USA Today College Football Preseason Poll 2012: Predicting How Coaches Will Vote
Media days are over with, fall camps are set to begin and the preseason polls are soon to be released. Things like this should get you excited because the 2012 college football season is set to begin this month.
The first poll that will be released is the USA Today Coaches Poll. This poll often receives the most criticism because many of the voters simply do not know what they are doing when they vote for some of these teams. But it at least gives us something to laugh at and have heated debates over before the season kicks off.
So as we patiently wait for the season to begin, let's predict how these teams will be ranked in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll for the 2012 season.
I have my doubts about Florida heading into the season, but the polls always make sure to include as many SEC teams as possible. There are a lack of playmakers on offense and no true answer at quarterback at this very moment.
But one thing that will keep this Gators team competitive is the amount of talent on the defensive side of the ball, as 10 starters return from a unit that ranked eighth in the country last season.
Florida may not be a pretty team to watch in 2012, but it will be a tough team to beat with a defense that doesn't give up much.
Auburn was horrible on defense last season, but with nine starters returning, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has a lot of young talent to work with. The offense also has a fair share of playmakers at running back and receiver, and it could have an X-factor at quarterback with Kiehl Frazier being named the potential starter.
Gene Chizik will make sure that there is a better product on the field this season than what you saw last year.
23. Oklahoma State
Running back Joseph Randle will look to get a lot more carries with Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden no longer on the roster. Although it is the defense that will make this team a contender in 2012, returning eight starters from a unit that led the country in 44 turnovers forced.
I'm not sure this Cowboys team will be as entertaining as it was last season, but they will be a team to pay attention to once again in the Big 12.
22. Notre Dame
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have heard it all before. You don't think Notre Dame should be ranked until they prove they are a better team than the one we have seen in years past. You may have a point, but this is still Notre Dame we are talking about, and there is no way this team is not ranked heading into the year.
The Irish return seven starters on both sides of the ball, have plenty of weapons on offense and a bunch of leadership on the defensive side of the ball. The tough schedule they have to deal with this season certainly won't help an improvement from last year, but the Irish have enough talent to make things interesting.
21. Ohio State
Call it the Urban Meyer factor, or just consider that the Buckeyes are returning 16 starters, including nine on defense. Whatever side you would prefer, Ohio State will be ranked inside the Top 25 when the poll is released.
This team is extremely talented, even with all of the injuries and suspensions Meyer is already dealing with, his first year on the job. Defensively, it should be one of the better teams in the country, while quarterback Braxton Miller should benefit greatly from the spread on offense.
It is a shame the Buckeyes are banned from the postseason because this team could compete for a BCS bowl easily.
We could make an argument that the Longhorns don't even deserve to be ranked until they prove something in 2012. But let's be serious, Texas will not enter the season unranked and will probably be ranked a little higher than it deserves to be because of the name of the program.
Still, Texas returns 17 starters, is loaded on the defensive side of the ball and has an offense that has a lot of potential. If the quarterback position can get figured out, this is a team that could return to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2009.
TCU is entering its first season in the Big 12, and the Horned Frogs should fare well, considering this is a team that has already knocked off some tough competition in the past. We know what to expect from the Horned Frogs on defense, returning seven starters from a unit that allowed barely 21 points per game.
But the offense may be the most surprising part of this team, having one of the better wide receiver corps in the country and a quarterback that completed 66 percent of his passes last season.
This program appears to be ready for the next level.
18. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has a ton of questions to answer before the season starts, particularly on the offensive side of the ball with only three starters returning. Still, this is still the Hokies, a team that usually gets the benefit of the doubt in the rankings.
We know the defense is going to be incredible, and quarterback Logan Thomas should be able to make enough plays to make this team a contender in the ACC.
Just because Stanford lost Andrew Luck does not mean this team will fall off the face of the earth. The Cardinal still have a two-time 1,000-yard rusher in Stepfan Taylor leading the offense, an offensive line that should remain one of the best in the country and a defense that returns seven starters and has arguably the best group of linebackers of any other team in the country.
The front seven for this Stanford team will keep them in every game this season.
Did you see what Clemson did last season to West Virginia in the BCS' Discover Orange Bowl? Well, picture how this offense will do in the Big 12 this season, playing in a conference that isn't known for great defense.
The Tigers return six starters from an offense that averaged nearly 34 points per game last season. They have three Heisman candidates on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively they return seven starters from a unit that should improve under new defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
If quarterback Taylor Martinez can get his act together as a passer, Nebraska will not only win the Big Ten, but could compete for a national championship.
Running back Rex Burkhead will continue to be a beast and top 1,000 rushing yards. Kenny Bell should continue to improve heading into his second season. And the defense returns seven starters from a unit that allowed less than 24 points per contest.
Wisconsin lost quite a bit last year, but returning running back Montee Ball is good enough to put a smile on Badgers fans' faces. When you consider the offensive line history with this program, you figure he will have plenty of room to run the ball once again.
The Badgers also received Danny O'Brien, a quarterback who transferred from Maryland and will have a good chance to earn the starting position.
Despite losing 11 starters, this Wisconsin team should still make a strong push to defend its 2012 Big Ten title.
13. Michigan State
I have the same questions about this team that the rest of you have as well. Who is going to throw the football? And when you find a quarterback, who is going to catch the ball? The Spartans lost their starting quarterback and top four receivers from a year ago.
Although let's not act like this Michigan State team is done for, it still has a talented running back in Le’Veon Bell and returns eight starters from a defense that ranked sixth in the country last season.
12. Kansas State
I'm not sure Kansas State will be able to shock the college football world for a second season in a row, but the Wildcats do have 16 starters returning from a club that won 10 games. Quarterback Collin Klein came out of nowhere last season and became one of the best playmakers in the country.
This wasn't a team that did anything spectacular; it just found ways to win football games. That has to count for something, especially when you are returning majority of that same team this season.
11. West Virginia
West Virginia will enter the Big 12 for the first time, but this Mountaineers team will compete with the big boys from day one. Returning eight starters on offense, you can probably count on one hand how many defenses will be able to slow this high-scoring attack down. They also have six starters returning on a defense that will switch to a more traditional 3-4 scheme.
While everybody considers Texas and Oklahoma the top dogs in the Big 12, they better make room for the new kids on the block. This team is no joke.
10. South Carolina
South Carolina had to deal with a few issues last season, although seemed to get even better as a team. Quarterback Connor Shaw will have a full offseason to improve last year's solid performance. The defense returns six starters, including Jadeveon Clowney, who will become one of the best defensive players in the country his sophomore season. And Marcus Lattimore should be healthy after suffering an injury that cut last season short.
Steve Spurrier may actually have a championship contender on his hands once again.
Arkansas may have had to deal with a few off-the-field issues, but this is still one of the more talented teams in the country. Returning eight starters from an offense that averaged 38 points per game, has one of the better quarterbacks in the country with Tyler Wilson and is returning a healthy running back in Knile Davis.
The defense must improve to be taken seriously as a contender, but how many teams will be able to truly slow down that much offensive firepower? This is a team to seriously watch out for once the season finally kicks off.
If we know anything about the polls, it is that they certainly love and favor the more popular schools. The last time we saw Michigan, the Wolverines were winning a BCS bowl and looked extremely sharp.
Well, 14 of those starters return, including Heisman candidate Denard Robinson at quarterback. Head coach Brady Hoke has quickly earned the respect of his peers, and he has many believing this team can compete for a national championship in no time.
You may not agree with this ranking, but there is no way the Wolverines are outside of the Top 10 when the poll is released.
Oklahoma was the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship last season, and we all know how well that worked out. Still, this Sooners team is not to be slept on, returning 15 starters, including eight on the offensive side of the ball, and having a veteran quarterback in Landry Jones leading the way.
New defensive coordinator Mike Stoops should also have this defense improved after several horrible performances last season.
Bob Stoops' clubs should always receive respect, and a Top 10 ranking to begin the season is good enough.
6. Florida State
Don't we see it every season?
The Florida State Seminoles always begin the season ranked extremely high, and then end up falling flat on their face. However, 2012 may be different (how many times have we heard that?), returning nine starters on defense and bringing in a recruiting class that absolutely loaded.
The Seminoles also have a veteran quarterback in E.J. Manuel returning for his senior season, who should finally begin to tap into some of his potential with a deep receiving corps returning.
Of course we don't want to jinx this team, but this could be the year.
While you were giving all of the defensive credit to LSU and Alabama last year, Georgia finished ranked fifth in the country. Now they return nine starters from the group, including linebacker Jarvis Jones, who is arguably the best defensive player in the country.
The Bulldogs also have six starters returning on offense, and quarterback Aaron Murray is probably the best quarterback this conference has to offer.
If Mark Richt can just fix some of the offensive line issues, the Bulldogs have enough talent and leadership to not only make a run for the SEC title, but a national championship as well.
Oregon may have one of the more underrated defenses in the country, returning seven starters, including one of the best one-two punches on the defensive line. Then of course you have the offense that will continue to put up video game numbers as long as De'Anthony Thomas is on the field and Chip Kelly is calling the plays from the sidelines.
The Ducks didn't lose much during the offseason, and may have gotten better with Marcus Mariota taking over at quarterback. This squad let us down last season, but it will certainly be out for redemption in 2012.
Much like LSU, Alabama lost several key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, but this is the Crimson Tide, a team that always has a remarkable defense. The offensive line remains intact, which should produce one of the better units in college football.
Trent Richardson is gone, but Eddie Lacy and company are more than capable of carrying the load. And AJ McCarron is quickly growing up before our eyes, becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.
Question marks or not, Alabama deserves to be a Top Three team in the country heading into week one.
Sure, LSU lost six starters on the defensive side of the ball, but this is the Tigers we are talking about here, a team that just reloads on defense, not rebuilds. The offense returns eight starters, including the deepest backfield and arguably the best offensive line in the country. Then you add the fact that LSU also may actually have a true quarterback in Zach Mettenberger leading the way.
Many thought last season that LSU had one of the best teams we have ever seen. But it may not be far-fetched to believe that the 2012 version is slightly better.
Say what you want about the Pac-12, but those USC Trojans are no joke on paper. Returning 17 starters from a year ago, including arguably the best quarterback in the country in Matt Barkley, and likely the most talented receiving corps. They also have an extremely underrated defense that should be even better in 2012.
Did I mention that USC also stole 1,000-yard rusher Silas Redd from Penn State?
SEC bias or not, even the coaches can't mess this No. 1 prediction up.