Top 25 teams and games
No. 21 Alabama Crimson Tide
Published: Monday, June 9, 2008 at 11:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 at 11:59 p.m.
TEAM NO. 21 — ALABAMA
The buzz: The feeling in Tuscaloosa is that the Tide will be much-improved in Nick Saban's second season. Alabama was close to being pretty good last season, with all six losses being by seven points or less, and optimism is running high for a big rebound in 2008.
Difference-maker: Senior John Parker Wilson has developed into a very productive quarterback and he should have a chance to have a breakout year because he's so comfortable in the offense now.
The upside: The Tide has a seasoned quarterback who knows how to spread the ball around, and he'll be working behind an experienced offensive line, led by massive tackle Andre Smith. Tailbacks Terry Grant, Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch give the offense excellent balance. An experienced secondary should be a team strength.
The downside: Alabama has a lack of experienced playmakers at the wide receiver positions and the defensive front seven is a little bit of a question mark, especially at the defensive end positions.
Schedule factor: The Tide faces a tough opener in Clemson (in Atlanta), then three weeks later jumps into the SEC schedule with back-to-back road games at Arkansas and Georgia. Alabama also has to go to Tennessee and LSU later in the season. Of course, the biggest game is Auburn on Nov. 29. The Tigers have tripped the Tide six seasons in a row.
GAME NO. 21 — OHIO STATE AT ILLINOIS
Where: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
When: Nov. 15.
Why it's sexy: In three seasons, former Florida coach Ron Zook has turned the Illni into serious contenders in the Big Ten. Zook's signature win was a 28-21 victory over the Buckeyes in Columbus last season, a win that helped put Illinois in the Rose Bowl.
Preseason buzz: As much as some don't want to hear it, the Buckeyes are considered a strong candidate to make it back to the BCS Championship Game for the third consecutive season. Zook's program is on the rise and this is an Illinois team with enough proven talent to hang with anybody.
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