USA Today 2012 Preseason Poll: Rating Top 25 as Too High, Too Low or Just Right

Randy ChambersAnalyst IAugust 2, 2012

USA Today 2012 Preseason Poll: Rating Top 25 as Too High, Too Low or Just Right

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    You know the college football season is right around the corner when we enter the month of August. You also know we are close to kick-off when the polls begin to come out for the upcoming season.

    Today, the famous USA Today Coaches' Preseason Poll has been released to the college football world. And while it means we are just weeks away from the season finally beginning, polls also create heated debates, head scratching and tons of opinions throughout the country.

    Every fan believes his or her team should be ranked higher than the next team, while some fans are just upset that theirs didn't even make the Top 25. 

    With the poll just waiting to get ripped to shreds, here are the verdicts for every team ranked in the preseason poll.

25. Auburn

1 of 25

    Auburn had one of the younger teams in the country last season and still managed to win eight games. This season 16 starters return, including nine on the defensive side of the ball.

    The quarterback position remains a question mark, but the Tigers have a bunch of potential on offense. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has a lot of talent to work with and should improve a unit that was ranked 79th in points allowed last year.

    Verdict: Just right

    Gene Chizik always has his teams ready to compete and this season should be no different. We need to see better quarterback play, but Kiehl Frazier could quickly become a star if given a shot this season.

24. Notre Dame

2 of 25

    There may not be a team in the country that we are harder on than the Irish. It has been a while since Notre Dame has won anything, and with the schedule it has this season, that could hold true for another year.

    Brian Kelly's club, which returns seven starters on each side of the ball, has playmakers on offense and leadership on defense. The quarterback position is still unsettled, but there are three solid candidates to choose from.

    Verdict: Just right

    I know many are tired of seeing this team ranked year after year after it mediocre seasons, but there aren't many teams that can match the talent.

    Turnovers have haunted this team the last few years. If the Irish do a better job of holding onto the football, they could end up being one of the surprise teams in 2012.

23. Florida

3 of 25

    Florida is going to once again have an elite defense, as it returns 10 starters from a unit that finished the year ranked inside the Top 10.

    But who is the quarterback going to be? Where are the offensive playmakers? Is there a running back that this team can count on? The wide receiver position is lacking in proven players and experience.

    Verdict: Too high

    The Gators have always been able to land athletes. But a great defense is not enough to earn a spot in the polls. Florida had a remarkable defense last season and barely won seven games.

22. Boise State

4 of 25

    Boise State has had double-digit wins since 2006, but that was then, and this is now. Quarterback Kellen Moore is no longer on the roster. Neither is running back Doug Martin nor a majority of the defense that was a solid unit by Mountain West Conference standards.

    This is simply not the same Broncos team that we are used to seeing put up video game numbers.

    Verdict: Too high

    I don't think a team that has to replace nearly its entire roster should be ranked to begin the season. If the Broncos knock off Michigan State in the opener, then we can talk.

21. Kansas State

5 of 25

    Does anybody know what to make of this Kansas State team? I know nobody expected much last season, and the Wildcats went on to win 10 games.

    The Wildcats return 16 starters, including nine on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Collin Klein has quickly developed into a playmaker, who will give this team a chance to win many games if he plays the way he did last season.

    Verdict: Just right

    Kansas State is not a flashy team, nor a team that does one thing great. Last season, the Wildcats won seven of their 10 games by a touchdown or less.

    I'm not sure what to expect from this squad, but they do deserve to be ranked after the season they had last year.

20. Virginia Tech

6 of 25

    Virginia Tech had a defense that ranked second in the ACC and 10th in the entire country last season. Expect similar results, as the Hokies return 10 starters from that squad.

    The problem has never really been on that side of the ball for Frank Beamer's club; most concerns are on offense, where only three starters return. The offensive line isn't looking good. David Wilson is gone, and quarterback Logan Thomas might not have enough talent around him to excel.

    Verdict: Just right

    While there are serious concerns with the offense, there aren't many teams that will be able to score consistently on this Hokies defense. It is too early to consider whether this team is a title contender, but you know Beamer will put together another tough team to beat in 2012.

19. Oklahoma State

7 of 25

    Oklahoma State has to replace two key offensive weapons in Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but they do return 1,000-yard rusher Joseph Randle. The Cowboys also return eight starters from a defense that led the country with 44 turnovers forced.

    Oklahoma State, of course, has to figure a few things out on offense, but is much better off than a lot of other teams in the Big 12 conference.

    Verdict: Just right

    Don't expect the Cowboys to be that high-flying team they were last season, but with a terrific running back and a defense that makes game-changing plays, they aren't going anywhere.

18. Stanford

8 of 25

    Andrew Luck leaving for the NFL is a crushing blow to Stanford, but the Cardinal have talent returning on both sides of the ball.

    The offensive line should remain solid. Stepfan Taylor, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, returns and the front-seven of this team is scary good. The Cardinal have some of the best linebackers in the country, which will help keep them competitive in the watered-down Pac-12.

    Verdict: Just right

    Not having an answer at quarterback yet is going to hurt this team, but can you really find more than two teams in the conference that have as much talent as Stanford?

17. TCU

9 of 25

    The Horned Frogs should have no problem fitting into the Big 12, as they play solid defense and have an offense that can produce a few fireworks.

    TCU returns seven starters from a defense that was ranked 32nd in the country last season and has one of the best wide receiver corps in the league. TCU will no longer play teams like Wyoming, UNLV or Colorado State, but don't sleep on the newbies of the Big 12.

    Verdict: Too low

    I get that the Horned Frogs have to prove themselves in their new conference, but I wouldn't be surprised if they gave teams like Oklahoma and West Virginia a run for the Big 12 title.

16. Nebraska

10 of 25

    Nebraska had a solid season last year, winning nine games in its first season in the Big Ten.

    Returning 15 starters should help this year's squad improve on that success, with dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead leading the way. The defense should also be improved as the Cornhuskers return seven starters.

    Verdict: Just right

    Nebraska has enough pieces to win the Big Ten this season. However, the Huskers need the defense to improve and Martinez to become more of a threat in the passing game before they can be truly considered B1G Title contenders.

15. Texas

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    Despite the Longhorns' struggles the last two seasons, you knew they were going to make their way into the rankings somehow.

    Texas returns 17 starters, including eight from a defense that was the best in the Big 12 a season ago. Offensively, the Horns have one of the best 1-2 punches at the running back position in sophomores Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown.

    Verdict: Too high

    Texas should give the Longhorn fans what they are used to seeing, which is a winning team. This may be one of the more talented teams Mack Brown has had in a while. A consistent quarterback is all Texas needs to become a true contender in the Big 12.

    But after two disappointing seasons in a row, isn't this a bit high?

14. Clemson

12 of 25

    Clemson's explosive offense, which poured on 38 points against Virginia Tech last year's ACC title game, returns its nucleus with the intention of dominating ACC defenses again.

    The Tigers have three potential Heisman candidates on the offensive side of the ball in Sammy Watkins, Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins. Defensively they must improve, but new defensive coordinator Brent Venables has eight returning starters to work with to turn things around. 

    Verdict: Too low

    I really like this Clemson team this season and think it will be better than 2011 version. More consistency is needed, but the Tigers will have plenty of chances to rise in the rankings.

13. Michigan State

13 of 25

    Michigan State will have to have replace Kirk Cousins and its top three receivers from a year ago.

    Still, Le'Veon Bell returns at running back, a powerful runner who nearly cracked the 1,000-yard mark last season. The Spartans also return eight starters from a defense that finished the year ranked sixth in the country.

    Verdict: Too low

    While the offensive concerns are valid, defense wins in college football. Many of the teams that are ranked in this poll had top defenses a year ago. The Spartans play great defense, which will give them a great chance to win the Big Ten this season.

12. Wisconsin

14 of 25

    When you have Montee Ball carrying the rock, your team is going to win many games. When your offensive line is as good as the Badgers', you are going to open up many running lanes for the Heisman finalist. The Badgers also return six starters on defense, a unit that ranked third in the Big Ten last season.

    Verdict: Just right

    Losing Russell Wilson is certainly going to create a few issues, but if transfer quarterback Danny O'Brien can help get things rolling, the Badgers will have a great shot at defending their Big Ten title.

11. West Virginia

15 of 25

    You would think making a transition from the Big East to the Big 12 would be difficult. Don't expect it to be for the Mountaineers.

    West Virginia averaged nearly 38 points per contest on offense and returns eight starters on that side of the ball. This team should score oodles of points once again.

    The defense returns six starters, which should be better than last year, as it switches to a more traditional 3-4 scheme. 

    Verdict: Too low

    This Mountaineers are for real, They should have a field day in the Big 12, a conference that only had one defense in the top 50 a season ago.

10. Arkansas

16 of 25

    Arkansas returns eight starters on the offensive side of the ball, a unit that averaged 37 points per game last year. The Razorbacks will also get a 1,000-yard rusher in Knile Davis, who missed the entire 2011 season with an ankle injury. The defense should also be improved, as six starters are returning.

    Verdict: Too high

    Despite the issues this team has dealt with off the field this offseason, the defense simply is not championship caliber.

    We are talking about a squad that was ranked ninth in the SEC in rushing yards allowed and was ranked 47th in the country in total yards allowed.

9. South Carolina

17 of 25

    With a whole offseason to prepare, quarterback Connor Shaw should be better than he was last season. The Gamecocks offense will also get Marcus Lattimore back, who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury.

    Defensively, six starters return from a team that ranked third in the country in total defense. Only LSU and Alabama had better defenses statistically than South Carolina.

    Verdict: Too high

    I really think that South Carolina has not been getting enough love during the offseason. The Gamecocks are a legit team on both sides of the ball and could easily represent the SEC in a BCS bowl game if they just improve a bit from last season.

    But No. 9 may be a little bit too high at the moment, especially in the loaded SEC.

8. Michigan

18 of 25

    Michigan has high hopes heading into the season after winning 11 games, including a BCS bowl victory.

    The Wolverines return 14 starters, including eight on the defensive side of the ball, and have one of the better playmakers in the country at quarterback in Denard Robinson.

    One issue that concerns many about the Wolverines is their loaded schedule.

    Verdict: Too high

    While I like this Michigan team, I need to see how it fares against Alabama before I have it this high. I also don't know how the team will react to Fitzgerald Toussaint's suspension.

7. Florida State

19 of 25

    Florida State should have one of the more talented defenses in the country. The Seminoles return eight starters from a unit that ranked fourth in the country and bring in a recruiting class that is loaded on that side of the ball.

    They also have a veteran quarterback in E.J. Manuel who will lead the offense and a wide receiver corps that has a bunch of potential.

    Verdict: Too high

    I get that this team looks solid on paper, but how many times are we going to buy into the Seminole hype? The offensive line still has questions and I would like to see this team do something before we give it an offseason crown again.

6. Georgia

20 of 25

    Georgia returns nine starters from a defense that finished last year ranked fifth in the country.

    The Bulldogs also have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Aaron Murray, a 1-2 punch at running back that could develop into something special (Ken Malcome and Keith Marshall) and a cakewalk of a schedule that should guarantee them another shot at an SEC title.

    Verdict: Just right

    While we are giving all of the credit to LSU and Alabama, Georgia is getting overlooked.

    The Bulldogs have the talent on both sides of the ball to not only win the SEC, but possibly extend the conference's six-year BCS title streak. Glad the coaches got this one right.

5. Oregon

21 of 25

    Oregon may be known for high-scoring offense, but with a defense that returns seven starters, including two legit defensive ends, the Ducks are more of a complete team in 2012.

    Sure, the Ducks lost LaMichael James and their starting quarterback, but Marcus Mariota may actually be an upgrade and Kenjon Barner has proven he is capable of leading the way at running back.

    Verdict: Just right

    The Ducks have reached three straight BCS bowls for a reason. This year's squad is just as good as the any of those squads.

4. Oklahoma

22 of 25

    Oklahoma was one of the favorites to win the national championship last season, but due to injuries and disappointing play, the Sooners fell way short.

    This season, they return 15 starters, including a great offensive line, a veteran quarterback and seven starters from a defense that should be improved under Mike Stoops.

    Verdict: Too high

    Trying to nitpick great teams is way too difficult at the moment without any games being played. Stoops always puts together a great team and it would be foolish to expect anything less this year.

    But with the way things ended last season and questions about the wide receivers, No. 4 may be too high.

3. USC

23 of 25

    USC is no longer banned from postseason play and it will take full advantage of that this season.

    This is a squad that returns 17 starters from a year ago, including the top quarterback in the country in Matt Barkley. The Trojans also have arguably the best wide receiver corps in the country, an extremely talented defense and a 1,000-yard rusher in Silas Redd, who just transferred to the school.

    Verdict: Just right

    Many may criticize Pac-12 teams for being soft, but with an NFL-caliber quarterback and a solid defense, the Trojans have the look of a champion on paper.  

2. Alabama

24 of 25

    Alabama is, of course, the defending national champions, but do have a few issues to deal with.

    The Crimson Tide lost six starters on the defensive side of the ball and still have those special-team issues that cost them an undefeated season last year.

    Still, this is a team that returns seven starters on offense and will likely just reload on defense.

    Verdict: Just right

    The Tide should be much better on offense with A.J. McCarron improving, and when was the last time we saw a bad Alabama defense? Alabama will remain a national championship contender throughout the season.

1. LSU

25 of 25

    LSU had a season for the ages last year, but couldn't get the job done in the national championship game. This season, the Tigers may be even better than they were last year.

    They will easily reload a defense that is missing six starters. But they return eight starters on offense, including the best offensive line in the country, a backfield any school would dream of having and a quarterback who can actually throw the ball accurately in Zach Mettenberger.

    Verdict: Just right

    Having a passing game added to the offense will really put this team over the top. Don't be surprised if the Tigers return to the big game for redemption.