That's the asterisk key for the keyboard-impaired. I need one. You need one. Every swinging hick who produces one of these preseason polls needs one.
You'll see below that Ohio State was, is and will be our No. 1 team heading into 2006. You also should be warned. The Bucks are a very tenuous pick.
|Troy Smith and Ohio State have their eyes set on a return to the Fiesta Bowl. (Getty Images)|
A warning. An explanation. A footnote.
Everything is fluid. There is no solid, complete team this year. No consensus No. 1. Go all in at your own risk. Everyone has holes.
Ohio State has a massive one on defense, where nine starters are gone. Good luck toting that baggage to Austin in the second week. At least the Buckeyes had a defense. If Notre Dame is going to be a national player, it must develop one, quick.
Texas has to replace its all-world quarterback. Same at Southern California. Five SEC teams are breaking in new QBs.
Oklahoma has them all beat -- in terms of quarterback desperation.
We know what you're thinking. This season is headed for a train wreck ala 2003, when USC was No. 1 in the polls but No. 3 in the BCS. Or it will be 2004 all over again. Auburn went undefeated (13-0) and couldn't get a sniff at a championship.
"I think about it every day ..." Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said this summer. "I think the fans missed out on it. I think it will always be a question mark. We'll always have that little empty feeling thinking, could we or couldn't we have won that game?"
Parity has given us TCU, Utah and Boise State. But it has also given us Michigan's worst season in two decades, and the fall of Florida State from its annual top five slot. Miami is on the verge of three consecutive single-digit win seasons for the only the second time in 24 years.
And you expected the BCS to sort it out? No way. The game is too good, too competitive this season. Last year at this time, we were talking about a USC dynasty. Silly rabbits, hat tricks are for kids.
The nation's leading returning rusher is at Northern Illinois (Garrett Wolfe). The best receiver (USC's Dwayne Jarrett) hasn't been fully cleared to play yet. At any given moment, the ACC might be the best conference.
No. 1. It's a moving target. The World Series of Darts with beer goggles on. We'll start in Columbus and take our chances.
Shift 8 and party on.
(SportsLine.com post-spring ranking in parentheses)
1. Ohio State (1): How motivated is Troy Smith? Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman had bypass surgery this offseason. Quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels is working half days after being diagnosed with cancer. Smith has been banging on their doors to watch film in their homes.
|Ten to Watch|
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Embracing the ranking. The nine new starters on defense are being sized for chips on their shoulders. They're going to be very good, trust us. Overall, this is the best Ohio State team since 2002. Someone has it figured out. The future looks so bleak that three major media outlets (we were the first) have the Bucks No. 1 going in.
2. West Virginia (2): It's a two-game season -- at Louisville and at Pittsburgh. Win those, and Double R is in Glendale, Ariz.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Trying to find an excuse after a student working in the Mountaineers football office was caught spying on Marshall practices. Wait a minute, Marshall?
3. Auburn (3): The cannibalistic SEC has to have someone emerge. Auburn is it for now. By the way, o-coordinator Al Borges is God. That means new d-coordinator Will Muschamps is his own deity. He directed LSU's 2003 national champions.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Passing that pesky direct studies sociology class.
4. LSU (4): Can't believe folks are doubting Les Miles. "Let's see how he does with his own players." How about, "Not bad for a guy who faced two hurricanes."
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Clearing their minds. The season might be decided early when the Tigers go to Auburn on Sept. 16.
5. Texas (6): Do Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead remember Chris Simms and Major Applewhite? Hopefully not. Mack Brown has to have the quarterback situation squared away in time for Oklahoma on Oct. 7.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Going to the White House.
6. Notre Dame (7): The wacky offseason stuff is over. Jimmy Clausen declared for the Irish at the College Football Hall of Fame. Charlie Weis invited writers to the Brady Quinn Invitational in May. Now it's, "All we're thinking about is Georgia Tech."
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Developing/hoping for a defense.
7. USC (8): Scandal Central and the Trojans should still win the Pac-10. Steroids, agents, surgeries. This program is invincible.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Calling an exterminator to get rid of all the runners. Uh, the agent type, not the football type.
8. Cal (17): The most underrated team in America. Jeff Tedford conceivably has a national championship contender with depth everywhere.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Counting to 108,000, the number of voices they'll face in the opener at Tennessee.
9. Florida (9): Chris Leak looks uncomfortable in the spread option. The running backs are questionable. Not too sure about the offensive line. Have you seen that schedule? It adds up to a 9-3 season that should land the Gators in the top 10. No shame in that.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Catering to The Next One. Anything else we can get for you, Mr. Tebow?
10. Georgia (10): Just like Texas and Oklahoma, pretty much set at every position except quarterback. What's the over/under on what game Matthew Stafford takes over?
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Taking donations for Mark Richt's latest raise.
11. Miami (20): Complete change of heart here since the spring. The 'Canes are the best team in the ACC. That doesn't mean they are perfect. It does mean Larry Coker will keep his job.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Suspending Tyrone Moss, Ryan Moore and (supposedly) losing Willie Williams.
12. Florida State (22): Jeff Bowden has to get the running game going. Beating a depleted Miami in the opener would help.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Remembering they are the defending ACC champs. A return to the top five isn't that far away.
13. Oregon (12): This is USC Jr. The Ducks have a serviceable defense, which is huge in the Pac-10. But the loss of Haloti Ngata will hurt immensely. Figure the Ducks for third in the Pac-10.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Waiting for Oklahoma at Autzen on Sept. 16.
14. Virginia Tech (13): Quick, what do you know about this team? Us either. The best team in the expanded ACC (to date) will have to sneak up to win their second conference title in three years.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Re-tooling after the loss of Marcus Vick, Jimmy Williams, etc.
|Bob Stoops' Sooners have all the top programs beat in QB problems. (Getty Images)|
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Cruising. Well, that's the wrong choice of words. Everything was great until Stoops found out Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn were getting paid a whole lot of money for washing used BMWs.
16. Iowa (14): Replacements at receiver and linebacker will have to come through. Ohio State will have to falter.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Giving Kirk Ferentz ungodly amounts of money just because the NFL sneezed.
17. Louisville (11): Bobby Petrino's best leverage continues to be that Auburn private jet out on the tarmac. Time to step up in the Big East and nationally. The Miami game on Sept. 16 is the biggest in school history.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Watching in amazement as Brian Brohm rehabbed from knee surgery.
18. Clemson (15): We're not ready to go in the tank totally for the Tigers just yet. Mostly because of games at Florida State and Virginia Tech. Seniors must come through (QB Will Proctor, WR Chansi Stuckey, DL Gaines Adams). Yeah, we're calling you out.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Figuring out how to get through the third week of September. There are consecutive trips to Boston College (Sept. 9) and FSU (Sept. 16).
19. Penn State (23): Weird dynamic here. The Lions get worse at quarterback (c'mon, Michael Robinson was a better playmaker and leader than Anthony Morelli). But they might be better overall everywhere else on offense. Penn State will never be bad on defense.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Hoping Paul Posluszny's knee is fully healed. Psst, it is. Just ask him.
20. Michigan (21): Just asking, but is it possible that Chad Henne and Michael Hart have already peaked? Lloyd Carr needs the next go-to receiver (is it Mario Manningham? Steve Breaston?)
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Wallowing in the shame of their worst season in 21 years.
21. Boston College (16): If you're spending a weekend of debauchery in Vegas, gambling away the mortgage money with your buds, do something sensible. Put a couple of bucks on the Eagles. They are the model of consistency. In the past five years, the Eagles have won either eight or nine games.
Who is your No. 1?
Total Votes: 24,436
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Figuring how to replace the winningest senior class in school history. That list includes nine starters, three taken in the first four rounds by the NFL.
22. Nebraska (19): They'll win the Big 12 North because the Huskers are the division's only ranked team and they're coming off an eight-win season and a bowl victory over Michigan. No other Big 12 North team has as much talent.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Chilling until this week when, as of Monday, backup quarterback Harrison Beck hadn't shown up for camp. Starting corner Zackary Bowman blew out his knee. Time to re-evaluate this ranking already?
23. TCU (18): Gary Patterson will find out by the second week of October whether the Frogs are BCS players. They play Baylor, Texas Tech, BYU and Utah early.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Feeling the love. TCU has the second-longest winning streak in the country (10). It's favored to win the Mountain West again. Since 2000, TCU has a better winning percentage than Florida, Florida State and Tennessee. Surprised?
24. Arizona State (24): Just might have the best offense in America.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Pondering that they just might have the worst defense in America. Discuss.
25. Georgia Tech (25): Coming off a fourth consecutive seven-win season. The Jackets drive their fans crazy. After what seemed like a breakthrough victory at Miami, they lost the final two against Georgia and Utah by a combined 35 points.
How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Putting in 20-hour days plotting to beat Notre Dame in the opener.