The 2011 college football season may be several grueling months away, but it is never too early to eagerly look towards the season that looms ahead.
Several websites have already published early-bird rankings for next season’s Top 25. Depending on how attached you were to a team’s showing last season or how quickly you want to forget last year’s performance and move forward, you are either buying or selling the locations that these college football experts are predicting.
Let’s pick apart ESPN’s Mark Schlabach preseason Top 25 and buy or sell the teams he thinks will make the polls when they are published later this year.
Oklahoma returns 17 starting players, with its biggest loss coming from the graduation of running back DeMarco Murrary.
Despite this, the Sooners return the accurate arm of Landry Jones and a stout defense, which should be enough to keep this talented team in the hunt for a national championship for most of the 2011 season.
Alabama’s defense alone is worth the price to buy this placement for the time being.
The Tide’s only real question mark entering the season is at quarterback. A.J. McCarron is slated to take over for the departed Greg McElroy on the depth chart, but this could easily change before the start of the spring game.
While the loss of Christian Ponder has some people concerned, a powerful running game should carry Florida State for most of the next season.
Although the Seminoles secondary is impressive, a turnover in linebackers could expose a weakness up the middle, which might be a problem in the prominently running conference of the ACC.
This ranking seems a little high to buy FSU at.
LSU is laced with a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, returning nine players on offense and seven players on defense.
The Tigers passing game definitely showed promise after their bowl game and their passing defense is considered by many to be tops in the league. This combination could prove to be deadly in 2011.
Although Oregon does return the core of their explosive offense, its defense only returns five starters and could be exposed to some turbulent waters early.
While Darron Thomas and LaMichael James should keep these Ducks afloat, they could easily drop out of the top 5 after their encounter with LSU to open the season and a few inconspicuous conference games to round out the first month of play.
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The suspension of five players to begin the season has to bring up some worrisome feelings no matter how confident you might be with the Buckeyes.
Ohio State should continue to do damage in the new Big Ten, but because of the early season turmoil, they might be a hard buy to kick off the season.
Andrew Luck’s decision to return definitely gives this offense a great deal of legitimacy entering the 2011 season. The Cardinal’s offense should continue to fly high even with the departure of Jim Harbaugh.
Despite a few losses, Stanford’s defense should also keep up the tempo, especially with the return of Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas up the middle.
Buying stock in Boise State is almost as detrimental as buying stock in Yahoo.
While the Broncos have the potential to be awesome and in recent years have started off the year high on many rankings, they have a tendency to bring upon much criticism of their true worth and their weak schedule is always a cause for concern with unwarranted drops in rankings throughout the season.
Although TCU returns its stalwart running back Ed Wesley, the loss of precise passer Andy Dalton is a huge hit. If that wasn’t enough, TCU also finds several gaps on their offense line.
These losses raise several question marks about the Horned Frogs offense and buying them at this point could be a little risky.
The return of the deadly combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon as well eight other starters should be enough to make Oklahoma State a huge threat in 2011.
The Cowboys’ defense should raise a few concerns, though. Their secondary is a little shoddy and their front seven is faced with a rebuilding year.
The departure of Ryan Mallett should certainly raise red flags for those thinking about purchasing stock in Arkansas to start off the season.
While All Conference running back Knile Davis returns, a new quarterback and a questionable offensive line should strike fear into the heart of those rooting for the Razorbacks to come out of the gates strong.
Texas A&M returns 10 players from an explosive offense that made quite a bit of noise towards the end of last season. An audacious crew at running back and wide receiver should provide the Aggies with excellent odds of winning in almost every game on their schedule in 2011.
If there is one concern with the Aggies, it will be at linebacker. The shoes of Von Miller and Michael Hodges will need to be filled quickly.
The Badgers lose a little bit of their panache with the departure of John Clay and Scott Tolzien. Although their running game should not suffer completely thanks to James White, finding a replacement at quarterback could be a problem.
While their defense should still be suffocating this season, a turnover at the linebacker position inserts another question mark before the season starts.
The buzz around South Bend this offseason seems to be more intense than previous years.
With 19 starters returning, a strong finish under their new coach, and an excellent recruiting class to boot, the Irish could finally turn the corner in 2011.
Michael Floyd and the rest of the receiving crew should provide Dayne Crist with several options and the Irish defense is apparently on the rise as well. Notre Dame’s potential is seemingly through the roof and this could actually be the offseason to jump on the Golden Dome bandwagon.
Marcus Lattimore is just one of the many weapons that South Carolina returns this season. Included in that bunch, is quarterback Stephan Garcia, who finally proved to be the consistent passer fans desperately wanted.
As long as the Gamecocks can recover from several key losses on defense, they should be lurking in the Top 25 for most of the season.
Kirk Cousins proved to be a reliable quarterback for Michigan State in 2010 and with his top receivers returning in 2011, he should be able to create more ripples in the Big Ten.
Parlayed with Cousins is the return of tailback Edwin Baker. This one-two punch makes the Spartans a grade-A threat to be a mainstay on the Top 25.
Goodbye Cameron Newton, Nick Failey, and a handful of other contributors to their National Championship team.
These losses have to make you wonder if any type of repeat is at all a reasonable wish. It is hard to buy the Tigers without seeing how they react to these departures. They should be able to make some noise, but how quickly will be the question.
Georgia’s astute recruiting class catapulted them up Mark Schlabach’s rankings last week, but that alone doesn’t make me believe that they will be able to drastically improve from last year’s 6-7 record.
The loss of A.J. Green will take an undeniable effect on this squad and their defense isn’t exactly anything to write home about.
Although the Longhorns lose a chunk of their offensive line, the return of Garrett Gilbert and his entire receiving crew has to do something for this teams’ stock.
Last year’s struggles can’t last forever. A solid defense along with this maturing offense should do wonders for the fans in Austin.
It is always hard to predict how a team is going to react to a new coach. They could either rise to the occasion or sink to the nuances presented by the change.
Although Florida certainly has the talent to make a complete turnaround in 2011, it is going to take some time to convince people that they can recover from the loss of Urban Meyer.
Although Missouri’s strength lies with its wide receivers, figuring out which quarterback will be getting them the ball is still a mystery.
The Tigers return nine players on offense, but the absence of Blaine Gabbert has to make people wonder how potent this offense will be this upcoming season.
Frank Beamer’s ability to make something out of nothing is a good reason to buy Virginia Tech every single season.
The Hokies lose the precious talents of quarterback Tyrod Taylor and it is questionable just how this offense will rebound without him.
However, a soft non-conference schedule along with a rather timid conference slate could stack up to be an unassuming undefeated season for Virginia Tech.
Arizona State returns 20 starters from last season and this could be the year that the Sun Devils finally return to conference relevance.
Dennis Erickson’s squad played with gusto to wind down the 2010 season. If they can mimic these efforts right out of the gates, the Sun Devils could easily become a sleeper pick to take the first-ever Pac-12 South title.
It is easy to buy Nebraska on its defense alone. Jared Crick returns for his senior season and anchors a Cornhuskers defense that should create havoc in their first year in the Big Ten.
Although Nebraska’s offense might be slightly suspect, Taylor Martinez could make an even bigger splash in his second season with the Big Red if he can stay healthy.
Mississippi State’s offense returns eight players from a dangerous squad and brings back an established defensive line as well.
However, a rather tough schedule to start off the season could be a cause for concern. The Bulldogs square off against Auburn and LSU before the month of September is over, which seems highly detrimental to their Top 25 life.