2004 / 2005 NCAA College Football Preview
This promises to be another unbelievable year for one of sport’s greatest shows on earth – college football. It’s hard to beat the fanaticism and excitement of college football. And for those of us who bet on college football, it’s a great time. What’s in store for this season? The ACC is downright scary as are the SEC, Pac-10 and Big 12. It sure looks like USC and Georgia should do battle for the National Championship in Miami, but that is why they play the games. There are at least eight other teams with a legitimate shot at a National Title.
Let’s count down to the top 7 NCAA conferences…
…Number 7: Big East
The Big East is now officially a joke in football. I recognize that it will be a juggernaut in hoops but this ain’t basketball season. The door appears wide open for West Virginia to win the Conference Title this season. The only teams with legitimate shots to beat the Mountaineers are BC, Pitt, and Syracuse but all of those programs look down this season and need to replace many players who graduated or left early to the NFL. This conference has suffered a great deal at the hands of the ACC. West Virginia will be a good-to-great football team this season, but will pay come January due to their lack of competition in October and November. KayJay Harris is a special back who is rightfully receiving preseason Heisman recognition. WVU should walk in the Big East in 2004.
…Number 6: Mountain West
Yep, that’s right, your read it here first. The Mountain West is better than the Big East this season. Utah will be a damn good football team, capable of beating anyone they line up against. In fact, they very well could be this year’s BCS killer feature story. Colorado State and San Diego State, with standout TB Lynell Hamilton back and healthy, will be solid once again and BYU could surprise as well. Wyoming, and Head Coach, Joe Glenn should continue their upward trend from a year ago. Five legitmate teams in this conference. More than the Big East in my humble opinion.
…Number 5: Big 10
This may be the year of the Big Ten, but haven’t we all grown more than a little bit weary of the teams the Big Ten has turned out over the past few seasons? On a National level, they appear slow. They are very physical which allows the cream of the Big Ten to play with anyone in the country. It is the same old story this season as Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan. They all have legitimate shots at a BCS bowl game come January. Minnesota should be solid once again with Marlon Barber back to run the rock and Kyle Orton returns to spread it out at Purdue. After that, though, this conference is pretty weak. Many people think this may be the year that Penn State returns to respectability, but put me in the faction that thinks JoePa needs to retire and let someone bring the program into the 21st century. Iowa will be much weaker than in the past couple of seasons and no team really appears ready to step up in their place.
…Number 4: Big 12
Yes, four may be a little low, but this conference appears somewhat down this season minus Texas and Oklahoma. The Big 12 North is once again a mess and completely up for grabs regardless of what you read about KSU or Missouri. Colorado and Nebraska could very well be the last standing in December in the Northern division. The Southern division will once again be decided at the Red River Shootout and there is really no reason to believe that Mack Brown will actually beat Bob Stoops. Oklahoma State will be down from last year, and Texas A&M should be a middle tier team once again. Texas Tech must replace Kliff Kingsbury, but the problem lies more in the system than with the guys throwing the rock. Tech could surprise with a third place finish in the South. There really are only two marquee teams in the Big 12 this year.
…Number 3: Pac-10
USC and Cal are as good as anyone in the country. If SC gets Mike Williams back this season, their offense will be unbelievable. They will be very good, regardless, and the defensive line is an absolute force. Jeff Tedford’s presence at Cal has made enormous strides in that program. The story of the conference this season could be the reemergence of big time football in Arizona where Andrew Walters and Mike Stoops look to have big seasons. The Wildcats may be a couple of seasons away, but Stoops will have them among the elite programs in the country within 5 years.
…Number 2: ACC
The infusion of football powers Miami and Virginia Tech bolster the ACC a great deal this season and provide us with some exceptional match-ups. While Florida State and Miami should continue to dominate the ranks of college football and the ACC, watch out for the Cavaliers of Virginia and the Clemson Tigers as well in this conference. Both teams are very talented and return top level talent on both sides of the football. Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and Maryland will also all be strong once again this season. Really no weeks off in this conference any longer, as even the Duke Blue Devils should be improved. As of August, Florida State looks like the conference’s best team, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clemson or Virginia atop the ACC come January.
…and the #1 rated conference is… the SEC
Until this conference gives me any reason whatsoever to discount it, they will be my number one ranked conference. Georgia and LSU are loaded once again. Florida and Tennessee should also improve on their performances over the past couple of seasons, and don’t forget about that little state of Alabama. The Crimson Tide are poised for a return to the national scene and the Tigers could very well make their fans forget about a season gone awry one year ago. The winner of the SEC should end up in Miami once again this season.
Projected Conference Champions
SEC – Georgia Bulldogs
The Bulldogs return ten starters on offense and nine on defense which should be scary for the rest of the conference. Among those returning are Quarterback David Greene, Defensive End David Pollack, and Wide Out Fred Gibson, all seniors who are among the nations best at their respective positions. Georgia was 8-6 ATS in 2003.
ACC – Florida State Seminoles
FSU’s offense will be ridiculous this season, assuming Chris Rix has his head in the right place. Rix is one of the most physically gifted QB’s FSU has ever had, but he is known for the enormity of his mental lapses. Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker may be the best Tailback tandem east of Southern California, and Craphonso Thorpe is a stud at receiver. The biggest news is that all five offensive lineman return led by All American Alex Barron. The defense has more work to do, but there is no shortage of athletes in Seminole land. No linebackers return but Ernie Sims and Marcello Church should be superstars. Kamerion Wimbley was brilliant at times at Defensive End in his sophomore season. Three of four DB’s return which will help the Seminoles defense early on. There are numerous big games on the schedule beginning with the opener at Miami on September 6th. The finale against Florida on November 20th should be special as well. The Noles get Clemson and Virginia at home which is a huge plus for them this season.
Pac-10 – USC Trojans
The Trojans return only six offensive and defensive starters for the 2004 season unless WR Mike Williams is reinstated by the NCAA. The good news for Pete Carroll and his staff is that those who are returning are studs. Matt Leinhart is back once again, as are Reggie Bush and Lendale White. Shaun Cody heads up the returning defensive players. Like Oklahoma, the Trojans have been cleaning up on the recruiting front and will be just fine again this season. The Trojans were an amazing 12-2 ATS last season and covered every Pac-10 game except the loss at California.
Big12 – Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners look to reload yet again in 2004 with eleven starters returning on offense and seven on defense. Heisman Trophy winner Jason White is back for his senior year as is All Star wide out Mark Clayton. All five offensive lineman are back as well which means this offense should hit the ground running. Gone is Derek Strait, but the way Bob Stoops has recruited the past three years, the defense will no problem filling holes left by Strait, Brandon Everage and Teddy Lehman.
Big Ten – Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers return nine offensive starters and eight on defense from a team that went 6-7 ATS one year ago. The most important players returning to Barry Alavrez’s squad is Anthony Davis and all five guys who’ll block for him. Alvarez’s gameplan’s tend to depend on his teams ability to run the football and control the clock. That should not be problem for this crew provided that new quarterback John Stocco, can complete the short timing routes. Assuming they are able to move the football on the ground, the defense will be strong. They return all four defensive lineman, which is huge in the Big Ten, as most of the dominant schools are run first ballclubs. The Badgers luck out by not having to play Michigan this season. Possible stumbling blocks are at Arizona and at Ohio State.
Mountain West – Utah Utes
Urban Meyer, the leader of Utah’s football program has become one of the hot young commodities on the coaching market. Look for his name to become more valuable during the next off-season. Utah returns seven on offense and eight on defense this season. The leading returnees are QB Alez Smith. The defense, however, will be the heart and soul of the football team. DL Jason Kaufusi returns from an injury for his sophomore season. He was the MWC rookie of the year two years ago. Morgan Scalley, a returning FS, was named to the All Mountain West team one year ago. This team will scare bigger football powers early in the season and should coast to the Mountain West title.
Big East – West Virginia Mountaineers
Seven starters return on offense and eight on defense for the Mountaineers, led by Kay Jay Harris, a marquee JC transfer two seasons ago. He’ll benefit greatly from the return of four offensive lineman, WR Chris Henry and QB Rasheed Marshall. The defensive line is the strength of the defense with four starters returning led by Ben Lynch. The schedule is manageable with the biggest dates being home against Maryland and at Virginia Tech, both non conference tilts.
MAAC – Toledo Rockets
Toledo returns eight players on offense including standout running back Trinity Dawson and quarterback Bruce Gradowski. There are holes to be filled along the offensive line which provides some concern here, but the majority of the players filling those holes are upperclassmen who are familiar with the system. The defense only returns five starters but the offense should be on the field with their ball control running game allowing the defense to get comfortable during the early part of the season.
Big West – Fresno State
The Bulldogs have their best team since David Carr’s senior season in Cali. Nine starters return on offense and seven on defense. TB Dwayne Wright and QB Paul Pinegar will lead the way for the Bulldogs offense which will be potent. The defense is what may make this team however, just as it did in 2001. The defensive front is loaded led by Brian Morris and Garret McIntyre, who are both All Conference performers from previous seasons. SS James Sander is one of the best in the country as well. They have some big games early at Washington and Kansas State. We should be getting some nice chalk in these games so keep them in mind if you like the underdawgs.