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No one-horse race

No. 1 USC is not head and shoulders above the rest

Posted: Tuesday August 28, 2007 12:33PM; Updated: Tuesday August 28, 2007 3:37PM
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Book the plane tickets. Call off the season. It's already set in stone, right? USC: 2007 national champions.

Sorry to borrow another guy's material, but ... not so fast, my friend.

Yes, the Trojans were the No. 1 team on my preseason AP ballot, just like 61 of my other 64 colleagues. I'll save you the detailed rationale, because there really wasn't one other than USC has the most talented roster in the country, therefore I'm placing the Trojans No. 1.

But I don't think the gap between USC and the next comers is nearly as gaping as some (Jim Harbaugh) would have you believe. In truth, I could have just as easily placed the Trojans No. 1 and LSU No. 1A. They're almost mirror images of each other -- experienced, athletic defenses, go-to receivers, reliable offensive linemen and deep, though somewhat unproven, tailback stables. USC gets the edge largely because of its quarterback's (John David Booty) edge in experience over counterpart Matt Flynn.

These two are my preseason favorites, but let's not go thinking they're untouchable. My No. 3 team, West Virginia, is poised to unleash the fastest offense in history. My No. 4 team, Florida, just won a national championship. And four of my next six won no fewer than 11 games a year ago.

It's time to get this party started. USC and LSU are the first ones through the door.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 --
USC Trojans (11-2 in 2006)
The last time we saw the Trojans, John David Booty was using Michigan's secondary for his own personal target practice. Expect more of the same against Idaho on Saturday, with Patrick Turner and David Ausberry playing the roles formerly held by Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.
First game: Saturday vs. Idaho.
2 --
LSU Tigers (11-2)
Here's a prediction: If LSU remains this high in the rankings most of the season, Tigers sophomore receiver Trindon Holliday will quickly become one of the most popular players in the country. He's tiny (5-5), he's skinny (159 pounds), but oh-so-fast. Just find a way to get him the ball.
First game: Thursday at Mississippi State.
3 -- He's started 18 games for a major program and gone to three Rose Bowls, and now he's the Mountaineers' new starting free safety. Michigan transfer Ryan Mundy -- who took advantage of the since-revoked "Ryan Smith Rule" -- could have a significant impact on West Virginia's defense.
First game: Saturday vs. Western Michigan.
4 -- Don't dismiss the defending champs just because they're practically replacing their entire defense. No question the Gators will be vulnerable, especially in the secondary, but the new Tim Tebow-led offense, which was "just good enough" for most of last season, should be far more dangerous.
First game: Saturday vs. Western Kentucky.
5 -- It's not every day a 36-year-old first-time head coach leads a Big Ten team to a 12-win season, a New Year's Day bowl win and still somehow flies completely under the radar. Bret Bielema should start getting his due this season if the Badgers manage to overtake Michigan/Ohio State.
First game: Saturday vs. Washington State.
6 -- No question, the Chad Henne/Mike Hart/Jake Long/Mario Manningham offense has the potential to be the most powerful in Michigan's illustrious history (though in Michigan's system, we're still only talking about 31 points per game). The question is, can that defense hold up for all 13 games this time?
First game: Saturday vs. Appalachian State.
7 -- Since submitting my ballot, I've begun to fear I may be underestimating the 'Horns. After all, this team was cruising toward an 11-1 regular season last year before Colt McCoy got hurt. Now he's back, as are all his receivers and Jamaal Charles. The Longhorns just need to shore up that secondary.
First game: Saturday vs. Arkansas State.
8 -- Same future pro quarterback (Brian Brohm). Same stud receivers (Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia). Same productive backfield-by-committee (Anthony Allen, George Stripling). The only question surrounding the post-Petrino Cards is how they adapt to Steve Kragthorpe's offense.
First game: Thursday vs. Murray State.
9 -- In response to some feedback I received from several Hokies faithful, Virginia Tech's power rankings blurbs this season will focus solely on football. To that end, we know the Vince Hall-led D will be stingy, but the key to Tech's season will be whether the offensive line can stay injury-free.
First game: Saturday vs. East Carolina.
10 -- It's your show, Sam Bradford. The redshirt freshman gets first dibs on OU's vacant QB job. If he pulls a Colt McCoy, the already loaded Sooners could wind up in New Orleans. If he's a more typical freshman, however, OU will likely be saddled at times by an inconsistent passing game.
First game: Saturday vs. North Texas.

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