What do Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, Clemson, and West Virginia have in common? Most college football prognosticators are picking them to win their respective conferences.
While some are bigger favorites than others, each one will face some stiff competition from a “sleeper” team in their conference.
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a sleeper as “someone or something unpromising or unnoticed that suddenly attains prominence or value.” This season the “sleeper” could very well cause some upheaval in the BCS.
The biggest threat to Georgia’s title hopes could very well be the Florida Gators. The Dawgs may be cursed with one of the toughest schedules in college football, while their biggest competition is blessed with one of the easiest (as far as SEC schedules go).
The showdown in the “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” will most likely decide who will represent the Eastern Division in the SEC title game. However, before the Dawgs get to the “Cocktail Party” they will face a tough test at Arizona State and two weeks later at home with the Tennessee Volunteers.
My sleeper pick for the SEC is sandwiched between those two games. The Georgia Bulldogs better not overlook the Nick Saban lead Alabama Crimson Tide. I know, I know…Bama?
While everyone is pointing towards the future for Alabama, considering its epic recruiting class, the time might actually be now to start winning big.
The Tide come into the 2008 campaign with a veteran quarterback in John Parker Wilson, a great combo at tight end with Nick Walker and Travis McCall, a trio of good running backs with Terry Grant, Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch, and a strong offensive line led by left tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell.
New offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will utilize the talent he has on offense by running the ball more, using those great tight ends, and giving John Parker Wilson a chance to succeed by calling quicker, shorter passes.
Bama will have a run stuffing defense led by nose tackle Lorenzo Washington and speedy linebackers including Rolando McClain and look for star recruit Jerrell Harris to make an impact in year one. Senior Rashad Johnson will lead a defensive backfield that will get plenty of picks and plenty of big stops this season.
This team, though younger, will be better than last years team than finished 7-6 and the Tide will be in the thick of the SEC West title hunt. A huge win over Georgia would give Bama a load of confidence. For Georgia, a loss in this game would be the disastrous because with their schedule, they can not afford to lose one they are supposed to win.
Can anyone in the Big Ten threaten the Ohio State Buckeyes? While the Buckeyes are far and away the choice to win the conference, the Big Ten will be a tougher road to navigate this season. Wisconsin, Penn State, and Illinois return teams that could all pose a threat to Ohio State’s dominance, but the sleeper in the Big Ten is Michigan State Spartans.
The offensive line is huge, running back Javon Ringer is special, the receivers, while inexperienced, are fast, and quarterback Brian Hoyer is a good veteran who won’t get much publicity because he isn’t fancy.
The defense has the potential to be fantastic with Cincinnati transfer Trevor Anderson likely to be as good as, or better, than departed defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic. Future draft pick Otis Wiley appears to be home at strong safety after struggling the first part of last year at free safety.
The defensive front seven, led by linebacker Greg Jones, is fast and will get to the ball in a hurry.
Mark Dantonio has the blend of speed and power that he needs, and now the close wins have to start going Sparty’s way. All six of Michigan State’s losses last season came by seven points or fewer. Veteran, confident teams win the close games, and this year’s Spartan team is more experienced and more confident. Most of all, they’re better.