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College Football Top 25 Teams That Are Holding on by Virtue of Preseason Ranking

Mike HoagCorrespondent IISeptember 22, 2013

College Football Top 25 Teams That Are Holding on by Virtue of Preseason Ranking

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    College football teams largely benefit from preseason rankings for the first couple of months of the season.

    No voter can truly predict how teams are going to fare once pads are put on and the games count. That’s especially true given the overwhelming amount of teams that schedule “warm-up” games before cracking into conference play.

    Which teams look like they’re overrated during the early goings of the 2013 season, though? You can make a case for a few, but there are a handful that stick out.

    We’ll take a look at these over-hyped teams that have benefited from their early ranking to hold onto Top 25 spots in the latest AP Top 25 and USA Today coaches polls.

Michigan Wolverines

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    The Michigan Wolverines started the 2013 season in the 17th spot in both the AP and coaches polls. Despite a big win over Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago, the Wolverines have yet to look like a Top 20 team.

    Close calls against Akron and Connecticut have exposed the team's new offense for all of its flaws. Devin Gardner has been electric at times, but keeping the football safe has eluded him to this point. During the last two weeks, Gardner has committed six turnovers including five interceptions.

    That makes eight picks and two fumbles in four games, most of which came against opponents the Wolverines were expected to roll over.

    The team's young offensive line has had some growing pains as well. Still, Gardner's elusive ability has helped him avoid sacks for the most part.

    Currently sitting at 4-0, the Wolverines will have to minimize mistakes to give their team a shot at beating the better competition they'll face in the Big Ten. Without their initial ranking, they may very well be a borderline Top 25 team right now with the way they're playing.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Appearing in the BCS title game last January helped the Notre Dame Fighting Irish start out in the Top 14 of both the AP and coaches polls. They have since fallen to the bottom-third of both polls, but surely wouldn't even be considered if not for their early seeding.

    The Irish have not looked like the same team that ran the table to earn a berth in the nation's championship game last year.

    On offense, they have failed to rush for 100 yards as a team in three consecutive games. Their inability to get any type of push upfront has been a catalyst, but losing Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood to the NFL is certainly a factor as well.

    Tommy Rees has been sufficient, but not exceptional, in replacing suspended starter Everett Golson. Their saving grace has been flashes from Rees on connections to standout receivers DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones.

    On defense is where the Irish have been strongest, although teams are finding more success getting into the end zone this year. After allowing just four rushing touchdowns all of last year, opposing rushers have scored four times already through four weeks.

    Much of their struggles hinge on their control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Purdue dominated them two weeks ago in that regard, and were steamrolled by Wisconsin in Week 4. We'll see how they hold up throughout the rest of the season, but it doesn't look like this is the same team from a season ago.

Florida Gators

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    The Southeastern Conference is loaded with talented teams each season, so it's not a surprise the Florida Gators began the year in the No. 10 slot for both the AP and coaches polls.

    But this Gators team has shown it's not the same team that finished in the Top 10 of both rankings last year. Their impenetrable defense made up for their offensive shortcomings, creating scoring opportunities and shutting opponents down.

    In 2013, their defense is still playing tough. Currently, the Gators have limited opposing teams to a 19th-best 14.7 points per game.

    But their offense has been less than spectacular to this point, as expected. The Gators have found some success running the football, compiling nearly 200 yards per game on the ground, but throwing has been an issue again in 2013.

    While the Gators deserve consideration for a Top 25 spot, they wouldn't be where they are now (No. 19 in coaches and No. 20 in AP polls), if not for their high preseason ranking.

    Losing to the Hurricanes was likely just the start of a slide for the Gators this season. Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was lost for the season last week, making their foray into SEC competition even more difficult. Tyler Murphy can be good, but it's hard to imagine the team suddenly finding a passing game capable of contending with the tough defenses of the conference.

Northwestern Wildcats

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    Northwestern started out with a generous Top 25 ranking in both the AP and coaches polls, but it hasn't done much to justify rising up the ranks or even staying ranked at all. While undefeated after four games, the Wildcats have shown they haven't improved much on defense, if at all.

    They’ll largely benefit from the influx nature of the bottom of the polls. But soon, October 4 against Ohio State to be exact, this Wildcats team will be exposed for its one-sided prowess.

    Instead of looking sharp on offense, though, the Wildcats regressed against Maine in Week 4. Yes, the same Maine powerhouse team that won its first three games against Norfolk State, Massachusetts and Bryant.

    It’s hard to imagine Northwestern bringing it all together as it prepares to enter Big Ten play. With games against Ohio State and Wisconsin looming on the horizon, this could be the beginning of the end for the Wildcats’ stay in either of the polls.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    The Oklahoma Sooners haven't played anyone of any prominence yet, so it's hard to really judge where this team is at. Every year, it seems the Sooners are ranked highly. They started the 2013 season in the 16th slot in both the AP and coaches polls.

    According to a study by Pollspeak, Oklahoma has been consistently the most-overrated team since 2008 when weighing starting ranking with the team's ending position, per ESPN.

    Things haven't looked much different for the Sooners this year as they currently sit 14th in the AP and 12th in the coaches poll. They haven't really looked great to this point despite scoring lopsided victories over Louisiana Monroe and Tulsa. Yeah, they beat up on those cupcakes, but struggled mightily with a West Virginia team that is barely 2-2.

    A quarterback change to Blake Bell sparked some offense for the Sooners in the last game, but the Golden Hurricane will never be mistaken for a defensive powerhouse. They're currently giving up 37 points a game.

    We'll see how things progress, as it's hard to really peg this Sooners team right now, but they haven't really shown us anything to disregard their apparent overrated start each season.

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