August is almost here, and with it comes the new college football season. Last season brought more upsets and general mayhem than perhaps any other season in history, and if we're lucky we might get to see more of the same this time around.
Before things officially get underway on August 28th, here's a look at one team and one player to keep an eye on in each of the BCS conferences.
-- The Tigers were one of the surprise stories of 2007, coming out of nowhere to post a 12-2 record and come up a game short of a chance at the national title. This season, almost all the key pieces return -- including QB Chase Daniel, who enters the year with Heisman hype already building after he was a finalist last season. The schedule certainly helps things, with the toughest game looking to be a mid-season trip to Texas. Mizzou has a much bigger target on its back this year, but early predictions suggest that a Big 12 North title could be in order for the Tigers.
-- To call this sophomore Texas Tech receiver an "athletic freak" would be to put it mildly. As a freshman last year he was a nightmare for opposing defenses, racking up nearly 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns on 134 receptions, all of which led the nation for wideouts. This season he should be just as prolific -- and just as much fun to watch, thanks to the pass-happy Tech offense and the return of senior QB Graham Harrell. Of course, see him while you can, because if Crabtree puts up another season like the last he'll be a sure-fire top-10 draft pick and more than likely gone from the college ranks.
West Virginia/Pat White
-- The biggest question team and player questions in the Big East come out of West Virginia, where the Mountaineers are looking to shake off remains of the Rich Rodriquez saga and welcome in their new coach, Bill Stewart, who looks to build on the job he did coaching the team to a resounding Fiesta Bowl to close out last season. But playmaking running back Steve Slaton is no longer in the backfield, putting all eyes on equally electric QB Pat White. Without Slaton behind him to shake things up, White will need to rely on the pass much more than his feet, something that hasn't been seen in Morgantown in quite a few years. If he can remain healthy (always a question for the fragile White), he should get some good help from speedy sophomore RB Noel Devine, and put West Virginia back in the driver's seat in the Big East.
-- Speaking of the Rich Rodriquez saga, his presence as the new head coach at Michigan immediately makes this a team to watch, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Last season the Wolverines wound up a respectable 9-4 with a bowl win over Florida, despite the shocking home loss to Appalachian State. This season sees very few people predicting success, primarily because Michigan lacks the QB needed to run Rodriquez's spread offense. QB prospect Ryan Mallett bolted for Arkansas and QB super-recruit Terrelle Pryor chose hated rival Ohio State instead -- meaning things are shaping to be fairly interesting to watch and possibly gloomy this season in Ann Arbor.
-- Once again, Ohio State looks to have a legit chance to play for another national title. Of course everyone in Columbus is hoping that this time it isn't against an SEC team, but I digress. If the Buckeyes are to have any shot of running the table (which hinges entirely on the much-anticipated showdown with Southern Cal) they'll need another solid year from RB Chris Wells. Last season he made a name for himself as one of the nations top rushers, and this year, his junior campaign, will likely be his last, as he possesses all the attributes of a top-level NFL draft pick. QB Todd Boeckman will also be an integral part of the Buckeyes' success, but Wells is the cornerstone.
-- All due respect to Georgia, but the Gators are still the trendy pick to win the SEC this season and make a run at another national title. Of course, things aren't ever that simple in the ultra-competitive SEC. Florida's biggest question is on defense, an area that held the Gators back last year with youth and inexperience. This season is shaping up to be another tough one in the secondary, as the Gators have already lost several players for the season. On offense, things are a different story, thanks to the return of Heisman winner Tim Tebow and All-American Percy Harvin. If the Gators can establish a running game that doesn't rely on Tebow, they'll be an offensive force. The question will be whether the defense can step up.
-- It takes a special sort of player to evoke talk of Herschel Walker out in Athens, but that's just what happened when Moreno exploded onto the scene last season, becoming the first Bulldog freshman since Walker to rush for over 1,000 yards. Much of Georgia's preseason predictions of success and top-five rankings hinge on Moreno's continued ability to pile up yards. While QB Matt Stafford is now a seasoned veteran, he's not the do-everything passer Georgia hoped he would be. With Moreno in the backfield, though, he won't need to be.
-- The Sun Devils were another surprise last year, experiencing a resurgence under coach Dennis Erickson. But it's been seven years since a team not named Southern Cal took the Pac-10 crown, and the Devils have a long road ahead if they want to unseat the Trojans. The biggest weakness is still the offensive line, which was worst in the nation last year in sacks allowed. Luckily, QB Rudy Carpenter is enough of an athlete to still make plays while being treated like a human punching bag. A week-four showdown with SEC powerhouse Georgia will go a long way to showing how capable Arizona State is this season, but even some improvements over last year might not be enough to get through the schedule unscathed enough to take the conference from USC.
-- Southern Cal is once again loaded with talent, especially at the running back position. But somehow, sophomore Joe McKnight has managed to elevate himself above the other names on the depth chart, even though he's still not listed as a starter. Nonetheless, McKnight is an integral piece to the Trojan's offense, bringing a speed and agility not seen on the team since Reggie Bush. If he can get his academics in order, he could be a major deciding factor in several USC games this season, and it will certainly be fun to watch him compete with Ohio State RB Chris Wells when their showdown comes.
-- Stop me if you've heard this one before: Clemson has all the tools in place to finally break through and win the ACC. Yes, same story different year, and once again the talking heads of the sports world are looking at the Tigers to take the ACC Atlantic Division. The team returns both electrifying running backs in C.J. Spiller and James Davis, as well as quarterback Cullen Harper, who surpassed all expectations as a junior last year. But the real question is: Can coach Tommy Bowden can finally get his team over the hump, or will they drop a couple games they shouldn't, and have another year of "would've, could've, should've?"
-- Virginia Tech lost perhaps as many big-time players as any squad in the nation, yet it's still an early favorite for the ACC Coastal Division. While senior Sean Glennon is the clear starter behind center for the Hokies, it's the Taylor who's the one to watch. One of the top recruits a year ago, he brings a different style of QB play than Glennon, featuring a Michael Vick-like scrambling ability as well as a strong arm. With Taylor sitting on the depth chart, the Hokies know they can be secure at quarterback -- and it'll be interesting to see how they make use of both signal callers.