Ohio St: Ah, OSU. The beast of the Big Ten. The saga of the Buckeyes has been well documented . Two straight Big Ten titles. Two straight national championship games. Two straight bad losses to SEC teams. Regardless, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t win the conference title for a record third straight year.
Illinois: With the loss of Rashard Mendenhall Illinois is looking to focus more on the passing game this year. Juice Williams will have to improve his recognition skills, but Arrelious Benn and a squadron of massive receivers should help make him look good. Martez Wilson and defensive standout Vontae Davis should help the defense continue to improve.
Wisconsin: To quote David Byrne, “Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.” The Badgers will continue to pound the ball with P.J Hill, Zach Brown, and John Clay. Although he won’t be supplanting Hill, Clay in particular has a chance to have a break out season this year for the Badgers.
Penn St: The defense won’t be the problem, let’s get that out of the way right now. The Nittany Lions ranked 15th in team defense last year and there isn’t any reason to think there will be a let down. The offense will be an interesting work in progress. There’s a good chance that Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin will split time during the season. The same is true at running back where a staggering four players are still engaged in a battle for the right to be named starter.
Michigan St: There are some very high expectation for the Spartans entering Mark Dantonio’s second season as head coach. Javon Ringer is a stud a running back and they return a number of starters from offensive and defensive squads that both ranked 35th nationally. Both Ohio St and Wisconsin have to come to Lansing.
Purdue: Curtis Painter threw for 3,846 yards and 29 touchdowns last year for the Boilermakers, which is the main reason that Purdue had the the highest ranked offense in the Big 10. If the defense can improve Purdue could be a surprisingly good team this year and possibly even make a major bowl.
Michigan: It’s hard to know what to expect from the Wolverines this year, as just about every aspect of the program has been overhauled. Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, and JJ Arrington are all gone. The defense should still be all Conference and keep them in most games, but it’s completely within the realm of possibility that they only win 5 or 6 games.
Indiana: This feels weird for me to type, but there is an outside chance that Indiana could win 8 or 9 games this year. Former Reds prospect Andrew Means and freshman Damarlo Belcher should prove ample replacements for James Hardy. Despite going 3-5 in Big Ten play last year the offense and a cupcake schedule should have the Hoosiers in a bowl again.
Iowa: To say that Kirk Ferentz’s teams have underperformed since his massive contract extension 3 years ago is a huge understatement. The 6-6 2007 campaign would be enough to raise eyebrows on its own, but after 18 arrests since 2007 Ferentz is in some seriously hot water.
Northwestern: Northwestern’s no huddle, wide open offense stands in stark contrast to most of the other teams in the conference and it’s not unheard of for the Wildcats to put up huge numbers. New defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will look to instill his zone-blitz scheme and some consistency on his side of the ball. Just don’t expect any miracles.
Minnesota: The Gophers gave up an astonishing 518 yards per game last year. If you guessed that Minnesota ranked last in college football in that statistic you’d be correct. Second year coach Tim Brewster has gone to great lengths in an attempt to prevent it from happening again, including bringing in a new defensive coordinator and 21 new defensive players.
USC: After a rash of injuries and a bizarre outbreak of jock itch(seriously), it looks like the Trojans off season is finally starting to settle down. Mark Sanchez looks like he’ll be able to start against Virginia, and Joe McKnight is beginning to look like the player who pissed off the entire state of Louisiana when he left. The defense will be fast. Very, very, very fast. If the offensive line can overcome it’s inexperience expect them to challenge for both the Pac 10 and national championships.
Arizona St: Three starters are being replaced on the offensive line, and this was a line that had already given up 55 sacks last year. If the Sun Devils can survive a brutal 4 game stretch where they face Georgia, USC, California, and Oregon they have a chance for another 10 win season and a spot in the BCS, but it’s also possible that a team that ranked 55th nationally in total offense overachieved last year and will come back to earth.
Oregon: Nate Costa and Justin Roper were in a tight race for the starting quarterback position before Nate Costa went down with a knee injury a few days ago. The Ducks would probably prefer Costa because he’s a better fit for the spread-option, but Roper threw for 4 touchdowns in Oregon’s 56-21 blowout win over South Florida in the Sun Bowl. The defense will need to improve if they hope to challenge USC for the conference title.
Oregon St: The Beavers quietly went 9-4 last season, primarily because of a staunch defense and strong rushing attack. Most of that defensive front seven had to be replaced, making hard to predict how they’ll fare again this season. If the drop off is negligible, and under Mark Banker’s system it very well could be, then Oregon St. should have another strong year.
California: Kevin Riley is the starting quarterback, we know that for sure, but how effective can he be with a group of receivers that is almost completely new? Jeff Tedford has a reputation as an offensive genius and he’ll need to be in order to avoid a second straight 7-6 record.
UCLA: The Bruins return only 4 starters on offense, which could make points very tough to come by. Ben Olsen and Patrick Cowan both went down to injuries before the season even started, and third stringer Kevin Craft through three interceptions on three passes in a scrimmage earlier this week.
Stanford: The Cardinals return 16 starters from last season, which makes them the most experienced team in the Pac 10. The defense improved by leaps and bounds over the course of last season, but still ranked 100th nationally. It’s possible that Stanford could be good enough to play in a bowl game this season, the second under coach Jim Harbaugh, but they still don’t have the talent to win more than 7 games.
Washington: Washington has great hopes for quarterback Jake Locker, and he’s expected to make the rest of the offense around him better. They’d better hope so, because they have a brutal out of conference schedule and that defense isn’t doing them any favors.
Arizona: This might be Mike Stoops last chance in Arizona. He was expected to turn the program into a perennial power like his brother Bob did at Oklahoma, but so far the results have been extremely disappointing. If the Wildcats don’t make a bowl this season, and win it, he’s probably gone. The offense could be very good, but they turn over almost the entire defense.
Washington St: Paul Wulff is having a hard time this summer trying to install his offensive system. The line is a mess, the receivers have been decimated by injuries, and the 2nd team offense and defense dominated their first string counterparts in the final scrimmage.
Georgia: Quarterback Matt Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno, both Heisman candidates, lead what should be a high powered offense. Losing Left Tackle Trinton Sturdivant with a season ending knee injury isn’t good, but the rest of the offensive line is rock solid and Georgia has recruited well enough that it shouldn’t affect them too badly. The defense might actually improve over a unit that ranked 19th in the league last year, but an absolutely brutal schedule will probably keep them out of the SEC championship game and any hopes for a national title.
Florida: Tim Tebow is one of the rare athletes that completely lives up to his hype, but he might not even be the best player on the Gator offense. Percy Harvin is ridiculously fast and can line up just about everywhere on the field. Florida needs to improve on defense if they hope to challenge for another national title but looks to have the inside track in the SEC East.
Tennessee: Tennessee is breaking in a new quarterback in Jonathan Crompton, new offensive coordinator in Dave Clawson, and a lot of new faces in the defensive front seven. Luckily, the Vols might have the best secondary in football, featuring Eric Berry(who may also line up on offense) and Demetrius Morely, which should take a lot of pressure off a young defensive line.
South Carolina: Jasper Brinkley heads up a Gamecock defense full of returning starters. If the often injured middle linebacker can stay healthy this year they have a chance to be one of the better units in a conference filled with stellar defenses. Steve Spurrier has made Tommy Beecher his starting quarterback and swears he’s the one. Period. He means it this time. Really.
Kentucky: Kentucky lost almost every play maker from last year’s surprisingly competitive team. Mike Hartline will replace Andre Woodson now that Curtis Pulley has been released from the team for disciplinary reasons. Freshman Randall Cobb may also see playing time at quarterback, but expect him to be on the field regardless, as he’s easily already proven to their most gifted athlete.
Vanderbilt: This isn’t your grandfather’s Vanderbilt team. True, they may never challenge for an SEC title, but Bobby Johnson has turned them into a team that no one takes lightly. However, with an entirely new offensive line and no announced starter at quarterback with less than a week until opening day it’s hard to imagine Vanderbilt improving on last season’s 5-7 record.
Auburn: The Spread offense is the next big thing in college football, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Auburn is implementing it this year. So how is this incarnation different? The Tigers are running it completely no huddle. There isn’t a clear starter at quarterback as Kodi Burns and Chris Todd have both played extremely well and both will be used as the season progresses. If the new offense can get on track and complement what should be another dominating defense, a relatively favorable conference schedule could finally get Auburn back in the SEC title game.
LSU: LSU has lost a lot of the players that won them the national championship last season. They have only 5 returning offensive starters, but the fact that 4 of them are on the offensive line should help dull the blow. Jarret Lee and Andrew Hatch are battling to replace Matt Flynn at quarterback now that Ryan Perriloux has left campus for good. The defensive line, led by Ricky Jean-Francois, should be as dominating as ever, but an inexperienced secondary may go through some growing pains early in the year.
Mississippi St: Sylvester Croom has improved the team every year since taking over the job at Mississippi St, and last year they went 8-5 and won the Liberty Bowl. Are they good enough to win the SEC West? Probably not, but the defense, which is led by safety Derek Pegues, should continue to be suffocating. If they can get some consistency at receiver it will open up some running lanes for punishing runner Anthony Dixon and the Bulldogs could surprise a lot of people.
Alabama: John Parker Wilson is easily the best quarterback in the SEC’s western division, and adding freshman Julio Jones to his options is probably little unfair to opposing defenses. Expect Nick Saban to play a lot of the freshman. Besides the opener against Clemson the Tide has a favorable early schedule. If Saban can use that time to get his young players comfortable it’s possible they could pull off an upset or two later in the season.
Mississippi: After the Rebels went 0-8 in SEC play last season it wasn’t a huge shock when Ole Miss let Ed Orgeron go and replaced him with former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. When they were able to add Texas transfer Jevan Snead to their offense they suddenly became a much better team. Probably not good enough to win more than half their games, but good enough to avoid being completely embarrassed again.
Arkansas: At Texas, vs. Florida, vs. Alabama, at Auburn. That is Arkansas’ schedule from Mid-September through Mid-October. Couple this with the fact that Bobby Petrino is still trying to teach the Razorbacks his new scheme and break in a ton of incoming freshman and the outlook for this season isn’t very bright.
Next Sunday marks the beginning of my articles dealing with the 2008 college football season, and I go into more detail regarding who I think are this seasons best teams and players!
Posted originally: 2008-08-25 10:55:47