Its finally here. The first deep breath of that muggy air that reminds you of the crash of pads and the marching bands at halftime. Last week the Coaches' Poll introduced their preseason Top 25 and it just seemed to make it official that football season was looming just around the bend. There are some key issues that need to be addressed. First is that Cam Newton WILL be the starter at QB. This is the word. Also Zac Etheridge WILL play again! THIS SEASON!! Are you serious!?! After that scary neck injury that nearly paralyzed him... Wow, if you read his interviews and reports on his health you will see how much he wanted to play. Every day was a struggle and a rehabilitation for this guy. I'm so stoked and proud of him, job well done Zac!
I seem to remember promising someone that I would be making season predictions for Auburn as well as engineering my own top 25 so I think I will start with the top 25.
1. Auburn.......... sorry, I'm lost in a fantasy...
I know, I don't like it either, but they are still scary and haven't hurt in any recruiting class in the past few years, meaning they have filled all necessary rolls and done so efficiently. The Bammers will be a very good squad this year, but hopefully someone(ahem*us*ahem) will knock them off.
2. Boise State
This team has one big negative that I absolutely hate about them. Their conference. This will get a little better in the future, as the Mountain West is viewed slightly better than the WAC, but still not very good. Should have sought other opportunities during the
expansion craze in my opinion. Returning all but 1 starter and a very winning minded coach, plus the very heavily weighted schedule in their favor (minus Va Tech the only team worth mention on their schedule). I just wish they had played someone other than TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. Its always easier to justify placing these great teams from sub par conferences high in the rankings when they play the great teams from great conferences. Just makes them more comparable.
3. Ohio State
These guys took Oregon's lunch last year in the Rose Bowl. The biggest reason I like this team is the linebackers they are returning (7 total defensive starters). Cameron Heyward is a beast, look for him to be the leader of the defense. The biggest thing that can hurt this team is Terrell Pryor. He is a great talent but he's got happy feet. Needs to settle down and throw the ball. Its one thing to be elusive, it's another to try to do the running back's job and your own at the same time. He will have some powerful and fast backs at his disposal, lets see how he plays it. (Possible upset later by Wisconsin)
One thing you must love about SEC schools is the strength of schedule. These guys have a lot to prove this year. Mainly that this is not Tim Tebow's team, its Urban Meyer's. Now that he has his heartburn under control he should be back to being dominant. John Brantley showed moments of some real talent last year, he looks to be a very good quarterback. The defense is going to fill a lot of new spot(7). This is going to leave them a little thin at depth, but because of top notch recruiting in recent years, I think they will be ok.
Yes, Iowa. This defense makes me cringe with fear. Easily will be the best D squad in the nation. With a difficult schedule, they may pull away in the actual rankings and hit the BCS at full speed if they come away with key victories against Wisconsin and Penn State(both home games). I like the experience that is returning on offense, and the area of concern(o-line) is getting a big, fat, strong facelift. Stanzi, the QB, needs to stay healthy though due to lack of depth at the position. They will also be without their RB for the season opener due to disciplinary action. He will be back for game 2 though.
Sam Bradford is gone! But oh wait, Landry Jones can start now after having already played in Bradford's absence of injury. With all of that experience and the promise he showed through those games, I see this team doing very well. My pick for the Red River Rivalry.
Lots of new faces and new leaders. Mack Brown makes a better politician than football coach, and he's an excellent coach. You will never hear him let Texas sound like they aren't the best in the nation, even when they aren't. Transition year for Texas. (Possible upsets: Oklahoma & Texas A&M)
These guys lost very few players from last year's Fiesta Bowl team. Although the few they lost were major roll players, recruiting has gone very well for the Horned Frogs. They plan to stay fast and physical.
Returning a ton of starters on this high powered offense. A few questions on defense, but a strong linebacker core will help gel the newer players gel nicely.
10. Miami (Fla.)
Miami lost to Wisconsin last year in a close one in the Champ Sports Bowl. Besides being left hungry for an ACC championship as well as a bowl victory, they are returning 14 starters, 8 of which are on the stout defense. The schedule leaves lots of places for these guys to improve in the rankings, including Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State.
11. Virginia Tech
With a high powered offense returning mot starters and adding a few crucial components at wide reciever that were missing last year, the Hokies look good. But on defense they return 3 starters. With teams like Boise St. and Miami (Fla.) in their schedule, the defense will need to get good fast. (Boise St. in week 1).
Les Miles is going to have to deliver more than 8 or 9 wins thisseason to keep the LSU faithful happy. He may have that recipe cooking with two great quarterbacks returning, and a talented wide receiving core at his fingertips. The defense was good last year, but they will only return 4 of those starters.
13. Penn State
Sustaining heavy losses at QB, 3 at LB, and a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year DE, Penn State looks to refill very big shoes in 2010. It can most certainly be done and they seem to have a knack for playing tough teams close. With one of the toughest schedules in college football, they have a chance to move up a lot.
These guys bring back 19 starters, many of which are on the defense which ranked 9th in the country last year. Also a 3 year starting QB will return in Yates. They will be tough to score on and possess a particularly challenging schedule. If they want to prove something, this is the year for it.
Shutouts in bowl games are pretty impressive. These guys will need to step up on defense after about four key losses, including Suh, though. If the defense can hold up and be as good as last year, then watch out for these guys. People SHOULD wonder how they would have done in the BCS if the refs would have called the end of the Texas-Nebraska game correctly.
An easy schedule won't help these guys too much. Twor three games worth watching all season, and two versus opponents that should be easy steamrolls for a team returning this many starters. We'll see if they can keep their players out of jail and off suspension this year. Also, some questions with the new QB.
Brining in Cam Newton, the #1 JUCO player and filling a hole in the O-Line with a JUCO top prospect. Auburn has addressed their needs well, and will have a 3 headed running attack monster. Also look for defensive players that have been injured the past few years to make an impact including Airon Savage, Zac Etheridge, and Demond Washington.
Mallet and Wingo both return for this offense. This is good news for the razorbacks. Now what to do about defense. This will be the biggest area of concern and will be tested by the likes of Bama, Auburn, LSU, and Georgia.
19. Florida State
Everyone will be relying on Ponder. If there is any evidence that FSU will have a great running game, I have not found it. This could spell trouble with some of the defenses they will face, including Miami and Florida.
Switching to the 3-4 this year while trying to break in a new redshirt freshman quarterback. Has all of the makings of a setup year, which means UGA a year or 2 years from now will be ranked much higher.
These guys return a beast in Dion Lewis at RB, while also bringing back a monster in Greg Romeus at DE. There are some other rolls to fill, but I would go as far as to put Lewis on the Heisman Watch for the year. This team will probably win the Big East.
22. West Virginia
Schedules don't get much easier than WVU's. Returning Noel Devine should prove disastrous to opponents. Look for lots of wins, just not many quality wins. I see very little room for improvement in rankings here.
Only returning 4 starters to the defensive side of the ball. Thats a lot of holes to fill successfully. Bringing a little more experience to the offense is good for this team, but it likely will not be enought to topple the TCU juggernaught of the Mountain West. The Utah schedule will not be very beneficial to the Utes, because it is rather weak.
24. Oregon State
Oregon St. will be tested early and often. Starting off against TCU then a couple weeks later against Boise St, and a finisher against Oregon. Starting a young QB and relying heavily on him. Also the defense is sparse at LB, but they will be able to cover that hole up nicely with the defensive recruiting going on there the past few years.
Lots of firepower on offense and Butch Jones is apparently good at keeping the offense open. The questions for this team are on defense. They were less than brilliant last year, it is probably a good thing they are bringing back a good amount of talent. The year of experience will be a good thing.
So there it is. I understand the insignificance of my opinion, but I really feel like I justified it. I used a grading formula including elements factoring wieghted averages of last year's rank, bowl outcome, and returning players+recruiting(3years). I hope the people enjoy this, and I will return later to give my season prediction for Auburn.
WDE and God Bless