Grading Every Preseason AP Top 25 Team's 2012 Season

Alex Callos@@alexcallosCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2013

Grading Every Preseason AP Top 25 Team's 2012 Season

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    Now that the college football season is complete, it is time to look back and grade the year every preseason AP top 25 team had.

    Back in August when the initial rankings came out, there were high expectations for certain teams.

    While there were plenty of pleasant surprises this season, there were also some major disappointments.

    The rankings are based on how well a team performed throughout the season based on its expectations before the year began. If a team ended the season close to where it started, a C would be in order.

    Here are grades for all of the preseason AP top 25 teams now that the season is complete.

    *Rankings are based on the preseason AP top 25 poll.

25. Louisville Cardinals

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    Final AP Ranking: 13

    Louisville had quite an outstanding season, and despite a two-game losing streak toward the end of the Big East slate, the Cardinals regrouped to finish the year strong.

    Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the story of the season for Louisville. The sophomore quarterback passed for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.

    The Cardinals won their first nine games of the season, and after losses to Syracuse and Connecticut, they knocked off Rutgers on the road to qualify for the Sugar Bowl.

    The Orange Bowl performance was one of the best by any team in a bowl game. The Cardinals really turned some heads in a 33-23 victory.

    Final Grade: B

24. Boise State Broncos

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    Final AP Ranking: 18

    This was not a typical Boise State team as the Broncos had to adjust to life without Kellen Moore.

    After all was said and done, it was another solid year for head coach Chris Petersen and his squad. The Broncos did it with a defense that ranked eighth in the country, allowing only 15.8 points a game.

    Even though Boise State seemingly feasted on weaker competition, it was still a solid season for a team that will be even better in 2013.

    Final Grade: B-

23. Florida Gators

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    Final AP Ranking: 9

    At one point in late October, it looked like Florida might be headed for the national championship. A slip-up against Georgia ruined those hopes, but the Gators still had an amazing season.

    They were not expected to contend with the big boys in the SEC, but proved that defense still wins games.

    The group finished the year fifth in the country, allowing only 14.5 points a game. Even though the Gators did not answer the bell against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, it was still one of the more surprising seasons of any team in the country.

    Final Grade: B+

22. Kansas State Wildcats

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    Final AP Ranking: 12

    Kansas State is the fourth straight team to exceed its preseason AP ranking.

    Similar to Florida, Kansas State was in the national championship conversation toward the end of the season and even reached No. 1 in the country in November.

    Quarterback Collin Klein was a Heisman finalist, and while he did not have the season he might have been anticipating, he was still one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

    It was another solid season for head coach Billy Snyder and his Wildcats.

    Final Grade: B+

21. Stanford Cardinal

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    Final AP Ranking: 7

    Stanford was without question one of the biggest surprises of the college football season.

    After starting the year 4-2, the Cardinal hit their stride and won their final eight games of the season, including victories over the likes of Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA (twice) and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. 

    The key to the success for the Cardinal was the insertion of freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan into the starting lineup.

    Even though he did not put up outstanding numbers, he was the difference for the Cardinal.

    Final Grade: A

20. TCU Horned Frogs

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    TCU was one of a few teams who suffered through a season of disappointment, due in large part to injuries and suspensions.

    The Horned Frogs had a hard time transitioning into the Big 12. Double-digit win seasons are not going to come as easy in this conference, but 2013 should be much better.

    A loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to Michigan State brought the season to an end with a 7-6 record.

    Quarterback Casey Pachall has returned to the team after leaving midway through the season to enter a drug and rehabilitation facility. He will certainly help the Horned Frogs next season.

    Final Grade: D

19. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    Oklahoma State had no problem putting points on the board. Where the struggles came were on the defensive side of the ball.

    The Cowboys finished the year 8-5 with a 58-14 Heart of Dallas Bowl victory over Purdue.

    The offense averaged 45.7 points, which was good for third in the country. The defense, on the other hand, allowed over 28 points a game.

    While it was certainly not a bad season for the Cowboys, it was not exactly what they were looking for before the season began.

    Final Grade: C-

18. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Final AP Ranking: 3

    Ohio State was as surprising as any team in the county in 2012. Coming into the season it was hard to know what to expect from this team.

    While Urban Meyer has had success everywhere he has been, the team was ineligible for postseason play and did not have much to play for.

    With an undefeated season now under their belt, the Buckeyes are thinking national championship in 2013. Quarterback Braxton Miller passed for 2,039 yards with 15 touchdowns and six picks. He also rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 more touchdowns.

    Expect big things from this team in the years to come.

    Final Grade: A+

17. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Final AP Ranking: 25

    Nebraska barely edged out Baylor for the final spot in the AP rankings.

    At one point the Cornhuskers were climbing in the rankings, but they did not finish the season how they would have liked.

    A disappointing loss against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship was followed up by a loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

    Overall, it was not a bad year for Nebraska, but in a weak Big Ten and with two teams ineligible for postseason play, not making the Rose Bowl makes the season somewhat disappointing.

    Final Grade: C-

16. Virginia Tech

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    When it comes to disappointments, fewer fit the bill more so in 2012 than Virginia Tech.

    The Hokies began the season as a contender for the ACC title. By the middle of November, they were 4-6 and in need of two wins just to qualify for a bowl game.

    Virginia Tech was able to get those two wins and then a victory over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

    A 7-6 season was not what head coach Frank Beamer was looking for before the year began.

    Final Grade: D-

15. Texas Longhorns

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    Final AP Ranking: 19

    Texas had another solid season, but struggled enough in Big 12 play to prevent the year from being a complete success.

    Mack Brown and his squad finished the year 9-4 with an Alamo Bowl victory over Oregon State.

    The problem for the Longhorns was defense. Coming into the season that was expected to be the strength of the team, but the group allowed over 29 points a game.

    There were some nice wins along the way against the likes of Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and Baylor.

    Final Grade: C

14. Clemson Tigers

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    Final AP Ranking: 11

    Clemson was one of a handful of top 25 teams who had no trouble scoring points, but struggled on the defensive side of the ball at times.

    The Tigers averaged 41 points a game, ranking sixth in the country. The offense was led by junior quarterback Tajh Boyd.

    Boyd threw for 3,896 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions on the season. He orchestrated one of the best offenses in the country.

    Clemson finished the season strong with a 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

    Final Grade: B+

13. Michigan State Spartans

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    Michigan State was expected to contend for the Big Ten title. Instead the Spartans were a major disappointment, mostly because of an offense that simply could not score.

    If not for star running back Le'Veon Bell, the Spartans might have had the worst offense in the country. After starting off the season with wins against Boise State and Central Michigan, the Spartans climbed into the top 10 nationally.

    They then proceeded to lose six of their final nine games before winning two straight to close out the year, including a Buffalo Wild Wings bowl victory over TCU.

    Final Grade: D-

12. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    Wisconsin reached the Rose Bowl, due in large part to a weak Big Ten. It didn't hurt that Penn State and Ohio State were not eligible.

    With that being said, qualifying for the Rose Bowl is no small feat. The Badgers finished the year 8-6 and just did not look good for most of the season.

    They put together a stretch where they won five of six games toward the middle of the year, but other than that, the season was a huge disappointment.

    Since the Badgers made the Rose Bowl, the grade is slightly improved here.

    Final Grade: C

11. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    After a strong start to the season that saw the Mountaineers vault into the top five, West Virginia fell flat on its face losing five straight games in the middle of the year and finishing the season 7-6.

    The final loss of the year came in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse.

    Quarterback Geno Smith did put up some astronomical numbers. He passed for 4,205 yards with 42 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

    Defense was the problem all year long for West Virginia as the team allowed over 38 points a game ranking 117th in the nation.

    Final Grade: F

10. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    Arkansas did not have much of a chance from the start once head coach Bobby Petrino was fired.

    There was still plenty of talent, but the Razorbacks were unable to put it all together. By the end of the season, the Razorbacks were one of the worst teams in the SEC.

    While there were a few bright spots during the season, it could be best described as a disaster. Next year will be better, but new head coach Bret Bielema will definitely have his hands full in 2013 and beyond.

    There is too much talent in the SEC for Arkansas to jump back up to the top without any trouble.

    Final Grade: F

9. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Final AP Ranking: 8

    South Carolina was one of the few teams on the list that basically had the season they were expected to have.

    The Gamecocks climbed up the rankings, before losing back-to-back games against LSU and Florida midway through the season.

    It took a long time for South Carolina to move back up, but a win against Clemson to close out the regular season and a victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl put South Carolina back in the top 10 by the end of the season.

    Once again, South Carolina battled through an injury to running back Marcus Lattimore to have a successful season.

    Final Grade: B

8. Michigan Wolverines

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    Final AP Ranking: 24

    Michigan was expected to contend for a conference title and be in the national championship conversation before the 2012 season began.

    After being dismantled 41-14 against Alabama in the season-opener, those hopes were quickly dashed.

    A credit to Michigan is they played a very challenging schedule. Close losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State were hard to swallow, and the Spartans also lost to Nebraska in Big Ten play.

    Quarterback Denard Robinson went down midway through the season, and wide receiver Devin Gardner took over. He and the Wolverines did not pay bad, but a loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl ended a year that was slightly disappointing.

    Final Grade: D+

7. Florida State Seminoles

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    Final AP Ranking: 10

    It was another typical year for Florida State as the Seminoles lost a game they weren't supposed to against North Carolina State. They also fell to Florida.

    Still, an ACC championship and a domination of Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl make the season a little better.

    There was plenty of talent on both sides of the ball for Florida State as the Seminoles ranked 10th in the country in points scored and sixth in points allowed.

    They have yet to put together that perfect season many have been expecting from this talented bunch.

    Final Grade: C

6. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Final AP Ranking: 5

    Georgia was a few yards away from playing in the national championship against Notre Dame. If that was the case, the grade would certainly be much higher.

    It was still a solid season for the Bulldogs. Georgia won 12 games, including a 45-31 Capital One Bowl victory over Nebraska.

    The only two losses on the year came at South Carolina and against Alabama in the SEC title game.

    There were some nice wins along the way, including a 48-3 domination of Vanderbilt and a win against Florida.

    That's certainly not a bad year at all for the Bulldogs.

    Final Grade: C+

5. Oregon Ducks

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    Final AP Ranking: 2

    Oregon began the season as one of the favorites to reach the national championship game. The Ducks were expected to contend with USC for the Pac-12 crown with the winner in line for the national championship.

    Instead, the Ducks suffered a tough 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford midway through the season, ruining any shot at a national title game appearance.

    The offense was dominant as usual, ranking second in the country averaging 49.6 points a game. 

    Losing Chip Kelly to the Eagles will be hard to overcome, but there is enough talent on this squad for the team to be right back in the national title conversation in 2013.

    Final Grade: B

4. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Final AP Ranking: 15

    Oklahoma had a similar season to what many were expecting before the year began. Even though the Sooners were ranked in the top five to begin the year, losing three games is no surprise.

    The Sooners played a very challenging schedule with losses to Kansas State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M.

    Losing to those three teams is nothing to be ashamed of, but for a team expected to contend for the national title, it is still disappointing.

    Quarterback Landry Jones had a solid senior campaign. He passed for 4,267 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

    Final Grade: C-

3. LSU Tigers

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    Final AP Ranking: 14

    LSU had a very similar season to Oklahoma. The Tigers also lost three games to very talented teams and had some huge wins along the way.

    The three losses came at Florida, against Alabama and in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to Clemson. There were some impressive wins along the way, including victories over South Carolina and at Texas A&M.

    The LSU defense was solid once again, holding opponents to 17.5 points a game and ranking 17th in the country.

    Most of that defense left early for the NFL draft, but the Tigers should be near the top of the rankings once again in 2013.

    Final Grade: C-

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Final AP Ranking: 1

    The Alabama Crimson Tide were the favorites to play USC in the national title game before the season began.

    While USC never got there, Alabama lived up to its expectations.

    The Crimson Tide were much better on defense than many anticipated before the season began. The group ranked first in the country, allowing only 10.9 points a game.

    On offense they were not too bad either, averaging 38.7 points, which ranked 12th in the nation.

    With Nick Saban running the show, this team will be right back in the mix next year.

    Final Grade: A

1. USC Trojans

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    Final AP Ranking: Unranked

    There is no team in the country that was more of disappointment than the UCS Trojans. The team was expected to be in the national championship conversation all season long.

    By the end of the year, they were floundering near the middle of the group in the Pac-12 and disinterested in playing in their bowl game.

    There were plenty of bright spots on the year, including the play of wide receiver Marqise Lee. He finished fourth in the Heisman voting and caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    Lane Kiffin seemed to lose control of the team by the end of the year, and will be one of the coaches in the hot seat in 2013.

    Final Grade: F