By Chris Le
FINALLY. It’s that time of the year again. The purest, most concentrated form of sport is set to begin. The college football season is here.
Thanks to the BCS, it promises to be a wildly unpredictable year, with pre-season predictions proving to be as valid as the Y2K scare…But that won’t stop me from giving some of my own prognostications. They’re just so fun.
USC will beat Ohio State
This is an upset. It may sound shocking since USC is the media’s darling and universally revered for their unsurpassed collection of talent, but Ohio State has the Trojans beat…at least on paper. The Buckeyes have a suffocating defense, the best running back in the nation in Chris Wells and return 18 starters compared to USC’s 11. Jim Tressel’s squad, ostensibly, looks to be the clear cut number one team in the country. But we all know games are won on the field and not on the roster sheet.
It’s true that no one possesses at their disposal more blue chip recruits than Southern Cal—though Florida and Ohio State are close—but the productivity hasn’t quite matched the hype. And they’re unproven offensively. That’s why they should be considered the underdogs in this matchup. A green offensive line will try to block for Mark Sanchez, starting in his first full year under center, and a running-back-by-committee spearheaded by Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson that wasn’t as explosive as advertised a year ago.
Though the USC offense is questionable, there’s nothing wrong with their defense, which will be the best in the college football–and the reason why they’ll beat Ohio State. Expect their September 13 meeting with the Buckeyes to be ugly, brutal (just envision Rey Maualuga colliding with Wells!), fought in the trenches and perhaps with the defenses scoring more than the offenses. Pete Carroll and his team will carry this momentum and earn their way into the National Championship Game.
USC 24, Ohio State 14
Tim Tebow will run for no more than 10 touchdowns
It won’t be a case of defenses figuring him out or a matter of him regressing in some way. This is merely an indication of Florida being too talented. With Percy Harvin and two new running backs—redshirt freshman Chris Rainey, who has impressed in the spring, and sophomore transfer Emmanuel Moody—Urban Meyer won’t need Tebow to rush for 23 touchdowns anymore in order to win games. His rushing attempts should drop significantly this year to around 140 from 210 in 2007. The Gators offense will be much better-rounded and more prolific than last year’s team that scored 42.5 points per game. Yikes. Opposing defenses should be afraid—and not just of Tebow.
You will remember these names: DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson and Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Well, it’s not like they’ve toiled in obscurity; they were in fact, the top rated prep players at their respective positions. Bowers, in the spring, turned quarterbacks into his own crash test dummies, and if he hasn’t already taken over the starting spot from Kevin Alexander, he should by midseason. At 6’5 and a lean 265 pounds, he is quick, explosive, and has an everlasting motor—all the ingredients of a dominant defensive end.
Julio Jones is Calvin Johnson 2.0. Jones already possesses an NFL body at 6’4, 215 pounds, and easily passes the eye test. His combination of size, speed and agility has NFL scouts drooling, and his hops along with uncanny body control and ability to adjust at top speed will make him particularly dangerous down field and in the red zone. Alabama’s receiving corps was particularly unproductive last year; Julio Jones should change that, immediately becoming Nick Saban’s go-to player on offense.
Oklahoma will face USC in the National Championship Game
Let me just say that Ohio State, Georgia, and Florida are better than Oklahoma. But Ohio State has USC in its path, and the SEC gauntlet may prove to be an Achilles heel to both Georgia and Florida. Fortunately for Oklahoma they have no such roadblocks in their path to the title game. In college football, the schedule has as much to do with a team’s title chances as talent and coaching. Compared to the Bulldogs and Gators, the Sooners have a walk in the park, with their toughest games (Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas Tech) all occurring at home. And they don’t even have to face Missouri, unless they both make the Big 12 championship. In summation, they have the easiest schedule of any BCS conference team.
Outside the schedule, Oklahoma, per usual, stocks All-American talent at numerous positions. Sam Bradford, the highest-rated quarterback of 2007, will be in the Heisman conversation and DeMarco Murray will be dangerous in the backfield, and both can thank OG Duke Robinson who leads possibly the best offensive line in the nation.
Sam Bradford will win the Heisman Trophy
This one’s a bit of a reach but goes along the lines of the usual Heisman criteria of being the most outstanding player on one of the winningest teams. And I have Oklahoma playing in the National Championship so that makes Bradford the favorite in my book. USC is too loaded all over the field for any one player to take home the hardware, and their defense will be the team’s heart and soul. And as good as Rey Maualuga and Taylor Mays are, a defensive player will never win the Heisman without playing two-ways. Tim Tebow will have no chance of matching his ’07 numbers; too much talent around him not to spread the wealth. Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford will probably split votes, and a few losses on their record courtesy of the unforgiving SEC will derail their campaigns. Chris Wells will be an absolute beast, but an early Ohio State loss to USC, adding to the belief that the Big Ten is an inferior conference, will hurt his odds.
Aside from Wells, Chase Daniel will probably have the best shot of beating out Bradford. I predict it’ll come down to the Big 12 Championship, which will probably pit Missouri against Oklahoma. The winner will most likely play for the National Title and have the inside track for the Heisman.