TOP 25 COUNTDOWN
No. 19 Tennessee
10-4 (beat Wisconsin, 21-17, in the Outback Bowl)
8 offense, 6 defense
at Georgia, Oct. 11
Player to Watch
Arian Foster, senior tailback
After rushing for 1,193 yards in 2007, Foster is 685 yards behind Travis Henry, the school's all-time leading rusher. He also caught 39 passes for 340 yards last season.
Why They're Worth Watching
Strong safety Eric Berry earned freshman all-American honors last season after leading Southeastern Conference freshmen with 86 tackles. He also recorded five interceptions and returned them for a combined 222 yards. Berry's partner, free safety Demetrice Morley, missed the 2007 campaign after being dismissed from the school for falling below its academic standards. He remained in Knoxville and attended classes at Pellissippi State to regain admission. Morley started 10 games at strong safety in 2006, recording 51 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He will move to free safety this fall to complement Berry, as well as fill the void left by the graduation of all-SEC safety Jonathan Hefney. Cornerbacks Brent Vinson and Marsalous Johnson will round out the Vols' secondary, though both are being pushed by seniors Antonio Gaines and DeAngelo Willingham.
Why They're Vulnerable
The task of replacing quarterback Erik Ainge will fall on the shoulders of junior Jonathan Crompton. Ainge threw for 3,522 yards and 31 touchdowns last season, so the task will not be easy. Crompton, at 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, has the size, arm strength and stability to succeed. The question is how quickly he can adapt to a starting role after throwing just 12 passes in 2007. He did throw a pair of touchdown passes against both LSU and Arkansas during his freshman season. Though Crompton absorbed new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson's schemes during spring play, he also underwent minor arthroscopic elbow surgery in April. A full recovery is expected, but the procedure gives Vols followers yet another reason to worry. Should Crompton falter, redshirt freshman B.J. Coleman and sophomore Nick Stephens are next in line to lead the huddle; neither has thrown a pass during a live game for the Vols.
-- Steve Yanda
No. 18 Oregon.
No. 25 Arizona State, No. 24 Alabama, No. 23 Cal, No. 22 Penn State, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 20 Wisconsin.