This week's guest bloggers are Jon Johnston from the Nebraska blog Corn Nation and Sean Keeley from the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. This week's question is as follows: Which team consistently ranked in the top 10 in preseason magazines has the greatest potential for failure?
Brian Sakowski: The Big Ten is a conference where there is no real clear-cut favorite, and everyone comes into the season with holes and weaknesses. Penn State is getting a lot of praise even though they will be replacing the majority of their offensive line, all of their receivers, and their entire secondary. The Nittany Lions notoriously do well when they have a solid offensive line who gives their quarterback time and creates holes for the running back, and I think Daryll Clark and company got spoiled with the line they had last year.
The Nittany Lions will be tested early with Iowa at home and then traveling to play Illinois, who I think could spell trouble for a young Lions' secondary. November games at home at home against Ohio State and at Michigan State could also be tough games for the Lions, and do not ever count out Michigan, who Penn State beat for the first time last year in over a decade. I do feel the Lions are one of the top 2 teams in the Big Ten, but the gap between them and the rest is not as big as many think. One slip up and it could be a 3 or 4 loss year which would make Happy Valley, not so happy.
Jon Johnston: USC has just about everything possible going for them. Their densely populated location provides abundance of highly talented recruits, they play in a conference that’s top heavy, and they don’t have to worry about a conference championship game. Don’t forget that they have of a high percentage chance of playing their bowl game at home at the end of the season.
With all these advantages, you’d think that USC would have won more than one national title under Pete Carroll (In 2003, LSU took the BCS, leaving USC with #1 in the AP vote).
Unfortunately for Trojan fans, USC has a penchant for losing to crappy teams. Last year, college football fans were treated to pundits consistently blathering about the great USC defense. Then the Trojans walked into Oregon State and were embarrassed when the Beavers ran the ball straight at them. In 2007, it was the embarrassing loss against 41-point underdog Stanford. In 2006, the Trojans were upset by Oregon State (making 2008 even more inexplicable) and by arch-rival UCLA.
Remembering Reggie Bush’s botched lateral attempt in the 2006 Rose Bowl still makes me laugh out loud whenever I think of it. It remains one of the stupidest moves in college football history, made even more special because of Bush’ stature at the time. My favorite taunt in all college football remains “You Can’t Spell SUCK without U-S-C”, should should beg the question - which sucky team you going to lose to this year, Trojans?
Michael Felder: Although there are a couple options when it comes to fraudulent Top Ten teams I’m going to go with my gut and say Alabama. Don’t get me wrong; I fully expect the Tide to contend for the SEC West title and perhaps and appearance in the SEC Championship game. I also have such a massive wealth of respect for Nick Saban that I can never doubt the man’s ability to field the toughest and most focused team with the talent at his disposal. However, with what last season’s team lost I find it hard to believe that they will duplicate the success of just a season ago.
Looking at the facts, this Bama squad is a team that finished 6th a season ago and then proceeded to lose their top three linemen, rusher and quarterback as well as their defensive leader, Rashad Johnson. The SEC is not for the faint at heart and breaking in an inexperienced quarterback is not the situation Saban wants to be in as he attempts to rebuild his offensive line. Though Saban’s schedule avoids the Florida draw we’ll get an opening weekend showdown to prove if the Tide is worthy. The nation and Vegas are pushing the Tide (4 pt favorites) but something tells me that Bud Foster will manipulate the inexperience at quarterback to the tune of nice little VT win.
Sean Keeley: It's gotta be Ole Miss. They've got trendy pick written all over them. They have all the tell-tale signs of a disappointing season. They won games based on the "new coach boost" last season, their talent is still catching up with their expectations and the SEC schedule doesn't take too kindly to upstarts.They've got Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and, if they're lucky enough to make the SEC Championship, a likely showdown with Florida. Not to mention some frisky opponents who would love to knock them off (South Carolina, Mississippi State, Auburn). I don't see them emerging with less than four losses.
Ron Juckett: I think you have to go with the team that has the biggest expectations going into the season, and that's Florida. Even my grandmother has the Gators penciled in as going to Pasadena and, with them returning all eleven starters on defense, they should be the heavy favorites to start. Unlike the Cal's and Ole Miss' of the world, the Gators can afford to lose a regular season game. Where the train may come off the tracks is at the SEC Championship game as Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss come into the season as contenders for everything.
Urban Meyer got his big payday and Tim Tebow will have some moments that will look like he's already on the rubber chicken banquet circuit. When Southern Cal was the heavy favorite a few years ago, they looked bored at times in games and almost slipped. The SEC is not a place where you can slip and with the expectation of repeating through the roof, anything less that a trip to Pasadena will be seen as a failure to the fans and the Gators.
Adam Nettina: While Virginia Tech has never been in my preseason Top 10, it's apparent that the defending ACC Champions are a near-consensus pick to make it to a BCS bowl game in 2009 and possibly compete for a National Title. Call me crazy, but I ain't buying it. Yes the Hokies get back nine starters on offense from a season ago, but let's not forget that it wasn't a very good offense to start out with, averaging an anemic 16.7 points per game. I know everyone thinks Tyrod Taylor is the second (or is that third?) coming of Michael Vick, but don't forget that he tossed seven picks -- to only two touchdowns -- last season. Bud Foster's defense should be lights out as usual but with out of conference games against Alabama, Nebraska, and East Carolina (not to mention a foreboding away date with Georgia Tech), don't expect the Hokies to be on any one's national title radar come late November, especially now that Darren Evans is out for the year.