As spring practices begin, it seems like the official start of the 2011 college football season is just around the corner.
Fans, experts, students and dedicated followers are already predicting who will be in the preseason top 25 and who does not even deserve a shout out.
What is most intriguing about preseason predictions is how they are usually turned upside down within the first week of games.
Rankings and predictions are always disputed and argued over. So, what are your thoughts on this list?
Last year: 6-7 overall, 3-5 in the SEC; lost in the Liberty Bowl to UCF.
Their first losing season in over 20 years was one that called for a lot of change in Georgia.
The are currently ranked No. 6 in freshman recruiting, return 15 starters and are loaded with experienced and talented players ready to rebound from an off season.
Their easy road game schedule will help them as they look to return to being a threat in the SEC.
Last year: 9-4 overall, 4-4 in the SEC; won the Progressive Gator Bowl against Michigan.
A shockingly successful 2010 season may be possible again in 2011. They return eight offensive and seven defensive starters, including running back Vick Ballard and cornerback Corey Broomfield.
Their senior and junior leadership will help guide them, as they will hopefully be able to ride a momentum train that has been building into this year.
Although they lost many key players, many great players in the state of Mississippi have been choosing the Bulldogs as the team they want to play for.
They have a rough SEC schedule, but if they did it once, they can most certainly do it again.
Last season: 6-6 overall, 4-5 in the Pac-10; no Bowl game.
They are another team that can be considered a sleeper this season.
Although it won’t be easy to turn around a 6-6 record, they return over 20 starters who will be ready to improve.
In addition, they have depth and experienced leadership that will help them in their challenging games against Illinois, Utah, Oregon and Missouri.
Last season: 10-3 overall, 6-2 in the C-USA; won the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl against Hawaii.
Their impressive offensive power highlights this under-the-radar team.
They return 10 offensive starters and nine defensive, many of whom are upperclassmen.
They are a great dark horse candidate, but unfortunately have a rough 2011 schedule that includes games against Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
They may not make a BCS bowl, but they will definitely make noise this season.
Last season: 5-7 overall, 2-6 in the Big 12; no Bowl game.
Mack Brown’s first losing season at Texas called for a big change at its conclusion. He brought in many new coaches and a fifth-ranked recruiting class.
In addition, they will have upperclassman leadership and depth on both sides of the ball. It is also quarterback Gilbert Garrett's year to shine.
Their 14 returning starters will be able to take their previous disappointing season and learn from it.
Last year: 8-5 overall, 4-4 in the SEC; won the Outback Bowl against Penn State.
The Gators struggled last season in Urban Meyer’s final season with the team. But this year will be different, as they return eight offensive starters and five on defense.
If a lack of leadership was a downfall last year, it will be a positive this upcoming one. With 21 returning upperclassmen, there is no doubt that new head coach Will Muschamp’s first season will be a good one.
Four of their first five games are played in Gainesville, and if they start strong, they can hopefully stay consistent through the season and have a better finish than 2010.
Last year: 10-3 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12; lost the Insight Bowl to Iowa.
The Tigers sprung into the spotlight after upsetting top ranked Oklahoma, but struggled the rest of the season.
They had successful offensive and defensive units, much improved from 2009.
However, they lost their star quarterback Blaine Gabbert and defensive end Aldon Smith to the NFL. These concerns are helped by the return of nine offensive and six defensive starters, including 17 seniors overall.
Being ranked in the top 20 may seem like a lofty prediction with the holes they have to fill, but they have security in depth, experience, wide receivers and the defensive line.
Their road games against Arizona State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M are where they run into trouble.
Last year: 10-4 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12; lost the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl to Washington.
Nebraska looks to see if the grass is greener this season, as they move over to compete in the Big Ten.
After a dismal end to the 2010 season, they will have to hope they can keep up with the likes of their new conference foes.
They return six offensive starters and seven defensive starters, but will have questions to answer with wide receiver and offensive line. Offensively, they have only three seniors and lack depth in most positions.
It is crucial that quarterback Taylor Martinez steps up and thrives in this new environment. He will need to work extremely hard to keep his starting position and will also need to avoid drama.
The Cornhuskers bring in a 17th ranked recruitment class that will hopefully help this transition.
They also face a battle in their schedule, with home games against Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa, and road games at Wisconsin and Penn State.
However, they have many makings to become a top team in the country.
Last year: 14-0 overall, 8-0 in the SEC; won the BCS National Title.
The defending national champions return only eight starters (four on both offense and defense) and see the departure of their go-to guy, quarterback Cam Newton. They lose a handful of players on both sides of the ball that have many Auburn fans nervous for 2011.
Their third-ranked recruiting class will cushion the blow, as will the returning players who give Auburn talent, depth and experience.
Tailback Michael Dyer and cornerback Neiko Thorpe will be the stars on both sides of the ball that will have to step up and lead their team if they want to defend their SEC title.
Their road games at South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia will certainly test this rebuilding team.
Last year: 9-5 overall, 5-3 in the SEC; lost the Chick-Fil-A Bowl to Florida State.
Steve Spurrier’s team had an up-and-down season that can be described by wins against Georgia and Alabama, but also by losses to Auburn and Arkansas.
Luckily, they return 13 starters, including seven to a powerful offense. Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia got into a groove at the end of the season, and standout tailback Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jefferey make up a skilled offensive unit.
A 15th ranked recruiting class will hopefully answer some of the questions on defense, which will need a lot of replacing in the front seven. Five key defensive players departed, but left behind two juniors who were 2010 All-Conference Selections.
The Gamecocks also have a rough schedule that includes road games at Georgia and Arkansas and home games against Auburn and Florida.
*As of today, Stephen Garcia is suspended from the team indefinitely. This will undoubtedly affect the team, and if the suspension is upheld, they will drop down in the rankings.
Last year: 8-5 overall (IA Independent); won the Hyundai Sun Bowl against Miami (FL).
Despite starting the season 1-4, the Fighting Irish finished the season on a four-game winning streak, including a win over old rival Miami.
First season coach Brian Kelly also recruited a top 10 class that will combine with 10 returning starters on offense and nine on defense.
Despite having a relatively young team, they have talent and depth on both sides of the ball with wide receiver Michael Floyd and linebacker Manti Te’o.
Kelly will have a rough second season at Notre Dame, as he will have more questions to answer including ridding his team of inconsistency and injuries.
The Fighting Irish are always under a great deal of scrutiny, and 2011 will be no exception. They must stay out of the news for the wrong reasons and their positive public image will continue to build.
Last year: 10-3 overall, 6-2 in the SEC; lost the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.
Arkansas faces one of the toughest schedules by being in the brutal SEC west. Also included on their schedule is a game in Texas against Texas A&M and road games against Alabama and LSU.
They see the departure of star quarterback Ryan Mallet and five other key offensive players.
Luckily, the return of powerful running back Knile Davis and wide receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs will help quarterback Tyler Wilson step up and succeed. Their defense, which returns seven starters, had a very improved 2010 season and will continue to move up in 2011. It will be led by six seniors.
They were able to pull out impressive wins over South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU last year, and if they have a similar season, a trip back to a BCS bowl is definitely possible.
Last season: 11-2 overall, 7-1 in the Big Ten; lost the Rose Bowl against TCU.
The Badgers can thank their running back duo of James White and Montee Ball for their effective 2010 campaign that was highlighted by wins against Ohio State and Iowa.
However, there will be questions to answer on the defensive side of the ball, which although it has six returning starters, there is a sizable hole at linebacker. In addition, their passing game will need to recover from losing quarterback Scott Tolzien.
They have a relatively easy schedule, playing only four legitimate road games with the two against Ohio State, and Michigan State being the most difficult.
Although it will be challenging to mirror their 2010 success in 2011, it is very possible with what surprises usually come out of Madison.
Last season: 13-0 overall, 8-0 in the MWC; won the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.
The Horned Frogs always surprise us, but do it in a way unlike any other team.
In their last season in the Mountain West Conference before leaving for the Big East, they will face a tough game against Boise State. They also return only 10 starters (five on each side of the ball), and will have trouble filling the offensive voids left by departing stars like quarterback Andy Dalton and center Jake Kirkpatrick.
Luckily, they have experience and talent, and coaches that will make their winning traditions continue into the 2011 season.
Last season, they were ranked fourth in average points (41.6) and first in points against (12.0). If these numbers stay consistent, they will see themselves in another BCS bowl game.
Last season: 11-2 overall, 12-1 in the Big Ten; lost the Capital One Bowl to Alabama.
Despite getting blown out by Alabama in their bowl game, the Spartans had a very successful season highlighted by wins against Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State.
Their offense returns seven starters and seven seniors, including quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Edwin Baker. Their defensive line is also unforgiving, as it returns six starters, two of whom were 2010 All-Conference Selections.
Their biggest problems lie not only in a difficult four game stretch against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska, but in replacing seven key defensive players.
Their incoming freshman class is very promising, as many young linebackers will be seeing immediate playing time to replace Greg Jones and Eric Gordon.
Their successful 2010 season sets the scene for a successful 2011.
Last year: 12-1 overall, 7-1 in the WAC; won the Maaco Bowl against Utah.
Boise State could have very well been undefeated last year, and will be making a run at it again in 2011 as they transition into the Mountain West Conference.
They return a very effective offense with seven starters, including quarterback Kellen Moore and tailback Doug Martin. Their second-ranked defense also has seven starters, including four who were 2010 All-Conference Selections.
Although they are constantly picked on for having such a weak schedule, in 2011 they will play Georgia and TCU. Getting past these two teams will be a bit of a test, but if the Broncos continue to win like they always do, they will definitely see themselves in a BCS bowl at the end of the season.
Last season: 12-1 overall, 7-1 in the Big Ten; won the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.
The Buckeyes would be up higher if it weren’t for the suspensions that kill their offense, the trouble Jim Tressel recently got in and the fact that they only return a total of eight starters.
The five-game suspensions are handed to five senior playmakers, and include quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron and wide receiver Devier Posey.
Even if they can get past the suspensions and off-the-field drama, they have a lot of questions to answer defensively. Although the OSU defense is usually consistent no matter who is playing, it will still be rough to patch up the holes and move forward with inexperienced players.
Luckily, they have a favorable schedule that will probably allow them to win without the five suspended players and then eventually the Big Ten once again.
Last year: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12; won the Valero Alamo Bowl against Arizona.
This offensive juggernaut returns 10 starters, including quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Both are preseason Heisman contenders, and will lead a second-ranked passing offense and a 26th ranked rushing offense.
While their offense seems set for 2011, their defense is very questionable. They lose six key defensive starters in a defense that allowed an average of 26.4 PPG last year.
This defensive rebuilding phase may be cushioned by a 23rd ranked recruiting class, but will be tested with road games at Texas A&M, Texas and Missouri.
Last year: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC; won the AT&T Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M.
Despite key losses defensively, the Tigers still return seven starters. Overall, 16 starters return, including nine on offense.
Their secondary showed extreme promise, as it was the top-rated pass defense in the country last year.
Their wide receivers Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle also emerged as a gifted duo that will help cushion the questions they face at quarterback. With two possible quarterback candidates, head coach Les Miles will have to hope one will step up and save their 107th ranked pass offense.
With a 10th ranked recruiting class, hopefully the Tigers will prove critics wrong again like they did in 2010, find a passing game and excel in the SEC west.
The result of their opener against Oregon will dictate how the rest of the season plays out.
Last year: 10-4 overall, 6-2 in the ACC; won the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against South Carolina.
In his first year with FSU, head coach Jimbo Fisher guided his team to their first 10-win season since 2003. Their top-ranked recruiting class is also an accomplishment that will help them improve even more in 2011.
Although they lose senior leadership with quarterback Christian Ponder, they make up with offensive power in three star running backs. Their offense also returns eight starters, as does their defense. Their secondary is also strong, which will hopefully make up for a defense that is still recovering from an inconsistent 2010 season. The loss of starters Mister Alexander and Kendall Smith at linebacker also raise a cause for concern.
Luckily, the ACC is weak again.
Their first real test is at home against Oklahoma, who if they get by, will make them a serious title-game contender.
Last year: 9-4 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12; lost the AT&T Cotton Bowl to LSU.
After finishing the 2010 season on a six-game winning streak against top teams such as Oklahoma and Nebraska, it is no surprise that they have vaulted up the preseason rankings. They also return 10 players on offense and nine on defense, which gives them a well-balanced attack capable of stealing the Big 12 spotlight.
They are strong at quarterback (Ryan Tannehill), wide receiver (Jeff Fuller), and running back (Cyrus Gray), including a very improved defensive unit that will only need to replace two linebackers.
Their schedule is also favorable, as they only leave the state of Texas three times, and host Oklahoma State and University of Texas.
Last year: 10-3 overall, 5-3 in the SEC; won the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State.
Despite the loss of three of their best players to the NFL–wide receiver Julio Jones, running back Mark Ingram and defensive end Marcell Dareus–they will have a ton of talent across the board, both old and new, to make up for the losses.
Seven offensive starters, 10 defensive starters, and 22 players who at least made a start in 2010, return for great head coach Nick Saban.
The biggest question the Crimson Tide will have to answer is with their quarterback and replacing the effective Greg McElroy. This is where A.J. McCarron, or a player from their second-ranked recruiting class, will have to step in.
The SEC is always brutal, but their 2011 schedule is not as rough as it was in 2010.
Their depth chart and experience is another reason why Alabama will see themselves in the top five preseason.
Last year: 12-1 overall, 8-1 in the Pac-10; won the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.
Stanford only returns nine total starters (five on offense and four on defense) but the return of likely Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Andrew Luck is what helps put them in this preseason top five.
If they want to stay up top, then they must answer questions with their offensive line, which only had five sacks last season, and with their receiving unit, which lost its top two catchers.
One cannot forget to factor in the loss of head coach Jim Harbaugh to the pros. Hopefully the promotion of offensive coordinator David Shaw to head coach will keep the consistency going offensively.
Their 21st ranked recruiting class will hopefully replace the loss of three starting offensive lineman and seven defensive starters. Fortunately, they play seven home games, but run into trouble against Oregon in November.
Last year: 12-1 overall, 9-0 in the Pac-10; lost the BCS title game to Auburn, 22-19.
The Ducks return seven offensive starters and five defensive starters, including a powerful offense led by quarterback Darren Thomas and tailback LaMichael James, who had over 50 touchdowns combined last season.
Their fast-paced offense and 14th ranked recruiting class will hopefully cushion the loss of six key defensive players, including five starters in the defensive front line.
If they can get past LSU in their opener in Arlington, TX, then they will have a great shot at returning to the title game.
Last year: 12-2 overall, 6-3 in the Big 12; won the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Connecticut.
With nine returning starters on offense, eight on defense and 29 overall who have started a game, they will have a well-balanced attack on both sides of the ball. They also return a total of five 2010 All-Conference Selections.
They also had a very impressive recruiting class, which is ranked 11th by ESPN.
The key question they will have to answer is replacing the loss of running back DeMarco Murray, who had 257 rushing attempts and 69 receptions. To make up for his offensive productivity, the Sooners will rely on returning quarterback Landry Jones and wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who is one of six returning top pass catchers.
They are currently three years removed from their last BCS Championship, and coach Bob Stoops is hungry for another.
With the departure of Nebraska from the Big 12 and the struggles of many other Big 12 teams toward the end of the season, they are no doubt a favorite to dominate the conference.
The Sooners will have to improve on consistency and get past Florida State at the beginning of the year in Tallahassee to be a sure favorite to make it to the title game and win.