NCAA: Game-changers

Game-changers – The guys we’re all trying to pinpoint before the season starts as sports gamblers. They run up the score, cover the spread and make us money. If only we knew who they were when we were making pre-season bets on who has the inside track to the year’s national championship bowl game. Well, the pre-season all-americans are out, so let’s preview a few and see if they’re really going to be the game-changers we’re hyping them up to be.

Tim Tebow gets the spot over some tough competition at QB. Why? Probably because his team is the most championship ready. Oklahoma lost some talent in the offseason, so the backing goes to Tebow, which is where is should be anyway. This guy is so proven as a college player, you wonder why he’s not in the NFL already. The combination of his size, intelligence and arm strength make him an easy pick. And yes, he’s clutch. He can turn a 3-point nailbitter into a 17-point spread-covering laugher faster than you can say timeout. This isn’t a revelation, but betting Florida is the safest thing you can do this year, against any and all competition.

Jermaine Gresham at tight end for Oklahoma is finally getting the respect he deserves. Expect at least 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns from this guy, who’s as good a target at anyone in the college game at an impressive 6’6″. It’s almost guaranteed, since you figure he’ll see more passes this year, and will increase his total of 66 catches by what could be a dozen or so. I still think Oklahoma is as packed offensively as anyone in the game, and as championship-ready top to bottom as Florida. There’s nothing fans would love more than an OU/UF showdown in January. Will it happen? I’d bet on it.

And then there’s Jonathan Dwyer, who was named one of two running backs to the team. What’s going to help him repeat and/or improve on his 2008 season will be the offensive line – a core of tough upperclassmen who know how to do their job and are experts at making holes. GT wasn’t as impressive in conference last year (5-3) as you’d need them to be to bet them to go strong into this year’s bowl season, but they did finish with the best overall ACC record at 9-3. They’re two toughest games this year are at home, so there’s a chance we could see the Yellow Jackets optimistically at 10-1 if they play up to their potential. I’d bet them to fight with Virginia Tech to top the conference again this year, but GT has the edge if they keep their heads and stay healthy.