SI.com's team of experts make their picks for the 2008 campaign
August 28, 2008
SI.com's college football writers Stewart Mandel, Andy Staples, Cory McCartney, Luke Winn, Bill Trocchi, Arash Markazi and Gennaro Filice provide their predictions for the season.
Mandel:National title: Ohio State vs. OklahomaRose: USC vs. WisconsinFiesta: Texas Tech vs. Arizona StateSugar: Georgia vs. West VirginiaOrange: Clemson vs. Florida
Staples:National title: Oklahoma vs. GeorgiaRose: USC vs. Ohio StateFiesta: Missouri vs. WisconsinSugar: Florida vs. BYU Orange: Clemson vs. USF
McCartney:National title: Ohio State vs. OklahomaRose: USC vs. WisconsinFiesta: Florida vs. Missouri Sugar: Georgia vs. West VirginiaOrange: Clemson vs. BYU
Winn:National title: Ohio State vs. USCRose: Georgia vs. WisconsinFiesta: Oklahoma vs. West VirginiaSugar: Florida vs. MissouriOrange: Wake Forest vs. BYU
Trocchi:National title: Oklahoma vs. Ohio StateRose: USC vs. WisconsinFiesta: Missouri vs. FloridaSugar: Georgia vs. BYUOrange: Clemson vs. Pittsburgh
Markazi:National title: USC vs. Georgia Rose: Ohio State vs. West VirginiaFiesta: Oklahoma vs. BYUSugar: Florida vs. MissouriOrange: Clemson vs. Wisconsin
Filice:National title: Ohio State vs. USCRose: Wisconsin vs. Arizona StateFiesta: Oklahoma vs. GeorgiaSugar: Florida vs. Texas TechOrange: Clemson vs. Pittsburgh
Mandel: Ohio State. The Buckeyes are loaded at every position, and lord knows they'll be playing with a chip on their shoulders.
Staples: Georgia. They may be a trendy pick, but the Bulldogs have all the elements of a championship team -- including the brutal schedule.
McCartney: Oklahoma. The Sooners have their flaws (like two new corners and linebackers and the lack of a big-play receiver), but with Sam Bradford and a schedule that has Kansas and Texas Tech in Norman, there's reason to believe Bob Stoops will soon own another crystal football.
Winn: Ohio State. The solution to avoiding being called the Buffalo Bills of the BCS era: play a national title game against a non-SEC foe.
Trocchi: Oklahoma. Make it three straight disappointments for the Buckeyes as Sam Bradford leads a powerful Oklahoma offense to a championship.
Markazi: USC. The Trojans' current run of six straight BCS bowl games has netted them only one crystal ball, which irks Pete Carroll. The Trojans head man will field arguably his fastest and deepest defensive squad yet.
Filice: Ohio State. People forget that at this time last year the Buckeyes were not supposed to win the Big Ten and definitely not play in a second consecutive BCS title game. They were a year away. But now a year has passed ...
Mandel: Oregon State. The Beavers are brimming with offensive weapons and could pull an early-season upset of Penn State or USC.
Staples: USF. The Big East is wide open, and the Bulls have won their past two against conference goliath West Virginia.
McCartney: Arkansas. Darren McFadden and Co. are gone, but this team will be better than expected with a confident Casey Dick playing behind a veteran offensive line that includes Rimington winner Jonathan Luigs.
Winn: Michigan State. Find a quality defensive team with a coach on the rise (Mark Dantonio), a veteran QB (senior Brian Hoyer) and a bunch of close losses the previous season (all six of Sparty's were by six points or less) and you have a decent sleeper pick.
Trocchi: North Carolina. With a favorable schedule (the Heels miss Clemson and Wake) and maturing talent, Butch Davis gets UNC into the ACC title mix sooner than expected.
Markazi: North Carolina. The Tar Heels may have gone 4-8 in their first season under Butch Davis, but they lost four games by four points, one by six points (South Carolina) and another by a touchdown (Virginia Tech). Also, they return 18 starters.
Filice: Ole Miss. Jevan Snead will end up being the star QB transfer Ole Miss thought it had in Brent Schaeffer.
Mandel: Illinois. The Illini had their fun last year, but there will be no Rose Bowls -- or other New Year's bowls -- without Rashard Mendenhall.
Staples: Texas Tech. Mike Leach's team will be fun to watch, but with Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas on the schedule, it's going to be tough for the Red Radiers to live up to their lofty expectations.
McCartney: Arizona State. They have a proven QB in Rudy Carpenter, but what's alarming is a line that won't be any better than the group that gave up 55 sacks (117th nationally) and a defense that gave up a combined 96 points in losses to USC and Texas.
Winn: Arizona State. The Sun Devils' offensive line woes will be exposed in an early loss to Georgia ... and will plague them en route to a fourth-place finish in the Pac-10.
Trocchi: West Virginia. Questions on defense plus an inexperienced head coach may spell trouble for a team depending on Noel Devine to fill Steve Slaton's shoes on offense.
Markazi: Arizona State. The Sun Devils will be lucky to finish with anything better than a 7-5 record with their brutal schedule, which has them playing Georgia, USC and five Pac-10 road games, including four in five weeks.
Filice: Tennessee. Losses in their first three SEC games -- Florida, at Auburn, at Georgia -- will send the Vols into a tailspin.
Mandel: None. While there are a lot of good mid-majors out there -- BYU, Utah, Fresno State, Boise State -- I don't see any going undefeated.
Staples: BYU. QB Max Hall and RB Harvey Unga return along with an excellent defense. The season finale against Utah could be for a BCS bowl berth.
McCartney: BYU. If Hall and the Cougars can avoid the 1-2 starts of the last two seasons, this crew should make it 3-for-3 with mid-majors in the era of the fifth BCS game.
Winn: BYU. The Cougs' offense is top-10 quality, and their schedule is reasonable enough -- with Washington being the toughest non-con foe -- to make an undefeated run a possibility.
Trocchi: BYU. Not an original pick, but the experience, plus quarterback Max Hall, make the Cougars the logical pick to break through this season.
Markazi: BYU. With a cupcake schedule, the Cougars should parlay their third straight Mountain West Conference title into a BCS Bowl by going undefeated. Unfortunately, then they'll be brought back to reality much like Hawaii last season.
Filice: Utah. If I have to choose one, I'll go with the Utes, who certainly have the firepower to knock off a vulnerable Michigan squad in Week 1. But truly, I don't see any BCS busting in this season's forecast.
Mandel:Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State. Tim Tebow will be held up to an unrealistic standard, opening the door for OSU's potential 2,000-yard rusher.
Staples:Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency (176.5) as a redshirt freshman, and he'll guide a loaded offense on a championship-caliber team.
McCartney: Wells. If Tebow is denied his second stiff-armed statue it will be because of Beanie, who should put up bigger numbers than the 1,690 yards and 15 TDs he ran for in an injury-plagued sophomore season.
Winn:Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. It's going to be boring. It's almost as if Heisman Watchers are begging Beanie Wells to take over the throne, but this race is going to be as boring as last year's -- another Tebow rout.
Trocchi:Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia. The Bulldogs' signal-caller has the weapons he needs to fulfill his enormous potential.
Markazi: Tebow. Of all the "Tim Tebow Facts," the one that may have seemed the most unlikely last year should become a reality in due time: "Tim Tebow doesn't just win a Heisman, he wins two or three if he wants."
Filice: Wells. He took the "Michigan killer" torch from Troy Smith;this year he'll follow in Smith's footsteps to the Heisman podium.
Mandel:Percy Harvin, WR, Florida. It sounds like his lingering heel injury is going to keep him from putting up big numbers early.
Staples:Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. Tebow will unfairly face a backlash from the attention he received in last year's historic win. Even if he turns in the best statistical season in the country, he'll be knocked if he doesn't surpass last year's gaudy numbers.
McCartney:James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State. Despite being the best defensive player in the nation, he's out of the race before the season starts because 1) He only plays defense and 2) He has some guy on his team named Beanie.
Winn:Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech. Only because you need to put up superhuman numbers to contend for the Heisman as a wideout, and this kid is going to get far too much attention from secondaries to allow that to happen.
Trocchi:Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State. USC shuts down Wells in Week 3, fueling the contention that Ohio State, and by default Wells, can't perform outside of the Big Ten.
Markazi:Colt McCoy, Texas. After losing six starters on offense, including running back Jamaal Charles, wide receiver Limas Sweed and tight end Jermichael Finley, McCoy will likely play more like the quarterback who fumbled four times in the Holiday Bowl, not the one who tallied nearly 300 yards and two TDs in a 52-34 win over Arizona State.
Filice:Joe McKnight, USC. McKnight may share carries with three other Trojans (Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford), so it's hard to imagine him enjoying the type of consistency that is necessary in a Heisman campaign.
Mandel:Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. The Alabama freshman is so off-the-charts he's already cracked the starting lineup for the Tide's season opener.
Staples:Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama: You may not know this 6-4, 250-pound sophomore, but SEC offensive coordinators and NFL scouts certainly do.
McCartney:Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State. He should already be a household name after setting a school record for total offense with 3,671 yards last season -- his first year as a starter.
Winn:Da'Quan Bowers. Clemson is bringing this beastly DE off the pine for his freshman opener, but he should be a starter -- and a feared pass-rusher -- by September.
Trocchi: Jones. Alabama folks definitely know about this athletic freshman wide receiver, and the rest of the nation will soon find out.
Markazi:Darrell Scott, Colorado. Dan Hawkins is trying to keep the spotlight off the freshman running back but it's going to be hard when the most gifted ball carrier Boulder has seen since Rashaan Salaam is running through the Big 12 by midseason.
Filice:Ryan McCants, RB, Oregon State. The 6-1, 240-pound redshirt freshman reminds many of Steven Jackson.
Mandel:Tyrone Willingham. It's never a good sign when boosters are calling up the school pledging huge donations in exchange for your firing.
Staples:Greg Robinson, Syracuse. Robinson somehow bucked the trend of coaches getting fired after three miserable seasons. He won't survive a fourth.
McCartney:Mike Stoops, Arizona. He's 17-29 in four seasons, and while he's flirted with a turnaround, another .500 or sub-.500 season will be his ticket out of Tuscon.
Winn: Robinson, Syracuse. His 10-0 "Bowl" record is the only win-loss data on his bio page, for good reason: he's 7-28 in three years with the Orange, and hasn't even sniffed a bowl bid.
Trocchi:Tommy Bowden, Clemson. Everything is in line for the Tigers to win the ACC this year, and if they don't, fingers will be pointed at the head man.
Markazi: Stoops. Being a Stoops doesn't mean what it once did in college football. While Oklahoma fans are getting tired of losing BCS games, Arizona fans are just plain tired of losing, with a 17-29 record under Stoops.
Filice:Kirk Ferentz, Iowa. Eighteen arrests since April 2007. That's a daunting statistic for a man recently dubbed the "most overpaid coach" in college football by Forbes magazine.
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