Gridders Should Start 2008 In Good Company

The 2007 season ended on a down note for Ohio State, so it's never too early for the Buckeye Nation to look ahead to the 2008 season. Spirits should be high in that regard; the Buckeyes, as expected, sit in the top 10 of some already released national previews.

Just as it was in the early stages of last year, the Ohio State football team is now 0-1 during the year 2008.

Of course, that figures to be one of the few games that ends up on the right column of the ledger during that year. Ohio State figures to add an excellent recruiting class to a group of returning youngsters to form a team that should sit in the top 10 of the national rankings when the season starts in August with a game against Youngstown State, giving fans something positive to look toward even during the week after a second straight title game loss, this one to LSU.

In fact, some media pundits already have released top-10 rankings for the 2008 preseason. Therefore, BSB has compiled a composite top 10 of rankings we could find. The polls were released by's Mark Schlabach, CNNSI's Stewart Mandel and a staff compilation from the Orlando Sentinel.

Ohio State sits near the top of the charts along with some usual suspects.

The BSB ridiculously early consensus top 10 poll:
1. Georgia (2)
2. Oklahoma
3. USC (1)
4. Ohio State
5. Florida
6. Missouri
7. West Virginia
8. LSU
9. Wisconsin
10. Texas

Some short capsules of each team are below:

1. Georgia The Bulldogs were the darlings of the bowl season, as many chose to focus on UGA's romp over a clearly outmatched Hawaii team in the Sugar Bowl rather than its loss to South Carolina and its getting run by Tennessee. However, there's not much denying that the ‘Dawgs had one of the best teams in the country at the end of the season. Tailback Knowshon Moreno, just a freshman, burst onto the scene to finish with 1,334 and 14 touchdowns, while sophomore Matt Stafford tossed for more than 2,500 yards and had 19 touchdowns. However, a solid defense will have to replace top pass-rusher Marcus Howard, but leading tackler Dannell Ellerbe has said he plans to return for his senior year.

2. Oklahoma Freshman Sam Bradford was one of the top first-year quarterbacks in the nation, leading an offense that averaged more than 42 points per game by completing 69.5 percent of his passes, compiling 3,121 yards through the air and tossing 36 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Leading rusher Allen Patrick will be gone, but backup DeMarco Murray rang up 764 yards and 13 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman and third back Chris Brown, who had 611 yards, should also return. The three top wideouts, including Juaquin Iglesias and the tight end all have eligibility left. Top linebacker Curtis Lofton, who had 157 tackles, is a junior who could leave for the draft, but top pass rusher Auston English is set to return.

3. USC Get used to seeing the Trojans in the top five of the preseason rankings given how much talent head coach Pete Carroll has compiled. Quarterback John David Booty is graduating, but some believe backup Mark Sanchez, who played in eight games in 2007, will be better. The Trojans stock of tailbacks, led by tremendously impressive freshman Joe McKnight, is well known, and a group of young wideouts should only improve. Leading tackler Rey Maualuga says he's returning, but disruptive senior linemen Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis are gone to NFL riches. Freshman Everson Griffin figures to be a capable replacement. The showdown with the team right below them in these rankings will go a long way in determining the success of this squad.

4. Ohio State A number of juniors sit on the fence about their draft plans, but no matter who comes back the Buckeyes figure to have at least as good a team next season. Quarterback Todd Boeckman, running back Beanie Wells and wideouts Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline should all be back to help an offense that performed well in 2007. Defensively, a return to health for Lawrence Wilson, Curtis Terry and Ross Homan should add to a team that was young in key places along the defensive line and secondary. Even the linebacking unit, which could be stripped by NFL draft losses, boasts excellent young talent.

5. Florida Returning a Heisman Trophy winner who accounted for 55 touchdowns is enough to get the Gators back into the top five. Said trophy winner, Tim Tebow, should only get better as a junior. He and Percy Harvin, who ran for 764 yards and caught passes for 858 yards, will be classmates, and the two provided just about any offense the Gators had against Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. Defensively, the Gators were tremendously young in 2007, even starting true freshmen in Major Wright and Joe Haden in the secondary. Top tackler Brandon Spikes (131 tackes, 16 for loss) is just a sophomore as well. The Gators do have to travel to Florida State to end the year, and Miami and Hawaii are on the nonconference schedule.

6. Missouri Chase Daniel returns for the team with the biggest beef when it came to being left out of the Bowl Championship Series. The Tigers responded with a shellacking of Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, but the star of that game, tailback Tony Temple (281 yards, four touchdowns), will graduate. The good news is that redshirt freshman wideout Jeremy Macklin (1,055 yards, nine touchdowns) returns to help Daniel, who completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 4,306 yards and 33 touchdowns. Defensively, the Tigers were beatable in 2007, but linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Brock Christopher join safety William Moore as Tigers with more than 100 tackles in '07 who are returning. Stryker Sulak, who topped the team with 11 tackles for loss, will return as well.

7. West Virginia The Mountaineers lost a head coach in Rich Rodriguez, but the prognosticators seem all right in placing new man Bill Stewart's squad in the high national rankings for next season. The reasons? The returns of soon-to-be seniors Pat White and Steve Slaton, as well as the emerging Noel Devine. Both White and Slaton ran for more than 1,000 yards, while Slaton picked up 17 touchdowns on the ground and White had 14 scores both passing and rushing. He also completed 66.7 percent of his passes and just four interceptions. Both are electric runners. They are joined in that regard by Devine, a touted freshman who ran for 627 yards in '07. Senior wideout Darius Reynaud (12 touchdowns) will graduate. Defensively, WVU allowed less than 20 points per game in '07, and the top two tacklers in linebackers Reed Williams and Morty Ivy come back. The top three DBs in Ryan Mundy, Eric Wicks and Antonio Lewis all have exhausted their eligibility.

8. LSU The defending national champions will lose a number of key players, including senior QB Matt Flynn, RB Jacob Hester and WR Early Doucet, along with playmaking defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. However, Ryan Perrilloux proved he was more than capable of manning the offense, and plenty of talent in Trindon Holliday, Keiland Williams, Brandon LaFell and Demetrius Byrd returns at the skill spots. Defensively, the Tigers will have to replace Dorsey along with linebacker Ali Highsmith and safety Craig Steltz, but depth was one of the major reasons the Tigers could knock off the Buckeyes for the title. The usually tough SEC will again provide resistance.

9. Wisconsin The final two spots feature teams on which the national opinion tends to diverge, as the Badgers received a fourth-place spot in one poll, 10th in another and were not in the top 10 in the third. The Badgers hope to receive a full year of health from tailback P.J. Hill, who battled injuries after an excellent freshman campaign in 2006. Many seem to like quarterback Allen Evridge, a Kansas State transfer who backed up senior Tyler Donovan. Top receivers in Kyle Jefferson and Travis Beckum (982 yards, six touchdowns) return, while linebackers Jonathan Casillas (96 tackles), DeAndre Levy (70) and Elijah Hodge (67) were all juniors in 2007. And the Badgers get Ohio State in Madison this time around, where the Buckeyes lost in 2003 during their last trip to the Madhouse.

10. Texas The Longhorns enter the top 10 on the strength of Schlabach's vote, as the man placed them seventh in his poll while the other two did not list the squad. Quarterback Colt McCoy threw for 3,303 yards and 22 touchdowns, but 18 of his passes ended up in enemy hands. The Longhorns will have to replace 18-touchdown back Jamaal Charles. Defensively, Mack Brown hopes the hiring of Auburn's Will Muschamp will boost a defense that allowed 25.3 points per game and will lose a number of contributors, including safety Marcus Griffin (99 tackles, five interceptions), cornerback Brandon Foster (71 tackles, four picks) and linebacker Scott Derry (68 tackles).

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