College Football

College football's instant replay

Last season's BCS, Heisman Trophy storylines could be in for an updating

Staff WriterAugust 30, 2009 

  • Five who could win it all

    Florida: Dynasties are supposed to be dead, but somebody forgot to tell Urban Meyer, who is 35-6 with two national titles since 2006.

    Texas: The Longhorns have 16 starters back from a team that won 12 games, including a 45-35 decision over Oklahoma.

    Oklahoma: The Sooners, college's version of the Atlanta Braves, have issues on the offensive line but not on defense or with QB Sam Bradford, who would have been the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft had he left school.

    Southern California: The defense loses eight starters, but with the embarrassment of recruiting talent in Pete Carroll's program, that doesn't figure to be an insurmountable problem.

    California: Odd to peg a team coming off a 9-4 season as a title contender, but Florida did last year, and the Golden Bears have an easier path.

    Five who could surprise

    ECU: It wouldn't shock anyone around here to see the deep, experienced Pirates start 3-0 or pull off a BCS bid, but based on their absence from either Top 25, it would be for the rest of the country.

    Georgia: Everyone has given up the ghost on the Dawgs, the preseason No. 1 in '08, after losing quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Same thing happened to Tennessee in 1997; the Vols responded with a national title.

    UNLV: If everything Urban Meyer touches turns to gold (Al Groh crosses his fingers), former assistant Mike Sanford is overdue in his fifth season with the Rebels.

    Arkansas: Bobby Petrino had an uneven first season (5-7) with the Hogs, but with the return of 18 starters, plus Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett at quarterback, there's more "woo pig" in Petrino's future than "sooie."

    Illinois: The Illini followed up a Rose Bowl appearance in 2007 with a 5-7 stumble. Between QB Juice Williams and receiver Arrelious Benn, the talent is there for a quick bounceback.

    Five on the way up

    N.C. State: Tom O'Brien's first two Boston College teams had losing records, and then the Eagles cranked out eight straight winning seasons. O'Brien's first two N.C. State teams had losing records, and then ...

    UNC: Coming off their first winning season since 2001 and ranked in the preseason for the first time since 1998, the Tar Heels are on the right path with Butch Davis.

    Cincinnati: Brian Kelly, 22-6 at Cincinnati, wasn't good enough for Tennessee. The Vols' mistake is Cincinnati's gain.

    Baylor: In the last five years, previous national dregs Rutgers, Wake Forest, Rice and Vanderbilt have not only qualified for bowl games but won them. The Bears, with an athletic marvel in quarterback Robert Griffin and an astute coach in Art Briles, are next.

    Stanford: The Cardinal has talent, experience and an up-and-comer in coach Jim Harbaugh.

    Five on the way down

    Boston College: The Eagles have survived coaching changes and quarterback changes, but can they withstand both in the same season, without two defensive linemen gone to the NFL and the ACC defensive player of the year?

    Texas Tech: There's a reason Mike Leach, a self-proclaimed pirate, was looking for any port in a storm after the Red Raiders' 11-2 breakout season.

    Clemson: The next guy to make a successful jump from receivers coach to head coach at a major Division I program will be the first.

    Wisconsin: After a 20-5 start, Bret Bielema dropped to 7-6 last season. The program's finally hitting the post-Barry Alvarez wall.

    UConn: Running back Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher, had almost 50 percent of the offense (2,208 total yards) last season. He was one of four top-35 draft picks from UConn.

As far as originality goes, the 2009 college football season promises to be uninspired.

Starting at the top, there's Florida, joined by Texas, Oklahoma and Southern California. Hmm, where have we seen that before? Oh yeah, last year. Even George Lucas is unimpressed by the potential predictability of this season.

If the season goes according to plan -- and college football has been known to run in cycles -- with Florida aiming for another national title, what it lacks in originality could be made up in historical perspective. The Gators, who return their entire starting defensive lineup, open the season No. 1 in both the AP and coaches' polls, and if they finish there, they would be the first team to win three Bowl Championship Series titles (LSU is other program with two).

Going back, no team has won three AP national titles in four years since Notre Dame, with coach Frank Leahy and quarterback Johnny Lujack, in 1946, '47 and '49. That's the company Gators coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Tim Tebow are keeping these days with their hardware collection (national titles '06 and '08 and Tebow's Heisman Trophy '07).

The Heisman race promises to be even more familiar with the top three vote-getters -- '08 winner Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Tebow -- returning, but a second trophy for either Bradford or Tebow would also be historical.

The only piece of the '08 plot missing is the BCS outsider. Vying for the role of Utah, the only team to finish the season unbeaten, will be Texas Christian, Brigham Young, Boise State, East Carolina and ... Utah. Given the path we're headed down, it would only make sense if it were the Utes again.

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