No question about it.
Florida returns all 11 defensive starters from an already very good defense (held the "60 Point Sooners" to 14 points), as well as three great offensive linemen, star QB Tim Tebow, running backs Jeffrey Demps, and Chris Rainey.
The Gators will have an insane rushing attack, and their passing game will be very good as well since Tim Tebow is directing it. Florida was the best team in 2008, and they lose virtually nobody in 2009 (except Percy Harvin). This team might be one of the best college football teams in history.
Although USC loses Mark Sanchez, they still return four out of five good offensive linemen, plenty of great recruits at QB, and the dangerous running trio of C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson, and Joe McKnight.
USC will also have an insane rushing attack, but their passing game will need some time to develop. The defense, although it loses seven starters, is returning ridiculous safety Taylor Mays, who suprisingly didn't declare.
Oh yeah, and I was looking at all the players coming in next year to start. Every single one was a five-star recruit, and USC always has a good defensive scheme.
So watch out for the Trojans in 2009.
It was very hard to decide if UT would be better than OU, but I finally decided to go with Texas after some advice from other members.
It wasn't easy, though.
The Longhorns return four out of five offensive linemen, Colt McCoy, and his favorite target Jordan Shipley.
Their offense will once again be one of the best. And on defense, the Longhorns return six of 11. One big issue is three of the five leaving are from the defensive line, which was a huge reason for UT's success in 2008. But their pass defense should take a step up, and Texas will probably find some defensive linemen who can get the job done (given that they're usually pretty good and have a wide crop of recruits to pick from).
That doesn't mean that they will help Texas obtain the second best rush defense nationally again. If the Longhorns can beat Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout, they'll likely find themselves in the BCS National Championship (same with Oklahoma).
With Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray, and Chris Brown, how can the 60 Point Sooners not be good again?
They lose all five linemen, but OU knows that and will probably work their @$$ off to improve their O-Line.
And what about their defense?
Nine starters are coming back next year. The Sooners' defense didn't look too good on paper, but they held Florida to 24 points and were playing in a conference with insane offenses.
The Sooners could find themselves in the National Championship Game again, since USC always finds some way to screw themselves out of it. I'm predicting the winner of the OU-Texas game will go to the National Championship against Florida.
5. OLE MISS
Kind of strange to see the Rebels way up here.
But why not?
Their defense ranked 19th nationally in a tough SEC conference, and they were the only team to beat Florida. Not just was their defense very good, but in 2009 it has eight starters coming back to lead Ole Miss through a tough SEC conference.
What about their offense?
Most of their offensive line will come back, along with QB Jevan Snead (one of the best in the SEC) and many key rushers from their 28th ranked rushing offense in Dexter McCluster, Cordera Easton, and Brandon Bolden.
Ole Miss, with a tough defense and a well-rounded offense, could be the only team to compete with Florida in 2009.
6. OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes come into 2009 losing two three-time All-Americans (James Lauranitis, Malcolm Jenkins) and another great player who contributed well to their 24th ranked rushing offense (Beanie Wells).
A lot of people don't expect much from them.
The Buckeyes defense ranked 14th in the nation in total defense and sixth in scoring defense. They are consistently one of the best recruiting schools. And they only lost four defensive starters.
On offense, Ohio State has QB Terrelle Pryor (146.5 QB rating as a freshman, good at running the ball too), who should develop into an even better quarterback by this time and will probably be a Heisman contender. Most of the line returns.
Combine those two with which ever Ohio State recruits you want, and you've got a pretty good offense.
A third SEC Power to join the top ten.
Alabama loses just two defensive starters in 2009 from a defense that was ranked third in the nation. No doubt that they'll improve there.
On offense, Alabama loses QB John Parker-Wilson, RB Glen Coffee, and OT Andre Smith, but they have QB Greg McElroy to come in over Parker-Wilson, RB Mark Ingram to cover for Glen Coffee, and WR Julio Jones.
This 'Bama offense, although probably not quite as good as the other SEC powers (Florida, Ole Miss) will still be very good and could help lead the Tide past the other two.
8. VIRGINIA TECH
Virginia Tech has seven defensive starters returning from a year in which the defense finished seventh in the nation.
On the other side of the ball, Virginia Tech might actually be able to put some offense into the ACC with QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Darren Evans, and most of their offensive line returning.
Taylor didn't do great throwing the ball, but contributed well into VT's 35th-ranked rushing offense, along with Evans.
Their rushing attack, since the offensive line will be strong, will be much more dangerous. Taylor will develop over the offseason into a much better passer, and the fact that the Hokies don't lose a single receiver will help him out too.
9. OKLAHOMA STATE
Watch out for an insane offense here.
Oklahoma State has most of their linemen returning, along with quarterback Zach Robinson (166.8 QB Rating in 2008), RB Kendall Hunter (1,555 yards, 16 TDs, 6.5 average), and WR Dez Bryant (1480 yards, 19 TDs, 17.0 yards per catch). This could possibly be better than the 2008 "60 Point Sooners."
On defense, Oklahoma State returns five of seven of their starters to form what should be a pretty good rush defense.
The Cowboys may struggle against the pass.
10. BOISE STATE
The Broncos could easily pick up the BCS automatic bid for 2009—the only tough team they have to play is Oregon at home.
Boise State's offense is led by QB Kellen Moore (157.1 QB Rating, 2008), a solid offensive line, and a tough running back in Jeremy Avery (614 yards, 4 TDs, 5.5 average while playing behind Ian Johnson).
The Boise State defense loses four of its front seven, which will hurt its rush defense (22nd in nation, 2008), but they have three of four of their defensive backs returning, which should help out their pass defense (34th in nation, 2008).
This Boise State team is very well-rounded—watch out for them in 2009.
The Utes are coming into 2009 as another non-BCS team with serious BCS chances. They have nine defensive starters returning from the nation's 11th best defense in 2008. On offense they return three of five linemen and RB Matt Asiata returning for what should be at least a decent offense.
The Utes do lose QB Brian Johnson, a huge part of their 2008 success.
Corbin Louks, Johnson's backup in the past few years, hasn't played much but has done well. Watch out for him next year, and watch out for the Utes to possibly go BCS again.
The Hawkeyes come into 2008 with eight defensive starters returning from one of the nation's top defenses (12th total defense, 5th scoring defense). The loss of their star DTs Mitch King and Matt Kroul will affect their defensive line, but Iowa usually builds a pretty good D-Line. This year they have plenty of people to choose from to fill in those two spots.
On offense, Iowa will have a strong offensive line, a developed Ricky Stanzi at QB (134.8 QB Rating, 2008), and RB Jewel Hampton to fill in Shonn Greene's shoes.
Hampton played behind Greene as a freshman last year and he picked up nearly 500 yards along with seven TDs and a 5.1 average behind the star RB.
The Hawkeyes will have solid receivers with Derrell Johnson-Koulianous, Trey Stross, Colin Sandeman, Tony Moeaki and Allen Reisner (both TEs) and now big-time recruit Keenan Davis.
13. PENN STATE
Penn State loses a lot of people coming in to 2009, but I think they have what it takes to overcome that.
QB Darryl Clark and RB Evan Royster return on offense, but they lose two of five offensive linemen. I don't think that'll be too much of a factor, and this Nittany Lion team should have another pretty good offense.
On defense, Penn State loses eight starters. But LBs Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee will return to help them rebuild.
14. GEORGIA TECH
Another team with many questions.
The Yellow Jackets have all of their players that made their triple option offense work last year returning, but they lose four of five linemen. They will rebuild, like all of the other teams, and should still have a very good rushing offense.
On defense, they have six starters returning from a good defense, but that might not be enough to make them as good as last year. It should still be pretty good, and so should Georgia Tech.
They are also possible ACC contenders next year.
LSU has Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, and most of their offensive line returning, so look for a good rushing offense in 2009.
QB Jordan Jefferson will improve and allow the Tigers to pass the ball more. On defense, LSU has seven starters returning. Once again, they'll have a strong rush defense, and their pass defense will improve as well.
16. FLORIDA STATE
The Seminoles will have eight defensive starters returning in 2009 from the nation's 15th-ranked defense in 2008.
Once again, they should be dominant on that side of the ball.
On offense, they weren't great last year. This year, they have all of their linemen returning, as well as QB Christain Ponder. RB Antone Smith is graduating, which will hurt FSU. Florida State is a possible ACC champion next year. I think they have the ACC Atlantic, but I don't know if they'll win the ACC Championship.
Jahvid Best at RB, Kevin Riley at QB, and most of their offensive line, look out for Cal's offense in 2009.
As for their defense, they have eight starters returning and their defense was 26th in the nation last year.
I think Cal was very underrated in 2008, and they should be much better in 2009. The Golden Bears are possible Pac-10 contenders for next year.
Oregon is going into 2009 with QB Jeremiah Masoli and RB LeGarrete Blount leading their offense.
The loss of most of their linemen will hurt, but they will work on that over the offseason and should still have a very good offense. However, their defense was 82nd in the nation in 2008, and they lose almost half of their starters there.
The Ducks will have a pretty good rush defense again, but will struggle against the pass. They have a lot of questions going into 2009, but if they answer them correctly, they could be a power next year.
Although they lose QB Matt Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno, the Bulldogs have all of their offensive linemen returning to help out whoever steps up behind them. AJ Green will be an excellent WR in 2009, too.
Georgia has much of their 22nd-ranked defense returning, too, so they should be pretty good there.
The Bulldogs are in a tough conference next year, so they might struggle.
20. NOTRE DAME
As much as I hate ND, I have to put them up here. QB Jimmy Clausen is coming back for his junior season, along with four of five offensive linemen (who were already pretty good in 2008). On defense, Notre Dame has six starters returning from a defense that was pretty well-rounded.
They don't lose too many people from any one area, so they should be pretty good on defense once again.
Max Hall is back at QB and Harvey Unga at RB. BYU should have a very good offense again, despite the loss of WR Austin Collie. The Cougars have almost all of their front seven players returning, so they'll have a good rush defense.
If BYU is better than I think they will be in 2009, they could possibly earn an automatic BCS bid—they'll have to get by Utah and TCU to do that, though.
Although they lose QB Willie Tuitama, Arizona's offense has RBs Nicholas Grigsby and Keola Antolin returning (along with nearly their whole offensive line) to form what should be a very good rushing offense.
On defense, Arizona has seven starters returning from the nation's 24th best, and should be just as good (if not better) in 2009.
Andy Dalton returns to lead the Horned Frogs' offense, which loses a lot of people.
They also lose a lot of people on defense, but DE Jerry Hughes returns to help out. TCU has a lot of questions, but I think they can get it done. They'll be hard to beat in the MWC. Utah and BYU will challenge them, and we'll see if TCU deserves this spot as they progress through their season.
After a mediocre 5-7 season, the Fighting Illini have QB Juice Williams and RB Daniel Dufrene returning from the nation's 19th best offense.
It won't go anywhere but up in 2009.
On defense, Illinois has many starters returning from a decent 2008 defense (56th in 2008). They should be a better overall team. I picked Illinois as a Big Ten sleeper for next year. I wouldn't be too suprised if they took the Big Ten.
25. WEST VIRGINIA
Pat White will be a big loss, but RB Noel Devine was pretty good in 2008 and there's no reason he won't be as good in 2009. WVU has eight defensive starters returning from the nation's 36th best defense, so they're set there. They don't have much to contend with in 2009 and should take the Big East fairly easily.
OTHER TEAMS CONSIDERED (NOT IN ORDER): North Carolina, Miami (FL), Northwestern, Minnesota, Tennessee, Oregon State, Texas Tech, Arkansas