Keep in mind, I'm the same guy who predicted Tim Tebow would be benched by week 7 last year. But with that, here are my completely uneducated, yet bold, picks for 2008.
1. Georgia will have at least two losses this year. I know they're loaded with talent but losing their starting LT will be a bigger loss than some people think. And, sorry Dawg fans (including my mother), but I just don't think much of Richt as a big game coach. (Random side note: UGA's game at Arizona State is their first non-conference regular season game west of the Mississippi since 1967.) Knowshon Moreno is the real deal but, other than him, I'm not sold on Georgia as being head and shoulders above Tennessee, Florida, etc. On that note . . .
2. The SEC will still be the best conference overall, but the Big 12 will close the gap quite a bit this year. The Big 12 will be really good this year based on QBs alone. 9 of the league's 12 teams return starting QBs. Chase Daniel and Sam Bradford are legit Heisman candidates and Graham Harrell will continue to put up video game-type numbers. Zac Robinson at Oklahoma State is the best run/pass QB not named Tim Tebow. Heck, the biggest question mark of these nine is Joe Ganz at Nebraska, and all he did in his three games as starter was throw for 1400 yards and 15 TDs. I don't ever remember a conference returning so much talent at the top. If Kansas and Missouri can come close to replicating last season, the Big 12 will be a player in the national mix.
3. Tim Tebow will not win the Heisman this year. This not a knock on Tebow, who proved me oh-so-wrong last year. But I think his own backfield will be working against him. On paper, Florida should have a better running game, something they didn’t have last year. In goal line situations, Tebow was their best running option and got a lot of ground TDs. So in the absence of any standout competition for the Heisman, it was hard for voters to argue with 20+ TDs both passing and rushing. This year, I expect he’ll have fewer rushing TDs (but probably more passing). While it may help Florida as a team, it will hurt the 20/20 novelty factor. I still expect him to be a finalist (wonder if he’ll vote for himself?) but not win it.
4. Bobby Bowden will take some of the heat off himself with a nine-win season for Florida State.
5. Upset Special: Appalachian State will give LSU a run for their money, but won’t pull the shocker this year. My pick for “out there” upset is Eastern Washington over Colorado. I’m not basing this on any perceived weakness at CU or strength at EWU. I’m looking strictly at the schedule—CU will be coming off a big rivalry game vs. Colorado State and will be looking ahead to a Thursday night game vs. West Virginia and then Florida State the week later. A classic trap game.
6. Buffalo and SMU will be surprise bowl teams.
June Jones will have SMU back in the top-25 sooner rather than later. And Turner Gill at Buffalo will be on a lot of short lists for higher-profile coaching vacancies next year. And speaking of which . . .
7. Kirk Ferentz and Mike Stoops will be job hunting in December.
8. Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree will make ESPN’s Top Plays at least four times this season. If you don’t know about this guy, trust me, you should. I know he puts up monster numbers in part thanks to Mike Leach’s “throw at all costs” offense, but Crabtree is as good and athletic a receiver as you will find, and you have to see some of his grabs to believe them. Don’t be surprised to see him at the Heisman ceremony.
9. BCS Buster: Everyone is so high on BYU to run the table and be this year’s Hawaii. I don’t know that they’re even the best team in the MWC. If I had to bet on a non-BCS team making it in, I’d take Utah. They open at Michigan and have a 10/2 game vs. Oregon State. But the Utes are good enough to win those games and will likely be favored in every other game until the game at home vs. BYU to end the season. That game could well be between two unbeatens fighting for a spot in a BCS bowl game. I pick the Utes.
10. And last but not least, Ohio State will lose to USC on 9/13, but will then run the table, climb back up the rankings and upset unbeaten Oklahoma in the championship game. Third time’s the charm for tOSU, and the heat on “Big Game” Bob Stoops will ratchet a couple of degrees higher.