I will update this every month, but here's the way too early January edition. Here we go...
No. 1: Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners return the best group of players in college football, including Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, and Gerald McCoy. While they must replace some of their offensive line, their defense took big strides at the end of 2008, and that should continue into 2009.
No. 2: Florida Gators
The Gators drop to number two mainly because of the loss of wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin. While it shouldn't be hard for Tebow to find someone new to throw to, all eyes will be on him in the running game and he won't be as successful on the ground as he has been in previous seasons.
No. 3: Texas Longhorns
While the Longhorns do return quarterback Colt McCoy, they will need to fill some other holes on offense. Jordan Shipley is back and so is the line, but Texas needs to find a way to run the football. They will also need to find a way to replace All-American Brian Orakpo, which definitely won't be easy.
No. 4: Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies return nine players on offense and may possibly head into 2009 with the best defense in the country. While Victor Harris is gone, there is still a ton of talent in Blacksburg, especially on defense. If they can find a way to throw the ball, they may be able to work themselves up to number one later in the season.
No. 5: Alabama Crimson Tide
While the offense definitely needs some replacements, this will be one of the best defenses in the country. They should be able to contend for a title in the SEC West with ease, as their only threats there are Ole Miss and LSU.
No. 6: LSU Tigers
LSU returns basically everybody and should be much better in 2009. They had a lot of quarterback struggles in 2008 (to say the least), but quarterback Jordan Jefferson was outstanding against Georgia Tech in the Chik-fil-A Bowl, and the Tigers hope that success will continue into next season.
No. 7: Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State does lose some key players in James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, and Chris "Beanie" Wells, but they also return quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was outstanding during his freshman year. Once again, the Buckeyes will be the Big Ten favorites to start the season, but Iowa and Penn State are close at their heels.
No. 8: USC Trojans
Why so low? Because everyone is gone. Sure they return a few starters here and there, but this offense will have a very rough time in 2009, and it is possible that we see USC slipping further, allowing Oregon or Cal to take the conference title.
No. 9: Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys return arguably one of the best offenses in the country with Zac Robinson at quarterback, running back Kendall Hunter, and wide receiver Dez Bryant. The problem is, Oklahoma State has to find a way to get some defense. If they can't, they will never get any higher than this.
No. 10: Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss was a great story in 2008, and head coach Houston Nutt was as good as a coach can get. Now that they have some confidence, the Rebels, led by quarterback Jevan Snead, should be able to compete in the SEC.
Last year, they didn't have enough confidence at the beginning, but after a win over Florida in The Swamp, their confidence took a turn for the better and they finished out the season very strong.
No. 11: Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa is another team that started off slow in 2008, but finished very strong with a huge upset (over No. 3 Penn State). Even though they lose Shonn Greene, most of the offense is back and Jewel Hampton, who is a power runner like Greene with a combination of speed, looks like a very capable back-up.
The defense should be stout once again and may even be the best in the Big Ten, led by arguably one of the best linebacking corps in the nation with Pat Angerer, A.J. Edds, and Jeremiah Hunter.
No. 12: Penn State Nittany Lions
I know I'm going to get a lot of crap from Penn State fans for putting the Nittany Lions so low, but the fact is, they lose a lot of players. Sure, quarterback Daryll Clark and running back Evan Royster are returning, but no wide receivers are.
The wide receivers are what made this offense so lethal last year, and unlike last year, the Lions won't be able to throw at will, especially against the good secondaries of Ohio State and Iowa. Plus, the defense won't be as good, especially with the loss of defensive end Aaron Maybin.
No. 13: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
After a humiliating loss in the Chik-fil-A Bowl, the Yellow Jackets will try to regroup. It shouldn't be hard for them to compete in the ACC, which, once again, will not be very good outside of Virginia Tech.
The problem is, they have to stop being so streaky. If they continue that, they could have a bad start of the season because of the momentum and confidence they lost in the Chik-fil-A Bowl.
No. 14: Oregon Ducks
While the Ducks do lose a lot of players on defense, they will definitely have one of the better offenses in the Pac-10.
They are riding momentum after a drubbing of arch-rival Oregon State in the "Civil War" and an upset win over Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl. If USC's young team falters, Oregon could win the Pac-10.
No. 15: Georgia Bulldogs
While Georgia does lose Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, they still, like always, have a ton of talent left. While they probably won't be as powerful or good as they were this year (considering they have to beat out Florida for the SEC East crown, which likely won't happen), they definitely have the tools to put together a Top 15 team come September.
No. 16: California Bears
For some reason, Cal always seems to underachieve. This year, with Nate Longshore gone, I don't think that will happen.
He was always kind of holding this offense back a little bit, and now, with a new fresh look at quarterback, the Bears should do well. Also, Jahvid Best may be the best running back in the country.
No. 17: TCU Horned Frogs
TCU returns a great defense and will be the best non-BCS team this year by far. The offense should be very good once again. Look for the Horned Frogs to be the one non-BCS team to get into a BCS game this year. While they are no 2008 Utah, they are still a very good team and much better than 2007 Hawaii.
No. 18: Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas returns a very good offense, led by star quarterback Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks should have an easy time competing for the Big 12 North Title, because, this year, their only competition is Nebraska. Looks for the Jayhawks to improve from last year, but not to get back to their 2007 form.
No. 19: Boise State Broncos
I can't understand why everyone is ranking the Broncos so high. It's not like they were overwhelming last year, and unlike fellow non-BCS powers Utah and TCU, they play in one of the worst conferences in the country.
I don't know why everyone has all of the sudden jumped on the Boise State bandwagon, but I definitely haven't. They aren't even the best non-BCS team. That title belongs to TCU.
No. 20: Florida State Seminoles
Florida State has gotten better every year, but they can never seem to get over the hump.
Now, most of the pieces are in place for FSU to make a sleeper run at the ACC Title. They are a streaky team that will either get hot and stay that way for a while, or plummet. We'll see what happens in September.
No. 21: Utah Utes
While quarterback Brian Johnson will be very hard to replace, the Utes will return most of one of the nation's best defenses. While they definitely won't be the team they were last year, they still should have a decent team and make it to a decent bowl game.
The problem is, they play three very tough road games against Oregon, TCU and BYU. I see them going 1-2 in those games, losing to Oregon and TCU and beating BYU.
No. 22: Nebraska Cornhuskers
This team has kept improving, and this year, they may finally have the tools to once again compete in the Big 12 North. While it helps that they're playing in a very weak division, Bo Pelini has done a great job of rebuilding this storied Nebraska program.
No. 23: Texas Tech Red Raiders
While this won't be one of those inhuman Mike Leach offenses, it will still be fairly good. Also, they defense will be much improved from 2008, and this might actually look like a human Texas Tech team that was very underrated last year, even after their Cotton Bowl loss to Ole Miss.
No. 24: North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels improved greatly in 2008 and look to continue that success in 2009. While they weren't a power by any means and most likely never will be, they should be able to come up with a decent finish in an ACC that isn't very good outside of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
No. 25: BYU Cougars
I have a tough time putting BYU here, but I guess they're the only other team that deserves it. The Cougars always seem to underachieve, as they did in 2008 and somehow, I don't see how that is going to change in 2009.
But, I guess they can have this spot until they prove they are not worthy of it or another team proves they are more deserving of it.
Others Considered: Arizona, Notre Dame, USF, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Boston College
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