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The pretenders

These eight highly regarded teams will fall short

Posted: Tuesday August 8, 2006 11:17AM; Updated: Tuesday August 8, 2006 5:55PM
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Jevan Snead (center) and Colt McCoy have the unenviable task of replacing all-everything quarterback Vince Young.
Jevan Snead (center) and Colt McCoy have the unenviable task of replacing all-everything quarterback Vince Young.
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By Stewart Mandel, SI.com

Two years ago, SI.com identified the common traits of national championship teams from the past decade. Those same criteria were used in identifying the 16 contenders featured in our "Into the Great Wide Open" feature. Suffice it to say, if you don't see one of the popular preseason favorites on the list, it's because it was missing one or more of those crucial elements.

Here is a look at eight of those teams and why they didn't make the cut.

Texas: The defending national champions arguably have the most returning talent of anyone in the country, but no team in the past 20 years has won a national championship with a freshman starting quarterback (which the Longhorns will have in either Colt McCoy or Jevan Snead).

Florida: With QB Chris Leak back, the Gators have the talent and experience to make a run at the SEC championship, but a brutal schedule -- at Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State and home games against Alabama, LSU and Georgia -- rules out any realistic shot of finishing in the top two.

LSU: The Tigers are loaded at the skill positions but suffered heavy personnel losses in two of the most crucial areas for a national-title aspirant: the offensive and defensive lines. Their rigorous SEC schedule (at Auburn, Florida and Tennessee) doesn't do them any favors either.

Penn State: Much like LSU, the Nittany Lions' downfall will likely be its rebuilt offensive line, which played a major role in their resurgence last season. Breaking in four new O-line starters and a new starting QB in the same season doesn't usually result in a national-title run.

Georgia: The Bulldogs will likely turn to a freshman quarterback of their own, Matthew Stafford, at some point in the season. Georgia has been recruiting at a national-championship level for several years, but this will likely be more of a transition season.

Oklahoma: The Sooners were actually on the list of 16 "contenders" prior to QB Rhett Bomar's dismissal. While replacement Paul Thompson brings an element of athleticism, the Sooners' passing game won't be national-title caliber.

Oregon: The Ducks may very well have as dangerous a team, if not more so, as last year's 10-2 squad. Their schedule, however -- which includes road trips to Fresno State, Cal and USC and a home game against Oklahoma -- is a major road block.

TCU: Obviously, the odds of a Mountain West team appearing in the national title game are highly unlikely, making it impractical to include more than one such team on the list. Nothing against the Horned Frogs, who went 11-1 last season, but we think Utah is better suited for such a run.

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