Stewart Mandel has proclaimed that the national champ is going to be one of 16 listed teams. So LSU, Florida, and Georgia, you can revise your goals down accordingly because you're on Stewie's shitlist. LSU, you're replacing too much on the lines and your schedule is too hard. Florida, Stewart is apparently unaware that you're replacing even more on the offensive line than LSU is, but nevertheless, your schedule is also too challenging. Georgia, you're apparently going to be starting Matthew Stafford, so you're out as well. What's that you say? South Carolina is on Mandel's Sweet Sixteen list of national title contenders and they're replacing a lot on both lines? And they have significantly less talent than LSU, Florida, or Georgia? And they were 7-5 last year? And they play roughly the same rigorous SEC slate, with Clemson tacked on at the end at Death Valley for good measure? Wait, are you saying that...there's a flaw in Mandel's reasoning? His own "logic" contradicts itself? But that can't be right; he's paid to know these things and to come up with consistent arguments.
(Please tell me that Mandel doesn't think that South Carolina is a more likely bet than Florida, Georgia, or LSU because they lost five games last year and several prior national champions lost five games en route to their title-winning seasons. I'd like to think that Northwestern grads have a firmer grasp of basic probability than that.)
Leaving aside my faux shock that South Carolina is one of two SEC teams with a chance to win the national title, here are my other problems with the article:
1. Texas can't win the national title because no team has won with a freshman quarterback. That's technically true, but plenty of teams have won with weak quarterback play. If Alabama could win a title with sophomore Jay Barker, who was as useless in 1992 as tits on a bull, under center, then Texas could win with Jevan Snead or Colt McCoy. Is it unreasonable to think that McCoy or Snead couldn't live up to the level of Craig Krenzel? And West Virginia is the chic pick this year, based on their 11-1 performance last year with a freshman quarterback.
2. If the odds of an MWC team playing in the Fiesta Bowl are unlikely (Mandel's rationale for omitting TCU), then doesn't that mean that Utah should be off of the list as well? If Utah couldn't get close to the national title game when they were mangling every one of their opponents in 2004, then how would a presumably inferior Utah team make it to the title game in '06?
3. If schedule concerns prevent Georgia, LSU, Florida, or Oregon from national title consideration, then why is Michigan on the list when UM has road games against preseason #1 Ohio State, #3 Notre Dame, and #19 Penn State, along with a home game against #17 Iowa? Or Georgia Tech, which has Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami, and Georgia on the slate and, unlike Michigan, has Reggie Ball under center?
4. Two years ago, Mandel wrote an incisive piece in SI.com's preseason spread about how the common thread for all recent national champions was a dominant defense. Why has he totally disregarded that one nugget of wisdom now?
5. What in the holy hell is Nebraska doing on that list?