Phil Steele’s projection of Oklahoma as the preseason number one team has certainly gotten its share of virtual tongues wagging. Here’s something from Matt Hinton’s reflection on Steele’s pick that got me to thinking:
… There are precedent for such a rebound, too. Beginning with Oklahoma’s out-of-nowhere BCS championship run in 2000, three teams in the last decade – the 2000 Sooners, Ohio State in 2002 and LSU in 2003 – have rebounded from unranked, five-loss seasons to win the BCS championship, all with expectations of far more modest improvement. Two others, Washington in 2000 and Auburn in 2004, came off five-loss seasons to finish within very plausible striking distance of a BCS title shot, and Alabama surged from 7-6 in 2007 to within half a quarter of a BCS championship bid following a 12-0 regular season in 2008.
And when you consider the glaring flaws of the Crimson Tide as the consensus No. 1 going into this fall – again, nine new starters on defense; nine – 2010 seems to scream for an outside-the-box contender to emerge from the pack. Frankly, outside of the unanimous top three (‘Bama, Boise State and Ohio State), a healthy, rejuvenated Oklahoma makes about as much sense at No. 1 as anyone else.
Take a look at Steele’s top 10. Or make up your own, if you prefer. Is there any team on such a list that you feel as confident about winning this year’s MNC as, say, Texas, Florida or Alabama did last season? I mean, Matt’s right about the consensus top three: ‘Bama is looking at huge changes on defense and questions about its special teams; Boise State may have a clearly defined path to the title game, but it’s still got to win those games against Virginia Tech and Oregon State first; and, yeah, it’s easy to see Ohio State playing in the title game, but winning it?
You can say the same thing about the SEC. Steele has four teams from the conference ranked between 15 and 21 – Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina. We’ve hashed around their flaws and upsides plenty. But what if it turns out that everybody’s PH™ is semi-justified and all of those programs are much improved in 2010? That would have the makings of one wild and crazy season.
To which I say: bring it on. 2007 is my benchmark for college football entertainment (hell, LSU’s season by itself was a benchmark – a MNC with two triple-overtime losses isn’t something you see every day). That year defined “wide open” all the way down to the very last weekend of the regular season. Maybe things are shaping up to give us another year for the ages. I won’t complain if they do, that’s for sure. Besides, it beats listening to more speculative crap about Big Ten expansion.