Expect the unexpected
But don't expect this year's champ to be Oklahoma, Ohio State or Miami
Posted: Friday August 29, 2003 6:01PM; Updated: Friday August 29, 2003 6:35PM
No more two-a-days. No more "voluntary" workouts. No more listing "returning starters" as the criteria for preseason rankings. Reality begins this weekend. Here are my great expectations for the college football season:
I expect Maryland to be even better than everybody thinks and possibly outduel North Carolina State and Florida State for the ACC title. Oops. Never mind.
I expect Texas to continue to have problems beating Oklahoma. This rivalry reminds me of Tennessee-Florida in the '90s. Florida was just a little more talented and a little tougher -- and it took five years for the Vols to turn things around. Check back with me in 2005, 'Horns.
I expect Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno to continue struggling in their attempts to return to past greatness. Both Penn State and Florida State will be respectable, but neither will contend for a national title. Does that mean Bobby and JoePa should retire? With 636 wins between then, that decision is theirs and theirs alone. They've earned the right to call their own shots. Nebraska's Frank Solich has not earned the same cushion. He had better win nine this year.
I expect somebody somewhere to complain loud and long that there are too many college games in the middle of the week and too few during the sacred hours of Saturday afternoon. I will agree with these people, but I also accept that college football exists to make money to support other sports (and entire athletic departments) and television networks provide much of that cash. You take the good with the excessive. I feel the same way about schools playing 12 games every year.
I expect the Pac-10 to again provide spectacular games on a weekly basis. With too little clout in the polls, too many televised games airing in the middle of the East Coast night and just not quite enough power football, the left coasters will continue in their struggle to break their three-decade national title drought. But the Pac-10 provides the best entertainment in the country, week in and week out. I'll say up late to watch.
I expect Alabama to be weak, and to have several subpar years before contending in the SEC. The Crimson Tide have had too many poor coaches, and too many good coaches who left (Dennis Franchione) or got fired (Mike Price). History and reputation are worth nothing on the modern college football field.
I expect the Heisman Trophy winner to come from out of the pack, now that Maurice Clarett is effectively out of contention because of his suspension. Carson Palmer was barely on the radar screen a year ago at this time and won the honor going away. Watch it happen again. The college game evolves a full generation every season.
I expect the national champion to come from outside the chalk of Oklahoma, Ohio State and Miami. The Sooners aren't good enough on offense to win the inevitable shootout. The Buckeyes, who squeaked out so many close victories last season, will lose a game or two in that same manner this year. And Brock Berlin is no Ken Dorsey. Who will win it all? I don't have a clue. That's why I will be in Columbus Saturday night, sitting in the press box at the Horseshoe, watching it all unfold.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden weighs in with a Viewpoint every Friday on SI.com.