Orson's earlier post on who has the most to lose was interesting, but I had some thoughts. So on to my counter points to his thesis:
Daddy, are you going to fire me??
1. Florida State: Orson believes that FSU is a team on a edge with its fate in the hands of Jeff Bowden.... will they dive off that cliff this year? I pretty much agree with this one. Jeff Bowden is under major scrutiny this year as the once explosive Seminoles look like an offense designed by Mike Shula for the old puke orange Buccaneers. What happened to their balance, their innovation, their ability to score? Jeff Bowden is in over his head, that's what. He has managed to survive thus far thanks in part to the bonus points stored up by his nepotistic father "Saint" Bobby but also in large part to the Zooker. Yes, Ron Zook has as much to do with Jeff's survival as Bobby does because the press in the state has been obsessed with the foibles of the Zook regime and his attempt to tear down what the Ole ball coach built up. But the Zooker is gone. Now, the major papers throughout the state that were ever savaging the well meaning but largely incompetent Zook will turn there attention to the obvious abuse of standing by Senior Bowden in keeping Jeff at the helm of the offense. So, it is make or break time for Jeff. Either he adapts and learns from the legacy of good to great coaching in his family or he becomes the scapegoat for a team that is loaded with talent that fails to make a BCS game. Expectations are high and the Seminoles have the weapons to make a run, but so much will rest on how Jeff Bowden develops a new quarterback and if he can get some consistency out of the offense. I tend to think the Seminoles will survive because the ACC, while improving, still only has two teams that have talent on par with the Noles, Mickey Andrews will be able to win many games with his vaunted defense, and if things start to get ugly, look for Jeff Bowden to keep his title, but lose some play calling ability. With that said, a bad season could start a Paterno-esque degradation in the program.
2. Penn State: Speaking of Joe Pa, I again agree with Orson's inclusion of Penn State on this ignominious list. This is it for Joe Pa's credibility. This is his last chance to get things turned around as he'd like to do before being able to select his heir apparent. Coming off his best recruiting year in years, Paterno has some young guns ready to try to restore the mystique of Penn State, who for the first time since the 1950's had no players drafted in the NFL's draft. The freshman class may be strong, but they will not be enough to make the Nittany Lion's bowl eligible, which would be enough for Paterno to keep the critics at bay and be able to sell the turnaround to next years recruits as well. I hope he does it. He's a class act and he's good for the game. But if I were a betting man, I'd say he fall flat on his face again. He's already indicated that he's sticking with last years starting quarterback, who would be better served being moved to wide out. This is in keeping with Paterno's loyalty to his seniors, but is a mistake for the program that needs to take some chances to break out of its rut.
3. Oregon: I like this pick, but I think it should have been made last year. In my mind, football prominence in the state of Oregon was a temporary blip only to be seen once every 20 or so years. Simply put, Bellotti has jumped the shark. Sure, he can still coach, but Tedford obviously had a lot more to do with his success than anyone realized at the time. I think because the Pac 10, outside of USC, is in a down period Oregon will still make some noise every now and again, but they won't be perennial top 10 finishers. The homegrown talent is just not there to support a premier program without some serious coaching genius... which unfortunately for the well dressed Ducks, has moved to Berkeley.
4. USC: Are you kidding me? Two years of being co-national champions in a row has earned Pete Carroll and the Trojans a major grace period... which they won't need this year as they again compete for the national title all year. Now, I will agree that this year might be viewed as a pivotal year for USC 5 or 6 years from now, because Norm Chow was perhaps the best coordinator in the college ranks, but USC's talent and defense would still have been there without him. I don't think the Trojan's will skip much of a beat this year with Leinart and Bush both returning. The difference could be in the development or lack thereof of Leinart's successors. Even without Chow, I'd expect USC to stay among the top of the Pac 10 elite the foreseeable future.
WHO SHOULD REPLACE USC YOU ASK????
5. Oklahoma: Bobby Stoops is still considered the preeminent coach in college football because of the dramatic turnaround at Oklahoma.... but cracks are starting to show. Will Oklahoma become the Atlanta Braves of College Football? They are well on their way. Year after year under Stoops they have been in the hunt, but the last two years they have been absolutely dismantled in the big game. The problem Stoops is facing is the same one that his mentor, Spurrier, was concerned about at Florida.... expectations. Sooner fans now not only expect to wallop Texas every year, they expect to play for AND WIN a national championship. If Mack Brown finds a substitute coach for the Red River Shootout allowing Texas to get that monkey off their back and beat Oklahoma, the Sooner nation will be antsy. Likewise, one more major failure in a major bowl game might get the press which has been in a love affair with Stoopsie so far, to start asking whether Oklahoma is that good, or if the Big 12 is over rated.
AND ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD:
6. Louisville: Bobby Petrino has built Louisville into a bone fide program (although it was moving in that direction when he arrived). He's been getting fat on a mid-major schedule, but he showed last year that they are for real in there close loss to Miami. Now, he's got his hot shot recruit, Brohm, starting the whole season and a potential automatic BCS bid in the Big East (which is not much tougher than Conference USA was). He will miss the hard running of Eric Shelton and the leadership and accuracy of LeFlors at quarterback. It is also tough to win year in and year out without a defense. Louisville has a dynamic athletic department which will provide Petrino with all he needs to succeed and being in the Big East will provide the opportunity for credibility without having to be tested every week. The key will be the play of Brohm, but I think he'll be good enough with the talent that surrounds him to succeed.