The interviewing continues here at Burnt Orange Nation, with today's guest a particularly interesting one for Longhorn fans. Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com, filing a national notebook every Wednesday and a dip into the mailbag every Friday. But Austin residents may also remember Olin from his days as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman. When I saw he had jumped over to Rivals, I knew we had to get him on the line.
Burnt Orange Nation: Thanks for chatting with us, Olin. I can remember from my childhood days in Austin all the sports stories you filed on local teams. I thought you always did a good job of giving kids great coverage, but you have to be happy with the new gig. Writing about college football year round? And getting paid? Sounds good to me. What are you enjoying most about covering college football for Rivals?
Olin Buchanon, Rivals.com: Well, just covering college football is great. I love a lot of sports, but college football has always been my favorite. In the spring I visited Auburn, Georgia, Notre Dame, USC, Michigan and Ohio State as well as Texas, Baylor and A&M, so for a college football fan that's a pretty good deal.
Burnt Orange Nation: Your most recent column offers some hope for Longhorn fans who may be nervous about a freshman starting at quarterback. Do you think Snead or McCoy can do enough right away to get Texas past its two big early tests, Ohio State and Oklahoma?
Olin Buchanon, Rivals.com: Well, I'd say the key is that they don't do too much wrong. Texas is loaded everywhere but at quarterback, so you can bet Mack Brown and Greg Davis will design an offense to take advantage of the talent around the quarterback. Last year, Vince Young won games for Texas. They won't need the quarterback to win games this season as much as they don't want him to make mistakes that will lead to losses.
I think Texas, with a new quarterback, is in more jeopardy against Ohio State than Oklahoma simply because by the time the Longhorns play the Sooners those quarterbacks will have gotten a few games experience.
Burnt Orange Nation: We get pretty obsessy over the Longhorns here, and Texas-Ohio State, as well as Texas-Oklahoma, are going to be huge. But what other national games involving other teams are you most excited to see this year?
Olin Buchanon, Rivals.com: Oh a bunch of them. Florida State-Miami will be huge on Sept. 4, of course. I'm really interested in USC's early games against Arkansas and Nebraska, too. Notre Dame and Michigan, of course, will be key. LSU at Auburn on Sept. 16 might decide the SEC West winner. There are a lot of good early games.
I think West Virginia at Louisville on Thursday, Nov. 2 will have national championship implications. West Virginia's schedule is pretty soft and that should be the Mountaineers' toughest test. If West Virginia gets by Louisville they might end up in the Fiesta Bowl. It won't be easy, though. West Virginia needed overtime to beat Louisville in Morgantown last year.
Burnt Orange Nation: The SEC looks like a logjam at the top this year, with Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Auburn all fielding potentially Top 10 teams, with Tennessee and Arkansas perhaps not far behind. Can any of these teams run through the schedule unblemished? Getting to the BCS title game out of the SEC looks tough to me.
Olin Buchanon, Rivals.com: I agree. That's the case every year and why it was so unjust that Auburn went unbeaten two years ago and didn't get a chance to play for the national championship. I think the team with the best chance this year is Auburn again. The Tigers have a lot of speed on defense, a good quarterback in Brandon Cox, the SEC's top returning rusher in Kenny Irons and although they play LSU, Florida and Georgia they get them all at home.
Burnt Orange Nation: Texas isn't the only team to lose Heisman worthy talent at the quarterback position. USC will also be fielding a new QB. Are they in store for a dip this year, or will their remarkable run atop the Pac 10 continue?
Olin Buchanon, Rivals.com: I think we'll learn a lot about USC in September when they play Arkansas and Nebraska. I think they will dip, but not too much. If John David Booty's back holds up they will be OK at quarterback, but how do you replace Reggie Bush and LenDale White at running back? They had both of those guys last year and still almost lost to Notre Dame, Arizona State and Fresno State.
Chauncey Washington has regained his eligibility and looks like the probable starter at tailback, but he's unproven. I think another team, maybe Cal or Oregon, could knock off the Trojans in the Pac 10 this year, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Burnt Orange Nation: Rivals.com recently purchased Fanblogs, while traffic and interest in blogs continues to blossom. Do you get a chance to read many blogs? We could see you writing a great Bruce Feldman-type blog yourself.
Olin Buchanon, Rivals.com: I read some blogs, but not many. I stay busy enough as it is. I'll do whatever the company asks me to do.
Burnt Orange Nation: We'll let you go after we ask you to give us a quick early prediction on the two big games. Will Texas beat Ohio State, Oklahoma, both, or neither?
Olin Buchanon, Rivals.com: Well, just sitting here in July I'd say Texas falls to Ohio State but beats Oklahoma mainly for the reasons I mentioned before.
I expect the Ohio State game to be as close as it was last year, and I'd guess that an explosive senior quarterback like Troy Smith would be more likely to make a big play in the fourth quarter than a freshman in his second game.
However, that atmosphere will prepare those quarterbacks for the Oklahoma game in October. Also, OU has so many offensive line issues and Texas looks tremendous on the defensive front, so I would think the Longhorns can pressure Rhett Bomar and neutralize Adrian Peterson, at least to some degree. We'll see what happens.
Burnt Orange Nation: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Olin. Horns fans be sure to keep an eye on Olin's work over at Rivals.