College Football Power Rankings: First Rankings for 2008
by Robert Ferringo - 08/04/2008
In my opinion, the tragedy of college football is that conjecture becomes reality. Wild speculation is prevalent in the preseason of any sport. But in college football it actually manifests itself in a tool that helps determine the teams that will eventually play in the national championship. That tool: the preseason polls.
The preseason polls are not true college football power rankings. Instead, they are a sort of glad-handing and groin rubbing of the major college programs in the country. The rankings which are taken seriously be pretty much no one at this point in the season are actually more important than anyone understands. Whether it's helping to establish futures odds in college football betting or establishing a pool of "legitimate" contenders for this season's BCS bowl games, the preseason polls help to create and secure the Hype and Myth that veils this sport.
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Thank god we have Doc's Sports college football college rankings!
Below I've formulated the first of my college football power rankings. You'll notice that, with just two exceptions, my Top 10 teams represent the same pool of talent that the USA Today Coaches Poll used to construct its Top 10 last week. However, the order is unique and at least one of the inclusions in my rankings is vastly different than the USA Today Poll.
So apparently I am guilty of college footballs Grand Sin speculation as well. But I feel like my rankings are a bit more representative of reality and I can say without a doubt that my college football power rankings will not cloud my decision making when it comes to considering the best teams in the country.
Without further ado, here are Doc's Sports college football power rankings (with each team's USA Today ranking in parentheses):
1. Georgia Bulldogs (1) - The Bulldogs are the best team in the country. However, add me to the list that does not expect to see them in the BCS Championship Game because of their meat-grinder schedule. That aside, in a pure college football power ranking, it doesn't get any better than the Bulldogs. Georgia has two budding NFL stars, Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, leading the offense behind a vicious offensive line. Defensively, eight starters are back from a Top 15 unit in 2007 and there are playmakers all over the field. Oh yeah, and Mark Richt has been one of the best and most underrated coaches in the nation over the past decade. The pieces of the puzzle are there. But expectations are too high considering that it will be a minor miracle if this team doesn't lose a couple games. These guys have a great big bull's eye on their backs and they will be facing monster spreads this season. However, as we sit in early August, Georgia deserves the hype based on the talent they put on the field.
2. USC Trojans (2) Football factory. It's just that simple out at USC, where Pete Carroll has established the premier college football program in the country. They have a sensational system and potential pros all over the field. Offensively, Joe McKnight and Patrick Turner will help take the pressure off Mark Sanchez. The X-Factor with this team is the offensive line. That unit is a little raw, although several of this year's starters saw action last year as a result of injuries. However, whatever issues this team may have can be glossed over because of their dominating back seven on defense. Five of their back seven return from the No. 2 defense in the country, including three potential All-Americans. The Pac-10 is down this season after being the second-best league in the country the past two years. And USC gets its top three competitors at home this year. As a result, USC will have an open path to the BCS Title Game if it can get past Ohio State in early September.
3. Florida Gators (5) With Superman leading the charge and a whole compliment of weapons at his disposal, it's easy to see why Urban Meyer is expected to guide this team to another major BCS Bowl game. And if UGA's schedule manages to beat the dog then the Gators very easily could find themselves playing for another national championship. Last season was supposed to be the hangover year, the rebuilding year. Instead the Gators went 8-4 with three of the four losses coming by a touchdown or less. Florida has nine starters back on offense and seven back on defense, including six of last year's starting back seven. Speed kills. And the Gators are OD'ing on it.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (4) In Stoops I trust. If Oklahoma makes it out of the loaded Big 12 this year you have to consider them for one of the BCS's top two slots. Sam Bradford is looking to build on a stellar freshman campaign and will be guiding a no-huddle attack in Norman. They have 16 starters back from a Top 10 offense and a Top 20 defense and they still have the salty taste of a BCS blowout loss (to West Virginia) on their mind. Defensively there are plenty of question marks at linebacker (zero returning starters) and cornerback (zero returning starters). But they aren't short on talent in OU, and they will miss Missouri and get Kansas and Texas Tech at home this year. The Sooners have to be the front-runners in the Big 12, the second-best league in the nation this season.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes (3) In regards to experience, talent, and stability along the depth chart the Buckeyes might be the No. 2 team in the country. But considering the manner in which they've been dominated by Speed in the last two BCS Championship Games I can't, in good conscience, put OSU any higher. They have absolutely all of the tools. They have not one, but two talented quarterbacks. They have a workhorse running back behind a sensational offensive line. They have playmakers at wideout. Defensively? Exceptional. Statistically, OSU had the No. 1 defense in the country last year. In reality, it was a Top 20 group. This year there is no doubt that they are a Top 10 or Top 5 crew. They have all of the pieces and a chip on their shoulder. But if the Buckeyes don't want to become the Buffalo Bills of college football they will need to find a way to counter the speed that the other elite programs boast.
6. Missouri Tigers (7) I am still wary of this Tigers team. They have had opportunities in the past two seasons to step to the forefront and become Elite but have come up short. But since their nemesis, Oklahoma, is not on the schedule the Tigers have a shot at the Big Time. That said, if the only way they can top the Sooners is by not playing them, then what does that say about their potential as a Champion? Chase Daniels, the point guard/quarterback of Mizzou's run-and-gun, deserves all of the praise he receives. As does electrifying Jeremy Maclin and steady Chase Coffman. But this season will be determined by the performance of the defense, which nosed its way among the Big 12 best last year. There are 10 starters back from that squad and they'll have to continue to improve if this team will get its revenge for last year's BCS snub.
7. Clemson Tigers (9) Stop me if you've heard this one: this could be Clemson's year. The Tigers are a team of extremes this season, and that type of instability is what's plagued them in the past. They have the best backfield in the ACC with QB Cullen Harper and RB's James Davis and C.J. Spiller. But they have just one returning offensive linemen. They have the top defensive line and secondary in the ACC. But they have zero returning starters at linebacker. Then there is the issue of their schedule. The Tigers will take a crack at Alabama in the Georgia Dome to start the season and they have to play their top competition in the ACC Wake Forest and Florida State on the road. On paper, this team is a BCS contender. But games aren't played on paper.
8. South Florida (21) Everyone is jocking West Virginia as the Big East c hampion this year and it's kind of a joke. Just remember where you heard it first WVU will not win the Big East and it won't even be close. The Bulls had a cup of coffee as the No. 2 team in the country last year and brought back 16 starters. They are physical, they are tough, they are gritty, and they physically impose their will on lesser squads. Just ask WVU. Matt Grothe has all the intangibles and several receiving weapons, Mike Ford is a go-to bull-back, and the offensive line returns four of five starters. Defensively, George Selvie may be the best defensive end in the country and they return their leading tackler (Ty McKenzie) at linebacker. There are some issues at corner, but two veteran safeties will help pick up the slack. The Big East is always the most underrated football conference (it has been better than the ACC and Big 10 for years) and South Florida is its most underrated team. It will be the Bulls, not the Mountaineers, which represent the Beast in a BCS game. You heard it here first.
9. Auburn Tigers (11) Quarterback is an issue for this team. But that's the only one. The Tigers finished 2007 on an 8-2 run with its only losses coming at the hands of BCS big shots LSU and Georgia. Auburn brings back eight starters from the No. 6 defense in the country and will have stud running back Brad Lester for the entire season this fall. Mix in five returning starters on the O-line, both starting wideouts, and a schedule that is set up perfectly for them to run the SEC West. The only issue is at QB. Kodi Burns threw and ran for a TD in their bowl win over Clemson last year and seems to be suited for the spread attack Auburn will employ this year. Chris Todd is a JUCO transfer who started out at pass-happy Texas Tech. If one of them can step forward and be a consistent performer then this team could pull a stunner in the SEC.
10. Texas Longhorns (10) Honestly, I couldn't figure out who should have been here. It could have been Kansas. I could have been bold and went with Texas Tech. Maybe Wisconsin or West Virginia. Arizona State crossed my mind. But in the end I don't think there really is a clear-cut No. 10 team in the country. Barring injury or a complete collapse I believe that the nine teams I've listed ahead of Texas are your contenders for the national championship. Beyond that there are maybe 20 other teams with a legit shot at a BCS Bowl. Texas is one of them. And because I have mad respect for the Big 12 I'll give them a third team in the Top 10. But don't be surprised if this is a revolving door this season whenever I post my college football power rankings.