College Football Preseason Rankings 2012: AP and USA Today Top 25 Preview
The week is finally here, college football fans.
The preseason polls have been released, fall camp is now a forgettable event and the players and coaches are preparing for their Week 1 matchup of the 2012 season. The regular season is just days away from kicking off, as the first set of games will begin on Thursday.
But with each game every ranked team plays, it is auditioning to the college football world for what spot they should hold in the polls. A win would of course give it a chance to move up in the rankings, while a loss will certainly put a dent in those BCS hopes.
With the season ready to begin, here is a breakdown of where each team is ranked in the polls and where it will likely be ranked at the end of Week 1.
Ranked now: No. 1 in AP Poll and No. 3 in USA Today
Playing: vs. Hawaii
Where they'll be after this week: The Trojans should have no problem at all with Hawaii, a team that has never managed to knock off USC. I expect this matchup to be a blowout and for the Trojans to retain their Top Three ranking, with a possible slip in the AP poll due to the result of the Alabama-Michigan game.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Ranked now: No. 2 in both polls
Playing: vs. Michigan (in Texas)
Where they'll be after this week: Due to the physical style of play of the Crimson Tide, you would expect Nick Saban's club to win a close game. Although I do expect the Wolverines to keep this game closer than many might think, Michigan just may not be ready to deal with the big boys just yet. A win here would likely put Alabama in the No. 1 spot in both polls.
Ranked now: No. 3 in the AP Poll and No. 1 in USA Today
Playing: vs. North Texas
Where they'll be after this week: I don't think there is anyone in the country that has the Mean Green upsetting the Tigers. This game should be over by halftime, and LSU will remain a Top Three team heading into Week 2 of the season.
Ranked now: No. 4 in both polls
Playing: At UTEP
Where they'll be after this week: While beginning the regular season on the road, the Oklahoma Sooners should not have many problems with the Miners. Oklahoma will take of business against UTEP and remain in the No. 4 spot.
Ranked now: No. 5 in both polls
Playing: vs. Arkansas State
Where they'll be after this week: Arkansas State was a great Sun Belt team last season and now has an offensive genius in Gus Malzahn running its program. The Red Wolves should score a touchdown or two but won't give the Ducks much of a scare. Oregon will remain a Top Five team when it is all said and done.
Ranked now: No. 6 in both polls
Playing: vs. Buffalo
Where they'll be after this week: We all knew Georgia had an easy schedule this year, but this is by far one of the easiest opponents of the 2012 season. Although the Bulldogs will be without many key defensive players, don't expect an upset in this matchup.
Florida State Seminoles
Ranked now: No. 7 in both polls
Playing: vs. Murray State
Who wins the Michigan vs. Alabama game?
Where they'll be after this week: If these two teams were to meet on the basketball court, it would be a more interesting matchup. But with this taking place on the gridiron and it being played in Tallahassee, Florida State stays in the Top 10 for another week.
Ranked now: No. 8 in both polls
Playing: vs. Alabama (in Texas)
Where they'll be after this week: I give Michigan a slight chance to win this game, but I'm not sure that is good enough against a tough team such as Alabama. Losing this game is nothing to be ashamed of, but it will drop Wolverines out of the Top 10, making them a possible Top 15 team, depending on how well they play overall.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Ranked now: No. 9 in both polls
Playing: at Vanderbilt
Where they'll be after this week: Vanderbilt is a team that is on the rise in the SEC, and having this game in Nashville does give the Commodores a slight advantage. Still, the Gamecocks return a loaded team on both sides of the ball and should do enough to pull out a victory. Steve Spurrier's club will remain in the Top 10, with a chance to move up due to a possible Michigan loss.
Ranked now: No. 10 in both polls
Playing: vs. Jacksonville State
Where they'll be after this week: While many are questioning the coach of Arkansas and that shaky defense, the Razorbacks will win their Week 1 matchup with no issues. While it isn't an impressive victory, it will be enough to keep them in the Top 10.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Ranked now: No. 11 in both polls
Playing: vs. Marshall
Where they'll be after this week: The Thundering Herd do have weapons to make this game interesting for West Virginia. Unfortunately for Marshall, the Mountaineers have explosive players all over the field, which makes a chance for an upset quite slim. West Virginia is not going anywhere in either poll.
Ranked now: Ranked No. 12 in both polls
Playing: vs. Northern Iowa
Where they'll be after this week: Whether Montee Ball plays in this game or not, the Badgers will win with ease, and Wisconsin will remain a Top 15 team. Northern Iowa is your typical cupcake team that many programs start the year off with.
Who will win between Michigan State and Boise State?
Michigan State Spartans
Ranked now: No. 13 in both polls
Playing: vs. Boise State
Where they'll be after this week: Can college football's favorite underdog pull off another upset? I don't think so. While this game will be fun to watch, the Broncos are replacing nearly an entire team, while Michigan State returns nearly its entire top-10 defense from a year ago. I expect the Spartans to win this matchup and move up a couple spots in both polls.
Ranked now: No. 14 in both polls
Playing: vs. Auburn (in Atlanta, Ga.)
Where they'll be after this week: Clemson did not do itself any favors by suspending wide receiver Sammy Watkins. With that said, the Tigers still have enough talent on the offensive side of the ball to put up enough points and walk out with a victory. Auburn will be better than it was last year, but Clemson has the proven quarterback and fewer question marks on defense.
Ranked now: No. 15 in both polls
Playing: vs. Wyoming
Where they'll be after this week: Wyoming does have an interesting quarterback in Brett Smith, who could make things a little hairy for this Longhorns club. But while the Cowboys should not be slept on, Texas should win this game fairly easily and remain in the Top 15 for another week.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Ranked now: No. 16 in AP and No. 20 in USA Today
Playing: vs. Georgia Tech
Where they'll be after this week: Can we call an upset here? While many are so quick to give this Virginia Tech team the ACC title, Georgia Tech isn't too shabby either. The Yellow Jackets return 13 starters from last season, including quarterback Tevin Washington.
Georgia Tech gave the Hokies a scare last season, and with eight starters leaving on offense for Virginia Tech, I see the Yellow Jackets pulling off the minor upset. The Hokies could possibly fall out of the polls altogether.
Ranked now: No. 17 in AP and No. 16 in USA Today
Playing: vs. Southern Mississippi
Where they'll be after this week: Southern Miss did win the C-USA title last season but lost many players and its head coach during the offseason. Nebraska is a team that returns many starters and has goals of a possible Big Ten title. I see the Cornhuskers winning this game and moving up slightly in both polls.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ranked now: No. 18 in AP and not ranked in USA Today
Playing: vs. Miami (OH)
Where they'll be after this week: Ohio State has to overcome injuries and offensive line issues and adjust to head coach Urban Meyer. Still, even with those questions, the Buckeyes should have no problem winning Week 1. Meyer has never lost the season opener throughout his career, and that streak should not end this year. Ohio State is not eligible for the Coaches' Poll but will remain a highly ranked team in the AP poll.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Ranked now: No. 19 in both polls
Playing: vs. Savannah State
Where they'll be after this week: Is there an award that goes to the team that plays the easiest Week 1 matchup? If so, give it to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were upset last season to Iowa State, costing them a chance at the national championship, but there is no way they lose to the Tigers here. The Cowboys will remain in both polls, with a slight chance to move up a spot due to a couple losses around them.
TCU Horned Frogs
Ranked now: No. 20 in AP and No. 17 in USA Today
How many games will Stanford win in 2012 without Andrew Luck?
TCU will remain in the Top 25 simply because they are one of the more talented teams in the country. Sure, the Horned Frogs are new to the Big 12, but they will surprise many and should be considered a dark horse for a BCS bowl this season.
Ranked now: No. 21 in AP and No. 18 in USA Today
Playing: vs. San Jose State
Where they'll be after this week: Stanford won't need Andrew Luck in this matchup against San Jose State, a team that struggled mightily on both sides of the ball last year. The Cardinal will have their hands full in a couple of weeks against USC but will at least earn a victory before that big matchup takes place.
Kansas State Wildcats
Ranked now: No. 22 in AP and No. 21 in USA Today
Playing: vs. Missouri State
Where they'll be after this week: If you couldn't figure it out by now, Week 1 is when most teams play schools that have absolutely no chance to pull off an upset. Kansas State was a surprise team last season, but the only surprise here would be if the Wildcats lost this game to the Bears.
Ranked now: No. 23 in both polls
Playing: vs. Bowling Green
Where they'll be after this week: You could make an argument that Florida does not even deserve to be ranked after the season it had last year. The defense will remain in the top 10, but with so many question marks on offense, there is a lot of work to do for Will Muschamp. Still, Bowling Green shouldn't pose much of a threat, so Florida should remain in the Top 25 for another week.
Boise State Broncos
Ranked now: No. 24 in AP and No. 22 in USA Today
Playing: At Michigan State
Where they'll be after this week: As you read earlier, I don't see Boise State winning this football game against Michigan State. The Spartans are a terrific defensive club, which should give these younger Bronco players trouble all night. Of course, a loss here will certainly open up the door for an unranked team to join the ranking party.
Ranked now: No. 25 in AP and not ranked in USA Today
Playing: vs. Kentucky
Where they'll be after this week: While many don't agree with Louisville opening the season as a ranked team, the Cardinals do have talent and potential on both sides of the ball.
As for Kentucky, head coach Joker Phillips is trying to take steps in the right direction, but it is going to take a while for the Wildcats. Louisville will have a chance to prove itself in time, but the Cardinals should win this game and remain a ranked team at least in the AP poll.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Ranked now: Not ranked in AP and ranked No. 24 in USA Today
Playing: vs. Navy (in Dublin, Ireland)
Where they'll be after this week: Navy does have a few things going for it. For one, both teams are traveling quite a ways to play this game, which does give the underdog some type of advantage. Notre Dame will also be without running back Cierre Woods, who was recently suspended for the first two games of the season.
While I think this game will be closer than expected, I don't see Notre Dame, the more talented team, losing. Expect the Irish to remain in the Coaches' Poll, with a chance to sneak into the AP.
Who wins the matchup between Auburn and Clemson?
Ranked now: Not ranked in AP and ranked No. 25 in USA Today
Playing: vs. Clemson (in Atlanta, Ga.)
Where they'll be after this week: If Auburn can win this game, the Tigers will be ranked in both polls at the end of the week. But Clemson is loaded on the offensive side of the ball and is capable of pouring it on, especially if that Auburn defense isn't improved from a year ago.
While I do give Gene Chizik's club a chance in this ballgame, I think Clemson will pull out a victory and knock Auburn out of the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
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