Yes, I know it's not June yet. But it's less than a week away, and I already had these made up, so it doesn't really matter. This time I have better descriptions and logos to make it more interesting.
1. Florida Gators
The Gators have 19 of 22 starters returning from last year's champion team, including all 11 of their defensive starters. Brandon Spikes leads a defense that will likely be one of the best in the nation.
Tim Tebow returns on offense, as well as RBs Chris Rainey and Jeffrey Demps, so Florida should have a very good rushing offense along with a solid passing offense with Tebow leading it. The Gators' only question is if Tebow will be negatively affected if he starts playing more like an NFL quarterback. But other than that, the team loses just Percy Harvin and gets much better literally everywhere else.
2. USC Trojans
USC has almost their entire offense returning, including the dangerous rushing trio of Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, and C.J. Gable and four of five offensive linemen, so watch out for a very strong rushing attack.
They do lose Mark Sanchez, but in the past seven years they've lost four quarterbacks and always replaced them with someone who also is very good. This year they have three candidates for the spot, and one of them almost definitely will fill that spot well.
The defense, despite losing eight starters, has star safety Taylor Mays returning, as well as five-star recruits ready to jump in at literally every position (remember, this isn't the first time the Trojans have lost most of their defense, and recently they have always returned with another good one).
3. Texas Longhorns
QB Colt McCoy, WRs Jordan Shipley and Malcolm Williams, and four of five offensive linemen return to form once again what should be one of the nation's best offenses. The only thing Texas has to do is find someone other than McCoy to run the ball with.
The defense has six starters returning, but they lose three defensive linemen from 2008's star line. The Longhorns have consistently had a strong defensive line in about the past five years though, and it shouldn't be any different this year with plenty of talented players ready to step in there.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma returns 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford at QB, along with RBs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown and TE Jermaine Gresham, to form what looks like should be an amazing offense once again. The only issue is that the Sooners lose four offensive linemen, a huge part of their 2008 success.
The defense returns nine starters from a pretty good season, and they should be much better in 2009. Oklahoma's only question is their offensive line, which could be holding them from a No. 3 or No. 2 rank. If they can rebuild, then they'll have a very good 2009.
5. Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss returns QB Jevan Snead, arguably one of the best QBs in the nation, as well as RBs Cordera Eason and Brandon Bolden and all-purpose man Dexter McCluster from a pretty good offensive season (29th in yards, 28th in scoring). The offense should be one of the nation's best.
The defense, 19th in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed last year, returns eight starters and also should be much better. Although Houston Nutt has a reputation for underachieving, I think this year will be different for the Rebels.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State returns most of their offensive line, QB Terrelle Pryor (who had a good QB rating last year, which many people overlook because he didn't throw much, and ran well), and RBs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine, so they should have a very good rushing offense. Pryor will be an efficient passer, but won't throw much—OSU will be able to pass when they want to, though.
The defense returns seven starters from a very good season and should improve despite the loss of LB James Laurinaitis and S Malcolm Jenkins. The Buckeyes will also have plenty of depth with many good recruits from this year's class and previous years.
7. Alabama Crimson Tide
With nine starters returning from the nation's third-ranked total defense, Alabama will be very solid on defense (possibly the best defense in the nation). The offense has a lot of questions—they lose OT Andre Smith, QB John Parker Wilson, and RB Glen Coffee all from a below average 2008 offense.
QB Greg McElroy looks ready to take Wilson's spot pretty well, but it will be difficult to replace the others. WR Julio Jones will help out McElroy, though, so Alabama shouldn't struggle too much on offense.
8. Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech returns seven starters from a very good 2008 defense, so they should be good there. They had a few questions there coming out of spring ball, but VT usually has solid defenses.
The offense has QB Tyrod Taylor returning, as well as RB Darren Evans and an athletic offensive line. Taylor needs to improve his passing after having just a 103.25 QB rating in 2008, but an improved offensive line and the return of all of the Hokies' WRs will help him do that. Taylor's also improved his throwing in spring practice.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has a lot of questions coming into 2009. They lose most of their starting offensive linemen and all of their starting WRs from 2008, but QB Daryll Clark is coming off of a very good 2008, and with him return RBs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green to form what should be a pretty good offense (if the O-line can rebuild).
The defense will likely have the best linebackers in the nation with Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman returning and will likely have a strong secondary as well. The Nittany Lions' weak point on defense is their line, which is also a big question.
PSU could end up near the top five if they rebuild their lines, but if they can't do it, it won't take long for them to fall off this list.
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State could very well have 2009's best offense, with QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter, WR Dez Bryant, and most of the offensive line returning from a very good year. There's no reason it won't improve—this offense has pretty much no weak points.
The defense, although it has six starters returning, shouldn't be too great—they struggled some last year, but a lot of that was due to the insane Big 12 offenses. The defense will probably be okay at stopping the run, but don't expect anything different against the pass.
11. Boise State Broncos
Boise State returns QB Kellen Moore and most of their WRs, so they should once again have a very good passing offense. RB Jeremy Avery has shown some potential as well.
If the line is more consistent, the Broncos could have one of the nation's top offenses. The defense returns the entire secondary, and even though they lose a lot of starters elsewhere on defense, they rotated many players in last year and should have another good squad in 2009.
Look out for Boise State in 2009—they are a very talented team and have a good shot at getting in a BCS bowl.
12. Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa returns eight of their 2008 defensive starters from a squad that ranked 12th nationally in yards allowed and fifth nationally in points allowed. The Hawkeyes will have a solid secondary (three of four starters return from a season with 23 forced interceptions, fourth in the nation) and very good LBs with all three starters returning.
The biggest question is the defensive line, which loses four-year DT starters in Mitch King and Matt Kroul. The offense will have one of the nation's best offensive lines, an improved Ricky Stanzi at QB (he looked good down the stretch last year and in spring ball), and what look to be good WRs.
Everyone is saying how losing Shonn Greene will drag Iowa down, but they have RB Jewel Hampton coming in, who ran for nearly 500 yards last year with seven TDs and 5.1 YPC as a true freshman. Hampton obviously won't be as good as Greene, but Iowa fans have definitely heard his name before and know he should be good.
The biggest concern is the defensive line—if they can replace that, which isn't likely, they could be a force in 2009.
13. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia loses QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno, but QB Joe Cox looks pretty good and should fill Stafford's spot pretty well. Star WR A.J. Green will help Cox out too.
RBs Caleb King, Richard Samuel, and Carlton Thomas should also be able to get the job done well at RB, especially with most of the offensive line returning. The defense returns most of their starters from a good season and should have another in 2009.
14. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech returns nine starters from an offense that ranked second nationally last year in rushing. All of the key players that made their triple option attack work return, and it could be even better this year (but teams might start to catch up with them now).
The defense returns six starters from a good 2008 season in which they ranked 25th in yards allowed and 28th in points allowed, so they should be solid on that side of the ball as well. If Georgia Tech plays their cards right, they could be a very tough team to beat in 2009.
15. California Golden Bears
Cal has RB Jahvid Best returning, who could be a Heisman candidate in 2009 after leading the Pac-10 in rushing in 2008. QB Kevin Riley should improve but has struggled recently, and the offensive line needs to be rebuilt after losing All-American C Alex Mack.
The defense loses some linebackers but will have a very good secondary and solid defensive line to form what should be a pretty good defense. The Golden Bears have some questions going into 2009 as well, and if they answer them correctly, they could cause some trouble for USC.
16. TCU Horned Frogs
QB Andy Dalton, WR Jimmy Young, and RBs Joseph Turner and Ryan Christian all return to form what should again be one of the nation's better offenses. The defense, although it loses seven starters, should be tough in 2009 too, with DE Jerry Hughes returning along with a very good secondary.
TCU has a fairly tough schedule playing in the improving MWC, but if they can rebuild their defense, they could find themselves in a BCS bowl.
17. Utah Utes
Utah returns seven starters from a very strong 2008 defense, so they should be one of the best teams on that side of the ball again. The offense has some serious questions after losing seven starters (including QB Brian Johnson, the heart of the Utes' offense last year), but RB Matt Asiata and a decent offensive line will help rebuild.
Corbin Louks will most likely take over at the quarterback position and has done decently there in the past. If Utah can rebuild their offense, they may be looking at another BCS bid in 2009.
18. Oregon Ducks
Oregon will have a very good offense, with QB Jeremiah Masoli and RB LeGarrette Blount leading the way after the squad had a very good 2008 season. The defense loses a lot along the defensive line and secondary, but overall returns more than half of the starters and should improve.
There are a few questions—Oregon loses three offensive linemen, which could affect the rest of their offense, and their defense wouldn't be able to rely on them as much as they did last year in that case. But Oregon finished on fire in 2008 and has enough key players returning to continue that.
19. LSU Tigers
LSU returns RBs Charles Scott and Keiland Williams, and the Tigers should have a solid offensive line to form what looks like it will be a good rushing offense.
They still have questions at QB—Jordan Jefferson did absolutely nothing, and everyone was acting like he was the next Heisman candidate. He had a terrible 112.87 QB rating and had just barely 100 rushing yards and one rushing TD last year, and he didn't even do that well (but okay) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (124.91 rating, one passing TD, 25 rushing yards). He still needs to prove himself.
The defense will probably be good, with six starters returning—however, they lose a lot of people up front and may struggle against the rush.
20. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska returns seven players on defense from a good 2008 squad, including Ndamukong Suh, arguably the best DT in college football. The Cornhuskers will be very tough on that side of the ball.
The offense loses a lot of firepower with QB Joe Ganz and WRs Nate Swift and Todd Peterson all leaving, but Nebraska looks to have a pretty good rushing attack with QB Zac Lee and RBs Quentin Castille and Roy Helu Jr. Nebraska has a very good shot at winning the Big 12 North, especially if they can rebuild their offense.
21. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State returns their entire offensive line and QB Christian Ponder, so they should have a decent pass offense in 2009. They have a couple RBs who should be okay but will probably pass more than run.
The defense returns some of its starters from a very good year, so they should be at least decent there. The Seminoles have a pretty tough schedule in 2009, but I think they'll make it to the ACC championship.
22. Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas looks to have one of the nation's top offenses in 2009, with QB Todd Reesing, RB Jake Sharp, and WRs Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier all returning from a very good season last year.
The Jayhawks lose all of their starting linebackers, who led the defense through a not-so-good 2008. They will switch to a 4-2-5 defense to help defend the pass more this year, so they'll improve their pass defense but will likely struggle against the run.
23. BYU Cougars
BYU returns QB Max Hall and RB Harvey Unga on offense, but they lose star WR Austin Collie and nearly their entire offensive line. Hall and Unga are pretty good, but they will struggle if they don't have the right tools around them (especially a good offensive line).
The defense returns eight starters from an okay season, so they should be decent on that side of the ball. If the Cougars can rebuild their offensive line and WRs, they could be looking at a MWC title and possibly a BCS bid.
24. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
As much as I hate Notre Dame, I think they deserve to be ranked. And no, I didn't put them in here because they have a TV station or because "they're Notre Dame"; I put them in here because they should be okay in 2009.
Notre Dame returns 10 starters on offense, including QB Jimmy Clausen and WRs Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, so they look to have a pretty good pass offense. They need to be able to run the ball more in 2009, though. The defense returns most of their starters from a decent year and should be okay in 2009.
25. West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia returns RB Noel Devine, who is very fast and strong and should be the heart of the Mountaineers' offense. They have some questions at offensive line, but the line probably won't be so bad as to drag Devine down.
The defense returns most of its starters from a pretty good season and should be even better in 2009. WVU, playing in a pretty weak conference, looks to be the Big East favorite.
OTHER TEAMS CONSIDERED
Cincinnati, North Carolina, Michigan State, Oregon State, Tennessee, Illinois, Miami (FL), Northwestern, Minnesota, Arizona, Texas Tech
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