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Our 3rd Straight Winning Nat'l Championship Selection
by Bryan Leonard - 08/26/2008
Itâ€™s the best time of the sports betting calendar as college football season kicks off! Two years ago my top August pick in college football was Florida and last year it was LSU. So here is my 2008 college football Top 5, looking to tab the eventual national champion for the third straight year.
5. Georgia: The Bulldogs are a preseason No. 1 in some dockets. Georgia has a terrific coach in Mark Richt, who welcomes back 7 starters on offense and 8 on defense. The offense can beat you on the ground with sophomore tailback Knowshon Moreno (1,334 yards), plus junior QB Matthew Stafford put it together last season with 19 TDs and 10 picks.
The defense is stocked, with junior DT Kade Weston and a top notch pass rush. Georgia is 29-8 SU/23-14 ATS on the road under Richt, but 2008 is tough with road games at South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, Kentucky and Auburn, along with the neutral site cocktail party duel against Florida. If they get to the title game, the Dawgs will have earned it.
4. Missouri: If offense is the key to success in 2008, you canâ€™t overlook Mizzou. Missouri returns almost everybody on an offense that averaged 40 points, 176 yards rushing and 314 yards passing. Senior quarterback Chase Daniel will lead the assault, a guy who passed for 4,306 yards, 33 TDs and 11 picks.
He has experience and height with tall targets senior tight end Chase Coffman and junior WR Jeremy Maclin (1,055 yards). Mizzou was actually strong against the run in 2007 and returns most of its top performers. Pinkel has been experimenting with some no-huddle tactics used by Urban Meyer at Florida. Their biggest challenges will come in October, at Nebraska and Texas. By the way, Missouri is 6-1 SU, 7-0 ATS its last 7 on the road.
3. Florida: The Gators triple-option attack was unstoppable in 2007, rolling up 42 points, 201 yards rushing and 251 passing per game. That shouldnâ€™t change with the return of junior QB Tim Tebow (32 TDs, 6 INTs), who ran for 895 yards while grabbing the Heisman.
The key is a defense that was very young last fall and allowed too many yards and big plays. Of course, the defense doesnâ€™t have to be dominating: Meyer is developing a no-huddle attack designed to wear down opposing defenses. A September 20th date at Tennessee looks like their biggest challenge and Florida is 21-2 SU, 14-8 ATS at home under Meyer.
2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have lost two straight national title games, which hurts. On paper, they could very easily get a third shot at the national title tilt. Start with the defense. The Buckeyes are loaded on a unit that allowed just 10.7 points per game. They caught a break when start LB James Laurinaitis decided to skip the NFL draft and return for his senior season.
The offense is in very good shape with the return of OT Alex Boone, senior QB Todd Boeckman (25 TDs, 14 picks) and junior RB Chris Wells (1,609 yards, 5.9 ypc). This offense didnâ€™t get a lot of publicity, but rolled up 32 points and 203 yards rushing per contest. Ohio State is 41-3 SU, 27-14-1 ATS at home. With Michigan rebuilding under a new coach, the biggest Buckeye test appears to be September 13th at USC.
1. Oklahoma: Iâ€™m stepping out of the SEC as eventual champion and going to the Big 12 with the Sooners. Oklahoma last won the title in 2000, but Bob Stoops has a deadly trifecta for 2008: a great defense, an explosive offense, and a relatively easy schedule.
The Sooners outscored opponents by a 42-20 average last season and return sophomore QB Sam Bradford (36 TDs, 8 INTs). Bradford has many of his top targets returning, but this offense was not all passing. They averaged 190 yards rushing and return sophomore RB DeMarco Murray (764 yards, 6.0 ypc) and junior RB Chris Brown (611 yards). A guy to watch is freshman running back Jermie Calhoun, a top prospect. As if the Sooners needed more backfield talent!
And speaking of talent, the defense is also loaded, a unit that allowed 3.3 yards per rush. Road games against Oklahoma State, A&M, Baylor, Washington and Kansas State shouldnâ€™t trip them up. The Big One is October 11 against Texas.