6 essential college football questions
Six pressing questions about the 2008 college football season:
1) Q: Is Southern California in decline?
A: Two straight seasons of 11-2 capped by Rose Bowl victories hardly qualifies as a crumbling dynasty, but for all their five-star recruits the Trojans haven't been as intimidating the past two seasons. If QB Mark Sanchez and RB Joe McKnight are the next Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, as they've been hyped, well, cue the Song Girls and get Traveler ready to gallop. If not, maybe 11-2 becomes 10-3 and the NFL starts looking a little more interesting to Pete Carroll.
2) Q: How much better will Notre Dame be?
A: No need to ask if the Fighting Irish will be better, because they really can't get any worse after a 3-9 season that featured a string of lopsided losses and falling to Navy for the first time in 44 years.
The recruiting experts say coach Charlie Weis has been loading up for three years. Last season, he threw freshman QB Jimmy Clausen and other neophytes into the deep end, and though it didn't go very well, the experience should help Notre Dame get at least three more wins in '08.
3) Q: Will this be Joe Paterno's last season at Penn State?
A: Many signs point toward yes. He doesn't have a contract for next season. University president Graham Spanier seems intent on being the guy to usher out the 81-year-old coach. All the off-field problems with the Nittany Lions make Paterno seem out of touch, and there have been reports that recruits are being told the next coach will come from within. Still, if Paterno doesn't want to go, Penn State surely doesn't want this to get ugly.
4) Q: Which coaches are a bad season away from being fired?
A: Syracuse's Greg Robinson. Washington's Ty Willingham. Arizona's Mike Stoops. And considering all the off-field problems at Iowa, it'd be a good time for Kirk Ferentz to start looking like a genius again.
5) Q: Which team will Bust the BCS, like Hawaii and Boise State?
A: BYU from the Mountain West is the trendy pick, but getting to the BCS from one of the five non-automatic qualifying leagues requires a perfect record and the Cougars play their toughest league games on the road (Utah and TCU). Tulsa could make things interesting if they go to Arkansas on Nov. 1 with a perfect record. It looks like a season where the little guys will miss out on the big payday.
6) Q: So who will play in the BCS?
A: Rose Bowl: USC vs. Wisconsin
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. West Virginia
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Missouri
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. South Florida
BCS championship: Ohio State vs. Florida
And the national champion is: The Buckeyes just can't lose another title game, can they?