Alabama and Ohio State enter 2010 as the clear favorites to meet in the National Championship in January, but Boise State, Florida, Texas, and Virginia Tech all are hoping for a shot at the title this year.
No. 1 Alabama
No. 1 Alabama returns its starting QB Greg McElroy and Heisman-winning RB Mark Ingram. Julio Jones, the Crimson Tide's star WR, is also returning. However, they lost a lot of defensive starters to graduation and the NFL, which is especially hard in the very competitive SEC.
Nick Saban has the talent to fill any vacated spots though. Penn State will probably challenge them at least early in their September 11 showdown in Tuscaloosa. Other games to watch are October 2 vs. Florida, November 6 at LSU, and November 26 vs. Auburn. All in all, I think Alabama should be very good this year. Look for them to win the SEC and meet Florida or Georgia in the Championship game.
Should be ranked: No. 1
Predicted Record: 12-0
No. 2 Ohio State
No. 2 ranked Ohio State also returns their starting QB and RBs. Terrelle Pryor was brilliant in his showing in the Rose Bowl, defeating Oregon soundly. One of the top ranked recruiting classes from two years ago should finally be ready to make a big impact in the Big Ten, as many of them are now sophomores (and some redshirted freshmen).
Jaamal Berry, Boom Herron, Jordan Hall, and Brandon Saine should all get some carries, a RB by committee instead of one undeniably starter. The defense loses five starters, but only one starter leaves the offense. Still, Jim Tressel has the talent to fill any gaps. If Pryor stays healthy, this team should be really good. Key games include September 11 vs. Miami, October 6 at Wisconsin, November 20 at Iowa, and November 27 at Michigan. Ohio State should win the Big Ten.
Should be ranked: No. 2
Predicted Record: 11-1 (A loss to either Miami, Wisconsin, or Michigan)
No. 3 Florida
No. 3 Florida has a gaping hole at QB, which used to be filled by Heisman-winning Tim Tebow for the past three-plus years but is now filled by John Brantley, a highly recruited Junior. Florida has six returning starters on both the defense and offense, all that remains of a team that made it to the SEC Championship game last year and beat Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.
The October 2 game at Alabama will be a deciding one for this young team. On October 9 they play LSU at home, have Georgia on October 30, and finish out the season November 27 at FSU. If UF can somehow beat Alabama and then Georgia, they could be in the national title game. FSU will be a tough last game though. Georgia will battle Florida for the best team in the SEC East.
Should be ranked: No. 4
Predicted Record: 11-1 (Losing to Alabama)
No. 4 Texas
No. 4 Texas is returning 13 starters from last year's national runner-up. However, they won't have star QB Colt McCoy this year. Garrett Gilbert will be the starting QB, despite limited playing time (he did play in the NCG when Colt McCoy was injured, however).
It's really a toss up right now between who's the better team, Florida or Texas. Only time will tell. Texas does have an easier schedule than Florida. October 2 vs. Oklahoma and October 16 at Nebraska should be the toughest games for Texas. If they get by those two, they'll win the Big 12 and be eyeing a NC appearance.
Should be ranked: No. 6
Predicted Record: 11-1 (Losing to Oklahoma or Nebraska)
No. 5 Boise State
No. 5 Boise State returns all 22 starters from an undefeated team, so they should be extremely good this year. Kellen Moore is one of the nation's most efficient QBs and some would argue one of the best, even though he is undersized. Chris Peterson is a great coach and BSU has sky high expectations this year. I think their dreams will be broken on September 6 when the Broncos face VT in a virtual home game for the Hokies.
Tyrod Taylor should do the Broncos in. If the Hokies don't get them, Boise State has a huge home game against Oregon State on September 26. I think BSU loses to VT and beats Oregon State.
Should be ranked: No. 8
Predicted Record: 11-1 (Loss to VT)
No. 6 Virginia Tech
No. 6 Virginia Tech only has four returning defensive starters, but they do have eight returning offensive starters, including star QB Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams, who should become a great RB. I think VT will beat Boise State on September 6 in DC. Facing Georgia Tech on November 4 should be a challenge but I think they can get past it. VT has Miami on November 20 and both teams could win that game. I think Miami and VT will compete for the ACC title.
Should be ranked: No. 3
Predicted Record: 12-0
No. 7 TCU
No. 7 TCU returns 16 starters from a one-loss team last year that had a stingy defense, which was one of the top in the nation. Andy Dalton is a solid QB. If they beat Oregon State on September 4, I think they'll go undefeated. Look for the Horned Frogs to win the MWC fairly easily.
Should be ranked: No. 7
Predicted Record: 12-0
No. 8 Oklahoma
No. 8 Oklahoma returns 14 starters, but loses Heisman-winning QB Sam Bradford. Demarco Murray will return at RB and Laundry Jones is an up-and-coming QB. Oklahoma faces FSU on September 11 for an interesting matchup. October 2 is the big game though, facing Texas in the Red River Shootout. The winner will most likely win the Big 12, and maybe even get to the NCG. I like the Sooners' chances to beat Texas, and Coach Bob Stoops seems ready to make up for last year's bad season.
Should be ranked: No. 5
Predicted Record: 12-0
No. 9 Nebraska
No. 9 Nebraska returns 17 starters from last year's Big 12 runner-up squad. They have Zac Lee returning at QB, but the Huskers' defense lost an important piece when Ndamukong Suh left. Still, Nebraska will have a very good defense. Will their offense hold up, though? September 18 at Washington will be an interesting game, facing Jake Locker, but I think Nebraska will win it. Texas at home on October 16 is a gigantic game for the Cornhuskers, but I think they lose.
Should be ranked: No. 9
Predicted Record: 11-1 (Loss to Texas)
No. 10 Iowa
No. 10 Iowa returns 14 starters from last year's surprisingly good team. If Ricky Stanzi stays healthy, this team should be good. They lost Bryan Bulaga on the O-Line, which will hurt them. October 16 at Michigan, October 23 vs. Wisconsin, and November 20 vs. Ohio State will be their toughest games.
Should be ranked: No. 14
Predicted Record: 9-3 (Losses to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State)
USA TODAY TOP 25
1 Alabama (55) 0-0 1469 2 Ohio State (4) 0-0 1392 3 Florida 0-0 1245 4 Texas 0-0 1240 5 Boise State 0-0 1215 6 Virginia Tech 0-0 1052 7 TCU 0-0 1051 8 Oklahoma 0-0 1035 9 Nebraska 0-0 1001 10 Iowa 0-0 952 11 Oregon 0-0 940 12 Wisconsin 0-0 778 13 Miami (FL) 0-0 728 14 Penn State 0-0 508 15 Pittsburgh 0-0 492 16 LSU 0-0 476 17 Georgia Tech 0-0 455 18 North Carolina 0-0 445 19 Arkansas 0-0 438 20 Florida State 0-0 374 21 Georgia 0-0 312 22 Oregon State 0-0 263 23 Auburn 0-0 260 24 Utah 0-0 169 24 West Virginia 0-0
MY TOP 25
2. Ohio State
3. Virginia Tech
8. Boise State
15. Penn State
21. Georgia Tech
23. Oregon State
Big Ten Champ: Ohio State
Big 12: Oklahoma
ACC: Virginia Tech or Miami
Big East: Pittsburgh
NCG: Alabama vs Virginia Tech
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs Oregon
Sugar Bowl: Boise State vs Pitt
Orange Bowl: Miami vs Florida
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs TCU
Heisman: Tyrod Taylor