College Football: Ohio State Tops Columnist's College Football Preseason Top Ten
A heart-stopping 2007 season ended with LSU's 38-24 victory over Ohio State and a claim to their second BCS title. While LSU may have ended the season #1, a gaping hole at quarterback will prevent them from starting this season in the pole position.
Back at the top are many familiar faces along with a couple of programs on the rise. The SEC and Big XII dominate the top ten landscape, with three teams apiece. Missing, are teams from the ACC and non-BCS conferences.
Please note that this is a preseason poll. It is an opinion of who the top ten teams are right now. It is not necessarily a forecast of how the rankings will look in December.
For much of the poll, especially the top five, I relied on the number of starters returning to the teams and the depth they possess at key positions.
Without further ado, here is my preseason top ten:
1) Ohio State (11-2, BCS Championship loss to LSU)
The national runner-up for two straight years returns what could be the nation's best collection of experienced talent. The Buckeyes return 18 starters from last season's team. They are led by QB Todd Boekman, RB Beanie Wells, and LB James Laurinaitis.
2) Oklahoma (11-3, Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia)
The Sooners won the Big XII championship in 2007, and return with 13 starters. Sophomore QB Sam Bradford hopes to avoid the sophomore slump and duplicate his fantastic freshman numbers. He will be protected this season by an experienced and talented offensive line. The unit is led Jon Cooper and Duke Robinson. Oklahoma's defense only returns five starters, and is led by DE Auston English.
3) USC (11-2, Rose Bowl win over Illinois)
Last year's Rose Bowl victors return a strong, proven defense in 2008. LBs Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing and safeties Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays will quickly help USC fans forget about the losses of Sedrick Ellis and Keith Rivers.
On offense, Mark Sanchez won the starting quarterback job and RB Joe McKnight is always a threat to score, regardless of field position.
4) Georgia (11-2, Sugar Bowl win over Hawaii)
Perhaps no team finished stronger in 2007 than the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia finished an 11-2 season by pounding Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Offensively, the Dawgs will be led by QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno.
At least to start the season, Georgia's strength will be defensively. They return nine starters - three on the line, three linebackers, and three in the secondary. DT Geno Atkins and LB Dannell Ellerbe are among some of the stars on the Bulldog defense.
5) Missouri (12-2, Cotton Bowl win over Arkansas)
The Tigers are loaded this year. Among their 16 returning starters, 10 play defense. LB Sean Weatherspoon led the team in tackles, was first-team Big XII last year and will be a terror sideline to sideline. Senior free safety William Moore led the nation with eight interceptions and was an All-American.
On offense, QB Chase Daniel looks to repeat last season's Heisman finalist campaign. Missouri's most exciting playing is do-everything Jeremy Maclin. He had over 1,000 yards both receiving and returning last year.
6) Florida (9-4, Capital One Bowl loss to Michigan)
Key Returners: QB Tim Tebow, WR Percy Harvin, LB Brandon Spikes
7) West Virginia (11-2, Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma)
Key Returners: QB Patrick White, RB Noel Divine, T Ryan Stanchek
8) Arizona State (10-3, Holiday Bowl loss to Texas)
Key Returners: QB Rudy Carpenter, RB Keegan Hering, DE Dexter Davis
9) Texas Tech (9-4, Gator Bowl win over Virginia)
Key Returners: QB Graham Harrell, WR Michael Crabtree, G Louis Vasquez
10) LSU (12-2, BCS Championship win over Ohio State)
Key Returners: WR Demetrius Byrd, DL Ricky Jean-Francois, LB Darry Beckwith
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