Editor’s note: This article was written in August of 2008, before the start of the season.
The countdown to kickoff has begun. The first college football game of 2008 is just weeks away, and the gloves are already off in the minds and hearts of fans who eagerly await the start of the season.
Preseason rankings are out, and the reigning National Champion LSU Tigers are facing a season without many of the key players who led them to victory last year. In fact, the powers-that-be in the voting world have LSU listed as a preseason #6, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll. Georgia, USC, and Ohio State received the highest number of votes in the poll and top a group of contenders sure to give LSU a run for its money this year.
Dominant quarterbacks Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Tim Tebow (Florida), and Chase Daniel (Missouri) stand ready to lead their respective teams to the top. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tebow will continue on the path to becoming the greatest college football player ever. Will he be the first player in more than 30 years to win back-to-back trophies and lead his team to their second National Championship in three years? Will Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno, West Virginia’s Pat White, or Beanie Wells of Ohio State step up and step over the competition?
New coaching will draw interest in several teams who are looking to contend. Michigan lost long-time coach Lloyd Carr and hired West Virginia legend Rich Rodriguez. Disgraced Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey has been replaced by former Navy coach Paul Johnson. Former NFL coach Bobby Petrino, who resigned in shame amidst a horrific season in Atlanta, left to replace Houston Nutt as new head of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Legendary coaches Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden will be in the public eye as their careers wind down and they continue to compete for the title of winningest coach in Division I-A college football history. Which coaches will find themselves in the hot seat at the end of less-than-stellar seasons?
Old rivalries will heat up (Michigan vs. Ohio State, Georgia vs. Florida, Alabama vs. Auburn) and underdogs (Fresno State, South Florida, Wake Forest) will see if they have what it takes to rise up to the top 10. Former powerhouses (Miami, Florida State, Michigan) will attempt to rise from the ashes and rebuild programs tainted by scandal, injury, and coaching changes. Who will break into the top 25 and surprise everyone? Who will be upset, and who will fall from glory?
And let us not forget about a champion determined solely by fan voting. Who will win the coveted Mascot Challenge? Will it be Florida’s Albert E. Gator? How about Otto the Orange of Syracuse? Or will the mysterious Big Red of Western Kentucky finally tell us exactly what a Hilltopper is and take his place at the top of the mascot hill? This is one category where fan voting can make or break a career.
The first games are scheduled for Thursday, August 28. Let the countdown begin.