NCAA Football Preseason Rankings 2012: Darkhorse Contenders for National Title

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NCAA Football Preseason Rankings 2012: Darkhorse Contenders for National Title
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The opening edition of the USA Today Top 25 Poll came out this week in anticipation for the beginning of the college football season August 30. The SEC led the way with seven teams on the list, including five of the top 10.

USA Today Poll
RK TEAM
PTS
1 LSU (18)
1403
2 Alabama (20)
1399
3 USC (19)
1388
4 Oklahoma
1276
5 Oregon
1258
6 Georgia
1061
7 Florida State
1055
8 Michigan
1023
9 South Carolina
981
10 Arkansas
948
11 West Virginia
833
12 Wisconsin
743
13 Michigan State
717
14 Clemson
598
15 Texas
549
16 Nebraska
501
17 TCU
499
18 Stanford   497
19 Oklahoma State
476
20 Virginia Tech
461
21 Kansas State
398
22 Boise State
271
23 Florida
250
24 Notre Dame
166
25 Auburn

66

Virginia Tech

The Hokies finished 2011 at 11-3, losing to Clemson twice before falling to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. It was another strong in-conference season for Virginia Tech, winning seven straight games after their first loss to Clemson, including a win at Georgia Tech. 

Quarterback Logan Thomas returns after a solid sophomore campaign, and the defense should be one of the best in the nation.

While the SEC teams are beating each other up, the Hokies could quietly run the table in the ACC. They get Florida State at home and play at Clemson in what will be the conference's most decisive games. 

Arkansas

Being ranked No. 10 is usually a great honor and puts a team in the thick of the national title race.

However, when there are four teams above you in your own conference, a long road lies ahead. In the powerhouse SEC, any of these top five teams could beat each other out, meaning all of them have a shot at the national championship.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson returns for his senior year trying to avenge last season's defeats. The Razorbacks finished 11-2, with the losses coming at Alabama and at LSU. This year, Arkansas gets to host both.

The SEC is still wide open this year, so don't be surprised if the Razorbacks find themselves in the title game. 

Wisconsin

The Big Ten is a four-team race with Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin all fighting for a conference title and a chance at the national championship.

The Badgers return one of the best players in the country as Monte Ball, fresh off a season where he went over 2,200 total yards and scored 39 touchdowns, returns for his senior year. 

Wisconsin's favorable schedule includes home games against Michigan State and Ohio State, and the Badgers don't have to play the Wolverines in the regular season.  

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