Top Ten for 2006
1) Southern California. Go to nationalchamps.net and check out the Trojans schedule next season. All threats will have to win in L.A. Couple that fact along with White and Bush eligible to return and SC could rewrite history. Quarterback will be a perceived step down.
2) Texas. (If Vince Young returns; if not the Horns are not on this list, unless they upset Ohio State early in Austin.)
3) Auburn. The best backfield in 50 years was replaced in 2005 by a statistically better and younger version. LSU, Florida, and Georgia all come to the Plains. Perhaps no fanbase is hoping for early defections from SC and Texas more than the Tigers.
4) Ohio State / Notre Dame winner. Whoever wins the Fiesta Bowl will carry momentum to this spot. Both will have early statement games as the Buckeyes travel to Austin for a return trip, while the Irish have Penn State and Michigan in back-to-back weeks in September.
5) Oklahoma. Rhett Bomar will come back as a the tried and true instead of a project. Adrian Peterson is obligated to come back per NCAA rules. The Sooners travel early to Eugene to face the Ducks. Everything else will be at home that needs to be at home. Texas game will depend upon Vince Young being in Austin or the NFL.
6) Miami, FL. Everyone got a glimpse of what the Canes could be for 2006 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. However, we also saw why the Canes aren’t the feared machine of 2001 in a loss at home to Georgia Tech. Home games against Virginia Tech and Florida State help.
7) Ohio State / Notre Dame loser.
8) Virginia Tech. The Hokies will have to prove they are clutch going into 2006. Either the taste of this year will be sour enough to propel them, or they will have missed their window.
9) LSU. Good team, killer schedule with road games at Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee. Alabama comes to Tiger Stadium where they have performed well. QB controversy could rear its head with Russell and Perilloux.
10) Florida, Florida State, Penn State. Each team has personnel losses to address or questions from 2005 that will linger. Each will face a tough early schedule that will make them or break them.
Outside looking in:
Louisville – Prove it. Easy schedule which should include a BCS trip. Wait, wasn’t that 2005?
Alabama – Expect the Tide to be ranked well, but their defense won’t be as stout and Brodie Croyle will be gone.
Oregon – Ducks face the Sooners in Eugene early in the year. That will be their chance to grab media attention.
West Virginia – The Mountaineers wont receive much credit if they bomb against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Texas Tech – See West Virginia, however, the Red Raiders destroyed their 2005 momentum with a ridiculous non-conference slate. Games at UTEP and SMU as well as TCU will help in 2005. They could crack the list.
Michigan – Henne will get trashed until spring ball, then he will become incredible again. Breaston will be overhyped with someone mentioning slump and Heisman in the same sentence. Mike Hart and “key cornerstone” will be a familiar phrase as well. Beating Notre Dame in South Bend will be viewed as an upset should Michigan win now.
California – I drink too much Tedford Punch probably, however I expect him to benefit with having a full off-season to groom his quarterbacks (Longshore and Ayoob). Cal will not go 7-4 again. Bears could get an early jolt by winning at Tennessee to open the season.
Iowa – Nice schedule with four winnable games then host the Buckeyes. Follow that with two against Purdue and at Indiana then at Michigan. Win that and Iowa could win the Big Ten. Drew Tate will have to prove himself going into next year and Iowa needs a nationally known running back. I know I can’t name their 2005 leading rusher.
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