A minimum of off-field knuckleheadedness and nothing but positive vibes for these five programs ...
Florida Atlantic: The head coach is coming off a conference title, bowl win and contract extension at age 74. If the Good Lord is willing, Howard Schnellenberger will go until he is 84 and somehow get the Owls into a better league by the time he's done. Eighteen starters return from an 8-5 team. The first four weeks include trips to Texas, Michigan State and Minnesota. Am I crazy for thinking the Owls will beat (at least) one of those teams?
North Carolina: Butch Davis should have the Heels in a bowl in his second season. The top eight rushers and top nine receivers return along with quarterback T.J. Yates who is recovering from shoulder surgery. Assistant John Blake already is showing his worth in recruiting. The Heels lost six games by seven points or less last season. There's no Clemson, Florida State or Wake Forest on the schedule. A second-place finish in the Coastal Division isn't out of the question.
Ohio State: Duh, right? The thing that gets me is that 13 juniors explored their draft worth in the offseason. Only one, Vernon Gholston, left. That means there are at least 12 other players on the roster who would at least be in an NFL camp at this point. Then The Vest landed the nation's best recruit (Terrelle Pryor). You know I love the Bucks on paper (No. 1 in CBSSports.com preseason top 25). A third BCS title game berth looks likely, even if they lose to USC.
Ole Miss: Ed Orgeron recruited like a mother. Unfortunately, the talent didn't translate to wins in time. Houston Nutt inherits a team that could be the surprise of the SEC West. The defense gets back its top 14 tacklers. Texas transfer Jevan Snead is ready to go at quarterback. One-time five-star recruit Jerrell Powe got eligible a couple of weeks ago. Coming off its first winless SEC season since 1982 don't be surprised to see the Rebels in a bowl game.
Texas Tech: Yeah, I know. The Red Raiders are everybody's darling. Mike Leach's spread option might be the most productive in the nation. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree are a year older and wiser. But the defense has been upgraded too (you only need a little in the Big 12) and Texas has to come to Lubbock. Anything less than 10 victories should be considered a disappointment.