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    EA SPORTS NCAA 2008 TOP 25 + Gamebreakers

    EA SPORTS NCAA 2008 TOP 25
    #25 Boston College Eagles (10-3)
    Boston College Eagles Boston College's unexpected success in 2006 probably shouldn't be that surprising after all: the Eagles haven't lost more than three games in the past three seasons and their seven-game bowl-winning streak is the longest in the NCAA. Two of their 10 wins in 2006 came in back-to-back double overtime games against Clemson and BYU, and they even managed to beat ACC stalwarts Virginia Tech and Florida State. Senior quarterback Matt Ryan battled ankle and foot problems last season, yet still managed to throw for nearly 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. The first half of the schedule is fairly friendly, with only one road game (against Georgia Tech). Unfortunately, it could mean a rough second half for Boston College, with difficult road games against the likes of Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and Clemson.
    Eagles Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Brian Toal ROLB 95 50 tackles, 2 INT
    DeJuan Tribble CB 94 49 tackles, 7 INT
    Matt Ryan QB 92 2942 yds, 15 TD, 10 INT

    Stadium: Alumni Stadium (44,500 capacity)

    Brian Toal will bring his leadership to the Eagles' defense in the team's bid to be an upset special in the ACC.
    #24 Texas A&M Aggies (9-4)
    Texas A&M Aggies Should the Aggies fire Dennis Franchione? As in the last few years, that's been the question on the minds of lots of Texas A&M fans these days. And, as always, there's no easy answer to that question: heartbreaking late-season losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma (both by one point) might have pointed to regime change, only to have the Aggies beat arch-rival Texas in Austin in a 12-7 struggle. This year, the Aggies will face the Cornhuskers and Sooners on the road (along with making the trip to Miami to face the Hurricanes), all before winding up the season against Texas in College Station. Junior quarterback Stephen McGee had an impressive 2,295 yards passing in 2006, throwing 12 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions, statistics practically any coach would like to see out of a young player. McGee should improve on those numbers this season, resulting perhaps in a 10-win season…and more arguments over Franchione's fate at Texas A&M.
    Aggies Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Stephen McGee QB 91 2295 yds, 12 TD, 2 INT
    Red Bryant DT 90 19 tackles, 1 sack
    Jorvorskie Lane HB 89 725 yds, 19 TD

    Stadium: Kyle Field (82,600 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #11)

    Jorvorskie Lane doesn't just have an awesome first name--he's a touchdown machine to boot.
    #23 Boise State Broncos (13-0)
    Boise State BroncosIn practical terms, it's going to be more or less impossible for the Broncos to repeat last year's storybook success. The team lost its starting quarterback and four of its top receivers. The schedule includes tough out-of-conference away games against Washington and Hawaii. And let's face it, the kind of "hook and ladder" lightning in a bottle from last year's Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma just can't be replicated at will. Then again, Boise State has made a career out exceeding expectations. This is a team, after all, that's won five straight WAC titles, and won three of its last five bowl games. Coach Chris Petersen knows how to get the most out of his players, so senior quarterback Taylor Tharp and junior running back Ian Johnson should be in good hands. These days, it's a telling sign of the program's progress that folks talk more about the Broncos' talent than their bright blue playing field.
    Broncos Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Ian Johnson HB 94 1713 yds, 25 TD
    Marty Tadman FS 91 67 tackles, 6 INT
    Orlando Scandrick CB 90 52 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT

    Stadium: Bronco Stadium (30,000 capacity)

    Can Ian Johnson lead the Broncos to another improbably successful season? Time will tell.
    #22 TCU Horned Frogs (11-2)
    TCU Horned FrogsEven with LaDainian Tomlinson long gone from the lineup, TCU continues to find success in the Mountain West. Another team not found in NCAA Football 07's Top 25, the Horned Frogs ended up #22 in the final AP Top 25 poll thanks to wins over Colorado State, Texas Tech, and Air Force. The job of building on that success will fall largely to players like junior halfback Aaron Brown, who split time in the TCU backfield with Lonta Hobbs last season. The defense, built around players like defensive end Tommy Blake and safety Brian Bonner, could be the best in the conference, with nine starters returning to the team. Tough road games against the likes of Texas and BYU are major obstacles in the schedule, but there's no reason to think the team won't be at or near the top of its conference at the end of the season.
    Horned Frogs Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Tommy Blake DE 95 54 tackles, 7 sacks
    Brian Bonner SS 87 49 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 INT
    Aaron Brown HB 84 801 yds, 9 TD

    Stadium: Amon G. Carter Stadium (44,008 capacity)

    This season, defensive end Tommy Blake looks to top his seven-sack total of 2006.
    #21 Florida State Seminoles (7-6)
    Florida State SeminolesBobby Bowden's Seminoles had the ignominious job of introducing the rest of the nation to a resurgent Boston College team, after the Eagles beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee 24-19. Of course, hindsight tells us that BC was a better team than most folks gave them credit for, but Seminoles fans were nonetheless understandably less than pleased with the loss. This year's team has the advantage of bringing back 14 starters from last year, making it one of the most experienced Florida State teams in the past decade. They'll need all of that experience and talent to find success in a tough schedule that features games against Alabama, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Florida, and Boston College. Defensive standouts Myron Rolle and Geno Hayes combined for 136 tackles, 4 sacks and 2 interceptions in 2006, numbers that the Seminoles will need again in 2007 if they hope to emerge the best team in the Sunshine State.
    Seminoles Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Myron Rolle SS 94 77 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT
    Geno Hayes ROLB 93 59 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT
    Antone Smith HB 87 456 yds, 5 TD

    Stadium: Doak S. Campbell Stadium (82,300 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #14)

    Will Antone Smith live up to the Seminole legacy of Warrick Dunn or just end up as the next Leon Washington?

    #20 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11-2)
    Rutgers Scarlet Knights As strange as it might feel for you to be reading about Rutgers in our top 25 preview, it feels just as strange for us to be writing about them. Though the Scarlet Knights have had their share of strong games over the past few seasons (upsets over Michigan St. and Pittsburgh in 2004 and 2005, respectively), the Knights, led by Greg Schiano, had a dream season in 2006, culminating in a triple-overtime nail-biter that had Rutgers one win away from the Big East title. Despite losing to the Mountaineers, Rutgers managed to pound Kansas State in the Texas Bowl to take its first bowl win in the school's 137-year history. Needless to say, then, expectations in New Jersey are high for Schiano's team. Junior quarterback Ryan Hart will lead an offense that will see seven returning starters. A favorable schedule that will have West Virginia playing in New Brunswick also works to the Knights' favor, though the Louisville road game at the end of the season could prove to be a season spoiler if they aren't careful.
    Scarlet Knights Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Courtney Green SS 94 82 tackles, 1 sack, 4 INT
    Ray Rice HB 94 1794 yds, 20 TD
    Mike Teel QB 84 2135 yds, 12 TD, 13 INT

    Stadium: Rutgers Stadium (42,000 capacity)

    Ray Rice is primed to become the all-time leading Scarlet Knights rusher; he needs just 201 yards to set the record.

    #19 UCLA Bruins (7-6)
    UCLA Bruins What's a 7-6 team doing this high up in the NCAA 08 Top 25? Well, we're not entirely sure, though that stunning 13-9 late-season upset of USC (#2 in the nation at the time) might have something to do with it. Coach Karl Dorrell earned himself at least one more year of job security with that win, and Bruins fans everywhere are hoping their team builds on that success in 2007. To do so, they'll face one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with the only "gimme" on the calendar the September 1 opener against Stanford (and even that game is on the road). Home games against Washington, Notre Dame, Cal, and Oregon form the heart of the home schedule, and then there's that season-ending rivalry game against USC, where the Trojans will be looking for payback. With an experienced team that features 10 returning starters on offense, the Bruins look poised to take on that difficult schedule and make a real run at Pac-10 glory.
    Bruins Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Dennis Keyes FS 94 79 tackles, 1 INT
    Brigham Harwell DT 93 31 tackles, 1 sack
    Chris Markey HB 89 1107 yds, 2 TD

    Stadium: Rose Bowl (91,500 capacity)

    Have fortunes in the USC/UCLA rivalry finally turned? We're guessing Bruins' safety Dennis Keyes would say yes.

    #18 Georgia Bulldogs (9-4)
    Georgia Bulldogs A two-game stretch seemed to define the Bulldogs' rollercoaster 2006 season: an upset loss to SEC cellar-dweller Kentucky 24-20, followed the next week by a complete drubbing of rival Auburn 37-15. This season will include another difficult run through the SEC gauntlet, made all the more difficult by the loss of key players like Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson on the defensive line. After struggling last season, sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford has won the starting job, with senior running back Kregg Lumpkin looking to give the Bulldogs just their second 1,000-yard rusher since 1992. The Deep South's oldest rivalry will continue when Auburn visits Athens in the 111th meeting between the two teams; other key matches on the Dawgs' schedule include away games at Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech.
    Bulldogs Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Thomas Brown HB 88 256 yds, 1 TD
    Brandon Miller MLB 87 23 tackles
    Mohamed Massaquoi WR 86 366 yds, 2 TD

    Stadium: Sanford Stadium (92,746 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #18)

    Mohamed Massaquoi should be the go-to guy for sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford.

    #17 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-4)
    Penn State Nittany LionsJoe Paterno is 37 wins shy of 400 wins during his storied coaching career. While it's difficult to say if the 80-year-old Penn State legend will forego retirement for the four or five years it will likely take him to reach that milestone, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Paterno stalking the sidelines. This year, the Nittany Lions could take a big step towards securing at least 10 of those needed wins thanks to a favorable home schedule and a talent base that includes eight returning starters on offense. The defense will be younger this time around, with six starters returning, including Dan Connor, looking to fill the shoes of 2006 impact player Paul Posluszny. Key to success will be senior quarterback Anthony Morelli, whose numbers didn't light up critics in 2006 (2424 yards passing, 11 TD, 8 INT) but should see improvement, especially if junior wide receiver Derrick Williams comes into his own. The Nittany Lions' toughest tests will be their September 22 road game against Michigan, homecoming in Happy Valley versus Wisconsin, and an October 27 home game against Ohio State. Should they prevail in all three, JoePa will take a significant step closer to 400 wins.
    Nittany Lions Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Dan Connor MLB 99 113 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 INT
    Justin King CB 94 30 tackles, 1 INT
    Derrick Williams WR 91 440 yds, 1 TD

    Stadium: Beaver Stadium (107,282 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #4)

    Junior corner Justin King's sticky hands will be a big problem for Big 10 quarterbacks this year.

    #16 California Golden Bears (10-3)
    California Golden BearsIf it weren't for those pesky Trojans, Cal fans would be in the midst of an in-conference renaissance practically unheard of in the history of the program. Coach Jeff Tedford led his team to a share of the Pac-10 title last year, thanks in part to UCLA's late-season defeat of USC; it's just another chapter in the team's revival of fortunes, one that has seen the team go from an also-ran in the conference to a yearly contender. 2006 didn't get off to the greatest of starts, as the Golden Bears made the trip to Knoxville and got stomped by Tennessee; this year they'll be looking at the Volunteers with revenge on their minds, as the teams play the rematch in Berkeley. Should they win that game, and manage to beat in-conference opponents like Oregon and UCLA on the road, the looming November 10 home showdown against national-title favorite USC will be perhaps the biggest game ever played at Memorial Stadium.
    Golden Bears Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    DeSean Jackson WR 97 1060 yds, 9 TD
    Justin Forsett HB 89 626 yds, 4TD
    Thomas DeCoud FS 93 45 tackles

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium (72,516 capacity)

    DeSean Jackson should be one of the top wideouts in the nation in 2007, and a contender in the Heisman race.

    #15 Tennessee Volunteers (9-4)
    Tennessee Volunteers Tennessee started 2006 with a bang, whipping the favored Cal Bears 35-18 at Neyland Stadium in front of the largest stadium crowd the Bears had ever seen. Vols fans took this to mean a reversal of fortunes of sorts for the semi-struggling program, which had lost six games the year prior (including a pitiful 6-3 defeat at the hands of rival Alabama). Unfortunately, that strong start sputtered in the weeks that followed, with the Volunteers edging by Air Force and losing a heartbreaker to Florida, both at home. Two late-season losses against LSU and Arkansas put a fork in Tennessee's SEC championship hopes. It was announced that Erik Ainge would assume starting duties for the Vols, but surgery for a torn meniscus leaves the athlete's 2007 status a bit uncertain at this point.
    Volunteers Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Jonathan Hefney FS 97 96 tackles, 5 INT
    Erik Ainge QB 92 2989 yds, 19 TD, 9 INT
    LaMarcus Coker HB 88 696 yds, 5 TD

    Stadium: Neyland Stadium (104,079 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #6)

    Erik Ainge has got a long way to go before living up to Peyton's Volunteers legacy, but 19 touchdowns in 2006 wasn't a bad start.

    #14 Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-5)
    Nebraska Cornhuskers The jury is still out on coach Bill Callahan's mission to "de-option" the Cornhuskers. Though the west-coast scheme has improved in terms of points scored, the team is still a distance away from the glory days of Tom Osborne. And with Lincoln fans bringing new urgency to the word "impatient" (right, Frank Solich?), we're wondering how long the Callahan experiment will last if the team doesn't take a major turn toward Big 12 dominance in 2007. To do so, they'll need to rely on players like senior quarterback Sam Keller (who sat out the 2006 season after transferring from Arizona State) and defensive stalwarts Zackary Bowman and Steve Octavien. The challenges will come early and often for the Huskers, as they'll travel to Wake Forest on September 8, only to play host to the USC Trojans the following week. The Huskers are playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season, with tough road games at Texas and Colorado late in the season.
    Cornhuskers Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Zackary Bowman CB 93 NA (injury)
    Sam Keller QB 91 NA (did not play)
    Steve Octavien ROLB 91 32 tackles, 1 sack

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,067 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #12)

    The option no more--Sam Keller looks to continue the passing-game resurgence in Lincoln.

    #13 Auburn Tigers (11-2)
    Auburn TigersExpectations on the Plains have always been high--this is the SEC we're talking about--but the last few seasons after the Tigers' incredible 2004 campaign have been a mixture of highs and lows. The rollercoaster continued in 2006 thanks to some incredible highs--chief among them, beating arch-rival Alabama for the fifth straight time, and being the only team to take down the national champion Florida Gators. On the downside, an undefeated run through the SEC schedule was upset by disappointing performances against Arkansas and Georgia. 2007 will be another tough slog in conference, as well as some difficult contests in the out-of-conference schedule (watch out for that USF game on September 8). Quarterback Brandon Cox will need to step up in his final season, while RB Ben Tate will look to fill the shoes of Kenny Irons, another in a long line of former Auburn backs pipelined into the NFL.
    Tigers Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Quentin Groves RE 96 37 tackles, 9.5 sacks
    Tray Blackmon ROLB 93 18 tackles
    Brandon Cox QB 88 2198 yds, 14 TD, 9 INT

    Stadium: Jordan Hare Stadium (87,451 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #20)

    No quarterback wants to see this guy bearing down on them: Quentin Groves should be the lynchpin of the Tigers' pass rush in 2007.

    #12 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1)
    Ohio State Buckeyes A respectably strong schedule and some serious talent on both sides of the ball should have resulted in a dream season for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2006. Unfortunately, that dream erupted in a nightmare in the BCS Championship game at the hands of an inspired Florida squad, who demolished the pride of Columbus 41-14. After losing Troy Smith to the NFL, the Buckeyes are looking to rebuild their leadership, with junior Todd Boeckman taking the reins at quarterback. Save for the November 3 contest against Wisconsin, the home schedule looks to be an easy one for Ohio State, which means the toughest contests--Michigan, Penn State, Washington, and Purdue--are all away games. After replacing all three 2005 starting linebackers last season, standout middle linebacker (and Nagurski Award-winner) James Laurinaitis looks to take control of a defensive team that will surely have big hits and turnovers on the collective brain.
    Buckeyes Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    James Laurinaitis MLB 95 115 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 INT
    Malcolm Jenkins CB 94 55 tackles, 4 INT
    Chris Wells HB 89 576 yards, 7 TD

    Stadium: Ohio Stadium (102,329 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #2)

    James Laurinaitis will be all over the field in the Buckeyes ' 2007 bid to dominate the Big 10…and the world.

    #11 Louisville Cardinals (12-1)
    Louisville Cardinals The bad news is that former Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino has lit off for the NFL, as well as the inevitable headache of trying to turn the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Vick into a quarterback. The good news is star quarterback Brian Brohm turned down a shot at the NFL in order to try to bring a title to Louisville. Brohm will prove to be the make-or-break element in Louisville's 2007 campaign, as his outstanding 3,049-yard, 16-touchdown, 5-interception season helped push him into legitimate Heisman hype for 2007. Last season saw the Cardinals overhaul their receiving corps and, with a year of experience under their hats, this could be another big year for Louisville's pass-happy offense. Along with Big East challengers like West Virginia and Rutgers, Louisville is helping lead the Big East back into respect in the NCAA. Its final three games against West Virginia, USF (who upset the Cardinals in 2005), and Rutgers will be the trio that fully tests the team's mettle.
    Cardinals Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Brian Brohm QB 98 3049 yds, 16 TD, 5 INT
    Brandon Cox RE 89 10 tackles
    Harry Douglas WR 89 1265 yds, 6 TD

    Stadium: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium (42,000 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #24)

    Brian Brohm is one of a handful of early Heisman candidates, and he should have another dominating season.

    #10 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-4)
    Arkansas Razorbacks If he hadn't been hurt early in the SEC Championship game, Darren McFadden might have led Houston Nutt's Razorbacks to a conference title, and upset Florida's national title hopes in the process. As it stood, McFadden went down in the first quarter and Arkansas was exposed for understandably relying on their star running back, who finished second overall in Heisman voting. The off-season hasn't been kind to Nutt, who's been embroiled in a soap opera-ish fiasco involving text messages and a local news caster and, as a result, it's tough to tell how Arkansas will bounce back for the 2007 season. The good news is Darren McFadden will return and looks to be the early front-runner for the Heisman. If junior quarterback Casey Dick can help the Razorbacks mix up their offense, the team will be in good shape for a typically rough SEC schedule that includes away games against Alabama, Tennessee, and LSU.
    Razorbacks Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Darren McFadden HB 99 1647 yds, 14 TD
    Marcus Harrison DT 94 42 tackles, 1.5 sacks
    Marcus Monk WR 92 962 yds, 11 TD

    Stadium: DW Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000 capacity)

    Darren McFadden should sprint, juke, and shed his way to Heisman contention in 2007.

    #9 Virginia Tech Hokies (10-3)
    Virginia Tech HokiesFrank Beamer's Hokies have been regular contributors to the Top 25 NCAA polls for the past few years now, and this year, they are the highest-rated team from the ACC in NCAA 08. There's no reason to think their poll numbers will improve in the early part of the 2007 campaign, provided that they can get by an extremely tough September 8 contest against LSU in Death Valley. The late schedule doesn't let up either, with late-season match-ups against Boston College, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Miami. An outstanding linebacking duo of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi will form the backbone of a tough Hokie defense--here's hoping the team gets the most out of the two seniors, as next year's linebacking corps will be significantly short on experience.
    Hokies Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Xavier Adibi LOLB 96 82 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INT
    Vince Hall MLB 96 128 tackles, 2 sacks
    Branden Ore HB 90 1137 yds, 16 TD

    Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,115 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #5)

    Senior linebacker Vince Hall led the Hokies in tackles in 2006, and will likely do so again this season.

    #8 Oklahoma Sooners (11-3)
    Oklahoma Sooners Remember our introduction and the whole Fiesta Bowl/Boise State fiasco? Yeah, it was these guys the Broncos beat. In fact, you might argue that Jared Zabransky has Bob Stoops and company--and their inability to stop a streaking quarterback and recognize a few trick plays--to thank for his 15 minutes of video game fame. Though Boise State almost certainly won't repeat their dream 2006 season, there's no reason to think that Stoops and the Sooners won't be back challenging for Big 12 supremacy in 2007. In order to do so, however, they'll need to be good at home--the Sooners will face Miami, Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State, all at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, with the team's toughest road games being Texas Tech and Iowa State. A freshman quarterback, Sam Bradford, will find his mettle tested early and often, so the Sooners will be counting on the experienced duo of safeties in Reggie Smith and halfback Allen Patrick to pull their weight.
    Sooners Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Darrien Williams FS 95 67 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT
    Reggie Smith SS 94 41 tackles, 3 INT
    Allen Patrick HB 90 761 yds, 4 TD

    Stadium: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (82,112 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #16)

    Darrien Williams will be half of one of the more potent safety duos in the nation (along with strong safety Reggie Smith).

    #7 Wisconsin Badgers (12-1)
    Wisconsin Badgers One of the nine teams not featured in last year's EA Sports Top 25 only to end the season in the AP final Top 25 list, the Badgers find themselves riding the wave of a tremendous 12-1 season that saw them lose only to Michigan, while taking down traditional powerhouses like Penn State and Iowa, and producing in Joe Thomas one of the more impressive offensive linemen in recent memory. Little wonder, then, that NCAA 08 has the Badgers ranked so high. Two tough games on the road (Penn State and Ohio State), plus a showdown with Michigan on November 10, will define Wisconsin's success in 2007, and the team will need stellar performances from the likes of quarterback Tyler Donovan and corner Jack Ikegwuonu if they hope to top the success of last year.
    Badgers Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Jack Ikegwuonu CB 93 41 tackles, 2 INT
    PJ Hill HB 91 1569 yds, 15 TD
    Jonathan Casillas ROLB 88 83 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT

    Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #17)

    Linebacker Jonathan Casillas will be a key component in a swarming Badgers defense in 2007.

    #6 West Virginia Mountaineers (11-2)
    West Virginia MountaineersRich Rodriguez has few friends in the state of Alabama. After flatly turning down the job as the new head coach of the Crimson Tide, Rodriguez not only turned his back on one of the more historically prestigious jobs in the game, but, more importantly, also made a statement of his commitment to the Mountaineers program. Rodriguez has been the architect of a program that alongside Louisville have helped to transform the Big East from a college football also-ran to a conference to be respected, if not necessarily feared. Nine out of West Virginia's eleven wins in 2006 came by ten points or more, with the sole exceptions being a triple-overtime nail-biter against Rutgers and a tight Gator Bowl that saw the Mountaineers edge by Georgia Tech 38-35. The team will need to ride the talent of juniors Pat White (QB) and Steve Slaton (RB) in hopes of matching that same kind of success in 2007. Tough games on the road against teams like Rutgers, USF, and Maryland will stand in the way of the Mountaineers earning its fourth Big East title (or share of) in the last five years.
    Mountaineers Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Steve Slaton RB 97 1744 yds, 16 TD
    Pat White QB 95 1655 yds, 13 TD, 7 INT
    Eric Wicks SS 92 73 tackles, 7 sacks, 3 INT

    Stadium: Mountaineer Field (60,000 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #15)

    If he stays injury-free, Steve Slaton is poised to become the #2 Mountaineers rusher of all time this season.

    #5 Texas Longhorns (10-3)
    Texas Longhorns As with many college football fans, Texas fans have short memories. As a result, we suspect that last year's 12-7 loss to arch-rival Texas A&M rings louder than the team's amazing national championship win the year prior. Nonetheless, the Longhorns are locked and loaded to continue the winning tradition that coach Mack Brown has established for the team since his arrival. Quarterback Colt McCoy found himself in the unenviable position of having to follow in the very large footsteps of Vince Young and succeeded quite well, passing for more than 2,500 yards and tossing 29 touchdowns. Last year's team fielded one of the strongest Longhorns defensive lines in recent memory, and this year's squad, returning six starters, should ensure solid performance at the line of scrimmage. Running back Jamaal Charles will need to step in and prove he's worthy of such great legacies as Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, and Earl Campbell to help get Texas's running game back in step. The Longhorns face TCU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech at home--their toughest road game should prove to be the Aggies and, after last year's defeat, the Longhorns will be looking to travel to College Station with revenge on their minds.
    Longhorns Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Frank Okam DT 97 38 tackles, 2 sacks
    Limas Sweed WR 93 801 yds, 12 TD
    Jamaal Charles HB 91 831 yds, 7 TD

    Stadium: Texas Memorial Field (85,123 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #8)

    Wideout Limas Sweed could very well dominate the Big 12 with his deadly combination of size and speed.

    #4 Florida Gators (13-1)
    Florida GatorsIn hindsight, it seems funny to think that most folks had Ohio State coming out on top of the BCS Championship game, before Florida came in and handed the Buckeyes a monumental 41-14 butt-kicking. These days, with three national championships in two years (with a pair of those coming from Billy Donovan's men's basketball team), it seems the new mecca of collegiate athletics is down in Gainesville. Coach Urban Meyer has brought the same intensity that he brought to Utah down south, which combined with some lucky breaks against teams like Alabama and versus Arkansas in the SEC Championship game (where the Razorbacks lost star running back Darren McFadden early on in the game). The only team they couldn't figure out was Auburn, but considering the home team has won the last four games in that match-up, odds look good for this year's game against the Tigers in the Swamp. One of the biggest question marks for the team is how fleet-footed Tim Tebow will fill in for the departed Chris Leak in the quarterback position. Should Tebow find his stride early, Gator Nation will chomp its way through 2007.
    Gators Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Derrick Harvey LE 96 35 tackles, 11 sacks
    Percy Harvin WR 90 427 yds, 2 TD
    Tim Tebow QB 86 469 yds rushing, 8 rushing TD

    Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #1)

    The Gators will look to take advantage of Tim Tebow's speed during their NCAA title defense campaign.

    #3 LSU Tigers (11-2)
    LSU TigersThe Tigers have come a long way since the days of Curly Hallman. After sharing a national championship under Nick Saban, LSU has continued its winning ways--both on the field and in recruiting--with Les Miles as coach. The loss of #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell will be one of the most difficult hurdles the Tigers will need to overcome in their 2007 season, but senior Matt Flynn has a good deal of experience behind center. The other obstacle, of course, is the brutal heart of the SEC schedule, which will see the Tigers facing South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas, all within the cacophonous confines of Death Valley. Should Miles run the table at home, and manage to knock off Alabama in its most difficult away game, the SEC West (and perhaps the entire conference) should be theirs for the taking.
    Tigers Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Glenn Dorsey DT 98 64 tackles, 3 sacks
    Ali Highsmith LOLB 93 63 tackles, 2 sacks
    Early Doucet WR 92 772 yds, 8 TD

    Stadium: Tiger Stadium (92,400 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #3)

    Tigers receiver Early Doucet caught eight touchdowns in 2006 and should improve that number this season.

    #2 Michigan Wolverines (11-2)
    Michigan WolverinesDuring his 13 years as the head of the Wolverines, Coach Lloyd Carr has often come under fire for not being able to close out big opponents. Losing four of the last five games to arch-rival Ohio State has only exacerbated that problem, but last year the Wolverines had some incredibly bright moments to be proud of, most notably an early-season shellacking of Notre Dame that brought the rest of the world back down to earth on the over-hyped Fighting Irish. Two players will consistently strike fear into the hearts of Michigan's Big 10 opponents: seniors Chad Henne and Mike Hart. Hart, a fifth-place finisher in last year's Heisman race, looks to top his stellar 2006 with an even stronger ground performance in 2007. Should the receiving corps come into their own, Michigan faces a favorable home schedule that could once again vault them into BCS contention.
    Wolverines Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Mike Hart HB 95 1562 yds, 14 TD
    Shawn Crable LOLB 95 37 tackles, 4.5 sacks
    Mario Manningham WR 94 703 yds, 9 TD

    Stadium: Michigan Stadium (107,501 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #9)

    Mike Hart scored 14 touchdowns in 2006 and, with a strong offensive line in 207, his numbers should improve this season.

    #1 USC Trojans (11-2)
    USC Trojans Is it any wonder that Pete Carroll's Southern California squad sits atop this list? With 16 returning starters, an immensely talented quarterback behind center, and a program that has become synonymous with NCAA excellence, it shouldn't be. Losing big-name talent like Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith will mean quarterback John David Booty will be searching for a few new go-to receivers. While there won't be any shortage of touchdowns scored by the offense, the Trojans' most potent weapon might be its defense--with 10 returning starters and a defensively minded head coach in Carroll who takes pride in stopping his opponents cold. The Trojans will need that defense at optimum strength when playing some tough games on the road, including their September 15 contest against Nebraska. Later in the season, the showdown with Cal could prove--as it has in the past--to be a game with multiple implications--Pac 10, Rose Bowl, perhaps even the national title too.
    Trojans Impact Players
    Name Position Rating 2006 Notable Stats
    Keith Rivers ROLB 97 85 tackles, 2 sacks
    Lawrence Jackson LE 96 43 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT
    John David Booty QB 94 3347 yds, 29 TD, 9 INT

    Stadium: LA Memorial Coliseum Stadium (92,000 capacity, Toughest Places to Play Rating: #7)


  2. #2
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    Re: EA SPORTS NCAA 2008 TOP 25 + Gamebreakers

    LSU #3? I'll take it! I'll take it and run with it!

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