I’m not even going to bother getting into how futile preseason predictions are. I don’t care if you’re Pat Haden or Patricia Arquette, your dead-solid locks don’t mean jack when it comes to foretelling the upcoming season.
That doesn’t make it any less fun, though. Here’s my best stab at how this season is going to turn out:
BCS Championship Game
Florida over USC
Yes, I know this is boring. Frankly, though, if it can’t be OU, I’d love to see the two most frightening programs in college football square off for the whole enchilada. I have to favor the Trojans over Ohio St. at the Coliseum, and any potentially threatening Pac-10 foe will be traveling to L.A. this year. As tough as the SEC regular season is year in and year out, Florida’s 2008 slate sets up surprisingly well for a national championship, even if the Gators drop one along the way. Two-time Heisman winner Tim Tebow and the baby bullies on Florida’s defensive line will be the difference in this titanic clash.
ACC: Florida St. over Virginia Tech
The decline of the Seminoles since they played for the national championship in 2001 has been well-documented. Yet, in what should be a lackluster year in the ACC, Florida St. looks ready for at least a one-year return to the top of the league. Most notably, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Wake Forest are all headed to Tallahassee. The Hokies are an uninspiring pick to win the Coastal division, the best of a bad lot.
Big East: West Virginia
Enjoy it while it lasts, Mountaineers. If Pat White goes down for any extended period of time, all bets are off. You’re probably not as good as South Florida is this year, even if you do win the conference. Get used to it, too, because it’s going to stay that way for a while. Watch out for Louisville bouncing back from a down year behind talented quarterback Hunter Caldwell and new defensive coordinator Ron English.
Big Ten: Wisconsin
Ohio St. is everyone’s prohibitive favorite, obviously, but I can’t shake the feeling that quarterback Todd Boeckman is going to waylay the Buckeyes somewhere in conference play. Might as well be in Madison, where the Badgers are undefeated since head coach Bret Bielema took over three years ago. I’m actually tempted to pick Wisconsin for the national championship game. The o-line returns almost entirely intact, and the Badgers are loaded at tailback.
Big XII: Oklahoma over Missouri
There’s plenty to love about the Sooners’ offense. OU is going to score a ton of points this year. As loaded as they might be on offense, though, the Sooners have just as many questions on the defensive side of the ball. The upshot is that new personnel at linebacker and in the secondary give OU an opportunity to cut down on big plays in the passing game, the Sooners’ biggest achilles’ heel under head coach Bob Stoops.
It would be nice if someone in the Pac-10 could end the Trojans’ monotonous stranglehold on first place. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening this year. Pete Carroll’s D will be downright nasty. USC’s reputation for replacing top-tier talent with a new generation of young studs helps allay concerns about an inexperienced offense, such as the one returning starter on the line. Despite a predilection for in-conference slip-ups to clearly inferior squads in recent years, the league just isn’t good enough this year to pose a real threat to the Trojans’ reign.
SEC: Florida over Auburn
I don’t see how Florida’s pass defense won’t be remarkably better than 2007. Likewise, the Gators’ improvement in the running game should carry over into the new season. As good as Tebow is, Urban Meyer’s squad has enough talent backing him up to keep the offense humming along should the linebacker-masquerading-as-quarterback go down. Meyer, however, might want to give second-stringer Cameron Newton a few meaningful snaps, just in case Tebow’s reckless running style relegates him the bench at some point. Auburn’s offense looks ready to take it to the next level under coordinator Tony Franklin, with dual threat sophomore Kodi Burns taking over behind center.