Beyond Nova Nation: Football’s top five for the championship drive

David Cassilo


The weather is getting cooler, classes have started and Lee Corso is getting feistier. This can only mean that we are on the verge of yet another college football season. Last year was special as the nation saw the underdog Florida Gators team shock the country with its blitzkrieg on the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, both finalists lost key components of their run to the title game, which brightens the hopes of every other team across the land. Although the season is still a few days from kickoff, some teams already look like they have what it takes to be No. 1.



A year ago today, Rutgers was not only the joke of the Big East but also much of the nation. Coach Greg Schiano made sure that his players did not believe one word of what other people thought. In one of the best stories of last season, Rutgers restored its program and became a force in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights will be returning the majority of their starters, including Heisman hopeful runningback Ray Rice, and with only two difficult games on its schedule (West Virginia and Louisville), Rutgers will have one of the easier roads through the regular season.



Two years removed from a national championship, Coach Mack Brown has the Longhorns in a position to make a quick return. The key to Texas this season is its high-flying passing attack. Led by outstanding quarterback Colt McCoy, opponents will have a lot of difficulty slowing down the Longhorn offense. However, for the Longhorns to make the trip to New Orleans for a chance to win it all, they must improve on their pass defense, which allowed too many big plays last season. Texas will have its own firepower in the hands of McCoy to compensate for some of these mistakes, but an improvement must be made.


With Ohio State far less talented than last year, the focus shifts back toward the Wolverines in the best rivalry in college football. From an offensive standpoint, Michigan is as talented and experienced as any team in the nation. Senior quarterback Chad Henne and runningback Mike Hart have put up impressive stats for Michigan, but there are two things that elude them both: a win against the Buckeyes and a bowl game victory. This will be the year they get both, and if Michigan’s defense matches the level of the offense, the latter will take place in the BCS title game.


While USC and Miami are credited as being the major pipelines for NFL talent, perhaps no school has produced more stars over the past few years than LSU. JaMarcus Russell, Joseph Addai, LaRon Landry and Dwayne Bowe are just a few of many Tigers set to make a legacy at the next level. Once again, LSU is stacked at almost every position. Quarterback Matt Flynn and runningback Keiland Williams should become household names on offense for the Tigers, while mammoth defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey will surely be shooting up draft boards. With a group of several special players leaving for the draft last season, the Achilles’ heel of the Tigers may be their lack of experience. They’ll have to make up for that quickly because, in a tough SEC, a loss is possible any week and that may be enough to keep the Tigers from their shot at the title.


Much like Michigan, next year is now for West Virginia. There is a lot of talent across the Mountaineer roster, but many of them will be leaving for the pros next season. West Virginia sports the best rushing attack in the nation with running back Steve Slaton and mobile quarterback Patrick White and, while stopping them is impossible, not many defenses in the country can even slow them down. Heralded freshman runningback Noel Devine will throw another pair of blazing feet into the mix in both the rushing and return game. As great as its offense is, the West Virginia defense may be at a similar level. Often overlooked, this group was best against the run in all of the Big East. The Mountaineers soft regular season schedule should be enough to give them a chance at the title.


Everyone knows about Heisman favorite quarterback John David Booty, but there is a lot more to this Trojan team then just another star signal caller. Unlike their great teams of recent years, this one may be remembered for their defense. Safety Taylor Mays and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga are the heart and soul of this Trojan defense and are so talented that it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see them both go top five in next year’s draft. On the offensive side of the ball, USC is loaded with talent at all of its skill positions. As long as all nine of their running backs don’t bust, the Trojans will be more than fine this season. Non-conference road games at Nebraska and Notre Dame will test this talented squad. If this USC team does not lift the championship trophy, it will be looked at as one of the most disappointing teams in school history.