College Football Preview: The Others

We”re now just one week from the kickoff of college football season, and thus begins Cap”n Ken”s Outlook for 2007. The previews will cascade from The Others (non-SEC teams) to the SEC East, SEC West and finally my outlook for LSU.

Today – The Others: Hype I Buy:

1. USC. As much as SEC fans might want to see the Trojans sink back into west-coast mediocrity, the level of talent on the team can”t be denied. The only hitch for USC this year would come from the notion that the quality of Pac-10 football is improving. And I”m not sure I buy that. But if there is depth in the conference this league, USC will actually have to earn a spot in the BCS.

2. Oklahoma. By all rights, a 13-1 team in 2006 except for a game stolen by the refs and a sneak attack by Boise State at the close of the Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners will be vengeful and talented this year, which I think gives them an edge over Texas in the Big 12.

3. Texas. Two years after their national championship, the Longhorns have solidified their rightful place as the powerhouse of Lone Star football. They”ll be good. Colt McCoy is a star quarterback in the making, and the Longhorns will boast a powerful offense. That swagger and firepower will be what they throw at Oklahoma.

Solid Teams:

1. Wisconsin. Twelve wins in 2006 and they return 18 starters. But last year”s schedule was easy as they played from the ladies” tee of the Big Ten (no Ohio State, yes Indiana and Illinois), so they still have a lot to prove.

2. Michigan. Likely to be good but not great (like last year), but they return only 11 starters from 2006″s pretend powerhouse.

3. Virginia Tech. Bringing a lot of talent back from a 10-win season, the Hokies have solidified their place as the powerhouse of the ACC, having averaged 10.3 wins a season since joining in 2004.

Sure Things:

1. West Virginia. Two Heisman candidates and a joke schedule should result in 10 guaranteed wins, another (South Florida) game a real team would easily rise to and only one (Louisville) challenge of any significance.

2. Louisville. One Heisman candidate and a joke schedule should result in 10 guaranteed wins, another (South Florida) game a real team would easily rise to and only one (West Virginia) challenge of any significance.

Show Me:

- Cal, UCLA, Oregon State. What”s required for one of these also-rans of the Pac-10 to prove themselves worthy? Take the conference title away from USC. In lieu of a title game, the Pac-10 at least plays a full round-robin, so if there”s actual strength in the league below the Trojans, the title is within reach for a legitimate team.

Pretenders:

1. Rutgers. Maybe Ray Rice will carry them to another decent year, but like The Sopranos, this feel-good Jersey story is over. Sure, they”ll roll up wins over the likes of Buffalo, Norfolk State and Navy out of conference and against Big East heavies Cincinnati and Connecticut, but this is the last hurrah.

2. South Florida. They”re a good story and people love saying they were the second-best team in Florida last year (speaks badly for FSU and Miami more than anything). But they”re still bush league, and only the weakness of the Big East makes them appear otherwise. Let”s see how strong they look against Auburn.

3. Boise State, Hawaii, TCU and the non-BCS hopefuls. Boy, that Fiesta Bowl was great last year. Good times, and hardly coincidental that Boise beat Oklahoma using the same kind of tricks I use to beat USC playing as Wofford on the PS2. But that was a fun distraction, not a trend. If TCU can beat Texas and go 12-0, they deserve to be in the expanded BCS lineup. Otherwise, these second-tier squads are going to have to start beating some real teams out of conference if they really want to be taken seriously.

Conference Predictions:

ACC Atlantic: Clemson

ACC Coastal: Virginia Tech
ACC Champion: Virginia Tech

Big East: West Virginia

Big Ten: Wisconsin

Big 12 North: Nebraska
Big 12 South: Oklahoma
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

Pac-10: USC

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