Is Florida the next Auburn?


Published: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 4:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 4:28 p.m.

Supporters of Auburn complained, and rightly so, that what hurt the Tigers most in their national title quest was where they began the season in the polls -- far below Southern California and Oklahoma, so far that a climb to Nos. 1 or 2 in the BCS rankings just wasn't going to happen without a loss by the Trojans or Sooners. Might we see a similar chain of events in 2005?

Naturally.

Whichever polls are used by the BCS are sure to open with USC and OU near the top. Tennessee, Texas, Ohio State and Michigan also will be very highly regarded. If two of those superheavyweights go undefeated, sign, seal and deliver them to the title game in Pasadena, Calif.

But who are the dark horses to get there? Perhaps it's too early to speculate meaningfully, but for kicks, consider the many teams that finished the 2004 season with five losses. That's how many Auburn had in '03. It's also how many LSU had in '02 and Ohio State had in '01. You might recall how the Tigers and Buckeyes wrapped up things the following seasons. A look at the dark horses:

PURDUE

We've seen the last of Kyle Orton-to-Taylor Stubblefield, but almost all the other starters will be back. The defense will be one of the Big Ten's best, and Brandon Kirsch is going to be a terrific quarterback. Oh, yeah -- the Boilermakers don't have Ohio State or Michigan on the 2005 schedule.

GEORGIA TECH

Far-fetched? Maybe. But the Jackets will have 10 starters back from one of college football's better defenses, as well as all the key skill guys on offense, and they don't have Florida State on the schedule. They do open at Auburn, where the Tigers will be breaking in an all-new backfield. And Tech gets Georgia in Atlanta.

TEXAS A&M or OKLAHOMA STATE

Oklahoma can't be considered a sure thing in the Big 12 South, not with the raft of first-round draft picks it's about to lose and without a Heisman Trophy winner to hand off to Adrian Peterson. And, mega-contract or not, is Mack Brown really ready to win the first conference championship of his career?

FLORIDA or SOUTH CAROLINA

Urban Meyer will have more than a sterling reputation going for him in his first year in Gainesville -- beginning with an offensive backfield as talented as any in the SEC. The Gamecocks? They have a hot new coach, too. Some guy in a visor. What's his name again?

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