Originally created 07/06/06

Bulldogs, Tigers earn respect in magazines



Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech and South Carolina will not be competing in the 2007 BCS Championship Game. The national title drought will continue for the four local schools.

That's according to the five major college football publications' preseason rankings. Athlon Sports, Lindy's, Phil Steele's, Sporting News and Street & Smith's all predict either Notre Dame, Oklahoma or Ohio State to stroll through the Big Easy after winning the BCS title game, the Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Of course, all of those magazines believed Southern Cal would win the whole shebang last season. Then, Vince Young scored two late touchdowns to give Texas a thrilling 41-38 comeback victory over the Trojans in the BCS championship game.

And four of the publications had Florida or Tennessee winning the Southeastern Conference East in 2005. Only Phil Steele's correctly chose Georgia (10-3 last season) as the division champ.

Georgia and Clemson are the lone local teams receiving any respect from the magazines. Georgia is ranked between 12th and 19th in all five magazines, while Clemson checked in between 12th and 24th.

Here's a take on what the publications have to offer about the local Division I-A schools:

CAN CLEMSON FINALLY BREAK THROUGH?: The Tigers (8-4 last season) have not won an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 15 years. Most of the magazines say this is the season the Tigers break through and become a major player on the league scene once again - four of the five have the team picked second or higher in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Despite the loss of quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson is predicted to win the division by Athlon Sports. The magazine cited the return of the team's entire offensive line and the pending emergence of junior running back James Davis, who led the team with 879 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

WILL GEORGIA'S GROUND GAME BE AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED?: Athlon Sports says Georgia has the best running back corps in the nation with the return of Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware. None of the three has rushed for 1,000 yards in a season - the last Georgia player to do so was Musa Smith (2002).

Brown, Lumpkin and Ware combined to gain more than 1,500 yards and score eight rushing touchdowns. Not exactly Herschel Walker-type numbers, but enough for them to be considered the best in the land.

By the way, Sporting News ranks Auburn as the top backfield and does not have Georgia in its top 20. Phil Steele's has Georgia's running backs corps eighth.

WHAT'S IN STORE FOR GEORGIA TECH AND SOUTH CAROLINA?: Apparently nothing. Neither team is ranked in the top 25 in any of the publications.

Prognosticators aren't expecting much from second-year South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, despite his team's wins over Tennessee and Florida as part of a 7-5 finish last season. South Carolina is picked to finish fourth in the SEC East in every magazine.

The good news coming out of the Georgia Tech camp is star wide receiver Calvin Johnson drawing heaps of national attention as a second-team All-America. Lindy's thinks Johnson will be the fourth player taken in the 2007 NFL Draft, behind Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and Georgia defensive end Quentin Moses.

The Yellow Jackets (7-5 last season) are predicted to finish third in the ACC Coastal Division, behind Miami and Virginia Tech.

WHO'S ON THE HOT SEAT: The state of Michigan might need to prepare for a wholesale administration change. Michigan's Lloyd Carr and Michigan State's John L. Smith are at the top of Street & Smith's hot seat list. The Wolverines went 7-5 last season, and Carr is 1-4 against Ohio State's Jim Tressel. Smith is 18-18 in three seasons.

Surprisingly, Miami's Larry Coker is on the hot seat. All Coker has done in five seasons is win 53 of 62 games, including the 2001 national championship.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

HOW THEY SEE IT


Preseason rankings of college football publications:

ATHLON SPORTS


1. Oklahoma


2. Notre Dame


3. USC


4. Ohio State


5. Florida


6. West Virginia


7. Texas


8. California


9. Auburn


10. Louisville


11. LSU


12. Clemson


13. Michigan


14. Miami


15. Georgia


16. Iowa


17. Florida St.


18. TCU


19. Oregon


20. Tennessee


21. Va. Tech


22. Texas Tech


23. Utah


24. Arizona St.


25. Nebraska




LINDY'S


1. Notre Dame


2. Ohio State


3. West Virginia


4. Texas


5. Florida


6. USC


7. Oklahoma


8. Auburn


9. California


10. LSU


11. Michigan


12. Florida St.


13. Louisville


14. Georgia


15. Utah


16. Miami


17. TCU


18. Clemson


19. Arizona St.


20. Va.Tech


21. Penn State


22. Nebraska


23. Oregon


24. Texas Tech


25. Iowa




STREET & SMITH'S


1. Ohio State


2. West Virginia


3. Texas


4. Notre Dame


5. Florida


6. California


7. USC


8. Auburn


9. LSU


10. Oklahoma


11. Florida St.


12. Michigan


13. Louisville


14. Miami


15. Va.Tech


16. Arizona St.


17. Nebraska


18. Alabama


19. Georgia


20. Penn State


21. Iowa


22. Texas Tech


23. Clemson


24. Oregon


25. TCU




SPORTING NEWS


1. Notre Dame


2. Ohio State


3. Auburn


4. LSU


5. West Virginia


6. USC


7. Texas


8. Florida


9. Oklahoma


10. Florida St.


11. Iowa


12. Georgia


13. California


14. Miami


15. Penn State


16. Va. Tech


17. Michigan


18. Tennessee


19. Louisville


20. Texas Tech


21. TCU


22. Nebraska


23. Oregon


24. Clemson


25. Alabama




PHIL STEELE'S


1. Oklahoma


2. Auburn


3. Louisville


4. USC


5. Texas


6. Miami


7. Notre Dame


8. Ohio State


9. Virginia Tech


10. Florida St.


11. Michigan


12. Tennessee


13. Arkansas


14. Georgia


15. Iowa


16. California


17. W. Virginia


18. Clemson


19. Boise State


20. Florida


21. LSU


22. Nebraska


23. Utah


24. Purdue


25. Oregon



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