Tuesday, August 26, 2008
College Football Power Rankings
College Football Power RankingsLoaded with NFL talent, Ohio State kicksoff the year at No. 1 Story Highlights
Ohio State may have six players drafted in the first two rounds in April
An injury to Georgia's left tackle dropped the Bulldogs to No. 3
Seven of the top 10 teams are from the SEC or Big 12
Many of you have already written off the 2008 Ohio State Buckeyes as frauds based on the season-ending performances of their 2006 and '07 teams. That's certainly your prerogative.
But here's the thing: I've studied the depth charts of the various contenders frontward and backward. I've spoken with people who know far more about evaluating football talent than I do. And all of it leads me to the same, inescapable conclusion that, presumably, will induce groans from coast to coast.
Ohio State is the most talented team in the country this season.
SI.com NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline, who runs TFY Draft service, projects nine Ohio State starters to be selected in the first three rounds next April, including three sure first-rounders (RB Chris Wells, CB Malcolm Jenkins and LB James Laurinaitis) and three others who could join them (DT Doug Worthington, LB Marcus Freeman and WR Brian Robiskie).
In all, TFY considers 16 junior or senior Buckeyes worthy of being drafted (though one of them is Michigan transfer Justin Boren, who won't play this season). Pauline hasn't posted every team's report yet, but says Ohio State's is, "hands down," the most talent-stocked roster.
"You could basically set up shop in Columbus and [draft] a really good team," said Pauline. "USC probably has more impact players on defense, but when you're comparing the two programs, the Trojans fall short of overall elite talent. There's a lot of talent on LSU's roster but not the large number of elite players as Ohio State's."
And that's before even adding Terrelle Pryor to the mix.
For most of the past seven months -- right up until a couple of weeks ago, in fact -- there was one team I considered better than Ohio State. That was Georgia. But then the Dawgs lost their starting left tackle, Trinton Sturdivant, for the season. It was a costly blow both because Sturdivant manned an extremely important position and because of the ripple effect it will have on the rest of the offensive line, which was already inexperienced. That dropped Georgia behind both the Buckeyes and Oklahoma, which returns all five starting offensive linemen.
NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 -- Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2 in 2007)
All eyes Saturday will be on ... well, Pryor, if he gets in the game, but also DE Lawrence Wilson. The highly touted junior, who broke his leg in last year's season opener and missed the rest of the year, steps in for departed star Vernon Gholston.
First game: Saturday vs. Youngstown State.
2 -- Oklahoma Sooners (11-3)
The Sooners' defensive line is impressive. DE Auston English was a dominant pass rusher when healthy, DT DeMarcus Granger was an All-Big 12 honoree prior to his Fiesta Bowl suspension and DT Gerald McCoy was the Big 12's top defensive freshman.
First game: Saturday vs. Chattanooga.
3 -- Georgia Bulldogs (11-2)
Assuming the Dawgs put away Georgia Southern early Saturday, star tailback Knowshon Moreno will likely give way to a pair of backups already being touted as the next in line -- redshirt freshman Caleb King and true frosh Richard Samuel.
First game: Saturday vs. Georgia Southern.
4 -- USC Trojans (11-2)
It will be interesting to see how the Trojans' tailback rotation plays out early in the season. It's no secret Joe McKnight will see the field often, but will offseason standout Allen Bradford supplant the more experienced C.J. Gable and Stafon Johnson?
First game: Saturday at Virginia.
5 -- Missouri Tigers (12-2)
Despite returning a largely veteran team, eighth-year coach Gary Pinkel plans to play as many as eight true freshmen this season, the most of his tenure. High-flying receiver Jerrell Jackson has attracted the most attention so far.
First game: Saturday vs. Illinois.
6 -- LSU Tigers (12-2)
It speaks to the level of LSU's recruiting these past few years that a team can lose as many veteran standouts as the Tigers did -- 13 starters -- and still appear to be loaded at nearly every position. QB and cornerback are the concerns.
First game: Saturday vs. Appalachian State.
7 -- Florida Gators (9-4)
The Gators may well contend for the national championship, but their preseason standing took a hit due to the season-ending injury of TE Cornelius Ingram and the fact that star WR Percy Harvin missed most of fall camp recovering from a heel injury.
First game: Saturday vs. Hawaii.
8 -- Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-4)
The bar gets set pretty high for Mike Leach's quarterbacks. Having thrown for 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns last season, Leach says of third-year starter Graham Harrell: "We expect him to do the same thing -- a few more yards perhaps."
First game: Saturday vs. Eastern Washington.
9 -- Auburn Tigers (9-4)
Is it a good sign or a bad sign that offensive coordinator Tony Franklin has yet to choose a starting quarterback between sophomore Kodi Burns and juco transfer Chris Todd? Burns is more of a dual threat but Todd is a veteran of the spread.
First game: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
10 -- Clemson Tigers (9-4)
There's technically nothing at stake in Saturday's opener, but is this the biggest game of Tommy Bowden's tenure? All the momentum of a contract extension and preseason ACC favorite status could go out the window were he to get upstaged by Nick Saban.
First game: Saturday vs. Alabama.