The preseason rankings are nothing more than formal window dressing. However, for the most part we believe that the preseason Top 5 have the best chance to win it all.
Was Auburn a preseason Top 5 last year? Nope. So, who are the dark horses and who will be the Top 10 in the final polls?
I'll throw some darts at this, of course with a blindfold on, and come up with some insane teams at the top. Okay, legitimate teams. However, in my opinion, this will be a year that may resemble the 2007 season when a two-loss LSU team made it to the BCS National Championship Game.
10. Stanford. Coming off of a magical run last season and with the return of Luck, the mighty....um...trees will have a chance for a 10-3 season. Coaching could be an issue, but experience on the field helps.
9. Nebraska. Losing three linemen but keeping Taylor Martinez will help the Huskers in their new league. Even though it won't be a cakewalk, Bo's team will have a chance to win the Big 10 in its first conference championship game—10-4 on the season.
8. Oklahoma State. Mike Gundy is 43! He is a man! Plus, he has a good core returning on offense. And he plays in the land of no defense, unless it is Oklahoma—10-3 for the season.
7. Texas A&M....really?. A dark horse to say the least. The Aggies lose quarterback Jerrod Johnson but have Ryan Tannehill to take his spot. Yes, Tannehill isn't the greatest, but he has experience. Returning 18 of 22 starters helps as well—10-3 for the season.
6. Florida State. Jimbo Fisher got off to a great start and he can follow it up with a better season this year. Christian Ponder would help, but he got drafted. A favorable schedule gives the 'Noles a fighting chance—11-3 for the season.
5. Boise State. The underdog has to win two tough games to win this year, but both of them are doable. However, beating an underachieving Georgia Bulldog team will be hard for the Broncos, seeing that this is Richt's last stand. I'll let you guess the other loss—11-2 for the season.
4. Oregon. A lot of moving parts and a weak Pac 12 schedule helps the Ducks move forward in the rankings after getting beat by the Bengal Tigers—12-2 for the season.
3. Alabama. Fortunately, the Tide have an excellent defense. They are going to need it in order to win more than nine games. With a good home schedule, Alabama does just that—11-2 for the season.
2. LSU. The bane of Les Miles' existence down on the bayou is that he can never win more than 12 games a year. This year appears to be no different with tough road games in Dallas, Morgantown and Tuscaloosa—12-2 for the season.
1. Oklahoma. Stoops finally gets it done. After luckily scraping by without a conference championship game played, the Sooners regain the Big Game Bob moniker. 13-0 for the season.
The Dark Horses
Several of these teams have the potential to knock Stanford out of the Top 10 and they would likely come from the Big 10 or SEC.
Mississippi State. Dan Mullen, in his third year, has a system in place to get him into the Top 10 by seasons end. I don't think they can get higher than seventh place because they have to face Arkansas, Alabama and LSU—but who knows. If they beat Auburn in the second game of the season, momentum can carry them.
Arkansas. Bobby Petrino took the Hogs to the Sugar Bowl for the first time since Mahatma Ghandi ate rice. Sure they didn't win, but they had a chance. Beating either LSU or Alabama gives them a shot at the Top 10 and maybe more.
South Carolina. A real dark horse for me because USC has not strung together back to back nine-win seasons since....ever. This is a good year for them to try and do it with 18th-year starter "Jerry" Garcia.
Virginia Tech. Not having to face FSU until the conference championship game helps a lot. Having to replace Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams doesn't help.
Notre Dame. With the amount of bad luck the Fighting Irish have received over the last year, something has to turn for them. That turn has got to get around Michigan, Michigan State, Air Force, SC, Boston College and Stanford.
Texas. UT has lost a lot of O-line talent and that makes GG sweat even more as the QB. It will be a tough uphill battle for Texas this year but they have the talent. Do they have the coaching?
Michigan State. Kirk Cousins is still in the house and that means the Spartans have a fighting chance to compete for the Big 10 title. Just get past Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa and it is smooth sailing.
Florida. This horse is so dark that at night you couldn't see it. Muschamp has a project on his hands that only Urban Meyer knows the depth of. Charlie Weis will be needed for the retooling of John Brantley 2.0. Gator fans will rely on defense to win games this year.
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