1. Notre Dame – More returning starters than any top team in the country. We all know the offense will be as good as they come. The learning curve for the defense in the 2nd year under the coaching staff is high. Don’t let people fool you. Most of the big plays allowed were due to miscommunication and not speed issues.
2. tOSU – Normally I wouldn’t put a team that lost their 9 top tacklers at this slot. However, their offense will be fantastic. The talent is there on defense, but will they gel quick enough to avoid an early season loss at Iowa or Texas?
3. Michigan – Probably the highest you’ll find them on any ranking list. New coordinators on both sides of the ball, but they’re both in-house. A healthy Mike Hart should take loads of pressure off of Henne and the offense should be just fine. Question marks are an inexperienced OL. An experienced secondary should anchor the defense
4. Cal – Perhaps the most underrated team this year. 15 returning starters and great offensive skill players. They need to replace 3 starters on the OL, but with all the pieces surrounding them, this offense should be explosive. The only holes on defense are at safety, as the DL and LBs should be very good.
5. Texas – No one lost more in one player than Texas did in VY. They still return loads of starters on both sides of the ball. Strengths are at RB and DE. They’ll need to replace some playmakers in the secondary quickly before their meeting with tOSU.
6. Louisville – Mark my words. This is the best team in the Big (L)East. They return 17 starters from last year. This ranking is obviously contingent on a healthy Brian Brohm. The WR corps will need to mature quickly, but they’ll have a QB who can get them the ball, as well as a RB who will run you over. On defense, they’ll need to replace Dumervil, but they return almost everyone else, including the entire secondary. This team should have beaten WVU last year (3OT loss).
7. USC – Talk about a question mark. I “hear” they have unreal talent coming in, but its hard to judge when none of it has seen real playing time. The WR corps should be the country’s best and the OL will be solid, so that should help the transition for the new QB (whoever that may be). The defense will be anchored by a solid line and good LB corps.
8. Iowa – They underachieved last year for the first time under Ferentz but return their starting RB and QB, to help break in the new WRs. The D-line should be strong, and there’s a lot to replace at LB. People will under rate this team based on their performance from last year, but Ferentz should have them in position for a Big 10 title run.
9. Auburn – They might have the 2nd best RB in the country. However, both their lines need some replacing and there’s a new DC. They are the strongest of a weak crop of SEC teams this year. That’s right I said it. SEC = weak.
10. Clemson - They return 17 starters including an experienced OL and a star-in-the-making RB James Davis. They'll need to break in a new (5th year senior) QB quickly because the schedule is not in their favor. Early road trips to FSU and BC and a late on to Virginia Tech await.