Today I posted an early look at who I think the top 25 teams in college football should be 44 days from now when the long-awaited college football season kicks off. Now we will look at each of these teams starting at 25 all the way to 1 to describe why I think they belong in their respective positions. Also, let me preface by stating my preferred method of voting. As the Mayor described today, there are two predominate forms of voting today. (1) The Phil Steele method, which entails ranking based on where you think teams will end up. (2) The starting off point. This method basically ranks teams based on their current position and not where the voter thinks said team shall finish. Now, during the season events may occur that can influence where one thinks a team belongs, but to use an accounting term, this method of voting is like the balance sheet (a snapshot of a company at a given time). I make my rankings using method (2). Without further ado, here goes:
#25 – Alabama
Certainly, the ‘Bama nation is not going to like their team being ranked so low. Honestly, this last selection for me came down to which 6-6 SEC team from last season did I feel belonged. Well, ‘Bama made a bowl game so they got the nod over South Carolina for the time being. That is, until the world’s greatest recruiting class of all time shows up for the Sabanator this fall. Maybe then, ‘Bama can reclaim its 25 year rise back to glory.
#24 – Fresno State
What can I say? I’m a sucker for awesome mustaches and teams that aren’t afraid to play anyone, anywhere. If they can beat Boise this year, they just might have an outside chance at the BCS. Until then, I reserve the right to judge (Fresno fans can thank ‘ole Colt Brennan and the Rainbow Warriors for that)
#23 – Penn State
Joe Paterno marching the sidelines for another season is about as trendy as saying “daddy-o” and walking around with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of your white t-shirt. Seriously, Joe, it’s time to go. I’m fairly certain Joe’s not leaving til his other elderly brother in Tallahassee does. One of these two is going to die on the sidelines, I’m convinced.
#22 – South Florida
Gradually rose to #2 in the country before late season losses ended their title hopes. They have their returning starting QB in Matt Grothe and the coach with the meanest look in all of college football. Plus, they’ve got that traitor Jenn Sterger on their side now, so what could possibly be bad about that?
#21 – Oregon
Oregon may have been the best team in the land last season until that fateful Thursday night game against Arizona last year when Dennis Dixon destroyed his knee for good. They dropped off after the loss of Dixon, but had a huge bowl game against South Florida. With another athletic QB in the wings this year, Oregon is primed to be a darkhorse in the USC-dominated Pac-10.
#20 – Pittsburgh
This is the year to make or break the Dave Wannstedt era. He’s got one of the nation’s top running backs in LeSean McCoy and a mean, mean defense (See the West Virginia game from last season). If Wannstedt doesn’t make a serious improvement this year, he may be on the coaching scrap line at year end.
#19 – Illinois
The Fightin‘ Zookers return this year after the demolition that was known as the 2008 Rose Bowl against USC. They begin their season again with a neutral site showdown with last year’s Big XII runners-up in Missouri. Win that game and the Zookers may be looking at something special this year in the Big 10 leading up the showdown with Ohio State at home in November.
#18 – Kansas
The defending Orange Bowl champs won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year. The loss of Aqib Talib in the secondary is a big hit, but as long as Todd Reesing is running the show behind the center, they should be pretty good on offense. The biggest factor against the Jayhawks this year has to be the schedule. They avoided both Oklahoma and Texas last year and face both this year.
#17 – Virginia Tech
Despite losses the last two years in bowls, a Frank Beamer team will always show up and play hard. They return both Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor at QB this year. The loss of Brandon Ore certainly hurts. This team should still be the 2nd best team in the ACC. If they can get some sort of production out of that offense, watch out.
#16 – Wisconsin
The best team that no one seems to think highly of each year. The Badgers should be solid this year with PJ Hill carrying the rock. Game of the year in the Big 10 may be Wisconsin/Ohio State with a berth to the Rose Bowl potentially on the line.
#15 – BYU
This year’s Hawaii. The team everyone and their mothers thinks has the best chance of playing with the big boys in the BCS. All the Hawaii comparisons aside, this is a pretty solid football team with a reasonable schedule. They had a good win over UCLA in the bowl game last year. I’m currently taking advice for a nickname for this name. My current favorite is “The Stormin‘ Mormons”. Like you wouldn’t watch that team.
#14 – Arizona State
Another one of the “sleeping giants” in the Pac-10. This team far exceeded expectations and expect to flex their muscle with a huge early cross-sectional game against Georgia. With Dennis Erickson around, this team could be good for awhile to come. But we all know, it’s a matter of time before half of an Erickson team is either in jail or kicked out of school. So Sun Devil fans enjoy it while it lasts.
#13 – Texas
It seems blasphemous that Texas isn’t penciled in at #10 like they were for most pre-seasons under Mack Brown. For the last few years it’s been Texas, Oklahoma, and everyone else in the Big XII. With the rise of Missouri and Kansas last year, as well as the return of a defense to Nebraska, the Big XII looks as wide open as it has in recent memory. Texas should again be solid at QB with Colt McCoy looking to rebound from an average year last year. They will be seeking to replace Jamaal Charles who singlehandedly beat Nebraska last year.
#12 – Tennessee
This is a team that everyone seems to be sleeping on. They are an automatic pick for 3rd in the SEC East and an afterthought beyond that. Have we not learned anything over the last few years? When little things are expected of Phat Phil, they are the most overachieving squad of all time (or at least the luckiest). For examples of Phat Phil’s enduring luck, please see Vandy, Kentucky, and South Carolina games last year, or even take a look at that Arkansas game from 1998. I personally think they’re going to be a pretty good football team this year. They always have a strong running game with probably the meanest offensive line in the SEC. If this team finds a way to knock off Florida in Knoxville, this ranking may be too low and they might just make it back to Atlanta for the second year in a row.
#11 – Texas Tech
All right Mike Leach. Your team is finally getting credit and are picked as a sleeper to make the BCS this year. Are you ready to prove us wrong and win the games you’re supposed to win? Or are you going to fall back into that old Texas Tech formula of one big upset and finishing 7-5?
#10 – LSU
No Ryan Perilloux, no worries. The loss of Ryan Perilloux will not greatly alter this team. Sure, they may be playing a transfer from Harvard, but who needs a dynamic QB when that offensive line is going to demolish everyone they play and that scary, scary defense will wreak havoc in SEC backfields. This team is very, very solid. Les Miles has something good going on down in the bayou right now. Auburn/LSU game determines who wins the West this year and potentially one half of a BCS title game.
#9 – Clemson
It truly pains me to place this team this high as long as Tommy Bowden is calling the shots there. No offense Clemson fans, but they have underachieved miserably under the other Bowden son. Sure, he beats daddy regularly, but then he finds a way to lose to the nerds and Wake Forest every year. Despite that, this team is so loaded, I don’t see how they don’t at least win their division and potentially ten games. But if history holds true, this team will probably finish ranked around 23 or so with an 8-5 record.
#8 – West Virginia
This is another team that I don’t know exactly how I feel about ranking them so high. On one hand they have the most dynamic QB this side of Tim Tebow that can will his team to win. See Fiesta Bowl last year as well as Louisville game last year. Pat White should be a Heisman hopeful this year and the offense will still be scary good with him and Noel Devine in the backfield. They do have to replace the meanest FB of all time though, and we’ll see how they respond to the whole Rodriguez to Michigan saga. I still believe Bill Stewart was the wrong hire that was made at a time of high emotion for the team and ultimately that will come to bite them in the ass. But not as long as Pat White is still there. This team wins the lackluster Big East easily.
#7 – Auburn
This team could be the most overlooked team in the SEC this year other than Tennessee. While Tennessee may contend for the East, but ultimately get smacked around in the SEC title game by Auburn or LSU, Auburn is definitely on the short list of national title contenders. The defense will be scary, as is usual under Tuberville. The loss of Will Muschamp will not hurt as much as people think it will as Tuberville snatched up the man that shut down West Virginia keeping them out of the national title game. The graduation of Brandon Cox is addition by subtraction tihs year. The big question mark is how well they will be able to run Tony Franklin’s offense this year. If the Peach Bowl against Clemson is any indication, watch out for this team this year. They are my sleeper team to win the SEC this year.
#6 – Missouri
Gary Pinkel has found his QB in Chase Daniel. This team was very solid on both sides of the ball last year, but the offense was the difference maker. The loss of Tony Temple will put more of the offensive burden on Daniel, but he’s got plenty of playmakers around him as well as the experience of having been ranked #1 in the country last year. The schedule doesn’t get any easier this year as they replace Oklahoma from the South with Texas. The games that determine whether they reach the Big XII title game again this year will be against Texas, at Nebraska, and a neutral site showdown with Kansas. This team should reach the Big XII title game again this year with a chance for redemption against Oklahoma.
#5 – USC
This is probably lower than most polls will vote this team at the beginning of the year. I honestly am questioning myself for placing them so low (I know, you know that you’re a powerhouse when pre-season #5 is considered too low). Obviously, the biggest question mark is Mark Sanchez this year. Knowing Pete Carroll, Sanchez will probably step in and deliver right away. This program is clearly at another level than the rest of D-1 football. All eyes are focused on September 13th when the Buckeyes come to LA for a game that probably will decide one half of the national title equation. I don’t see another team stepping up to dethrone the 6 time defending Pac 10 champions anytime soon. These days are good for Trojan fans.
#4 – Oklahoma
I know, I know. Why would you have a team that absolutely got demolished by West Virginia last year in the Fiesta Bowl so high? My response is, have you seen this team play at all over the last five years? This team is rapidly becoming the Atlanta Braves of college football. If only that national championship trophy could be handed out at the end of the season and not after the bowl games. Any Bob Stoops team is going to come out, play hard, and probably beat you on any given Saturday. I don’t see anything different with this team and despite the outcome of their bowl game last year, I still think they got jobbed by not getting into the national title game over LSU.
#3 – Florida
Ah yes, the hated Gators. They possess greatest living human being of all time, Tim Tebow. I believe John Lennon once said that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Well, down in Gainesville, Tim Tebow is bigger than Jesus and any number of deities from whichever religion you choose to follow. No doubt, the guy is incredible. When he’s not performing circumcisions on Spring Break or curing cancer, he’s running over LB’s like a Mack truck and he’s throwing wobbly passes 10 yards behind your secondary because Percy Harvin is already there. You don’t score 55 touchdowns in a season and win the Heisman Trophy without being some kind of awesome. I’d say the biggest question mark this year is whether the Gators can find a running back to take some of the pressure off Tebow. They have Chris Rainey and transfer Emmanuel Moody looking to fill that role. This may be the best team in the SEC and potentially a pre-season #1. The main thing holding them back is the aforementioned healthiness of God (excuse me, Tebow), and the fact that the defensive secondary couldn’t cover my grandmother last year. With the recent rash of injures it remains to be seen whether this team can improve in the secondary. If that secondary does improve, this may be a team we’re talking about for years to come because they may not need to play defense this year with Tebow and Percy Harvin running things. Biggest game of the year: The Cocktail Party. I firmly believe that one half of the national title equation is coming from this winner.
#2 – Ohio State
What the heck am I doing? I’m an SEC homer and I believe Ohio State is the second best team in the nation? Am I drunk? Well, maybe, but have you seen that roster? There may be three first round NFL draft choices on the defensive side of the ball with another one in Beanie Wells carrying the ball. Todd Boeckman was very solid in his first year as starter and only looks to get better. This team is just as loaded as any team out there. Obviously the question is will they be ready for the big time after another weak Big 10 slate this year? That question will most definitely be answered if the Sweater Vest defeats the Men of Troy in LA. Sadly, a win over USC will likely result in an Ohio State team that goes largely unchallenged in the Big 10 resulting in the annual Ohio State beatdown by an SEC team, better known as the BCS National Championship Game. FYI: It is a celebrated holiday in some southern states. But all joking aside, this is a very good team that gets a bad rap for losing to two very good teams the last couple of years. You don’t hear that same kind of backlash against my #4 team despite losing despite losing four BCS games in a row including two national title games, and owning the ignominy of the worst defeat in the history of the BCS.
#1 – Georgia
You didn’t really think I would put Ohio State over Georgia, did you? But all homerism aside, this team is absolutely loaded this year. They have one of the top five running backs in the nation with a guy under center that will probably be the first or second QB taken in the NFL draft next year. The offensive line has another year of experience and the defensive secondary may be the most solid unit since Richt’s tenure in Athens began. Obviously the glaring weakness this year is the toughest schedule in the history of modern civilization. That’s what the pundits believe anyways. All exaggerations aside, the schedule looks pretty brutal on paper. But that’s why they play the games on the field and not in the stat books. I would probably rank this team around 5 or 6 if I based my rankings on where I think a team will finish. But there aren’t many teams that can boast the same experience and talent as this team coming into the season. This team also was the best team at the end of the season last year. Last season’s ending was eerily similar to 2002 where the team was on such a roll that they probably would have beaten anyone, but didn’t make it to the national title game because they lost a game to a lesser opponent during the regular season. There is great reason for optimism in Athens this year.
There it is. You may not agree with me but that’s how I see it (pre-season, of course). A preview of the Bulldawgs to come.