It’s finally here! It’s been a long wait, but football season is back, and it won’t be long before my backside will be sitting in bleachers on Fridays at high school games, and Saturdays at a college game somewhere in the area. I have a good choice of schools in several divisions, but I prefer the Bowl Championship Division, formerly Division I, because I can get to four of those in three hours or less, including Pitt, West Virginia, Ohio State and Penn State. But if that doesn’t work out for tickets, I can get to Youngstown State, Slippery Rock, Carnegie-Mellon, Duquesne, Geneva and Grove City in less than an hour.
The top 25 rankings are out, and as usual, I think there are some over-rated and under-rated teams. Florida State has to be the most over-rated team in the whole poll. They’re ranked fifth, and whoever put them there has to be kidding. Though they will be helped by the press voters in the East, and it will take them longer to fall out of the poll than it should, they won’t be there at season’s end. And I think both Oklahoma at No. 1, and Alabama at No. 2 are over-rated. The Sooners don’t have much on their plate this season, and don’t have many challenges on their schedule, especially from within their own conference. Alabama is another darling of the Eastern sports press, and rides on Nick Saban’s, and its own, past. I predict there will be two or three Saturdays this season when the news about ‘Bama is as bad as the tornado that swept up a third of Tuscaloosa last spring.
So who else is over-rated in the pre-season poll? Everyone in it from the SEC. South Carolina at 12, Arkansas at 15 (you’ve got to be kidding!), Georgia at 19 and Florida at 22 are all ahead of where they will finish. I don’t think Florida will be a top 25 team by season’s end. South Carolina always has some hard luck, and Spurrier just can’t seem to get them all the way through without a couple of bad games. The pressure from the bowl games that have SEC teams locked in pushes the polling. This won’t be one of those seasons where an SEC team is in the BCS title game.
So who is under-rated? Boise State is always under-rated, and they are this season as well. So is TCU. Oregon will put the best team in the country on the field, and fellow conference member Stanford is right behind. I’d rank Oregon first, and Stanford third. LSU and Boise should switch places. And Nebraska should be a top five contender. Texas A&M is good, but not top 10 material. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State are probably in the right places. It remains to be seen what happens to Notre Dame, and whether they’ll make it into the top 10 after the first few weeks. They could.
Arizona is a team with the potential to break into the rankings and rise quickly. The Wildcats open with a yawner against Northern Arizona, but then they run a gauntlet that includes Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC. Those four games will make or break them for the season.
Looks like West Virginia-Marshall will be the first game I get to see live this season.