Preseason rankings are out, and the Florida Gators are poised for a repeat, returning almost every starter from the reigning National Championship team. Florida received the most votes in history to put them atop both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls.
With Heisman (2007) quarterback Tim Tebow returning for his senior year, the Gators return most of the 2008-2009 team, including the entire starting defense from last season. Minus notable players such as Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, the Gators are primed for another season at the top, unless #2 ranked Texas and #3 ranked Oklahoma have their say.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, returns to the Sooners for his senior season, having passed up a shot at the NFL and hoping for a rematch after last year’s National Championship game. After losing last year’s championship to Florida, the Sooners enter the polls as a preseason #3 behind Texas, who accounted for Oklahoma’s only defeat in the 2008 regular season.
Heisman finalist Colt McCoy, quarterback for the Texas Longhorns, also returns for his senior season. The Longhorns felted cheated after being denied their opportunity at the title last year, having only lost one game themselves, to in-state and Big 12 Conference rival Texas Tech. With both Oklahoma and Texas Tech on the schedule, along with other ranked teams like TCU, Texas again faces a tough road to prove itselfworthy of a shot at the title.
The SEC begins the season with five teams ranked in the top 25 and will attempt to win its fourth straight national title (Florida has won two of the last three championships). The Big 12 Conference also begins the season with five top 25 teams and Texas Tech receiving many votes but missing out in the rankings.
While 2008 was the season of big coaching changes, this year will be a continuing wind-down in the legendary reigns of Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. Penn State is ranked in the top 10 in both major polls, while Florida State’s ranking is in the top 20. Off-field findings of academic fraud led to Florida State’s being forced to forfeit several NCAA wins, causing the ‘winningest coach’ race to sway greatly in Paterno’s favor.
Coach Rich Rodriguez, beginning his second season as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, has spent much of his time in recent days defending accusations that the team and coach violated NCAA regulations regarding time allowed for players to practice and train. After a dismal 3-9 start with Michigan, Rodriguez has denied all allegations of wrongdoing. The University of Michigan and the NCAA have begun investigating the stories being brought forward by current and former Michigan players.
The first games are scheduled for Thursday, August 28, with notable matchups including #16 Oregon at #14 Boise State and Utah State at #19-ranked Utah. Let the countdown begin.