September 2008


Football picksSeptember 18, 2008

S.O.S not S.O.S.

by J. Mesa 

When Tom Brady went down in a heap on opening day, many thought the Patriots season went along with him. Shouts of “S.O.S” rang up from around Foxborough, but those chants were mis-labeled. They were not “Save our Ship,” rather they were “Strength of Schedule!” 

You see, after finishing the regular season last year at a perfect 16-0 the NFL rewarded the Patriots with the weakest ’08 schedule of any team. Makes sense to me, team “A” finishes the regular season perfect, goes to the Super Bowl and opens the following season as the defending conference champs, they should get the weakest schedule right?

S.O.S not S.O.S.

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Football picksSeptember 1, 2008

2008 NFL Predictions – Season Win Totals – Premium High Stars

2008 NFL Predictions
Season Team Previews and Over/Under Picks

Season Totals picks 67% (24-12) combined in 2005-2007!

Our 1 and 2 star totals predictions include:

San Diego UNDER 11 wins (-120) – 1 star
Tennessee UNDER 8 wins (-120) – 1 star
Washington OVER 7.5 wins (-130) – 1 star
New Orleans OVER 9 wins (-115) – 2 stars
Oakland OVER 6 wins (-105) – 2 stars
Seattle OVER 9 wins (-110) – 2 stars
Cleveland UNDER 8 wins (-110) – 2 stars

See the writeups for these picks here.

Our Top Selections for 2008
Below are our highest rated (3-4 star rated predictions):

Baltimore OVER 6 wins (-130) – 3 stars
Brian Billick, after posting a 80-64 record and a Super Bowl victory over nine seasons, is gone as the Ravens’ head coach. Why? The owners and fans got sick of his offense (or lack thereof). That and a 5-11 record didn’t help. Why was this offense so inept? Quarterback – plain and simple. When he had a healthy Steve McNair, Billick actually posted a 13-3 mark. But with a banged up McNair, or Kyle Boller, Chris Redman and Anthony Wright, this team just had no chance. If Billick made any mistake, it was not addressing this situation more urgently, instead assuming someone like Boller could actuallly play pro ball. The future has potential with the drafting of Joe Flacco. But, 2008 could again be dicey for new HC John Harbaugh who must rely on either Boller or an inexperienced Troy Smith or Flacco. But, the addition of Cam Cameron at offensive coordinator will have an immediate positive impact. He’ll get much more out of Willis McGahee than did his predecessor. And, of course, the defense should again be stout. All in all, this team should improve enough to get to 7+ wins. more on baltimore

Buffalo UNDER 8 wins (-130) – 3 stars
Buffalo, a team seemingly on the rise, was actually pretty darn awful last season. They won seven games but in fact they could have easily lost 11 games (they could have easily lost to both Washington and Baltimore – both games in which the opposing coach mis-managed the clock to give away a win). The problem for this team is that they are a bunch of no-names in a small market and the team has made no effort to hide the fact that they are looking to move to Canada. It’s a sorry state of affairs when your most recognizable “stars” are guys by the name of Lee Evans, Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay. The fact is, this team can’t really afford to spend for big name talent and the big names don’t want to be here. Their defense last season was terrible (ranked second-to-last). What we see is a team that wasn’t as good as their 2007 record indicated, that hasn’t improved. That tells us they are destined for the same or fewer wins and we like them to comfortably come in under this total of eight projected wins. more on buffalo

Dallas UNDER 10.5 wins (-125) – 3 stars
Dallas had an outstanding 2007 campaign, outside of their huge home playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants. Tony Romo answered any critics and has now officially established himself as one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. His play, having Terrell Owens, the emergence of Marion Barber, the continued improvement of DeMarcus Ware, and the fortunate luck of avoiding major injuries, led to a 13-win season. No one expects that again, but how much will they fall in 2008? A lot will depend on injuries. The Cowboys have been the healthiest team in the NFL the past five seasons, by a wide margin. They have lost the fewest starters to injury and when they do lose starters, it’s usually for short stints. The Cowboys didn’t lose much in the off-season and added Pacman Jones. So, the OVER 10.5 wins seems like the obvious choice. But, we are going the other way. Everything went right for the ‘Boys (save their playoff loss) in 2007. They won a couple of close games they could have lost and weren’t really as good as 13 wins would suggest. If things don’t line up so neatly for them this season, and/or their incredible luck surrounding injuries runs out, this team could struggle a lot more than many people think. They’ll still be very good, but facing much improved in-division competition compared to last season, we think they take a big step backwards from 2007. more on dallas

Miami OVER 5.5 wins (+105) – 3 stars
Miami won one game in 2007, on a long pass in overtime. There’s nowhere to go from there but up. But how far will they go? Vegas has said they will win 4-5 more games this season. We think they can do better than that. This team still has yet to field a quarterback of quality since Dan Marino left nearly a decade ago. Why an NFL team thinks they can win in this league without a very good quarterback is beyond us. They made some moves for big names (Trent Green, Daunte Culpepper) but these guys were over the hill by the time they joined the Dolphins. With weak supporting casts, and their age, they never had a shot. Outside of these guys, the QB position has been held by a bunch of unproven youngsters or below-average journeymen. Needless to say, Bill Parcells had a lot to work on when he joined the team in the offseason. One thing we think he’ll address immediately was the team’s mistakes and slopiness in 2007. The Dolphins actually were better than their 1-15 would indicate last season. They should have won closer to 3-4 games. With costly mistakes eliminated and discipline instilled, we think this team takes a huge leap right away. Jake Long will have an immediate impact, helping Fins fans forget about Jason Taylor. Ronnie Brown, if healhty, will have a good year. And, John Beck, getting all the reps with the starters, should improve. We think Miami is a huge surprise this season, winning 6+ games. more on miami

Philadelphia OVER 9 wins (-120) – 3 stars
The Eagles go as Donovan McNabb goes. He struggled early in the 2007. This was not a surprise, given his ACL surgery the year prior. It’s becoming a well-known fact that the first year back after an ACL surgery is not a great one, even for great quarterbacks (see Carson Palmer). At the end of 2007, McNabb looked much better and we expect him to perform well this season. His shortfall last season helped with the continued emergence of Brian Westbrook as one of the most feared running backs in the league. On defense, they acquired All Pro Asante Samuels from the Pats. With him on one side and Lito Sheppard on the other, expect opposing offenses to have lots of trouble this season moving the ball through the air. With McNabb back to full form, this team has what it takes to get to double-digit wins and challenge for the division title. more on philadelphia

Atlanta OVER 4.5 wins (-130) – 4 stars
It couldn’t get much worse for the Falcons last season. After the Vick debacle, their lame coach deserted the team without as much as a good bye late in the season. It’s no wonder this team won just four games. With Vick gone now for more than a season, and Petrino a memory, the Falcons, with fewer distractions, should improve this season. The fact is, the team didn’t respect Petrino even before he bailed on them. He simply never connected with players and was a disaster from the start. Former Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith takes over. He’s a stark contrast to Petrino (no name, but just did his job very very well). They signed Michael Turner from San Diego and this team could have a very potent running game once again with the one-two punch of Turner and Jerious Norwood. They lost Alge Crumpler and DeAngelo Hall which are both hits. But, Vegas is saying this team will not improve. We think with the minimized distractions, an improved running game and a fairly easy schedule, they will notch more wins than last season. more on atlanta

Kansas City OVER 6 wins (-125) – 4 stars
The Chiefs finished 2007 with nine straight losses. Their QB situation looks bleak and their all world running back looked run down last season. So where is the hope? Larry Johnson is a big part of it. With his 2007 injuries, this team had no chance. With him in the lineup the team was 4-4 but without him, they were 0-8. And let’s not forget about Tony Gonzales as well as the emergence last year of wideout Dwayne Bowe who, as a rookie, often made defenses look downright silly. While many point to 2008 as a rebuilding year for this franchise, we think they are going to be more competitive than many think. Head coach Herm Edwards has a short leash and he doesn’t take kindly to losing. A very poor season, even under the guise of a “rebuilding effort” could spell doom for his career, so we don’t expect this team to lay down on Sundays. If Brodie Croyle can improve, this offense will score some points. With a relatively soft schedule, we like the Chiefs’ chances to surprise the NFL and the naysayers and win 7+ games. more on kansas city



Football picksSeptember 1, 2008

2008 NFL Predictions – Season Win Totals

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2008 NFL Predictions
Season Team Previews and Over/Under Picks

Season Totals picks 67% (24-12) combined in 2005-2007!

We've hit over 60% lifetime on our NFL preseason picks.
Check out our philosophy on NFL preseason picks.

The Fall is approaching and that means the NFL season is right around the corner. Every year we predict NFL season performance (team win totals). Make no mistake – this is one of the best NFL betting opportunities available!

Why are betting NFL season win totals such a great opportunity? Primarily because so few people put in the time and effort to make these types of NFL picks. Of the few that do put in time on these predictions, we believe that no one looks at it as scientifically as we do. No one puts in the effort we do in predicting season win totals!

For these reasons, we have hit 67% on our season win totals picks the past three years (9-3 in 2005, 9-4 in 2006 and 6-5 in 2007). We are 11-3 on our Best Bets (3 stars or higher picks)!

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2008 NFL Predictions – Team Win Totals

This season we have 14 team totals picks. Below we list our seven 1 and 2 star selections. Subscribers to any of our preseason or regular season football packages will receive our additional seven 3 and 4 star picks. Lines below from Diamond Sportsbook.

San Diego UNDER 11 wins (-115) – 1 star
Last season Norv Turner took over a 14-2 team and promptly started out 5-5. Things looked bleak. But, the Chargers finished strong, winning their final six regular season games and two playoff games. Turner held off the naysayers. But, they'll be back if his team struggles again. While many look at the Chargers as successful in 2007, we don't quite see it that way. The fact is, they were 14-2 the year before and were sitting at .500 more than halfway through the season. Yes, they caught lightning in a bottle at the end of the year, but, we see cracks in this armor. Their defense was very strong at the end of last season but they took as step backwards overall in 2007 and LaDanian Tomlinson is showing signs of age and wear. Phillip Rivers was inconsistent last season and, like his team, took a step backwards. He'll be back after ACL surgery and if you recall, that's not a good sign for the first season back (see Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb). This is still an extremely talented team on the field but there are question marks at QB and head coach and we see them struggling to get to 11 wins. more on san diego

Tennessee UNDER 8 wins (-120) – 1 star
Last season the Titans won 10 games. That was a surprise but an even bigger surprise was how they did it. It wasn't Vince Young, who regressed. It was the defense that really stepped up. Vegas has set their win total two full games below their 2007 win total but we still think that's not quite a good enough adjustment. The Titans again found ways to win games they probably shouldn't last year and this is likely to catch up to them. They were not as good as other 10-win teams. In his rookie campaign, Vince Young looked unstoppable. But, in the NFL, defenses adjust very well. Last season they made him look below average. He didn't improve in his second year which is a big yellow flag. Combine that with the fact that his receiving corp is very weak and you get a Titans offense that will struggle as teams put eight in the box and force the passing game to beat them. The Titans play a top-5 toughest schedule this season as well. Unless the defense has another miracle year, those ten 2007 wins could turn into ten 2008 losses. more on tennessee

Washington OVER 7.5 wins (-130) – 1 star
The Redskins had a rough 2007. The press was around Sean Taylor's untimely death but a bigger blow was the loss of two starting offensive linemen in the first two weeks of last season. That's 40% of your starting line down for nearly the entire season. While those players don't get the press, don't underestimate the impact of that kind of loss on an offense. The players, Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas, are back this season. Despite the weird stellar peformance of Todd Collins late last season, Jason Campbell is the starter. With another year under his belt, a new West-Coast offense, and his linemen back, we expect good things from Campbell. He has three very capable weapons in Antwaan Randele El, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. With the passing game improved, expect Clinton Portis to also thrive in this West Coast offense (especially in the passing game). more on washington

New Orleans OVER 9 wins (-125) – 2 stars
The Saints were predicted to win nine to ten games last season but were a major dissapointment, turning in just seven wins. A team that was the darling of the NFL and the media a year prior, regressed into a team reminiscent of the "Aints." Drew Brees, All World in 2006, started 2007 in terrible fashion. Duece McCallister went down with an ACL injury, and Reggie Bush looked frail. All in all, it was a very rough year for a team expected to compete for the NFC Championship. Well, we think the bandwagon was a year early. We like the Saints' chances at a double-digit win season in 2008. After a disasterous 0-4 start to last season, the Saints adjusted to their early-season problems and the team closed out the season on a 7-5 run. They shored up a problem defense in the offseason, bringing in Jonathan Vilma at middle LB and Bobby McCray at defensive end. They also drafted two strong defenders in the first two rounds in Sedrick Ellis and Tracy Porter and brought in Randall Gay and Aaaron Glenn via free agency. On offense they brought in a big-time playmaker in Jeremy Shockey. Facing a very easy schedule in the NFC South, we like this team to rebound in 2008. more on new orleans

Oakland OVER 6 wins (-110) – 2 stars
There has been no team as bad as the Oakland Raiders the past half-century in the NFL (61 losses). They've had some high draft choices and again this year, they grabbed a high-profile name in Darren McFadden. Given that Justin Fargas could rack up 1,000+ behind this offensive line, we have high hopes for McFadden. Jamarcus Russell finally gets the nod, a season too late. He'll certainly have his share of struggles, but he did get some good playing time under his belt at the end of last season so it won't be a completely rude awakening for the former #1 draft pick. He'll be throwing to the newly acquired Jevon Walker, Ronald Curry and Drew Carter. Don't get us wrong. This is not a stellar offense. But, it's much better than last year. And, the defense is also average. They were awesome in 2006 and bad in 2007. Neither is probably reflective of the truth – the defense is medicore. But, for the Raiders, coming off two and four win seasons, have a low bar to clear here. We think, thanks to the league's third easiest schedule, the Raiders can get to seven wins this season behind an improved defense and the legs of McFadden. more on oakland

Seattle OVER 9 wins (-115) – 2 stars
Mike Holmgren has nearly done it all. He's won a Super Bowl and has won four straight division titles. Over the last five years, he has notched more wins than any other coach outside of Bill Bellichick and Tony Dungy. Holmgren looks to get a fifth in his last season as head coach of the Seahawks (Jim Mora has been announced as the 2009 HC). We like Holmgren's chances at the fifth division title. While the first three titles came thanks to a potent offense, last year the team did it with defense (led by Pro Bowlers Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson). The offense has been steadily falling over the past couple of years. Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett will take over for an ineffective Shaun Alexander. They added Pro Bowl guard Mike Wahle from the Panthers to shore up a line that struggled in 2007. New OL coach Mike Solari comes from the Chiefs where the running game, to say the least, was quite successful. The receiving corp is a big question mark but Hasselbeck will find a way to be successful enough. The West is pretty weak so this team, with a strong defense and improved running game, should be able to match or exceed last year's 10-win mark. more on seattle

New York Jets UNDER 7.5 wins (-120) – 2 stars CANCELLED (Favre joined)
The Jets parlayed an easy 2006 schedule, and some luck, to a 10-6 season. In 2007, they faced the league's toughest schedule and their luck turned and they reverted to a 4-12 mark. All of a sudden Eric Mangini went from genius to question mark. What happens in 2008? Vegas predicts a big rebound (double their 2007 wins). We aren't so sure that's coming. The most important position on the team, quarterback, is still in question. Chad Pennington struggled last season both due to injury and poor play. Kellen Clemens didn't look good last season. Much of the blame for both QB's performance rests with an offensive line that let defenders through at will. Pennington's poor arm strength and lack of mobility couldn't handle the pressure. Clemens' inexperience also caused him to buckle under the pressure. They made offseason improvements here with the addition of Alan Faneca. They also made improvements on defense in the offeseason. But, will it be enough? With the influx of new players, 2009 might be the season for this team. In 2008, gelling must take place and that's not instant. We just don't see this team as a winning one in 2008. more on new york CANCELLED (Favre joined) – NO BET

Cleveland UNDER 8 wins (-110) – 2 stars
Thanks to the holdout by Brady Quinn last season, another Cleveland backup QB got his chance, and thrived. Derek Anderson had a breakout season after replacing Charlie Frye in week two. Cleveland fans haven't been this excited since Bernie Kosar retired. The big question now is, what to do? Obviously after a season like he had, you have to go with Anderson. But, doubts remain. Is he really that good? If so, why couldn't he break through in Baltimore? Why didn't he win the starting job in training camp last season? Is Cleveland really going to keep Quinn on the bench or trade him? We aren't yet sold on Anderson. This year will tell us if he's really a discovered hidden gem or a one-hit wonder. Brady Quinn's future will also be determined by default. The Browns benefited from an unusually healthy season last year, especially on the offensive line. That's not likely to repeat itself again. Jamal Lewis had an outstanding 2007 but he's getting older and is definitely at risk of running out of steam. If Kellen Winslow and Brayon Edwards can again stay healthy, they should again do very well, but that's a big if given these players' history. The Browns' biggest weakness, which wasn't addressed in a major way, is their defense. So, with a poor defense, and a lot of question marks on offense, we see Cleveland regressing this season. more on cleveland

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Football picksSeptember 1, 2008

2008 College Foootball Teams Under the Radar

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2008 College Football Teams Under the Radar
Non-BCS Teams to Watch

The College Football Top 25 is almost an exclusive club for BCS schools. We will take a look at some of the schools that while they may not get the ink, possess talent and may surprise in 2008. Here is a list of our Top 5 non-BCS teams that deserve some attention. Last yer we projected Hawaii to run the table all the way to a BCS Bowl and they did. This season no team appears strong enough to repeat that, but the Top 2 could make a run. Below are our Top 5, along with an honorable mention – a team that will come out of nowhere as a dark horse to watch.

Honorable Mention: WESTERN MICHIGAN
Rising from the ashes of a 2-10 season

This is a team that was much better than their 2-10 record would indiacte in 2007, as they caught every bad break a team could possibly catch. They lost four games to BCS conference teams, which you would expect. They lead Akron 38-33 with :15 seconds left and took an intentional safety to try to ice the win. Then the unthinkable happened as Akron returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a TD. They lost to Central Michigan with :12 seconds to play in the game. They also lost to Ball State when they went in for a TD with a minute left in the game. It doesn't stop there. They had six turnovers vs Eastern Michigan, turning a probable win into a loss. So they finished with a horrible season, despite outgaining MAC teams by over 60 yards per game! This is a team that will return all 22 starters and a chip on their shoulder. They should have the best defense in the MAC as well as one of the best offenses. We like them to go from 2-10 to Bowling this year.

5.  TCU

Seems like this team always gets mentioned either in the polls or from an upset they pull during the season, such as Oklahoma on the road in '05. They have been to 5 Bowls in the last 6 years, and this should be 6 of 7. The calling card for this team is defense, which should be vastly improved from a year ago's 8-5 team, and the only sure loss on the schedule is at Oklahoma in late September. Could surprise enough to sneak into the Top 25 at some point.

4.  BOISE STATE

This may not be a vintage Boise State team of recent memory, but the fact is they are always there regardless of losses suffered. The talent and experience may be a cut below what they have had in the recent past, but the good news for the Broncos is all their tough games are at home this year where they have been invincable on the Smurf Turf over the years.

3. TULSA

This could be an interesting team. They have a chance at running the table if they can get a competent QB to emerge with the departure of Paul Smith. The recieving corp is there, with an amazing three recievers returning that went over 1,000 yards. They also return a 1,000 yard running back and a more experienced and deeeper defense. Tulsa plays one of the weakest schedules in the country, if not the weakest this year. So although they don't belong in the Top 25, if they suddenly begin to run the table they are going to climb week after week. If they get a QB that can deliver to the talent, this team could actually be the Hawaii of '08 and find themselves in a BCS Bowl. It's not likely, but the potential exists.

2.  UTAH

This team was ranked just outside of our top 25 at #26. They are a potent team and QB Brian Johnson has another year under his belt after an injured shoulder. He should be more like the '05 version than what we saw last year. This team had over 50 starts last season lost to injury (ranked amongst the highest in college football), yet they still won nine games and their 5th straight Bowl game. The schedule is very favorable in 2008. The game to watch will be early as they go to Ann Arbor on August 30th to face Michigan. If they can win this game, then the showdown at home vs BYU could have them coming in undefeated. This team is another BCS Bowl sleeper team that should be fun to watch.

1. BYU

This pick should be no surprise here as we had them in our Top 25. BYU has won their last two Bowl games vs Pac-10 teams and they face Washington and UCLA early this season, both highly winnable games. If they get by these two, the only roadblocks left on the schedule would be at TCU and the season finale against Utah, both on the road. Wouldn't it be exciting to see both Utah and BYU enter that game on November 22nd undefeated? If that happens, one of them is going to a BCS Bowl.

 

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Football picksSeptember 1, 2008

2008 College Foootball Preview and Predictions

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Below we count down our 2008 predictions for the Top 25! Be sure to get our college football picks and our our free college football picks via our newsletter.

The Wunderdog 2008 College Foobtall Top 25 countdown…

25. MICHIGAN

The Wolverines had National Title aspirations last year and they vanished in dramatic fashion in game one at home as Appalachian State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history. The rest of the season didn’t get a whole lot better. Two streaks that won’t be in jeopardy this season are the Wolverines 40 consecutive years with a winning record and 33 straight Bowl appearances (both leading the NCAA). This will not be a team that can be starting out thinking National Championship, however. The Wolverines will return the fewest starters in the Big 10 with just 10 returning. Among the key departures are QB Henne, RB Hart, WR Manningham and OL Long. Don’t feel sorry for them though, as they have had 40 consecutive winning seasons for a reason. They recruit a Top 10 class every year, and this year is no different. This isn’t a rebuilding season as Michigan simply doesn’t do that. Instead of an expected visit to the Top 10, this year’s version will be hovering around the Top 25.

24. SOUTH CAROLINA

This team really had it going last year, opening 6-1 and climbing all the way to #6 in the polls. Then the unthinkable happened. Injuries destroyed them and they lost their last five and did not even making a Bowl. Now this year they return 17 starters. Having added a great deal of depth from all the injuries last year, they could surprise and even be better than where we are placing them in the top 25. Their problem is their conference as the SEC has four Top 10 caliber teams, and the schedule is going to be brutal. This team is going to have one of the top defenses in the country this season. They have eight D-line players with starting experience including their top two returning from injuries. They also return six DB’s with starting experience, and they added four more quality freshmen to the mix. The LB core returns all but one player, and have also added two quality freshmen to the mix. The offense may depend on the status of Stephen Garcia who was suspended for a third arrest and his reinstatement is questionable. If the offense can score even modestly, the defense is going to win games for this team.

23. CALIFORNIA

This is a team that vastly underachieved last season. They had several top players and NFL draft selections, a 1,500+ yard running back and a core of four veteran wide recievers, yet finished a disappointing 7-6. The schedule will be a bit easier this season, and perhaps the departures will leave this team much hungrier, as their still is talent left behind. This is a team that is annually in the top 25 in recruiting, so putting them in the top 25 should be no surprise. Nate Longshore is a solid QB, but an ankle injury last season really showed as his numbers upon returning dropped significantly. It helped Cal develop a second QB in Kevin Riley who replaced Longshore in their Bowl game, producing 269 yards and three TD’s. They will be solid at QB with whoever wins the job. They must replace Forsett, who went in the first round to Seattle, but this team has produced 1,000 yard backs for six straight seasons, and we won’t be surprised to see Javhid Best top the 1,000 yard mark for the Bears in ’08. Cal’s defensive strength has always been on the DL, and with six of eight returning, they will be in good shape once again up front. They will return one of the top LB cores in the Pac-10 as well. The DB’s are somewhat inexperienced, but with a good front seven, their defense should be adequate. Cal should be a better team in overall wins in ’08.

22. PENN STATE

What can you say about Joe Paterno? At 80+ he has the longest coaching tenure ever in NCAA football and the game has not passed him by, as he still puts out a competitive team. This year should be no different. They did suffer a major blow when Sean Lee was lost in the Spring with a torn ACL. He was almost a cinch first round draft pick – yet another great Penn St. LB. With four winnable non-conference games, a load of talent and a good recruiting class, this could be an 8 to 10 win season for the Lions. They must travel to Ohio State and Michigan this season, but should be a favorite in all other games. This team’s defensive line may be the best in the country. Coach Paterno will be returning to the spread offense, which he used in ’05 to produce over 34 points per game, and this team could be in that range. The Lions will at least be Bowling, and if everything goes right, it could be in a post-New Year’s Bowl.

21. ARIZONA STATE

Arizona State won three games last year by three points or less, thanks in large part to a tough defense that kept them in just about every game. The end result was a 10 win season. This team may not achieve the that mark again, but they will be knocking on the door as most of that defense returns. The D held nine opponents to 20 points or less last year. The Sun Devils tied USC at 7-2 a top the Pac-10 last season, despite only outgaining opponents by 10 yards per game. It shows the value of the defense. Rudy Carpenter is the most experienced QB in the NCAA. He has started 31 straight games, and the Sun Devils are in good shape on offense. If freshman Ryan Bass is as good as advertised, then the running game should be imroved as well. The offensive line is huge, but lacks experience as they are 12th from the bottom in experience of all teams. They have two games that will be very difficult to win vs Georgia and USC, and to again get to double-digit wins will be a monumental task. But this still remains a very solid team.

20. KANSAS

Kansas shocked everyone last season riding to a 12-1 record and capping off a highly successful season with a Bowl win. So why would a 12-win team with 15 starters returning and possibly even more talent than last year year be rated in the lower part of our top 25? Last year Kansas was better than most thought, especially defensively. They used that to take advantage of a very weak schedule. This year they have a very difficult schedule, and a good season is likely but a great one seems very unlikely. Last year Kansas did not play Texas, Oklahoma or Texas Tech, but this year they will have to face all three. Additionally, they will play a very good South Florida team, and Missouri on a neutral field. The Jayhawks don’t lack talent, but this schedule (as opposed to the cupcake schedule they had last year) will keep them from having the same kind of year.

19. WISCONSIN

Every year Wisconsin has to take a back seat to the preseason hype of Ohio State and Michigan in the Big 10. Every year Wisconsin quietly goes out and has a big season, with little fanfare. They have won an average of 10 games over the last four years, and seem to be in a Bowl every season. This may be the most talented Wisconsin team that Coach Bielema has put on the field yet. They have a very strong offensive line and a host of talented running backs. We are gonna find out a lot about this team in three consecutive weeks from September 27th to October 11th as they will face Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State consecutively. That will be a very tall order. It will leave this team reeling or heading for a BCS Bowl bid, all in three weeks time. It’s likely they will win their 9 or 10 games and be in another decent Bowl, but if those three weeks turn to gold, then this team will be in the hunt for bigger things.

18. BOSTON COLLEGE

Life begins for the Eagles in the post Matt Ryan era. Ryan was the third overall selection in last year’s draft and obviously it’s a big loss for BC. They return only 10 starters and lost over 20 letterman. So how can we find a place for them in the Top 25? The reason is their schedule, which is very soft this season. They should be able to get out of the gate 5-0 and the ACC is a bit down this year. The Eagles play the top two teams, Clemson and Virginia Tech, at home. They will likely not reach the 11 win mark they compiled last year, but this team could easily see eight or nine wins, and if they do, they will make their way into the top 25 and be Bowl bound once again.

17. TEXAS TECH

This could be the best team Texas Tech has ever put on the field. This was a solid club last year, playing in an impossible conference that finsihed with four teams ranked in the top 10. This year, Tech could be one of those teams that does make their way into the top 10. This system has put QB’s into a position to put up some very lofty numbers, and with 18 starters back, Graham Harrell could actually put up better numbers than all of them. This conference is not for the faint of heart once again, as Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas all have top 10 caliber teams. As a result, is hard to put Tech up higher because they will face Kansas and Oklahoma on the road, and will get Texas at home. This team topped the 40-point mark seven times last season, and should at least equal that this year. If they get the right breaks and avoid injuries, they could very well wind up in the Top 10 before all is said and done.

16.  SOUTH FLORIDA

The Bulls came from nowhere last season to rise all the way to #2 in the polls before fading in three consecutive weeks to Rutgers, UConn, and Cincinnati. They then got humiliated in their Bowl game vs. Oregon. The talent level on this team is as high as it ever has been, and that loss to Oregon may inspire this team to lofty heights in 2008. They have not played well in cold weather, but this year get UConn, Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh all at home. They don’t have a cold weather game potentially until visiting Morgantown in December, when everything could be on the line. If Matt Groethe matures and stays healthy, this Bull team will rise to the level they did a year ago. Groethe makes bad decisions as indicated by his 1-to-1 TD to interception ratio last season. The defense is going to win them some games however. They have three legit All-Americans in DE George Selvie, CB Joe Burnett, and LB Tyrone McKenzie. The Bulls had trouble scoring against the better teams last season but if Groethe can put it all together, this team could leap-frog into one of the elite teams in the country.

15. TENNESSEE

Eric Ainge will be missed by the Vols but that doesn’t mean this team will be down in 2008. They may actually have a better overall team, but inexperience at QB keeps us from getting too bullish on them. In either case, they will still be a force to be reconed with in the SEC before all is said and done. Last year their recieving corp was vastly inexperienced, but the top three return and should be much better there this season. Arian Foster chose not to enter the NFL draft and will lead an experienced backfield as he rushed for nearly 5 yards per carry a year ago, good for nearly 1,200 yards. The defenisve line brings back a lot of experience and the fact they have 11 defensive linemen in the NFL (more than any other school), proves that this is never a problem area for the Vols. The weakness may be at linebacker where they are a bit thin and inexperienced,. Overall this is a solid team and if they get decent QB play, they could contend in the SEC. We see them just a notch below that.

14. OREGON

When Dennis Dixon went down last year, Oregon went from a BCS title-game contender to a much lesser Bowl. They did shine against South Florida and they have a lot of talented candidates at QB, but not much experience. This team has perhaps the best secondary in the country, which will help them steal some games. The offense is going to be missing some key star players, but the OL is one of the tops in the country and should be able to provide lots of opportunities for someone to emerge. There is a load of talent here, but the biggest issue for the Ducks is a brutal schedule. This year they play on the road versus all the top Pac-10 teams. They must go to USC, Cal, Oregon State, and Arizona State. This unfortunate schedule will keep the Ducks from a Top 10 ranking, but a good season is still in store.

13. BYU

BYU has rolled over the teams in the Mountain West conference the past two seasons to the tune of a 16-0 record. In the process, they have outgained teams by nearly 150 yards per game! The offense is again led by Max Hall, another in a line of outstanding BYU quarterbacks, and he is poised to add to his already lofty career totals. Harvey Unga brings back his 5 yards per carry and over 1,200 yards and should be able to duplicate those numbers this season. The reciever corp is deep. Hall can get the ball to them, so expect this team to be prolific in the air as well. The line will be the strength of the defense, and what is behind them is very inexperienced. This team beat two Pac-10 teams in consecutive Bowls, and they could be the Hawaii of ’08, challenging for a BSC Bowl bid.

12. MISSOURI

Missouri will likely be playing with a chip on its shoulder this year after getting snubbed by the BCS last season. They beat both Illinois and Kansas who did get BCS Bowl berths, and their only two losses came to Oklahoma. This team is explosive on offense as any team in the country and with Chase Daniel returning and Jeremy Maclin to throw to, they are always one play away from a TD. The offense is retruning with all key players and may be better than the ’07 version. It doesn’t end there as the Tigers will field perhaps their best defensive line ever, with eight players ready to fit in a rotation with an abundance of experience. This team has a lot of weapons and could reach the Big-12 title game.

11. TEXAS

Texas returns just 11 starters but the team has an experienced quarterback and power up-front on both sides of the ball which is an essential for a team to reach elite status in college football. The Longhorns will have what we believe to be top 10 lines on both offense and defense. The biggest problem the Longhorns face is a difficult schedule. They have to go to Lubbock to square off with a potent Texas Tech team and the traditional battle with Oklahoma is in Dallas. They also have to play at Kansas. At home they must face a very tough Missouri team. If they can win three of the four they certainly have a shot at the Big-12 Title game and a National Championship, but those are big “ifs” and we see this team being just a notch below.

10.  VIRGINIA TECH

Frank Beamer has gotten the Hokie program to the point where they don’t rebuild, they reload. This team sufferd a lot of losses last year, as they will return just 10 starters from a year ago. If you think the cupboard is bare, then you just don’t understand how good a coach Beamer really is. He has not had a Top 25 recruiting class in the last five years, and doesn’t have one this year either, but his team remaikns a yearly fixture in the Top 25. The Hokies are 41-8 over the past four years. For teams without a Top 25 recruiting class, that’s the best record of any team in college football. He does it by emphasizing defense and intangibles, and the Hokies have made it a habit to win the special teams battle week in and week out, blocking field goals, punts, and returning kicks. They also are always among the leaders on the defensive side of the ball. When you win two out three areas of the game week in and week out, you win 10 games a year. The Hokies will be right there again this season.

9. CLEMSON

The Tigers have a lot of good things going for them this season. The first is they return a boatload of talent, lead by QB Cullen Harper who threw for 27 TD’s last year, while getting picked off just six times. They have the dynamic duo in the backfield of CJ Spiller and James Davis. They return 16 starters overall and the schedule is by far the weakest of any projected Top 10 team. Last, the ACC may be a bit down this season, and when you put these elements all together, the Tigers have a shot here to earn a BCS bid. If everything comes together right they could be looking at a National Championship game. If they get by Alabama in Atlanta in their first game, they have five of the next six at home, and could be 7-0 heading to Wake Forest on October 9th. The Tigers have the weapons and if they don’t self destruct, they could top this rating at the close of the season.

8.  AUBURN

Auburn started poorly last season but began coming of age as the season progressed. This team after a 1-2 start finished 8-2, which included a Bowl win vs Clemson. They are returning 16 starters from a team that reall played well for most of the season after a slow start, and could be right in the mix in the very difficult SEC. The one added benefit they have is they will play the top two SEC teams (LSU and Georgia) at home. They need to grab a win in at least one of those games, and they also must travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia. This team has the talent to win the SEC and go to the national title game. Ttough games vs LSU, Georgia and West Virginia will gain them a lot of points if they come out of those at least 2-1, and run the table in the other games. A tall task for sure and we think they fall short, but a very tough team nonetheless.

7.  WEST VIRGINIA

West Virginia will have a new coach this season in Bill Stewart. We don’t expect the results to be any different as this team is loaded once again. Let’s not forget that last year with Stewart on the sidelines, the Mountaineers upset Oklahoma in convincing fashion 48-28. Stewart has been at West Virginia for nine years, so certainly knows the system, as well as the current personnel. So don’t worry about the coach. West Virginia will once again be led by a Heisman candidate in Pat White, have a lethal breakaway runner in Noel Devine, and at the very least a Top 5 offensive line. The offense is going to put up some huge numbers this season for the Mountaineers. A National Title opportunity will likely depend on two games, and fortunately for West Virginia they get them both at home. The first big test will come versus Auburn on October 23rd, and the other verus S. Florida in the season finale. The Mountaineers should be favored in every game they play this season, so you have to give them a legitimate shot at a BCS Title game.

6.  FLORIDA

Last season the expectations for this team were much too high. A lot was predicated on the fact they were National Champs in ’06, and had a boatload of talent. But with only seven returning starters, they lacked a crucial ingredient – experience. The Gators ultimately lost four games which included a disappointing loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. This season should be much closer to ’06 than ’07. The Gators now return 16 starters, have lots of talent and one of the best offenses in the country led by Heisman winner Tebow. Their special teams unit ranks among the best as well. The defense should be vastly improved with experience and added depth. They do get Georgia on a neutral field in Jacksonville and LSU at home, so the door is open to return to the National Title game once again. The talent on this team may be good enough to go through that door.

5.  OKLAHOMA

It was a disappointing finish to the season for the Sooners in ’07 as they got blown out in their Bowl game versus West Virginia. It may have been an emotional hangover. After they beat Missouri for the Big-12 title, the Sooners thought they belonged in the national title game. They certainly have the motivation this season and the talent to change that fortune , and a favorable schedule to go along with it. The Sooners return an offensive line that is arguably the best in the counrty, and a defensive line that is no worse than top 5. If you have lines on both sides of the ball amongst the elite, then you are in the hunt for the national title. Sam Bradford had a brilliant year, starting for the first time last season, and should only get better. The Sooners have a soft non-Big-12 schedule as they don’t play anyone on the road that collected more than seven wins a year ago. The winner of the game in Dallas vs. Texas will go a long way towards deciding which team keeps the national championship game hopes alive.

4.  LSU

The Tigers have lost a lot of talent from a year ago, but at the same time they have a lot of talent returning and a lot of new talent coming in. This is a solid program that has suffered just 10 losses in the last five years. And they have won four of five Bowl games. They have established themselves as a national power and bring in top talent year after year, and subsequently find themselves in the top 10 when the final polls come out in January. If there is a weak spot on this team it may lie in the secondary. They must replace a safety and two corners, and will lack a lot of experience. The Tigers must play at Auburn and Florida, two very difficult games, and they also have to play Georgia at home. They should be around come January, the question is, in which game?

3.  GEORGIA

Many people are picking Georgia as the #1 team in the country this season, and talentwise, it is hard to disagree. The Bulldogs return 17 starters including RB Moreno, and QB Stafford, and all the key components are there for a run at the national title. The biggest obstacle the Bulldogs will face this season is perhaps the toughest schedule in the country. Every top game featured on their schedule this season is going to be played on the road. They travel to South Carolina early on and then go to Arizona State – both top 25 teams. It only gets tougher from there. They have to go to LSU and Auburn, and play away from home vs. the Gators in Jacksonville as well. Those are five huge games, and if the Bulldogs come out unblemished, they will truly be the best team in the country. But a slip or two, and they will drop a few notches. This team is as talented as any in the country, but the schedule may keep them below #1.

2.  USC

Year after year this team finds themselves at or near the top of the polls. There is a good reason for that. The Trojans have had the top ranked recruitting class in the country for the last five years. Last year most thought this team would be #1 when the last game was played, but they fell short. This year they certainly have a lot to say about who is going to be there again. They lost 10 players in the NFL draft, but at the same time this team has NFL talent coming in big doses every single year so that talent is immediately replaced. The Pac-10 has some god teams this season, but the level at the very top has dropped off somewhat and USC could very well play themselves through it undefeated. The ultimate test for this team comes early, when they square off with Ohio State at home. If the Trojans win this one, they could be on their way to a possible rematch with the Buckeyes in the title game.

1.  OHIO STATE

Not many expected Ohio State to be back in the title game last season, but a young team found itself back, only to lose to a very talented and experienced LSU team playing in what almost amounted to a home game. The Buckeyes have just about everyone back this year, as they will return 19 starters which tops the top 25 in terms of starters returning from a year ago. So, the talented, inexperienced team of a year ago, is now talented, experienced and hungry. They aren’t just returning players, they are returning at least four to as many as five potential first round draft picks. The defense is going to be one of the best ever assembled in college football, as they are solid on the line, have the best linebacking core in the country, and arguably the best DB’s as a unit as well. They have experience at QB, and a security blanket in super freshman Terrelle Pryor. All the weapons are in place, and a trip to the Championship game appears likely for the Buckeyes, only this time with a different outcome.

Check out our preview of non-BCS teams under the radar.

 

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