2008 NCAA College Football Top 25: Top 25 Heading into Bowl Season
The National Title Game matchup is almost certainly set. However, I’m not so sure that I really agree with it. In all likelihood, we will see the Oklahoma Sooners take on the Florida Gators for the National Title in Miami. That said, my #2 team this week is the Texas Longhorns. Watching the Big XII Title Game, I couldn’t help but think how similar the Texas-Mizzou game was to the Oklahoma-Mizzou game. Both teams jumped out way ahead of Missouri and won big. Oklahoma running the score up to just become the first team to score 60 points in five straight games also didn’t impress me. Then I kept thinking about how Texas beat both teams. To me, Texas deserves to play for the National crown and I will rank them at #2 because of it.
On another note, the Florida-Alabama game was really exciting and both teams played their hearts out. In all likelihood, we’re going to see both teams with an excellent chance at winning BCS bowl games.
These will be my final rankings until after the National Title Game. Going into the bowl season, my top twenty five teams are as follows:
#1) Florida Gators (12-1, #2 Last Week)
Florida continued their winning streak by winning an exciting SEC Championship game. I have to brag on myself for a minute, since I predicted a 31-21 Florida win and the final score was 31-20. Florida showed two things in this game: 1) They’re human on offense when faced with a tough defensive line like Alabama’s and 2) They can play tough on defense. Florida is going to play Oklahoma very tough in the National Title Game.
#2) Texas Longhorns (11-1, #3)
Texas had to sit back and watch Oklahoma win the Big XII Title this weekend. You have to think that the Longhorns feel robbed after having beaten both teams in the Big XII Title Game by double digits. Texas is a near lock to play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and if they want to make an appeal for an AP Title, they had better not focus on their disappointment.
#3) Oklahoma Sooners (12-1, #4)
Oklahoma scored over 60 points for the 5 th consecutive game, a NCAA record. While I don’t think that Oklahoma deserved to play for the Big XII Title, they played by the rules and the Sooners are an excellent team. Oklahoma will definitely give Florida a run for its money in the National Title Game.
#4) Penn State Nittany Lions (11-1, #5)
Penn State will officially be playing in the Rose Bowl against USC. A historical statistic for the many doubters of Penn State going into the postseason: Joe Paterno-coached teams are a whopping 14-0 in bowl games west of the Mississippi River. Furthermore, Penn State is a very good football team with a great offensive line. Expect PSU to give the Trojans a great game.
#5) Southern California Trojans (11-1, #6)
USC defeated city rival UCLA 28-7 in a virtuoso defensive performance. USC has the country’s top defense and will be a very tough opponent for Penn State. USC’s offense isn’t spectacular but they certainly do more than enough to get the job done with their great defense. USC is angry that they’re not getting more consideration for a National Title shot and will look to take it out on Penn State.
#6) Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1, #1))
Alabama picked a tough time to lose their first game of the year. However, their consolation prize will almost certainly be a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Alabama only has 9 scholarship seniors and played the third highest number of freshman in the country this season. Expect the Tide to be a fixture in the top ten for years to come.
#7) Texas Tech Red Raiders (11-1, #7)
Texas Tech has the unfortunate distinction of being the only team ranked in my top ten to not grab a BCS bowl berth, thanks to the ‘Two per conference’ rule. Still, Texas Tech is a lock to play in the Cotton Bowl and could finish with the best season in school history. If they can hold onto coach Mike Leach, expect them to be competitive well into the future.
#8) Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2, #8)
Ohio State is the highest ranked two loss team and is one of only two BCS teams with two losses. The other, Cincinnati, is also from the state of Ohio. The Buckeyes should benefit from the break before the bowl games this season to allow some injuries to heal up and freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor will have another month to get better while Beanie Wells will finally be healthy. That’s a scary thought for Texas’ defense, OSU’s likely opponent in the Fiesta bowl.
#9) Utah Utes (12-0, #9)
Utah is this season’s BCS buster and will likely face off against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Why Utah over Boise State? Utah has a much better strength of schedule (56 versus Boise State’s 76) and a much tougher schedule. Utah will have their hands full against Nick Sabana’s Crimson Tide in what will likely be a virtual road game for the Utes.
#10) Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3, #11)
Oklahoma State’s three losses this year came against Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech. All of which are in the top seven. Not a shabby year for the Cowboys and OSU rewarded Head Coach Mike Gundy with a seven year contract worth over 2 million dollars a year. The Cowboys are quite explosive on offense and will probably face off against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.
#11) Boise State Broncos (12-0, #13)
Boise State finished undefeated for the second time in three years but will be left out of a BCS bowl. Now, the Broncos don’t really have much of an argument. Both of the teams that they are competing with for a BCS at-large bid ( Utah and Ohio State) played tougher schedules, have better wins and Utah, the other non- BCS unbeaten, is ranked higher. Boise State will find themselves playing against TCU in the bowl season if media reports are correct.
#12) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (10-2, #14)
TCU’s 10-2 season has earned them a chance to play against unbeaten Boise State. A win likely means a top ten finish, which would be very impressive for the Horned Frogs. For everyone who has been watching in awe as Oklahoma has rolled up unfathomable scores, remember that TCU held Oklahoma to only 35 points earlier this year.
#13) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-3, #15)
Georgia Tech will be playing in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl this year and after knocking off Georgia, South Carolina or LSU really doesn’t look very intimidating for the Yellow Jackets. This is one of the youngest teams in the country and will be a force in the ACC for years to come.
#14) Michigan State Spartans (9-3, #16))
Michigan State is virtually assured of a Capital One Bowl berth against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Spartans run the ball very well but their two opportunities to beat some of the country’s best teams have turned out poorly thus far: Blowout losses to both Ohio State and Penn State. Michigan State will look to validate their ranking with a win over Georgia.
#15) Georgia Bulldogs (9-3, #17)
Georgia’s season has fallen vastly short of preseason expectations and fans are restless after their defense has been gouged on the ground over the last five games. Georgia’s three toughest games ( Florida, Alabama, and Georgia Tech) have all resulted in losses and Georgia’s best win this year seems to have come against 7-5 LSU. That’s not very good. Georgia will look to salvage face with their fans by beating Michigan State and getting to ten wins on the year.
#16) Northwestern Wildcats (9-3, #19)
Northwestern is one win away from a ten win season, an incredible feat for this season’s youngest head coach, Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern plays tough defense and their offense is definitely capable of putting up some good numbers. The Wildcats will probably end up playing against Missouri in the Alamo Bowl in what could be an excellent game.
#17) Cincinnati Bearcats (11-2, #10)
Cincinnati went out to Hawai’i for what amounted to a regular season bowl game. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, they might have enjoyed the islands too much and let the Warriors hang around for most of the game before a late rally led the Bearcats to victory. Needless to say, struggling with a 7-5 WAC team will get you dropped…..Pretty far. I certainly hope that isn’t the best that the Big East has to offer. The Bearcats will go to the school’s first BCS game to face Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
#18) Pittsburgh Panthers (9-3, #20)
Pittsburgh is another team that is having an excellent season. Pitt finished second in the Big East and features a strong running game and a stout defense. They will run into a virtual mirror image in the Sun Bowl against Oregon State in what will be a very exciting bowl game.
#19) Oregon Ducks (9-3, #21)
Oregon’s win over rival Oregon State vaults them into a likely Holiday Bowl matchup with Oklahoma State. The Ducks have the offensive arsenal to match up well with the Cowboys. After all, Oregon was one of the country’s most dangerous offenses. Expect the Ducks to be a tough opponent as both OSU and Oregon aim for a ten win season.
#20) Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, #22)
Iowa finished the regular season one of the hottest teams in the country is my pick as the best four loss team in the country. Iowa’s stretch run included a win over Big Ten Champ Penn State and culminated in a 55-0 blowout of rival Minnesota in the season finale. Iowa probably will find themselves playing against LSU or South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. With the nation’s best tailback in Shon Greene, expect the Hawkeyes to be favored.
#21) Ole Miss Rebels (8-4, #24)
Ole Miss holds the distinction of being the only team to beat SEC champion Florida this season. The Rebels have had a fantastic turnaround in Houston Nutt’s first season and look to be a team on the rise. The Rebels will be rewarded for their great year by getting the opportunity to play in the Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech. If Ole Miss can defeat the Red Raiders it would be the culmination of an amazing turnaround.
#22) Oregon State Beavers (8-4, #25)
Oregon State’s season fell short of their goal when they lost to rival Oregon and missed out on their first Rose Bowl in over 40 years. The Beavers will have to play in the Sun Bowl without star wideout James Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in the season finale. The Beavers will have to harness their disappointment if they want to defeat a solid Pittsburgh team.
#23) Virginia Tech Hokies (9-4, Not Ranked)
Virginia Tech avenged a loss earlier this season against Boston College and defeated the Eagles for the second consecutive season in the ACC Title Game. Virginia Tech now has won the ACC Title three times in the last five years and has won their division in three out of the last four years. The Hokies travel to the Orange Bowl and will look to knock off likely foe Cincinnati to win ten games for the fifth consecutive year.
#24) Cal Golden Bears (8-4, Not Ranked)
California destroyed hapless Washington to win their eighth game of the year. California is a solid team on both sides of the football and can boast impressive wins over Michigan State and Oregon. Cal will probably end up in the Las Vegas Bowl or Emerald Bowl.
#25) Missouri Tigers (9-4, #18)
Missouri was destroyed by Oklahoma in the Big XII Title Game for the second consecutive season and prevented the Tigers from playing in a BCS game for the second consecutive season. Missouri’s best win this season is probably against Nebraska, which really isn’t that impressive. The Tigers will look to win their 10 th game of the year in the Alamo Bowl against a solid Northwestern group.
The Big XII still retains 5 teams, but Missouri is falling fast. The Big Ten also still has five teams while the SEC boasts four. The Pac Ten also has moved up thanks to the entrance of California and can also boast four teams. The Big East has two, along with the ACC and Mountain West. The rankings are rounded out with Boise State as the WAC’s lone representative.
By Matt Baxendell
Matt Baxendell is collegesports-fans.com’s top 25 guru. Feel free to tell him how wrong his rankings are by emailing him at matt.baxendell @ gmail.com with all your questions, comments, and anything else you would like to share.
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