College Football Polls 2012: 10 Contenders and Pretenders in the Top 25
Every year, the college football rankings can tell plenty of stories. It can tell us how well college football teams have done and are doing, but it can also tell us who the real contenders are and who the pretenders are.
The USA Today coaches' poll can tell us one thing, while the AP Top 25 poll can tell us another.
The thing is, these teams can be pretty hard to find. Some of them could be ranked higher because teams above them lost and they moved up, or have an undefeated record for the first few weeks because they have played poor teams like Savannah State for several consecutive weeks and have not faced any real competition.
Well, now we will see who the contenders and pretenders are after some careful review.
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With Nick Saban as head coach, was there ever any doubt?
Winning two national championships with the Tide over the past few seasons automatically makes you a contender, especially after ranking in the Top 10 on a regular basis.
The Crimson Tide's defense is as strong as ever, the offense is continuing to pound the ball inside, and quarterback A.J. McCarron is progressing as a quarterback.
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Yes, Georgia has the talent. That we all know. You can see that by true freshman running back Todd Gurley's performance these first few weeks. Their defense has come along, and they're in a three-way race for the SEC East.
But they're pretenders nonetheless. Why, you ask?
Well, Georgia, unlike teams like LSU and Alabama, have a relatively easy schedule and face few challenges early on. The Bulldogs often falter under the heavier competition put on their schedule. They have yet to face a truly challenging team and even struggled against Missouri in the first half during their Week 3 matchup against the Tigers.
While they could win the SEC East, it's not likely they contend for that BCS Bowl bid.
Contender: West Virginia
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The Air Raid is still going strong in West Virginia. And the Mountaineers are a strong contender in the BCS Bowl races, especially with the Big 12's struggle this year.
This team will go as far as quarterback Geno Smith takes them. And so far, he's taken them to an undefeated record. Not bad for the new team on the block.
So far, they can contend for both a championship game and a BCS bid. But there's a lot of football left to play, and we'll see whether the Air Raid can stay airborne.
But for now, the Mountaineers are staying the course and are better classified as contenders.
Pretender: Kansas State
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The Wildcats are having their early-season success, as they did last year. They nabbed their upset win over a highly ranked team, as they did in Week 4 against Oklahoma.
Perfect case for pretenders: Kansas State.
Last year, the Wildcats had a short run where they were ranked in the top 10 and had a pretty good offense. But their defense proved to be their downfall. And they are known to falter in the long run. Despite their offensive capabilities, their defense will make them pretenders once again.
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Again, are you surprised? Of course not.
While LSU will have some close calls, as they did against Auburn, they will stand as one of the dominant forces in the SEC West Division. Their defense is unarguably the best in the SEC outside of Alabama's, and the winner of that game generally wins the SEC West.
LSU's strong defensive secondary is arguably the strongest part of defensive coordinator John Chavis' defense and has shown to be able to contain any passing attack it's faced against. Can you say West Virginia vs. LSU? It'd be a game many would love to see.
Pretender: South Carolina
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Ahh, the Gamecocks. Always so much optimism. And this year, there has been no quarterback controversies, which has often been a common theme for head coach Steve Spurrier. But do the Gamecocks have what it takes to get there?
We'll just call them pretenders.
Why? Well, they are one of those teams that have yet to play any team of significance, have struggled against teams like Vanderbilt (who are in rebuilding mode) and are still building off of their high preseason ranking.
With quarterback Connor Shaw's questionable throwing shoulder and questionable passing ability, the Gamecocks aren't the kind of long-term contenders college football is looking for, as they aren't guaranteed the SEC East division with Georgia and Florida playing well thus far.
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The high powered, Chip Kelly offense of today's Oregon Ducks are the biggest contenders out of the Pac-12. Kelly continues to find ways to score on a regular basis, and the fast-paced tempo of his offense wears down opposing defenses, especially later in the game.
He proved his contender status the past two years when he took Oregon to the national championship and won the Rose Bowl that had eluded him the past couple of seasons.
And with a dynamic threat like De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon will be hard pressed to not be a contender.
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The Stanford Cardinals had their impressive win over the USC Trojans, where they showed they're still a physical football team that fights hard every play. But to call them contenders would be an overstatement, so we shall declare them, you guessed it, pretenders.
While they did in fact beat a Top Three ranked team, does it warrant a Top 10 ranking? It's debatable, but the question will be whether Stanford can overcome both Oregon and Oregon State in the North, and also face key matchups against Washington, Notre Dame, Oregon State and Oregon. They have a big slew of tests that could effectively keep them out of BCS bowl contention.
Thus, Stanford will receive the pretender's tag.
Contender: Florida State
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After their hard-fought win against a talented Clemson team that got its porous defense exposed on national television (again), Florida State has put itself into instant contender status as a result.
Many Seminole fans are craving the old Florida State. While this Florida State team is not the dominant force of the '90s, nor will it match those days, this Seminole team is fighting to stay in the Atlantic Division driver's seat, and while they're 4-0, they are capable of winning their remaining games. But they must be careful not to stumble along the way.
Pretender: Notre Dame
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The Fighting Irish are put into the spotlight almost constantly after disappointing seasons every single year and have not had success in the past four to five years. But this 2012 team is fighting to stay in the race, and is ranked in the Top 10 with an undefeated 4-0 record.
A perfect disguise for a pretender.
Why? First, Notre Dame cannot settle on a quarterback, constantly going back and forth between Everett Golson and Tommy Rees. Head coach Brian Kelly can't, and has not, been consistent on his quarterbacks since he was made head coach three seasons ago.
This inability to stick with one will catch up to him in the long term, when they face key upcoming games against Miami (FL), Stanford, Oklahoma and, at the end of the season, USC.