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Daily Archive for January 9th, 2008

Krups BeerTender

Source: engadget 

Heineken and Krups bringing BeerTender to the States

Heineken and Krups have been peddling their LCD-equipped keg / fridge in Europe for a little while now, but the companies are going to give it a shot in the States and see if those American go for this whole “cold beer” thing. The unit is built to hold a 5-liter Heineken keg and keep it tasting fresh and cold for about 30 days. The LCD indicates temperature and lets you know when beer is running low. You can buy it in March from Williams-Sonoma and everywhere in April for $400.

Really funny ESPN article

FYI to you guys who knew about my situation for the NYE bowl game…I printed out this article and taped them all over the doors of my two bosses who nixed my sports trip to the ATL…(they are huge O-H-I-O state fans).

source: ESPN 

NEW ORLEANS — With the 2007 football season complete, here’s the game plan for 2008:

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Jim Tressel

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Jim Tressel’s Ohio State team has lost back-to-back games for the BCS national championship.

We need border patrols along Interstate 10, from Jacksonville to Pensacola. A Coast Guard blockade at Biscayne Bay. And the FAA should redirect all inbound flights to South Florida from Ohio.

If you see a silver helmet and a sweater vest coming, contact authorities.

Because next year’s BCS National Championship Game will be played in Miami, and the Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t invited. Especially if the Southeastern Conference champion is invited.

If you’ve ever seen lions maul a water buffalo, you’ve seen the last two title games. You’ve seen a fierce pair of SEC teams — Florida last year, LSU this year — blow the vulnerable Buckeyes back to the Bratwurst Belt by a combined 41 points. You’ve seen the best of one league flex, and the best of an inferior league collapse.

Nobody wants to see it a third time. Give Ohio State credit for consistently being very good — but until Jim Tressel’s team proves it can step up to the highest level of competition and actually stay on the field with an SEC opponent, stay away.

When the program’s bowl record is 0-9 against the SEC, the evidence is overwhelming.

Buckeyes fans are fond of breaking into impromptu group spelling bees, shouting out “O-H-I-O.” When an SEC team shows up on the other sideline it should be “O-H-N-O.”

They’re also fond of calling their school The Ohio State University. It might also now be called The Overmatched State University of the BCS.

This time the final score was healthy-and-loaded LSU 38, in-over-its-head Ohio State 24. And it wasn’t that close. Once again, the Bucks got their fans excited by scoring early — ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown last season, jumped out 10-0 this time.

Then, once again, it was time for southern-fried dominance.

Last year the Gators ran off 21 unanswered points to take control. This year the Tigers peeled off 31 straight, scoring five times in six possessions over a 30-minute span, ripping what was statistically the nation’s No. 1 defense.

The Buckeyes aided in their own demise by committing a spate of personal-foul penalties. By blowing coverages. By getting a key field goal blocked. By showing neither the composure nor the competitiveness of a champion.

“They didn’t fight back like an SEC team would do,” said LSU safety Harry Coleman, who filled in superbly for injured All-American Craig Steltz.

The Tigers had no problem fighting back. Down 10-0, they shrugged.

Been there, overcome that — three times, in fact. They were down 10 against Florida and Auburn and Alabama. All SEC opponents, not coincidentally.

“There’s no panic in this team,” said coach Les Miles said. “Are you kidding me? We’ve been down 10 before. We know how to play.”

The SEC is not a humble place by any measure. But it ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up — and especially if you can back-to-back it up, as Florida and LSU have done.

“They’re used to playing in tough games week-in and week-out,” said SEC commissioner Mike Slive, between sideline fist pumps after LSU’s final touchdown of the night. “They’re used to playing in what I call the crucible.”

The Big Ten, by contrast, has been the baby’s crib. Ohio State has coasted through that league 15-1 the past two seasons, only to collapse in the face of an SEC champ with a lower BCS standing and a worse record.

“I don’t think it was easy,” said LSU offensive tackle Carnell Stewart. “But they let momentum get to them, and their heads were gone.”

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Todd Boeckman

John David Mercer/US Presswire

Ohio State was in it early but QB Todd Boeckman ended up being pounded often by the fierce LSU Tigers defense.

How much negative momentum had the Buckeyes encountered in strolling to their 11-1 record? How much adversity had they overcome? Almost none.

They were tied with Wisconsin heading into the fourth quarter before pulling away. (The Badgers, by the way, lost to SEC opponent Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.) In their only other serious second-half fight, they seized up and lost at home to Illinois. (The Illini, by the way, were nudged by 32 in the Rose Bowl.)

So, no, the Buckeyes weren’t ready for what LSU threw at them. Not ready to win the battle in the trenches, not ready to match speed on the perimeter, not ready to calmly and smartly execute under a mountain of pressure. LSU figured to be better at a majority of positions but wound up better at virtually every position but running back.

Combine that lack of toughening with vivid memories of the destruction in the desert against Florida and you know why so many of us were concerned about Ohio State’s fitness for this battle. Especially if you saw a fully loaded LSU from earlier in the season, before the SEC wars began wearing it down.

“We played the best ball in the country,” said defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, physically capable of playing a full game for the first time in months. “We have big games week after week.”

That was more or less what Miles said back in July, popping off about the strength of the SEC in comparison to other leagues. On the season’s final night, his players backed up the talk.

“In this conference, week after week, you’re going to play quality-coached, very talented teams and you’re going to have to play your best,” Miles said. “And so I think it puts the champion of this conference in position to compete in a very competitive game like this with an advantage.”

Ohio State, meanwhile, now symbolizes the pigskin Peter Principle. The Buckeyes have achieved just enough the past two seasons to rise to a level where they’re incompetent.

It’s a tough thing, putting together an overachieving season and seeing it end in embarrassing fashion. Especially since the Buckeyes know what this means — another year of “S-E-C” chants and barbs about flopping on the big stage.

“I worry about disappointment because I know how hard these kids work,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “I don’t worry too much about criticism, because if you’re not tough enough to handle criticism, then you better get out of this game. … There’s a whole lot of people that don’t really have much understanding of what it takes to be good at this game but yet love to have opinions.

“If you struggle to take criticism, then you need not be at Ohio State or not be playing the game of football.”

Well, good. At least Tressel knows what he’s in for.

And he should know not to bring that weak Big Ten stuff back to the BCS National Championship Game again next year. / Preseason TOP 25 2008 Preseason Top 25: Jan. 8

1. USC (11-2)
Putting USC at the top is a safe pick because the Trojans annually win their conference, earn a BCS bid and play their best at the end of the season.

2. Georgia (11-2)
Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno will give the Bulldogs one of the nation’s top quarterback/tailback duos.

3. Ohio State (11-2)
The Buckeyes’ title hopes could depend on whether potential first-round picks Vernon Gholston, James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins stay in school.

4. Oklahoma (11-3)
Quarterback Sam Bradford will try to build on his outstanding freshman campaign while leading a team that could return as many as 17 starters.

5. Missouri (12-2)
The Tigers should return three 2007 All-America selections in quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and free safety William Moore.

6. Florida (9-4)
You know that offense will rack up some points, but the Gators’ defense must get a whole lot better.

7. West Virginia (11-2)
The Mountaineers hope the expected returns of Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine on offense will compensate for heavy graduation losses on defense.

8. LSU (12-2)
The Tigers lose tons of talent on both sides of the ball, but they have plenty of former four- and five-star prospects ready to replace them.

9. Auburn (9-4)
Auburn’s biggest losses are on the sideline, as they must adjust to a new offense and find a replacement for departed defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

10. Clemson (9-4)
With so much talent back on offense and defense, the Tigers can’t come up short in a big situation again. Can they?

11. Kansas (12-1)
The Jayhawks could be even stronger than they were this season. They’ll need to be better now that they no longer avoid Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.

12. BYU (11-2)
If the Cougars beat Washington and UCLA in September, they might not lose all season.

13. Virginia Tech (11-3)
The Hokies’ hopes of contending for anything beyond an ACC title rest on whether cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Victor Harris return to school.

14. Texas (10-3)
The Longhorns are banking on Will Muschamp‘s arrival to boost a defense that struggled up until its bowl game this season.

15. Wisconsin (9-4)
The Badgers have a big question mark at quarterback, but they look solid just about everywhere else.

16. Illinois (9-4)
Rashard Mendenhall‘s decision to enter the NFL Draft will make it tougher for the Illini to prove they’re not just a one-season wonder.

17. Texas Tech (9-4)
The Harrell-to-Crabtree combination will give Big 12 defensive coordinators plenty of sleepless nights next season.

18. Oregon (9-4)
The Sun Bowl proved how dangerous this team can be if it gets consistency from its quarterback, but the Ducks must go on the road to face USC, California, Arizona State and Oregon State.

19. Arizona State (10-3)
Rudy Carpenter returns to work behind a retooled line that has to do a better job of protecting him.

20. Penn State (9-4)
The last time Penn State had a quarterback as run-oriented as Daryll Clark, Michael Robinson led the Nittany Lions to an Orange Bowl title.

21. Tennessee (10-4)
Uncertainty at quarterback and offensive coordinator prevents us from ranking the Vols any higher.

22. South Florida (9-4)
The offense should be better than this season’s, but the Bulls will have a tough time replacing cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams.

23. Michigan (9-4)
The Wolverines could have some growing pains as they adjust to new coach Rich Rodriguez and his spread offense.

24. South Carolina (6-6)
This is a leap of faith considering how the Gamecocks ended 2007, but we’re guessing South Carolina should have one of the nation’s most improved teams.

25. Wake Forest (9-4)
Jim Grobe‘s decision not to go to Arkansas assures that Wake Forest once again will have the coaching edge in just about every game it plays next fall. Preseason Top 25

1. Georgia

The Bulldogs return all but five starters from a team that won its last seven games to finish 11-2 in 2007. Tailback Knowshon Moreno, who will be a sophomore during the 2008 season, should be a Heisman Trophy candidate (redshirt freshman Caleb King might be just as good), and quarterback Matthew Stafford was much improved in his second season as a starter. The Bulldogs must find a pass-rusher to replace Marcus Howard, and the loss of strong-legged kicker Brandon Coutu can’t be underestimated. Georgia plays a difficult schedule — an early road test at Arizona State on Sept. 20 and consecutive games against LSU and Florida in midseason are potential stumbling blocks — but no team in the SEC has as much returning talent and depth.

2. Oklahoma

With nine starters eligible to come back on offense and seven on defense, the Sooners should be favorites in the Big 12. Now, if Oklahoma just didn’t have to play in a bowl game. The Sooners should be explosive on offense, even after losing 1,000-yard rusher Allen Patrick. Tailback DeMarco Murray ran for 764 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman, and quarterback Sam Bradford threw 36 touchdowns with only eight interceptions in his first season as a starter. Oklahoma is expecting leading receiver Juaquin Iglesias back, but deep threat Malcolm Kelly might turn pro. Guard Duke Robinson also is a candidate to leave early. The defense will have to replace two starters in the secondary and must find a bona fide pass-rusher. The nonconference schedule is somewhat demanding with home games against Cincinnati and TCU and a road game at Washington. Oklahoma doesn’t play Missouri in Big 12 play and gets Kansas and Texas Tech at home.

3. Florida

The 2006 national champions took a big step back in 2007, primarily because of their youth on defense and lack of a running game. The Gators had to replace nine starters on defense and the young replacements didn’t play well in losses to Georgia and Michigan. The secondary will remain a concern going into next season, but the defensive front should be improved. Coach Urban Meyer has to find a running back to complement Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and USC transfer Emmanuel Moody might be that guy. Losing receiver Andre Caldwell and possibly tight end Cornelius Ingram will hurt, but rising junior Percy Harvin is one of the best players in the country. The Gators will play nine of their 12 games in the state of Florida, including a key Nov. 1 date against Georgia in Jacksonville and a Nov. 29 finale at Florida State. The nonconference schedule includes home games against Hawaii and Miami to start the season.

4. Missouri

The Tigers should have played in a BCS bowl game this season, but they’ll get to one in 2008. Quarterback Chase Daniel is coming back for his senior season, along with 10 starters on defense. The Tigers will be hit hard on offense, with tailback Tony Temple, left tackle Tyler Luellen, All-American center Adam Spieker and tight end Martin Rucker leaving. Tailback Derrick Washington will have to be as good as advertised, and the Tigers will have to find more ways to get Jeremy Maclin the football. Missouri will play Kansas’ schedule from 2007 (or lack thereof), as the Tigers won’t play Oklahoma, Texas A&M or Texas Tech. The season starts with a suddenly daunting game against Illinois in St. Louis on Aug. 30 and also includes home games against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri, Nevada and Buffalo.

5. USC

The Trojans played like the best team in the country in their final four games of 2007, but will go into 2008 with plenty of questions. USC will lose quarterback John David Booty and tight end Fred Davis on offense, along with three very good players on the offensive line. The heart of the defense also will be gone, with tackle Sedrick Ellis, end Lawrence Jackson and linebacker Keith Rivers leaving. But coach Pete Carroll still has plenty of talent on hand. Freshman Joe McKnight looked spectacular against Illinois in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi. Mark Sanchez, a redshirt junior next season, is Booty’s heir apparent, but Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain will battle for the starting job in the spring. Another Arkansas transfer, Damian Williams, should boost the receiving corps. The Trojans’ schedule includes two difficult nonconference games (at Virginia on Aug. 30 and home against Ohio State), but the Pac-10 schedule flips with Oregon, Arizona State and California coming to the Coliseum.

6. Ohio State

The Buckeyes will have all the pieces in place for yet another run at the BCS title game, especially if All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis returns for his senior season. Tailback Beanie Wells is the Buckeyes’ next superstar, and receivers Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie are both coming back. Quarterback Todd Boeckman has to continue to improve throwing the football, and right tackle Kirk Barton will be a big loss. The defense could be even better in 2008, with end Lawrence Wilson coming back from a broken leg and promising rising sophomore Cameron Heyward adding weight and getting stronger. After playing a light nonconference schedule in 2007, the Buckeyes travel to USC on Sept. 13 and play Big Ten road games at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois.

7. Texas

Longhorns fans are getting a little bit restless, after Texas finished its second straight season without a berth in a BCS bowl game. But the Longhorns’ 52-34 win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl should give fans some confidence heading into the 2008 season. If Texas can find a replacement for running back Jamaal Charles, who turned pro after running for 1,619 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, the offense should have pretty good firepower. Quarterback Colt McCoy needs to cut down on his 18 interceptions, but showed better mobility as a sophomore. Texas will have heavy personnel losses on defense, including tackles Derek Lokey and Frank Okam and linebackers Robert Killebrew and Scott Derry. Three starters will be gone from the secondary. Coach Mack Brown hired Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to improve a defense that struggled in 2007.

8. LSU

Tigers fans might want to really enjoy their national championship because coach Les Miles will have to overhaul his team’s roster. All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is leaving, along with free safety Craig Steltz, quarterback Matt Flynn, tailback Jacob Hester and receiver Early Doucet. Miles will have to replace defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, who is leaving to become Nebraska’s head coach. Ryan Perrilloux should take over at quarterback, and either Keiland Williams or Charles Scott will succeed Hester. LSU’s nonconference schedule in 2008 isn’t very demanding (North Texas, Troy, Tulane and a yet-to-be-determined opponent), but Georgia rotates onto the SEC slate.

9. Clemson

Tigers fans are waiting for coach Tommy Bowden to win his first ACC championship and get his team to a BCS bowl game, and he’ll have the team to do it in 2008. Tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller should be back, along with quarterback Cullen Harper and receiver Aaron Kelly. Four starters will have to be replaced on the offensive line, but nine starters could be back on defense. Clemson has to improve its kicking game, which has been a trouble spot the past few seasons.

10. Arizona State

The Sun Devils made tremendous strides in coach Dennis Erickson’s first season, but they have a long way to go to challenge USC in the Pac-10. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter returns after throwing for 3,202 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. Four of his top five pass catchers also should be back. Tailback Ryan Torain leaves, along with a couple of starters from an offensive line that didn’t protect Carpenter very well. The losses on defense could be heavy, too, with safety Josh Barrett and linebacker Robert James slated to leave. Georgia goes to Arizona State on Sept. 20, and the Sun Devils play Pac-10 road games at California, USC and Oregon State.

11. Virginia Tech

The Hokies will retain much of their firepower on offense, with quarterbacks Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor and tailback Branden Ore expected to return to Blacksburg, Va. But much of the Hokies’ vaunted defense is leaving, including linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall and cornerback Brandon Flowers, a junior who is entering the NFL draft. Three starters will leave the defensive line and three veteran receivers will have to be replaced. A Sept. 27 trip to Nebraska highlights the nonconference schedule and the ACC slate includes trips to Boston College, Miami and Florida State.

12. Texas Tech

Mike Leach has led the Red Raiders to a bowl game in each of his eight seasons as coach, and Texas Tech might be poised to reach a BCS bowl game in 2008. Quarterback Graham Harrell returns to the record-setting offense, along with receiver Michael Crabtree, who had 134 catches for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns as a freshman. Just as important, each of the five offensive linemen protecting Harrell will return. The Red Raiders hope to have eight starters back on defense, but kicker Alex Trlica will have to be replaced. Texas Tech’s schedule opens against Tulsa and includes road games at Texas A&M, Kansas and Oklahoma.

13. Wisconsin

The Badgers didn’t meet lofty expectations in 2007, but they’ll have a chance to be better in 2008. Replacing quarterback Tyler Donovan will be the most pressing concern, but Kansas State transfer Allan Evridge battled Donovan for the job in 2007. Tailback P.J. Hill, who will be a redshirt junior, battled injuries last season, allowing Zach Brown and Lance Smith to become quality backups. The offense will be pretty good if tight end Travis Beckum returns for one more season. Cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu already has decided to leave for the NFL draft. The Badgers’ schedule includes a road trip to Fresno State and consecutive games against Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Illinois in midseason.

14. West Virginia

The Mountaineers should have plenty of weapons coming back on offense, including quarterback Pat White and possibly tailback Steve Slaton. Noel Devine, who will be a sophomore in 2008, returns as well. But how will new coach Bill Stewart fare now that he’s not on an interim basis? He had the Mountaineers ready to play in the Fiesta Bowl, but now Stewart has to prove he can recruit and motivate on a weekly basis. Coaching transitions are never easy, even with a boatload of talent coming back (ask Louisville’s Steve Kragthorpe). At least seven starters will have to be replaced on defense, and fullback Owen Schmitt and receiver Darius Reynaud also are leaving.

15. Kansas

The Jayhawks will learn maintaining success might be more difficult than obtaining it. Coming off the best season in school history, Kansas will have to replace a few of its stars, including cornerback Aqib Talib and offensive tackle Anthony Collins, each of whom is passing up his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Four other starters on offense will be gone, including 1,000-yard runner Brandon McAnderson. But quarterback Todd Reesing and nine starters on defense are expected to come back. The schedule gets much tougher than it was in 2007, with a road game at South Florida on Sept. 13 and Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech rotating back onto the Big 12 schedule.

16. Auburn

The Tigers expect to return eight starters on both offense and defense, but there figures to be a transition because of coaching changes. Offensive coordinator Al Borges resigned before the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and coach Tommy Tuberville hired Tony Franklin from Troy to install the spread offense. Then defensive coordinator Will Muschamp left for the same position at Texas. Replacing quarterback Brandon Cox will be the top priority in the spring, with Kodi Burns, who will be a sophomore in 2008, expected to take over. Defensive end Quentin Groves and tackle Josh Thompson are the biggest losses on defense. The Tigers play at West Virginia, but play LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia at home.

17. Penn State

The Nittany Lions could return 18 starters if cornerback Justin King returns for his senior season. Penn State will have to replace quarterback Anthony Morelli and tailback Rodney Kinlaw. With Daryll Clark, who’ll be a senior next season, slated to replace Morelli, offensive coordinator Galen Hall might opt for a spread attack in 2008. Penn State returns top receivers Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams. Replacing inside linebacker Dan Connor will be a priority on defense, and Sean Lee might move inside to succeed Connor. The nonconference schedule includes home games against Division I-AA Coastal Carolina, Oregon State and Temple and a road game at Syracuse. The Nittany Lions play Illinois and Michigan at home, but play at Wisconsin and Ohio State.

18. Oregon

The Ducks have hope after blasting South Florida 56-21 in the Sun Bowl. Justin Roper played well at quarterback as a redshirt freshman and goes into spring practice as the No. 1 candidate to replace Dennis Dixon. Tailback Jonathan Stewart will probably turn pro, so the Ducks have to hope Jeremiah Johnson, a senior next season, recovers quickly from a torn ACL in his right knee. Two starters will be lost on the offensive line, including right tackle Geoff Schwartz. The defensive front loses its two tackles and two linebackers. The Ducks’ nonconference schedule includes games at Purdue and home against Boise State, along with road games at Arizona State, Cal, USC and Oregon State during Pac-10 play.

19. BYU

The Cougars have won 11 games in each of the past two seasons, as well as consecutive Mountain West titles under coach Bronco Mendenhall. With quarterback Max Hall and tailback Harvey Unga coming back, expect similar results in 2008. BYU will have to rebuild its defense, with heavy losses at linebacker and in the secondary. The nonconference schedule includes games against Washington and UCLA.

20. Virginia

Cavaliers coach Al Groh went from the hot seat to ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers to a 9-4 finish. Virginia returns most of its firepower on offense, with quarterback Jameel Sewell and tailback Mikell Simpson returning. Tailback Cedric Peerman (foot) and receiver Kevin Ogletree (knee) also are coming back from injuries, but three starters on the offensive line and tight end Tom Santi will have to be replaced. All-American defensive end Chris Long is a huge loss, but Jeffrey Fitzgerald was a great pass-rusher on the other side. The Cavaliers open the season against USC in Charlottesville, Va.

21. Michigan

There will be a lot of uncertainty at Michigan, as new coach Rich Rodriguez tries to install his spread offense. The Wolverines lose quarterback Chad Henne, left tackle Jake Long and tailback Mike Hart. Top receivers Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington might forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft. Will Rodriguez persuade quarterback Ryan Mallett to stay, and can the new coach recruit highly regarded prospect Terrelle Pryor to run his offense in Ann Arbor? The Wolverines will suffer heavy personnel losses on defense, too, with linebacker Shawn Crable and both safeties leaving. Tackle Terrance Taylor is still undecided on whether he’ll return for his senior season.

22. Pittsburgh

The Panthers have reason for optimism after upsetting West Virginia 13-9 in the regular-season finale, a loss that cost the Mountaineers a chance to play for the BCS championship. Dave Wannstedt failed to produce a winning record in his first three seasons as coach of his alma mater, but the Panthers seem ready to turn the corner in 2008. Pitt lost four games by seven points or fewer in 2007. Seven starters are expected back on both offense and defense. Tailback LeSean McCoy ran for 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman, and freshman quarterback Pat Bostick was much improved by season’s end. Receiver Derek Kinder and defensive tackle Gus Mustakas will return from season-ending knee injuries. Linebacker Scott McKillop led the country with 151 tackles and led a defense that showed bite in 2007.

23. Illinois

A 49-17 loss to USC in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi showed the Illini still have a lot of work to do in coach Ron Zook’s rebuilding job. Quarterback Juice Williams and receiver Arrelious Benn will be back, but the loss of tailback Rashard Mendenhall is potentially devastating. Mendenhall was one of the best running backs in the country and a major part of Illinois’ offense. All-American linebacker J Leman and four other defensive starters, including both safeties, will have to be replaced. But Zook continues to recruit very well and there is a boatload of talented young players coming back.

24. South Carolina

The Gamecocks collapsed after a 6-1 start to finish 6-6 in 2007. South Carolina couldn’t stop the run and couldn’t run the football, a recipe for disaster in the SEC. But Steve Spurrier doesn’t like to lose, so figure the Gamecocks to be much improved in 2008. If linebacker Jasper Brinkley receives a medical redshirt from the NCAA, after missing much of the 2007 season with a knee injury, South Carolina could be pretty good on defense. The hiring of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was a good start. Quarterback Chris Smelley will get the first chance to replace departed starter Blake Mitchell, but Spurrier is excited about the potential of Stephen Garcia, a redshirt freshman next season.

25. Fresno State

The Bulldogs rebounded from a 4-8 disaster in 2006 to finish 9-4 this season, including a 40-28 win over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl. Fresno State’s offense showed a lot of firepower, scoring 30 points or more in eight of its last nine games. Tom Brandstater was one of the country’s most improved passers, throwing 15 touchdowns with only five interceptions. The Bulldogs will lose speedy Clifton Smith, who ran for 625 yards and five touchdowns and caught 33 passes. But Ryan Mathews ran for 866 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman. Eight starters are expected back on offense and seven on defense. Replacing linebacker Marcus Riley will be a priority on defense.