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College Football Top 10 (Part 1)

   by Bryan Leonard - 07/31/2006

This week I’ll run down ten college football teams that could be in the running for the national title, based on returning starters, talent and schedule.

10. Georgia: The quiet football factory at Georgia continues to impress under Head Coach Mark Richt. The defense allowed 16 ppg last season and will lead the way again, led by All-America candidate DE Quentin Moses, a fierce pass rusher. The linebacking corps is also deep behind senior Jarvis Jackson.

The offensive line has new pieces and QB D.J. Shockley is gone. But senior QB Joe Tereshinski (371 yards) stepped in when Shockley was hurt last season and played well. Richt likes a balanced offense and has a powerful ground game behind junior RB Thomas Brown and junior Danny Ware. Georgia is 21-6 SU/17-10 ATS on the road under Richt! Six of their first eight games are at home, with only tough road games at South Carolina and Auburn.

9. Miami: Head Coach Larry Coker revamped his coaching staff, bringing in Rich Olson to run the offense and John Palermo will run the defensive line (from Wisconsin). Olson ran the Miami offense during some of their glory years in the 1990s. Junior QB Kyle Wright (18 TDs, 10 INTs) returns, along with junior WR Lance Leggett and 6-foot-6 junior TE Greg Olsen.

The running game provides balance because of senior tailback Tyrone Moss (701 yards, 5.1 ypc) and the tough defense allowed just 14 points per game and 3 yards per rush! Run stuffers like DE Bryan Pata and senior DT Baraka Atkins return and there are several revenge games, including Florida State and Georgia Tech (the latter upset Miami at home). Is this still a great football program? Miami just had a first-round NFL draft choice for a record 12th consecutive year.

8. L.S.U: LSU impressed under first-year Head Coach Les Miles, going 11-2. They played a lot of road games, too, because of Hurricane Katrina. The Tigers averaged 29.5 points, 150 yards rushing and 224 passing. Junior Quarterback JaMarcus Russell returns despite a serious shoulder injury late last season.

The ground game features senior RB Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent, while there is good depth at wideout. One thing Nick Saban left Miles was a talented defense, which has five starters back to a unit that ranked among the top five in the nation in three categories. The line is solid behind senior DT Glenn Dorsey and junior DE Carnell Stewart. This year’s schedule is challenging, with road games at Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. But LSU was 5-0 SU, 4-0 ATS on the road last season!

7. Notre Dame: Hats off to Charlie Weis, who electrified the Irish attack in his first year as head coach. Under his imaginative spread offense Notre Dame averaged 36.7 points, 147 yards rushing and 330 passing per game! 7 starters return on offense, so watch out. Senior QB Brady Quinn is back after passing for 32 TDs, just 7 INTs and 3,919 yards.

Three starters return to the offensive line. Junior RB Darius Walker (1,196 yards, 9 TDs) led the Irish in rushing and caught 43 passes for 351 yards. Quinn has quality targets in 6-foot-5 senior WR Jeff Samardzija (1,274 yards, 15 TDs), senior WR Rhema McKnight and 6-foot-6 junior TE John Carlson. The defense is average, though 9 starters return, so the offense may have to carry the load. The schedule isn’t that bad, outside of a revenge trip to USC.

6. U.S.C: 2006 hasn’t been kind to the Trojans, with the shocking loss to USC in January for the national title, the loss of its best offensive players to the NFL, and some embarrassing off-field problems. The offense won’t be as devastating, but will be potent. New quarterback junior John David Booty steps in (327 yards, 64.3% completions, 3 TDs, 2 INTs in 2005).

The best news of all is that the best wide receiving duo in the nation is back in senior Steve Smith and junior WR Dwayne Jarrett (1,274 yards, 16 TDs). Pete Carroll has some teaching to do with the defense, especially with a young secondary. USC is 20-0 SU, 14-6 ATS at home the last three seasons! Road trips to Arkansas and UCLA could be challenging, along with home dates with Nebraska, Arizona State, Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame.

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