GT staff sees 3 for SC

Aug 23, 2005 2:05 AM


Southern Cal is a unanimous choice of the GamingToday staff to open the 2005 season as the nation’s top college football team.

The Trojans have lost just one game in two seasons under the coaching of Pete Carroll, whose biggest challenge may not be in any one opponent but in trying to replace heralded offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

USC has most of its heavy weapons in place for another run at the national championship, led by Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and the exciting all-purpose back Reggie Bush.

ACC favorite Miami of Florida opens in the No. 2 slot. The Hurricanes will feature another awesome defensive unit, led by cornerback Devin Hester. The key will be in finding quality and consistency at QB with Brock Berlin now playing football with NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

Ohio State, Texas and Big 10 power Michigan round out the top 5. The Buckeyes believe they have the equal to Bush in Ted Ginn Jr., who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Ginn could be the most talented player seen in Columbus since the days of RB Archie Griffin, a two-time Heisman winner.

Texas is all about QB Vince Young, arguably the finest run-pass threat in college football since Michael Vick. Young’s fabulous game in last year’s Rose Bowl win over Michigan helped the Longhorns rank ahead of the Wolverines at the start of this season.

The second five is headed by Florida, who many fans in Gainesville believe will win the SEC with "savior" Urban Meyer. Junior QB Chris Leak figures to benefit from Meyer, who handled Alex Smith at Utah and recruited Bowling Green’s stud Omar Jacobs.

Louisville comes in at No. 7, benefiting from a move to the weaker Big East. The Cards, which came within a three-point loss to the Canes of an unbeaten season, do not play Miami this year.

Tennessee, Florida State and Iowa round out the top 10. The Vols face a huge hurdle in an early September showdown with the Gators in Gainesville. FSU has QB issues that will come into play in its season opener with the Hurricanes. Iowa as the nation’s hottest coaching commodity in Kirk Ferentz, a "cover machine" in winning point spread lines.

LSU, co-champ with USC two years ago, heads the second 10. The Tigers’ biggest challenge, like the Trojans, involves replacing a coach. Nick Saban left Baton Rouge to guide the Miami Dolphins.

Auburn, at No. 12, must replace the backfield of QB Jason Campbell and RBs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams ”” all No. 1 picks in last year’s NFL draft.

Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Georgia complete the top 15, each needing to replace its starting QB of a year ago. The toughest task rests in Norman, where the Sooners will be hardpressed to find a quick replacement for four-year starter and Heisman champ Jason White.

California, at 16, will surely be a Top 10 team if the Golden Bears can upset USC in Berkeley. Purdue, Texas A&M,

Arizona State and Alabama complete the Top 20.

The high-powered Texas Tech passing game earned a No. 21 ranking.

Completing the Top 25 list are Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, NC State and Oklahoma State.