Preseason AP Top 25: 5 Teams That Could Be Ranked by Season's End

Barry LeonardAnalyst IIIAugust 19, 2012

Preseason AP Top 25: 5 Teams That Could Be Ranked by Season's End

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    The recent release of the preseason AP poll allows for great discussion about the teams on the list. Who is too high? Who is not high enough?

    Another great question is: Who will be in the top 25 by season's end?

    The preseason poll is just speculation based on current rosters, schedules and last year's performances. No one ever really knows how it will turn out.

    This list looks at five teams who have not found themselves in this year's poll, but could be in the top 25 by the end of the season.

    There are definite wild cards on the list, but that's the beauty of college football.

Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame was probably left out of the initial AP poll for two main reasons: a muddled quarterback situation and an unbelievably hard schedule.

    Looking at the quarterback situation, coach Brian Kelly has several choices to make. Returning starter Tommy Rees is suspended for the first game due to an arrest in May. Behind Rees are three quarterbacks with no starting experience, but tons of potential.

    Junior Andrew Hendrix, sophomore Everett Golson and freshman Gunner Kiel could all be in the mix. No matter who is behind center, returning tight end Tyler Eifert will be a favorite target.

    When looking at the 2012 schedule, the Irish will see the familiar foes. Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and USC are all ranked in the preseason top 25, with USC ranked No. 1. With a visit to No. 4 Oklahoma, the schedule is extra hard this year.

    The Irish should be able to put up points on offense and make key stops with a solid defense. While the schedule is daunting, winning some of those big games will look good to voters at the end of the season.

Utah

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    The 2012 Utah Utes will look to improve on their 4-5 Pac-12 record from last year. This year's team returns key players on offense. Starting running back John White led the team in rushing last season. White was second in the conference with 1,519 rushing yards and 15 TDs.

    While the Utes won't contend for the Pac-12 title, they should have a strong year that will look good to voters. Their toughest game has to be the October 4th matchup with No. 1 USC. This is a home game for Utah and a national ESPN broadcast.

    It's the perfect chance for the Utes to impress the nation.

    Utah could be a long shot to finish in the top 25, but it's not impossible. The Utes must take care of their home schedule and throw in a few key road wins. A win on November 10th at Washington would be a big boost.

Georgia Tech

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    The 2012 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets start their year with a tough road test at No. 16 Virginia Tech. They have another road test against a top 25 team when they visit Clemson on October 6th.

    The Yellow Jackets should be competitive in both games and could pull of a surprise victory. A win in either game will look good to voters at the end of the year.

    Georgia Tech will be led by senior quarterback Tevin Washington. He ranked fifth among all runners in the ACC last year with 987 yards and led all rushers with 14 TDs. The Jackets ranked second in the nation in rushing yards.

    Though they don't pass a lot, the Yellow Jackets will miss leading receiver Stephen Hill, who was selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.

    The defense returns LB Jeremiah Attouchu, who led the team and was sixth in the ACC with six sacks.

    This team will go as far as Washington carries them. Their season ends on November 24th at No. 6 Georgia. In a rivalry game, all bets are off. The Jackets could be spoilers in that one.

Washington

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    Anyone remember the 2011 Alamo Bowl? The Washington Huskies put up 56 points and more than 600 yards of total offense against Baylor. Oh wait, the defense gave up 67 points and more than 750 yards of total offense.

    It was not a good end to the year.

    The Huskies should be able to put up solid offensive numbers this year. They will be led by junior quarterback Keith Price. He finished second in the Pac-12 with a 161.9 QB rating. He also finished third with 33 TDs.

    Defensive end Josh Shirley, who was second in the Pac-12 with 8.5 sacks is a key returner to the defense. The defense will have to improve in order for the Huskies to be successful in the Pac-12.

    The first half of the Washington schedule will go a long way in determining if it cracks the top 25.  Four of the Huskies' first six games are against teams ranked in the top 25. They travel to No. 3 LSU and No. 5 Oregon. The Huskies host No. 21 Stanford and No. 1 USC.

    If the Huskies can get through the first six games at 3-3, they could have a good shot to finish with eight or nine wins and crack the top 25 by year's end.

Florida International

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    Every good prediction list has a long shot, this is it.

    The FIU Golden Panthers finished 8-5 last season and will look to better that in 2012.

    The Panthers return leading rusher Kedrick Rhodes and a core of experienced wide receivers. Sophomore quarterback Jake Medlock saw minimal action last year but will bring some experience.

    Rhodes will be the leader on offense. The Panthers will look to him to continue his production from last year. (1,149 yards, 8 TDs).

    The Golden Panthers open with a winnable road game against a BCS conference foe. Although it's against Duke, it would still be a quality win. Aside from the normal Sun Belt foes, FIU hosts No. 25 Louisville on September 22nd. A win in that game could certainly catch the eye of the poll voters.

    While a huge shot in the dark, FIU could put together a solid season in 2012 and surprise a lot of people.

    If it lands in the top 25, I won't say I told you so.