Previously: #s 21-25.
20. Texas Christian
I've been trying to figure out where the Horned Frogs fit into the Mountain West firmament, assuming that the Mountain West even has a firmament, and I think I've decided they're a leeeetle bit better than Utah but not as good as BYU. Sorry, TCU, but the Associated Press asked me to remove their Sportswriter's Poll of Mascot Weirdness from my rankings calculation -- if they hadn't done that, y'all might be top ten.
19. North Carolina State
I guess you'd have to call this my big dark-horse pick for 2009. Dark horse for what? The ACC title? The Champs Sports Bowl? Obama's next Supreme Court nominee? Ask me later, I'm not really sure. But they have improved their record every season since Chesty Chuck Amato got canned, their QB somehow managed to go from "Oh my god now this is just cruel" to first-team All-ACC in the span of a single year, and they have a notorious hard-ass of a coach who has never smiled once, ever. And isn't that last one pretty much what's made Florida the juggernaut it is today?
Isn't it weird how we know more about the shitty teams in the Big XII North this year than the good ones? Like, we know Kansas State is paying Ron Prince millions of dollars to do nothing and Iowa State's players are still trying to get over the hurt feelings from their breakup with Gene Chizik -- who still hasn't returned their DVD of "The Notebook," by the way -- but we haven't heard shit about Nebraska. I'm guessing this is because the North Division appears to be headed back into that morass of a few years back when the entire division stunk and the champion had won nothing more than the right to get anally vivisected by Texas or Oklahoma in practical terms, but whatever the case may be, I'm sure long-suffering Husker fans will be happy just to get back to the title game, and maybe even rediscover the concept of defense along the way.
17. Brigham Young
I don't really have a lot to say about BYU. They'll probably win the Mountain West, but they're not going to go to a BCS bowl, and these days if you're a mid-major who's not going to a BCS bowl nobody gives a rat's ass. My thumbnail sketch of their season goes something like this: They get bent over by Oklahoma on opening day, "upset" Florida State (it won't really be an upset, but everyone on ESPN will call it that) two weeks later, and then you won't hear from them again until they get punked in the Las Vegas Bowl by some schmoe mid-Pac-10 team who wanted to be there more than they did. That's my Five-Star Power Play of the year right there, folks. Don't forget to thank me when you're cashing your check.
16. Michigan State
My other Five-Star Power Play of the Year -- and you really should throw me an extra fin or something for this, because it's like I'm giving you free money -- is that this season will be almost a carbon copy of '08 for the Spartans: They'll run a train on Jimmy Clausen for the third year in a row, beat Michigan again, and go right back to a New Year's Day bowl to get whacked by Georgia. I know 16 seems kind of high-altitude for these guys at first glance, but how much of our collective disdain for Sparty is actually merited and how much is simply held over from the days when John L. Smith was slapping himself at press conferences? Yes, they lose their starting QB (Brian Hoyer) and last year's second-leading rusher in the Big Ten (Javon Ringer), but Hoyer wasn't exactly Joe Montana, and as for Ringer, I don't think anybody from an RB corps that averaged 3.3 yards per carry quite meets the definition of "indispensable."