Saturday, August 27, 2005

One Week Away

It's always amazing how the college football season always seems to sneak up on me. It will seem like that it is months and months away and then suddenly I sit here writing this seven days (or I suppose less since Central Florida and South Carolina meet on Thursday night) from the true start. I am a huge sports fans in general. I root for the Yankees in baseball, the Packers in football, the Rangers in hockey, the Knicks in basketball (though I don't enjoy today's NBA) and Penn State. Despite that, there is nothing quite like college football. I look forward to the start of every sporting season but college football is the only one I long for once it ends in January. As a Penn State fan, I have had little to celebrate over the past five seasons. Even 2002, the Lions' only winning season out of the past five, was bittersweet. All three regular season losses were the result of four plays. The one that will forever be etched in my mind is Tony Johnson's "non-catch" against Michigan. Johnson clearly caught the ball in bounds but was ruled out of bounds by the referee. The catch could have set up a game winning field goal attempt. The way the season ended didn't help matters as Auburn won a close game in the Citrus Bowl. The past two seasons have been pure hell as a diehard Penn State fan. To think that we would only see seven wins in one season was disgraceful. Suddenly, the team compiled seven wins in two seasons. Now with renewed hope of an offensive resurgence and a stud defense, there is reason to be optomistic in Happy Valley. Perhaps that is why the past months have crawled by for myself. I really want to believe that this is the year we turn things around but as 2003 and 2004 came and went with disappointment after disappointment I have to keep telling myself not to expect too much. It's so sad what Penn State has become. We once ran with the Michigan's, Tennessee's and Miami's of the world. Now we would be satisfied with a winning record and a bowl game. Hopefully the return of the good ol' days isn't far away. I'm not sure I can handle much more of this. I encourage fans of major programs to cherish what you have and never take anything for granted because you never know when all of that success may be taken away. I'm sure Alabama and Oklahoma fans would tell you the same thing.

Here are some predictions to ponder and what not as the final week before kick off wastes away. School starts back up for me this week and knowing that on Saturday I'll have college football back is my only solice.

National Champion- Southern Cal
Not a gutsy or sexy pick, it's just hard to imagine picking anyone but the Trojans until they give us a reason why. The key parts from last season's national championship team are back and it's just scary that three potential first round picks reside in USC's backfield and then a plethora of talent everywhere else.

Mid-Major "National Champion"- Boise State
We will have a quasi-Mid-Major national championship game when Bowling Green visits Boise State at the end of Septemeber. Whomever wins that game will likely finish as the highest ranked team in the polls. The only challengers to this will be a less talented Utah team than 2004's version and Fresno State, Boise State's only challenger for the WAC title.

Sleeper Pick- Georgia Tech
A lot of people seem to be overlooking the Yellow Jackets because they play in the same division of the ACC as Miami and Virginia Tech. The Jackets have two tough OOC games against Auburn and Georgia but they return almost the entire defense and have two playmakers on offense in standout sophomore wideout Calvin Johnson and tailback P.J. Daniels. They draw Georgia at home in what is a down year for the Bulldogs. This team needs to make a statement and beat either Miami or Virginia Tech but it wouldn't surprise me to see them win 8 or 9 games and play in the ACC Championship Game in Jacksonville.

Worst Team- Florida Atlantic
The Owls had a strong first season as a 1-A school last season- beating Hawaii and North Texas, but they lose their best player in QB Jared Allen. Ex-Miami and Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger will need a couple of years to build this team despite playing in the pitiful Sun Belt.

Deepest Conference- Big Ten
You can make an argument for the SEC here but the Big Ten is extremely deep this season. Michigan and Ohio State, as usual, are favorites to win the conference but Iowa and Purdue are both Top 10-caliber teams. Penn State will be much improved and Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin will all be in the hunt for bowl bids. Expect two teams to make it into the BCS from the Big Ten and for Penn State to be in the hunt for a New Year's Day bowl bid.

Rose Bowl Prediction- USC over LSU

Heisman Trophy Prediction- Matt Leinart, QB, Southern Cal


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