Wednesday, August 23, 2006
After going through all of the major contenders, that just leaves those teams that are either not in a conference (here's looking at you Irish) or those teams that are in the Mid-Majors. I could go through them all, but well, I'm not quite that ambitious, so I'll just take a look at those that possibly have shots for a BCS Bowl or are just interesting.
Notre Dame: We all know the story last year - good offense, bad defense. Well, the good news is that there are 9 starters back on defense. The bad news... is that there are 9 starters back on defense. The problem with the Irish defense was speed last year, something that, from all reports, they have worked hard on improving during the offseason and through recruiting. If the defense can even be average, well, the Irish have a shot to go far, because the offense could be the best in all the land. Charlie Weis is a mastermind, Brady Quinn is the best QB in the nation, and Jeff Smardizja (I spelled that horribly wrong), is an excellent receiver. Add in Darius Walker, Rhema McKnight, and a good O-Line, and lots and lots of points will be put up in South Bend. They've got early season tests, but all eyes are on their trip to USC late this year, which could be one of the best games of the college football season.
TCU: They were an early-season loss at SMU away from going undefeated, and they return 8 starters on offense and 6 on defense. They've got an excellent rushing attack spearheaded by Robert Merrill and Aaron Brown at RB. They start out at Baylor and home vs. Texas Tech, and if they pass those early season tests a BCS bid is not out of the question.
Utah: The Utes are back and one of the best mid-majors in all the land. They've got an experienced defense with 8 returning starters. Also, even though QB Brian Johnson won't play this year, they still have experience at that position. They won't be as good as the Alex Smith/Urban Meyer show, but they'll win more than the 7 games they won last year.
Boise St: Dan Hawkins is gone, but they've still got lots of talent on the offensive side of the ball, led by Jared Zabransky. They averaged over 36 points a game last year, and they return 9 starters on offense (and 9 on defense). Look for them to be an exciting team and once again a force in the MWC.
Tulsa: The C-USA champs should be very good again this year, as they return 17 starts including QB Paul Smith. They finished 9-4 last year (including a Liberty Bowl win over Fresno St.) and once again they look to be the class of C-USA.
UTEP: But Tulsa's biggest competition in C-USA should come from UTEP and QB Jordan Palmer. Palmer is one of the most talented QBs in the country, but he has to make better decisions and take better care of the ball. If he can cut down on TOs, then UTEP will be potent offensively and big contenders to Tulsa.
Houston: The Cougars will be an entertaining team to watch because of QB Kevin Kolb. As he goes into the year, he has already thrown for 9,155 career yards and 55 TD. There are definitely some good QBs in C-USA.
UCF: They won't be contending for the BCS, but they're an interesting team because of the huge turnaround last year. They'll return 18 starters from an 8-win team, and once again will look for a bowl berth under George O'Leary.