College Football 2011: 10 Teams the Top 25 Voters Got Wrong
Yes, it's very early to be talking about college football rankings for the 2011 season. With recruiting still being finalized, new coaches settling in with new players, and spring practice yet to begin, most voting bodies like the AP and the Coaches haven't even thought about making a poll.
The further away from the season we are, the more error there is in trying to predict rankings. Making polls in early spring when the season starts in late August is sure to be a mistake-filled process.
Some football-starved folks out there on the Internet have compiled their rankings, however, and we get to benefit from their eagerness.
Using the About.com Top 25, here are 10 teams that are wrongly placed heading into 2011.
No. 2: Stanford Cardinal
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Yes, Stanford got Lucky again. Yes, the Cardinal are coming off a 12-1 season capped off with the school's first ever BCS win in the Orange Bowl. These are reasons for monumental optimism in Palo Alto, but there is one major reason for concern.
Jim Harbaugh isn't the coach anymore.
Let's rewind to 2006 when Harbaugh took the job. The Stanford program was coming off a five-year stretch when the team accomplished a 16-40 record overall and a 10-31 Pac-10 record. Only once in those five years did the team finish better than eighth in conference.
The team was terrible when Harbaugh came in, and his 4-8 and 5-7 seasons showed it. However, the rise to the summit that we saw this year was rapid, as Harbaugh got the team to 8-5, then 12-1, in just two years.
What this tells me is that Harbaugh was the most important ingredient in the Stanford success, not better recruits, confidence, national attention, or even Andrew Luck. This was Jim Harbaugh's team, and they are going to suffer without him.
Verdict: too high at No. 2
No. 18 Auburn Tigers
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The National Champion Auburn Tigers lose their two most notable players to the NFL: Heisman winner Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
However, Gene Chizik's incoming recruiting class is loaded, ranked at No. 3 in the nation by ESPN. Included in that class are Gabe Wright, the No. 2 defensive tackle in the class, and No. 2 QB Kiehl Frazier.
Obviously there will be a dip in performance for this group after losing possible the best player in the country on both sides of the ball, but there's too much talent already in place and coming in for them to fall this low.
Verdict: too low at No. 18
No. 7 Boise State Broncos
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It was a real shame that we didn't get to see Kellen Moore and the Broncos play in a BCS game after the new year, but one loss in the WAC will ruin your day and your season.
Boise State is moving into the Mountain West with their team largely intact. Moore, the Heisman finalist, returns for his senior season, as does tailback Doug Martin. They lose star receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young to graduation, but any three-star receiver worth his rating can thrive in this offense.
I think Boise is headed for an undefeated season in the new Mountain West. The competition on the MWC is a step up from the WAC, but conference powers BYU and Utah are both out in 2011, paving the way for Boise to step right into success.
A BCS bid will most likely be on the line when TCU visits Boise's smurf turf (still to be scheduled). I think Boise will be every bit as good as in 2010 and will snag another BCS bid after losing out last year.
Verdict: too low at No. 7
No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks
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It's hard to justify putting Spurrier's bunch this high, even with the great year they had in 2010. The Gamecocks won the rugged SEC East, but got throttled by Auburn for the automatic BCS bid. At the moment when their hype could be realized, the justification if their stellar season, they flopped by a score of 56-17.
They weren't ready to make the leap to elite in the SEC then, and after just a decent haul in recruiting, they won't be ready for the lofty ranking next year, either.
Verdict: too high at No. 8
No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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Say it out loud: Notre Dame is a top 10 team.
I don't think there are any good reasons for Notre Dame to be ranked at all, let alone this high. They always have the talent to compete with the nation's best, but that talent never rises to the surface in ways that make the team better. Last season's 8-5 team showed glimpses, but until they consistently beat good teams, there's no reason to overrate them.
I'm going against the grain and tempering the wins against Utah, USC, and Miami with the losses to Tulsa, Navy, and Michigan. Brian Kelly brings in a top 10 recruiting class, but there aren't any players that are more talented than the ones he already has.
Verdict: too high at No. 9
No. 10 Missouri Tigers
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Missouri had a great year under Gary Pinkel, playing their way into the top 10 for a week after starting the season unranked. That's a big accomplishment, especially in the Big XII Conference.
However, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a major reason for the success, has left for the NFL, leaving sophomore James Franklin to take the reins with high expectations.
I think Mizzou takes a step backward this year, in part because of their sub-par recruiting class.
Verdict: too high at No. 10
No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers
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The Badgers quietly shared the Big Ten title with Ohio State and Michigan State and earned a Rose Bowl bid. They were ranked in the top seven for most of the season while anyone hardly recognized they even existed.
They lost to TCU in a great Rose Bowl game, 21-19, which was disappointing. However, there are plenty of reasons for Bret Bielema to smile in Madison.
Leading rushers Montee Ball and James White return to anchor the bread and butter pounding run attack that Wisconsin loves, and only a few defensive impact players are leaving.
Wisconsin is always underrated and usually outplays the rankings they garner early in the season while getting stronger and stronger. I'm going with the trend on this one:
Verdict: too low at No. 11
No. 12 Nebraska Cornhuskers
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You can probably tell which way this one is going.
Nebraska crashed and burned across the finish line last season, which was capped off by an atrocious performance in San Diego at the Holiday Bowl where they were dominated by Washington.
Overall, they lost three of their last four games after starting 9-1 and hanging around the top 10. The lofty ranking and blowout wins in the Big 12 do not tell the whole story.
The Big 12 was sneakily bad in 2010, with only four really good teams. Texas was terrible. Kansas was the worst they've been in five years. Texas Tech sputtered after firing Mike Leach.
This team showed its true colors down the stretch in losses to Texas A & M and Oklahoma in games against actual good teams in conference.
Next year, things don't get easier in the Big Ten, as some think, but harder. Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State are all reloading, and the Huskers could be caught by surprise at the competition level in their new surroundings.
Verdict: too high at No. 12
No. 15 Texas A&M Aggies
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The Aggies sort of flew under the radar last year and didn't jump into the polls until mid-November after an impressive victory against Oklahoma in College Station.
Mike Sherman's team took awhile to get in gear after three straight losses a month into the season that included narrow losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas, both away from home.
Before a bowl loss to LSU, A&M ran off six straight wins, two over top 10 teams in the Big XII, showing everyone that they were on the rise.
Stud back Cyrus Gray and QB Ryan Tannehill return, both of whom have the look of stardom in 2011. In a conference that loses Nebraska, the competition thins out just a little bit, potentially letting this team leap to contender status.
Either they're properly rated or flying under the radar again this year.
Verdict: too low at #15
No. 20 Florida State Seminoles
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Don't let the 9-4 record fool you: the Noles are going to be nasty again, and soon.
Jimbo Fisher's first year at the helm was up-and-down, but ended in success with a statement win over South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Instead of an aberration, I think it is an indicator of things to come for next season.
Fisher pulled the consensus No. 1 recruiting class for 2011, which is loaded with top players at skill positions. In an ACC that is spread pretty thin, FSU should make their move back to the top to challenge Virginia Tech for a BCS bid.
Don't be surprised to see Florida State blow you away with their talent level on the field and their rise up the top 25 in 2011.
Verdict: too low at No. 20