Welcome to foot, balls.
I've been thinking about throwing together a college football post for a couple weeks, and just haven't gotten around to it. At some point, I'll do something a little more substantial, but here are five quick thoughts on the year...
1) Iowa is over-rated. I've gotten burned in the past by under-rating them, but this year I don't think there's any way that they can live up to the hype this year. For God's sake, one of the preseason magazines has them ranked THIRD in the nation. Keep in mind, this is a team with zero returning starters along the defensive front, and a tailback corps that was beyond injury-prone last fall. Also, they've got nasty road games at Ohio State, Purdue (more on them in a moment), and Iowa State (just you watch). Oh, yeah, they have to play Michigan, too. Iowa is a good team; maybe even a nine-win team. But if they finish the year number three in the nation, I would be floored.
2) If you have 20 bucks lying around the house, put it on Purdue to win the national championship. The current odds have them around 60-1. That's because they haven't put together a spectacular season for almost 40 years (even the Rose Bowl year, they lost a bunch of games). But just think about something: they've got all 11 defensive starters back. Oh yeah, they also don't have to play Michigan OR Ohio State, and get Iowa and Notre Dame at home. They've got challenging, but winnable roadies to Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Are they a sure thing? Of course not. If they were, you wouldn't be getting 60-1. But it's not exactly a huge stretch running the table in the regular season to get into the national championship game. Once they're there... anything can happen.
3) As an OSU fan, the game that scares the hell out of me this year is not Texas, not Iowa, and not Michigan. It's Penn State. That team is better than it's been and Beaver Stadium is a tough place to win. Besides, remember the old axiom "you can only get a team really 'up' two or three times a year"? I think there's a pretty good chance that this will not be one of OSU's three times (Texas, Iowa, Michigan), while it's DEFINITELY one of Penn State's big three. I'm certainly not saying that the Bucks won't slip in one of the other games (going to Ann Arbor is never fun, and it's been a looooong winter, spring and summer for Wolverine players and coaches, thinking about 37-21) but the Penn State game really sticks out as a potential landmine. The Buckeye fans wailing about the team being under-rated at #6 or whatever in some polls are overlooking some notable holes on the team. I wouldn't be surprise to see them go to the Rose Bowl, but I'd like to see Troy Smith stay out of trouble, an explosive offense for more than two games, a Big Ten-caliber running game, and a real answer in the kicking game. Other than that, it's a mortal lock.
4) USC will not go undefeated this year. I don't know if Cal or Oregon can trip them up on the road (certainly possible), but the roadie to Notre Dame is a huge landmine. That'll be the game Charlie Weis has circled on his calendar all year as a "set the tone and turn the program around" opportunity. The thing that's nice for USC is that those three games are spaced out throughout the season. The other danger spot is a trip to Arizona State. They're not a great team, but coming one week after the trip to Eugene, it's a "letdown" possibility. Not a bad week to take the Sun Devils and the points, at least. People picking Arkansas over USC in the Coliseum are smoking crack. They're not losing to some shit SEC team at home. Sorry.
5) Maybe someone can explain the fascination with Texas to me. There's no freaking way that team is going unbeaten. None. They play AT Ohio State, AT Texas A&M, and have that little matter of playing Oklahoma in Dallas. Combine that with the fact that Mack Brown has NEVER WON A CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP AT ANY PROGRAM, and I think there might be a little reason for Horns' fans to at least buy refundable plane tickets to Pasadena. Mack Brown is Glen Mason with a better recruiting base: good coach, able to turn things around and get some big wins, but has never actually gotten over the hump.