The Bruins are in!
You knew that, and you didn't know that. Final Four? Sure. The Spring Top 25? Let's just say I am making Marc Dellins' day. Dellins is the UCLA Minister of Propaganda -- they call him the sports info director in Westwood -- who was quick to point out that his Bruins have 20 returning starters from a team that beat Southern California.
|Fifteen to Watch|
|San Jose State|
This is an issue because the Bruins got, uh, well, somehow left out of my first 2007 Top 25 in January. Being the good MOP that he is, Mr. Dellins quickly shipped me the galleys of the spring guide. He apologized in advance for the typos (the bound version is coming). I didn't notice any except the bold prediction on Page 3 about beating USC. Again. By 20. To win the Pac-10. Now that's a good MOP.
1. USC: Still trying to understand why running back Marc Tyler signed in February and quarterback Mitch Mustain is considering transferring from Arkansas. Tyler is one of 10 first-team prep All-America running backs on the spring depth chart. At quarterback, backup Mark Sanchez has three years left. USC loves incoming freshman Aaron Corp, too. Is it possible to have too many good players?
2. Michigan: Big Ten favorites are loaded on offense. The defense has questions, like how a unit that was one of the best in school history unraveled against Ohio State and USC. Now it faces those NFL defections. But the Wolverines won't be tested (maybe) until a Nov. 3 game at Michigan State. The first four are at home.
3. West Virginia: With two Heisman candidates (Steve Slaton and Patrick White), this might be the nation's most explosive offense. The difference between Big East title and national title is the defense. Rich Rodriguez has to quit winning shootouts.
4. LSU: What does it say that in his third season, quarterback Ryan Perrilloux is still not a threat to lead the Tigers? Senior Matt Flynn has been the loyal soldier and will be the quarterback. Unfortunately, the whole season revolves around him. Flynn will have to channel Matt Mauck get the Tigers to the top.
5. Florida: With grizzled veteran Tim Tebow now at quarterback, the Gators will be going downfield more. That's bad, bad news for opponents who couldn't cope with Chris Leak. There's a lot of payback out there in the SEC. One suggestion: Bring in Joakim Noah for a preseason talk about defending a championship.
6. Wisconsin: The Next Great Young Coach, Bret Bielema, goes into '07 with the second-best team in the Big Ten. The Wolverines were their only loss last year. As usual, the biggest question is quarterback. This being Wisconsin, it doesn't seem to matter. You might watch, though, Kansas State dual-threat transfer Allan Evridge.
7. Louisville: The Cardinals remained title contenders the moment Brian Brohm decided to stay for his senior year. Louisville lost its head coach (Bobby Petrino) and defensive coordinator (Keith Patterson), but the program should continue to run seamlessly. The defense will have to start making some plays to get to the championship level. It cost the Cards in that shocking loss to Rutgers.
|Pat Cowan will get a shot to start for UCLA after leading the Bruins' victory over USC. (Getty Images)|
9. UCLA: One of the best quarterback battles in the country is shaping up with junior Pat Cowan going against junior Ben Olson. Cowan started eight games last season after Olson was injured, throwing for 1,700 yards. Olson, in his 37th year of eligibility, is the better physical specimen. Cowan has the love and momentum from that USC victory.
10. Oklahoma: The Sooners have had more than 3½ months to stew in the juices of that Boise State loss -- on DVD for $24.95 if you can't get enough. A season of upheaval and the loss of Adrian Peterson suggest a down year. Bob Stoops has your down year right here. The spring will be spent finding a new quarterback. Oklahoma might be just as good at running back with plenty of depth.
11. Auburn: Kind of a tossup to see who finishes second in the SEC West. Auburn's defense will keep it in games. Now Brandon Cox has to start making more plays.
12. Virginia Tech: I have loved LB Xavier Adibi since I first saw him. Same with RB Branden Ore. We'll know about the Hokies after a Sept. 8 game at LSU.
13. TCU: The Frogs always seem to be the prettiest girl at the non-BCS prom. Now she has to put out, er, TCU has to win enough games to become this year's Boise.
14. Tennessee: We're going to give Erik Ainge the benefit of the doubt and assume his knee will be 100 percent and will hold up through a brutal schedule. You know what happens when you assume.
15. Arkansas: Houston Nutt says the Hogs will work on "a lot of downfield passing." Wait a minute. Wasn't Mustain pretty good at that?
16. California: Fans are worried that Jeff Tedford will leave because tree huggers are blocking stadium improvements. Could that void his contract if the upgrades aren't made? Stay tuned.
17. Rutgers: Greg Schiano is in for the long haul. New York has bought in. Ray Rice is a Heisman candidate. Looks like the best season since 1869.
Who should be No. 1?
There's somebody better
Total Votes: 33,722
18. Ohio State: Whoops, Florida just scored again. Now that the Buckeyes are down, the Big Ten's Season of Revenge begins Sept. 22.
19. Boise State: To get the Broncos' minds straight, the strength coach won't allow Fiesta Bowl gear in the weight room. The troubling thing is, thongs are optional.
20. Georgia: Razor's edge -- Dawgs won five games by a touchdown or less. Which way will those games go this year? Mark Richt went for a quick fix, landing several JUCOs.
21. South Carolina: For the most part, Steve Spurrier's first two teams have been dominated by defense. Cocks need to entertain on offense, beat Florida and finish second in the SEC East.
22. Notre Dame: Jimmy Clausen will debut at some point in the fall. That's the upside. Downside: Will Irish Nation stomach an 8-4 or 7-5 season?
23. Texas A&M: Watch for a three-team race in the Big 12 South. Coach Fran pulled off a job-saving season. You have the players, Fran (hint, hint).
24. Florida State: This ranking is based strictly on Bobby Bowden's reshuffling of the staff. In one of the more startling developments, Jimbo Fisher is now No. 2 on the depth chart behind Drew Weatherford.
25. Kentucky: 'Cats need a football team Billy Donovan can be proud of. Andre Woodson is suddenly the SEC's best quarterback.