I will be updating my Top 25 rankings every week throughout the season. Here goes the preseason rankings, less than a week before college football kicks off.
1. Florida Gators
It's hard not to put Florida in this spot, as was evident by their record number of first place votes in the AP poll. The Gators return all1 starters from an outstanding defense, and Heisman candidate, quarterback Tim Tebow.
With an easy schedule to go along with elite talent, it will be a shock if Florida doesn't reach the BCS National Championship.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
While many experts have Texas in this spot, I see the Sooners as the best team in the Big 12. They return Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and tons of weapons for him to throw to. The defense will also be improved, even though that isn't saying much, and should help to keep the opposing scores within reason this year.
3. Texas Longhorns
Texas will once again be one of the nation's top offensive teams in 2009. Quarterback Colt McCoy should have a breakout year in his senior season, and many are predicting a Heisman Trophy for the Longhorns' signal caller.
The bottom line, though, is that the Big 12 South will come down to the Red River Rivalry, and I see Oklahoma coming out on top of Texas this year.
4. USC Trojans
There are probably more questions surrounding the USC program this season than there have been under Pete Carroll. The Trojans recently announced that true freshman Matt Barkeley will start the first game, making him the only true freshman to ever start the season for a top 10 team.
The Trojans will have a very good offense, but besides star safety Taylor Mays, not much returns on defense. Will the Trojans be able to rebuild? Knowing USC, I don't think it will be much of an issue.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes
I know, I know. The Buckeyes can't be this high because the Big Ten sucks. While the average SEC fan may see this as absurd, Ohio State should actually have a very good team in 2009. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor could easily be the best in the league, and he has plenty of weapons to throw to at receiver.
The Buckeyes lost a little of their firepower on defense, with linebacker James Laurinaitis and corner Malcolm Jenkins going to the NFL, but they still have the third best defense in the league behind Iowa and Penn State. If the Buckeyes can find a way to beat USC in Columbus, they could have a shot at the National Championship.
6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State is one of the most underrated teams in the country. The Cowboys have the best wide receiver in the country in Dez Bryant and a great quarterback in Zac Robinson. The defense will be the main problem for Oklahoma State in 2009, but will still be improved. Plus, it's not like defense is much of a necessity in the Big 12.
7. Alabama Crimson Tide
While Alabama does lose a lot on offense, the defense will still be stacked. Terrence Cody will lead one of the nation's best offensive lines and Rolando McClain will lead a very talented linebacking corps. The offense should take a step back, but if Alabama can find a quarterback, wide receiver Julio Jones can help to turn that unit into a strength again.
8. Ole Miss Rebels
After years of uncertainty, it seems like Houston Nutt has finally turned this team around. The Rebels grabbed national attention after handing Florida its only loss of 2008. Quarterback Jevan Snead will lead a very strong offense, and Ole Miss has a shot to reach the SEC Championship for the first time.
9. Virginia Tech Hokies
Defense. That's the only reason the Hokies are ranked this high. Their stellar defense could be one of the best in the country, but the offense may be a cause for concern. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor will be good, but losing running back Darren Evans to injury hurts and the offense can never seem to put it all together.
If they can, they will have an easy ride to the ACC Championship. We should know the answer soon, as the Hokies open up the season against Alabama.
10. LSU Tigers
Quarterback Jordan Jefferson will lead a great offense, which includes preseason All-American wide receiver Brandon LaFell. The defense will be great, once again, and LSU will likely challenge Ole Miss for the SEC West Championship this season.
11. Penn State Nittany Lions
The offense will be better than last year, with quarterback Darryl Clark and running back Evan Royster returning. The offensive line will also be very good. The problem for Penn State is defense. The linebackers will be amazing, but the secondary is almost all new. The defensive line should contain the run fairly well, but if the secondary falters, opposing offenses could have a field day against the Nittany Lions' pass defense.
12. Georgia Bulldogs
The loss of two first round draft picks obviously hurts, as the Bulldogs lose most of their offensive production. Without quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno, Georgia will struggle a little bit offensively. The defense will be solid, though, and the Bulldogs will still be a top 25 team throughout 2009.
13. Oregon Ducks
Oregon is the one team that has a shot at knocking USC off the top of the Pac-10. The Ducks return only half of their starters, but still figure to have a good team this season. Their first test will com this Thursday. They face Boise State on the blue turf after losing last year in Eugene. A win there can shoot Oregon up the national rankings, but a loss will have them destined for another good, but not great, season.
14. Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa will have arguably the best defense in the Big Ten, and return eight starters on that side of the ball. The offensive line is ranked as one of the top five in the country and quarterback Ricky Stanzi is greatly improved from the beginning of 2008.
Jewel Hampton looks like he will fill Shonn Greene's shoes very well, and despite a very tough schedule in which the Hawkeyes visit Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State, the Hawkeyes could challenge for the Big Ten Title.
15. California Bears
I have a lot of trouble putting Cal this high because they always seem to underachieve, but with running back Jahvid Best, anything can happen for the Bears in 2009. The quarterback situation is pretty shaky, but the defense will be one of the best in the Pac-10. For that reason, I think this might finally be the year that the Bears succeed.
16. TCU Horned Frogs
The TCU offense will once again be one of the best kept secrets in the country. Quarterback Andy Dalton will lead a very good group, and the offensive line will be the best line you haven't heard of. The defense loses a lot, but still will be decent. Bottom line, TCU, not Boise State, BYU, or Utah, is the best non-BCS team in the country.
17. Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles might finally be back. After years of mediocrity, Florida State is riding some momentum after a bowl game drubbing of Wisconsin last season. The defense will be very good and the offense isn't too much behind. They should challenge Virginia Tech for the ACC Championship.
18. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
After riding momentum through the end of the 2008 regular season, Georgia Tech was blown away by LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl 38-3. While many people see the Yellow Jackets winning the ACC, I'm not buying it.
They are extremely streaky, and one bad loss could turn into a blown season in a hurry. Don't get me wrong, 2009 could turn out to be a great season for Georgia Tech, but I don't see them making too much of a run this season.
19. Utah Utes
The Utes lose a lot of players from their surprising 2008 team that finished No. 2 in the nation with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. The defense will be just as good as last season, but the offense will struggle, as they lose much of their team. Still they will contend for a conference title and have a shot at a decent bowl game.
20. Oregon State Beavers
After surprising the nation with an upset win over USC last season, the Beavers got themselves onto the national radar. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers will lead a good offense, but the defense will struggle, returning only three starters. The Beavers could surprise, but with all the questions on defense, I don't see them finishing better than fourth in the Pac-10 this season.
21. Texas Tech Red Raiders
While the Red Raiders do lose star quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, they always seem to have a good offense. The defense will be better than last year, although that isn't too hard to do, but the offense will be equally good. Texas Tech may surprise a lot of people in the Big 12 this year.
22. Nebraska Cornuskers
Is Nebraska football back? Possibly. The Cornhuskers showed signs of improvement last season, but still aren't on the same level as the Big 12 South. With Missouri losing a lot of players, including Chase Daniel, Nebraska will likely win the Big 12 North. While that isn't saying much, it's certainly a first step back to greatness for the Cornhuskers.
23. Kansas Jayhawks
While Nebraska is likely the favorite to win the Big 12 North, Kansas has a shot to challenge the Cornhuskers for the crown. The Jayhawks will try to ride behind the success of senior quarterback Todd Reesing. Reesing will have a lot o talent to throw to, including preseason All-American candidate, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe.
24. Pittsburgh Panthers
Pittsburgh seems like they have gotten back on the right track after struggling for the past few years. Running back LeSean McCoy is gone, but the Panthers return eight players on offense, including most of a very good offensive line. The defense will also be good, and Pitt should be very competitive in the weak Big East.
25. West Virginia Mountaineers
After taking a step back last season, West Virginia will look to slowly make their way back up the ladder in 2009. Replacing quarterback Pat White will be a challenge, but running back Noel Devine will help to make the transition easier. The defense is also decent, with seven starters returning. The Mountaineers will also challenge for the conference championship in the less-than-impressive Big East.
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