Okay, Stranko, put your chin strap on and get your waders out: the bullshit is about to get awfully deep around here.
Get out your waders, even if you look like Sammy Hagar's ex-wife.
Here's my first shot at a preseason top 25.
A clause or two first, though:
This is based on current stock. By this we mean current standing given final standing last year, bowl performance, coaching and roster turnover, question marks on the depth chart, fluctuations in commodity prices on the Nikkei, influence of astrological forces on the team's fortunes, and finally, whether Paris thinks they're hot or not. This is NOT how we think things will shake out, since we've already got this absurdly confident idea of how the season will actually turn out, and cannot be dissuaded. (If you think our guesses would be anymore accurate than anyone else's, well, we suggest you send us a check for ten large immediately, since it might hurt less to have someone else lose it for you on Betonsports.com than seeing it disappear from your own sweaty, clutching hand.
Losing hurts. Outsource your sports gambling to us, and ease the inevitable pain of unavoidable loss.
And now, our first ten.
1. USC. Ah, it's good to be king. Just ask Pete Carroll. Run off Norm Chow and people still don't bat an eye, putting you by default in the number one slot. We'd love to be iconoclastic and disagree-we know something you don't, dear reader!-but we just can't do it. Some rules in life are incontrovertible: fat middle-aged men lust after anorexic young women, mix gin with anything besides tonic and you will wake up in gutters, and the champ stays at number one 'till they lose.
Ask Jerry Lawler or Pete Carroll: it's good to be king.
2. Tennessee It...kills...us...just...to...type...this. Seriously, it took a shot, a crying jag, and fifteen minutes just to pound out that sentence. If not for honesty, we'd rather piss in our own hair than put them this high on our poll. We would have put Michigan in here happily, but Tennessee's defense puts them a wooden nickel above the Wolverines in our poll, specifically Jesse Mahelona and the Tennessee line, a batch of maulers of a caliber John Chavis hasn't had in a while. The only consolation in putting them second in our poll will be moving them down when they lose, which we think/hope/pray will happen sooner rather than later.
3. Michigan. The "potential" pick, based on the offense's nice rhythm they developed last year and the improving play of the defense. Chad Henne is the lastest in a long line of competent, mild-mannered white quarterbacks we suspect to be products of a UM clandestine human cloning project, and should score enough points to keep Michigan in any game they play-even against the vaunted OSU defense. We also like Texas roughing up Ohio State early in the schedule to soften them up a bit before the rivalry game with Big Blue. A schedule free of streaky but deadly Purdue doesn't hurt, either.
Do you ever see Chad Henne, Elvis Grbac, Brian Griese, and Tom Brady in the same place at the same time? We didn't think so...
4. Texas Yup, the team ranked above them got beaten by Texas in their bowl game. Life's not always fair. Neither are rankings. The bad news is they lost juggernaut Cedric Benson, and have only scatback Selvin Young as a replacement. The good news is you hired Gene Chizik, a "rock out with your cock out" defensive coordinator who turned Auburn's defense into a pack of rabid dogs last season. Bad news? Mack Brown still calls the plays against Oklahoma every year, which means a loss early on could leave Brown tap-dancing for a good bowl slot again come December. Good news: Limas Sweed can burn, in addition to having a killer Southern football name.
5. Utah. Don't forget them just because Urban Meyer's gone to Hogtown. Kyle Whittingham coached the defense that broke out the pipes and torches on Tyler Palko in the Fiesta Bowl, and he'll do little to stand in the way of the offense scoring at will. Much of the magic formula that made them a BCS-buster will still be in place. Again, you can't drop 'em 'till they give you a reason to, so they'll stay here at five until we see a reason to move them. Judging from the continued excellence at Bowling Green, Urban Meyer seems to leave a good structure in place when he leaves a program.
6. Virginia Tech We resort to quoting Fiddy to describe the Hokies' ranking in our top ten: "We in da club, doin' the same ol' two step." That two-step--good special teams, Bud Foster's defense, and a run-first offense--got them the ACC title last year and a taut, hard-fought loss to Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. With Marcus Vick staying away from the high-schoolers and sticking to completing short passes and scrambling, there's little reason to doubt Va. Tech's boring, dependable moves won't have them shuffling into another top ten finish in 2005.
Frank Beamer hopes Marcus Vick is checking out legal booty in this photo. Check out the ice...that means he's wealthy beyond all imagination.
7. Miami. Miami is, in some respects, drawing on past credit here. But they've got substantial capitol and a nice portfolio to lean on, especially now that they've gotten rid of Wonderlic ace Brock Berlin and replaced him with Kyle Wright. Miami fans, unlike most, don't shy away at the mention of a freshman qb; the last one they had was Ken Dorsey, and he did a decent enough job, going 38-2. If Kyle Wright can take a snap from center and read the defense at the same time, he'll be an automatic improvement on Berlin. The skill players on offense on defense will, as always, be fast, smart, ruthless, and prone to committing misdemeanors after a night on South Beach. Good news: staff continuity and a rich talent pool. Bad news: a bear of an ACC schedule including the Hokies in Blacksburg.
8. Ohio State Once they got the qb situation straightened out last year, the Buckeyes played like most people thought they could. The offense, while not a scoreboard breaker by any standard, should be capable. The real reasons to put them this high on the list, however, are a mean defense with a pack of pit bull linebackers, an early season, poll-boosting appearance versus Texas, and the tendency of Tressel's teams not to trip over their own feet in big games. We never trust a man in a sweater vest, but we opt to hate the playa in Tressel's case, and not hate the game.(And yes, we think they'll beat Texas, several spots above them in this poll, but last year matters here, remember. And last year wasn't great for OSU.)
Shorts sleeves with a tie. You couldn't make this shit up.
9. Louisville The only thing standing between Louisville and glory is their defense, since Petrino's schemes are so slippery and so sound they mystify even the most seasoned d-coordinators. Don't think they can't knock you over, either: Michael Bush has enough biscuits in his basket to knock people on their ass if he has to. If the defense can gel and Petrino can refrain from making goo-goo eyes with large programs during the season, we'll be looking at something spectacular here with a relatively easy romp through the Big East.
10. Boise State. Like Louisville in that their offense is as sound as you'll find in the country. Also like them in that their defense is a perpetual liability. We would have them above Louisville, but losing in the bowl game to the Cards puts them a notch down by default with no significant roster changes to either team. (Leflors is gone, sure, but Brian Brohm is just as good, if not better.)
Dan Hawkins, doing his best Billy Idol, cries more, more, more after Boise State racks up yet another score.