College Football 2009: A Great Season on Tap

Rob SmeltzerCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2009

Could one of the greatest college football seasons in recent memory be on tap for next year? You never know if the actual season will match up with all the hype, but next season is already looking exciting.

Colt McCoy back at Texas. Check. Sam Bradford back at Oklahoma. Check. Tim Tebow back at Florida. Check. All three Heisman finalists are returning. These are just a few of the great deal of top-flight athletes who passed up millions in the NFL in this year's draft just to give college football fans what they deserve: the best season possible.

Did they owe this to the college football fans? No. Anytime a person has the ability to make millions professionally, they shouldn't be criticized for taking it. In fact, who does the NFL think it is for telling people when they can turn professional?

However, it will be great for everyone to collectively accept this gift and watch the drama unfold week by week between now and next January. Taylor Mays returned to USC to lead a Trojans team that is sure to be ranked in the preseason top 10 with or without him. Brandon Spikes returned to lead a Florida defense that lost zero players from its two-deep.

Can you imagine a National Champion returning every defensive player and their quarterback, who happens to be the team's undisputed leader? Can you imagine that I could make a case that they won't win back-to-back titles? I can.

The SEC held up well this year in bowl games. They didn't dominate, but they can probably claim the reputation as the biggest and baddest of the conferences. It's easy to see Florida stumbling at some point during the season and losing to another Ole Miss or even an improved Tennessee, or anyone really.

You can't expect a team to go undefeated, but they will need to this year. It's easy to see either Texas or Oklahoma having an easier shot at going undefeated, and then there are the perennial powers of USC and Ohio State trying to maneuver their slate without a flaw.

If any of these teams manages to go the distance without a loss and Florida is sitting as the SEC champion with a 12-1 record, they probably won't play for the title.

This isn't to start a playoff debate; it's to show how stacked the season is going to be. I didn't even bring up growing programs like Utah, Boise State, TCU, or a Big East or ACC team. There will always be a couple teams that threaten to crash the party.

If you pair those surprises with the teams everyone expects to be standing at the end, this season could be nothing short of spectacular.

As always, there are storylines that will need to be played out in front of the national media. Will Rich Rodriguez make any progress at Michigan? Will Boston College firing Jeff Jagodzinski backfire? Will everyone take back everything bad they said about Auburn hiring Gene Chizik? Who will be this year's darling coach every other team wants? Will Turner Gill head for greener pastures if he can win another MAC title?

College football fans should rejoice and enjoy the season, as many young men made decisions to better the sport. Sam Bradford said that he saw no need to rush his college experience, and for this he should be commended.

Along with all the others who passed up millions in the NFL, he embraced the idea of team, loyalty, school spirit, and community. Those are the qualities that are lacking in professional sports and what gravitates spectators toward college athletics. These players are in it for what counts: the love of the game!