Try. We dare you. Try to make a case.
The national championship race goes three deep. Maybe four. Try to make a case for anyone else beyond the small group of super powers peering down from college football's Burj Dubai.
The consensus top three heading into the season are Florida, Texas and Oklahoma. Alabama is No. 4 on this season's CBSSports.com Preseason Top 25. Depending on your preference, that No. 4 team could be USC, maybe Penn State or Ohio State.
The point is, if you go down any further you're in danger of becoming an office joke.
"Dude, Oklahoma State. Really?"
Sorry to be a buzz kill, but anything beyond that top three/four and you're pushing the boundaries of credulity. And you thought the BCS was exclusive? You need a ballroom to accommodate the 66 schools in the Bowl Championship Series. Even Vanderbilt and Baylor cash checks each year.
This season there is an elite, um, gentlemen's club. Boil it down and the 2009 season is reduced to the SEC champion (probably Florida) against the Big 12 champion (probably Texas or Oklahoma).
Cut and paste Florida-Oklahoma from South Florida last January? Feel free. Regardless, may the best superpower win next January in Pasadena.• Bowl projections | Top 25 Breakdown | SI: Power Rankings | SB Nation: National preview
Get used to it. The top leagues of 2008 are the best leagues of 2009 -- and beyond. The two conferences are getting the best players, pay the best money to the game's best coaches who then produce the nation's best teams. The dominance isn't going to end anytime soon.
When CBSSports.com's preseason All-America team was released last week, it wasn't surprising to see 14 of the 25 first-team members from the SEC and Big 12. Almost a quarter (six) of the team came from Oklahoma, Texas and Florida alone.
|Sam Bradford wants a rematch against Florida in Pasadena. (Getty Images)|
• When you weren't looking, the game's first $4 Million Man, Nick Saban, got another raise.
• So did Urban Meyer, but he had to win two championships in three years to do it. Poor guy.
• With bonuses, Bob Stoops could make $5 million in two years (2011).
• That's nothing. If everything falls right. Mack Brown could make $6 million this year.
It's not hard to figure out this season's national picture. The SEC has won three consecutive national championships and four of the last six. Throw in Oklahoma (2000) and Texas (2005) and the two leagues have combined for six of the nine BCS titles this decade.
Talk about making it rain. That's a lot of money concentrated among 24 schools.
• It's hard to pick against Florida, a team so young and loaded that the NFL is going to have to wait. Unless a raft of juniors declare for the draft (which could always happen), the dominance should continue. Only six of the 22 starters are seniors.
• There is nothing more dangerous than a Longhorn scorned. Texas has lost twice since the first week of October 2007. One of those losses came with one tick on the clock at Texas Tech and probably kept the 'Horns from playing for the national championship.
• If this is being "down" then every team wants to be in the same position as Oklahoma. Bob Stoops has to replace four offensive line starters and both starting receivers, but he has been in this position previously. Six Big 12 titles are proof.
The SEC is the league of champions.
The Big 12 is the league of quarterbacks.
Don't be surprised if New York becomes the leagues' melting pot again if Tebow, Bradford and McCoy reconvene at the Heisman ceremony.
It's a completely legal monopoly. From now until 2024, every SEC game will be seen somewhere as part of its $3 billion, 15-year contract with CBS and ESPN.
There's always a chance the exclusive club could be open to other members. But already there are signs that the pretenders will stay that way. USC is starting a true freshman at quarterback and have lost three defensive starters before the opener. Although it is on its way to becoming a power again, Alabama hasn't won an SEC title since 1999.
Below the top three, the schedule is configured for attrition. There are three games involving six teams in the top 13 before Week 3 -- USC at Ohio State, Virginia Tech vs. Alabama and Georgia at Oklahoma State. Are the losers out?
History has shown that the Texas-Oklahoma loser could play for the national championship. Florida is so solidly entrenched it could afford to lose the toughest game on its schedule (Oct. 10 at LSU) and still win it all.
Try to make a case for anyone else. We dare you.
CBSSports.com Preseason Top 25
1. Florida: Well, duh. Freshman sensation Andre Debose might need surgery to repair a partially torn hamstring tendon. Someone (or some persons) should be able to replace Percy Harvin. Best-case scenario: The first undefeated season in program history. Worst-case scenario: Tim Tebow injures his throwing hand in a bar fight.
2. Texas: Vondrell McGee was named starting tailback this week. Anything to relieve pressure on McCoy is a good thing. Best-case scenario: Brown decides to start running it up with impunity to impress the BCS computers. Worst-case scenario: Oklahoma runs it up in the Red River Rivalry.
3. Oklahoma: Stoops is laying off criticizing the offensive line because he knows it's going to be great. Best-case scenario: Bradford wins a second Heisman. Worst-case scenario: Bradford gets his jersey dirty. (He was sacked only 13 times last season.)
|Terrelle Pryor looks to join the ranks of elite quarterbacks this season. (Getty Images)|
5. Ohio State: Buckeyes fans are being urged to welcome Navy to The Shoe. They'd be more excited about a Heisman season from Terrelle Pryor. Best-case scenario: Boom Herron makes them forget Beanie Wells. Worst-case scenario: Daryll Clark makes them remember who went to the Rose Bowl last year.
6. USC: Prospects for another Pac-10 title are looking dimmer. Cornerback Shareece Wright (academically ineligible) became the third defensive starter to be knocked out. Best-case scenario: An eighth consecutive BCS bowl. Worst-case scenario: Pete Carroll has to yo-yo quarterbacks.
7. Oklahoma State: The new Triplets -- Kendall Hunter, Dez Bryant and Zac Robinson -- could be the foundation of the Big 12's best offense. Defense is the question. Best-case scenario: The offense averages 40 a game. Worst-case scenario: So does the defense.
8. Penn State: The non-conference schedule is laughable -– Akron, Syracuse, Temple. Best-case scenario: Joe Paterno retires the all-time victories record. Worst-case scenario: Joe Paterno retires.
9. LSU: One magazine picked tailback Charles Scott as the SEC offensive player of the year. You hear that Tebow!? Best-case scenario: Russell Shepard is the new Harvin. Worst-case scenario: Jordan Jefferson is the old Jarrett Lee.
10. Virginia Tech: Watch freshman tailback Ryan Williams. He gets his chance to replace injured Darren Evans. Best-case scenario: The tailback thing works itself out. Worst-case scenario: The quarterback situation (Tyrod Taylor) doesn't.
11. Oregon: The nation's No. 2 rushing offense prepares to run all over the Pac-10. Best-case scenario: Halloween destruction of USC. Worst-case scenario: A repeat of 2008's quarterback injuries.
12. Mississippi: Jevan Snead committed to Florida, signed with Texas, now might find a championship at Ole Miss. Best-case scenario: Winning the SEC West. Worst-case scenario: Losing to Mississippi State.
13. Boise State: Lose to Oregon and we can forget about the Broncos. Every non-BCS program that has played in a BCS bowl has had an undefeated regular season. Best-case scenario: 12-0. Worst-case scenario: 11-1.
14. California: Jahvid Best is a Heisman candidate but defensive back Syd'Quan Thompson is part of an active secondary. Best-case scenario: Kevin Riley doesn't throw up on his shoes in pressure situations. Worst-case scenario: Need a couple of towels over here.
|Jonathan Dwyer is in the running for best back in the nation. (Getty Images)|
16. Georgia: Don't get too cocky, Cowboys. Mark Richt is 28-1 in non-conference road games. Best-case scenario: Multiple tailbacks are better than one. (Richard Samuel is the leader in the clubhouse going into Oklahoma State.) Worst-case scenario: Jacksonville in October ring a bell?
17. BYU: Good news for Max Hall. Since 1974, every BYU senior quarterback who has played the entire season has won a conference title. Best-case scenario: The Cougars get to the Fiesta Bowl. Worst-case scenario: The Cougars get to the Las Vegas Bowl.
18. TCU: The Frogs are trying to keep MWC title out of Utah. Since 2003, TCU is the only school not located in Utah to win the conference title. Best-case scenario: The nation's best defense remains that way. Worst-case scenario: Defensive end Jerry Hughes turns an ankle.
19. Utah: Goodbye Brian Johnson. Juco Terrance Cain is expected to start at quarterback in the opener against Utah State. Best-case scenario: The Utes don't rebuild, they reload. Worst-case scenario: They have to rebuild.
20. Kansas: Todd Reesing is ready to show that's he really 5-foot-9 but plays 5-11. Best-case scenario: A Big 12 North Division title. Worst-case scenario: A loss to Nebraska.
21. Nebraska: No, the Huskers aren't joining the Sun Belt, it just seems that way. There are non-cons against Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette. Best-case scenario: The Blackshirts return. Worst-case scenario: Ndamukong Suh is a one-man show.
22. North Carolina: "It's time for some fresh meat," said linebacker Quan Sturdivant. The Citadel is the first course on Saturday. Best-case scenario: Karma from the basketball team. Worst-case scenario: Losses at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
23. Florida State: A Freedom of Information Act request resulted in the discovery that FSU could win the ACC. Are the 'Noles of old back? Best-case scenario: FSU wins 14 (12 regular-season, ACC title and bowl game). Worst-case scenario: Bobby Bowden loses 14 (victories from the NCAA).
24. Michigan State: Kirk Cousins got the quarterback job over former Sooner Keith Nichol. Best-case scenario: Greg Jones becomes the Big Ten's best defender. Worst-case scenario: The Spartans can't make up for the loss of quarterback Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer.
25. Houston: Case Keenum is attempting to become the first quarterback to throw for 6,000 yards in a season. Best-case scenario: Coming off their first bowl win in 28 years, the Cougars win their second Conference USA title in four years. Worst-case scenario: The defense (31 points per game in '08) is even more vulnerable with the loss of conference defensive player of the year, Phillip Hunt.