The Rise of Troy
Though most teams won't kick off till September 1, a number of top squads like Louisvile and LSU start clanking helmets tonight. You'll find both of them listed below in the 5th and 7th spots respectively. But on the real, you could put the best teams in a hat, pull out names blindly and come up with a similar top 10. That's just how even things are across the land right now. That said, here's what the top 25 teams in late August look like:
- USC- Led by a Herculean arm (John David Booty) and a four-headed rushing monster (Chauncey Washington, C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson and Hershel Dennis), the Trojans' epic need only a worthy adversary to be complete.
- West Virginia- Mountaineer hopes that were high in '06 are even loftier now. Having the sensational Patrick White and Steve Slaton come back to an offense that scored under 30 twice has that sort of effect on expectations.
- Michigan- Really, it's not just you. RB Mike Hart and QB Chad Henne did take chemistry class with the late Gerald Ford! But seriously, no matter how good the Wolverines are on paper, if they don't win their final two â€“Ohio State and whatever New Year's bowl- Lloyd Carr's likely out of a job.
- Texas- Colt McCoy just sounds like a quarterback name, doesn't it? What about Limas Sweed? How about the Big 12's best receiver?! The Longhorns would be higher on this list if they didn't have so many defensive question marks.
- Louisville- Chan and Tucker. Duncan and Parker. Brohm and Douglas. Some things â€“in this case, Cardinals stars Brian and Harry, respectively- just go great together. Get through September unscathed and Steve Kragthorpe's offensive-minded birds soar near the top.
- Florida- Tim Tebow was only asked to do short yardage running and make quick slant passes during the Gators' national title run last year. Brilliant coach Urban Meyer needs him to execute the playbook front and back if they're to repeat.
- LSU- The Tigers' 27-point thrashing of the Irish in the Sugar Bowl was laughable. Losing JaMarcus Russell to the NFL isn't humorous. The spread offense new coordinator Gary Crowton promises to implement sure looks fun.
- Boise State- How do you top a 13-0 season that concluded with what some say was the greatest college football game of all time? If you're Boise head coach Chris Peterson, you don't; instead, you keep drawing up inventive plays for back Ian Johnson and merely duplicate the feat.
- Georgia- There was a stretch last year where the Dawgs lost four of five. Credit hands-on coach Mark Richt and a steadying Matt Stafford behind center for UGA getting through the storm. Now it's time to reign on the SEC East.
- Oklahoma- Playing under a cloud of misdoings (the NCAA basically forfeited the school's '05 season for rules violations), the remaining Sooners (including WR Malcolm Kelly) have a chip on their pads that can only be eased by whipping Miami and Texas.
- Wisconsin- The winningest squad in Badger history returns its top playmaker (RB P.J. Hill) and most of its big-time play shakers (seven starters are back from a D that only gave up 12 points per game).
- California- Every team the Bears lost to in '06 (Tenn, Arizona, USC) has to comes to Berkeley this year. Good. Now the home crowd gets to see the Nate Longshore-to-DeSean Jackson duo in living color.
- Tennessee- The Vols haven't been in the SEC hunt for some time now. It's way past time for senior QB Erik Ainge to be more reliable. If UT is 1-2 after games against Cal, Southern Miss and UF, it may be "Fire Phil Fulmerâ€ rumor time.
- Rutgers- Awww, wasn't the Scarlet Knights' fairy tale season so cute? With Heisman Trophy candidate Ray Rice, QB Mike Teel and coveted coach Greg Schiano all back, this next chapter may be even more pleasant.
- Virginia Tech- Making national headlines for all the wrong reasons so far in '07 (the April massacre; Michael Vick's alma mater), the tough Hokies look to make sports page news with a win over LSU and defensive dominance in the ACC.
- Nebraska- The bad taste left in the Cornhuskers' mouth after back-to-back loses to close the season is tempered somewhat by the fact they won their first division crown since '99. QB transfer Sam Keller might bring stability to the kitchen.
- TCU- Most of a defense (including the ferocious Tommy Blake) that gave up just 35 points in the final four games returns for the Horned Frogs. Replacing super QB Jeff Ballard is the lone sticky issue.
- Hawaii- One can only imagine the fun it's going to be watching Colt Brennan's scoreboard-shattering efforts (he threw an NCAA-record 58 TDs a year ago) on Nov. 23 against Boiseâ€”especially if both teams are undefeated going into it.
- Ohio State- Though the Buckeyes haven't fallen off like Britney Spears, all the new faces on offense are reason for concern. The defense lost most of its drive. OSU is this high strictly off our faith in coach Jim Tressel's X's and O's.
- UCLA- The Bruins, who return 20 starters, know how to win. Their 13-9 upset over USC speaks to that. Head-scratching loses to Washington and Washington State shows they know how to confuse us as well.
- Kentucky- The Wildcats haven't had consecutive winning seasons since '83-84. Then again, they haven't had as versatile a trio as QB Andre Woodson, RB Rafael Little and WR Keenan Burton since, well, ever.
- Utah- Games vs. Oregon State, UCLA and Louisville will be challenging, but if healed signal caller Brian Johnson wins two of them, the exciting Utes may be BCS bound.
- Arkansas- Watching the Razorbacks is like being at a wedding for a wealthy couple you know won't make it. Sure, it's a disaster waiting to happen (QB Mitch Mustain and coordinator Gus Malzahn left in controversial fashion) but the entertainment (super tailback Dennis McFadden) sure is nice.
- Central Michigan- G'head, giggle all you want at the Chippewas now. Come Labor Day, QB Dan LeFevour's tackling tribe will have stomped Kansas and have Purdue praying to the heavens for a rainout.
- South Carolina- Hate'em or love'em, Steve Spurrier knows how to coach. Whoever set up the Gamecocks last four contests â€“UT, Arkansas, Florida, Clemson- knows how to create a hard-ass schedule.
26-30. Auburn, BYU, Florida State, South Florida and Texas A&M