AP College Football Rankings 2012: Grading the Preseason Top 25 Poll
The preseason polls are out!
Last week, the USA Today coaches' poll was released, and just a few minutes ago, the AP released its preseason poll. While the preseason poll certainly doesn't hold much weight, it does give us something to talk about, and it indicates that the college football season is almost here. About time, right?
This poll will certainly create debates and help start arguments between fans of rival teams. It is one of the things that makes college football so special.
Some will certainly be disappointed because of the lack of respect their team is receiving, while some should just be happy their team is even ranked.
Regardless, here are the grades of each team for the 2012 preseason AP poll.
Note: Each team will be graded on a combination of the amount of talent returning, the ranking they were given, how the team did last year and the teams that are ranked above/below them. So, a team that may have had a better record last season, but lost several key players, may receive a lower grade than a subpar team that returns majority of last year's roster.
Yes, Louisville found a way to sneak into the Top 25.
The Cardinals only won seven games last season, but do return 18 starters, including 10 from a defense that was ranked 23rd in the country. The offense is led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who should be considered a dark-horse Heisman candidate.
Although it is nice to see a Big East team in the poll, is this team truly better than Notre Dame, Washington or Auburn? Well, that is what makes the poll so much fun, right?
24. Boise State
Boise State finished last season ranked eighth in the AP, so it would really be unfair to have it outside of the Top 25. Still, the Broncos lost a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, which makes me wonder how exactly they will replace nearly an entire team in just one season.
The Broncos will remain probably the best team in the MWC, but we will see how good this team is when it plays Michigan State in Week 1.
Nice of the AP to keep everyone's favorite underdog in the poll, but this ranking may not last very long.
You knew that Florida was going to make the Top 25, simply because it's an SEC team and it return 10 starters from a defense that was ranked eighth last season.
While this will be a tough team to score on, the Gators have many issues on the offensive side of the ball. If this team can't improve its scoring average, Florida will no longer be considered a threat to the SEC East.
22. Kansas State
Who knew that Kansas State was going to win 10 games last season? If you say you did, we will all call you a liar to your face.
The good news is that the Wildcats return 16 starters from that surprising team and will likely become a threat in the Big 12 conference.
How does this team fare this season? Well, with a Heisman candidate in quarterback Collin Klein, who knows?
Do not be one of those guys who writes Stanford off because Andrew Luck is no longer in the picture.
Seven starters are returning from a top-30 defense, including one of the best group of linebackers in the entire country. The offensive line is going to remain tough, despite losing a few key pieces. And running back Stepfan Taylor is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher.
The only difference with the Cardinal this season is that it went from a Pac-12 contender to a Pac-12 sleeper.
TCU is one of the new guys in the Big 12, but that does not mean that the Horned Frogs won't be competitive this year. This is a program that has been consistent over the years on both sides of the ball, and the team returns 13 starters from an 11-2 program.
While you may want to give this team a year or two to adapt to the increased level of competition, this is a squad that should be able to compete from day one in its new home.
19. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State will likely look different on the offensive side of the ball. Don't expect that high-flying team you saw a year ago, as running back Joseph Randle will now be the workhorse for this unit. While the offense did take a hit, the defense returns eight starters that helped create a league-high 44 turnovers.
The Cowboys will remain one of the better teams in the Big 12.
18. Ohio State
The Buckeyes won't appear in any bowl games this season, but you can bet they will have a say in who gets out of the Big Ten.
Ohio State returns nine starters from a defense that was ranked 19th in the country. The Buckeyes also have Urban Meyer, who I'm sure can fix an offense that was 81st in the country in points scored.
Although the ranking shouldn't mean much to a team that won't be around in December, this is still one of the top teams in the country on paper.
Nebraska won nine games in its first season in the Big Ten. With 15 starters returning, the Cornhuskers believe that they can build on that success. The talent is there on both sides of the ball, but it will come down to quarterback Taylor Martinez and if he can become a more efficient passer.
If Nebraska can become a little more balanced on offense, this is certainly a team to watch out for this season.
16. Virginia Tech
A top-10 defense that returns nine starters will keep the Hokies in the hunt for an ACC title. But the offense has serious question marks. The receiver position needs players to step up, a starting running back must step up and majority of the offensive line is gone. Quarterback Logan Thomas has his work cut out for him this season to try and make this offense go.
Is it just me or is everybody so quick to jump on this Texas bandwagon year after year? I get the great defense, but the defense was great the last two years, and they only won a combined 13 games.
Until the quarterback situation is figured out, I do not see the Longhorns as Big 12 contenders, let alone national championship contenders. The Big 12 is simply way too strong for a team to compete that struggles to score points.
Clemson has one of the more explosive offenses in the country, averaging nearly 34 points per game last year. Well, the nucleus that made that happen returns and is thirsty for even more success, especially after the way the season ended. The defense returns seven starters and should be improved under defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
If this team can play with more consistency, a return to a BCS bowl is not in question.
13. Michigan State
Michigan State had a defense that was ranked sixth in the country last season. This year, it returns eight of those players that made it happen.
The questions are on offense, as the Spartans have to replace a starting quarterback and the top four receivers from a year ago. Still, in a conference that is known for its physical style of play, you have to like this team's chances this year.
Now that Russell Wilson is no longer around to help this offense, many have moved on from the Badgers for this year. One of the things to remember is that Wisconsin had a defense that was ranked 15th in the country last year—and they return six of those starters. The offensive line is going to remain terrific, and some guy named Montee Ball will continue to carry the rock.
I don't know about you, but that team in Madison has a great chance to repeat as Big Ten champs.
11. West Virginia
The Big 12 Conference only had one defense that was ranked in the top 50 a season ago.
Having an offense that returns eight starters from a unit that averaged nearly 38 points per contest is a recipe for a conference title. Seriously, who is going to slow down this Mountaineer attack this year?
The competition, of course, will be an upgrade from the Big East, but this West Virginia team is no joke heading into the 2012 season.
If we are talking about the best offense in the SEC, Arkansas will win hands down. But a defense that allowed over 400 yards a total of four times last season, including over 600 to Texas A&M, isn't exactly championship material.
This team will certainly put up its fair share of points, but that is not what it takes to win the SEC. If the defense is improved from a year ago, then we can talk. But until then, I remain on the fence with the Razorbacks.
9. South Carolina
While everybody is giving all of the credit to LSU and Alabama, South Carolina is a team that may be enjoying less attention. The Gamecocks return six starters from a defense that was ranked third in the country last season, and they and have seven starters coming back on offense, including a healthy Marcus Lattimore.
South Carolina isn't exactly a school that is used to competing with the big boys, but Steve Spurrier has a hell of a ballclub this year.
Michigan returns eight starters from a defense that was ranked 18th in the country last year. Quarterback Denard Robinson is also returning for his senior season and seems to have a new weapon in running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Despite how many people trashed the Wolverines last season because of a soft schedule, this is a squad that could continue to surprise under head coach Brady Hoke.
Of course, we will find out just how good this team is when they play Alabama in two weeks.
7. Florida State
We know what this Florida State team is capable of on the defensive side of the ball. The offense is where the issues are. The offensive line was beyond horrible last season, and quarterback EJ Manuel has yet to really reach his potential in Tallahassee.
Can the Seminoles win the ACC and compete for a national title this season? Sure, but how many times have we heard that in the last few years?
Georgia is a team that everybody should mention in the same sentence as an Alabama and LSU when it comes to this year. You are talking about a team that returns nine starters from a defense that was ranked fifth in the country. The Bulldogs also have a quarterback in Aaron Murray, who is one of the top players in the league at his position.
With the schedule this team has this season, there is no reason Georgia does not return to Atlanta for a chance to win the SEC title.
Oregon will remain that high-scoring team as long as Chip Kelly is head coach, and you have speedsters such as Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas leading the way. But it is the defense that we must watch when it comes to the Ducks. The defense return seven starters from a year ago, which includes two solid defensive ends and a terrific secondary.
The Ducks let us down last season, but this is a team that will certainly give the Trojans a run for their money.
While everybody is back on board with this Oklahoma team, there are questions that must be answered before we continue to buy into the hype. What in the world is up with the offensive line that lost nearly every starter? How is the wide receiver position looking after several suspensions?
Look, no question the Sooners have the talent, but if Landry Jones can't stay upright, this season could be a lot worse than it was a season ago.
LSU may have lost Tyrann Mathieu this past week, but let's not act like he made the entire Tigers team. This defense still features many players who you will eventually see on Sundays, the offensive line is one of the best in the country and the running back position is four deep.
The loss of the Honey Badger will hurt, of course, but it is not a big enough loss to say that the Tigers are not championship contenders.
Alabama may have lost several key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, but when was the last time you saw a subpar defense from a Nick Saban team? And Alabama's offense should be a lot better, with quarterback A.J. McCarron improving and a backfield that has a variety of talent.
The defense does lack experience, but talent is certainly not the issue with this 2012 Tide team. You can bet they will remain in the title picture.
If you are one of many that hope the SEC does not win the national championship this season, USC is likely the team you should be rooting for.
The Trojans have arguably the best offense in the country, a much underrated defense and a quarterback who is capable of breaking down the best of opposing defenses.
I think the Trojans are the most talented team from top to bottom, but when it comes the "Big Three"—Alabama, LSU and USC—you can really make a solid argument for each program.
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