By Clint Longenecker
With colleges starting classes over the past few weeks, it’s time for everyone’s favorite collegiate sport: college football.
It has been a long off-season with many coaching changes and plenty of headlining players moving on to the NFL ranks. Two-a-day practices are in the rearview mirror, so it’s time to button up that chinstrap and get ready for another action-packed year of college football.
When discussing the top teams in the country, the conversation must begin with the University of Florida Gators. In 2008 the Florida Gators won the National Championship over the Oklahoma Sooners. The wildly exciting contest, held in nearby Miami, gave the Southeastern Conference bragging rights for having the nation’s best team for a third straight year.
Headlining the returners from this squad is none other than Golden Boy quarterback Tim Tebow. In Tebow’s three years in Gainesville he has won a Heisman trophy as well as two National Championships, compiling an impressive 36-6 record.
Many college football experts and historians contend that if he is able to win yet another Heisman trophy this year or bring back another National Championship to the Swamp, he could be considered the single greatest college football player of all time.
The Gator offense looks to be explosive again, after averaging 43 points per contest last year. All-American wide receiver Percy Harvin has taken his game-breaking talents on to the NFL, as has fellow wide receiver Louis Murphy. Due to Head Coach Urban Meyer’s outstanding recruiting Florida should be able to fill the void at receiver and two of the offensive line positions.
When discussing the defensive side of the ball, there is no need to fill any void, since the Gators are bringing back all 11 starters and their backups — a feat nearly unheard of in today’s college football landscape.
Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes delayed his journey to the NFL for another campaign with this talented unit. The secondary is a downright terrifying group, led by safety Ahmad Black and cornerback Joe Haden. Any way you look at it, this defense is a force to be reckoned with, considering that they were fourth in defensive scoring last year, and have another year of experience.
The pollsters gave Florida more preseason number one votes than any other team, ever. If they are able to come out victorious against LSU, Georgia, and FSU we can expect to see the boys from Gainesville doing their chomp on January 7 in Pasadena, Calif. Winning the National Championship again would mean the Gators will have raised the crystal ball three times in four years.
The Texas Longhorns of the Big 12 conference are also shooting to reach the National Championship game. Last year they felt they were unjustly kept out of the granddaddy of them all because of a single loss to Texas Tech.
Big 12’s top team?
Mac Brown’s Longhorns are one of the most talented teams in the country. Annually one of the biggest games of the year is the Red River Rivalry pitting the Longhorns against powerhouse Oklahoma. Texas must also travel to Stillwater, Okla., to battle Oklahoma State. The winner of these contests most likely will emerge is the Big 12’s top team.
Despite having a tough schedule there are many reasons why the Longhorns were ranked second in the preseason poll. Senior quarterback Colt McCoy leads a unit that was fifth in the country in scoring last season, due to their potent spread attack. McCoy put up video game numbers by completing 75 percent of his throws and leading the team in rushing. If the defense is able to replace All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo this team will be competing for a BCS Bowl game.
The Sooner, the better
The season has gotten off to a rocky start for the third ranked squad in the country, the Oklahoma Sooners. No team has seen their stock drop as much after the first week of the season.
Junior quarterback Sam Bradford chose to return to Norman this year for a shot at a second straight Heisman trophy. In the first half of their opening game against Brigham Young University, Bradford suffered a shoulder injury that could keep him out for a month. They then lost that game to the underrated, hungry BYU Cougars. They’ll now have to win the rest of their games to garner a chance for a National Championship.
As if the weekend’s woes weren’t enough, All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham is now done for the year because of a knee injury. It’s a devastating blow since Gresham was the offense’s top returning playmaker, registering 14 touchdowns last season.
You might ask why this team still has any shot at contention. One of the biggest reasons is the Sooners ability to run the football using the nation’s best trio of running backs.
Their triple threat includes starter Demarco Murray, who rushed for 20 touchdowns, and backups Chris Brown and Mossis Madu. Don’t forget about the best defensive line in the country, led by Gerald McCoy. Sophomore linebacker Travis Lewis is a name to remember; he set the school’s freshman record last year by registering 144 tackles.
Gresham out for the season
This team is going to depend on the experience of Head Coach Bob Stoops, running the football, and an excellent defense to have a chance with Bradford sidelined and the top play-maker Gresham out for the season.
The team that benefits the most from Oklahoma’s hiccup against BYU is the USC Trojans. With their dramatic win over the Buckeyes, they proved that this young, talented team is ready to contend.
The offense brings back the top offensive line in the country, and top notch talent at the wide receiver and running back positions. Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, the best recruit in the country this year, has been given the reigns to the offense and has performed admirably.
Other top contenders
Other teams outside of the Top 5 that are viable BCS contenders include: Nick Saban’s Alabama, who defeated the ACC champion Virginia Tech Hokies in the first week; and longtime coach Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions, who would attempt to win the Big Ten for a second straight year.
As always, fall is one of the best times of year because of the excitement on Saturdays all around the country with college football. Don’t miss out on a great chance to have some fun this season by rooting for your team.