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College Football Preview 2008College Football Free Pick'Em Contest 2008
July 9, 2008 Welcome back football fans! The rest of the sports world has enjoyed fantastic finishes in the NFL (nice history Patriots), NBA (nothing better than Celtics-Lakers in June), and even in the PGA (Tiger-Rocco). March Madness and Major League Baseball has been a nice diversion as well, but let's face it: nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace the best sport in the land, that being college football. So now that we're back to preview the impending 2008 season, let's begin with programs on the rebound. These are programs rising from the ashes like a phoenix to either conference title aspirations or bowl berths. Pick'Em Contest

Texas Tech

Now normally the Red Raiders don't fit into this kind of list because (1) they always have high expectations and underachieve, and (2) they have gone to bowl games every year since 2000. However, this year the shoe fits better than normal, and many will be surprised when they live up to expectations and move past the crummy bowls from the past 8 seasons and into the BCS. The schedule is a breeze until a trip to Aggie-land in the middle of October, and the only real tough game is at Oklahoma in late November after a bye week to rest up. Senior QB Graham Harrell and superstar WR Michael Crabtree return to lead the offense, while the defense should be much improved over past years. This could mean a lot less Red Raider shootout games, which also increases the chances they finally step up and make a run at Oklahoma and Texas in the Big XII.


With the exception of a Big Ten championship run in 2001, Illinois has not been competitive or in a bowl since the early 90's until last season. Coach Ron Zook might have not been the dream coach for the Florida Gators, but he's fitting in nicely with this orange and blue crew. After bringing in a third straight highly ranked recruiting class and going to the first Rose Bowl in over 20 years, it appears this program will displace Wisconsin, Penn State, and Iowa as the true third good team in the Big Ten. Although Rashard Mendenhall is gone this year, QB Juice Williams will only get better this year and any dual-threat quarterback is tough to defend in the Big Ten. Zook's defense did not lose a ton either, so expect more great things from the Illini this year and beyond.

Notre Dame

And now we come to the portion of the article that will inevitably bring hate mail. There's no team in the sport more loved and hated than the Irish, but unfortunately for the Irish haters…Charlie Weis will not have two bad years in South Bend in a row. While Duke and Stanford are not an amazing duo of wins to close the season in 2007, at 1-9 any wins are steps in the right direction. It's taking some time for Charlie Weis to learn the college football recruiting system, but he will keep the Irish program improving overall from the dark days of the past decade. QB Jimmy Clausen will be much better in his second year, and he has time to grow as the schedule is not loaded up front this year with tough road games. Don’t expect another BCS run right away, but before long Weis will start not only getting the Irish there regularly, but also winning those big bowl games.


Despite having many great seasons under Walt Harris, three years ago the Panthers started a new era under Dave Wannstedt. Like Charlie Weis and many other professional football coaches, Wannstedt has had some growing pains turning Pittsburgh into a legitimate contender. Finally grabbing some defensive talent the past couple off-seasons, now the Panthers are showing promise in victories like the season-crushing defeat of West Virginia at Morgantown last December. It appears that even without academically-ineligible star receiver Maurice Williams in 2008, Pittsburgh's offense should finally step up and help the strong defense this year. Given the topsy-turvy nature of the Big East and Rich Rodriguez's departure, even Pittsburgh could end up in the BCS this year.


Randy Shannon took over a program that was beginning to look like the late 80's thugs known as the Hurricanes, and instilled some class in a football program that was lacking in that department under Larry Coker. Not truly competitive since the surprising upset loss to Ohio State in the 2003 National Championship, Shannon has a lot of work to do as evidenced by the 4-game slide at the end of 2007. Still, a move out of the Orange Bowl and back onto campus can only help Miami build a better relationship with the student body and turn things around. A solid class of juniors come back this season to lead the Hurricanes back to bowl eligibility. Don't expect a win in Gainesville week 2, but at least Miami should rebound and start the climb back to national prominence again. This time, expect the Hurricanes to do things the right way under Randy Shannon.

Mississippi State

After an embarrassing 45-0 home loss to LSU on national television to begin last season, it appeared Sylvester Croom was on his way to another three win season. Instead, the Bulldogs achieved their first winning record and bowl game since 2000 by running off seven wins in eleven games. With the exception of games against superb offensive units Arkansas, LSU, and West Virginia, the Bulldog defense held all other teams to an average of less than 20 points per game. The faithful in Starkville have stayed behind Croom and allowed him time to make this program into a winner, and this season should be even better than last year. Expect the defense to continue being a strong unit and carrying this team. A winning record in the best conference in college football would be quite an accomplishment for a team that was lucky to get 2 wins in conference for most of the past decade. The Bulldogs could even find themselves in a New Year's Day bowl game this year.


Our final rebounding program is the Huskies, who are moving forward under Ty Willingham's watchful eyes. QB Jake Locker was hyped too much last season, but expect the tough battles against Hawaii, USC, and Ohio State to pay huge dividends this year with a boatload of returning starters in Seattle. The schedule opens with three tough games against Oregon, BYU, and Oklahoma, but then the Huskies should be able to coast until battles against USC and UCLA. This should be the year Locker becomes a Heisman candidate, and with any support, he'll lead Washington back to prominence they have not experience since 2000-2001.

So that's a handful of programs that should experience rebounds this season and in the future. Some will be highly successful now, while others are just starting the long road back to respectability. We'll see you again in a week or two, once conference previews begin in earnest. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to a great 2008 season.

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