USC Helmet
#1)USC Trojans
Going into the 2005 season, the USC trojans are the odds on favorite to threepeat, and it isn't even close. Heisman winner Matt Leinart passed up a chance to be this year's number one pick in the NFL Draft to make a run at another title and another Heisman. Both sides of the ball lost three starters, but with a team this loaded, they likely won't be missed. This team boasts a Heisman winner, a Heisman candidate and the top receiving corps in the country. If their defense has an off night, then they will just outscore you. Reggie Bush is the key to this high powered offense. He can beat you on the ground, through the air and probably on defense if they would let him play it. The Pac-10 will be stronger this year, and the Trojans may have to squeek out a few wins, but aside from their showdown at Arizona State, they should go undefeated again.
UF Helmet #2)Florida
After three dissapointing seasons under coach Ron Zook, the Gators are pumped for the Urban Meyer era. Meyer brings with him from Utah a winning perspective and an explosive offense which could spell Heisman for junior quarterback Chris Leak. The Gators running game may suffer a little after losing Ciatrick Fason early to the NFL, but expect high scoring SCC shootouts like the days of the Ol' Ball Coach. On defense the Gators lack leadership in their linebackers and their backfield. The loss of two starting linebackers puts the pressure on junior Earl Everett to take the reins. The defensive line will be monsterous, returning all seven of its leading tacklers from 2004. If the Gators can survive home games against Tennessee and FSU, expect to see them in Pasadena.
Michigan Helmet #4)Michigan
A lot of questions surround this years Wolverines. Which wide receiver will step up and replace Marlin Jackson? Was Mike Hart a one year wonder? How do you replace a whole secondary? The answer is two part; Chad Henne and an lucky scheduling. Iowa looks to be the only tough road game, while the Wolverines get Penn St., Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Ohio St. at the Big House. Don't forget that Chad Henne was a highly touted prospect and that he looked great for certain streaks last year. Most importantly is that their core lines are almost intact, minus star offensive guard David Baas. Mike Hart and Chad Henne could be Heisman candidates by years end. In conference play will determine Michigan's fate and the possibility of a true Rose Bowl title game, Pac-10 versus Big Ten.
Tennessee Helmet #6)Tennessee
This season's "Quarterback U" has an ineresting predicament. Will it be veteran Rick Clausen, or the one two punch of Eric Ainge and Brent Schaeffer? Ainge is the favorite because of his play last year and Schaeffer's recent suspension. Gearld Riggs performance in the SEC Championship Game may have won him a starting tailback job, but don't tell that to redshirt freshman Arian Foster. The biggest loss for the Vols will be All-American punter Dustin Colquitt. His younger brother Britton will try to provide the field position advantage and carry on the legacy. The defense returns a complete linebacking core and a backfield with all-SEC safety Jason Allen. Games at Florida and at LSU may be too much for this team to reach the title game.
Louisville Helmet #8)Louisville
The question isn't will Louisville win the Big East, it's when will they clinch. This team is guarenteed a BCS bowl and it isn't just becuase of the conference they play in. The defense lost 3/4 of its backfield and its top tackler and leader in linebacker Robert McCune. The offense lost its top three stars in quarterback Stefan LeFors, tailback Eric Shelton and wide receiver J.R. Russell. However, Brian Brohm looks to be even better than LaFors and there is enough left over talent from 2004 to get by and then some. The only tough away game is at West Virginia and a home game against North Carolina is the toughest out of conference. A BCS birth could come from a weak conference performance by the other teams or a home win over Pittsburgh. With a tougher schedule, they are title game bound.
Texas Helmet #3)Texas
All signs point to a Texas win over Oklahoma this year. If Mack Brown is unable to defeat the Sooners this year, than he probably never will. Vince Young will lead the offense with his pass or run style. If Young is successful with his passing, he will have a shot at a Heisman. All in all the longhorns lost the nation's best defensive player and the NCAA's sixth all time leading rusher to the NFL Draft. On defense, senior linebackers Eric Hall and Aaron Harris will have to help ease the loss of award winner Derrick Johnson. One of the nation's best offensive lines returns four starters, but the battle to replace Benson is still up in the air. Wins at Ohio St. and Missouri, as well as a win against Oklahoma will guarentee a BCS and possibly title game.
Miami Helmet #5)Miami
Two years removed from playing for a national championship, the Hurricanes have reloaded and are primed for another run. The biggest question entering this season is who will play quarterback. Competing for the job are redshirt freshman Kirby Freeman and sophmore Kyle Wright. With the talent returning on the offensive side of the ball, either quarterback should have no trouble in putting up points and big numbers.The defense returns all but two starters and should be one of college football's best. The defensive line will be the strenght, but they will be pushed by the play of the linebackers lead by redshirt freshman phenom Willie Williams. Tough away games at FSU and Virginia Tech will make or break the Canes' season and BCS hopes.
Iowa Helmet #7)Iowa
A team that was once famous for its Kirk Ferentz built defense will now have to lean on its offense. Last year the running game caught the injury bug and star quarterback Drew Tate was forced to carry the team. This year with a healthy running game, TAte should put up Heisman numbers. The loss of defensive end Matt Roth and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux will hurt an already deteriorated defense. Lost players from last year's defense accounted for 22 of 30 sacks and 55 tackles for a loss. The secondary got burnt one too many times last year and forcing Tate into shootouts. The Hawkeyes have one game in mind, September 24 at Ohio St. If they can win that game then they will have the right momentum for the rest of the season leading into a possible conference championship.
Arizona State Helmet #9)Arizona St.
The offense is returning ten starters and one of them is not the star quarterback. Sam Keller replaces four year starter Andrew Walter at quarterback. Keller's performance at the Sun Bowl proved that he is more than ready to fill those shoes. Wide receiver Derek Hagan has Heisman potential as Dirk Koetter fields his best team ever at ASU. Oddly enough, the most problematic part of this team is the special teams. This team was 94th in punt coverage, even though freshman punter Chris McDonald had a good season. The defensive backfield should be better this year returning 3/4 starters as long as the corners cut down on allowing huge gains. An early game at LSU will give us a good idea of this teams potential, but a home game with USC in October could be the game of the year.