Football Preview Schedule
(July 11-August 30)
July 14, 2005
By Brian Curtis
Special to CSTV.com
It is a bit early for a true preseason Top Ten list, but I'm going to give it a go anyway. Before you start with the angry emails, let me just throw out three disclaimers:
1) A lot can happen between July and the opening kickoff in September--injuries, suspensions, etc., so things may change
2) There are probably twenty teams who could be ranked in the Top Ten
3) Keep in mind it's not just about players, it's about schedule
That's it. Now here's my take:
July Preseason Top Ten
1. USC: Who else? Even though I don't believe they will win a third straight national title, they still are the best team heading into the season. If you take into account the players returning, including tremendous athletes who have been buried on the depth chart; the Heisman Trophy winner and a relatively winnable schedule, it's hard not to like the Trojans. Yes, they need to revamp some on defense and yes, the loss of Jeff Byers to injury hurts, but these are Pete Carroll's Trojans and there are replacements in the wings. I don't think the defense will be as dominant, but the offense will be better even without Norm Chow. As for the schedule, Notre Dame may be the toughest non-conference game and we know how they've been lately. Games against Arizona State, Cal and
2. Tennessee: The Vols are another team who are loaded but an appearance in the BCS title game in January may not happen. Why? Their schedule is simply too tough, but we'll get to that. Phillip Fulmer has his most talented team in years. He has tremendous speed in the backfield, at wideout and on defense. Erik Ainge will firmly take control at QB, and Gerald Riggs will pass 1,000 yards rushing. The linebackers are good, if not great, and the DBs can run with anyone. Now, about that schedule. At
3. Michigan: This season, the offensive and defensive lines may be the best in the Big Ten, if not in the country. On offense, they will protect surprise QB star Chad Henne and sensational RB Michael Hart. I know WR Braylon Edwards has moved on but do you really think the Wolverines have no one to replace his size and speed? Year after year, Lloyd Carr takes his team to a nine or 10-win season, and in the last two years, Rose Bowl appearances. Still not enough to many, who want to see another national title. This could be the year. Northern Illinois, Notre Dame and
5. Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer has done an amazing job making
8. Texas A & M: Reggie McNeal is the man in College Station. The senior QB rushed for 718 yards last year and almost reached 2,800 passing. He can run and pass, which makes him a game breaker and a game saver. The rest of the offense is good, not great, and the running game has been missing. The defense is good, not great, but experience will make up for any deficient skill. There are two very difficult games on the slate--Oklahoma and Texas to end the season. It is possible the Aggies could be 9-0 heading into the Oklahoma showdown in November. Keep in mind that this team went 7-5 last year, including the blowout loss to Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl. They will be much improved, but a conference title? Nope.
9. Miami The offensive line is great, the secondary are studs, the speed is Miami-esque and Willie Williams can play. Watch out. If Kyle Wright ends up the starting QB and holds his own, Miami may be tough to beat. They don't have a sensational running game, which means a lot will fall onto Wright. Things looked great last season after the opening 16-10 OT win against FSU, but the Canes went on to lose three games--three too many. So, how about 2005? They just might have the easiest schedule, outside of USC, in the Top Ten. Opponents include Clemson, South Florida, Duke, Temple and Georgia Tech. Yes, FSU will be good, as will Virginia Tech, but Miami could do something special this year.
10. I lied, there is no #10. This is really a Top Nine list. There simply are too many other quality teams to leave out of the 10 spot, let alone any of the Top Nine. How about LSU, which returns so much talent for new coach Les Miles? Or Florida, with Urban Meyer and Chris Leak leading the way? Florida State may be a QB away. Oklahoma won't be that bad. Dirk Koetter has his most talented team in Tempe, as does Tom O'Brien in Chestnut Hill.
Stay tuned, as things can change (I reserve that right.)
Brian Curtis serves as an analyst and insider in all of CSTV's football programming and is CSTV's Senior Editor. To ask Brian a question or comment on his column, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Brian's latest insiders' book, Every Week A Season, on sale now at all major bookstores and online.
USC coach Pete Carroll is aiming for a third consecutive national title.