With July almost upon us and the preview magazines hitting the newsstands, we who love college football find ourselves fully in the grip of the offseason and counting down the days until Labor Day. In anticipation of casting my preseason BlogPoll ballot, I already have identified three teams I’m buying in 2009, but there is a limit to the number of limbs out on which I am willing to go, so now it is time to offer . . .
Kansas Jayhawks: After four straight seasons of bowl-eligibility and 20 wins in the last two years, Mark Mangino’s team is starting to get the sort of reputation that yields regular top 25 rankings. The problem for K.U. is that, during their two-year run, they’ve beaten exactly one regular-season opponent with a pulse, and even that makes the generous assumption that last year’s Missouri Tigers qualified in that category. While I fully expect a 6-0 start from Kansas, the Jayhawks’ six-week stretch run will expose them (and their secondary) as nothing bearing the vaguest resemblance to a contender even in their weak division.
Ole Miss Rebels: It pains me to say so, since I have University of Mississippi alumni in my family and I pretty much root for the Rebels whenever they are playing a team from anywhere other than Athens, but I’m not buying the hype. You can’t not root for Jevan Snead and Dexter McCluster, if only because "Jevan Snead" and "Dexter McCluster" are just so darned much fun to say, but I don’t care who’s back if Michael Oher isn’t. Houston Nutt’s club finished strong in 2008 . . . just like the Georgia Bulldogs did in 2007, complete with a January bowl win over an overhyped mid-major. (All right, technically, the Texas Tech Red Raiders aren’t a mid-major, but come on . . . if Mike Leach’s squad made the jump to the W.A.C., would anyone claim it wasn’t a legitimate fit?) The Rebs will get back to a bowl game, but they won’t replicate last year’s win total and, if they make it to Atlanta in December, it’ll be for the Peach Bowl.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Since the heady 17-7 glory run of 2000 and 2001, the Palmetto State Poultry have been very nearly Chan Gailey-like in their consistency, posting records of 5-7, 5-7, 6-5, 7-5, 8-5, 6-6, and 7-6 in the last seven seasons. The East Coast U.S.C. always manages to win a few close ones and lose a few close ones, but never manages to do enough of either to rise too far above or fall too far below mediocrity. With just eleven starters returning and Stephen Garcia having yet to give any indication that his innate Steve Taneyhillness extends to actual on-field production, I see no reason to believe this is the year the Chicken Curse gets lifted.
I extend my apologies to fans of Kansas, Ole Miss, and South Carolina, but, when it comes to the Jayhawks, Rebels, and Gamecocks, I’ll believe it when I see it.