First up, my Top 5 for 2008, which is ridiculously early, laughable and subject to change dramatically between now and August.
This will be the spelling-challenged Dawgs' year, as much as those of us in Gamecock Country might hate it. Stafford returns, the defense should at least be solid and all the other teams in the SEC have major question marks, paving the way for Georgia to look good by comparison. The only challenge? Getting through the first half of the season, something that has often dogged Mark Richt's teams, if you'll pardon the pun. Sept. 13-27 features games at South Carolina, at Arizona State and vs. Alabama.
Bob Stoops' team should roll to yet another January defeat in a BCS bowl game with QB Sam Bradford returning for his sophomore year. (Now the Big XII knows how we feel about Tebow.) RB Allen Patrick departs, but will be replaced by DeMarco Murray, who eclipsed him in both ypc and TDs. If WR Juaquin Iglesias returns, the 2008 offense should be at least as explosive as this year's unit. The most challenging games are dates with Cincinnati, Texas, Texas Tech and an opponent in the potential Big XII CG.
3 Southern Cal
I will once again lead the "don't overrate the Trojans" crowd, which might end up with me dropping them even lower. The main question facing Southern Cal going into 2008 will be: Was the end of the season a rebound for the Trojans or a rebound for John David Booty? There are signs that it was the former, but a new QB will still make it dicey for the Trojans in what is becoming a stronger Pac-10.
Chase Daniel will return to the Tigers in 2008 but games against Illinois and Kansas at neutral sites and a date at Texas make the road treacherous. Get past those, and Mizzou is likely headed to a Big XII CG showdown with an Oklahoma team that beat the Tigers twice in 2007.
Don't ever count out a Tressel team, but the Illini should only get better and could deliver Ron Zook his first conference championship -- a sure sign of impending Apocalypse. The Fighting Zooks have proven they can defeat Ohio State, Michigan should be in transition and Wisconsin is Wisconsin.
Now, with football season being over, it's time to lay out what Garnet and Black Attack will be up to from here on out.
This is up for this week:
Late Monday/Early Tuesday Final SEC Power Poll is released. For real this time.
Tuesday Up in Smoke: The Rise and Fall of the 2007 Gamecocks, Part 1
Wednesday Up in Smoke: The Rise and Fall of the 2007 Gamecocks, Part 2
Thursday Up in Smoke: The Rise and Fall of the 2007 Gamecocks, Part 3
Friday Up in Smoke: The Rise and Fall of the 2007 Gamecocks, Part 4
After that, we'll do a little bit of basketball before baseball season begins in late February. In the meantime, old Cock & Fire fans can expect the return of The Thread, while new Garnet and Black Attack fans can see my short commentaries on the offseason world of college football for the first time.
And at some point in the not-too-distant future, the site will probably look a bit different. Actually, quite a bit different. I can't talk too much about it right now, but the SB Nation network is going to undergo a revamp soon, and you should all enjoy it. Again, can't give too many details or answer any questions about it right now. But don't think you've stumbled upon the wrong site when the change happens, probably in February.