Well, this is going to have to work as Runaround Sue's official 2008 College Football Preview. Without further adieu...here are 5 Fearless Thoughts on this season.
1. Clemson will not live up to expectations.
A no brainer from where I stand, and yes, trust me, I appreciate how weak the ACC is. Where to begin...isn't Clemson ranked in the Top 8-15 range to start off every season? Doesn't every season inevitably follow one of two patterns...
1- Clemson starts the season on a hot streak, ascends to or near the Top 5, only to come crashing down to earth to end with 4-5 losses?
2- Clemson starts the season struggling, Tommy Bowden is placed on the hot seat, Clemson beats Florida State and ends the season on a hot streak, finishing with 4-5 losses?
Also, regardless of the situation that plays out, Bowden WILL receive a contract extension following the season. Clemson's ability to extend this guy's contract is roughly the equivalent of my girlfriend signing her eighth contract of the last year with T-Mobile so she can replace the phone she just fucked up (again). Seriously, how can Clemson fan feel confident with this guy as their coach? Is he not Jim Donnan, part deux? The last six seasons, Clemson has finished 9-4, 8-5, 8-4, 6-5, 9-4, 7-6. Their best ACC record over that period is 5-3. And now I'm supposed to buy them as a darkhorse title contender? Sorry, not happening. Throw in Bowden's recent attempt at revisionist history, and he's no friend of Sue's.
(That enough rhetorical questions for you?)
2. The Big 12 will almost, ALMOST, be as good as the SEC...this season.
Bama is still probably a year, and a QB, away. LSU is reloading and is heading into the season with more questionmarks than in any recent season. Petrino's got a helluva mess to clean up in Fayetteville. Tennessee and Auburn are installing new QBs and offensive systems. And you know what? The SEC is still the nation's best conference by a comfortable margin. However, this season, the Big 12 could be third-to-none in terms on on-field talent, coaching and teams at their presumptive peak. Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas and Missouri will all field their best teams in recent memory, and in some cases, ever. Texas, as always, looks to be a Top 10-15 stalwart all season. Oklahoma State and Nebraska's programs are improving. Enjoy this year, Big 12, because following Monday's news, this is the closest you'll get to that #1 spot in quite awhile.
3. West Virginia will begin a long slide back to irrelevance.
Call me crazy, but if I'm a couch-burning West Virginia booster; rather than figuring out ways to sue Rich Rodriguez or send his kids death threats, I would probably find it more prudent to put pressure on the University administration NOT to hire a coach who's only head coaching experience includes a 7-17 stint at VMI. Hiring/keeping a coach based on player(s) preference is usually not a smart move outside of an NBA superstar holding a franchise hostage. Needless to say, a college football team is structured a bit differently. Luckily, a ridiculously simple schedule, with the toughest games being home contests against Auburn and South Florida, will allow West Virginia to linger with the big boys a bit longer.
And while we're speaking about coaching changes, here are some winners and losers of the offseason in that department:
Michigan - It may take a couple of seasons, but Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez is a significant improvement.
Arkansas - Petrino has coached five college seasons and still hasn't hit double digit losses.
Duke - Cutcliffe is their best coach since Spurrier. He'll have them in a bowl game and in multiple "where did these guys come from?!?" features within three seasons.
SMU & UCLA - With June Jones and Neuheisel, there will be no lack of excitement in these programs.
Nebraska - Anyone who has successfully studied under Hayden Fry, Bob Stoops and Les Miles is a good choice to coach a Big 12 team.
Southern Miss - I'm not a huge proponent of kicking to the curb the coach that put your small-time program on the map.
Ole Miss - Yes, The Nuttjob always got the most out of his talent, blah, blah, blah. He also never fully took advantage of having the best SEC running back since Herschel Walker and squandered his best recruiting class through PR gaffes that would make John Rocker blush. If 8-4 seasons is what Ole Miss is looking to get back to, you have to wonder why Cutcliffe was fired in the first place five years ago.
Texas A&M - Will Mike Sherman be the next Pete Carroll or Bill Callahan? I'm gonna guess closer to the latter.
Georgia Tech - Paul Johnson could be the best or the worst thing to ever happen to that program and I would not be surprised.
4. Georgia will win the SEC, yet somehow get shut out of the BCS Championship game.
Everything has been said about the ridiculous nature of Georgia's schedule this season (although 2009's edition doesn't look any easier), so I will spare the talk on that end. One or two losses against that schedule will put Georgia in the "nation's-best-squad" talk. However, at the end of the day, if Georgia has two losses, I can't see them jumping another highly-ranked, highly-regarded team with less losses by foolish pollsters. As a Georgia fan that bleeds red and black, I'm trying to be objective here, and as Bourn mentioned to me, I'll have plenty of moments this season to show my homerism. So that's why, I have to go with...
5. Oklahoma and Ohio State meeting in the BCS Championship Game.
While getting pounded by SEC teams in the last two title games, Ohio State fans have pointed to this year as THEIR year. With an astonishing 21 starters returning and several blue-chippers behind them, they are indeed stacked. An early road loss to USC could be their only hiccup, but I've got them winning that one and their next two toughest (sic) contests at Wisconsin and vs. Michigan. Oklahoma is likewise stacked, espicially on the offensive line that protects their Heisman candidate QB, and also features a favorable schedule. I have no idea who will win this always-a-bridesmaid matchup, and I don't care to guess. Until the day the BCS matchups are announced, I will hold out hope that UGA will be in the position to lay a 3rd consecutive S(EC)tomping to Ohio State.
Sue's Top 10
Why only 10? Because, really, who gives a shit about whether a team is getting screwed by being ranked 18th instead of 14th?
Also note: This poll moving forward, will be of the teams we feel are the 10 best teams in the country right now. Nothing else (i.e. schedules) is taken into account.
3. Ohio State
9. Arizona State
10. Mizzou...with Kansas close behind.
Call it a Sun Belt bias. More to come later.