Most determinations will have to wait until after spring practice, of course, and, of these, many will be downright wrong and almost all will require at least some revision as the 2009 season progresses. However, there are three things about next football season with respect to which I am as sure as I can be at this juncture:
1. Tennessee will be this year’s Michigan. You all recall what happened to the Wolverines in their first year under Rich Rodriguez. Expect the same thing to happen to the Volunteers under Lane Kiffin, only more so, for two reasons. First of all, there is absolutely no evidence at this point to suggest that Coach Kiffin fils is on a par with Coach Rodriguez . . . or even that he’s anything other than Mike Shula dressed in dreamsickle orange. Secondly, when you tick off that many of your colleagues in your first few weeks on the job, you’re going to get your comeuppance more than once, and it will be ugly. By mid-October, the Big Orange message boards will be ablaze with the rhetorical question, "For this we fired a national championship-winning U.T. alum?"
2. The Sun Devils will finish in the top 20, and probably in the top 15. The pattern is clear, and, in 2009, it will be time for Arizona State to reap the benefits. If your team plays west of the Mississippi River and beneath the radar of college football, and you schedule an early season game against the Georgia Bulldogs expecting to springboard a breakthrough season, you will get it . . . the next year. 2005 was going to be the year of the Bronco, until Boise State bit the dust on a beautiful evening between the hedges. In 2006, B.S.U. went undefeated and claimed a victory for the ages over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys anticipated a special season when they opened the autumn in Sanford Stadium in 2007, but Oklahoma State was held very well in check before the Pokes played their way into notability in 2008. Last year was supposed to be the Sun Devils’ year, but a funny thing happened on the way to bowl eligibility. The trend will continue in 2009, when A.S.U.’s would-be banner year will arrive twelve months later than expected. Arizona State will finish no worse than third in a much-improved Pac-10.
3. My preseason No. 1 is going down in flames, and not "blaze of glory" flames, either. If I rank you at the top of my preseason BlogPoll ballot, you are well and truly toast, my friend. Life is about to get very bad for you. In 2008, I picked Georgia, and the bloodletting began. In 2007, I picked Michigan, and Appalachian State happened. In fact, so certain it is that absolute disaster will follow whomever I anoint in August as the nation’s best college football team that I am prepared to make a deal.
Right now, I’m leaning towards naming Florida No. 1. Orson, Gatorpilot, Year 2, skigator93, mlmintampa, et al., I have it in my power to torpedo the Gators big-time. I’m not just talking about a Georgia win in Jacksonville---I think we all know the 19-year cycles, the domination of defending national champions, and the open date are assurance enough of that---I’m talking about not getting the unsportsmanlike conduct call to beat Vanderbilt, losing to F.S.U., and seeing Tim Tebow get Theismanned in a nationally televised game.
It happened to Michigan, it happened to Georgia, it can happen to y’all, and I can happen it.
Unless, for a reasonable price, the Gator faithful persuade me to bestow the No. 1 ranking upon, say, Texas instead.
Florida fans, you are on the clock. Cough up some cash or I will visit upon Gainesville all the horrors that accompany the Dawg Sports preseason No. 1 ranking.
If the Dawg Sports hex is powerful enough to bring about an Appalachian State victory over the Maize and Blue in the Big House, don’t think I can’t bring Charleston Southern back from the Swamp with a W in the Buccaneers’ hip pocket.
What am I bid, gentlemen?