last year’s National Champions will try to follow in the footsteps of their basketball team and pull off a repeat this season. Other schools will undoubtedly have a bulls-eye on the Gators. The team is faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding its defense, but QB Tim Tebow is shaping up to be a formidable replacement for Chris Leak.
5. Texas – QB Colt McCoy is back from injury and hopes to get Texas back on track after last season fell apart down the stretch. RB Jamaal Charles is poised for a big season as well, and the Longhorns will look to ride these two stars to a BCS berth despite a schedule with four ranked teams.
4. West Virginia – Three T-10 teams from the Big East? You may think that it is crazy, but the Mountaineers have enough talent to make a serious title run, especially with an improved defense. QB Pat White and lightning-fast RB Steve Slaton are back and injury free – but can they stay that way?
3. Michigan – Another team with a retooled defense, Michigan will count on its four offensive stars, QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart and WR’s Mario Manningham and Jake Long to carry the team through the season. The Wolverines will host rival Ohio State in early November and will surely seek revenge for last year’s loss.
2. USC – While USC is ranked first in both preseason polls and is the most touted team coming into the season, there remain lingering doubts. Namely, QB John David Booty has not completely convinced me yet, despite his strong performance in last year’s Rose Bowl. Only time will tell for the Trojans.
1. LSU – They have a difficult schedule, lost a fantastic QB in Jamarcus Russell and just recently lost LB Derrick Odom to assault charges. So why are the Tigers #1 on this list? Because they still have depth at almost every position and own a proven defense, pending Odom’s expected return. But most important of all, they possess a secret weapon: five-foot-five, 159-pound receiver Trindon Holliday, who can run faster than anyone you have ever seen. How’s that for excitement?