The Washington Times - August 2, 2009, 01:26PM

The goal is to close out the countdown by the time teams start reporting for camp. It’s a little late for that, but the start of Navy’s camp is tomorrow. That will have to do for an artificial deadline.

As such, it requires a day of doubling up. And that happens to be today … with the Second Five. Or the next-to-last five. However you wish to look at it. …

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No. 10: GEORGIA

A lot of people look at the Bulldogs, see last year’s lofty expectations and ensuing 10-3 record, notice the loss of Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno and assume a forecast of doom.

But it’s worth remembering. Georgia is reliably one of the nation’s best teams. The Bulldogs bring back their entire offensive line. And that A.J. Green fellow catching passes is above average.

Things are going to be just fine in Athens. Well, maybe not good enough to slow down the Blessed Tebow, and that season-ending trek to Georgia Tech might not be fun.

The offense shouldn’t be much worse off, as it will show in the opener at Oklahoma State. A defense shredded for 38+ points on five occasions has much to prove.

Will the Bulldogs win a national title? No. How about a division crown? Probably not with Florida in the picture. But this quietly has the look of another 10-win team, and a friendly-by-SEC-standards conference road schedule (Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) will only help.

No. 9: VIRGINIA TECH

An accounting of Virginia Tech’s total offense over the last three seasons:

2006: 99th
2007: 100th
2008: 103rd

Please understand, those are national rankings, not percentiles. Being in triple digits is not good.

This ranking is a tribute to a perennially excellent defense; Bud Foster’s unit has yielded less than 17 points a game in all five seasons the Hokies have been in the ACC.

But that offense … shudder.

There are holes here. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a glorified Wildcat quarterback at least as often as he is a multidimensional threat. The Hokies’ wideouts didn’t catch a touchdown pass until the 11th game.

The defense and special teams, though, will shine. They always do. That’ll be enough to keep the Hokies prominently in the hunt for a third straight ACC title and fourth in six years. It won’t be enough to avoid a reality check against Alabama in the opener at the Georgia Dome.

No. 8: PENN STATE

Needless to say, the Nittany Lions (with the aid of talent and a friendly schedule) will be pretty good this year.

They will also be coached by Joe Paterno, who has presided over his program in Happy Valley over nine presidencies.

That seems like a lot, and it is. But he’s also seen a lot of coaches come and go elsewhere in his career.

A rundown of the BCS conference schools with the most coaches since Paterno began his run at Penn State in 1966 (not counting interim coaches):

12: Cincinnati (Studley, Rice, Callahan, Mason, Staub, Gottfried, Brown, Currey, Murphy, Minter, Dantonio, Kelly)

11: Miami (Tate, Curci, Elliott, Selmer, Saban, Schnellenberger, Johnson, Erickson, Davis, Coker, Shannon)
11: Stanford (Ralston, Christiansen, Walsh, Dowhower, Wiggin, Elway, Green, Willingham, Teevens, Harris, Harbaugh)

10: Duke (Harp, McGee, Wilson, Sloan, Spurrier, Wilson, Goldsmith, Franks, Roof, Cutcliffe)
10: Georgia Tech (Dodd, Carson, Fulcher, Rodgers, Curry, Ross, Lewis, O’Leary, Gailey, Johnson)
10: Louisville (Camp, Corso, Alley, Gibson, Weber, Schnellenberger, Cooper, Smith, Petrino, Kragthorpe)
10: Vanderbilt (Green, Pace, Sloan, Pancoast, MacIntyre, Brown, DiNardo, Dowhower, Widenhofer, Johnson)

9: Alabama (Bryant, Perkins, Curry, Stallings, DuBose, Franchione, Price, Shula, Saban)
9: Arizona (LaRue, Mudra, Weber, Young, Mason, Smith, Tomey, Mackovic, Stoops)
9: California (Willsey, White, Theder, Kapp, Snyder, Gilbertson, Mariucci, Holmoe, Tedford)
9: Clemson (Howard, Ingram, Parker, Pell, Ford, Hatfield, West, Bowden, Swinney)
9: Illinois (Elliott, Valek, Blackman, Moeller, White, Mackovic, Tepper, Turner, Zook)
9: Iowa State (Stapleton, Majors, Bruce, Duncan, Criden, Walden, McCarney, Chizik, Rhoads)
9: Kansas (Mitchell, Rodgers, Fambrough, Moore, Gottfried, Valesente, Mason, Allen, Mangino)
9: Maryland (Saban, Ward, Lester, Claiborne, Ross, Krivak, Duffner, Vanderlinden, Friedgen)
9: Michigan State (Daugherty, Stolz, Rogers, Waters, Perles, Saban, Williams, Smith, Dantonio)
9: Mississippi (Vaught, Kinard, Cooper, Sloan, Brewer, Tuberville, Cutcliffe, Orgeron, Nutt)
9: N.C. State (Edwards, Holtz, Rein, Kiffin, Reed, Sheridan, O’Cain, Amato, O’Brien)
9: Oklahoma State (Cutchin, Gass, Smith, Stanley, Johnson, Jones, Simmons, Miles, Gundy)
9: Pittsburgh (Hart, DePasqua, Majors, Sherrill, Fazio, Gottfried, Hackett, Harris, Wannstedt)
9: Purdue (Mollenkopf, Demoss, Agase, Young, Burtnett, Akers, Colletto, Tiller, Hope)
9: Wake Forest (Tate, Stoll, Harper, Mills, Mackovic, Groh, Dooley, Caldwell, Grobe)
9: Washington State (Clark, Sweeney, Sherrill, Powers, Walden, Erickson, Price, Doba, Wulff)

No. 7: LOUISIANA STATE

The Tigers just floated through last season as defending national champs, getting socked a few times (Florida, Georgia, Mississippi) and stunned in the regular season finale (Arkansas).

It was enough to make folks overlook the abundance of talent in Baton Rouge – plus the fact the offense remained rather potent last year despite the five losses.

The Tigers seem like the perfect under-the-radar bunch, if that’s even possible for a team that averaged more than 11 wins a season between 2003 and 2007.

The assumption here: That quarterback gets itself sorted out. Louisiana State has the best chance of anyone of knocking off Florida this season (Oct. 10 at home), but it simply cannot afford to have a turnover machine under center.

Fix that, and the Tigers return to the top 10. Simple as that.

No. 6: ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide has back-to-back 10-win seasons just once in the post-Bear Bryant years.

In 1991, the Crimson Tide rolled up 11 wins in Gene Stallings‘ second season, Bama’s lone regular-season blemish a loss to Florida. The next year, the Tide ran the table and throttled Miami in the Sugar Bowl to win the national title.

Last year, Alabama won 12 games in Nick Saban’s second season, its lone pre-bowl setback coming against Florida.

Hmmm.

Crazier things have happened than the Tide going 14-and-oh this year.

Should Saban’s team survive Virginia Tech, things open up. There is a date with Mississippi on the road, but Louisiana State visits Tuscaloosa and neither Florida nor Georgia is anywhere to be found.

The defense will be excellent. The offense? The Tide needs a new caretaker quarterback and lost some remarkable talents on the line. But assuming the running game doesn’t dip much, Saban will have this bunch in the national title picture deep into November (and perhaps beyond).

Patrick Stevens