Here we go…
15. Clemson. Let’s get this out of the way. Clemson is the most talented team in the ACC.
The Tigers are also the team in the conference with the greatest history of falling short of expectations.
There’s one of them seemingly in every league. As one colleague of mine likes to say, “It’s like it’s in their DNA.”
So this is a preventive ranking. In reality, the Tigers are a top-10 team, and the only things that will trip them up is a revamped offensive line and their own propensity to lose a game or two they have no business losing.
14. Virginia Tech. Yes, the Hokies have issues at wide receiver and tailback. Still, they’re the anti-Clemson, a team that almost always finds a way to meet or exceed expectations regardless of what faces them.
Virginia Tech has four straight 10-win seasons since joining the ACC, and it would be a surprise if the Hokies don’t make it to at least nine victories this fall in the watered down Coastal Division.
If Frank Beamer‘s boys do indeed dominate the Coastal, one guy who will receive plenty of credit is Victor “Macho” Harris. The do-it-all senior could wind up playing a role on offense as well as defense and special teams.
13. Tennessee. The fifth-best team in the SEC resides in Knoxville, but with a few breaks the Volunteers will rise into the top 10.
The unfortunate thing for the titans of the SEC is they will take turns beating each other up. Some of them —- notably Georgia —- are probably so good they can avoid a dumb loss. The Volunteers probably aren’t quite that talented.
So the way to judge the Great Pumpkin will not be on how the Vols fare against Florida and Georgia. It’ll be how they play against just about everyone else.
12. Brigham Young. This is probably a tick high for the Cougars, who are the best hope to crash the BCS like Utah (2004), Boise State (2006) and Hawaii (2007) did earlier this decade.
Still, if the Cougars make it through the season without a loss, this is about where they will end up.
Max Hall is the latest in a long line of quarterbacks in Provo, and might just be a Heisman sleeper if Brigham Young can maintain an unbeaten season.
11. Arizona State. One of the greatest lessons of the 2007 college football season (besides don’t expect to win if you’re ranked No. 2) was never, ever underestimate Dennis Erickson.
It does not matter what he inherits. It does not matter he is a football mercenary.
If he lands at a major-college program, he is going to win. Quickly.
He did it at Washington State. At Miami. At Oregon State. And now with the Sun Devils. Just don’t ask about the NFL years.
So go ahead and say Arizona State won’t be as good as last year. Just do it. No matter how much you think a serial job hopper shouldn’t win, this one does. And this year, he’ll have the Pac-10’s second-best team.
—- Patrick Stevens