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Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Updated: August 5, 9:26 AM ET
College football mock draft

ESPN.com

It's time to separate the haves from the have-nots. Follow along as ESPN.com writers Pat Forde, Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach thin the herd from 120 FBS teams down to 40 in a live mock draft.

For more information on how this new world order will shape up, click here for Forde's column.

The writers will have five minutes between picks, and selections are at the sole discretion of the writer. Forde gets the No. 1 pick, followed by Schlabach and then Maisel.

Got a gripe about a selection? Have a suggestion for our writers? Send them here and we'll post your comments as the draft unfolds.

Moderator: Hello college football fans! We're about 20 minutes from the start of the mock draft. Which team do you think should be the No. 1 overall pick?

Steve Andersen (Riverton, Utah): Strength of schedule should be considered in your argument today. Utah has best winning record against BCS schools. Boise St. plays in a weak conference. TCU should land way ahead of BSU.

Ralph (Norman): No. 1 pick has to be the Sooners.

Ryan (MPLS): The best team in the country, in the best conference, Gators deserve to go Number 1, its a what have you done for me lately world!

Moderator: Time to find out which team Forde selected ...

1. USC Trojans, selected by Pat Forde
USCI considered Florida but passed. The Trojans have been a top-five program for the past seven straight seasons -- and much of the last seven decades. USC has replaced Notre Dame as the glam national program -- big TV ratings, has the guts to schedule ambitious intersectional games, has the clout to recruit wherever it wants. And no sign of slippage in the years to come. Fight On.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: I wouldn't take USC No. 1. To be the best, you've got to fill the stadium even when you're not winning 11 games a year. The Trojans will get ditched like last year's starlet the minute they start losing. Do the '90s ring a bell?

phil (levittown,pa): USC!! right on forde LSU and oklahoma should be 2 and 3.

2. Florida Gators, selected by Mark Schlabach
FloridaI know Florida's football history really didn't start until Steve Spurrier arrived in Gainesville in 1990, but few teams have been better over the last decade. The Ol' Ball Coach changed the way football was played in the SEC, and Urban Meyer is changing it again with his spread offense. Tim Tebow is the sport's greatest leader during the past half-century, and Meyer will keep recruiting top talent in Florida. Few schools have as many resources in terms of facilities and funding, and it's hard not to take an SEC school given the league's recent TV contracts.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Three words: Ron Zook era. It wasn't that long ago. It would also be nice to see the Gators get out of the Southeast once every other decade.

Double E (Philly): Penn State - Linebacker U! A Must for your top 5!!

3. Oklahoma Sooners, selected by Ivan Maisel
OklahomaMy top pick has been a consistent winner for the last 10 years under Bob Stoops and he's not even 50 yet. This is a pick for the long haul. Oklahoma has one of the smartest athletic directors in Joe Castiglione, and he's nowhere near retirement either. The Sooners have one of the most loyal fan bases in the nation. Last, in the Big 12 South, all you have to do is beat Texas and you're in the national championship picture. And some years, you don't even have to do that.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Shouldn't the Sooners win a January bowl game every now and then to warrant a top-three selection?

Bryan (Boise, ID): Next pick has to be Texas. Check the winning % for the last decade. While you are at it take Boise State. That way you can have two teams that beat Oklahoma in big games.

jeremy (charlotte): OK, so the easiest 3 are done, probably Texas is coming up quick, will be interesting to see who comes after that. Georgia, Ohio State, Florida State, Miami, Tennessee, Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame?

4. Texas Longhorns, selected by Pat Forde
TexasActually, if you combine average rankings over the last five years plus 2008 average attendance plus 2009 preseason rankings, the Horns make an argument for the No. 1 overall pick. And certainly ahead of Oklahoma, ahem, Mr. Maisel. But there's no way Bevo belongs ahead of USC and Florida. Still, the Texas program is on autopilot for the foreseeable future, even with Mack Brown's tenure winding down.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Mack's about to retire. DeLoss Dodds is about to retire. Where is this autopilot and how do I interview him? Do you remember the 25 years after Darrell Royal retired?

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: The program will be in good hands with coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp, whenever it is that Mack Brown retires. If only the Big 12 would do away with those tiebreakers.

Jeremy (Meridian, MS): I'm an Auburn fan, but I still say Alabama should be in the top 5.

5. LSU Tigers, selected by Mark Schlabach
LSUJust give me the top half of the SEC. Outside of Texas, Florida and California, you're not going to find a more fertile recruiting state than Louisiana. And the Tigers don't have to battle in-state schools like Miami or FSU for homegrown recruits, either. The LSU program was in good shape when Nick Saban left for the NFL, and Les Miles has pushed the right buttons, if nothing else. The Tigers have sent a boatload of talent to the NFL recently, and can you really find a better college football setting than Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night?

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Everything you said is true -- for the last eight years. I'll take my tradition a little more aged, thank you.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: That was a no-brainer -- LSU has earned its place. Still, somebody hand Schlabach a flashlight and a map and see if he can find his way out of Dixie for at least one selection.

Jeff (Reno/NV): Michigan is a MUST for the top 10. Remove last season from the equation and look at overall history. Plus, they not only have the largest stadium in the game but they also fill it....game after game...year after year.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes, selected by Ivan Maisel
Ohio StateOhio State has everything you want in a program: tradition, an enormous (enormously loyal) fan base, and a very good coach (Jim Tressel) working for a very good athletic director (Gene Smith). The Buckeyes reflect their place. They win with the old-school virtues of kicking and defense. Yet they are at the forefront of the new wave of offense with quarterbacks like Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor. They dominate the Big Ten.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: And the Buckeyes suffer in comparison to the top five. Nevertheless, the six just selected were the clear-cut choices on my board. Now it gets interesting...

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: I guess Ivan isn't too concerned about winning BCS bowl games. Oklahoma and Ohio State? Nice job...

Jack (Nashville, TN): Tennessee must be in the top 10. The tradition speaks for itself.

Dan (New Jersey): Virginia Tech has to be a top ten program. They have been dominating the ACC since they joined and the team is only getting better. Beamer can take a rebuilding year team to the Orange Bowl to win.

Matt Warren (Omaha, NE): You need the Huskers..with one of the best programs in college football history, including top 5 in wins all-time, I know they have struggled as of late, but they deserve to be in the top 10.

7. Penn State, selected by Pat Forde
Penn StateFrom the iconic coach to the iconic uniforms to the ongoing success to the massive stadium, the Nittany Lions are firmly entrenched in the game's upper echelon. A distinct cut behind the top six, since they haven't played for a national title in a while, but worthy of this spot. Even after JoePa calls it quits 15 years from now, this program will always matter.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Mark, some of us have memories that go beyond the last game played. Pat's right about Penn State. Good pick.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: I'm all for tradition, but I like programs who have accomplished something after I graduated from high school. The Nittany Lions have won the Big Ten two times during the BCS era. Kentucky would have won it three times.

Joey (Georgia): Let's see a school with 12 National Championships, the greatest college coach of all time and the #1 recruiting class the last 2 years and they are surpassed by a couple of SEC schools who have only been relevant recently. Be smart guys ROLL TIDE!!!!

Michael (Athens, GA): UGA has got to be in the Top-10. Mark Richt just keep reloading, a National Title is on the horizon without a doubt.

EB (NY, NY): If you're looking for tradition try FSU - that is if you're looking for decades of winning and not just a team that's had a few good seasons lately.

cg (nyc): Forde, you are forcing Schlabach to pick SEC again with the horrible choice of PSU! 'Bama would fit there.

8. Alabama Crimson Tide, selected by Mark Schlabach
AlabamaYou want tradition, Mr. Maisel? How about the flagship school of your home state? The Crimson Tide have won seven national titles, tying with Oklahoma and USC for the second-most by any program. Who cares if they haven't done much since the 1970s? The 1992 national title was sullied by an NCAA investigation, but I believe Nick Saban is about to write his own history in Tuscaloosa.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: I bet Schlabach grew up a picky eater. Mark, try something off the SEC menu.

Matt T. (Philadelphia, PA): Ok, where are the Irish? Minimally they need to be in the top 15. They may have had a down decade and a half ... but they are still one of the relevant teams in any national college football discussion.

John (Miami, FL): Recent troubles considered, Miami should still be pretty high up on this list. Recent championship, players dominating at nearly every position in the NFL, and a roster stocked with young talent. How 'bout some top 15 love?

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, selected by Ivan Maisel
Notre DameWait, let me put on my tomato-proof raincoat. You know and I know it: In this sport, in this America, the Fighting Irish matter. Yeah, it's been 21 years since a national championship. So what? Notre Dame matters. They've forgotten more tradition in South Bend than the rest of us remember. They've stunk on ice, BCS-wise, ever since Lou Holtz retired. And everyone still hates them. That's a program I'd love to have at No. 9.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Does Ivan know that the Four Horsemen are dead? Does he know Notre Dame is 10-15 the last two years and hasn't cracked the top 50 in the Sagarin Ratings since 2006? The modern-day Irish belong in the top 15-20, but not in the top 10.

Dave (Woodburn, Ore.): If success in the last decade and attendance are two of your factors, Oregon better be coming up soon.

Greg (Baker City, Ore.): Somebody HAS to pick Oregon State later on. Otherwise nobody will beat USC.

10. Georgia Bulldogs, selected by Pat Forde
GeorgiaNo hedging here. We're talking about a program with seven straight seasons of 10 or more wins. We're talking about a program that has gone 43-19 in conference play in that time, in the toughest league in America. We're talking about a program led by an excellent coach with at least 15 more years of tread on his tire. And as an added bonus, we're talking about my favorite stadium in the country and one of the best game-day atmospheres anywhere.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Wow, I agree with Pat again. Could this be a man-crush?

Nick (Troy, Michigan): Right on with the irish at #9! I would have put them at 9 or 10 and I am a backer. They are good for football! Period! They will matter again and very soon.

Zhao (Novi, MI): Wisconsin better be in the top 20 based on their success the last 2 decades. Last year was an aberration! 3 Rose Bowl wins, a boatload of NFL draft picks, and the huge fan base. Think about it!

11. Michigan Wolverines, selected by Mark Schlabach
MichiganSo what if Michigan couldn't beat Toledo in the Big House last season? I'm confident Rich Rodriguez will eventually get the right personnel in Ann Arbor to run his spread offense, and it's only a matter of time before the Wolverines are challenging Ohio State for the Big Ten title again. No team has more victories in NCAA history and no team has cooler helmets than the Maize and Blue. As bad as the Wolverines have been since the famous "Game of the Century" in 2006, Michigan fans still pack the Big House every Saturday.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Ladies and gentlemen: the SEC North.

Ernie (Grand Rapids, MI): How on earth can Penn State be ahead of Michigan??? They don't beat Michigan in ANY criteria, other than last year. Michigan beats them in Heismans, National Championships, attendance, head to head, overall tradition.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: A few (thousand) people are bent because I took Georgia ahead of Michigan. This isn't HistoryChannel.com, folks. We're trying to select a modern meritocracy, and Fielding H. Yost isn't around anymore.

Daniel (Lawrenceville, GA): Mr. Forde's article implied that we're considering overall prestige over the past several decades. That being said, where are Florida State and Nebraska?

Howard (Austin TX): You can haggle about the positioning, but most reasonable people will pick the same teams in some order in the top 12-15. The next tier is where this gets interesting.

12. Nebraska Cornhuskers, selected by Ivan Maisel
NebraskaNebraska is returning to national relevance under second-year coach Bo Pelini. They've got plenty of No. 1s and Heismans. But here's why the Huskers are the no-brainer pick: Even when Nebraska made the mistake of measuring Frank Solich with the Tom Osborne ruler, and even when Bill Callahan's defenses took the autumn off, the fans kept coming. There are few experiences like Memorial Stadium on a Big Red Saturday.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Props to the Nebraska fans, perhaps the best in the country. But that program has been an afterthought in the Big 12 North, which is an afterthought in the Big 12 in general.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Spoken like a true Antler devotee.

damets00 (Columbus, OH): When is there going to be some love for the ACC? Despite their recent troubles, Florida State has to be in the top 15, Bobby Bowden anyone?!?!

jared (cf, ia): Auburn should be in top 25. There recent success has to give them at least that. Remember, it is "RUNNING BACK U"!

13. Virginia Tech, selected by Pat Forde
Virginia TechMost of the old-school traditional powers are off the board so it's time to freshen up the place. The Hokies have been sensational this century, going 89-29 from 2000 to the present. The past five years they've won at least 10 games. And they look like the best team in the ACC again this season. Frank Beamer won't coach forever, but he's built a program that should remain a national contender and a conference kingpin.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: I'd feel better about this pick if Virginia Tech had beaten someone other than Boston College or Cincinnati in a big game.

Jon (Ventura, CA): Nobody has a longer bowl winning streak going than the Utes, and no other team has more momentum the last decade. UTAH is top 40 for sure.

Paul (Chicago): Whether or not history plays a factor will be critical in their selections...A school like Illinois, history factored in, could be in the 20-25 range, but out or very, very close to out without history...

14. Florida State, selected by Mark Schlabach
Florida StateThere wasn't a greater modern-day dynasty than FSU during the 1990s. From 1990-99, the Seminoles led the country in major bowl appearances (nine), major bowl wins (seven), top-five finishes (10), 10-win seasons (10) and NFL first-round draft picks (13). Once Bobby Bowden got past "wide right," FSU won two national championships. How is this for a sign of consistency: as mediocre as FSU has been the past few seasons, it hasn't had a losing season since Bowden's first season in 1976. If 8-5 and 7-6 records are disappointments, I'll take FSU. And as long as the Seminoles aren't studying Tchaikovsky and Jimi Hendrix in online courses, they'll get back to the top 25 soon.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: This is a good pick, and Florida State once wanted to be in the SEC. That's good enough for Mark.

johnel bowers (kennesaw ga): draft ga tech paul johnson and the triple option will dominate

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Free Shoes, Free Course Credits, Go Noles!

15. Tennessee Volunteers, selected by Ivan Maisel
TennesseeAll right, so Tennessee is changing the fight song from "Rocky Top" to "Rocky Start." May I remind you that Lane Kiffin is undefeated? Seriously, I've got a team that has spent most of the last 50 years near or at the top of the toughest league in football. I've got a fan base that hits six figures for every home game. I've got the Volunteer Navy. I've got checkerboard end zones. But I've got to do something about that color.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Mr. Maisel is obviously an ambulance chaser. Loves watching train wrecks.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: You know you just picked a 5-7 team now coached by Lane Kiffin, right?

Stogdiddy (Tulsa, OK): Now that all of the tradition is out of the way, I look forward to see where Oklahoma State lands. They have all the pieces in place to hang around the top-15 for years to come.

Chad P. (Chicago, IL): Man, I'm getting nervous. Already 15 down and no one from the Big East is in. I know my WVU Mountaineers have been the conference bread-winner the past few years, but the atmosphere in Morgantown every game, plus the fact that we have won 4 straight Bowl Games (2 BCS bowls in which we were underdogs), and having some of the most dynamic players in the country the past few seasons (White, Slaton, Devine) should get us in, right?

16. Oregon Ducks, selected by Pat Forde
OregonContinuing my crusade to modernize these proceedings by picking the program that has been second-best in the Pac-10 to USC for most of this decade. With Nike's Most-Favored Program status, the Ducks will be around for as long as the shoe company is around. And Autzen Stadium is a great place to watch football.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: About 10 spaces too high on my board.

Jordan K (Oakland, CA): Id like to see Maryland hit the top 40. since Friedgen took over, the program has made a severe turnaround. From 1992 to 2000 previous coaches at MD had a .352 win percentage. since Friedgen took over the team has a .640 winning percentage. Not to mention hes gone 4-2 in bowl games.

Brett (MN): Where are the Minnesota Golden Gophers?? OK, I can't help but laugh right now ... enjoy the humor to downplay all the calls for your heads.

17. Utah Utes, selected by Mark Schlabach
UtahThe Utes are the only team in the country to have two perfect seasons during the BCS era. Utah has two top-five finishes during the BCS era (more than Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State). Utah produced current Florida coach Urban Meyer (who became the first coach from a non-BCS school to crash the BCS party) and current coach Kyle Whittingham (who was the last coach to expose an SEC school in a BCS bowl game). BYU and Boise State were possible choices here, too, but the Utes have flourished on the national stage more than once.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Uhavegottobekidding. Seriously, Mark, send in your pick. Pat and I are waiting.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Schlabach bucking for a position on Orrin Hatch's staff, clearly.

Max Long (Monterey/California): The Jayhawks should definitely get some consideration. The history isn't necessarily there, but they do have a BCS Bowl victory in the last 2 years, and they're going to put forward a monster season this year.

Dan (Minneapolis, MN): I think the Black and Gold of the Iowa Hawkeyes need to grace this draftboard soon. A couple great coaches here and Kinnick Stadium is a gem. Give it up for the pink visitor's locker rooms!

ray Caldwell (Denver, CO): The University of North Carolina is clearly on the upswing, and Butch Davis's presence should make them crack this list.

18. Wisconsin Badgers, selected by Ivan Maisel
WisconsinWisconsin's lifeline goes back only 20 years -- let's not bring up the Veer years in the '80s -- but look at what the Badgers have spawned: three Rose Bowl championships, a bowl trip nearly every year and a Saturday experience unrivaled outside of the Sun Belt. Give me a brat and a beverage on a biting cold day in Camp Randall Stadium. Current athletic director and former coach Barry Alvarez built a mountain out of a molehill.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Ivan apparently doesn't recognize decay when he sees it. Badgers have gone from 12-1 to 9-4 to 7-6 under Bret Bielema, and sub.-500 could be up next. Though it's a lot of fun when the entire stadium jumps around.

Khalid (Washington dc): yes i know UCLA has struggled a bit recently but show some love for a once proud program

Squatch (Arlington, VA): This is what happens when you clean up your program. You get no respect. Go Canes!

19. Auburn Tigers, selected by Pat Forde
AuburnThis would qualify as my leap-of-faith pick, because I'm counting on (cough) Gene Chizik to sustain what Tommy Tuberville built this past decade on The Plains. From 2004-07, the Tigers were 42-9 -- and that included a 13-0 season in 2004. I know this much: if Chizik isn't winning big in a hurry, someone else will get the chance. That's the ruthless Auburn Way.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Good pick and a brave one, given the uneven (polite adjective) start of the Chizik Era.

Timothy (arkansas): did someone really just pick Utah in the top 30 much less the 17th pick. I would love to see them get battered by SEC defenses 8 weeks a year.

Michael Johnson (san antonio texas): We all know that the Air Raid of Texas Tech needs to be coming soon. I believe Texas Tech provides some of the biggest upsets of all time. and you have got to love Leach.

Joe (NY): I wouldn't consider them a top 20 program, but Boston College should be in the 20-35 range. They always seem to exceed expectations and find their way into the top 25, no matter what kind of turmoil goes on in the program. They had the longest bowl winning streak in the country (until the debacle in '08) and were 3 TOUGH losses away from being in BCS games. Probably the most underrated program of the decade.

michael (Birmingham, AL): seriously 1 bad year drops auburn this far? this is still a program that won 13 games in 04, 9 in 05, 11 in 06, and 9 games in 07 before one down year in 2008. Auburn was the SEC's dominant program of the 80's with several good years in the 90's....we have tiger walk, war eagle, and toomers corners adding to the game day experience.at this rate I'm just hoping this panel of "experts" remembers who Auburn is before number 40 comes around.

20. Boise State Broncos, selected by Mark Schlabach
Boise StateCollege football's most underrated program in one of America's most underrated cities. Blue Turf and the Statue of Liberty. The Broncos came within two points of finishing unbeaten for the second time in three seasons in 2008. As long as they're playing in the WAC, they'll have a chance for an unblemished record every season. Did I mention coach Chris Petersen is 35-4? He isn't going anywhere. Ask Dan Hawkins if the grass is bluer on the other side.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: I don't agree with this pick but I understand it.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: First the Utes, now the Broncos (and their puny attendance figures). Schlabach is clearly accepting kickbacks from non-AQ conferences.

Vatsal (Okemos/MI): Can I expect see Michigan State in the 30s? Perles' teams were decent and Dantonio has the program on the rise. Not to mention the plethora of receivers to come out of East Lansing.

21. Clemson Tigers, selected by Ivan Maisel
ClemsonClemson hasn't been great on the field in 25 years. The Tigers have been the king of 8-4. But we're picking in the 20s, where the 8-4s reside. Clemson's problem is that the state of South Carolina is big enough to fill two big stadiums but not two big rosters with enough players to compete for championships. There are no fans more loyal than Tigers fans. They get their hearts broken every year and still they show.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: If this were the Underachiever Top 40, I might have taken the Tigers first.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: If these selections were based on annual preseason expectations, the Tigers would have been No. 1.

Will J (Portland, OR): Oregon St. will probably get left out of the top 40, and that will be a travesty. Their past is horrendous, and the stadium is small, but they have been one of the most consistent programs in the Pac-10 the past decade.

Mark (Topeka, KS): I'm not expecting you to pick Kansas; we were so bad for so long that our recent improvement isn't much. I'm just saying: please, please, PLEASE don't pick Missouri.

22. California Golden Bears, selected by Pat Forde
CalMerely seven straight winning seasons for the Golden Bears, five of them with eight victories or more. Jeff Tedford might be the most underappreciated coach in the country, and this might be his best team. How smart will this pick look in October when unbeaten Cal is hosting unbeaten USC in a matchup with national championship implications?

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: What if you fielded a football team and nobody on your campus cared?

JJ (Boston, MA): Ok, seriously, I thought this was going to look at a body of work, and for a team that played in two National Championships, winning one, in the past 8 years, Not to mention 5 overall, Where is the U??

Alex (Atlanta, GA): It could be a stretch, but the Wake Forest Demon Deacons belong in the top 40. Jim Grobe is one of the 10 best coaches in the country (I'd say top 5) and Ron Wellman is certainly a candidate for best AD. An ACC Championship in 2006, and were a horrible call away from the championship game last year. The Deacs are here to stay.

23. BYU Cougars, selected by Mark Schlabach
BYUI finally left Dixie and now I can't get out of the Mountain Time Zone. I needed at least one team to offset my SEC selections, and I found it in BYU. The Cougars have never been on NCAA probation! The Cougars have had only three losing seasons since 1974, and don't forget they won the 1984 national championship (by winning the Holiday Bowl). Bronco Mendenhall is the first BYU coach to take his first four teams to bowl games, and the Cougars are a sparkling 32-7 the last three seasons.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: If Schlabach picks TCU next, I'm calling for an investigation.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: SEC, done. Mountain Time Zone, done. What will he fixate on next?

Dave (NJ): If you factor in recent bowl performance, program momentum, stadium expansion, young coach/AD, Jersey recruiting, recent NFLers and NY market, Rutgers deserve a spot in top 25? Program on rise!

Sunny (Los Angeles): Kansas State is highly underated. They will have one of the best starting defensive lines in the Big 12 North, and watch out for Daniel Thomas, will be the next coming of Micheal Bishop. Mark it down.

24. Miami Hurricanes, selected by Ivan Maisel
MiamiBased on what happens on the field, Miami should have been picked a long time ago. Five national championships since 1983 count for a lot. But the Canes don't play on campus and have a fickle fan base. It's a good thing that tradition and the richest talent pool in the country are right at Miami's fingertips. Like Notre Dame, Miami remains relevant even in the lean times, or what pass for lean times at the U.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Randy Shannon recently told me when they tore down the Orange Bowl, one guy hit it with a sledge hammer and an entire side of the stadium fell. A couple of more losing seasons and ...

wes (Denver, CO): Schlabach, don't be a jerk. Just wait and see what coach Hawk does in Boulder. It'll be twice as amazing as what has and is going on in Boise. Lets go buffs - Top 20 in the 80's and top 10 in the 90's, 2001 Big 12 Champs, lets see them up on the board today!

Brad (Hazlehurst, Miss): How about the Ole Miss Rebels? There is a lot history with the program including a great run with the legendary Johnny Vaught during the 50's and 60's and Houston Nutt has this years team in the top 10 to start the season. Need more? How about Archie Manning, Eli Manning, Deuce McAllister, Charley Conerly, Ray Poole, Ben Williams and more. National Championships in 1959, 1960, and 1962 as voted by different publications.

25. Texas Tech Red Raiders, selected by Pat Forde
CalGuns up, baby. Doesn't matter how much you dislike their anti-establishment coach. Doesn't matter how much you disdain their leaky defense. Doesn't matter how much you dismiss their allegedly gimmicky offense. The Red Raiders went 11-1 last year, and have been a consistent winning program since the Spike Dykes days. That won't change anytime soon. They'll get players, and Mike Leach will find creative things to do with them.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: No thanks, but the coach is never dull.

Chris R. (Colorado): What about taking a flyer on Fresno State? Will compete every week in conference, and at least you will never have a complaint about location. Bulldogs will play anyone, anywhere, anytime.

26. Oklahoma State Cowboys, selected by Mark Schlabach
Oklahoma StateHere's my leap-of-faith selection. So what if coach Mike Gundy is only 27-23 in four seasons? The Cowboys are backed by T. Boone Pickens' deep pockets and he'll buy a Big 12 championship if nothing else (or was that the other Oklahoma school?). The school that produced Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas goes into the 2009 season with one of the sport's best offensive trios -- quarterback Zac Robinson, tailback Kendall Hunter and receiver Dez Bryant. At least the Cowboys play in the Big 12, where playing defense still doesn't matter.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Speechless. Here's a motto: Making Noise in the Top 25 Since 2008.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Wow. I bet a lot of teams that have gone 31-42 in league play wish they could be picked this high, too.

27. Iowa Hawkeyes, selected by Ivan Maisel
IowaKirk Ferentz has overcome a thin talent base and made the Hawkeyes consistent winners. He gets the place. He has turned down more NFL overtures than just about any coach in the game. The Hawkeyes play sound football. Their fans fill Kinnick Stadium. They go to a bowl nearly every year and occasionally they contend for the Big Ten. What's not to like?

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Call me stubborn, but I'd like to see Kirk Ferentz earn his outrageous paycheck for the first time since 2004.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: So our arguments are now being reduced to kicking a field goal to beat Penn State? Have the Hawkeyes done anything else this decade?

Chris (Houston, Texas): Why is Schlabach taking West teams that have been inferior to TCU the last decade for overall play, schedule, record and bowl wins. It makes no sense.

28. West Virginia Mountaineers, selected by Pat Forde
West VirginiaMountaineers have gone 42-9 the past three years and get picked after Oklahoma State? For real? I know it's fashionable to predict a collapse in Morgantown in the post-Rodriguez, post-Pat White Era, but I'll wait and see. The program is too solid for that, and the fans are the best in the Big East by far.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Advice to Mr. Forde: Don't renege on your West Virginia pick. The Mountaineers have now claimed you as one of their own. You can never leave.

Jax (Kansas City, MO): Wow! Really? Tech and Okie St. over programs like West Virginia and Mizzou and a gang of non BCS schools over Miami? What's going on here?

29. Mississippi Rebels, selected by Mark Schlabach
MississippiFinally, back to reality. I know Ole Miss hasn't done much since Archie Manning played quarterback there. But have you ever been to Oxford? Have you ever tailgated in the Grove? The Rebels might not win every football game, but they'll sure as heck win every party and, more importantly, beauty pageant. And they just might end up winning the SEC West this season.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Ole Miss is the only SEC West team not to appear in the SEC championship game. But you've got to have the Grove in here.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: So we're just going to pretend that whole Ed Orgeron, 10-25 train wreck never happened, huh?

Jim (Salem, OR): As a Duck I can tell you OSU should be in your top 40. This school, like Oregon, Manages money well and Riley is due in the next couple years to get to the Holiday Bowl or Rose Bowl. Parker Stadium maybe small for the excuses, but even LSU fears playing in Corvallis!!

30. UCLA Bruins, selected by Ivan Maisel
UCLAAnyone can have a lean decade. The Bruins have tradition. They have a smarter, wiser Rick Neuheisel, the first UCLA coach to make Pete Carroll work harder in Los Angeles recruiting in the USC coach's nine years. The Bruins have a solid, veteran coaching staff and nowhere to go but up. And, seriously, we're going to have 40 teams and not have the Rose Bowl's home team?

Michael (Madison Heights, MI): OK. This has become a draft by the Three Stooges! You would think that the northeast (except for Penn State) plays flag football on Saturday. Three teams from non-BCS and no one from the Big East?!!! What about WVU, Pitt, Rutgers, Louisville? Look at your own Prestige ratings!!!!!

31. Oregon State Beavers, selected by Pat Forde
Oregon StateSurprised the Beavers slipped this far after going 28-12 the last three years and 72-40 this decade. I know the fans can be a bit fickle, but Ivan, have you experienced the ennui of a one-third-empty Rose Bowl for a UCLA home game?

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: What happens when Mike Riley leaves? I'll tell you what -- look at their record book. It's not pretty.

Tucker (Lawrence, KS): Where's the love for the Big 12 North? The Big 12 is quarterback country. Reesing, Keller, Bradford, Harrell, Freeman, the McCoys, Daniel, Robinson. How about picking a team with an offense and a future.

32. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, selected by Mark Schlabach
Georgia TechThe Yellow Jackets have had their share of great coaches, from Bobby Dodd to Bobby Ross. Now they have another great one in Paul Johnson, who proved last season that his triple option spread offense can flourish in a BCS conference. Georgia Tech won a share of a national championship in 1990, but it hasn't won a major bowl game since the 1956 Sugar Bowl. I'm betting Johnson ends that drought in the very near future.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Maybe so, but college teams in pro cities have fans with short attention spans.

Ryan (Raleigh, NC): NC State has to be a top 40 program now. History isn't necessarily on its side, but it's become a consistent Pro Factory with Philip Rivers, Torry Holt, and Mario Williams to name a few. And with Tom O'brien sending the Pack down the right path, they should only get better in the next decade.

33. South Carolina Gamecocks, selected by Ivan Maisel
South CarolinaI want the Ol' Ball Coach in my league. I want the most loyal fan base in college football -- 80,000 fans haven't sniffed an SEC East title but still they show up. Steve Spurrier hasn't won a lot in Columbia by his standards but he's won a lot by the standards of Gamecock history. This is a solid, dependable team (six wins or more in seven of the last nine years).

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: In a rare moment of charity, I will lend my endorsement to both of the previous selections.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Let's take a look at South Carolina's storied bowl history .... There, we're done. Four bowl victories in more than 100 years of playing football? Come on.

34. Michigan State Spartans, selected by Pat Forde
Michigan StateThe Spartans have great fans, evidenced by their continuing to populate a 75,000-seat stadium during a fairly inglorious decade. They also have a coach capable of keeping them near the top of the Big Ten for the foreseeable future. Sparty is building off a 9-4 2008 season, a two-touchdown whipping of Michigan and consecutive emphatic beatings of Notre Dame.

Moderator: The choices are dwindling away. Which teams are going to fill the final six spots?

Sam (Phoenix, AZ): Arizona State is better now, this decade, AND over the past 50 years than several teams already chosen. What criteria are you using? Name one area, including recent success, where, say, Oklahoma State is a better pick (to name just one).

35. Arkansas Razorbacks, selected by Mark Schlabach
ArkansasArkansas was a better team when it didn't play in the SEC, but the Razorbacks' rich tradition can't be ignored. How can you ignore a rabid fan base that likes to "call the Hogs?" The Razorbacks played in eight major bowl games during the 1950s and '60s, but there have been some pretty lean seasons ever since. Whether you love him or hate him -- and most people probably despise him -- Hogs coach Bobby Petrino is a winner. He'll have the Hogs winning big soon.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Yep. Both Michigan State and Arkansas deserve to be in here.

36. Boston College Eagles, selected by Ivan Maisel
Boston CollegeLook, no one ridiculed the move to the ACC louder than I did. But you can't knock the results. That's two consecutive trips to the ACC championship game. They haven't had a losing season since Bill Clinton served in the White House. The Eagles operate an assembly line for NFL players. Boston College played its way into the 40.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Home stadium was full once last year. Is it true they have to give away Doug Flutie bobbleheads to get people to buy tickets?

Sean D (Portland, OR): As a Duck i just have to laugh, at how rabid the husky fans must be right now. Wow, this is awesome.

37. Missouri Tigers, selected by Pat Forde
MissouriFine. Call me a homer (half of the Bristol office already has as soon as I told them about this pick), but I can easily defend taking the alma mater over the mangy competition. Mizzou has a winning record this decade (62-49), and has been 22-6 the past two years. Yeah, the Tigers lose Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin, but they retain the architect of the turnaround, coach Gary Pinkel, and he's been recruiting very well the past few years. So sue me.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Boy, didn't see that one coming. We're ranking football programs, not journalism schools.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Give the guy his alma mater. He showed admirable restraint in waiting this long.

David (Hattiesburg, MS): Southern Mississippi deserves it. 15 straight winning seasons and the alma mater of Ray Guy and Brett Favre.

Mike (Truckee, CA): Schlabach, no doubt you've got Fresno St. with your next pick. And ASU must be in, if only for the girls and great weather.

38. Kansas Jayhawks, selected by Mark Schlabach
KansasIf Mr. Forde is dropping the bar so severely with his homerish pick of his alma mater, I'll take a Big 12 North program that has actually won a major bowl game in the last four decades. Missouri's last major bowl win came in the 1965 Sugar Bowl. The Jayhawks won the 2007 Orange Bowl. Glen Mason built the Jayhawks into pretty consistent winners, and Mark Mangino has turned them into Big 12 contenders. With quarterback Todd Reesing coming back, Kansas will challenge Nebraska for the Big 12 North title in 2009.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: Mark, we're still picking football, not hoops.

Greg (Houston, TX): I'm still hoping the Purdue Boilermakers show up in one of these last spots as they've been pretty respectable in the BCS-era. But with this season's outlook, I have a feeling they'd probably be relegated to the Tom Joad Subdivision after the first year.

39. Texas A&M Aggies, selected by Ivan Maisel
Texas A&MYou can't have a top division without the Aggies. Won't work. We need Midnight Yell Practice. Texas A&M hasn't challenged in the Big 12 South since the rise of Oklahoma. But before the last couple of years, the Aggies committed the sin of playing good-not-great football. Mike Sherman has a lot of work to do. But there's too much tradition to set this program by the curb.

Pat Forde, ESPN.com: Three losing seasons in the last six and the Aggies still get in? Better thank the Corps of Cadets and Midnight Yell Practice, because the on-field record doesn't support the pick.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Losing to Arkansas State doesn't eliminate a team from consideration?

Bill (Colorado): You have every team to win a national championship in the last 20 years on the board except 2. Colorado and Washington anyone?

Moderator: And with the final pick of the ESPN.com mock draft, we turn the keyboard over to Pat Forde ...

40. Arizona State, selected by Pat Forde
Arizona StateLet me first apologize to North Carolina, Pittsburgh, South Florida and TCU. Almost, kids. You all made it on my board, but I have to share cyberspace with Maisel and Schlabach and they did not appreciate your inherent beauty. But I have to go with the Sun Devils as the last team in based on a 61-50 record this decade, highlighted by a 10-3 mark in 2007. And I'm betting the 5-7 clunker last year was a blip, not the beginning of a downward trend under Dennis Erickson. Plus, who's going to complain about traveling to Tempe? Not me.

Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com: The Sun Devils should be in here, as should Maryland, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Illinois....

Kyle (Morgantown, WV): I can't believe I'm asking this, but where's Pitt? They at least have a national championship (ugh), play in a pro stadium, and had some guy named Dorsett, and most recently, Fitzgerald. If you're seeking out mediocrity -- South Carolina, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, Ole Miss -- at least take a team with a few big time bowl appearances and a national championship in the last 40 years.

Brad (High Point, NC): There's definitely an argument to be made for North Carolina. It ranks as one of the 25 winningest programs of all-time, has had some great players like Charlie Justice, Lawrence Taylor, Dre Bly, and Julius Peppers, and has been enjoying a recent resurgence under head coach Butch Davis. It's not outside the realm of possibility that they could contend for the ACC title this year. You simply cannot leave UNC off this list.

Josh Peelman (Liverpool, NY): Where's the Syracuse Orange? I know they have been down lately, but back in the day they were really among the best teams in college football. Go Orange!

Alex (Cowtown): It is amazing. On one side, yall talk about the team needed to be successful currently. TCU has been a Top 25 program easy since 2000. On another side, you talk about the history needs to be rich, we have Baugh, Davey, LT, Lilly, and Swink! The final side talks bout tailgating, ours is so good, people watch the game on tv while tailgating. What is the deal? Where are the Horned Frogs?!?

Greg S (New Brunswick, NJ): If it wasn't for Rutgers, there'd be no college football to talk about. You owe us!

Joey (Columbus, OH): Not to worry folks, according to the system: BYU, Utah and Boise State will all be removed after the first year of being hammered in the top 40.

Moderator: And that wraps up ESPN.com's relegation mock draft. Check back tomorrow when Mark Schlabach breaks down the two of the four 10-team conferences.