College Football Coaches' Poll 2010: Can Alabama, Ohio State Stay 1-2?
The USA Today Preseason Coaches' Poll was released this morning with the unsurprising news that Alabama and Ohio State were respectively ranked the top two teams in the country.
Alabama, the defending national champions, and Ohio State, a heavy favorite to get to Glendale in January, are in the driver's seat for a championship game berth. Win out from Week 1 on and there is nothing any other team in the country can do.
But will the top two teams remain in their respective perches the entire season? What five games could spoil the season for Alabama and/or Ohio State?
Nothing says spoiler like a good ole rivalry game. No, Tennessee isn't Alabama's chief rival but this game comes at the end of a very tough stretch for the Crimson Tide.
After four straight games against quality conference competition, the Tide travel to Knoxville for what will be the first truly big game of Derek Dooley's tenure in orange.
However, there is a lot of turnover going on in Knoxville and it isn't just at the head coaching position. The Volunteers lost all the starters on their offensive line and their stout defense will simply not be the same without Monte Kiffin or All-American safety Eric Berry.
Plus, the Vols are breaking in new quarterback Matt Simms (son of Phil).
The prospects are daunting for the Volunteers, but don't put down a rivalry game on the road.
4. LSU Tigers
The Saban Bowl moves to Baton Rouge this season, but the good news for Alabama is that it comes off a bye week after a bruising run of games.
Unfortunately for LSU, it's success will be measured heavily compared to Alabama. There is no way to put that notion to rest than taking down the defending champions on their own turf.
The Tide won last year's matchup 24-15 and will look to repeat that decision by using its veteran offense against the still develop Tigers defense. However, the defending champions walking into Death Valley is no walk in the park. The Tigers will be ready (or at least should be) to score the upset.
Auburn was in the driver's seat of the Iron Bowl until the last two matchups. Alabama has landed two wins in a row over Auburn including last year's tight 26-21 victory in Auburn. Now, the Tigers must go to Tuscaloosa where they walked out with a 36-0 horsewhipping the last time the trip was made.
Tigers fans have to hope that new Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton will find his rhythm by the end of the season and Onterio McCalebb can lead a grinding Auburn running attack through the teeth of a new Alabama defense.
Auburn was 7-4 when they nearly took down an 11-0 Alabama team last year. Auburn should be better than 7-4 this year, but can they break the brief Iron Bowl losing streak and wreck Alabama's back-to-back bid?
Alabama and Florida tangle in a regular season matchup for the first time since 2006 when the Gators visit Tuscaloosa on October 2.
The Tide could get Florida at the right time. New Gators quarterback John Brantley will have just four games under his belt, three at home, before the two sides matchup in what could be a preview of the SEC Championship Game.
However, this is still a Florida team with talent all over the field and a stiff defense that could slow the Alabama offense. Similarly, Brantley may catch the new Alabama defense at the right time possibly early enough before the unit has a chance to gel.
But the x-factor is that the Alabama players remember their 32-13 smacking of Florida in last year's conference title game. The team and the fans will feed off of that momentum.
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This early SEC West matchup could end up deciding the division when all is said and done. Alabama will travel to Fayetteville to take on a Razorbacks team led by one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and a potentially explosive offense.
It will be the second of two straight road games for the Crimson Tide which will need their turned over defense to get in gear again Ryan Mallett and company. One of the biggest SEC games happens right in Week 4 and could determine the path of both teams' seasons.
Why not? Throw Michigan a bone despite having to go to Columbus to take on a very veteran Buckeyes team that has turned beating Michigan into an annual event.
Maybe 2010 will treat Michigan better. Maybe Tate Forcier will lead the Wolverines to a bowl game and turn around the fortunes in Ann Arbor.
The Ohio State-Michigan is a chance for the underdog to salvage its season. Michigan will surely be underdog this November. Could the Wolverines potential save their season and wreck Ohio State's chance at a ticket to Glendale?
4. Penn State
Penn State and Ohio State have played a number of big, big games in recent years. In 2010, a somewhat rebuilding Penn State team travels to Columbus for a mid-November matchup. The two sides played a virtual playoff game last year in Happy Valley and could be at it again this year.
Quarterback play for Penn State will be a pivotal piece in this game as the Buckeyes defense will be ready for Evan Royster who will carry the load of the Nittany Lions offense this year. Ohio State travels to Iowa the week after this game. This could be a shot for Penn State to catch the Buckeyes looking ahead.
This is a matchup more than seven years in the making. Ohio State fans want to pummel the Hurricanes. Hurricanes fans want some measure of revenge for the way the 2003 Fiesta Bowl ended. The two sides matchup in the second week of the season with the very real possibility of both team's postseason goals on the line.
Ohio State could possibly survive and early season non-conference loss and get to Glendale, but chances are it is not likely. Miami wants to prove it is on the way up and a win in the Horseshoe will go a long way in showing that.
This should be a great game with talent all over the field on both sides of the ball.
At Wisconsin. At night. That combination has not been terribly friendly to the Buckeyes in recent years, but Ohio State did grab a late, come-from-behind victory over the Badgers in Madison, at night, with freshman Terrelle Pryor in 2008.
The Badgers want to be taken seriously as Big Ten contenders. They have a senior quarterback in Scott Tolzien and a junior All-Big Ten running back in John Clay.
The Badgers defense will need to step up and find a way to slow Terrelle Pryor and keep the Buckeyes running attack under 150 yards (which Tressel will surely try to exceed). This is the biggest game of the year for the Badgers which get the Buckeyes in perhaps their worst environment.
Just like last year, Ohio State and Iowa square off in what could amount to a defacto Big Ten championship game. It may also determine if either team will earn a spot in the national championship game.
This time, however, the Hawkeyes welcome the Buckeyes to Iowa City in one of the biggest games of the regular season should the teams hold chalk.
Both teams have very stout defenses and offensive lines, but the game could come down to which team can handle the other's quarterback play more. This game projects as one of the biggest in Kirk Ferentz's tenure. Both sides want this game BADLY.
Get yer popcorn ready.