College Football: Way Too Early 2011 Top 25 Rankings

Nathan LoweryCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2011

College Football: Way Too Early 2011 Top 25 Rankings

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    The 2010 NCAA football season has ended. Auburn made an incredible title run with Cam Newton beating the Ducks of Oregon in the title game, 22-19.

    How will they fare in 2011, however?

    Let's take a look at a way too early preseason Top 25. Will there be any BCS busters or disappointing teams like the Longhorns? Only time can tell.

    NOTE: USC is not a part of this list due to its two-year probation.

25. Arizona State Sun Devils

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    The Sun Devils went on an improbable run in 2010 with a near upset victory against Wisconsin, scoring 31 on Oregon and an upset over in-state rival Arizona.

    The Sun Devils are returning many starters, and the only real question mark is at quarterback—and that's because of a QB competition with juniors Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler. Their main test to get to the Pac-12 Championship Game is a game against USC in Phoenix and a game at Utah.

    Non-conference games include home games against UC Davis and Missouri, the latter being a tough game, and a game at rising Illinois.

    Be prepared for Arizona State to be a tough team next year.

24. Baylor Bears

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    Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Robert Griffin III, expect the Bears to have a good season.

    They lose top rusher Jay Finley, but Griffin, a junior, is a dual-threat quarterback that can carry the load well.

    Baylor's schedule features a home game against TCU and away games at Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. That's a pretty good schedule.

    Baylor could have a 10-win season in store in 2011.

23. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Dan Mullen got the Bulldogs to break through in the SEC. He's taking a 9-4 team, including a 52-14 bowl win over Michigan, into 2011 with lots of potential.

    The loss of Derek Sherrod and Pernell McPhee will hurt the Bulldogs in 2011. Returning seven starters on both sides of the ball will help.

    The main thing for the Bulldogs is to replenish their offensive line and linebackers.

    Chris Relf will have to improve as a passer to lead Mississippi State to great things in 2011, especially with a tough schedule.

22. Texas Longhorns

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    2010 was a huge disappointment for the Longhorns. Just a year after making the BCS National Championship Game, the Longhorns went 5-7 and didn't make it to a bowl game.

    Mack Brown has decided that bringing in successful coordinators will win the Longhorns games. The loss of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will definitely hurt.

    The key to success for the Longhorns is junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert will have to improve as a passer for the Longhorns to make it to a bowl game in 2011.

21. Virginia Tech Hokies

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    The Hokies are losing most of their skill players, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. Replacing those three is going to be tough for West Virginia.

    Frank Beamer is a great coach though. He will bring the Hokies on a rebound after a disappointing loss to Stanford in the Orange Bowl.

    Bringing back four starters on the offensive line will make Beamer ball that much easier.

    An easy schedule will also give the Hokies something to believe in for 2011.

20. Florida Gators

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    Like the Longhorns, Florida also had a bad year.

    Urban Meyer has left, and Will Muschamp is in. Muschamp, one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation, will give Florida a stingy defense, leaving the Gators pretty much set on that side of the ball. The offense is a different story.

    Charlie Weis was brought in as offensive coordinator to put in a pro-style offense instead of the spread that Meyer ran. That will provide useful to John Brantley, who is a pro-style passer.

    With an easy schedule that really only has major challenges against Alabama in the Swamp and games at South Carolina and LSU, Florida should put in a 10 win season. If Florida can beat South Carolina, expect to see them in a BCS bowl.

19. Missouri Tigers

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    The Tigers went 3-3 in their final six games to end the sked.

    The enter the season without starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert. If Gabbert had returned, the Tigers would be a top seven team. Instead they have an X-factor at quarterback.

    With 10 starters on offense and seven on defense returning, Missouri has a good chance to go somewhere this season. A tough road schedule could prove costly for the Tigers, however.

18. Auburn Tigers

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    If Cam Newton leaves for the NFL like he is expected to, don't expect to see the 2010 Auburn Tigers in 2011.

    Losing Newton, the offensive line and Nick Fairley will definitely hurt the Tigers.

    Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb become the new leaders of the team and should get around 2,200 yards together.

    A tough road schedule doesn't help the Tigers either.

17. TCU Horned Frogs

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    Now we get to see if TCU can be a serious program. Losses of six starters on defense and the loss of Andy Dalton and his receivers will hurt the Horned Frogs.

    If TCU can beat Baylor in the season opener, expect to see a good Horned Frogs team. Boise State coming in also will prove to be a huge test for the Horned Frogs.

    We'll see if Gary Patterson can coach a program now.

16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Losing Dayne Crist's best targets will put the Irish in a hole. A tough schedule does the same. Road games at Michigan, Stanford and Pittsburgh will be good tests for the Irish, but tough ones. Home games against Michigan State and USC will do the same.

    If the defense can step up and the receivers do their job, the Irish should win at least eight games this year.

15. Michigan State Spartans

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    A tough schedule will bring down the Spartans in 2011.

    A four-game stretch at Ohio State, home against Michigan and Wisconsin and then at Nebraska will wear out the Spartans.

    With Mark Dantonio having to replace his key players on defense, the Spartans need to work hard in the spring to be able to beat Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

    QB Kirk Cousins and RBs Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell will have to lead the offense and play complete games every game for the Spartans to have a season like last year.

14. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    The Cornhuskers have three tough road tests in store for them. Heading to Camp Randall to face the Badgers will be no easy task. The other two games, Michigan and Penn State, Nebraska should win. If they can beat Ohio State in Memorial Stadium, expect a Big Ten championship for the Huskers.

    A home game against Washington will be a huge test as well. If we see the Nebraska that played the Huskies during the regular season, expect a good year.

    Losing Roy Helu Jr., Niles Paul, Prince Amukamara and Eric Hagg will prove costly for the Huskers, but the return of Jared Crick will be huge for them.

    If sophomore Taylor Martinez can develop as a better passer, Nebraska is in store for some good things this year. The Huskers should also develop backup quarterback Cody Green in case we see the Taylor Martinez from the Holiday Bowl.

13. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    With the Buckeyes losing their top five players for the first five games, Ohio State will struggle this season.

    The game against Michigan State in the Horseshoe will prove to be the crossroads for the Buckeyes season. It's the last game before the Tat 5 come back from their suspension. That game will decide the Buckeyes' season.

    Losing their key players on defense will also hurt them, along with a game at Nebraska.

12. Wisconsin Badgers

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    With two members of the three-headed monster returning, Wisconsin should be primed for another season. However, the Badgers lose QB Scott Tolzien, TE Lance Kendricks, DE J.J. Watt and O-linemen Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt.

    For the Badgers to win, they need both lines to be replenished and the QB to make few mistakes.

    Road games at Ohio State and Michigan State and a home game against Nebraska will decide the Badgers' season.

11. Texas A&M Aggies

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    An easy schedule, save for a game at Oklahoma and a game in Arlington against Arkansas, sets up the Aggies for a great season.

    If Ryan Tannehill and the defense play with as few mistakes as possible, the Aggies could challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. Running back Cyrus Gray is a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

    Replacing Von Miller is the only real task for the Aggies this season.

10. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    The loss of Ryan Mallett will definitely hurt the Razorbacks, but with an experienced team, Bobby Petrino could lead his team to an SEC title.

    QB Tyler Wilson played well in a backup spot and should put up good numbers. Knile Davis should break 1,300 yards this year and have a 10-TD season. And save for TE D.J. Williams, the Razorbacks don't lose many receivers.

    The defense also returns eight men.

    A game at Alabama and LSU plus rival Texas A&M in Arlington will put the Razorbacks to the test.

9. Stanford Cardinal

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    Losing Jim Harbaugh and Owen Marecic will hurt the Cardinal in 2011. Andrew Luck returning still saved them.

    An easy schedule, save for at USC and a home game against Oregon, means Stanford should have a good season. If they beat Oregon and USC, don't be surprised if Luck leads them to the championship game.

8. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    An offense that features senior Stephen Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery is reason to be afraid if you play South Carolina.

    Losing two D-linemen and two linebackers will hurt the Gamecocks, but not too much.

    With only two challenging games, at Arkansas and home for Florida, South Carolina has the schedule to do something great this year.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Returning most of the offense, save Kendall Hunter and offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, the Cowboys could have another good season.

    The loss of Holgorsen will be the one thing besides a game against Oklahoma that will bring the Cowboys down.

    Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon will continue to play well, and an experienced defense will also help.

6. Florida State Seminoles

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    With quarterback E.J. Manuel already having starting experience, the Seminoles really aren't losing a whole lot this year.

    Yes, Christian Ponder will be missed, but I personally think that Manuel is better. He's another Charlie Ward for the Seminoles, and playing in Jimbo Fisher's offense will help.

    An all-around experienced and deep team, the Seminoles are a shoo-in for an ACC title this year.

5. Boise State Broncos

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    The Boise State Broncos missed out on a huge opportunity next year, just like those two field goals against Nevada.

    The loss of the top two receivers and the move to the MWC will apply more pressure on the Broncos and make this season a lot harder.

    Having a quarterback like Kellen Moore will help.

4. LSU Tigers

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    If LSU wants to make a good run this season, Jordan Jefferson will have to play a lot better. His inconsistency and inaccuracy have hampered his potential.

    An experienced squad will give him a huge opportunity to succeed, however.

    A tough schedule will not make life easy for the Mad Hatter and the Tigers. A game in Arlington against Oregon as an opener will decide if LSU can make it somewhere this season. Games at Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi State won't help either. Being at home against Arkansas will, however.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    The losses of Marcell Dareus, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones aren't a big deal for Alabama. The loss of Gregg McElroy is. Trent Richardson and an experienced defense can replace all of those guys except McElroy.

    Sophomore Phillip Sims and A.J. McCarron will battle for the starting spot. Whoever wins it will have to play well for 'Bama to revive its title hopes.

    With a tough road test at Florida, 'Bama has the chance to play for another national championship if the quarterback plays well.

2. Oregon Ducks

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    Oregon's offense will be just as good next year as it was this year. With the only losses coming to three members of the O-line and receiver Jeff Maehl, Oregon will play the same on offense.

    While they lose most of their front seven, Oregon shouldn't be as tough on defense, but they are still experienced. CB Cliff Harris should also play well.

    Oregon has also done well in recruiting and should win a Pac-12 title.

    The schedule isn't the easiest in the world, however. An opener in Dallas against LSU will be a tough road test for the Ducks. A game against Nevada in Oregon shouldn't be taken lightly; same with a game in Palo Alto against Andrew Luck and the Cardinal.

1. Oklahoma Sooners

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    And Oklahoma will start the year No. 1. With most of the offense and defense returning, save DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma will have an offense that will rival Oregon's.

    Landry Jones is one of the best QBs in the nation, and Ryan Broyles returning will make him even better. If Oklahoma can get a sufficient ground game, look for a great team this year from Norman.

    Two key road games are in wait for the Sooners, though, at Oklahoma State and at Florida State—two Top 10 teams.

BCS Bowl Game Predictions

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    Orange: Florida State 31, LSU 26

    Rose: Nebraska 38, Boise State 31

    Sugar: Alabama 27, Pittsburgh- 14

    Fiesta: Oklahoma State 34, South Carolina 38

    BCS National Championship Game: Oregon 34, Oklahoma 29