Posted by Ted Lewis
August 04, 2007 7:25PM
The time finally is here. Around the country, college football teams are reporting for preseason drills, and it's only 25 days until LSU plays at Mississippi State in the season's first game.
Here to whet your appetite are 20 burning questions about what to expect this season:
1. Which teams will play for the BCS title?
Southern California and Texas.
LSU Coach Les Miles was right. The Trojans' path to the title game is easier than that of any team in the Southeastern Conference, although it's hard to discredit USC's trips to Nebraska and Notre Dame.
The fact is, the Trojans are ridiculously talented. Their defense is the best they've had in their dominating run of the past six seasons. Quarterback John David Booty could be USC's fourth Heisman winner of the decade.
Texas' road to New Orleans for the BCS Championship Game might be easier than USC's. Other than Oklahoma, there's not an opponent who can match the Longhorns' talent level.
Plus, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy has a year's experience after throwing a national-record-tying 29 touchdown passes as a freshman.
That's the advantage Texas has over LSU. Senior quarterback Matt Flynn isn't proven enough to convince me his lack of experience isn't going to cost the Tigers at least once this season, and that one defeat could be enough to keep LSU out of the title game. In fact, the SEC just looks too strong for any team to run the table.
2. Which teams are in the other BCS games?
Sugar Bowl -- LSU vs. Texas Christian. The Tigers win the SEC championship game, and the Horned Frogs get an automatic BCS berth with a top-12 finish despite an early loss to Texas.
Rose Bowl -- Wisconsin vs. UCLA. The Badgers' victory at Penn State earns them a tiebreaker over the Nittany Lions for the Big Ten title. The Bruins are underrated but undefeated until the season finale against USC.
Fiesta Bowl -- Penn State vs. Auburn. The Nittany Lions and Tigers just miss winning their conference titles and get trips to the desert as a reward.
Orange Bowl -- Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia. Old Big East rivals hook up again.
3. Which Coalition conference team has the best chance to earn a BCS berth like Boise State did last season?
As you can see above, I like TCU, especially if the Horned Frogs can play Texas close Sept. 8. If they win the rest, they should wind up in the top 12 in the standings (Miami of Ohio finished 11th in 2003 because its only loss was in its opener against Iowa).
No unbeaten Coalition conference team has finished lower than 12th, although Hawaii, with an easy schedule that features two I-AA opponents, would be hard-pressed to qualify.
4. Are there any tweaks to the BCS formula this year?
It's still the combination of the USA Today coaches poll, Harris Interactive poll and computer rankings each counting for one-third of the formula that determines the title-game foes.
Everything else is the same. If you really need the gory details, check out bcsfootball.org.
5. What is the BCS' worst nightmare?
Rutgers goes undefeated but gets downgraded by the computers because of a weak non-conference schedule. LSU wraps up the SEC West before losing to Arkansas in its regular-season finale, but then the Tigers beat Florida in the SEC championship game. Texas does the same thing, wrapping up the Big 12 South before losing to Texas A&M, but then beats Nebraska for its conference title. Virginia Tech loses early at LSU, but gets on a roll after that to win a mediocre Atlantic Coast Conference. Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan all beat each other to leave the Big Ten in a three-way tie.
And to top it off, No.¤1 USC steamrolls everyone but loses narrowly to UCLA on the same day of the conference championship games.
So you have one undefeated, but lightly-regarded conference champion and seven others with one loss.
If past voting patterns prevail, Rutgers and Virginia Tech would wind up atop the polls, but few would believe they are the best teams. LSU would be in the Sugar Bowl but with little chance to prove itself because the Tigers would be playing a lower-ranked opponent than the other conference champions. Hawaii has been mentioned in some scenarios.
The Associated Press voters would be free to vote for whoever they choose after the bowls, and the BCS would be stuck with the Rutgers-West Virginia winner.
6. Could such a situation bring about a Plus-One format when the current contacts expire after the 2009 season?
It's the only way I see that happening.
The Big Ten and the Pacific-10 seem entrenched against anything that diminishes the Rose Bowl. Pacific-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen has even threatened to pull the conference out of the BCS if any changes are made.
The only possible compromise, given their current stance, is that the bowls go back to their traditional tie-ins, with the top-ranked teams coming out of those games meeting for the title.
But the other conferences, particularly the SEC, hold that the only acceptable Plus One involves a seeded semifinal. So, there's an impasse.
However, a snafu such as the one listed above, or one considerably less-complicated, such as 2004 when Texas, USC and Auburn all finished unbeaten, could move public opinion to the point all parties agree something has to be done.
Otherwise, don't look for any more changes until 2014.
7. Who's going to win the Heisman this season?
Arkansas running back Darren McFadden is the front-runner, and rightfully so.
McFadden is a singular talent, but if the turmoil around the Razorbacks' program hasn't subsided, a so-so season will end his chances.
Behind McFadden, Booty and fellow quarterbacks Brian Brohm of Louisville and Pat White of West Virginia all have the potential to put up big numbers on highly ranked teams.
Running back Steve Slaton of West Virginia also has to be mentioned, although he would likely split votes with White.
Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan could throw for a gazillion yards, but most of his games start after midnight for the rest of the country. Also, the lack of respect for the Warriors make him a long shot.
8. Which coaches are on the hot seat?
Tommy Bowden and Clemson open against Florida State and close against South Carolina. If the Tigers don't at least split those games, Bowden needs to win at least nine of the 10 in between.
Similarly, Dennis Franchione at Texas A&M could use another upset of Texas to keep justifying his salary.
Michigan fans will be howling for Lloyd Carr's hide if the Wolverines aren't in the Rose Bowl.
Gary Pinkel had better live up to predictions that Missouri wins the Big 12 North.
Others likely looking for new employment next year are Bill Doba (Washington State), Al Groh (Virginia) and Greg Robinson (Syracuse).
9. Of this year's new coaches, who looks like the best short-term hire?
Dennis Erickson (Arizona State) has always produced quick results and then moved on just ahead of the NCAA posse.
Steve Kragthorpe should keep things going at Louisville until an NFLteam snatches him away.
10. What about the long-term, then?
If his health holds up, Butch Davis brings the ability to make an underachieving North Carolina program a perennial contender in the ACC. Look at what he did at Miami.
Speaking of Miami, Randy Shannon has the makings of one capable of restoring the Hurricanes to prominence.
"Click the link for questions 11-20."
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