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College Football Rankings: Predicting the Records for Top 25 Teams from 2010

Pat MarrujoContributor IApril 11, 2011

College Football Rankings: Predicting the Records for Top 25 Teams from 2010

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    Spring football is already coming to a close, and teams are starting to take shape for the 2011 college football season.

    Although it may too early to crown a champion, it is never too early to speculate.

    Some teams will take a step forward from a season ago, but others will surely decline. 

    How will the elite teams from the 2010 season fare this year?

25. North Carolina State Wolfpack

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Last Season: 9-4

    Nobody is talking about North Carolina State going into the 2011 season, but they have a realistic chance to win an ACC championship.

    They are returning eight starters on each side of the ball from a season ago and have an easy schedule. They dodge playing Virginia Tech and get most of their tough games at home.

    The Wolfpack does still have to go on the road to play Florida State. This game will probably decide their season.

    They defeated the Seminoles in 2010 by a score of 28-24.

    2011 Prediction: 8-4

24. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last Season: 10-3

    If Tulsa didn’t play such a brutal schedule in 2011, they could make a run for a BCS bowl game. The Golden Hurricane plays at Oklahoma and Boise State, and at home against Oklahoma State.

    This may be the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation.

    Tulsa returns 19 starters from a season ago, including 10 offensive players who were a part of one of the nation's best units last year. They were sixth in the nation in scoring and ranked in the top 15 in both rushing and passing yards.

    With talented players like quarterback G.J. Kinne and receiver Damaris Johnson, Tulsa should roll through Conference USA. However, the same cannot be said about their non-conference games.

    2011 Prediction: 9-3

23. Maryland Terrapins

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last Season: 9-4

    It is probable that Randy Edsall's team with take a step back in her first season with Maryland

    Last season, Maryland took advantage of a weak ACC schedule, but struggled against quality opponents. They did not win a single game against a ranked team.

    The Terrapins are losing all of their running back and wide receiver starters from a season ago, including wide receiver/kick returner Torrey Smith.

    With an improved schedule in 2011, Maryland probably won't find themselves ranked at the end of the season.

    2011 Prediction: 7-5

22. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Last Season: 9-5

    South Carolina has been given the easiest SEC schedule imaginable. They play eight home games and don’t have to play LSU or Alabama.

    The Gamecocks return plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Marcus Lattimore is out to prove he is one of the best running backs in the nation, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore is one of the best shutdown guys in the game.

    If South Carolina can get consistency out of quarterback Stephen Garcia and fill holes in their defensive front seven, this is one of the best teams in the SEC.

    2011 Prediction: 10-2

21. UCF Knights

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Last Season: 11-3

    Last season, UCF had the eighth-best scoring defense in the nation, only giving up 17.1 points per game. However, only four starters from the unit are returning for the 2011 season.

    UCF is still one of the better teams in Conference USA, but they probably will not remain a ranked team next season.

    Conference rival Tulsa has a tough squad yet again, and the Knights have two tough tests against big programs early in the season: Boston College and BYU.

    2011 Prediction: 7-5

20. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last Season: 10-4

    The Huskers are one of the hardest squads to predict in 2011. At the beginning of last season, they looked like title contenders, but they fell apart late in the season.

    Coming off an embarrassing loss to Washington in the Holiday Bowl, Nebraska has a lot to play for during their first season in the Big Ten.

    They are returning seven starters from one of the best defensive units in the nation and six starters from an inconsistent offensive unit.

    So much of Nebraska’s success relies on quarterback Taylor Martinez. When Martinez plays well, Nebraska tends to win. But if he plays poorly, like he did at the end of last season, the team will go down in flames.

    2011 Prediction: 9-3

19. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last Season: 9-4

    I admit it, I have officially jumped on the Texas A&M bandwagon.

    The Aggies are returning 18 starters from a team that ended on a six-game regular-season winning streak.

    Through the first six games of 2010, the Aggies were just 3-3 when quarterback Jerrod Johnson went down with an injury. Then came Ryan Tannehill, who went undefeated for the rest of the season as the new starting quarterback.

    The Aggies have proven they can play with elite teams. They are dark-horse contenders for the BCS title in 2011.

    2011 Prediction: 10-2

18. Missouri Tigers

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    Last Season:10-3

    The Missouri Tigers return nine offensive players from a season ago but are losing the most important one, quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He will be impossible to replace and will be missed by the Missouri faithful.

    On defense, which was quietly the team’s strength in 2010, Missouri is only returning six starters. The loss of defensive end Aldon Smith is devastating, and the Tigers will also have to replace both of their starting cornerbacks from a season ago.

    Last season’s 10-3 record was a big surprise, but I wouldn’t expect it again. The Tigers have an unfavorable schedule in which they have to play Arizona State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Baylor, all on the road. 

    2011 Prediction: 8-4

17. Florida State Seminoles

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Last Season: 10-4

    The Seminoles enter the season as one of the most hyped teams in the nation. They are returning 16 starters from a season ago and are coming off a bowl win against South Carolina.

    Many fans in Tallahassee seem to think Florida State could compete for a BCS title this year.

    I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon quite yet. Florida State was embarrassed by the only two elite teams on their schedule, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech.

    Jimbo Fisher is undoubtedly doing a phenomenal job with the program, but he is still few years away. Something about a new turnover-prone quarterback doesn’t scream BCS champion to me.

    However, they should be able to take advantage of a very weak ACC schedule.

    2011 Prediction: 10-2

16. Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Last Season: 11-3

    Head coach Frank Beamer seems to put a solid team on the field every year. His Hokies can always play defense and run the football.

    The Hokies will have to replace four-year starter Tyrod Taylor and their two top running backs from a season ago: Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.

    Taylor will be tough to replace, but the other players may not be too crucial of a loss. The featured back for 2011 is expected to be David Wilson, who is also a special teams superstar.

    On defense, Virginia Tech returns one of the best cornerbacks in the nation, Jayron Hosley.

    2011 Prediction: 11-1

15. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Rick Dole/Getty Images

    Last Season: 9-4

    Last year, Mississippi State was one of the most surprising teams in the nation, but don’t expect the same success in 2011.

    The Bulldogs are returning two great offensive playmakers, running back Vick Ballard and quarterback Chris Relf, but they are also losing many key players.

    Mississippi State is losing all three of their starting linebackers, their best defensive lineman (Pernell McPhee) and their best offensive lineman (Derek Sherrod) from a season ago. This could be too much to overcome.

    Unlike Florida State and Virginia Tech, the Bulldogs play a rough conference schedule. With so many tough games against ranked teams, it is going to be a tough year.

    2011 Prediction: 6-6

14. Michigan State Spartans

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Last Season: 11-2

    Michigan State had a magical 2010 season that ended on a very sour note. In the Capital One Bowl, they were embarrassed by Alabama, 49-7.

    Hopefully, the Spartans can recover and continue their regular-season success into 2011.

    They are returning key players on both sides of ball, but like Mississippi State, lose many key linebackers. The hardest to replace will be two-time All-American Greg Jones.

    Don’t expect another 11-win season out of Michigan State. They play a tough conference schedule that includes road games at Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa.

    2011 Prediction: 8-4

13. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Last Season: 11-2

    When you watch Oklahoma State’s offense, you will see a championship-caliber squad. Yet their defense plays like a below-average FCS unit.

    The key for the Cowboys is whether their defense can do just enough for the offense to carry them to victory.

    They return the most potent offense in the nation. Quarterback Brandon Weeden has proven he is a legitimate Heisman candidate, and wide receiver Justin Blackmon is unstoppable.

    Oklahoma State has as good of a chance as any Big 12 team to win the conference, but they will need to get by Texas A&M and Oklahoma to do so.

    2011 Prediction: 9-3

12. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Last Season: 10-3

    I would say that Arkansas has a chance to play for a BCS title, but it might be impossible with their unforgiving schedule.

    The Razorbacks are forced to play Texas A&M, LSU and Alabama on the road. There might not be a team in college football history that could win each of those games.

    Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks are returning a very experienced defense and one of the best running backs in the nation, Knile Davis.

    If Arkansas can get lucky and possibly win the SEC, expect Davis to find himself in the mix for the Heisman trophy.

    2011 Prediction: 9-3

11. Nevada Wolf Pack

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    Last Season: 13-1

    The Nevada Wolf Pack pulled off a shocker when they ruined Boise State’s season last year, but the 2011 teams is only a remnant of the memorable 2010 squad.

    One of the best offenses a season ago, the Wolf Pack loses their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and their running back, Vai Taua.

    The defense also takes a major hit, losing defensive end Dontay Moch. He is one of the most freakishly athletic players in the nation from a season ago.

    With a tougher schedule in 2011, Nevada should lose around three games next season. Visits to Oregon, Texas Tech and Boise State might be too much to handle.

    2011 Prediction: 9-3

10. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Last Season: 10-3

    Alabama might be losing stars like Greg McElroy, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, but they are still talent-loaded.

    They return 17 starters from a season ago, including 10 from their defense, which ranked fifth nationally.

    Alabama probably has the best defensive backfield in college football. Safeties Mark Barron and Robert Lester are a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

    A National Championship seems to be in reach for the Crimson Tide. If quarterback A.J. McCarron can be a solid replacement for Greg McElroy, Alabama will be one of the best in the nation.

    2011 Prediction: 11-1

9. Boise State Broncos

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Last Season: 12-1

    The 2011 Boise State season will be decided by two games next season, early at Georgia and at home against TCU midway through the season. If the Broncos can survive these bouts, they will be playing in a BCS bowl game.

    Quarterback Kellen Moore and defensive end Shea McCellin headline a very talented Broncos team. They are returning seven starters from each side of the ball.

    Personally, I have never been a fan of the underdog teams. I don’t like the “BCS busters” and I usually root against Boise State. Unfortunately, this team looks like they might be on their way to another BCS game.

    2011 Prediction: 12-0

8. LSU Tigers

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Last Season: 11-2

    Love him or hate him, Les Miles is one of the greatest coaches in college football. His team is always good enough to compete for a National Championship, and next season will be no different.

    The Bayou Bengals have plenty of returning talent, including cornerback Morris Claiborne. But they also have a glaring weakness: the quarterback position.

    Jordan Jefferson received most of the playing time last season, but senior Jarrett Lee and junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger should be given a chance to compete for the job in the preseason.

    If the Tigers can polish one of these three into a solid starter, LSU should find themselves in a BCS game next season.

    The biggest test for LSU comes in the opening game of the season against Oregon. This game has BCS title implications and will answer a lot of questions about both teams.

    2011 Prediction: 10-2

7. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Last Season 11-2

    In 2010, Wisconsin put together an excellent regular season that crowned them Big Ten champions and gave them a Rose Bowl berth, only to fall flat against TCU, more or less ruining their storybook season.

    The Badgers return the best running back duo in the nation in Montee Ball and James White, but not much else.

    They are only returning 11 total starters from a season ago, and need to replace key leaders like quarterback Scott Tolzien and defensive end J.J. Watt.

    Wisconsin could experience a drop off in 2011, but so will most of the teams in the Big Ten. They have a chance to compete for a conference championship, but they will need to beat Ohio State to get it.

    2011 Prediction: 10-2

6. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last Season: 12-2

    Most preseason polls rank Oklahoma as the top team in the nation, and for good reason.

    The Sooners are returning 17 starters from a team that won the Fiesta Bowl last season. Quarterback Landry Jones and wide receiver Ryan Broyles are both legitimate Heisman candidates for the 2011 season.

    The key for Oklahoma will be consistency if they want to get through their brutal schedule. Road games at Florida State and Oklahoma State and a home game against Texas A&M will define their season.

    Bob Stoops has put together a good team in Norman. They are very capable of winning a National Championship in 2011.

    2011 Prediction: 12-0

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Last Season: 12-1

    Ohio State is surrounded by controversy and inexperience heading into the 2011 season.

    Head coach Jim Tressel, starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other players will be suspended for the first five games of the season. Two of those games are big tests against Miami (Fla.) and Michigan State.

    Their whole season might ride on these two games. If they can get out of this stretch without a loss, they could be playing for a National Championship.

    This might be easier said than done for Ohio State, though. The usually dominant Buckeyes might struggle to make a BCS bowl in 2011.

    2011 Prediction: 10-2

4. Stanford Cardinal

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Last Season: 12-1

    Quarterback Andrew Luck might be the best player in college football and looks to lead his team to another BCS bowl bid, but I don’t think it will come so easily in 2011.

    Stanford is full of questions. They lost their top two wide receivers and three starting offensive linemen from a season ago on offense. And on defense, they lost key linebackers Owen Marecic and Thomas Kesier.

    Probably more important than losing so many players, the Cardinal are also losing head coach Jim Harbaugh.

    Next season might not go as well as fans in Palo Alto are anticipating. There are too many holes on this team, and the Pac 12 is very tough this year.

    They will still be one of the better teams in the conference, but not elite.

    2011 Prediction: 9-3

3. Oregon Ducks

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    Last Season: 12-1

    In the Pac 12, Oregon seems to be a step above everyone in the conference. It is not that the conference is that bad, rather Oregon is that good.

    Their offense, led by quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, is amongst the best of all time. 

    On the defensive side of the ball, the Ducks are only returning two starters from their front seven. But their offense is so strong, they should be able to overcome this shortcoming.

    Oregon will probably roll through the Pac 12 in 2011, but they must beat LSU in the opening game of the season to solidify themselves at BCS title contenders.

    2011 Prediction: 12-0

2. TCU Horned Frogs

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    Last Season: 13-0

    The 2010 season could not have been much better for TCU. They went undefeated and upset Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

    However, their 2011 team with be drastically different. TCU is only returning 10 starters from a season ago and have numerous key losses.

    The most notable of those losses is quarterback Andy Dalton. He was not only their best offensive player, but he was also their leader.

    With tough games at Baylor, San Diego State and Boise State, TCU could experience a down season next year. They should still have double-digit wins, but a BCS game might not be possible.

    2011 Prediction: 10-2

1. Auburn Tigers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Last Season: 14-0

    It is hard to think of a possible way Auburn could experience success similar to what they had in 2010.

    The Tigers are only returning four players on each side of ball and losing their two best players, quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

    One of the Auburn’s greatest strengths last season was their depth, so they will not be terrible. Plenty of their players have significant game experience.

    The two of the best returning players for the Tigers are running back Michael Dyer and linebacker Eltoro Freeman. Both have superstar potential and look to have breakout years in 2011.

    With a tough SEC schedule, Auburn will be nowhere near competing for a BCS game. This is a rebuilding year for the Tigers, however a bowl game should still be expected. 

    2011 Prediction: 8-4

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