Preseason premonitions


Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow might lead one of the most dynamic offenses in the nation this year, but the preseason hype may not be justified with plenty of questions on defense for the Gators.

Rob C. Witzel / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, June 23, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 22, 2008 at 10:55 p.m.

Everybody has a top 25 magazines, Web sites, fans, bloggers. If you don't have one, it's either because your computer is down or you have this weird idea about waiting until the football season actually starts. But there are a ton of them out there and some of them are downright silly. Sun sports columnist Pat Dooley looks at five teams which are getting too much love and five that need more affection.

Too much love

1. Pittsburgh: It seems like everyone believes the Panthers are on the verge of turning the corner. This is based on last year's win over West Virginia and some close losses. There is a reason why Pitt had close losses and his name is Dave Wannstedt.

2. Texas Tech: Tech will be good but not great, which is basically what you can say about any of Mike Leach's teams. Sure, the Red Raiders will throw for a bunch of yards but a top 10 team? Tech gave up 180 points in its four losses last season.

3. Georgia: Why play the season? Just give the crystal to the Bulldogs the way some people are acting. Georgia will be very good, no doubt, but a lot of the pre-season hype is based on finally beating Florida, hammering Auburn and beating a mediocre Hawaii team. The Doggies should have lost to Vandy last year and were spanked by Tennessee. It's not a for-dog-gone conclusion they will win the East.

4. Florida: Back off, Gator fans. The problem is that at least two magazines have proclaimed UF No. 1 and there is no logical way you can see that. This is still a defense that was embarrassed by Georgia and Michigan. When you are relying on true freshmen to save one side of the ball, you are not a No. 1 team. And you have to wonder about Percy Harvin's off-season surgery (wonder why Tim Tebow didn't perform it).

5. West Virginia: The Mountaineer administration made a classic blunder when it acted on emotion and named Bill Stewart head coach. Basically, this is a team that is starting over and will be good in a bad league, but the Mountaineers are not worthy of a top 10 ranking.

Not enough love

1. LSU: So there are questions at quarterback for Les Miles and his team. And the oddball coach caught a bunch of breaks last year. But look at it this way was LSU's quarterback play great last season when it won the national title? The Tigers will find an answer and there is so much talent there that it won't be a shock when they win the West.

2. Wake Forest: Talk about a team that gets no respect. It's almost like the mags and bloggers wish the Deacons would go away. But they have an excellent coach in Jim Grobe and plenty of talent back this year. Wake will make a run at its division title and with a soft schedule will be in the top 20 at season's end.

3. Penn State: It's easy to dismiss Joe Paterno, but he has enough talent this year to make a run at the Big 10. Usually a team that wins its bowl game and lost three of four games by seven points or less gets plenty of attention, but the Nittany Lions are on the outside of many Top 25 bubbles.

4. Mississippi State: Hey, we don't know how Sly Croom won eight games last year either. But he did and that should count for something, especially with nine starters back on a pretty strong defense. Yet the consensus is that the Bulldogs will slide back into the lower division of the West. Watch out.

5. Michigan: The assumption is that Rich Rodriguez will need time to change the way Michigan plays and he lost a ton of talent to the NFL, so look for 6-6 or 7-5 in Ann Arbor. No way. There is still plenty of talent on this team and the defense will be good enough to allow the offense to catch up. Look for 9-3 at worst.

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