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Old 08-21-09, 06:08 AM
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Who will be No. 1 in college football?

Who will be No. 1 in college football?
By Stu Durando

From left: Quarterback Sam Bradford of the Oklahoma Sooners; quarterback Tim Tebow of the Florida Gators; and quarterback Colt McCoy of the Texas Longhorns.

Under the BCS system, college football has seen a handful of annual power programs that are predictably in the hunt for the national championship any given year.

LSU, Ohio State, USC and Oklahoma — or some combination — tend to be in the mix with regularity.

But Florida is on the brink of reaching a new echelon. Or maybe the Gators already are there.

With the No. 1 ranking in virtually every preseason publication, coach Urban Meyer’s team has the look of a dynasty and is the favorite to win its second consecutive BCS title and its third in the past four seasons.

Many of the usual suspects are in the early discussion. But other than quarterback Tim Tebow, the clearest reason to expect the Gators to reach the title game at the Rose Bowl is their schedule.

While Oklahoma is knocking heads with BYU and Miami during nonconference play, Florida has Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International. Southern California plays at Ohio State, California, Notre Dame and Oregon. The Gators have road games against Kentucky, Mississippi State and South Carolina.

Florida’s biggest obstacle on the way to Pasadena is a game at LSU, where the Tigers have won the past two meetings between the schools. But Florida scored 51 on LSU last season.

Do it again, and the Gators should ultimately find themselves playing for another championship.

1. Florida

What's not to like? The Gators won it all last season. The country's ninth-best defense returns every starter. And a Heisman-winning QB (Tim Tebow) doesn't hurt.

2. Texas

The Longhorns will be more dangerous if QB Colt McCoy doesn't have to lead the team in rushing. An experienced line should pave the way for more fireworks.

3. Oklahoma

The Sooners must rebuild the offensive line, which was critical to last year's success. QB Sam Bradford starred, but the Sooners return two 1,000-yard rushers.

4. USC

There are enough question marks — quarterback, rebuilding defense — to suggest the Trojans may be vulnerable. But when have they ever had trouble filling holes?

5. Penn State

Daryll Clark can throw and Evan Royster can run, but the offense lacks experienced receivers. Ohio State game at home could decide the Big Ten.

6. Alabama

QB Greg McElroy played behind Chase Daniel for three years in high school before setting a Texas state record with 56 TD passes as a senior.

7. Mississippi

The Rebels won last season at Florida and got better during the season's second half. QB Jevan Snead could challenge Tebow statistically.

8. Virginia Tech

The Hokies managed to win the ACC after starting 5-3 last year. But they took a big hit with the loss of RB Darren Evans to a knee injury.

9. Ohio State

All eyes will be on the meeting with USC on Sept. 12 as the Buckeyes try to shake their reputation as a bust on the national stage.

10. Oklahoma State

There may not be a better skill trio in the country than QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant. But, oh, that defense.

11. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets just might have the best RB corps in the country, led by Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones. A solid defense returns eight starters.

12. California

The Bears have a Heisman prospect in RB Jahvid Best. But will QB Kevin Riley finally find enough consistency to win over coach Jeff Tedford?

13. Boise State

The Broncos are primed for another huge offensive year after a breakout freshman season from QB Kellen Moore. They hope to crash the BCS.

14. LSU

There's a new coordinator for a defense that allowed more than 30 points in five games last year. Games at Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss make things tough.

15. Oregon

The Ducks have to love a schedule that includes the best of the Pac-10 at home. QB Jeremiah Masoli's offense topped 30 points nine times in 2008.

16. Iowa

The Hawkeyes' four 2008 losses were by a total of 12 points, and they ended Penn State's title hopes. The Big Ten's top defense returns eight starters.

17. BYU

The Cougars have won their past 18 home games and get the Mountain West's top challengers on their turf. QB Max Hall averaged 304 passing yards in '08.

18. Georgia

The 2008 Bulldogs disappointed, even with two NFL-caliber skill players. Suspicion is that lower expectations will help. Opening at Oklahoma State might not.

19. TCU

The offense has been explosive, but the Horned Frogs led the country in total defense in 2008. They have 11 wins in three of the past four seasons.

20. North Carolina

A solid defense returns nine starters. If QB T.J. Yates stays healthy, the offense could be sound, but the team has virtually no experience at WR.

21. Notre Dame

Charlie Weis has replenished the roster with abundant talent, but QB Jimmy Clausen needs to improve on last year's 17 interceptions.

22. Utah

The QB job is undecided, and the top three WRs are gone. But after stuffing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Utes have the makings of another stingy defense.

23. Kansas

The Jayhawks return a ton of weapons, including QB Todd Reesing, after averaging 33 points a game. Shaky defense means they'll need that potent offense.

24. Oregon State

The Beavers, who beat USC in '08, should score plenty with RB Jacquizz Rodgers. Coach Mike Riley annually exceeds expectations in the Pac-10.

25. Pittsburgh

The Panthers might have enough to win the wide-open Big East after some disappointing years. They return 14 starters after playing in the Sun Bowl.

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