With the season starting in two months, I feel it is my duty as an obsessive fan of college football to create my preseason top 10.
I have seen many preseason polls that rank a team based on its schedule; people who rank teams highly based on predicting where they will finish - those teams with easier schedules tend to benefit from this. Personally, I believe this is ridiculous.
Therefore, in addition to many other things, I also factor in who I think would win in a head-to-head matchup; after all, isn't the preseason poll meant to determine who we think is the best, not who will come out of their cupcake schedule unscathed? We'll leave the latter job to the BCS and its ridiculous methods at the end of the season.
Obviously, Florida is at the top of everyone's polls, and everyone's main justification is that Tebow is returning. Yes, Tebow is good, but he is not the only reason - the weapons he has around him despite the loss of Percy Harvin are still outstanding. Most importantly, Florida returns everyone from one of the nation's top defenses from last year two-deep.
After watching the way they murdered their opponents last year after the Ole Miss loss, I don't expect anything different from them in 2009. They will be heavy favorites heading into every game, and the "major roadblock at LSU" many analysts refer to will be nothing. Florida is a far superior team, and as it returns almost everyone who romped over LSU 51-21 last year, I don't see why this year will be any different.
This team reminds me of 2005 USC; a prolific offense led by a Heisman-winning senior QB that seems destined to make it to the national championship. Whether they win it or not depends on too many factors to predict here.
Yes, USC lost its linebackers and its defensive line, almost all of whom were drafted (and most drafted early). They also lost its star QB, Mark Sanchez, along with WR Patrick Turner on offense, but Pete Carroll and USC always seem to reload. When first-rounders leave, 5-star recruits come in and become first-rounders.
The defense is literally stacked with five-star recruits, and the secondary is mostly intact, anchored by All-American FS Taylor Mays, Josh Pinkard, and Shareece Wright. And yes, Aaron Corp will be a new starting QB, but has this ever been a problem under Pete Carroll? Leinart was a fresh starter in 2003 replacing Carson Palmer, a Heisman-winning QB better than Mark Sanchez. Leinart passed for 38 TDs, and won the AP national championship that year.
When Leinart left, Reggie Bush and LenDale left as well - leaving much less offensive talent to the least talented Carroll-era QB, John David Booty. Despite this, the team was ranked #2 in the nation going into their final game, where they were upset by a clearly inferior UCLA team. And let's not forget that Mark Sanchez himself was a first-year-starter in 2008.
Corp will also have the luxuries of working with USC stable of 5-star running backs, a group of experienced receivers, led by Damien Williams, and the best O-line in the nation, filled with NFL-caliber players. Expect this team to crush Ohio State, Oregon, Cal, Oregon State, and Notre Dame. If it loses, it will not lose to one of these good teams - it will lose to some nobody.
Personally, I don't think Texas in 2008 was nearly as great as everyone said it was. Yes, they looked like they dominated the Big 12, but if you look more closely, you see a slightly more distorted picture. This is a team that killed weak opponents, but had tough games with good opposition.
Though the win over Oklahoma was impressive, Texas lost to Texas Tech and barely edged out wins over Oklahoma State and Ohio State. Missouri cannot be counted as a quality win in retrospect - while Colt McCoy led a very impressive blowout against them, the fact remains that Missouri never beat a quality opponent this year and was horribly overrated at the time of the matchup.
However, I have Texas ranked here because of Colt McCoy. He is going to be a 4th year starter, and he is a very tough QB - look up Colt McCoy hits on YouTube and you will see why. It is clear that he is a great team leader, and very much deserved the 2008 Heisman Trophy. Keep in mind that he completed 77.6 percent of his passes, and even though many of these were dink-and-dunk passes, it is still an astounding number and an NCAA record. He also was his team's leading rusher, and keep this in mind; he led his team to victory over Oklahoma without a running back. Sorry Oklahoma fans, but Colt outperformed Sam Bradford without the same types of weapons Bradford had.
You can count me among those who were cheering for Utah to beat Alabama last year; Alabama was badly overrated last year, and lived off the glory from wins over teams like Clemson and Georgia, which looked great at the time, but turned out to be far worse than expected. However, I think that the Utah loss will make this team stronger and despite the loss of a senior QB and Andre Smith, and Glen Coffee, Alabama will continue to thrive.
Nick Saban is on par with Pete Carroll as the best recruiter in the nation, and will fill up the voids left behind on offense with talented recruits, and QB McElroy will pick up where Wilson left off - handing off and occasionally passing to the best WR in the SEC (and in my opinion, the nation - I'm not that high on Dez Bryant), Julio Jones. The defense, as it always is with a Saban-coached team, will be very tough to score against, and be among the top 5 defenses in the nation.
Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, DeMarco Murray, blah blah blah. Yeah I know OU returns a lot skill-position guys, but last year's offensive line returns only one guy. That line gave Sam Bradford about 15 seconds in the pocket every play last year - with that kind of line in a spread offense, a lot of guys could put up Bradford-like numbers. Gresham is very good, but Murray was another product of the OU offensive line. He is a good back, but not great, and will miss the monstrous behemoths who paved his way last year.
And even with that O-line last year, Sam Bradford looked average with pressure in his face - like the only time he played a good defense in Florida. The 60-point Sooners put up 14 points and the Heisman winner threw two picks. Likewise, against Texas, the best defensive team in the Big 12, Bradford threw two picks, and the future Heisman winner was unable to lead his team to victory.
6. Virginia Tech
I really wanted to put Oregon here, but I realize that their lines and secondary are somewhat gutted. As a result, I'm going to put VT here - a solid bet because VT is a solid team. Their defense will, as always, be very good and their offense should improve from the incompetent outfit it was last year.
Tyrod Taylor will, as usual, be a running QB, and it seems like it would be impossible for him to become an even worse passer - he can only get better. Their running game looks to be solid behind a good O-line, and their WRs will benefit from experience - all are returning after being thrust into action as freshman last year. Virginia Tech will be supremely boring to watch, as they always are, but Frank Beamer's team will continue to win most of their games and bring home another ACC championship. But a national championship is out of the question with the season opener against Alabama.
I really hate to put these guys here because I honestly don't think they deserve it after an 8-5 season which featured a "spectacular" comeback win against Troy after being down 31-3 to those clowns. But LSU's QB situation looks to be stable with Jordan Jefferson at the helm, and throwing to Brandon LaFell, or handing off to Charles Scott, who will run behind a good O-line.
LSU's defense will probably become good again - blue-chip recruits usually do. Though it seems popular to hate Les Miles, I've come to like the guy - after a loss, he tells it like it is, and always speaks his mind; none of the ultra-diplomatic BS most coaches spew out. And of course, he's one of the gutsiest play-callers out there - no one goes for more 4th downs than him, and fans like that (everyone hates punting except Jim Tressel). Yeah, he likes running up the score, but it's a smart move; he understands that classlessness gets his team "style points" and is best for his team's ranking. If he had only beaten VT 24-7 in 2007 as opposed to 48-7, LSU would not have been as appealing.
Oregon's offense will put up lots of points, no doubt. Chip Kelly's spread option will continue to be efficient especially with LeGarette Blount running all over people and pounding his way to the end zone. If Jeremiah Masoli proves his Holiday Bowl performance is a sign of things to come, then this offense will be truly dangerous and we could conceivably see Masoli become like Dennis Dixon. However, their lines are weakened and their secondary lost a couple of second-round draft picks. Oregon will probably get into a lot of high-scoring games because of a relatively weak defense.
9. Ohio State
It feels somewhat awkward putting Oregon and Virginia Tech above Ohio State, but that is how it should be. Preseason polls and media outlets will gush on and on about Terelle Pryor developing, being a sophomore and being the next coming of Vince Young. While Pryor is an amazing athlete, his passing game needs to develop - he cannot just rely on his legs. He will not be the force of nature Vince Young was (even with his own abilities, VY had a great supporting cast).
Pryor will no longer have the luxury of handing off to Beanie Wells or throwing to Robiskie and Hartline. In other words, he loses his entire supporting cast at the skill positions. The defense is not completely intact, and loses its best players, Laurinitis and Jenkins, among others. OSU will reload, but the fact is that even the OSU stars were never able to beat top teams like USC, LSU, and Florida, so it is silly to assume that their replacements will do so. OSU will yet again be humiliated by USC on national TV, but should be able to roll through the Big 10 as they always seem to do.
Yes, this is a controversial pick, especially with Ole Miss as a candidate here. Most people would never put Georgia this high after it loses Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. However, they will replace Stafford with a 5th year senior, Joe Cox, and Moreno will be replaced by a talented stable of backs led by Caleb King. While they may not be as good as the guys who left, their O-line will finally be intact after it was decimated by injuries last year and the defense should be solid.
Under Mark Richt, Georgia has won 10 or more games in every year from 2002 to 2008 except 2006, where they won 9 games with a true freshman QB. This team is consistently good, and I feel like they are getting overlooked in the preseason polls, unlike last year's team, which was overrated and put at number 1.
For Ole Miss, I will have to justify leaving them off because a Houston Nutt coached team does not win consistently - it just plays spoiler, wins 8 or 9 games, crashes some championship dreams, and leaves you wanting more. In addition, they lose Oher and Jerry, two first-round picks, and while Jevan Snead is very good, I don't think a team that lost to Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina last year should be in the top 10 unless it has some huge talent ready to step in, which Ole Miss does not.
However, this team could very easily surprise me and beat Alabama and LSU next year; Ole Miss is difficult to predict, and in previous experience, Houston Nutt teams are unreliable, so I am leaving them off, though I may later regret it.
As for the other teams that people usually put on top 10 lists, such as Penn State and Oklahoma State, I left them off of here for a reason - they do not deserve to be on a top 10 list.
Penn State was badly exposed in the Rose Bowl, and they lose their top 3 receivers. They will probably, however, find their way into the top 10 at the end of the season (likely even find their way into a BCS bowl, because two Big 10 teams get in every year) because of their pathetic non-conference schedule and the fact that their only real Big 10 challenger is Ohio State.
Oklahoma State is the biggest pretender of them all - after last year's victory over a disgustingly overrated Missouri team, they were considered a great team, until they lost to every good team they played, like OU, Texas, and Texas Tech. Finally, when they played against a somewhat physical Oregon defense in the Holiday Bowl, they were banged up and beaten around. Kendall Hunter did not impress me; he ran all over the Big 12, a conference with weak defenses that are geared toward pass defense. Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant are good, but they can't take a hit, like the hits Oregon administered. And as for their defense... well they can't stop anybody.
Anyway, thanks for reading this long list that ultimately means nothing in the scheme of things and feel free to comment.