With the last of the gamecocks 2008 previews done, C&F now turns his attention to the big picture previews: A look at each of the Gamecocks' opponents in turn, a look at each week's schedule of college football teams in turn and a look at the SEC and national pictures.
And no national picture would be complete, of course, without the BlogPoll. Some are reviving the age-old, but timeless, question of how the teams should be ranked. The more industrious among us have already unveiled an early draft.
As C&F has explained before, he uses what he calls a "meld method." Obviously, it is impossible to rank based on resume when, ahem, no one's played a game yet. So the first poll is all power poll/projection. Then, the resumes start to shade things, at first just a little bit (first week games are notoriously misleading) and then by ever larger amounts. Until, finally, at about the midpoint of the season, the resume ranking has (ideally) taken over.
That said, a few words about the teams that would likely rank 21-25 if I were to submit my BlogPoll today -- which, of course, I won't.
The Tide should be improved enough to win eight regular-season games, including some buzz-worthy matchups that will likely move them into the Top 25. This calms down the masses in Tuscaloosa for a time and returns St. Nick to his rightful place next to Bear Bryant as the Best Alabama Coach Everer.
22. South Florida
This was a team that was going to end up on C&F's "consideration" list. QB Matt Grothe and most of the critical offensive starters return from a team that was pretty solid last year. Teams often almost make a run before they really do; this could be a good year for the Bulls.
23. Mississippi State
Blatant SEC homerism? Perhaps. An admiration for Sly Croom? Maybe. There are several non-legitimate reasons C&F could choose the Bulldogs, but the key reason to pick them is that this is the part of the preseason ballot where one takes chances, and Mississippi State is as good a gamble as any. After last year's bizarre 8-5 season, this team will likely move far enough up to warrant Top 25 status or far enough down to make the idea laughable.
Several close games last year, and more than one upset, but the Buffaloes return just enough to make some noise in the Big XII North. Again, they seem like a good chance to take early in the preseason, but don't be surprised if they drop out by the time C&F casts his first ballot.
25. Wake Forest
C&F wavered on this one between the Deacons and the Fighting Irish. But Notre Dame still has a lot of question marks coming out of the box, meaning they're likely to fall just short of the list for right now. But the Domers could make it onto the ballot if someone else falls off.