We've discussed everything we can about the Chicago Bears. In order to not beat any more horses, I'll be detailing everything you need to know about the upcoming college football season before training camp starts.
Mark Schlabach published his Top 25 in May; for this week's column, I'll be detailing my Top 20 college football teams for 2009 (only 20 for the sake of time). Hopefully, this will be something new for y'all to argue and complain about.
Let's get it started.
|6.||Virginia Tech||Ohio State|
|7.||Oklahoma State||Ole Miss|
|9.||Ohio State||Penn State|
|10.||Penn State||Oklahoma State|
|15.||Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech|
|17.||Notre Dame||Notre Dame|
1. Florida Gators
The defending national champions return all eleven starters on defense, media darling Tim Tebow, and enough offensive weapons to make them the most dangerous team in the country. They play seven games at home (eight if you count the neutral-site contest against Georgia). Bottom line? Their ridiculous secondary combined with Tebow could equal another national championship for the Gators.
Schlabach's #1: Florida Gators
Key losses: WR Percy Harvin, WR Louis Murphy, TE Cornelius Ingram
Key games: @ LSU (October 10); vs. Georgia (October 31); @ South Carolina (November 14)
2. Texas Longhorns
Some of you who have been around for a while will call me a homer for making Texas #2. Go for it. It's tough to knock the Longhorn offense, with Heisman hopeful Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, TE Blaine Irby (lost for most of 2008 due to injury) and a more experienced offensive line. Defensively, the Longhorns lost DL starters Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton, but return one of the top LB's in the country, Sergio Kindle. Their secondary was very green last year, but that group will play much better and not make the freshmen mistakes of 2008. If they can get past Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, expect to see a Gators - Longhorns national championship.
Schlabach's #2: Texas Longhorns
Key losses: DE Brian Orakpo, DT Roy Miller, DE Henry Melton, RB Chris Ogbonnaya
Key games: vs. Oklahoma (October 17); @ Oklahoma State (October 31); @ Baylor (November 14)
The good news for the Sooner faithful? They return many key pieces from their 2008 NC game run, including QB Sam Bradford (defending Heisman winner), RB Demarco Murray, TE Jermaine Gresham, and DT Gerald McCoy. However, the Sooners have to replace four starters on the offensive line and two starters at both safety positions. Regardless, the Sooners will be one of the top teams this year. Whoever can survive the annual Big XII South gauntlet will most likely face the Gators in the national championship game.
Schlabach's #3: Oklahoma Sooners
Key losses: OT Phil Loadholt, WR Juaquin Iglesias, S Nic Harris, OG Duke Robinson, WR Manuel Johnson
Key games: vs. Texas (October 17); @ Nebraska (November 7); Oklahoma State (November 28)
4. USC Trojans
If this was any other team, USC would have a tough time regrouping after losing so many quality players to the NFL draft. However, this is USC; like the other top teams on this list, they don't rebuild - they reload. I have them at an early #4 because of the talent that is returning, as well as some fresh faces from their recruiting class. However, they have a tough slate of games in the month of October. I don't see them having an undefeated season this year.
Schlabach's #4: USC Trojans
Key losses: QB Mark Sanchez, LB Brian Cushing, LB Clay Matthews, LB Rey Maualuga, DT Fili Moala, WR Patrick Turner, LB Kaluka Maiava, DE Kyle Moore
Key games: @ Ohio State (September 12); @ Cal (October 3); @ Notre Dame (October 17); @ Oregon (October 31)
5. Mississippi Rebels
Everyone's been giddy at the 2009 prospects of Ole Miss after their win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. However, they're not overrated. Ole Miss returns a number of offensive weapons (most notably QB Jevan Snead) and reloads on defense. The Rebels lost two excellent players in OT Michael Oher and DT Peria Jerry; Jerry's shoes will be filled by veteran players. The big question mark for the Rebs is at the LT position. They have a favorable schedule, playing both Alabama and LSU at home. Do I think that the Rebels are this good? Not particularly; they have good players at key positions and have the easiest path to become SEC West champions, thus their #5 ranking.
Schlabach's #5: Virginia Tech Hokies
Key losses: OT Michael Oher, DT Peria Jerry, WR Mike Wallace, S Jamarca Sanford
Key games: vs. Alabama (October 10); vs. LSU (November 21)
6. Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech is loaded offensively, sporting QB Tyrod Taylor and RB Darren Evans along with a retooled offensive line. However, Virginia Tech has some problems. Their WR's severely underperformed last season and their defense is a little shaky. Normally, this would be a quick toss out of the top 10 from me. Their saving grace is their schedule; minus the Georgia Tech contest and the neutral-field Alabama game, their toughest games are at home.
Schlabach's #6: Ohio State Buckeyes
Key losses: S Victor Harris
Key games: vs. Alabama (September 5); vs. Nebraska (September 19); @ Georgia Tech (October 17); vs. North Carolina (October 29)
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Offensively, the Cowboys are stacked. They return QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant. In the defensively-iffy Big XII South, the Cowboys should contend to be the Big XII South champions. However, their defense isn't as strong as Texas or Oklahoma and also lost two starters on the offensive line. Knowing all of that, the reason they're #7 to me is because of two main factors: 1) They play two of their three key games at home and 2) their offense is so explosive that their defense might not matter.
Schlabach's #7: Mississippi Rebels
Key losses: TE Brandon Pettigrew
Key games: vs. Georgia (September 5); vs. Texas (October 31); @ Oklahoma (November 28)
8. Alabama Crimson Tide
Why is Alabama ranked so high? They're returning nine starters on defense along with dangerous WR Julio Jones and play two key games at home. Why should Alabama be ranked lower? They lost three starters on the offensive line along with their starting RB and QB. Honestly, this is a difficult team to predict. In the defensively-heavy SEC, they'll be tough enough to hold down opposing teams and let the offense sputter along (sound familiar?). The October 10 date at Mississippi will help clear up who the SEC West champions will be.
Schlabach's #8: Alabama
Key losses: OT Andre Smith, RB Glen Coffee, C Antoine Caldwell, S Rashad Johnson, QB John Parker Wilson
Key games: vs. Virginia Tech (September 5); @ Mississippi (October 10); vs. LSU (November 7)
9. Ohio State Buckeyes
This is where the USC theory comes into play. Ohio State has been a perennial powerhouse for the past few years, yet they lost an enormous amount of talent to the NFL draft. They should be able to reload, right? Well, sort of. QB Terrelle Pryor returns, as well as their offensive and defensive lines. Ohio State lost two starting linebackers and two corners as well as Chris "Beanie" Wells and two of their WR's. They have talent coming into those trouble areas, but will it be enough? Ohio State warrants this ranking from me due to Pryor's return, as well as hosting two of the three key games this season.
Schlabach's #9: Penn State Nittany Lions
Key losses: CB Malcolm Jenkins, RB Chris Wells, LB James Laurinaitis, WR Brian Robiskie, CB Donald Washington, WR Brian Hartline, LB Marcus Freeman, QB Todd Boeckman
Key games: vs. USC (September 12); @ Penn State (November 7); vs. Iowa (November 14)
10. Penn State Nittany Lions
On paper, Penn State shouldn't be on this list. They lost both starting WR's along with having to rebuild both their offensive and defensive lines. So why are they here? They play in the snoozing Big 10 (meaning that even with this team, they'll challenge for the conference crown) and they have a friendly schedule, playing both Iowa and Ohio State at home.
Schlabach's #10: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Key losses: DE Aaron Maybin, WR Derrick Williams, WR Deon Butler, OG Rick Ohrnberger, C A.Q. Shipley
Key games: vs. Iowa (September 26); vs. Ohio State (November 7)
11. LSU Tigers
Similar to Oklahoma State, LSU has more promise on offense than defense in 2009. They return QB Jordan Jefferson, RB Charles Scott, and WR Brandon LaFell, along with a solid offensive line. LSU must rebuild their defensive line to be in contention for the SEC West. Compounding that problem, they play three of their toughest games on the road, including two that will help decide the SEC West champions. Regardless, LSU is good enough to garner the #11 ranking.
Schlabach's #11: Oregon
Key losses: DE Tyson Jackson, FB Quinn Johnson, OG Herman Johnson, S Curtis Taylor, WR Demetrius Byrd, DT Ricky Jean-Francois
Key games: @ Georgia (October 3); vs. Florida (October 10); @ Alabama (November 7); @ Mississippi (November 21)
12. Oregon Ducks
Oregon has a dual-threat QB in Jeremiah Masoli and a stellar RB in LeGarrette Blount. That's about all they have after the NFL and graduation took three starters on the OL, DL, and secondary. However, they were blessed with a mostly-friendly schedule, with three of their top Pac-10 games hosted at home. The September 3rd game against Boise State game is an early test for both teams.
Schlabach's #12: LSU
Key losses: S Patrick Chung, CB Jarius Byrd, C Max Unger, OT Fenuki Tupou, DT Ra'Shon Harris, DE Nick Reed
Key games: @ Boise State (September 3); vs. Utah (September 19); vs. Cal (September 26); vs. USC (October 31)
13. Boise State Broncos
Boise State looks to have a solid team and an easy schedule. They return their starting QB, two of their WR's, three other starters in the offense, four starters in the secondary, and two other starters on the defense. Their offensive line needs to play more consistent than last year, but they're stacked otherwise. The first game of the season versus Oregon will prove whether the Broncos are a BCS-worthy team.
Schlabach's #13: California Golden Bears
Key losses: RB Ian Johnson, WR Jeremy Childs
Key games: vs. Oregon (September 3)
14. California Golden Bears
Cal should be able to truly compete in the Pac-10 this year. Their savior is Heisman hopeful RB Jahvid Best. Their problems include their linebacking corps and WR's. If Jeff Tedford is able to fill the holes at linebacker, the Golden Bears will challenge USC and Oregon for the Pac-10 title.
Schlabach's #14: Boise State Broncos
Key losses: C Alex Mack, LB Zack Follett, TE Cameron Morrah
Key games: @ Oregon (September 26); vs. USC (October 3)
15. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Former Navy coach Paul Johnson has successfully implemented his triple option-spread offense at Georgia Tech. Will this be the year he moves his team in for a BCS berth? Well, maybe. Nine starters return on offense, as well as a majority of their defense. However, they lost three defensive linemen, which could be a huge loss. Their hardest games in the ACC are played at home as well as their contest versus in-state rival Georgia.
Schlabach's #15: Georgia Tech
Key losses: DE Michael Johnson, OT Andrew Gardner, DT Vance Walker, DT Darryl Richard
Key games: vs. North Carolina (September 26); vs. Virginia Tech (October 17); vs. Georgia (November 28)
16. TCU Horned Frogs
Like the Bears, TCU has been known as a defensively strong team. However, both the Bears and the Horned Frogs will most likely be known for their offensive prowess this year. The Horned Frogs return their QB, top WR, and two of their RB's. On defense, they must replace seven of their starters, but the #1 sack producer last year, DE Jerry Hughes, is back. The Utah game in 2008 was spectacular, and this game should be no different.
Schlabach's #16: Georgia Bulldogs
Key losses: LB Jason Phillips, LB Robert Henson, RB Aaron Brown, LB Stephen Hodge, C Blake Schlueter
Key games: @ BYU (October 24); vs. Utah (November 14)
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
If Charlie Weis can't get it done this year, he deserves to be fired. He's returning ten starters on offense and a lot of experience all over his team. The only area of major concern is at RB, which has to improve from last year's horrendous performance. Even their schedule is set up for them to win, with the home game against USC the only difficult game on the schedule. However, I'm still leery of this team. Call it a gut instinct or whatever you want, but I'm not as sold as some are on this team.
Schlabach's #17: Notre Dame
Key losses: S David Bruton
Key games: vs. USC (October 17); vs. Navy (November 7)
18. Georgia Bulldogs
Mark Schlabach has Georgia ranked at #16; I don't see where he gets that ranking. Georgia has to replace their starting QB and RB, along with three key defensive starters. In other words, don't expect their offense to be as explosive as it was in 2008. Defensively, the Bulldogs aren't losing as much and should be able to ably compete in the SEC.
Schlabach's #18: TCU Horned Frogs
Key losses: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, CB Asher Allen, DT Corey Irvin, DE Jarius Wynn
Key games: @ Oklahoma State (September 5); vs. LSU (October 3); vs. Florida (October 31); @ Georgia Tech (November 28)
19. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska is a tough team to read. Their defense is anchored by Ndamukong Suh, my #1 DT prospect at the moment. Unfortunately for the Husker faithful, they lost QB Joe Ganz along with two of their starting WR's. But, they do have two good running backs, along with dual-threat QB Zac Lee. Their schedule isn't as favorable as some, playing Virginia Tech and potential Big XII champion Kansas on the road. This may not be the year for Nebraska, but expect them to challenge for the Big XII championship in the near future.
Schlabach's #19: Iowa Hawkeyes
Key losses: LB Cody Glenn, OG Matt Slauson, OT Lydon Murtha, QB Joe Ganz
Key games: @ Virginia Tech (September 19); vs. Oklahoma (November 7); @ Kansas (November 14)
Iowa returns QB Ricky Stanzi and arguably the best offensive line in the country. However, they also have to replace the losses of RB Shonn Greene and defensive line mainstays Mitch King and Matt Kroul. The other problem the Hawkeyes may run into are the seemingly constant arrests of their players. Their schedule is not friendly, either; they'll play at Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. Even their first game against Northern Iowa isn't a lock.
Schlabach's #20: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Key losses: RB Shonn Greene, CB Brian Fletcher, OT Seth Olsen, TE Brandon Myers, DE Mitch King, DT Matt Kroul
Key games: vs. Northern Iowa (September 5); @ Penn State (September 26); @ Ohio State (November 14)
Last week's article: ChiFan's Top NCAA Games to See in 2009