2010 College Football Predictions: Alabama Remains Top Team To Beat
The AP Poll for the Top 25 in college football will be released in a few weeks. With players gone to the draft and new head coaches, there will be some of changes in this year’s list.
However, there is no change to who the top team in college football will be. The defending champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will enter the 2010 season as the top team to beat.
Here’s what I believe the list should look like.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
The defending champions will enter the season as the top team in the nation. Despite losing key starters like defensive tackle Terrence Cody and linebacker Rolando McClain to the draft, the Crimson Tide will rely on their offense to carry them to pursuit of back-to-back titles.
Heisman trophy winner, running back Mark Ingram, returns for his junior year and gives the offense a tremendous boost. Backup running back Trent Richardson, according to some experts, could provide more potential and explosion than the Heisman winner.
Quarterback Greg McElroy was tremendous as a leader for the offense last season. His experience should propel Alabama to the top spot. McElroy will have outstanding wide receivers Julio Jones and Marquis Maze back for another year.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide have retooled a little but can still provide a solid defense that keeps their offense on the field. Teams should keep an eye out for strong safety Mark Barron who made 2009 All-Conference selection. Despite the suspension of safety Robby Green, the defense remains solid.
The Crimson Tide have the majority of key players returning from the last season. Nick Saban should have no problem filling the holes on defense of the players that have moved on to the NFL and produce a championship contending team.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State comes in as the next top team in the world of college football. With consistent success in the Big Ten, one can only assume that they will be able to find their way into the top of the polls to begin the season.
The offense returns to full force with quarterback Terrelle Pryor to the offense. After a couple seasons with the Buckeyes, Pryor is more than equipped to lead an explosive offense to be contenders. With Brandon Saine and Dan Herron as the team’s 1-2 punch running back duo, the offense could be one of the most bruising attacks in the nation.
Pryor needs to find his niche early in the season to establish the team’s passing attack. Ranked out of the Top 100 in passing last season, there will be pressure on the receivers to help Pryor develop into the big game quarterback and live up to the major expectations.
3. Boise State Broncos
Boise State has been in discussion as to whether or not they are worth contenders for the BCS title. In 2010, they will have everything set for them to finally take that step and possibly earn the No. 1 spot. The only notable starter they lost to the draft was cornerback Kyle Wilson. The rest of the team is filled with returning starters.
Even without Wilson, Boise State displays one of the toughest defenses in the country. Preventing the big play will be the strength of the team’s defense and if they do continue their dominance from last season, the Broncos will be a team to watch out for. Keep an eye out for cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Brandyn Thompson as they look to be a solid shutdown duo.
Offensively, the Broncos gave up the fewest sacks of any team in the nation. Most importantly, returning all starters from last season gives quarterback Kellen Moore great consistency in his weapons—something that some quarterbacks in college football don’t get.
Despite being part of a “weaker conference,” Boise State should begin the season atop this list and if they continue to play well, will leave no doubt as to where they deserve to be at season’s end.
4. Texas Longhorns
Without Colt McCoy, the nation’s winningest quarterback, under center, the Longhorns are hoping that they can still provide an offensive machine with Garrett Gilbert as the new offensive leader. Also gone is wide receiver Jordan Shipley, but returning are two very talented receivers in James Kirkendoll and John Chiles.
The Longhorns have to provide the sophomore Gilbert with solid protection with the departure of key offensive linemen. Senior guard Michael Huey and senior guard Kyle Hix will anchor a revamped offensive line that helped the Longhorns score nearly 40 points a game.
Defensively, the Longhorns will have to move on without their defensive leader, linebacker Sergio Kindle. Also gone is safety Earl Thomas, meaning that Mack Brown has to find a way to get returning starters Blake Gideon and Aaron Williams to patrol the secondary for the deep pass.
If the defense can hold up throughout the season, it should give the team many opportunities to hold their own and remain in the Top Five throughout the year.
5. TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs became one of the biggest surprises in college football over the past few seasons. Providing the league’s best defense last season and a very explosive offense, don’t be surprised if TCU finds itself in another possible National Title debate.
Returning quarterback senior Andy Dalton leads an offense that returns many key players to their impressive team last season. Despite losing to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, look for this team to be primed to make another undefeated regular season run.
The Horned Frogs also have most of their players from last season return to the team. As the nation’s top defense, we shouldn’t expect much of a drop off, if any, from this defense. Despite facing some “weaker” teams in the Mountain West, don’t take for granted as to how difficult the conference has been in the past few years. Tough challenges like Utah and BYU should help elevate TCU to the top of the polls throughout the season.
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Without Ndamukong Suh, the Nebraska defense will have to work a little to find its way back to contention. Fortunately, the team returns 10 players that saw time as starters last season.
Offensively, the team also returns with 10 starters from last season. There isn’t much expectation for the team to be a huge passing juggernaut. However, there will be a lot of pressure on running back Roy Helu to help shoulder the load for the offense.
A strong start is expected from Nebraska and a possible 5-0 start could be in the future for the Cornhuskers before their match up against Texas mid-October.
7. Florida Gators
Despite losing one of the most talked about quarterbacks in college football history in Tim Tebow, don’t expect Florida to fall off the college football map just yet. The team returns with a talented running back group that can help ease quarterback John Brantley into the offense. The defensive line will look for leadership in senior center Mike Pouncey.
The defense continues to remain consistently strong over the years. Strong safety Ahmad Black leads a group of very talented defensive backs. They will be able to help mould the Florida defense into one of the toughest in the country.
If Brantley can be a quick learner in the offense, don’t be surprised if Florida remains in the Top 10 most of the season.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes will be the biggest challenger for Ohio State in determining the Big Ten championship. If healthy, Iowa has the talent to take down the No. 2 ranked team and become a major contender for a major bowl game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Iowa packs a punch as one of the country’s strongest forces. If starting safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood can help lead the strong secondary, it can elevate Iowa to one of the top tier teams in the country.
Their biggest concern will come at the quarterback and running back position. Running back Adam Robinson will have to step up and improve the running game that ranked near last in the conference. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi will have to lead the offense and provide relief to the running game that will have a lot of pressure to improve on last year’s statistics.
9. Wisconsin Badgers
Junior John Clay leads a group of very talented running backs for the Badgers in their pursuit of winning the Big Ten Conference. Most importantly for the running game, the entire starting offensive line returns for the 2010 season and will become the driving horse of the Badgers offense.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien leads a group of wide receivers that have yet to become major threats in the passing game. With so much potential, the Badgers could make a huge jump into the polls if they can grab a strong hold of a consistent offense.
Last season, the Badgers struggled in their pass defense and they hope to improve on that with returning starters in the secondary. The defensive line will be the biggest question for the team as they enter the season with only one returning starter from last season.
10. Oregon Ducks
Last season, the Ducks surprised their way through the Pac-10 with the leadership of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Masoli is now in Mississippi and the Ducks look to still maintain that offensive explosion with Nate Costa under center. The offense should operate like a well-oiled machine, as all starters on offense will return for the 2010 season.
On defense, the Ducks also will feature numerous returning starters and will be in the mix to secure the Pac-10 title. Title contenders from the past seasons, most notable Cal and USC, no longer can be viewed as the top dog of the conference.
The Ducks defense should be able continue their strong play from last season and hold the opposition to under 28 points per game. If Oregon is able to keep their pace throughout the Pac-10, they will be able to crack the Top 10 in 2010.
11. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies come into the 2010 season as a team that will rely on the play of running back Ryan Williams. Williams, a sophomore from Cold Spring, VA, will shoulder the load as the team’s top option at running back.
Fortunately for the Hokies, they will have the experience of senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After three years as the starter, the experience from Taylor can help lift the offensive passing game. All the starting wide receivers from last year will return in what could be a very surprising offense.
The team is a little thin in the secondary and with only five returning starters from last year, we should expect them to try to find leadership in senior John Graves (DE) and Rahad Carmichael (CB) to help the defense. If the defense can manage with its changes for this season, the Hokies can return to their mark and win at least 10 games.
12. Oklahoma Sooners
The departures of key offensive players will provide a major challenge for the Sooners. Replacing Sam Bradford at the quarterback position will be Landry Jones. Wide receivers Dejuan Miller and Ryan Broyles return to the team after starting last season. The passing game will keep the Sooners offense flourishing if Jones can pick up where Bradford left off.
Losing stud defensive tackle Gerald McCoy doesn’t necessarily mean that the defense will be in for a tough year. It does mean that with new starters coming this year, the Sooners will have to play well enough against a moderate schedule to keep the Sooners in the hunt down the stretch.
13. Pittsburgh Panthers
The Panthers come into the 2010 season with a new quarterback in Tino Sunseri and with hopes of taking the Big East crown from Cincinnati.
Sunseri will have playmakers in returning starters running back Dion Lewis and wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin. The question is the offensive line and how Dave Wannstedt will be able to fill it with new players.
Pittsburgh returns six starters to the defense for the 2010 season. If they can get through the first month of the season against potential strong scoring teams like Utah and Miami (FL), the Panthers will be in good shape to win the conference title.
14. Cincinnati Bearcats
Losing quarterback Tony Pike and wide receiver Mardy Gilyard to the draft shouldn’t be a problem for an offense that excels in spreading the ball. Zach Collaros will have no problem finding wideout Armon Binns in a spread offense that distributes the ball well. For an offense that returns eight starters, don’t expect the offense to miss a beat.
If the Bearcats want to make an impact in 2010, their defense has to improve on their run defense. More importantly, the team will have to operate well in a competitive conference with new head coach Butch Jones. Jones brings his experience with Central Michigan and hopes to duplicate his success with the Bearcats.
15. Penn State Nittany Lions
The offense will rely on the workhorse of Heisman candidate running back Evan Royster. With a solid offensive line, the Nittany Lions will relieve a lot of pressure from new quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome. Returning eight starters to the offense should give Penn State a huge advantage in taking the Big Ten title.
Returning seven starters on defense, the Lions will look for Gani Gbadyu to lead the new core of linebackers. If they can handle the early tests in the season, we could see the Nittany Lions in Pasadena at season’s end.
16. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets have Josh Nesbitt returning as quarterback and the leader of one of the nation’s most unique offenses. Running backs Anthony Allen and Roddy Jones return to provide a solid attack from the backfield. The offensive line also returns three key starters from last season.
The defense struggled last year but with a strong portion of the defense returning this year, we should expect a much better season in 2010. The five seniors in the starting defense will become the leaders of a team that can very well breeze through the top the ACC.
17. LSU Tigers
Les Miles will have to figure out how to beef up the offensive line to break holes for new starting running backs Stevan Ridley, Richard Murphy and Russell Shepard. If the offensive line can protect quarterback Jordan Jefferson, LSU could find its way back atop the race for the SEC crown.
Defensively, the secondary remains one of the strongest ones in the country. Cornerback Patrick Peterson returns as the team’s only All-Conference player. The defense will be in good shape as they don’t feature any seniors in their starting lineup, but are hoping that the new faces can keep up with the rest of the conference.
18. Arkansas Razorbacks
The Razorbacks ranked last in pass defense and it will be the biggest question the team faces entering the 2010 season. The team has more than enough players to fill in to improve the defense. But if they can’t find the right players, it could make it difficult for their top scoring offense to keep pace.
The offense features a very talented quarterback in Ryan Mallett and returning starters at the wide receiver position. Given the experience of the offense, we should expect the Arkansas offense to be one of the better ones in the league. If Bobby Petrino can find a defense that compliments the high-octane offense, Arkansas will be turning heads down the stretch.
19. Miami Hurricanes
One of the most successful programs in the country looks to become a mainstay in the polls this season. Quarterback Jacory Harris becomes the leader of the offense that the Hurricanes haven’t had in a long while. The starting wide receivers return to provide the offense a huge aerial boost. If the offensive line can stay consistent and provide protection, the Hurricanes can pass their way to the Top 20 spot.
The defense returns nine starters and provides tremendous depth at the defensive line. Senior defensive end Allen Bailey leads a defense that can add tremendous pressure with the pass rush. The Hurricanes will make a strong presence to the polls if they are able to get by the likes of Ohio State and Pittsburgh in September.
20. Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles move on without Bobby Bowden but still remain as a legitimate contender. The team returns all starters from last season and it will provide a smooth transition to new head coach Jimbo Fisher. Running backs Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomas will provide a solid 1-2 punch for the offense.
On defense, they return six starters but still have a lot of question marks. Coach Jones will have to hope that the team can get back on track and help provide relief for the team’s very explosive offense.
21. Georgia Bulldogs
Freshman Aaron Murray looks to be the team’s starting quarterback entering the season. He will be blessed to have the entire starting offense return for the 2010 season. The offensive line is one of the strongest in college football, which will provide Murray a solid running game (with a tremendous depth chart at the position) and pocket protection to hit either of his talented wide receivers in Tavarres King and AJ Green.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive tackle positions will have to be evaluated with new starters entering the mix. Defensive end Justin Houston returns as the team’s only All-Conference player on a defense that looks to improve on their 90th ranked pass efficiency.
22. Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers have been knocking on the door of becoming a big name team in college football.
Returning most of the offensive line, brothers Jacquizz Rodgers (running back) and James Rogers (wide receiver) play at a national spotlight level and could very well propel Oregon to a major bowl game towards the end of the season. Can quarterback Ryan Katz lead the team’s offense in his first year as the starter?
The struggling secondary will be the biggest concern for this Oregon State team. If the secondary, despite having four returning starters, can improve on their mediocre pass protection from a season ago, Oregon State could be close to challenging Oregon for the Pac-10 title.
23. North Carolina Tar Heels
The defense of the Tar Heels could be one of the best in the ACC. Despite being one of the sleeper picks to crack the Top 25, UNC have a load of returning starters on defense that should give the team the presence it needs to make that leap into the Top 25.
Despite having all starters return on offense, they need to improve on their passing attack. Quarterback TJ Yates is filled with talent receivers but if he struggles in getting them the ball, the team might be in for a long season. The running game features three tailbacks in their senior season; all of which could be pressured to relieve a struggling passing attack.
24. West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia enters the season with a new starting quarterback in either Geno Smith or Coley White. Fortunately, the running attack of Noel Devine, Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin should provide a lot of help for the Mountaineers. Also, the team is returning key starters from their offensive line.
There shouldn’t be too much worry about the defensive line as defensive tackles Scooter Berry and Chris Neild anchor a solid line. Senior linebackers Pat Lazear and JT Thomas will also be leaders of a defense that may not be one of the best in the country, but can still provide solid pressure to the opposition.
25. Auburn Tigers
Auburn could cause a stir in the SEC. The offense returns with key starters to the line and more importantly, a good recruiting class could make the Tigers a team to watch out for. Onteno McCalebb will become the team’s feature back after the NFL departure of Ben Tate. Expect returning starters wide receivers Kodi Burns and Darvin Adams to be major contributors to the passing game.
The defense returns eight senior starters that provide experience to an Auburn team that looks to no longer be under the radar. Head coach Gene Chizik will have to find a way to get the most out of these experienced players and improve on their 8-win 2009 season.