JP25 - #20 KANSAS

If I had told you prior to last season that Kansas was going to win 12 games - including a BCS bowl - and finish in the top five nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense you wouldn't have believed me. Don't lie. Granted, their soft schedule played a big part in the Jayhawks' dream season, but Mark Mangino's squad earned every accolade heaped on them in 2007. They were, and will continue to be, a very well coached, fundamentally sound, SMART team that plays above their talent level.

Unfortunately the schedule gets significantly tougher in 2008 with the rotation of Big XII South powers Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech onto the schedule in place of Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Baylor. There's also a road game at South Florida prior to conference play. Ouch. Throw in the fact that five of the best players from the 2007 team are gone (CB Aqib Talib, OT Anthony Collins, RB Brandon McAnderson, WR Marcus Henry, DT James McClinton) and it appears unlikely the Jayhawks will be able to approach what they accomplished last year.

It's not all doom and gloom in Lawrence though because a host of solid players return and the Jayhawks will always have the advantage of being the smartest team on the field. Quarterback Todd Reesing is back to direct the offense after garnering some Heisman mention late last season. He makes up for his lack of size with toughness and smarts, but don't expect him to match his big numbers from last year (3,486 passing yards, 33 tds to only 7 interceptions).

Three talented receivers return to form what should be one of the Big XII's top receiving corps. Dezmon Briscoe flashed big play potential (7 tds) as a true freshman in '07; Dexton Fields is a solid possession receiver (63 receptions a year ago); and all-purpose threat Kerry Meier reprises his role as the wild card in the offense. Meier (pictured, alright alright alright) not only plays wideout for the Jayhawks (26 receptions, 274 yards, 2 tds), he is also the backup quarterback (25 of 29 for 275 yards, 3 tds).

Running back is the biggest question mark on offense where they lose bruiser Brandon McAnderson (1,125 yards, 16 tds). Jake Sharp is steady (821 yards, 7 tds), but he's hardly the threat McAnderson was and is much better suited as a #2 back. Enter JC transfer Jocques Crawford. The 6'1", 220-pounder played in only 9 games last season but was named the JC Offensive Player of the Year after racking up 1,935 rushing yards in those 9 contests. Character issues kept him from enrolling elsewhere so he's not a sure thing in the lineup. Kansas will need him to keep defenses from teeing off on Reesing though, and Mangino is showing confidence in him.

This underrated unit was a big part of the team's success in 2007. The Kansas D finished in the top 10 nationally in rush defense, pass efficiency defense, and scoring defense, and the entire linebacking corps is back to lead the way in 2008. Joe Mortensen (106 tackles, 15 tackles for loss) is an All-Conference linebacker, and as sure a tackler as there is. James Holt (99 tackles, 13 tackles for loss) and Mike Rivera (96 tackles) round out the trio of senior linebackers that make up the smartest, most fundamentally sound unit in the conference. Sophomore Justin Springer and the speedy Arist Wright provide quality depth and a bright future.

Unfortunately the rest of the defense suffered some key losses. In addition to losing Aqib Talib (5 interceptions, 13 passes broken up), the most talented player on the roster, and James McClinton (39 tackles, 11 tackles for loss), the most disruptive player up front, they also lose ace defensive coordinator Bill Young to Miami. The secondary should be fine due to the return of five other players with starting experience, but somebody will need to step up in the trenches so the linebackers don't have to make every play.

Defensive End Maxwell Onyegbule. The sophomore may be just the pass rush specialist Kansas needs up front.

Running Back Jocques Crawford. If the JC transfer can stay eligible, he'll be the starting tailback and a much needed weapon in the ground game.

Pikes Picks Awards

Your attention please. At this time we here at Pikes Picks would like to introduce the annual awards we have created to hand out to deserving players at the end of the season. As you will soon realize, our awards will be much more legitimate and relevant than awards like the Heisman Trophy. Without further ado, here are the awards and their descriptions:

Bo Jackson Trophy
Awarded to the best offensive player in the nation.

The LaVar Arrington Award
Awarded to the best defensive player in the nation.

Marshall Faulk Trophy
Awarded to the best overall player from a non-BCS conference.

The Sproles-Sauerbrun Award
Awarded to the most important special teams player in the nation.

Offensive Gold Wrench
Awarded to the best offensive line unit in the nation.

Defensive Gold Wrench
Awarded to the nastiest defensive line unit in the nation.

The Tommie Frazier Award
Awarded to the best running quarterback in the nation.

Gale Sayers Trophy
Awarded to the most elusive running back in the nation.

The Deion
Awarded to the best ballhawk defensive back in the nation.

J's Fave
This completely biased award is handed out to J.Pike's favorite player.

B's Fave
This completely biased award is handed out to B.Pike's favorite player.

Stay tuned through the preseason as we will be unveiling the preseason frontrunners for each of these awards. We'll also keep tabs on the favorites for the big awards (Jackson, Arrington, Faulk, Faves) weekly throughout the season.

Pac-10 QB Rankings

1. Mark Sanchez, USC
2. Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State
3. Willie Tuitama, Arizona

Keep An Eye On:
Kevin Craft, UCLA
Nathan Costa, Oregon



Many are projecting a sharp drop in the rankings for BC this season, due in large part to the loss of quarterback Matt Ryan, the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. But the 2007 team's success wasn't all Ryan's doing - they played a little defense too.

Matt Ryan never looked like the great quarterback everyone claimed he was so I'm not sure replacing his 19 interceptions ad sub-60% completion percentage will be all that difficult. Call me crazy if you must, but I bet the 2008 offense with Chris Crane at quarterback matches the 28 points per game it posted under Ryan's direction in '07. The bigger blow to the offense is the loss of offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus. The first round NFL Draft pick was yet another in a long line of excellent BC O-Linemen. Who is going to step up and fill his shoes in '08? Anthony Castonzo started at tackle as a true freshman last year, so he has the potential to pick up the slack alongside two other returning starters.

The biggest question facing the offense is at running back. Gone are Andre Callender (969 rushing yards, 76 receptions[!], 13 total tds) and L.V. Whitworth (355 rushing yards, 4 total tds) who have shouldered the load for the past three seasons. Incoming freshman Josh Haden was BC's top recruit, but he better be ready to play right away because he's practically the only option.

The best call head coach Jeff Jagodzinski made in his first year on the job in '07 was retaining defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani from the Tom O'Brien staff. When you look at last season closely, you'll see that the defense - not Matt Ryan - played the biggest role in BC's 11-win campaign. The front seven that led the way for the nation's #2 ranked rush defense (75.6 rushing yards per game) and the ACC's #3 ranked overall defense (327 total yards per game) returns 9 of its top 12 tacklers, including LB Mark Herzlich (97 tackles) and DE Alex Albright (8.5 sacks). It doesn't end there though. BC's front seven also benefits from the return of two All-League candidates that missed the 2007 season with injuries. B.J. Raji was a second team All-ACC defensive tackle in 2006, and linebacker Brian Toal is a special talent who will make a significant impact if he can stay healthy.

However, the secondary is a concern due to the loss of leaders Jamie Silva (125 tackles, 8 interceptions) and DeJuan Tribble (4 interceptions, 8 passes broken up). DeLeon Gause started the last four games as a true freshman last season and appears to have one cornerback spot locked up. Can Paul Anderson, Roderick Rollins, and Marty Bowman fill out the lineup effectively? And will any younger players step up to add depth? Luckily the front seven is strong enough that the secondary will have time to develop as the season goes along, especially since there aren't exactly any game-breaking quarterbacks in the ACC right now.

Keep An Eye On:
Freshman RB Josh Haden and the running game. BC will need the running game to lend at least a little balance to the offense - how long will it take to develop?

Rising Star
Offensive guard Thomas Claiborne. The sophomore played defensive tackle as a freshman in 2007, but was moved to the offensive line in the spring to be a mauler up front.


Best Non-BCS Conference QBs

1. Brian Johnson, Utah
Brian Johnson is the kind of dual threat quarterback a team like Michigan could really use right about now. Johnson's not just a dazzling runner though - he's got a great arm as well. If he can stay healthy for a full season, don't be surprised to see Utah a player in the BCS bowl race.

2. Nate Davis, Ball State
After leading Ball State to their first bowl game in 11 years, Nate Davis is back for only his junior season. After putting up big numbers (3,667 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions), beating Navy and taking Nebraska down to the wire in Lincoln, what will Davis do for an encore? A MAC championship is within reach.

3. Donovan Porterie, New Mexico
While it's true Porterie is still struggling with his consistency, the junior quarterback has one of the bigger upsides of the non-BCS quarterbacks. He's tall (6'3"), athletic, and has a solid arm.

4. Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan
The Chippewas were wildly inconsistent in 2007, but LeFevour was far from it. He literally carried the offense both through the air (3,652 yards, 27 tds) and on the ground (1,122 yards, 19 tds).

5. (tie) Rusty Smith, Florida Atlantic / Max Hall, BYU

Others to Watch:
Patrick Pinkney, East Carolina
Justin Willis, SMU



Steve Spurrier heaped big expectations on his team heading into the 2007 season. After a 6-1 start that included a victory at Georgia it looked like he might have been right about declaring the Gamecocks ready to win the SEC East. But the injuries piled up and an inability to stop the run led to five straight losses to close the season. SC didn't even manage to grab a bowl berth.

Offense- This definitely isn't the Spurrier offenses of old. In fact, the only thing reminiscent of his days in The Swamp is the fact that nobody has any idea who is going to be quarterbacking this team. Stephen Garcia would appear to be the most able player at the position, but he keeps getting in trouble and is currently suspended from the team. That leaves Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher to compete for the job. Beecher was named the starter coming out of spring practices, but that may simply be because Smelley isn't an SEC-caliber quarterback. Is Beecher? We'll find out.

The receiving corps will at least be a little more experienced this season, led by the dynamite senior Kenny McKinley and tight end Jared Cook. McKinley is truly one of the elite receivers in the SEC, and he'll bail out whoever is playing QB more often than not. Cook is one of the best pass catching tight ends in the nation as well. There are a host of other receivers who got a year of experience under their belt in 2007, so it would be nice if one established himself as a reliable #2 wideout.

The loss of Cory Boyd at running back leaves a big hole to fill. Boyd was a tough runner with a good burst, and good enough hands to haul in 36 passes on the season. Senior Mike Davis will get first shot at replacing him, but he's nowhere near the player Boyd was. Spurrier needs either sophomore Brian Maddox or freshman Eric Baker to step up and fill the void or it is going to be that much tougher on the quarterback.

The Gamecocks should be in better shape up front. Last season's instability, which included rotating players in and out of the lineup at multiple positions, means that eight linemen return with starting experience. They should be sorted out and much more consistent in '08. They'll need to be with the question marks in the backfield.

Defense- As hard as this is to believe, the defense will probably be the backbone of this Spurrier team. The Gamecocks gave up loads of real estate on the ground in 2007 (209 yards per game, which ranked last in the SEC and 110th in the nation), but they suffered several injuries up front, and have brought in new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson from Mississippi State. Johnson shuffled some players around to better utilize their strengths, and stud Jasper Brinkley returns after missing the majority of last season due to injury.

The linebacking corps might actually be one of the best in the conference. Brinkley should be an all-SEC candidate, as he was well on his way to becoming last season before he got hurt. There's no way he lets this defense give up over 200 yards per game on the ground again. Eric Norwood stepped into the spotlight in 2007 as a defensive end, but he was moved to outside linebacker in the spring to give him more freedom to roam and make plays. Rodney Paulk and Marvin Sapp each had over 60 tackles in '07 and might not even secure the other starting spot.

The defensive line is bolstered by the return of Jordin Lindsey, who was ineligible last year, and Cliff Matthews, who moved from linebacker. These two pass rushers should be a nice complement to a trio of tackles that will rotate in order to stay fresh. Nathan Pepper and Marque Hall were two other players hobbled by injuries last year who should help bolster this unit against opposing running games.

Even if the front seven suffers as many injuries as they did last season, the defense is still in good hands with a secondary that returns two more All-SEC candidates. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn not only has one of the coolest names in the nation, he also is one of the better playmakers in the SEC. And if his ballhawking skills don't scare you, strong safety Emanuel Cook's hard hitting and sure tackling should. Cook is one of the best safeties in the SEC and the next tackle he misses will be his first. These two combined to lead SC as the top pass defense in the SEC, where they gave up only 169 yards per game.

If the defense can avoid the same injuries it accumulated in 2007, there is no reason for this defense not to be one of the better units in the SEC. There are stars at every level of the defense, and as many as five players with All-League capability.

Rising Star- Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye.

Keep An Eye On- Improvements in the front seven on defense, especially against the run.

SEC - QB Rankings

1. Matthew Stafford, Georgia
What? Really? Did you ever think maybe I just didn't want to rank Dr. Tebow, Ph.D. #1? Don't be surprised if this ranking looks a lot better four years from now though. Stafford has all the physical tools in the world and this looks to be his breakout year. Georgia is poised to make a run at the national title so he'll have plenty of opportunities to make big plays. Stafford has been taking small but noticeable steps in his development, so he should be ready to unleash his howitzer more frequently and consistently in big games.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner put up gaudy numbers in his first full season starting. Scratch that - he put up RIDICULOUS numbers last year. 32 passing touchdowns and 23 rushing touchdowns sounds like a video game stat line, but Tebow pulled it off. He's a fantastic player who isn't afraid to take a hit and yet can still throw the ball around the yard. Call me crazy for this comparison, but he reminds me of Scott Frost, if Scott Frost could throw.

3. John Parker Wilson, Alabama
In an inconsistent season for the Crimson Tide in 2007, Wilson was one of the most inconsistent cogs in the machine. As with the rest of the team though, when Wilson was good, he was really good. If the senior can put it all together this season and cut down on his mistakes, he could lead Alabama into the thick of the SEC West race.

4. Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee
This is sort of a gut feeling ranking. Crompton has some game experience for the Vols and he's taking over the new fast paced spread offense being installed by new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. From what little I've seen from Crompton, he seems to have the confidence and quick decision making ability to execute this offense well.


Chris Nickson, Vandy
Nickson was very impressive in taking over for Jay Cutler in 2006, but ran into some nagging injuries in 2007 that held him out of the lineup most of the second half of the season. When he's healthy he's actually a dangerous weapon that makes opposing defenses take notice. His running ability can neutralize one of those speedy SEC pass rushes, which is a big factor in buying him time in the passing game. If Nickson can stay healthy, he'll be the starter and give Vandy a fighting chance to win at least one SEC contest in 2008.

Kodi Burns, Auburn
After being named MVP of the Peach Bowl while running the new spread offense at Auburn, Burns was treated to a QB competition with Chris Todd this spring. Burns managed to come out on top, but he'll probably be splitting time with Todd this season. His running ability will set him apart though and make the spread a little more dangerous, so don't be surprised if Burns is the man directing some of Auburn's more crucial drives in 2008.


Crazy high school coaches...

Check this out. Some high school in Piedmont, CA is running an offense with two quarterbacks on the field at once (I swear I've heard that idea somewhere before...) and only one offensive lineman. The idea is that every player is available to catch a pass on every play. Craziness.


In other news, I'm already getting pumped for the Florida/Georgia game. It's not even August yet (the game is on November 1st), but the trash talk is already flying at SEC Media days. After the big celebration in the end zone by Georgia following their first touchdown in last year's game, the Gators are ready to get back at the Dawgs. Why they didn't get back at them in the game last year (the celebration was only in the first quarter), I'm not sure. But I guarantee you they hype going into this game is going to be as big as any game all year.


Big Ten - Best QBs

1. Kellen Lewis, Indiana
Yes, Indiana is home to the best quarterback in the Big Ten. Others may get more accolades for playing on better teams (Todd Boeckman), but Lewis does more for his team than anyone else. In leading the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in 14 years, Lewis led the team in both passing (3,043 yards) and rushing yards (736 yards), and accounted for 37 of the 46 offensive touchdowns Indiana scored in 2007. He served a suspension over the summer for violating team rules, but was reinstated a couple weeks ago. Just in time to pick up where he left off as one of the most dangerous single players in the conference.

2. Isiah "Juice" Williams, Illinois
Possessor of one of the strongest arms in the nation, Juice earns this ranking based mostly on his potential. Up to now he hasn't displayed the consistency desired from a quarterback, but he has flashed moments of brilliance that make you realize he has the potential to be one of the best in the nation. Seriously, he could throw a football through Javorskie Lane's gut - his arm is that strong. That arm paired with legs that carried him to 755 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns (not to mention an upset victory over Ohio State late last season) could make for a deadly combination ..... IF he can take the next step and develop some consistency in '08.

3. Todd Boeckman, Ohio State
Well, Boeckman has a lot more talent around him, but he's no schmoe. After hiding in Troy Smith's considerable shadow for the first three years of his career, Boeckman took over the offense in 2007 and steadily guided Ohio State to yet another national championship game. He doesn't have any flashy skills that will blow you off your couch, but he's solid and does everything Jim Tressel asks of him.

4. C.J. Bacher, Northwestern
An underrated signal caller on an often overlooked team. Bacher can play though, so don't be surprised if Northwestern nabs an upset victory or two this season.

5. Curtis Painter, Purdue
Yawn. So they like to pass a lot. Big deal.


Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
If you don't know by now, you better axe somebody. Or something like that. This kid was the top recruit in the country and chose Ohio State over a chance to play right away at Michigan. Only Jim Tressel knows how much he'll see the field in 2007, but expect to find out about his athleticism long before you know anything about his arm.

Eddie McGee, Illinois
If for any reason the Juice can't go (injury, etc.), the Illini are in good hands. McGee saw the field a little bit in 2007 and proved he has plenty of skills of his own. A multi-dimensional threat out of the quarterback position, he's not as talented as Juice is, but he seems more polished at times.


Big East's Top QBs

1. Pat White, West Virginia
If it's possible, Pat White might be underrated. He gets a lot of props for his running ability (1,335 yds, 14 td, 6.8 yards per carry), but what often gets overlooked is how well he involves others in the offense. He did such a great job getting Steve Slaton the ball in open space that many actually believed Slaton was a top flight running back. He also has good enough accuracy in the passing game (66.7%) to make the passing game a viable weapon. Pat White is one of the best college quarterbacks in America.

2. Mike Teel, Rutgers
Mike Teel was often the "question mark" heading into games in 2007. According to the announcers Ray Rice was the strength of the offense on the ground, but Teel was questioned repeatedly. Well, Rutgers won 8 games and produced not one but two 1,000-yard receivers. Mike Teel is no question mark, and with uncertainty at tailback he is now the strength of the offense. His underrated arm and poise will keep the offense going in 2008.

3. Matt Grothe, USF
He's six-foot nuthin' and a hundred-and nuthin'. Yet Matt Grothe just keeps taking hits and winning games. As the only weapon in the Bulls' offense, he is always the focal point of opposing game plans. Yet somehow he still managed to produce 2,670 passing yards, 872 rushing yards, and 24 total touchdowns on his way to leading the team to 9 wins, and at one point a #2 ranking in the polls. He's back for only his junior season, and as long as he's on the field you can count on getting everything he's got.

Others To Watch:

Demetrius Jones, Cincinnati
With the departure of Ben Mauk, the quarterback job is up for grabs. That opens the door open for Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones. Jones started game one for the Irish last season and was yanked when Charlie Weis realized he couldn't bear to look at Jimmy Clausen's spiked hair on the sidelines anymore. Jones has fantastic athleticism, and the size and strength to excel in this offense if given the chance.

Bill Stull, Pittsburgh
Stull looked great in game one as the Panther starter in 2007, but unfortunately he was injured in the game and had to sit out the remainder of the season. Despite the improvement of true freshman Pat Bostick over the course of the season, Stull won the job in the spring and will be the opening day starter once again in 2008. He has an experienced group around him that includes top receiver Derek Kinder who was injured all of '07.


Big XII Media Days - Sherman Speaks

Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman dropped some bombs at Big XII media days yesterday. When asked about the quarterback situation, due in large part to the fact Stephen McGee, the incumbent senior, wasn't present at the meetings, Sherman had this to say:

"I have confidence that we're going to have a very good quarterback when we start the season. I think he'll play at a higher level because of the competition. It would be unfair to me to just walk in and hand Stephen the job - and I've told him that. He's going to have to earn it. I think in fairness to him he has to work. In fairness to Jerrod, they both have to work to compete against one another and earn the job."

I know Aggie fans have grown accustomed to quarterbacks throwing 15-yard ducks (from Cory Pullig to Randy McCown to Stephen McGee, jelly-armed quarterbacks are almost as storied a tradition as the 12th man!), but I think they know deep down Jerrod Johnson will be a much better fit for the new offense. Sherman knows how to win football games and it's pretty obvious to most outside of College Station that McGee has a very average arm. Johnson on the other hand possesses a cannon that will open up the offense and keep defenses from stacking the box to stop Mike Goodson, which brings me to Sherman's second bombshell:

"When I came in... [Javorskie] came up to me shortly before my press conference, introduced himself, and at that time I told him, you're going to be a fullback. And there was no hemming and hawing about it. He didn't seem totally pleased with it but didn't balk at it necessarily."

Sorry JaPorky. Looks like 285-pound offensive guards are no longer going to get carries in the A&M offense - you can go take your aggression out on the water boy again if will make you feel better. Mike Goodson is a fantastic back with All-America-caliber skills that have been begging to be unleashed full time. Lane on the other hand has done nothing but run over poor, undersized Baylor linebackers (and the like) and steal time away from Goodson. With Sherman's decision to move JaPorky to fullback, it will now be Goodson's time to shine.

Jerrod Johnson is a big-time talent that at least deserves a shot at the starting job. If McGee is able to win the job then more power to him. But at least Mike Sherman is going to make sure his best players are on the field this fall, which is something that should excite Aggie fans.


JP25 - #23 UTAH

After a rough start to the 2007 season (which inexplicably included a blowout win over then-#11 ranked UCLA), the Utes finished strong. If not for a last minute defensive collapse against BYU they would have won their final nine games. That momentum will carry over into the 2008 season as 14 starters return.

Offense- A big part of the reason Utah has a chance to be a BCS-buster this year is because of quarterback Brian Johnson. The senior has suffered through some injuries the last couple years, but if he's healthy he's not only one of the best quarterbacks in the conference - he's one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation. He'll get additional help in the passing game with the return of wide receiver Brent Casteel, who was injured most of last season. Bruising running back Darrell Mack returns to balance out the offense. His 1,200 rushing yards will make defenses think twice about simply going after Johnson.

All these skill players will be able to make plays because Utah returns four of five starters on an offensive line that should be the best in the conference. Recently Utah has developed a tradition of excellent line play on both sides of the ball and this year will be no exception. It's also worth mentioning that Utah returns one of the top kickers in America in Louie Sakoda. He's back again to handle both the kicking and punting duties.

Defense- The Utes defense in '08 will be paced by their excellent secondary. After leading the Mountain West by holding opponents to a paltry 183 yards passing per game last year, three of the four pieces return. Free safety Robert Johnson and cornerback Sean Smith are rangy players that can easily take away bigger opposing receivers. Up front the Utes suffer a couple key losses, but return enough players with experience that it shouldn't be much of a concern. Defensive end Paul Kruger made an impact as a freshman in '07 and looks like he might be ready to step up to All-Conference status in '08.

The only real concern on defense is at linebacker, where the Utes have the least experience of any unit on the team. Junior Stevenson Sylvester returns after contributing 86 tackles as a sophomore, but the other two spots are wide open.

Keep An Eye On- The non-conference schedule. The Utes travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan opening weekend, and host Oregon State on a Thursday night in October. If they can split those two games, or even win both, they'll be in great shape to make a run at a BCS bowl.

Rising Star- DeVonte Christopher.


Big XII's Best QBs

1. Chase Daniel, Missouri
The Missouri signal caller oozes confidence and leadership. He was so good in 2007 that he almost completely negated the "Gary Pinkel Factor" by leading the Tigers to 12 wins. Daniel will be in the running for the Heisman Trophy in 2008.

2. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
His video game numbers (5,705 yards, 48 TDs) actually seem to hurt him. Instead of noticing the impressive arm strength and deep ball touch, he is written off as a system quarterback. Don't listen to that set though, he's the most talented QB in the Mike Leach era.

3. Colt McCoy, Texas
McCoy's sophomore season almost seemed like a letdown due to the expectations heaped on him after his incredible freshman season. He'll bounce back into form in 2008 though as he continues to grow up in front of one of the most quarterback-critical crowds in the nation. Hey, can you blame them for being jaded after the Major Applewhite/Chris Simms situation?

4. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
The freshman "burst" onto the scene in 2007 by breaking Colt McCoy's record with 36 touchdown passes as a freshman. He's a steady performer, but he also had a ton of talent around him and a superb offensive lineman to make him look good. He also has to learn how to run the no huddle offense the Sooners plan on running in 2008.

5. Joe Ganz, Nebraska
Why exactly wasn't this guy on the field the first nine games of last season? After Sam Keller's injury against Texas, Ganz took over and not only threw for more touchdowns (in only three games!) but seemed to inspire his teammates, which is something the coaching staff never seemed to accomplish. With more confidence placed in him by the new coaching staff, look for Ganz to have a big breakout season.

Jarrod Johnson, Texas A&M
The big, strong armed sophomore might actually get a shot at the starting job. Even if he doesn't win the job outright he can take solace in the fact that he's by far the most talented QB on the roster.

Austen Arnaud / Phillip Bates, Iowa State
Both sophomore quarterbacks have above average athleticism and a bigger upside than any Iowa State quarterback since Seneca Wallace. Whoever wins the job will benefit from an offense that is gaining momentum.

JP25 - Outsiders

Before I get too far into this, here are the three teams that just missed making my preseason top 25:

#26 BYU
Bronco Mendenhall has brought toughness to this program with consistently solid play on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Max Hall and running back Harvey Unga pace the offense behind the lead blocking of tackle Dallas Reynolds. The underrated defense - Mendenhall's specialty - loses a lot of key players, especially in the secondary. They'll continue to perform though thanks to solid recruiting and a front seven led by returnees Jan Jorgensen (DE) and David Nixon (MLB).

#27 Michigan State
Here's a prediction: Michigan State WILL be in next year's preseason top 25. Mark Dantonio is a fantastic coach and has this program on the rise. The loss of playmaker Jonal Saint-Dic on defense will be tempered by the addition of Cincinnati transfer Trevor Anderson. Also consider that Dantonio is a defensive specialist and many backups gained experience in 2007 due to a liberal substitution pattern. Offensively, you can bet on Javon Ringer getting in the end zone more than 6 times again. He's the bell cow on offense and Dantonio learned from Jim Tressell about how far a good, time-burning running game can take you. Ringer is one of the best backs in the land.

#28 Pittsburgh
To round out this trifecta of teams to watch outside the top 25, I'll inject yet another team paced by a fantastic running back and a defensive minded head coach. Dave Wannstedt enters his fourth year needing a winning season, and this looks like the team to do it. Sophomore LeSean McCoy dazzled as a freshman in 2007 with his vision and agility. He'll carry the load again, but there will be much better balance offensively in '08. Whoever wins the quarterback derby (Junior Bill Stull is the front-runner) will benefit from the return of wideout Derek Kinder, who led the team in receiving in 2006, but missed all of '07 with an injury. Defensively the Panthers have to replace departed sack-man Joe Clermond (10.5 sacks in '07), but that will be made all the easier due to the return of tackling maching Scott McKillop (151 tackles in '07) in the middle of the linebacking corps. They do lose defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes, who took the same job at Auburn, but replace him with the more than capable Phil Bennet. Don't forget that before he was the head coach at SMU he was Bill Snyder's defensive coordinator at Kansas State.



Frank Beamer has done such a good job with the Virginia Tech program that even though they lose their top three tacklers on defense and every running back and receiver that made a significant contribution on offense, they are still considered the favorites to win the Coastal Division in the ACC. Then again, the ACC isn't exactly bursting with quality football at the moment, so maybe that isn't as impressive as it seems.

The Hokies might get more scoring out of their defense and special teams this season. Check out this recipe for disaster: Top running back Brabden Orr was kicked off the team over the summer, and the only other two contributors from 2007, Kenny Lewis and Jahre Cheeseman, were both injured in spring practice and are questionable for the start of the season; The top four receivers from 2007 graduated, and Brandon Dillard, an emerging deep threat, was also injured in the spring and will miss the entire season; The offensive line returns four of five starters, but the unit that gave up a whopping 54 sacks in '07 and didn't exactly pave the way for a good ground game either. Things aren't all bad though. Victor "Macho" Harris will lend his services to the offense, and he might end up being the best player on both sides of the ball. The Hokies offense will also be bolstered by a solid pair of multi-talented tight ends in Sam Wheeler and Greg Boone - who is the biggest dude you'll ever see wearing a number 8 jersey. The success of the offense in 2008 is going to hinge on Tyrod Taylor's development. Taylor is a fantastic athlete with the potential to carry an offense - IF he can make major strides in the passing game. If not, Sean Glennon (who's no Dan Marino himself) will continue to split time with Taylor and the offense will sputter.

You can't just replace a pair of players like linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. The two LBs have been on the field making plays and leading the defense for four years now, and their leadership and playmaking ability will be sorely missed. Once again, it will be Macho Harris to the rescue. The ballhawk defensive back has the attitude of a top flight cornerback and has proven his skills on the field by picking off 9 passes over the past two seasons. Expect big things from this All American - as long as he doesn't wear himself out playing on offense. The pass rush should still be in good hands in Bud Foster's attacking defense. Ends Orion Martin, Jason Worilds, and Nekos Brown will keep quarterbacks nervous. Overall the Hokie defense will continue to perform, but with the loss of two long-time leaders I can't imagine there not being at least a little bit of a dropoff.

Rising Star- Defensive End Jason Worilds. Formerly known as Jason Adjepong, the talented sophomore had an impressive spring and looks to be the next in a long line of imposing Hokie pass rushers.

Keep An Eye On- The quarterback situation.

J.Pike's preseason top 25 (JP25)

Today is Saturday. Six weeks from now that phrase will carry twice the meaning, and I won't still be in bed at 9:30 - I'll already have my gameday jersey on with a notebook and pencil in hand ready to kick off this season.

In the mean time, I'll try to lend some excitement to this Saturday by unveiling the #25 team in my preseason top 25. Each day I'll reveal another team in the countdown until we eventually reach my projected national champion (I hope he doesn't pick Georgia like everybody else).

Without further ado, let the countdown begin:


Jim Leavitt and South Florida (or USF if they insist) went on quite a roller coaster ride in 2007. From their #2 ranking in the polls in mid-October to their beat-down at the hands of Dennis Dixon-less Oregon in the Sun Bowl must have felt like the first big hill on the Texas Giant.

The Bulls return everybody on offense (10 starters and most key backups), but the only name that matters is Matt Grothe. The plucky junior quarterback carries the load in the spread offense, and paced the team in both passing (2,670 yds, 14 td) and rushing (872 yds, 10 td) in '07. He'll be forced to do more of the same in '08 because once again the Bulls feature very few gamebreakers elsewhere. Sophomore running back Mike Ford brings the hype of being an Alabama signee out of high school, but the 6'2" 225 pounder hasn't showed the flash - yet.

The offense puts up big numbers (almost 35 points per game), bug I'm not sure they are as productive as they seem in the stat book because Grothe often goes above and beyond the call of duty to elevate the offense despite his physical limitations. This can lead to stalled drives against more talented defenses, which is what we saw down the stretch.

Any talk of the USF defense starts up front with freaky defensive end George Selvie. The junior paced the Big East in '07 with 14.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss and generally terrorized opposing offensive tackles with his speed and athleticism. It doesn't end there though. Despite the loss of Ben Moffitt, the linebacking corps still appears it will be a strength - as it has been ever since Leavitt started this program ten years ago. Leading tackler Tyrone McKenzie is back, as is Brouce Mompremier. Chances are juco transfer Kion Wilson won't let anybody down in the middle.

One big question mark though is in the secondary where the Bulls lose standout cornerbacks Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins. The NFL draft picks combined for 9 interceptions and 23 passed deflected in 2007 and won't be easy to replace. Another loss that will affect the defense (despite the fact it didn't make any headlines) is that of defensive line coach Dan McCarney. The former Iowa State coach did a great job in 2007 developing George Selvie and was rewarded by taking over the same position at Florida.

LB Brouce Mompremier. He's a rising star that will step out from Moffitt's shadow.


Top Coaching Hires

1. Bo Pelini, Nebraska

Everything coming out of Lincoln indicates this could be the type of hire that defines an era of a program. The sting of the Bill Callahan experiment/fiasco/disaster might have a little something to do with that, but at least Pelini has injected life back into a once proud program. The excitement has returned because Bo Pelini has a defensive pedigree that leads me to believe the “Blackshirt” tradition will be restored as early as August 31, 2008. Plus he’s got a fancy new National Championship ring, and I guarantee you he wants another one as soon as he can get a shot at it.

2. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss

It’s still weird to me how much Arkansas fans despised Houston Nutt. He did nothing but win in Fayetteville, which is tough to do in the SEC as consistently as he did. Now he takes over a decently stocked Ole Miss squad ready to get some competent coaching again. Ed Orgeron may not have had a clue how to get a football into the end zone, but he could recruit. Nutt left a bad situation and walked into a good situation where he can essentially pick up right where he left off. And do you think he’ll have a hard time recruiting running backs any time soon?

3. Mike Sherman, Texas A&M

This was a very quiet, calculated hire that is flying under a lot of radars. After making a big splash the last time around with Dennis Franchione, it might be exactly what the Aggies need. Sherman will bring fundamentally sound, smashmouth football back to College Station – and not “smashmouth” in the form of a 280-pound offensive guard playing running back. Sherman’s specialty is the offensive line, which is a great place to start in terms of building a program. With a little luck, he might be able to coach the Aggies back into the thick of the Big XII South discussion, which will get them back into the recruiting battles they’ve been missing out on in the state of Texas the last several years.

4. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Paul Johnson won me over when I saw him win a Division 1-AA national title with Georgia Southern. He featured a ridiculously sound option attack that I have always been a sucker for. Then he got a shot at Navy, which at the time of his hire was considered to be a sinking ship (so to speak) in the modern college football world where recruiting speed is all that matters. Not only did he win at Navy, he did it by playing “old fashioned” football. He enters the ACC now where he’ll actually be able to recruit D-1A talent to run his schemes. You can bet on Georgia Tech being fundamentally sound and being one of the best rushing attacks in the nation when he finally gets all his players in place. That might just be enough to take over the ACC during it’s down years.

5. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA

Skippy gets this spot based more on his assistant coach hires than on his own merits. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. He brings enthusiasm everywhere he goes, and he’s won too. But he’s also left two programs in bad shape and his act might be growing a little tired. Hiring Norm Chow to coach the offense was one of the smartest moves he could make. Chow brings instant credibility to the staff, as well as the ability to coach quarterbacks – that is, if there’s still a healthy quarterback on the roster. Neuheisel knows a thing or two about grooming quarterbacks as well. However, deciding to retain defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker (and then talking him into staying) might turn out to be his best move. Over the past couple seasons, Walker has quietly turned UCLA into one of the premier defenses in the west. Granted, that’s not saying a whole lot in the defensively-challenged Pac-10, but it’s still an accomplishment. Neuhesel has set himself up nicely to accomplish his goal of competing with crosstown rival USC.

6. Kevin Sumlin, Houston

This is a strong hire that will keep the momentum going in Houston.

7. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

There will be several bumps in the road to installing his spread offense at Michigan, but they’ll be more competitive against Ohio State.

8. Bill Stewart, West Virginia

Stewart gives the program stability while it positions itself for a rare run for the national title. He also brings Jeff Mullen over from Wake Forest to run the offense.

9. tie - Steve Fairchild, Colorado State; Larry Fedora, Southern Miss

Both of these non-BCS schools have tradition, and both made solid selections to replace long-time, successful coaches.

10. tie - David Cutcliffe, Duke; Art Briles, Baylor

These are two bright offensive minds, but will it really matter? These are programs where coaching careers have gone to die lately.



College football season is right around the corner so J.Pike and B.Pike have decided to start a blog. We know more than you about college football so it's probably best to pay attention.

If you thought Butchie Washington was an underrated college quarterback, you've found your new favorite corner of the web. We'll be bringing you our thoughts on the upcoming season and we won't just limit ourselves to talking about how great the returning Heisman Trophy winner is (CBS does enough of that to last us a lifetime).