Two-a-Days rolls on with our 16th installment, in which we take a big-picture look at the national landscape of college football.
To read previous entries, click HERE.
We've spent the past two weeks sifting through the offseason stories at each of the SEC schools along with Georgia's other non-conference competition and gotten an overview from ESPN's Chris Low of big-picture SEC stories. But as a nice coda to all this, I figured we'd look at some of the issues in college football nationally, too.
To help us with that, I chatted (via email) with Bruce Feldman, a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine and the proprietor of a fantastic blog on ESPN.com covering all things college football.
Here's what he had to say...
David Hale: Obviously Alabama is the favorite for a repeat national title. But from what you've seen so far this spring, who are the most likely teams to unseat the Tide? What intrigues you about them?
Bruce Feldman: The teams that I think have a good shot at making a BCS run this year are: Ohio State, Texas, Boise State and Miami. Or at least that's the rest of my preseason top 5 at this point.
I think Alabama has a lot to be excited about: great coach with a veteran staff; balance and experience on offense with three great skill position guys (Mark Imgram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones), a solid O-line and great talent at each level of the D in Marcell Dareus, Dont'a Hightower and Mark Barron with a lot of rising stars in the secondary, where Saban is as hands on as any head coach. Plus, their main competitor in the SEC-- Florida -- will take a step back since the Gators lost so much key leadership on both sides of the ball.
DH: Boise State and TCU made history last year by both making a BCS game. Both should be tough again this year, but who do you see as the most likely candidate(s) from the non-auto bid conferences to make a run at the BCS?
BF: Boise State has the best shot. The Broncos will open the season in the preseason top 6 and get a chance for validation with the Virginia Tech game on the road. Obviously, if they can win that game, they're close to a lock for a BCS bowl. I think TCU will get one too. The offense should be even better since QB Andy Dalton is finally going to have the same offensive coach for consecutive seasons.
DH: Lots of coaching changes around college football following last season. Of the new head coaches in new places, who has had the easiest transition this spring, and who has the toughest job ahead of them?
BF: Even though it was one of the most tumultuous transitions initially, I think Lane Kiffin and USC actually have the easiest transitions. Kiffin's staff, scheme-wise is about as close to what the Trojans had under Pete Carroll as you can have. Kiffin also walks into a situation with a budding star QB in Matt Barkley and an experienced O-line. The nucleus of Kiffin's USC staff comes in tact from his previous regime and they take over a program that a lot of people internally felt needed some new energy. The other thing is all of their toughest opponents have to come to USC this season.
The guy who follows Kiffin, Derek Dooley, has the toughest transition. Whoever was coaching UT this fall was going to have big holes in their starting line-up. Making matters even worse, Dooley lost the only solid experienced O-linemen the Vols expected to have in 2010. The QB will be a first-time starter. And on defense, they lose their two best players, Eric Berry and DT Dan Williams. They do have a few cupcake games in their non-conference schedule but I think it's possible they might not even win six games.
DH: The SEC has four straight national championships and has had two BCS reps in each season. Do you see that power structure shifting a
bit this year though?
BF: I don't. Alabama's the hot school in college football and think they're the team to beat. Obviously sooner or later someone else from another league is going to break the streak. But I still expect the SEC to remain as the best conference in college football. The league just has too many great coaches and resources.
DH: How big of a storyline do you see conference expansion being this season? How realistic is it that we're on the verge of a major shakeup in the college football landscape, and what are the biggest implications if that happens?
BF: I think it's a huge storyline because it does have the potential to impact every program in major college football. My guess -- and that's all it is because I don't think even the conference execs know much right now -- is that something with the Big Ten happens in June and then the Pac-10 maneuvers to add two other programs.
Many thanks to Bruce for taking time to help us with this. Be sure to check out his blog on ESPN.com, which you can find HERE. It's an excellent resource for college football material.
So, do you agree with how Bruce sees the 2010 season unfolding? Who do you see as the potential surprises and disappointments of the upcoming season?
And don't forget, we'll be wrapping up Two-A-Days with an in-depth look at Georgia, so if you have questions you want answered, leave them in the comments section here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEXT UP: A look at Georgia recruiting on Friday morning.