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Keeping the Good Times Rolling

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - College football fans across the country have waited patiently (tongue planted firmly in cheek) for the 2008 season to arrive. The anticipation is that much greater for programs that surprised the country in 2007 and really made names for themselves, expanding their respective fan bases in the process. Can that success last for these newcomers, and which programs will take a step back in 2008?


Mark Mangino has this Jayhawks squad clicking on both sides of the ball.
KANSAS: Mark Mangino has built something special in Lawrence. The Jayhawks really came out of nowhere last season to capture the imagination of college football fans everywhere. The team went an unbelievable 12-1 on the year and certainly had its chance to play for a national title. A loss to Missouri prevented that from happening, but the Jayhawks validated an enormously successful season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Kansas is ready for an encore performance, and while no one can expect another 12-win campaign, this could be a double-digit win team. Of course, the schedule is harder, but Mangino has this team clicking on both sides of the ball and that is certainly a recipe that provides staying power.

SOUTH FLORIDA: The fact that the Bulls have only been a Division I team since 2000 still boggles the mind. Head coach Jim Leavitt enters 2008 with back-to- back nine-win seasons under his belt. That kind of success is infectious and being in the Sunshine State doesn't hurt either. The talent in the state of Florida is second to none, but it is no longer a three-team race for that wealth. USF is starting to get home-grown players to look past Miami, Gainesville and Tallahassee and really take a long look at what Tampa has to offer. A couple more strong recruiting classes, and the Bulls could very well treat the Big East like their own personal china shop.

MISSOURI: The Tigers were at the pinnacle of the sport last season, earning a number-one ranking and getting within one game of playing for a national title. The loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship derailed those plans, but Gary Pinkel has a team worthy of mention again. Playing in the Big 12 North will once again be a plus, as the other programs are probably still a year or two away from really contending, with the exception of Kansas. Throw in a Heisman hopeful in Chase Daniel and Missouri could wind up in another Big 12 Title game.


HAWAII: In 2007, the Warriors finished the regular season with an unblemished record, the only program in the country to do so. Of course, running the table in the WAC isn't exactly like doing so in the Big Ten or the SEC, but still, a remarkable season for Hawaii. The Warriors were an offensive juggernaut under June Jones, but Jones has left the South Pacific. Add the loss of standout QB Colt Brennan and a slew of talented receivers, and that leaves Hawaii in a whole lot of trouble in 2008. The team gets started in Gainesville this week and could give the team flashbacks of the Sugar Bowl against Georgia (41-10). New head coach Greg McMackin certainly has his work cut out for him.

VIRGINIA: Al Groh has done a nice job in his time in Charlottesville, culminating in a nine-win season a year ago. The Cavaliers set an NCAA record with five wins by two points or less and boasted perhaps the nation's most dominant defensive performer in Chris Long. Well, Long has moved on to the NFL and the Cavaliers return just 11 starters from the 2007 squad. They won't only take a step back, but perhaps three or four steps back. Groh will certainly have to do a supreme job just to remain competitive this year. It certainly won't do much for the team's confidence to open up against USC this week.

MICHIGAN: Before the Maize and Blue Nation gets all up in arms, remember how much the Wolverines lost from last year. The team is under new leadership with Rich Rodriguez taking over. It will utilize different schemes on both sides of the ball in 2008 and will be without the services of stars like QB Chad Henne, OT Jake Long, RB Mike Hart and WR Mario Manningham. The team did win nine games last year and beat Florida in the Capital One Bowl and recorded its 40th straight non-losing season. With so many unknowns heading into this season, it won't be easy to reach 41.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes
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