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College Football Top 10 (Part 2)

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/02/2006

5. Iowa: Kirk Ferentz has a talented team and a sensational home field advantage at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa has won 22 of 23 home games and is 28-3 SU, 24-5-2 ATS at home the last four years! 7 starters return on offense and 7 on defense. The offense is loaded after averaging 30 points, 174 yards rushing and 258 passing. Senior QB Drew Tate (22 TDs, 7 picks) leads the way, a three-year starter, with senior TE Scott Chandler and RB Albert Young (1,334 yards).

Linebackers Mike Linkenborg, Edmond Miles and Mike Humpal step in for departed ace Chad Greenway. They have 7 home games with the only tough road game at Michigan, October 21st. There are only four teams that have made four straight appearances in a January Bowl: Iowa, USC, Florida State and Georgia.

4. Auburn: Some thought 2004 was a fluke, when Tommy Tuberville’s team went 13-0. All they did was follow that with a 9-3 SU, 8-2 ATS campaign in 2005. Auburn will again be a power running team with everyone returning in the backfield. Junior QB Brandon Cox (15 TDs, 8 INTs, 2,324 yards) will run the attack and their three top rushers are back in senior Kenny Irons (1,293 yards, 5.1 ypc, 13 TDs), senior Tre Smith and junior RB Brad Lester.

One key is the offensive line, which loses some top players to the NFL, but has 6-foot-8 King Dunlap and 6-5 Leon Hart to replace them, along with returning guards Tim Duckworth and Ben Grubbs. The defense has 6 starters back on a unit that allowed just 15.5 points, 3.5 yards per carry and yards 198 passing per game! A new defensive coordinator comes aboard in Will Muschamp, who was with the Dolphins last season and was LSU's defensive coordinator when they won the title under Nick Saban in 2003. The schedule is manageable with SEC road games at Mississippi State, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Alabama.

3. Oklahoma: It’s easy to forget that the Sooners played for the national title less than two years ago. Easy to forget, that is, unless you are a Sooners’ fan after USC plugged them 55-19 in the 2005 Orange Bowl. But Head Coach Bob Stoops has a fine group of talent returning to a team that was 8-4. A young defense returns much of its key players, including senior DE Larry Birdine and senior LB Rufus Alexander.

The offense has good balance, averaging 177 yards rushing and 177 passing. Sophomore QB Rhett Bomar made good strides and the running game has an ace in junior RB Adrian Peterson, who looks to bounce back after an injury-plagued campaign. He has run for 1,108 yards and 1,925 yards the last two seasons. We will know early about this team, as Oklahoma plays at Oregon in September (the same team they upset in the bowl game) and the October 7 showdown with Texas (sans Vince Young).

2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes will be in the running for the national title again. Remember that they finished 10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS last season, losing only to one-loss Penn State and unbeaten eventual national champion Texas (a 25-22 loss at home). The 2006 offense is loaded with 8 starters back. Senior QB Troy Smith ran for 611 yards and passed for 2,282 yards, with 16 TDs, 4 INTs. This offense averaged 32 points, 197 yards rushing and 227 passing.

Junior RB Antonio Pittman (1,331 yards, 5.5 ypc) provides balance, while speedy WR Ted Ginn is explosive. This is an offense that put up over 400 yards on Michigan and 617 against Notre Dame. The defense loses some of its best players, though, including linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter. September 9th is the rematch at Texas, and road games at Iowa and Michigan State are the only tough Big 10 road games.

1. Florida: While the Gators were expected to be strong offensively under first-year coach Urban Meyer, the defense was outstanding in 2005 while the offense suffered a ton of key injuries. Still, this team went 9-3 while learning the triple-option attack. The defense has six starters back to a group that allowed just 94 rush yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry. They return DE Joe Cohen, DT Marcus Thomas, DT Steven Harris and junior LB Brandon Slier.

The offense returns 6 starters, looks for better health and is going to be fascinating to watch. Senior QB Chris Leak (20 TDs, 6) has been starting as a freshman. He’s not an ideal triple-option QB, but is a fine all around quarterback. There is a lot of speed and depth at wideout with senior WR Dallas Baker, senior WR Jemalle Cornelius and senior WR Andre Caldwell. Senior RB DeShawn Wynn led the Gators in rushing and also caught 12 passes for 161 yards. Meyer has yet to lose in the Swamp (8-0) and this is the 100th year of Florida football. Road games at Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State will be their biggest challenges.

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