The Crystal Ball
SI.com's team of experts make their picks for 2007
Posted: Wednesday August 29, 2007 1:01PM; Updated: Wednesday August 29, 2007 3:54PM
SI.com's college football writers Stewart Mandel, Luke Winn, Cory McCartney and Austin Murphy provide their predictions for the season.
Mandel: USC. For all the Trojans' star skill players the past few years, the key component of their 2003 and '04 national title teams was a dominant defense. This year's D will return to that level.
Winn: LSU. After beating Florida for the SEC title, the one-loss Tigers will win a controversial Coaches' poll vote over one-loss USC -- a result no doubt aided by what the Gators did in '06 -- and suffocate unbeaten West Virginia in New Orleans.
McCartney: USC. West Virginia's flashy offense will get it as far as New Orleans, but the Mountaineers will have their hands full against the best defense of Pete Carroll's tenure and an offense full of next-level talent (even if they are mostly unproven).
Murphy: USC. The Trojans' D has no weak links. John David Booty threw 400 passes this August without a pick. With a running game to take the heat off him, 'SC's offense is about to detonate.
Mandel: Arizona. With new offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes importing the Texas Tech "Air Raid" and Willie Tuitama at QB, Mike Stoops will finally have an offense capable of winning Pac-10 games.
Winn: Georgia Tech. The Calvin Johnson-less Yellow Jackets didn't crack a single top 25 (AP, Coaches, even SI) after going to the ACC title game in 2006, but they have winnable road games (at Notre Dame, Virginia, Maryland, Miami and Duke), and should only get better now that QB Reggie Ball isn't under center.
McCartney: Illinois. Mark this down: The Fighting Illini's seven-year bowl drought will end in '07. After going 2-10 in '06, they're in for a seven-win season behind a J Leman-led D that returns nine starters and a matured Juice Williams at QB.
Murphy: South Carolina. While everyone else (except Tennessee) rebuilds in the SEC East, the Gamecocks -- in Year 3 under Steve Spurrier -- are ready to bust out. A gnarly defense returns nine starters. OBC (Ol' Ball Coach) has had two years to program/indoctrinate QB Blake Mitchell, whose life will be made easier by two superb tailbacks.