College Football Watch List

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By Bill Port

Another college football season is underway and of course there are plenty of topics to touch on.  How about those USC Trojans?  One game into the season, the country sees that this is the best team in the nation.  But, not to be overlooked are some other teams that will also do damage this season.

-Teams to Watch-
I was pretty high on Clemson this season, but their debacle in week one quickly changes that prediction.  Once again, I am not sold on any Big Ten teams, but I still think the Ohio State/USC game will be one of the best games of this decade.  It may not be the nail biter that everyone is hoping for, but any time two teams ranked so high can go head-to-head in the regular season you have to watch it.

Like last year, I think people need to keep an eye on South Florida.  I mentioned this team last season, and they climbed the rankings in a hurry before losing some contests against weaker competition that they probably should have won.  However, quarterback Matt Grothe has the unique combination of being able to throw well and take off and run.  He probably won’t be a big NFL prospect, but he is great for the collegiate style of play.  On defense, George Selvie is a big time defensive end, one of the best in the nation, and he will make some noise.

West Virginia is a team that will be near the top-5 all season.  I am a strong believer in quarterbacks with strong scrambling abilities, and Pat White is as good as they come in this regard.  The Mountaineers don’t have Steve Slaton, but they have a handful of guys that will carry the load without a problem.  I think Noel Devine will be an amazing back for them, and he will be a guy teams keep an eye on if not this year, then next year for sure.

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-Surprising Teams-
Cincinnati is playing in a fairly weak Big East conference.  Other than West Virginia and South Florida, there isn’t much going on in that league.  And when Cincy plays those teams, it could be closer than some might think.

Tulsa could be this year’s South Florida. (they are currently not ranked, but could climb the College Football Polls quickly)  David Johnson is a solid quarterback and could catch the attention of some scouts with his play this season.  They also have a good set of running backs that are big time in goal line situations.  The Golden Hurricane could put up some serious points in 2008.  Their only problem is that the team plays in Conference USA, which will hurt their BCS standing.

-Running Backs to Watch-
Outside of the obvious, Chris “Beanie” Wells, there are still plenty of good backs.  Ian Johnson of Boise State will be a top 10 draft pick.  But some other guys that could make it to the big stage are C.J. Spiller of Clemson and Damion Fletcher from Southern Miss.  Both of these backs are surprisingly fast, but I would take Spiller over Fletcher because of the tougher competition that he faces every week.  I would like to say P.J. Hill is a good back, but look at the last few guys to come out of Wisconsin.  It’s safe to say that the stellar offensive linemen the Badgers produce are almost substantially responsible for the success of these backs in college.

-Quarterbacks to Watch-
You can’t talk about QBs without mentioning Tim Tebow.  But everyone knows how incredible this guy is, so all I’ll do is mention his name.  One guy I love is Graham Harrell. (I don’t love him that way…”not that there’s anything wrong with that” as they used to say Seinfeld)  Yes, he is throwing within the Texas Tech offensive juggernaut of a system, but this guy can flat out ball.  He is incredibly accurate, and he has even more strength that Kliff Kingsbury did at Texas Tech, and Kingsbury had a few years in the NFL.  Harrell should be a top 3 QB taken in the draft, probably 2nd behind Tebow.  Some names you may not hear every week, but are very talented in their own right include Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan and Jake Locker from Washington.  Locker is kind of like Matt Grothe from South Florida: a dual threat to throw and run.

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-Wide Receivers to Watch-
I’m not totally sold on this year’s group of receivers.  I don’t think there are as many good playmakers at this position as there are running backs or quarterbacks. However, Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech tops the list.  He is a system guy that should get an enormous amount of catches, yards, and touchdowns, but there is a reason for it. In the past, TT quarterbacks spread the ball around and got all of the attention, but Crabtree is by far the premier guy in a very high-powered offense.  Behind Crabtree is Percy Harvin of Florida who has the “he doesn’t do anything amazing, but he does everything very good” kind of game.  The top “non big-time school” guy that tops the list is Chris Williams from New Mexico State.  Again, this year’s receivers aren’t really what they were the past few years, but there are a couple that could go off and have big years.
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