USA Today's Coaches Poll 2012: Biggest Surprises That Made the Rankings

Scott CarasikContributor IIDecember 6, 2014

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal prepares to snap the football during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

USA Today has come out with its top 25 coaches poll for the 2012 season and there are a couple of surprises. The biggest surprises that stand out are because the teams were put into the top 25 based more on their potential and not the actual play on the field.

The overall rankings though don't mean as much until the players get out on the field. However, it is still surprising that the following teams even made the top 25 after the losses they sustained this offseason.


Stanford Cardinal (No. 18)

Conference: Pac-12

Returning starters: Five on offense, eight on defense

The Cardinal offense is going to have a big group of shoes to fill. It lost multiple high round picks in quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener, left tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard David DeCastro. It also lost both starting wide receivers and are returning just five of the 11 starters on offense in 2012. 

The new starting quarterback is likely to be sophomore Brett Nottingham. Losing a starting tight end and two of the top 10 offensive linemen in the country will be a bigger loss. The defense is returning quite a few starters, including the entire group of linebackers. Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas both have All-American potential in the defense and will lead it to new heights.

All this being said, they do still have David Shaw calling the shots. He's learned a lot form Jim Harbaugh when he coached under him and did a great job in 2011 getting his team to a top five ranking despite it being his first year coaching.


Kansas State Wildcats (No. 21)

Conference: Big 12

Returning starters: Eight on offense, six on defense

The Wildcats return eight starters on offense from last season. The biggest returnee is quarterback Collin Klein, who is now a senior. However, they lost three of their five starting linemen. And that is something that is hard to recover from. Especially since what they lost were their tackles and their right guard—the hardest spots to find talent.

On defense, they are only returning six starters. That's not as big of a deal because they have a deep defense. However, they aren't a supremely talented one.

The name to watch at Kansas State is in their linebacker corps. Justin Tuggle, a former quarterback for Boston College, now plays at Kansas State and is going to be competing for a linebacker spot. 

Should he win, the 6'3", 235-pound player with 4.5 speed will be able to add an element on the defense that would propel it to the top. He would have to put it all together though. His dad—five-time Pro Bowl player Jessie Tuggle—would have to help train him at the linebacker position.


Florida Gators (No. 23)

Conference: SEC

Returning starters: Seven on offense, 10 on defense

There will be starting a new quarterback, running back and wide receiver this year. While the Gators have some solid continuity as a whole, the offense doesn't completely fit what they are trying to do this year. They are still going to have an adjustment from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp, who is in his second year.

This defense is the same defense as last season's outside of the loss of Jaye Howard. They had a great defense last year and it's only going to get better. Matt Elam and Jelani Jenkins lead that defense, which can both stop the run and stop scoring—two things needed to win games at the college level.

There is a reason why Texas wanted to keep Muschamp as the heir apparent to Mack Brown. Muschamp is a great coach. He may not have the absolute best schemes, but he can get the most out of his team. However, right now, there are too many questions to even consider the Gators a Top 25 team.


Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist and Trends and Traffic Writer for Bleacher Report. As a Featured Columnist, he covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek and runs the NFL Draft Website and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.