Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Gridiron-Conference Preseason Breakdown

It's that time of year again, college football fans. Freshmen are hastily moving in to dorms, far too much money is being spent on textbooks, the grills are warm and the beer is cold — this can mean only one thing: Football season is in the air. And while many students spent the summer playing countless hours of Madden or sitting in a cubicle for far too long, football teams all across the nation have been preparing for the 2007 season. So sit back and let Gridiron Nation predict each major conference's champion.

Atlantic Division Champion: Wake Forest
Coastal Division Champion: Virginia Tech
Overall Conference Champion: Virginia Tech
It will be a tough race between the Demon Deacons and the Clemson Tigers, but quarterback Riley Skinner and company should win their second-straight Atlantic title. The deciding factor could very well be their Nov. 10 matchup. In order to win the ACC and make its case for a BCS Bowl, Virginia Tech will have to prove it can beat the top teams. With a road game against LSU in the second week of the season and back-to-back games in November against Georgia Tech and Florida State, running back Brandon Ore and the rest of the Virginia Tech team will have their work cut out for them. This season should have extra meaning to the Hokie community, which was shaken by a violent shooting spree in April. Expect them to rally around their team as they claim the ACC championship.

Champion: West Virginia
The Mountaineers have too much talent for anyone else in the Big East to match, although Louisville and Rutgers certainly know how to win as well. West Virginia boasts two potential Hesiman candidates in juniors Steve Slaton and Patrick White. In 2006, Slaton ran for 1,744 yards, third-best in the nation. With most teams focusing mainly on Slaton, White has proven he can be an effective weapon, keeping opposing defenses honest. Last season he threw 13 touchdown passes and completed passes with a high rate of accuracy (65.9 percent). Slaton, White and the emotion from WVU's 38-35 victory over Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl should carry over into this season as they set their sights on a BCS bid.


Champion: Wisconsin
Although a bold prediction, it is certainly not just a homer pick. The Badgers have their best chance to snag the conference crown in several years, as they return 18 starters from last year's 12-win team. P.J. Hill, the 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, will be the workhorse for the offense. Despite rushing for 1,569 yards, he was slowed in the last few games of the year, including the Capital One Bowl against Arkansas. The reason: He was taking too many hits. During the offseason Hill worked with the UW coaching staff on reshaping his body to help him avoid the excessive nicks and stingers he played with last season. The quarterback position was up in the air throughout the spring and most of summer, but Bret Bielema says he's going with the more experienced Tyler Donovan. Early November will be Wisconsin's chance to prove it's worthy to be at the top. Games at Ohio State and home against Michigan in back-to-back weeks will determine UW's postseason fate.

BIG 12
North Champion: Nebraska
South Champion: Texas
Overall Conference Champion: Texas
Nine wins was nice for the Cornhuskers last season, but don't be surprised if they match or exceed that number this season. Head coach Bill Callahan has turned this program in the right direction over the past few years. While they only won five games in his first season with the team, they went on to win eight in 2005 and garnered a bowl berth. Nebraska continued to show improvement last season when it finished with a win in the Cotton Bowl over a solid Auburn team. Even with Nebraska's recent success, the Big 12 champion will come out of the South division, which has two Top 10 teams. Oklahoma took the conference crown last season, but it's Texas' turn this year. Both teams have fairly easy non-conference schedules and each should enter Big 12 play with 4-0 records. Circle Oct. 6 on your calendar: Oklahoma travels to Austin for a game that not only could determine the conference champion but could also have BCS bowl implications for whichever team comes out on top. Since taking over the starting quarterback duties for the Longhorns, sophomore Colt McCoy has been electric. In an injury-riddled 2006, he threw for 29 touchdowns and more than 2,500 yards. With a healthy McCoy and a home crowd behind it, Texas should win the game, and eventually, the conference.

PAC 10
Champion: USC
Perhaps no other conference in college football has such a clear-cut favorite to finish on top as the Pac 10. Certainly the conference is deep, but USC is a step or two above Cal, UCLA, Oregon State and the rest of the competition. Quarterback John David Booty is on nearly everyone's preseason Heisman list. Meanwhile, the defense returns all but linebacker Dallas Sartz. It will be highlighted by defensive linemen Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson. The only weakness, if it could even be counted as such, is at wide receiver. Playmakers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett moved on to the NFL, leaving a few spots up for grabs. Patrick Turner will likely be Booty's top target at receiver, while the No. 2 option will fall to sophomore Vidal Hazelton. Turner has the size — 6 feet 5 inches — to make some big plays for the Trojans. With few soft spots in the lineup, USC could very well be playing in New Orleans come January.

East Champion: Florida
West Champion: LSU
Overall Champion: Florida
Should fans anticipate another great season from the defending champion Florida Gators? Yes. How about a second championship in as many years? Well, that's another matter altogether. Although Florida showed they belonged at the top last year with a romp of Ohio State in the BCS Championship, historically, winning back-to-back championships is hard to do. Regardless, Florida should find itself in a BCS bowl at season's end and will take the SEC title along the way. Now that Chris Leak is gone, Tim Tebow will be the primary signal caller on offense. Coach Urban Meyer may still go with a similar two-quarterback attack, however, by utilizing either Bryan Waggener or freshman Cameron Newton alongside Tebow.

Conference Champion: Hawaii
The WAC will be a two-team race between the Rainbow Warriors and last year's media darling, Boise State. It will be very hard for the Broncos to repeat last year's accomplishment — earning a berth to a BCS bowl game, upsetting Oklahoma thanks to a little trickery and finishing ranked No. 5 in the AP poll. Boise State lacks last year's quarterback Jared Zabransky while Hawaii's quarterback, Colt Brennan, remains. In his 2006 campaign, Brennan put up some big numbers en route to leading the NCAA in passing with 5,549 yards and 58 touchdowns. Hawaii's impressive receiving corps — Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullen and Jason Rivers — caught 36 of Brennan's touchdowns last year and should be equally productive in 2007.

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