#5: Boise State Broncos
Players to watch:
Kellen Moore-QB Jeron Johnson-CB
Jeremy Avery-RB Austin Pettis-WR
Well it seems like the “Statue of Liberty” play against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl was ages ago. The Boise State Broncos are ready, and have been for a while now to knock down the National Championship door. Head coach Chris Peterson has been exceptional with a 49-4 record and 2-0 in BCS Bowl games. After a sensational junior campaign, quarterback Kellen Moore is looking like a Heisman contender, after throwing 39 touchdowns and only 3 INTs. With sure-handed receiver Austin Pettis, who led the team in receiving touchdowns, along with 1,000-yard rusher Jermey Avery, the Broncos are no longer the Cinderella in college football. They are serious contenders this upcoming season. The Broncos will be tested early this season, with an opening game at FedEx Field in Baltimore against the Virginia Tech Hokies, which will test that high-powered offense early and often. The road to a title doesn’t stop there, as they will have a home game against the Oregon State Beavers, and will have their hands full against Jacquizz Rodgers. Get past those two early tests with impressive wins, and Boise State will be in the National Title game.
#4 Texas Longhorns
Players to watch:
Garrett Gilbert-QB Aaron Williams-DB Blake Gideon-FS
Kyle Hix-OL Sam Acho-DE
Tre Newton-RB Emmanuel Acho-MLB
A new year is here, and once again the Horns are in the national title picture, but it is all contingent on the arm of “GG,” Garrett Gilbert. Last time we saw Gilbert, he was thrown into the fire in the national title game, and almost completed one of the greatest comebacks in college football history. Fans should be very excited because this kid has the “IT” factor that only few quarterbacks have. Gilbert is not used to losing, where his last loss as a starter came as sophomore in high school. His receiving targets, John Chiles, James Kirkendoll, Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin will share the load on offense. Everybody in Austin knows that for the last couple of years the Horns have had a non-existent ground game. If the Horns can’t find a consistent running game, then the bevy of talent on the offensive side of the ball is pointless. Hopefully, running back Tre Newton can stay healthy and keep the position full time.
Defensively, the Horns are loaded with quite a few returning starters, as well as some great pickups in recruiting. The secondary will be led by Aaron Williams and Blake Gideon; the interior will have a pair of brothers, Emmanuel and Sam Acho, holding down the fort. Look for incoming freshmen Jordan Hicks, Reggie Wilson, and Taylor Bible to make sudden impacts. This season, the Horns have a couple of key games that will dictate the season. Of course, there’s the Oklahoma Sooners, and the following week they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska. We all know what happened last time these two played (thank you, Cowboys Stadium, for having field-level suites with guard rails). Get past these two opponents, and BCS will be on the horizon.
#3 Florida Gators
Players to Watch:
John Brantley-QB Ahmad Black-SS
Emmanuel Moody-RB Brandon Hicks-LB
Chris Rainey –WR
BREAKING NEWS: Tim Tebow has been granted a fifth year of eligibility… (my alarms goes off!!! Whew...)
The Florida Gators post-Tebow era has begun, but don’t get it twisted; the cupboard is still full in Gainesville. John Brantley will take over under center for Urban Meyers Sandlot Offense, and I mean that in a good way. With losses of Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper, look for Chris Rainey and Deonte Thompson to fill the void. The ground game will be in good hands with Emmanuel Moody and Jeffery Demps’ thunder and lightning attack. Defensively, the Gators are loaded on defense with five defensive players being selected to the pre-season All-SEC teams. The defense is being anchored by linebacker Brandon Hicks and safety Ahmad Black. But juniors Janoris Jenkins and Will Hill will play a significant role in the Gators being one of the top defenses in the nation. A bitter taste was left after the SEC Championship game, but the Gators are looking to get back. Critical matchups against Alabama might determine their fate, and even though it’s not a conference game, the Florida State Seminoles look for retribution against their in state rival. I see the Gators getting one of those at-large BCS bids.
#2 Ohio State Buckeyes
Players to Watch:
Terrelle Pryor-QB Cameron Heyward-DL
Brandon Saine-RB Ross Homan-LB
DeVier Posey-WR Chimdi Chekwa-DB
This has to be the year for the Buckeyes to bring home the national title. I can’t believe I’m saying this; Kenny and Ed both know I despise “The Ohio State.” Before I get crucified, I’m not making a comparison, but didn’t Vince Young win the Rose Bowl the year before winning it all? I’m just saying. Terrelle Pryor has a chance to silence some of his critics, including me, if he can get it done. He showed signs during the latter part of the season that he may be ready. I just need Coach “Sweater Vest” Tressel to let the reins go a tad bit. When Mack Brown let VY go, you saw the results. Defensively, Cameron Heyward is a man amongst boys. Listed as 6’6” 290, not too many offensive linemen will be able to block this cat. Defensive back Chimdi Chekwa will lead the secondary and linebacker Ross Homan will hold down the linebackers. Once again, the Buckeyes have a primetime game at the beginning of the season. Let’s see if this time they are able to get over the hump against the “U” on September 11. Later on in the season, they will look to get revenge on Penn State, on their way to a Big Ten title.
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Players to watch:
Mark Ingram-RB Marcell Dareus-DL Mark Barron-CB
Trent Richardson-RB Dont’a Hightower-LB
Julio Jones-WR Courtney Upshaw-LB
The “Nature Boy” Ric Flair said it best, “To be the man, you have to beat the man! Woooooooo!”
The defending National Champions are looking for a repeat, and if that happens look for Nick Saban to have his statue next to Bear Bryant. Returning Heisman trophy winner, Mark Ingram and Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson, in my opinion, remind me of Hawk and Animal, the Road Warriors. They are very intimidating, to the point where as a wrestler you see that you wrestle them in a no disqualification match, and their heart begin to drop. The Crimson Tide also has a manchild at receiver, in Julio Jones. Quarterback Greg McElroy is like a kid in a candy store with that bevy of talent that’s around him. Defensively, Saban’s bunch will be stacked. Defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, who single-handedly devoured both Longhorn quarterbacks in the first half of the national title game, returns for another season. Also returning are linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw to solidify the rest of the front seven. In the secondary, Jim Thorpe watch list, Mark Barron will be leader of that crew that will be very young. The schedule outlook have couple of games you should circle, and that is Penn State and LSU. Fans should also circle the game against the Florida Gators, as they look for revenge from last season. When it’s all said and done, I still see the Crimson Tide returning to the national championship game.
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk (and hopefully on the radio soon) show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!