Seven that could play for a national title

Bobby Curran
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Friday - August 22, 2008
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Trying to rank college football teams in the pre-season is a little like trying to time the stock market - even the pros are mostly wrong.

It’s not so difficult to gauge what teams are strong; it’s which will win the big games that will vault them into the top 10 at season’s end. I’m a huge believer in schedules, whom you play and where you play them. Here’s my pre-season Serious Seven:

1) USC

The disparity between the very top and the rest of the Pac-10 is getting wider. Pete Carroll continues to be the nation’s best recruiter. All of their tough games are at home - Ohio State, Oregon, Arizona State and Cal. The most difficult road game is at Oregon State. The Trojans will play in the national title game.

2) Auburn

Some people have the Tigers as the fourth-best team in the SEC, but they not only have 16 starters back, they have LSU, Tennessee and Georgia at home, and they don’t play Florida.

3) Oklahoma

The Sooners have eight starters returning on offense including a real QB in Sam Bradford, a non-conference lineup softer than Charmin, and they play Kansas and Texas Tech at home, and don’t play Missouri.

4) Ohio State

Much like the Pac-10, there is a big drop off after the Buckeyes. They’ve got 19 starters back, and more speed than in the recent past.

I’d have them higher but for the road game at USC. Wisconsin at Camp Randall could also be tough, but one loss early won’t necessarily keep them out of the title game as long as they don’t get blown out.

5) Georgia

I saw enough of Georgia on Jan. 1 to last a decade. They have as much talent as anybody, and are rock solid at every position, but the schedule is a killer. They have road games at South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU and Auburn. If they finish with one loss in the regular season, they’re a lock for the title game.

6) Florida

The Gators are a powerful offensive entity; the defense needs to step up to a similar level if Florida is to get back to national championship form. The only real test on the road is at Tennessee; LSU and South Carolina are at the swamp and as always, Georgia is in Jacksonville.

7) Missouri

QB Chase Daniel on offense, eight returning starters on defense, a joke of a non-conference schedule, and only Texas on the road standing between Mizzou and an unblemished record, but they’ll get Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game and could again be left out of a BCS game.

As UH draws closer to its season opener at Florida, watching practice has led me to conclude one of two things must be true. Either the Warrior defensive front is pretty special, or the offensive line needs a lot of work. It hasn’t helped that injuries have kept the O-line from having the same five to practice. I hope I’m wrong, but it seems that with the exception of John Estes, the group is not terribly athletic and could have early difficulties protecting QB Brent Rausch.

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