The Washington Times - August 21, 2008, 11:00AM

Apologies for not getting a segment of the countdown completed yesterday. Assuming Maryland football can veer away from soap opera status today, the final interval will be up by the end of the night.

But here’s the second five, and there really aren’t any more surprises left. It’s just a matter of ordering, and that will get sorted out once everyone starts playing.


10. Auburn. Among BCS conference coaches, the only guys to have won more games than Tommy Tuberville in the last four years are Pete Carroll, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. That’s pretty good company to keep.

Now, the Tigers usually didn’t win with style points last year. And sure didn’t win with a competent passing game. But they did win, to the tune of nine games while fighting for No. 2 in a division with the eventual national champion.

This ranking is based on the belief Auburn will conjure up a remotely capable aerial attack. The defense will certainly do its part, though losses on the defensive line leave a question.

Auburn probably isn’t national title material this year. But an SEC championship isn’t out of the question.

9. Texas. The man behind has a way of rolling up 10 wins every year.

The streak is at seven, and the Longhorns have the offense to push it to eight. Certainly, Colt McCoy will rank among the excellent quarterbacks of the Big 12.

But there’s this problem in the secondary, which doesn’t seem like it should be a concern for a program that should have its choice at pretty much every position. But Texas was awful against the pass last year, and gave up at least 34 points in each of its last four games.

The nonconference schedule is fairly soft. The interdivision schedule is brutal; the Longhorns draw Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, though maybe they should be glad they don’t have to deal with Ron Prince and the burnt orange kryptonite he seems to have stored away at Kansas State.

A brutal October stretch —- at Colorado, against Oklahoma in Dallas and then at home against Missouri —- should be a most telling time in Austin.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers will be fine without Steve Slaton. But if their pathetic display against Pittsburgh proved anything last year, they simply cannot survive without Pat White.

That’s why White might be the preseason MVP in college football. Not the Heisman winner, the MVP.

He’ll be needed to do even more with a deconstructed defense likely to take a step back. West Virginia will win with its offense and simply survive with its defense. That’s not a formula for running the table, but the Mountaineers are the best the Big East has to offer.

7. Florida. Truly one of America’s scariest teams, the Gators have that Tim Tebow guy back at quarterback and the electrifying Percy Harvin around to create problems for opponents.

But they also have a frightening schedule, one that knock them out of national title contention by the time they’re done playing Georgia the day after Halloween.

But if somehow Florida can navigate Miami and Tennessee and Louisiana State and Georgia and make it to the second week of November with just one loss, watch out. The Gators might be looking at a second title in three years with the right breaks.

6. Missouri. In last year’s dead-tree edition season preview, I listed the Tigers as a “sell high” candidate and was wary of their status as a popular Big 12 North title pick.


OK, that mistake isn’t going to occur again. Yes, Chase Daniel is legitimate. Yes, the defense is loaded with returning starters. Yes, Mizzou football is more relevant now than at any point since the Bay of Pigs.

But these guys are still missing a defining victory over Oklahoma or Texas. The Tigers haven’t beaten Oklahoma since 1998 and Texas since 1997, and they could really use a victory Oct. 18 in Austin to validate their top-10 status.

—- Patrick Stevens