It seems that the start of the 2010 college football season is just around the corner. As all the conference media days wrap up, thoughts turn toward two things: the start of practice and who will be in the opening top 25 poll.
Since the calendar is turning from July to August, the start of practice is only a few days away. That means it is also time to look at the teams who will make up my top 25 poll.
The 2010 season begins September 2nd.
There is no top 25 poll that everyone agrees with. Fans nearly always think a team is ranked too high or too low. Also since the USC Trojans are not allowed to be ranked in the coaches poll, I left them out of my rankings as well.
The flip-side of being ranked is not being ranked at all. No top 25 poll will ever make every fan happy because there are nearly always some teams they think should be ranked that are not.
To solve the problem of teams not being ranked, I have decided to add ten teams that could crack the top 25 before the end of the season. Also, I have decided to include five sleeper teams that could be a surprise.
For those who disagree with where teams are ranked, feel free to comment on what your top 25 teams are. There will never be complete agreement but I welcome thoughts and opinions and I realize that this 25 will more than likely be wrong at the end of the season.
So without further ado here are my top 25 college football teams:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last season it was the offense that needed to be retooled, but this season it will be the defense. Nick Saban will have his defense where it needs to be by the end of the season. Until that happens the offense has Greg McElroy, Julio Jones, and returning Heisman winner Mark Ingram to carry the load until the defense finds its legs.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Big Ten had two BCS victories and Ohio State was able to break the Pac-10’s strangle hold on the Rose Bowl. Jim Tressel might be able to open his offense completely if Terrelle Pryor plays this season like he played in the bowl game. Tressel always fields a stout defense as well.
3. Boise State Broncos
Boise State finished last season undefeated but unable to play for a national title. If the Broncos can get past Virginia Tech in the season opener, and with 20 returning starter, including quarterback Kellen Moore, a spot in the title game is possible.
4. Texas Longhorns
Mack Brown lost a ton of talent from last year’s national runner up. But like Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, etc., Texas does not rebuild, they just reload. Garrett Gilbert might be outstanding as the starting quarterback with a full off-season as the number one guy.
5. TCU Horned Frogs
Last season TCU finished the regular season undefeated and earned their first BCS bowl game bid as well. That team lost to last year’s other BCS buster Boise State. Sixteen starters return from last year’s team including quarterback Andy Dalton.
6. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma was decimated by injuries last year and a magical year that could have been was ruined in the first game. This season a healthy and experienced Landy Jones takes over for Sam Bradford. Bob Stoops’ squad will be healthy and back to challenge in the Big-12 and the nation this season.
7. Florida Gators
The John Brantley era beings in Gainesville this season after Tim Tebow moved on to the NFL. Florida has a lot of talent to replace but Urban Meyer has stock piled talent. This program should not slip as bad this season as it did after Meyer’s first national championship.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes were rolling to a Big Ten title until Ricky Stanzi was injured. That still did not stop Iowa from winning nine games and the Orange Bowl over Georgia Tech. Kirk Ferentz has built this program to contend and 2010 should be another great year for Iowa.
9. Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech has quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams returning, plus Darren Williams should be back from injury. The Hokies defense will have to be rebuilt but defensive coordinator Bud Foster should have no problem do that. This could be head coach Frank Beamer’s best team since Michael Vick lead this program to the national championship game.
10. Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers could have the best offensive line in the Big Ten. Wisconsin also has running back John Clay and quarterback Scott Tolzien returning this season. Bret Bielema has this program headed in the right direction and should challenge for the conference title.
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
This team has to be rebuilt with several starters on both sides of the ball needing to be replaced. Georgia Tech does have quarterback Josh Nesbit returning to run coach Paul Johnson’s triple option. If Nesbit can become a better passer their might be no limit to what the Yellow Jackets can do this season.
12. Oregon Ducks
The Ducks lost the Rose Bowl and then spent the off-season making news for all the wrong reasons. Running back LaMichael James and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli both got arrested after the season and Masoli got kicked off the team. The Pac-10 is wide open and the Ducks could win the conference again.
13. Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has to find a replacement for Daryll Clark and until they do the offense will fall on the shoulders of Evan Royster. The Nittany Lions also have to rebuild the defense. Joe Paterno should be able to keep this program competitive in 2010.
14. Arkansas Razorbacks
Offense should not be a problem for Bobby Petrino with Heisman contender Ryan Mallett returning. If the Razorbacks can find a defense to match their offense this team will be a player in the SEC. Arkansas will have to outscore opponents if they cannot find a defense to match their offense.
15. Pittsburgh Panthers
Pittsburgh has to replace quarterback Bill Stull and three offensive linemen as well as holes on the defense. The Panthers do have arguably the best offensive player in the Big East in Dion Lewis. Dave Wannstedt should be able to compete in a wide open conference that could be won by up to four teams.
16. LSU Tigers
A big season is expected out of Les Miles and LSU after a couple of years of not meeting expectations after winning a title in 2007. Talent should not be a problem for the Tigers if the top recruiting classes pan out. On the field the pressure will be on Jordan Jefferson and if he can develop.
17. Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Cornhuskers showed improvement last season making the Big-12 championship game. This is Nebraska’s final season in the conference and Bo Pelini would like to leave the conference in style. The offense needs to improve and the defense needs to replace Ndamukong Suh the best player in college football last year.
18. Miami Hurricanes
Miami navigated a brutal opening schedule to show the promise of what Randy Shannon’s program could be and once was. This season Jacory Harris needs to make better decisions if this team is going to take the next step. The Hurricanes could challenge for an ACC title this season.
19. Washington Huskies
Steve Sarkisian got the best news out of any college coach when Jake Locker turned down entering the NFL draft to return to school. This team improved greatly in year one of the Sarkisian era and should make even more improvement with 20 returning starters. Locker returned to finish the rebuilding job he started last season and could in 2010 finish the job.
20. Georgia Bulldogs
Mark Richt finished last season on a high note beating in-state rival Georgia Tech and Texas A&M in a bowl game to end the season. Georgia has to break in a new starting quarterback for the second season in a row. The good news for the Bulldogs is that all five offensive line men are back but the defense needs to be retooled as well.
21. Missouri Tigers
The defense will need to be reworked for a second year in a row but Gary Pinkel accomplished the same job last season. Missouri should be fine on offense with Blaine Gabbert returning. The Tigers can win the Big-12 North if the Cornhuskers slip.
22. Stanford Cardinal
Jim Harbaugh had Stanford fans thinking big things after beating USC and Oregon in back to back weeks. Things could be even better this season with Andrew Luck returning for the Cardinal. This team still has to find a replacement for Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart at running back. More good news for this team is that seven starters return on defense.
23. Connecticut Huskies
Last season this team had to endure tragedy after the death of a player. Randy Edsall got this team to compete week-in and week-out afterwards. In a weak Big East the Huskies could be contenders. Connecticut fans should be even more excited with sixteen starters returning this season.
24. Oregon State Beavers
This team has to replace quarterback Sean Canfield who has moved on to the NFL. What the Beavers do have is both Rodgers brothers Jacquizz and James returning. Mike Riley will have to break in a new man under center quickly with the first game of the season being against TCU.
25. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies bring back nearly their entire defense but the unit needs to improve. Offensively Jerrod Johnson should be improved this season. Mike Sherman will have to replace three offensive linemen. This team could be a dark horse in the Big-12.
Ten teams that could break into the top 25 at some point this season :
1. North Carolina Tar Heels— Defense should be good but scoring points on offense is the question.
2. Navy Midshipmen— 10 wins last season was no fluke but Ricky Dobbs has to become a better passer.
3. Clemson Tigers— The C.J. Spiller era has ended but the Kyle Parker era begins.
4. Auburn Tigers— If Gene Chizik can find some defense to go along with his offense the Tigers could be the dark horse of the SEC.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys— How well Kendall Hunter carries the load will dictate how well this team does.
6. Florida State Seminoles— No Bobby Bowden as the Jimbo Fisher era begins in Tallahassee.
7. Utah Utes— Program looks to continue their winning ways after a 10-3 season last year.
8. Kentucky Wildcats— If Joker Philips can get the ball in the hands of Randall Cobb this team can make some noise.
9. Houston Cougars— Case Keenum will keep Houston in the headlines all season long.
10. BYU Cougars— Max Hall needs to replaced but this team has talent.
Five teams that could surprise in 2010:
1. Ball State Cardinals— This team returns 21 starters.
2. Miami (OH) Red Hawks— This team returns 20 starters.
3. Army Cadets— This team returns 18 starters from a team that won five games.
4. Mississippi State Bulldogs— Year two under Dan Mullen sees 17 starters return.
5. Idaho Vandals— Despite what the Boise State president says this team has 18 starters back and could challenge BSU.