College Football 2012: The Next Best 25 After the Top 25

Alex CallosCorrespondent IJune 15, 2012

College Football 2012: The Next Best 25 After the Top 25

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    The college football season is still over two months away, but it is never too early to discuss who will be in contention for some big bowl games.

    Everybody knows who the top teams are, but what about after the initial Top 25? ESPN College Football Live has come out with their top 25 and while the rankings are up for debate, the next 25 is still filled with talented teams.

    Here are the next best 25 after the ESPN top 25.

    Let the debate begin.

50. Central Florida

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    Central Florida only went 5-7 a year ago, but should be much improved this season and will certainly be one of the best teams in Conference USA.

    They had one of the best defenses in the country in 2011, ranking ninth in points allowed last season.

    On offense quarterback the battle is still open for the quarterback position, but they should be much improved on that side of the ball. If the offense can continue to grow and develop, this team will have no problem winning at least eight games next season and finishing near the top of the conference.

49. Purdue

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    Purdue finished 7-6 last year and made great strides toward reaching the middle of the pack in the B1G.

    They are led by a strong defensive line and Kawann Short is one of the best in all of college football.

    The Boilermakers do not have to play Michigan St. and get Michigan at home. which will allow them to possibly win eight games.

    Either way, this team is on the upswing.

48. Toledo

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    Not many teams could score like the Toledo Rockets last season. They averaged over 42 points a game, which ranked eighth in the country, and hung with some very talented teams.

    Even though they lost their head coach Tim Beckman and star receiver Eric Page, this team still has a lot of players coming back.

    Terrance Owens is a very talented quarterback and threw for 18 touchdowns with only three interceptions in helping to lead the Rockets to a 9-4 record in 2011.

    They should be just as good next season.

47. Vanderbilt

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    Vanderbilt went 6-7 last year and earned a Liberty Bowl berth. Next season they have plenty of talent coming back to have a repeat performance. 

    In 2012, running back Zac Stacy returns after nearly 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns last season while averaging 5.9 yards a carry.

    Those are pretty impressive numbers in the SEC and if they can get the quarterback position figured out, there is no question they will win at least six games once again.

46. South Florida

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    South Florida has consistently struggled to finish a lot of seasons out and last year wilted to a disappointing 5-7 year, going 1-6 in conference play.

    This season should be slightly different with B.J. Daniels now in his final season and having the experience to lead the Bulls to the top half of the Big East.

    There is enough talent coming back for the Bulls to win eight games next season and get back to a bowl game.

45. Virginia

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    Virginia shocked a lot of people last season and won eight games. They will not shock the world this year, but eight wins is still a strong possibility.

    They have a challenging non-conference schedule, so it is not going to be easy to get eight wins, but with running back Perry Jones returning they are off to a good start.

    He will be joined by sophomore Kevin Parks to form a running back tandem that is hard to find anywhere else.

44. Illinois

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    Illinois has a new head coach in Tim Beckman and the talent that Ron Zook recruited. That should make for a combination that will allow them to improve on their seven wins from a season ago.

    Still, it is a transitional year and there will be bumps in the road.

    Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase should see drastic improvements and the Fighting Illini will not suffer a six-game losing streak like they did last season.

43. Mississippi State

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    Mississippi State has as easy a non-conference schedule as anybody could imagine. They should be able to pick up four easy wins there and get a few more to qualify for a bowl game once again.

    The Bulldogs went 7-6 last year and winning seven games looks likely once again.

    They did lose running back Vick Ballard to the NFL, but a strong defense that only allowed 19.7 points a game last season will help them compete in the talented SEC.

42. Baylor

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    Few teams lost as much on offense as Baylor, but they will be improved on the defensive side of the ball and sometimes a little ball control helps.

    Last season the Bears scored so quick that their defense was on the field a lot.

    They do get wide receiver Terrance Williams back for his senior season and he will be one of the best in the Big 12.

    Do not expect the 10 wins they got last season, but seven or eight is possible.

41. Utah

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    Utah regrouped last season to finish 8-5 after a devastating season-ending injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn.

    In 2012, Wynn will be back along with running back John White and the Utes will be very formidable in the Pac-12.

    They will be able to compete with the second tier of teams and could possibly finish right behind the clear top three from that league.

    Expect nine wins or more from this team.

40. Miami

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    Miami only went 6-6 last season, but lost some close games they could very easily have won. This is a hard team to judge with what is going on in South Beach right now.

    If they can put everything together, there is talent to win eight or nine games. If they fail to do so, a winning season may be tough.

    The schedule is not easy however with non-conference road games at Kansas State and Notre Dame.

39. Texas A&M

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    Many people believe Texas A&M is in for a wake-up call in the SEC, but they are no pushover either.

    Returning running back Christine Michael will have to carry a heavy load because they will have to replace the departed Ryan Tannehill.

    Either way, they should be able to have a winning season, similar to the 7-6 year they had in 2011.

38. Iowa

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    The Iowa Hawkeyes went 7-6 last season and lost to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl.

    While they do lose some talent, senior quarterback James Vandenberg will return for his final season and the Hawkeyes should have no problem duplicating the seven wins they totaled from a season ago.

    The B1G will be challenging, but Iowa will likely finish near the middle of it.

37. California

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    California is another talented Pac-12 team with an explosive offense. They went 7-6 last season and will be better in 2012.

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen is one of the best not only in the Pac-12, but in the entire country.

    Quarterback Zach Maynard also returns and the offense will be one of the tops in the league.

    Look for this team to win eight or more games next season and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

36. Auburn

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    The Auburn Tigers still managed to go 8-5 last season, despite losing Cam Newton and a lot of talent on defense after their national championship year in 2010.

    Once again, they will have a lot to replace, but should be just as good or better this year as they were in 2011.

    Running back Onterio McCalebb will take on a larger role for his senior season and a lot of weight will be placed on his shoulders.

35. Southern Mississippi

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    Southern Mississippi was one of the surprise teams in the country last season, going 12-2 and finishing the season in the top 25.

    In 2012, they have to replace star quarterback Austin Davis and some other pieces on offense as well.

    They will be hard-pressed to duplicate last season, but double-digit wins are likely and they are the heavy favorite in Conference USA with Case Keenum now having moved on from Houston.

34. Cincinnati

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    The Cincinnati Bearcats are one of only a handful of BCS teams to win 10 games four out of the past five seasons and they have a chance to do that again in 2012.

    They will compete with Rutgers and Louisville at the top of the Big East, but have a lot to replace on both sides of the ball.

    Losing talent like Isaiah Pead and Zach Collaros on offense, along with Derek Wolfe and John Hughes on defense will not make things easy, but Butch Jones has enough talent coming back to easily win nine or 10 games.

33. Penn State

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    Penn State had one of the top-five defenses in the country last season and while they may not be that good in 2012, don't expect much of a dropoff.

    The Nittany Lions should be just as good as last season and they will rely heavily on running back Silas Redd to carry the load on offense.

    Their schedule is without question the easiest in the B1G as they avoid Michigan and Michigan St. with Ohio State and Wisconsin both at home.

    The nine wins from last season may be topped in 2012.

32. Missouri

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    Missouri no question will find it a little tougher in the SEC than the Big 12, but they are the most prepared of the two teams moving to the conference to do so.

    The Tigers have talented junior quarterback James Franklin coming back and some explosive players on the offensive side of the ball.

    They won eight games last season, and that is not going to be easy to do in 2012, in the SEC, but with the amount of talent they have, eight or nine wins is very possible.

31. Rutgers

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    Rutgers has the best defensive player in the conference in linebacker Khaseem Greene and if he can recover from a devastating knee injury, the Scarlet Knights will be scary on that side of the ball.

    Running back Jawan Jamison is one of the best in the Big East and no team from this conference had quite a recruiting class like the Scarlet Knights. 

    With Greg Schiano now having moved on, there are certainly going to be some questions, but this team is one of the favorites in a weak Big East.

30. Georgia Tech

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    Georgia Tech is likely to find itself in the top 25 in some polls to begin the season and they were second in the country last year in rushing yards.

    They start the season at Virginia Tech on Monday night in what could be an intriguing matchup.

    Do-it-all quarterback Tevin Washington led the team in passing and rushing last season. He had 25 total touchdowns and should be even better entering his senior season.

29. BYU

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    BYU is now in the world of the independents and time will tell if they are going to benefit from this decision.

    They won 10 games last season and have eight easy wins on their schedule this year, but do have four road games against Utah, Boise State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.

    With that being said, talented wide receiver Cody Hoffman and the Cougars will have no trouble reaching the 10 wins they had a year ago.

28. Washington

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    If anybody can knock off one of the top-three teams in the Pac-12, then Washington is the team to do just that.

    The Huskies could likely be ranked in a number of preseason polls and while they only won seven games last season, junior quarterback Keith Price is one of the best in the conference and will be much better.

    They must improve on a defense that ranked 108th in the country last season. Scoring is not the problem as they ranked 25th in the nation in that category.

27. North Carolina State

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    North Carolina State was one of the surprise teams in the country last season and this year they may be even better.

    The Wolfpack won eight games last year and quarterback Mike Glennon helped make fans forget about the departure of Russell Wilson.

    Glennon threw for 31 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards on the year. He will return for his senior season and NC State could be a threat to surprise some people in 2012.

26. Louisville

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    By all rights, Louisville should be in most top-25 preseason polls. They finished last season 7-6, but were one of the youngest teams in the nation.

    True sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be one of the best in the league and the defense speaks for itself.

    That group ranked 17th in the country last season and improved throughout. Look for the Cardinals to finish at the top of the Big East, but they will get challenged from teams like Rutgers and Cincinnati.

    One thing benefiting them is their coach Charlie Strong, who is one of the best in the business.