College Football Best Of The Best

Bobby Curran
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Friday - August 25, 2006
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Time to kick off another college football season, and traditional powerhouses abound in most everybody’s top 10. It’s true on my list also, though I view it a little differently than most. For me, it’s the three S’s - schedule, speed and scheme. In that order. Here’s the best of the best.

1) Auburn. The Tigers are loaded. RB Kenny Irons is the best in the SEC, both guards and the center return. QB Brandon Cox showed steady improvement last year and should break out in 2006. The defense returns six starters and needs to have new interior guys step up. The schedule is beautiful. They’ve got LSU Arkansas, Florida and Georgia at home. Only the regular season finale against Alabama on the road stands between the War Eagles and a berth in the title game.

2) Ohio State. Best offense in the land with QB Troy Smith and WR Ted Ginn. Speed and depth everywhere, but the defense only returns two starters. The whole back seven will be new, but there are plenty of athletes. If the Buckeyes survive September they’ll go undefeated. Toughest games are at Texas (Sept. 9) and Iowa (Sept. 30)

3) West Virginia. Another awesome offense with QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton. Great speed at the receiver spots. Defense is solid, but they’ve got to replace both corners. The Mountaineers should win the shoot-outs. Schedule is a cruise except for road games at Louisville (Nov. 2) and archrival Pitt (Nov. 16). Win these two and they could run the table.

4) Texas. I know they’ve lost Vince Young and Michael Huff, but Mack Brown is one of the college game’s best recruiters. There is ample talent here and 13 returning starters. The Longhorns will lose early to Ohio State, but will win the rest of their games. FS Michael Griffin is the leader of the defense and is the best in the country at his position.

5) USC. Yes, they lose two Heisman trophy winners in Bush and Leinart, but QB John David Booty and RB Chauncey Washington along with WRs Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith will help ease the pain. Defense returns six starters and has excellent speed. The Trojans have Arizona State, Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame at home, but the last three of those come on consecutive weeks and USC is unlikely to win them all.

6) Notre Dame. The Irish should be terrific on offense with QB Brady Quinn, RB Darius Walker and WR Jeff Samardzija. Defense is the question mark, though they have more speed than a year ago. Problem for the Irish is they play USC on the road Nov 25. No time to recover from that loss. Still a BCS game and a fine sophomore season for head coach Charlie Weis.

7) LSU. The Tigers are as talented athletically as anyone in the country, but oh, what a schedule. Great skill on both sides of the ball, but LSU plays road games at Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. That’s tough to overcome.

8) California. The Golden Bears return 15 starters from an 8-4 team a year ago. If Nate Longshore wins the QB job, he’s got all his receivers back and they are very good. The defense is solid all around, but losing CB Tim Mixon to a fall camp injury is a blow. Cal has Arizona State and Oregon at home, but plays Tennessee and USC on the road.

9) Louisville. The Cardinals have one of the best QBs in the nation in Brian Brohm, RB Michael Bush is a handful, and the receiving corps is speedy but untested. The back seven on defense are excellent; they need to stop the run. The Cardinals have a nice schedule with Miami and West Virginia at home. Pitt is a stumbling block on the road (Nov. 25).

10) Boise State. Finally the WAC gets an undefeated team into the BCS. The Broncos are powerful on offense, led by QB Jared Zabransky. They have speed at receiver, an experienced line, and the ever-shifting formations of former offensive coordinator and new head coach Chris Peterson. Nine starters also return on defense, led by All WAC LB Korey Hall. Boise State has a dream schedule with Fresno State and Hawaii at home. Two potential obstacles are road games at Utah (Sept. 30) and Nevada (Nov. 25).

There you have it.

And in the championship game, Auburn beats Ohio State, say 21-17.

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