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LSU over Texas For the National Championship

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/25/2007

One year ago I had Florida over Ohio State as my preseason top two teams. So, yes, I’ll take a short bow, but a very short one, as it’s a brand new season. I’ve just finished my power rankings for 2007. Here’s at a look at my Top 5 and what teams might be vying around New Year’s for the national title.

1. LSU: Les Miles has a very good offensive mind, a more wide-open attack than predecessor Nick Saban. He’s had back-to-back 11-2 seasons. The offense has quarterback Matt Flynn stepping in for JaMarcus Russell, WR Early Doucet, plus a power running game that averaged 150 yards rushing. And the defense is positively loaded, with 8 starters back on a unit that allowed 3.2 yards per rush.

The front seven is dominant with six starters returning, led by All-America DT Glenn Dorsey and senior LB Ali Highsmith. They lost only to Florida and Auburn last season, and they get both at home. You don’t think a team can win the national title after losing its star QB to the NFL as a No. 1 overall pick? It has already happened. In 1997, Peyton Manning left Tennessee and went to the Colts, and in 1998 the Volunteers ran the table and won the national title with QB Tee Martin.

2. Texas: It’s wise to pay attention to a team that is 23-3 SU, 17-8 ATS the last two seasons, including 5-0 SU/ATS its last five as a dog! The Longhorns are loaded for 2007, with sophomore QB Colt McCoy passing for 29 TDs and 7 INTs (68% completions) as a freshman. The Texas offense averaged 36 points, 162 yards rushing and 228 passing.

Defensively, Texas allowed just 18 ppg. Best of all, the schedule is relatively easy, missing Ohio State for the first time since 2004, with only the October 6 showdown against Oklahoma as the biggest test. And they’ve whipped Oklahoma 28-10 and 45-12 the last two years. Only late season road games at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M would stand in their way before the Big 12 title tilt.

3. USC: Everyone knows why USC is a threat to win it all. 6 starters are back on offense and 10 on defense to a team that won it all in 2004, and came very close the last two years. They are the preseason No. 1 of many and for good reason. However, let’s look at why they won’t win it.

QB John David Booty lost his top wide receivers in Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith to the NFL. Even with those two they only scored 9 points on rival UCLA, a 13-9 defeat, plus a loss at Oregon State. And the schedule is tough, with road games at Nebraska, Notre Dame and Cal.

4. Virginia Tech: The Hokies defense was first in the country in 2006 allowing just 219 yards and 11 points per game. 8 starters return including the nation's best linebacking pair in Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. They will be a dominant defense again.

The offense has an ace in junior RB Branden Ore, who ran for 1,137 yards, 4.7 ypc, and 16 TDs despite injuries that limited his playing time. The key will be some balance, as junior QB Sean Glennon threw just 11 TDs, 11 picks as a sophomore. They will be in every game with that defense, but can the QB bring them back if they fall behind?

5. Auburn: The Tigers might be a bit of a sleeper team, though they are 33-5 the last three years. Auburn is loaded with 7 seven starters back on defense, while the offense gets key players back, including quarterback. Senior QB Brandon Cox runs the offense and the ground game is deep, as always.

The defense allowed 13.9 points, 124 yards rushing, 3.7 ypc, and just 168 yards passing per contest under first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. He was LSU's defensive coordinator when they won the title in 2003. The road schedule is tough, but Auburn is 12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS the last three years on the road and 4-1 SU, 5-0 ATS as a dog. The Tigers were the only team to defeat eventual national champion Florida, a 27-17 victory as a dog.

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