Poor ol' Alabama.
They've been given the college football equivilent of the mafia kiss on the cheek—the kiss of death.
Because getting selected number one at the beginning of the season is kind of like getting on the Sports Illustrated cover, it makes it even harder to reach the holy grail of numero uno.
Not impossible. But most tougher.
But at least Bama has respect.
What about the Rodney Dangerfield's of college ball—the programs not getting any respect.
Here's a list of ten programs not on the current top 25, but who should be showing up in those ranks during the upcoming season.
I must be joking. They have not done much since Bill Cosby ran track for them back in the day.
The Owls have nine starters returning on offense, including MAC Freshman of the year running back Bernard Pierce, who tallied 1,361 yards on the ground.
They also have seven starters returning from a very solid defense that gave up only 107 yard per game on the ground.
So Temple, which finished 9-4 in 2009, is favored to win the MAC. They do that and finish with a bowl win for 10+ wins, and we could see a top twenty five finish for them thar Hoot Owls.
Mizzou has been a perenial underachiever. Talented squads have managed to fall short.
This year the Tigers return a whopping 18 starters,
They also have an out of conference squedule that is a complete, and I do mean complete, lay down.
A lousy Illinois. McNeese State. San Diego State. And Miami, Ohio. All at home.
So Mizzou can go .500 in the Big 12 and still rack up eight wins.
I expect a little better than that. And a sojourn in the top twenty five—until they choke their way out of it at the end.
It has been a long time since there has been joy up in the Pacific Northwest.
But things are turning around.
Last year, the Huskies managed to go 5-7. Fair, but no cigar.
This year, they have 20 starters returning.
Yep, 20. And a great quarterback with NFL written all over him named Jake Locker.
The Huskies start out with USC and BYU. Win both of those, and you're looking at top 20 for the boys from the land of Microsoft, microbrew and the double carmel machiattos.
June Jones has turned around a Pony program that had not seen success since the early 80's.
Thirteen freshman and sophmores gained game experience last year, so the Mustangs return a bunch of talent. Included is quaterback Kyle Padron, who was named starter half way through the season and led the team to a 5-1 finish and a bowl victory.
If SMU can get past Houston, they'll have the inside track for the Conference USA title. And a top 25 finish.
Only three Big Ten teams have won more games the last two seasons than Northwestern's 17—Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa. And the Wildcats look like they have the tools to continue that run.
The entire offensive line returns, along with a talented crew of recievers. If quarterback Dan Persa, who saw significant minutes as the number two last year, can step up than the Cats should be in the mix.
The schedule also helps, with OOC games against Vanderbilt, Rice and Central Michigan and a Big Ten schedule that does not include either Michigan or Ohio State.
Maybe the smarty pants of the Big Ten will be coming up Roses this year.
In 2009, the Middies finished 10-4, including an impressive 35-13 bowl victory over Big 12 Missouri.
And for 2010, they return the bulk of their triple option offense. The teams top six rushers, four of its top five recievers and three of its starting offensive linemen all return.
Leading this crew will be senior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who set an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 27 and became only the third Midshipman in history to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards in a season.
With a favorable schedule, another double digit season for Navy should be in the cards. Beat the Irish, and another top 25 season will also be in the cards.
The Aggies return 17 starters, including all everything quarterback Jerrod Johnson.
Their offense could score on just about everybody last year, as evidenced by hanging 30+ on the vaunted Longhorns.
Unfortunately, their D was putrid, finishing last in the Big 12. This year, however, a few things should help; nine starters return, with that extra year of experience and weight room training.
They are switching to a 3-4, which suits their personel much better.
And they have a new defensive coach, Timn DeRuter, who managed to take a slow and small Sir Force team and coax top tier performance out of them.
So whup, gig em, look for the Aggies to pop inot the rankings for the first tiem since the late 90's.
And if they can top Arkansas in their OOC match up at Jerry World...well, it could be a special season.
BC returns its starting quarterback, four offensive linemen, their tight end, a leading wide receiver, and their leading rusher from last year.
Montel Harris has broken the BC freshman and sophmore rushing records and returns as a junior. He garnered over 112 yards per game last year.
The big question mark is at quarterback, where Dave Shinskie underperformed in 2009. Experience counts, however, and expectations are that his performance will improve.
Defensively, the Eagles return a good amount of talent, especially at linebacker and on the defensive line. The secondary also looks solid, with part time starters Wes Davis and DeLeon Galuse ready to step in.
If BC's quarterback play improves, look for them to contend for the ACC title. I think this will happen, and expect to see the Eagles fly onto the top twenty in 2010.
The Huskies finished 8-5 last year, and could easily have won 10+ given that their losses were all close affairs.
They return 16 starters, including 4 out of 5 offensive linemen to power Randy Edsall's grind it out, smash mouth offense.
Add in a favorable schedule, with Michigan and four OOC cream puffs, and the Huskies look primed to make a run as this years Cincy.
As an added bonus, you can buy beer at their home stadium, since it is not located on campus. Awesome.
Any team that has Heisman candidate Case Keenum along with eight other starters is going to score some points. Lots and lots of points.
The question is, can they stop the other teams from getting into the end zone.
The Cougars were just horrible against the run last year..ranked 115th. They are hoping a change to a 3-4 can help them mitigate this.
Houston plays Texas State, and also has BCS foes Mississippi State, Texas Tech and UCLA. They run that, and get by Conference USA power East Carolina and they'll be looking at a ranking in the top twenty.
A mid season tilt with a resurgent SMU squad who also may be angling into the top twenty should also be very interesting.
If Houston runs it all can they be a BCS buster?