Preseason BlogPoll Roundtable Answers

Every week, the BlogPoll has someone ask questions for the voters to answer. This is my attempt at doing the answering part.

1. Without naming names, a few teams seem to have popped up frequently on everyone's "overrated" lists in the preseason, so let's forget about them for the moment and concentrate on a different group: sleepers. Which currently unheralded team are you currently putting at least a few of your chips behind in the hopes that you'll be able to say "totally called that" once they've accomplished big things by the end of the season?

I didn't take many chances with my ballot, but for right now, I'm saying Texas Tech. The Red Raiders didn't make the preseason AP, Coaches', or Blog polls, but I think they'll be just fine. They won't win 11 games again, but there's nothing in their recent history that makes me believe they'll win fewer than eight games. The non-conference schedule is a joke (as always), and they only play three conference road games thanks to a neutral site game against Baylor.

They won't win in Austin, but I'd give them a puncher's chance at Nebraska and at Oklahoma State (who they beat 56-20 last year, remember, and also who they have a bye week before playing). They could easily go 1-2 on the road, sweep the home games except Oklahoma (though Kansas might be tough), and be in position to win a tenth game in their bowl. Not bad for what everyone expects to be a rebuilding year.

2. In a similar vein, pick a sleeper player on your team whom nobody's talking about right now and tell us why we will be talking about them by December.

It will take a lot for someone to stand out on the Gator defense more than the names everyone knows (Spikes, Haden, Dunlap, Jenkins, etc.), but I wouldn't be surprised to see DT Jaye Howard join that list. He's a monster physically, and having moved from defensive end, he can move better than most at tackle. At some point, he'll move ahead of Terron Sanders for the starting spot next to Lawrence Marsh and become a disruptive force in the middle.

3. Florida is about as big a consensus favorite as we've seen in recent years, but remember, USC got 62 out of 65 first-place votes in the AP's 2007 preseason poll and still managed to lose to Stanford. Given how difficult it is to go undefeated period these days, where do you think the Gators are most likely to stumble in the regular season?

LSU certainly presents the most inhospitable conditions. It's a road game in Tiger Stadium, it will almost certainly be the night half of a CBS doubleheader like last year, and LSU should be a lot better.

That said, I don't think it will be the conditions most conducive to a Florida loss. The Gator defense will be by far the toughest Jordan Jefferson will have faced, LSU has a road game at Georgia the week before, and Florida has a bye going into that game. In addition, members of the Gator coaching staff said during the summer booster club tour that they feel it will be the toughest game of the season. They won't be overlooking a thing and will have the team very prepared.

So thanks thinking LSU is the toughest game and having papers with Lane Kiffin quotes up in the football complex this summer, it's looking to me like the likeliest loss is to Georgia. If the Gators are 7-0 going to Jacksonville, having vanquished Kiffin and won the toughest game of the year according to the coaches, complacency becomes a big issue. There's a feeling among Gator fans that last year's 49-10 win over the Bulldogs set the universe right again after 2007's disturbance in the Force, and if that's pervaded the locker room, they could go down on Halloween.

4. Which regular-season game not involving your team or conference are you most looking forward to this year?

It's the obvious answer, but it's the right answer. The Red River Shootout has the most riding on it of perhaps anything before the SEC title game. A close second is USC at Ohio State, because I think the stars are aligning against USC for once and that the Buckeyes have a real shot.

5. In honor of Georgia's opening-weekend opponent and their most prolific booster, let's say you somehow come into T. Boone Pickens money and can buy anything you want for your program -- facilities upgrades, an airplane for recruiting, buy out the contract of that coach you hate, you name it. Where does your first check go?

I would give defensive coordinator Charlie Strong a $4 million contract to match Urban Meyer's deal. He's as big a reason for the national titles as anyone, and if no one is going to give him a shot at being a head coach, then we might as well pay him like one to keep him in Gainesville forever.

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