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May 9, 2008

Is another crazy season on the horizon?

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com.
Previous mailbags
May 2: Bad rap for Big East?
April 25: Sooner fans worried
April 18: Florida State's legacy

An undefeated college football season guarantees glory, a conference championship and a shot at the national title.

Well, almost. Sorry, Auburn, Utah and Boise State.

But in the 10-year history of the BCS, more than half of the national champions had at least one loss.

In fact, LSU won last year's championship despite having two losses. That was another example of how the crazy season of 2007 unfolded.

Could 2008 be even crazier? That's a question to be asked and answered in this week's mailbag.

Another crazy season?

I believe that we are going to have another season like we did last year a year with no unbeaten teams. The real big issue this time, I feel, is that we are going to have a bunch of one-loss teams. Among those I see Georgia, West Virginia, USC, Oklahoma and Texas being among those. I believe this year will be nuttier than last year. What's your take on how this year will turn out?

Everyone likes to project who could be an unbeaten team, but these days it's getting less and less likely to happen. So if this was to happen, common sense would say that the one-loss team with the toughest schedule and conference go to the title game. But who's to say what the best conference is? The Big East gets no respect, but has come up big when it needed to. The only true way to settle (the national championship) is in the form of a playoff.

Douglas in Huntington, W.V.

Expect another unpredictable college football season in 2008, but don't expect one crazier than 2007. Last year was the Britney Spears of college football seasons the very essence of lunacy.

Just equaling '07 in craziness would require another Division I powerhouse losing to a Division I-AA opponent, six No. 2-ranked teams to fall (including three in consecutive weeks) and a team with two losses winning the national championship.

That's not likely to happen.

Of course, Division I-AA champion Appalachian State - which upset Michigan in last year's season opener - starts with LSU this year, so the potential is there for continued weirdness.

Don't bet on it, though. LSU might surface among the one-loss teams you were predicting, but I doubt that would be the game the Tigers would lose.

Personally, I hope there are multiple unbeaten or one-loss teams at the end of the season, so the NCAA commissioners who last week refused to consider altering the national championship format can stand before us again and tell us how the BCS system is working.

Should West Virginia be included among a group of teams with one loss, the Mountaineers would be very deserving of playing for the championship. Having knocked off Georgia and Oklahoma in recent BCS bowl games, West Virginia is established as a bona fide national power.

If there are multiple one-loss teams next December, the key factor will be the loss. A close road loss to a strong opponent or traditional rival will be more easily forgiven than most.

Also, a loss in September won't be as costly as a home loss in November.

And, yes, I know LSU and Ohio State both were dealt home losses in November and still played for the national championship last season. But that was just one more reason this season won't be as bizarre as last.

Switch in the SEC?

Last week you picked LSU to win the SEC West, presumably barely over Auburn. I was wondering if you still think that will be the case with the loss of could-have-been-star Ryan Perrilloux?

Kyle in Birmingham

Good question.

Perrilloux's dismissal certainly subtracts some of the enthusiasm for the LSU Tigers, but I'll stubbornly stick with them - at least for now.

Four starting offensive linemen return for the defending national champs. Tight end Richard Dickson is back and wide receiver Brandon LaFell returns, too.

And although the Tigers lost starting running back Jacob Hester, they could be even better this year with Keiland Williams. Or Richard Murphy. Or Charles Scott. Or

Defensively, they had some significant losses Glenn Dorsey, both starting cornerbacks but they've stockpiled so much talent that I don't expect them to falter much.

That said, Auburn is loaded, too. And if Kodi Burns flourishes in coordinator Tony Franklin's spread offense and I believe he will the Tigers will be as good as ever.

I haven't forgotten that Auburn was tantalizingly close to beating LSU in Baton Rouge last season, and this year that game goes back to south Alabama.

I'll stick with the national champs, though. But if the quarterback play of Jarrett Lee or Andrew Hatch looks like a liability in LSU's first three games vs. Appalachian State, North Texas and Troy I could change my mind.

What about Foster?

Ohio State always has players on the (Heisman Trophy) list, yet they do not seem to do that well in the NFL. What do you think about (Tennessee running back) Arian Foster from the good ole SEC? I would think that he would be a better back than Chris Wells right now. His size, strength and pass catching ability are probably a little better.

Dave in Huntsville, Ala.

Last season Foster rushed for 1,193 yards and caught 39 passes, and I've heard scouts say that with another solid year he could be a late first- or second-round NFL draft pick.

But I don't think he's as good as Wells, who could be the first player taken if he enters the draft next season.

Wells is listed as 6 feet 1 and 237 pounds, so he's actually bigger than Foster. The Tennessee back is listed at 6-1, 215. Wells doesn't catch as many passes as Foster, but last year Wells rushed for more than 1,600 yards in his first season as a starter.

I think Wells is the top running back in the nation, and he's my pick as the Heisman Trophy favorite. But that takes nothing away from Foster, who will contend for All-SEC honors.

Colorado coming on?

With Colorado entering Year Three of the Dan Hawkins regime, where do you see this team headed? With the last two recruiting classes, I see this team making a serious push in 2009. CU's notorious non-conference schedule eases up a bit, and many of the current Big 12 heavies lose several key starters. Overall, do you see Hawkins returning CU to a top-tier program?

Jeremey in Mililani, Hawaii

Look for Colorado to continue making progress. I expect them to post as many as seven or eight victories in 2008.

However, I don't think the Buffs are quite ready to seriously challenge in the Big 12 North. Missouri is the best team in the Division maybe in the whole conference and Kansas should be good again.

With quarterback Cody Hawkins maturing and running back Darrell Scott coming in this year, I'd agree that 2009 could be a big year for the Buffs.

Dan Hawkins has done a solid job in rebuilding Colorado's football program, and he'll have them contending in the Big 12 North in a year or two.

A look for Painter?

I know it's a stretch, but is there any chance Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter gets a look-see for the Heisman? He has a chance to put up some big numbers, and if he can consistently play like he did in Purdue's bowl game who knows?

Greg in Dallas

It's not wise to count out anyone, especially a quarterback who threw for more than 3,800 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.

Still, Painter would be a long shot at best as a Heisman contender. Just matching last year's productivity won't be easy with all his top receivers from last season gone.

It's true that if Painter consistently posted numbers like he did in the Motor City Bowl - when he completed 64.8 percent of his attempts for 546 yards and three touchdowns - he would be a Heisman contender.

However, that was against Central Michigan - which ranked 109th in the nation in pass defense.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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