Professor Pickles 2008 NCAA Preview.

BAWK BAWK!!! It is time once again for me to give my FIRST EVER rundown of all the college football teams for 2008! It is shaping up to be a season that might even be worth remembering! Somebody might even win a national championship! I have been criss-crossing the country in the Picklecopter chowing down on some fine seeds and chickenfeed! Without further ado, here are my intellectual opinions!

ACC:
=========

ATLANTIC:
————–
Clemson:
Will take advantage of a bad division. However, they themselves are horribly overrated. Defense is shaky and O-line is maybe the conference’s worst.
Maryland: I’m looking for big things from the Terps in 08, in terms of progress. I think this team can contend for the division title. Darius Hayward-Bey is the 2nd best WR in the conference behind UNC’s Hakeem Nicks.
Wake Forest: Also a member of the ACC Overrated Squad.
NC State: I’m expecting this program to take a leap forward just like Maryland. Keep an eye on NC State. It won’t happen in 2008, but this program is in good hands.
Florida State: It’s hard to put them this low, considering their annual recruiting. However, whether this is Bowden’s last season or not, this team might not be bowl eligible.
Boston College: At the bottom, where they belonged all along. Don’t act surprised.

COASTAL:
—————-
Miami:
I’m taking Miami to win this conference. I know they have inexperience, but I have a feeling about this season. Keep in mind, also, how bad the ACC is. There’s a few teams who have legitimate claims to winning this terrible conference, but I am going to take the Hurricanes.
North Carolina: Expect a bowl bid and a very strong season for the Heels. They do need to show me some strength against Rutgers, though. They have an excellent set of WR’s and a lot of potential in the backfield.
Virginia Tech: They’ll be okay, but neither QB is any good. They better hope Taylor has matured tremendously, or interception-master Sean Glennon will have another season to show everyone why he won’t get drafted.
Virginia: Gonna be a long year in Charlottesville.
Georgia Tech: New coach with a gimmick offense: you don’t change overnight. They will, though, soon, and if this conference stays the way it is right now, the Ramblin’ Wreck might just end up as the top team.
Duke: Expect this team to look better on Saturdays, but the real news for Duke fans is that this upcoming recruiting class looks like the best in probably 20 years.

CONFERENCE USA:
===================

EAST:
————

Southern Miss: With a coaching change, this team is at least 1 year away from really gelling together. Still, they’re the best team in the East.
UCF: Gonna take a step back from 2007, but will be bowl eligible.
East Carolina: This program is deceptively good. I am also expecting ECU to become bowl eligible.
Memphis: 10 starters return on defense. On offense, the new QB is former Wazzou and JUCO player Arkelon Hall. If this kid plays with a chip on his shoulder, he might end up having the best season by a QB in the whole conference this year.
Marshall: Still struggling.
UAB: Falling quickly into one of the worst teams in college football.

WEST:
————

Tulsa: This team plays Arkansas on Sept. 20th. Arkansas will be down this year. If Tulsa beats Arkansas, this program is going 12-0. I am predicting Tulsa is going to a BCS game. Yes, I am insane.
Houston: I have a good feeling about this new coach, and I think Houston continues in the right direction.
SMU: Even with a new offense and new coaches, it’ll be enough to get SMU bowl eligible.
UTEP: Strangely enough, Mike Price is backpeddling in El Paso. It’ll continue. Biggest game of the year might be Buffalo. We’ll learn a lot about Price and Gill and where they are both headed from here.
Rice: They’ll do okay, but anything more than 4-8 might be out of the question. Keep an eye on QB Chase Clement, though.
Tulane: Not lookin’ good, buddy.

PAC-10:
=============
USC:
Is there any question who wins this conference? USC will be tough on defense, but I am not sold on any of these offensive players. They’ll clearly win 11 games and go to a BCS game, but they’re not winning the national championship, or playing for it.
Arizona State: Well, second place isn’t so bad.
Oregon: Once again, people are high on Oregon’s Kool-Aid. They must really know how to make that stuff potent up in Eugene, because once again this program is very overrated. Nothing like inflating a team just so people watch Pac-10 football.
Oregon State: This team might end up being better than everyone thinks. Can they break into the top 3 of the Pac-10? Doubtful. But I think they’ll scare a few people, including PSU in the out of conference.
Cal: After a monumental meltdown in 2007, I’m expecting the Golden Bears to bounce back, mentally. How far they bounce back on the field, though, is the real question. I’m saying 8-4.
UCLA: In less than 5 yrs when Neuhisel gets fired, this will be a 4-8 program. What’s happened at the last 2 places Neuhisel coached?
Arizona: Looks like Mike Stoops will be back coaching with his brother next season.
Stanford: Stanford is doing their thing and making good progress, but they’re still a few years away. This is a program to earmark.
Washington: Ty Willingham is not bringing in the types of kids that can turn this whole thing around. He cannot recruit, and even though he’s a decent coach, it’s just not gonna get anywhere near the top of this conference.
Washington State: New coach with bare cupboard = bad news in 2008. The only time you’ll hear about Washington State this season is if former Wazzou QB Arkelon Hall wins the starting job in Memphis.

SUN BELT:
==============

Florida Atlantic: They’ll be well coached and ready, but might not have the talent to advance the conference nationally this year.
North Texas: UNT will make a lot of progress this year, but they ultimately need another year or two to recruit for this system. I am also watching this QB situation very closely. Vizza threw for a ton of yards last season, and I am curious as to how many mistakes he is allowed in 2008 before Dodge yanks him and puts his son behind center. I am guessing not very many. I don’t think this is the 2nd best team in the SBC, but I do think that they’ll win shoot-outs against teams better than them.
Troy: It’ll be a step backwards for the Trojans this year, as they get ready for life without Haugabook.
Arkansas State: When you change your mascot, don’t make it something stupid.
Middle Tennessee: The middle of this conference is interchangable.
Louisiana Monroe: See note above.
Louisiana Lafayette: See note above.
Florida International: They are dealing with suspensions and a recent coaching change, but I think Cristobal will have this team ready in another year or so to make some head-way.

BIG XII:
==============

NORTH
————————

Missouri: Although I do believe this team will be overrated, they are clearly the best team in the North. I’m not expecting them to beat OU, UT, or Tech in the conference championship, though.
Colorado: This will be a big year for the Buffalos as they are now further into the Hawkins philosophy. Colorado will challenge for the North title, but Missouri will represent the division. Still, though, look for Colorado to have a strong season and nice bowl.
Kansas: Nothing like 1 decent season in 300 years, and then getting a ton of hype from it. No chance in Hell is this program in as good of shape as people want to believe.
Nebraska: I guess they’ll be okay, but this is gonna take awhile.
Kansas State: Prince is a good enough coach that he’ll win the MAC in the next few seasons, wherever he ends up. Not sure why he’s about to be offered a contract extension. I think the guy is good and all, but what has he done at Kansas State?
Iowa State: Having trouble recruiting top players to Ames? Who would have imagined that? Get ready for another coaching change.

SOUTH:
————————

Oklahoma: There’s 3 teams who have legitimate shots at winning the South, and even though OU lost to Tech last season, OU made a lot of progress against them as the game wore on. This year I think will be a different story, which is actually the usual story: OU wins. They have plenty coming back on both sides, and there might be a case for them being the 2nd best team in the nation.
Texas Tech: With Ruffin McNeil taking over the defense full time, we might be on the brink of a magical season in Lubbock. This is a serious BCS contender, folks. One thing that will hurt them, though, is the 2 I-AA foes on the schedule. Yikes. Are we looking at another similar situation like Auburn a few years back, where an undefeated team doesn’t play for the title?
Texas: Could win this division, but I have them as the odd man out. Too many losses on both sides, and Muschamp is not going to be able to change that defense overnight. But with the talent they have, and what they bring in each year, it’s hard to put them at 3rd. I do however feel that many of the kids Texas recruits are a bit overhyped.
Oklahoma State: Quietly one of the best B level teams in the country. They are getting better, but they probably can’t beat the teams ahead of them in 2008. Keep your eye on this team, though. They have a very big weapon behind center, and an upset or two is not out of the realm of possibility. This is one of my sleepers for the year.
Texas A&M: Major strides this season for A&M. At the end of the day, though, they are 5th of 6 teams.
Baylor: Major strides here as well. But like A&M and Oklahoma State, not sure they can beat anyone ahead of them.

BIG EAST:
=============

West Virginia: This program is at a huge cross-roads. This could end up being a conference-winning season or a season of blunder. They have suffered heavy losses in personnel as well as heavy losses in coaches. They are probably the best team in the conference, but don’t be surprised if WVU loses a few games.
Pittsburgh: Changing their defensive coordinators is only going to help the Panthers, but the guy they hired has question marks. On offense, they should be fine, but here again is the question of coordinator competency. Time is running out for Wannstedt, but this should be his best team yet.
South Florida: A lot of people are high on USF, and a lot of those people are high on crack. USF needs to decide whether or not they are a top Big East program.
Rutgers: Hard to put Rutgers this low, considering they have the best WR’s in the conference. Of the top 5 teams I have in this conference, any of them can beat the others. Maybe Rutgers is the darkhorse, here.
Cincinnati: This program has questions at QB for 2008, but other than that, there’s plenty of talk about how this is a team on the rise. I agree. It’ll be interesting to see what the head coach does when bigger jobs open in 2009. Cincinnati can beat any of the teams ahead of them.
Louisville: Kragthorpe is already on the hot-seat. That won’t change in 08. This team has major problems on both sides of the ball, returns 3 on offense and 4 on defense. Hunter Cantwell is an excellent QB who now has 1 season and questionable WRs to prove he deserves to be in the NFL. Godspeed, sir.
Connecticut: This team supposedly made their presence nationally in 2007 by going 9-4, but they have a 5 game stretch this year where I have them losing all 5 games. They’ll be back at the bottom where they belong.
Syracuse: Well, let’s not beat around the bush: your field-turf looks horrible, your jerseys are horrible, you have virtually nothing on either side of the ball, and you’re about to go through a coaching change. Let me throw the Cuse a bone: Doug Hogue, Averin Collier, and Curtis Brinkley are all quality backs. Honestly, they are probably the best RB tandem in the conference.

WAC:
================

Fresno State: An excellent measure of this team’s BCS potential starts in week 1 when the Bulldogs play at Rutgers. In week 2, they get Wisconsin in Fresno, and this is a game they can also win. I’m sure I’m in the minority on that one, but I have seen enough Wisconsin games to know they’re in the top most overrated programs in the country. Surprisingly enough… so is Fresno State. But things are looking good for 2008.
Boise State: September 20th against Oregon is the first real test the Broncos will get in 08. This WAC race figures to be between Fresno and Boise, with Nevada having an outside shot. Other than Oregon and Fresno, this looks like at least a 10-win season.
Nevada: Looks like the out-of-conference schedule is going to be tough, with Texas Tech and Missouri early on, and hopefully for Wolfpack fans, this pass defense won’t curl and up die after those two losses. Still, Nevada has a shot to win this conference.
Louisiana Tech: Former Georgia Tech QB Taylor Bennett looks like the starter for the Bulldogs, and I figure they can go 7-5.
San Jose State: The Spartans have an easier schedule this year, and keep an eye on this WR corps, who is silently amongst the nation’s better outfits. I’m calling for bowl eligibility.
Hawaii: Gonna be a long road back to the top for the Rainbow Warriors. Might as well go back to the old uniforms and start all over. I don’t think they’ll win 6 games.
New Mexico State: Chase Holbrook returns to lead this offense, and the offensive production will be insane once again. But this defense needs a lot of work. If they play better in 08 than in 07, this team might be 4th in the conference.
Idaho: Poor Idaho can’t catch a break, and they won’t this year either. Still, they went 1-11 last season, and I’ll say they go 2-10.
Utah State: Love their uniforms, but this team sucks. How’s that for insight? In perspective, they’re the 3rd best team in Utah.

BIG TEN:
===============

Ohio State: This is hands-down the preseason number 1 from where I am sitting. A lot of people have USC as number 1 or number 2, and OSU will take them out of the race by the first month. This team is going undefeated. Their biggest challenge is going to be how well they can stay composed while everyone is after them. In 2008, I am seeing this season as a race to find out who plays Ohio State in the title game.
Penn State: 9 returners on both sides of the ball to a team who has gotten very little preseason respect. QB play will be determining factor on whether this team can get an at-large BCS bid.
Wisconsin: Without question, Wisconsin is among the nation’s annual overrated programs. Barry Alvarez must have more pull than what the general audience is led to believe. Still, they’re a slightly bit more balanced than Illinois this year.
Illinois: They’ll probably win 8 or 9 games. They will not challenge for the conference title, and maybe people will shut up about Illinois for an offseason. Let’s pray.
Michigan State: This is the Big Ten spoiler, and they are only going to get better. What hurt MSU was John L. Smith’s lack of control. Those days are over.
Michigan: You might look at me having them 5th and say that’s too low, but this team is going to win 8 or 9 games. Get your win over Michigan, Big Ten, because from here on out, they will be few and far between.
Purdue: Another annual bust. In Joe Tiller’s last season, they’ll go out like they have for a decade: overrated and exposed.
Iowa: Rumor has it Ferentz has been contacting astrologers and witches to help his Hawkeyes have a decent season. Good luck, buddy.
Northwestern: Here’s another preseason barf-fest: NW is on their way up. No chance.
Indiana: Bill Lynch is not getting anywhere near the credit he deserves. After this program suffered through the death of their coach, Lynch has been doing a great job building this program. It will take a little while, but he’s doing everything right.
Minnesota: Do you see a pattern in this conference yet? Every team is making the adjustments to catch up to OSU except Iowa. Minnesota, believe it or not, is a team to watch in the next few years. But that’ll only continue to be true if Brewster can start proving his worth. They made an offensive overhaul, and as we all know, that doesn’t transition itself overnight.

MAC:
=================

EAST:
——————–

Miami: The Redhawks are back in their winning form and are looking to take on CMU in the MAC title game. This is Montgomery’s 4th season as head coach, and he is bringing in nice classes and has enough back from last year to make this my MAC champion. There’s two ways I can prove if you are sports-retarded: 1.) You don’t think Shane Montgomery deserves a chance to coach in a BCS conference, and 2.) You don’t think that 2008 signee Zac Dysert, who was the starting QB for the state of Ohio in the Big 33 game, is not the the most underrated and underappreciated recruit in his entire national class.
Buffalo: The Bulls will contend for the East this season, with the tandem of Willy and Roosevelt, two very underrated players. Gill’s system will be another year in place, and he’ll be seeing green when other team’s really come calling in this offseason.
Temple: Believe it or not, Temple won 4 games last season. This year, I have them winning about 6. That’s a massive accomplishment for this program. Adam DimIchele, the QB, is one of the more underrated QB’s in the non-BCS conferences.
Bowling Green: Many are high on this team, but I have a bad feeling. Based on what? I have no idea. Gut feeling. They return 17 starters.
Ohio: If things fall into place and JUCO QB Boo Jackson and Theo Scott, this team will continue heading in the right direction, which coincidentally enough was the opposite of where Solich was headed down that street.
Kent State: In a FLASH… they’ll be at the bottom of the East.
Akron: Man, how this program fell by the wayside quickly.

WEST:
——————–

Central Michigan: I can go either way with who wins this division, CMU or Ball State. I’m going to take CMU based on experience. This defense is very iffy, but there’s enough weapons on offense to win this division.
Ball State: It is very hard not to pick Ball State to win the division. Dante Love is one of the more underrated WR’s out there, and Nate Davis might actually be the best QB in the whole conference, even ahead of CMU’s LeFevour. I am really torn here on whether or not I think Ball State should be given the nod in the West. They’ll end up flying under the national radar, and play someone in the bowl game and kill them.
Western Michigan: I think this team will be deceptively good. They might be able to pull out an upset in this division. They’ll be led defensively, bringing back all 11 starters.
Toledo: My, how the mighty have fallen. Aaron Opelt will be strong for the Rockets behind center, but I don’t see this team being able to beat anyone ahead of them.
Northern Illinois: The rebuild is on at NIU, with a run-happy tradition being cast aside for a passing one. It’ll be interesting, no doubt.
Eastern Michigan: I went on tour one time with 2 of my friends’ bands and we were at a bar in Ypsilanti. There were 2 people watching them: me, and the bartender. The bartender actually left. Trust me, that story was a lot more interesting than EMU football.

MOUNTAIN WEST:
=================

Utah: All the preseason BCS-buster hype is on BYU. However, this Utah team is very, very senior dominated on offense. On defense, it’s mostly juniors and sophomores. If this offense gells around the fact that this is the last shot they have, this team will win the Mountain West. Brian Johnson is easily one of the most underrated QB’s in the non-BCS leagues, and I am taking Utah to pull the “upset” and win it.
BYU: Offensively, they’ll be great. Defensively, another story. Only 3 starters return to the defense, and for as much as I like this head coach, you can’t bust the BCS with 3 returning defensive starters, regardless of the offense. And this offense is not as powerful as someone like Texas Tech. They’ll be very good, but they are indeed overblown this year.
TCU: There is also a great case to be made for TCU winning this conference this year. They return a top passer in Andy Dalton and 7 on defense. This defense is easily one of the more underrated outfits in college football. Don’t be surprised if TCU ends up winning this conference.
Air Force: What more can you say than “Air Force is Air Force”? They’ll win the majority of their games, and probably push everyone ahead of them.
New Mexico: 6 return on both sides for the Lobos, and they’ll probably end up bowl eligible.
Wyoming: The Cowboys made some strides last year, and that’ll continue in 2008. This team lost 6 of their last 7 in 2007, but with more line experience things should improve.
Colorado State: Steve Fairchild takes over a program that seemed to tail-off in the Lubick tenure. There was a time when Colorado State was near the top of this conference every year, and it looks like Fairchild is going to have to start from the ground up.
San Diego State: Things are not looking good for the lowly Aztecs. This defense is pretty abysmal, and like UNLV below them, both teams have coaches who need to start producing. Won’t happen in 2008.
UNLV: This is probably Mike Sanford’s last chance to prove his worth as a head coach at UNLV. The defense is awful, and things are not looking well.

SEC
============

EAST:
———————-

Florida: I’m not as excited about the SEC this year as many other people seem to be. I don’t think any team in the SEC will go undefeated or play for a national title, but Florida has enough to outlast these other squads. They have enough speed on both sides of the ball to beat anyone in the conference, but the real reason UF will win the SEC is because of the scheduling.
Georgia: Georgia is probably the best team in the SEC but the schedule is simply too fierce. There’s no shortage of hype around this team this season, but the SEC is always a conference loaded with traps, and there’s no way this team, no matter how good they are, can run this schedule without losses.
Tennessee: The Vols are the quiet killer type in 2008. No one is talking much about this team, but Foster and Hardesty are the best tandem in the conference. Crompton finally gets his chance behind center, and he won’t disappoint.
South Carolina: Here’s another team who has an outside chance at not only winning the East, but maybe even contending for the whole SEC. South Carolina and Tennessee are in great positions because of how much hype is around Florida and UGA. Make no mistake, this team will be quite good. The addition of Ellis as defensive coordinator will be major.
Kentucky: I’d be surprised if the Wildcats won 5 games. On top of that, they just dismissed their starting QB. Make that 4 games.
Vanderbilt: I’m sorry, Vandy, but you just don’t have what it takes to beat anyone in the East other than maybe Kentucky.

WEST:
———————–

LSU: This division is up for grabs. Too bad that none of the top 3 teams are championship material. I’ll give the nod to LSU based on history, but they have just as many problems as everyone else. Actually, they have more problems than everyone else.
Alabama: Could very easily win this division, but they are probably still too thin on the depth chart to make it happen this season. Definitely on track as an SEC and national powerhouse, but don’t expect any BCS bids quite yet.
Auburn: Probably the most overhyped team in the nation this preseason, but with Alabama and LSU having problems, Auburn might win this division… and get killed in the title game. Badly.
Mississippi State: This is the West darkhorse. If Croom can get those kids even more motivated than last season, they might make a push. Carroll returns to lead a team that played out of their minds in 2007. If nothing else, expect MSU to make things scary for everyone else.
Ole Miss: I think we all know which game Houston Nutt is looking forward to, and he’ll get his win this year.
Arkansas: I’m interested to see how this overrated coach builds his depth chart. At Louisville, Petrino inherited quite a load of good recruits that John L. Smith brought in, back when Smith had a brain in his head. I’m expecting the Razorbacks to have a loss to Tulsa and no bowl bid.

INDEPENDENTS:
=================

Notre Dame: It’s hard to say they won’t do better in 2008, as a string of incredible recruiting classes supposedly matures for the Irish. But there are unlikeable characters within this program, and a lot of the talking-heads are being more optimistic in public than they are in private. When AD Kevin White left for that Duke job, it is in my opinion that he saw the writing on the wall. This program is not well coached, they are not developing those players, and they just hired an assistant coach (former G-Tech defensive coordinator, Jon Tenuta) who has quite a few enemies in the college football world because of how he carries himself. The Irish faithful have been saying that the o-line was not recruited by Weis, and that was the reason why the team was so horrendous. I ask, why are they playing ahead of the Weis recruits if they are not good enough to be starting? I’m saying 7-5, and make no mistake, this program is shaky at best, right now. In a lot of ways, ND is to blame and is a testament to everything that is wrong with college football right now. They deserve 3-9 seasons.
Army: Stan Brock’s Black Knights are now in the 2nd year of his option offense and things can seemingly only get better for them. It is going to take a gimmick offense to make all these military schools competitive, because of the severe difference in how they get their players versus how the other schools get theirs. I’m hard-pressed to say they’ll top the 2007 3-win tally.
Navy: Navy’s genius head-coach Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech, and with him went one of the most remarkable stories in college football history. Johnson did an unbelievable job of making Navy super competitive with the rest of the nation. It took a gimmick offense. In his replacement, Navy promoted Ken Niumatalolo to the head role. He is sticking with the blueprint. It’s hard to imagine that they will have the same level of success, pound for pound, but I am optimistic that Navy can stay, annually, bowl eligible.

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