College Football Top 25: 8 Teams Who Should Be Ranked and Who They'd Replace
With only three months until the college football season begins, preseason polls have begun to emerge.
While some schools clearly will be among the best teams in the sport, others are simply ranked because of their name, recruiting classes or success from last season.
There are always sleepers in college football, and in a year where there should be no "dominant" team, that will be as true as ever.
And as always, some teams will be snubbed from the preseason rankings in place of less deserving ones.
Check out the eight teams who should be ranked in the preseason polls, but aren't, and who they should replace.
The poll used is from National Champs.
Northwestern Replacing Florida
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Over the past few seasons, Northwestern has become a respected team in the Big Ten. The Wildcats have posted some big wins in conference play and have elevated themselves thanks to strong offensive play and the coaching of Pat Fitzgerald.
NU should be solid again this season, riding behind the outstanding play of last year's first team All-Big Ten quarterback Dan Persa and a strong offensive line. The defense needs to improve, but it showed signs of improvement during the spring. If Persa can stay healthy, the Wildcats have a shot to pick up an allusive bowl win.
Florida, meanwhile, is still rebuilding. The offense sputtered last season and has yet to find an identity behind quarterback John Brantley. Plus, under a new coach, the transition should be rocky. Florida will be a top 25 team in the near future, but shouldn't be at the start of 2011.
Georgia Replacing Texas
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The loss of wide receiver AJ Green will certainly hurt Georgia, but quarterback Aaron Murray made strides at the end of last season and the offense should still be in decent shape. The defense should be better than last season, but must fill three holes in the front seven, and overall, the Bulldogs need to be much more consistent.
Texas is harder to decipher. The Longhorns have the talent to be a top five team, but they did last year, too, when they went 5-7 and failed to make a bowl game.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert needs to return to the form that he showed in high school and in the 2010 National Championship Game and the rest of the offense needs to come alive. The defense also must find some consistency.
Texas certainly has the talent to be a top 25 team, but it must prove itself to return to that status.
Arizona Replacing Arizona State
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Arizona has a number of question marks heading into the 2011 season, but it has proven that it is a program on the rise.
The entire offensive line needs to be replaced, but star quarterback Nick Foles will be accompanied by a number of solid skill position players, including wide receiver Juron Criner. The defense must improve if the Wildcats want a chance to be ranked, but with seven starters returning, that seems like a real possibility.
Although it returns almost its entire team from last season, Arizona State could quickly fall out of the rankings. Quarterback Steven Threet announced that he will not be playing next season due to a series of concussions, and the offense may not be able to function well in his absence. Add on top of that the fact that the Sun Devils rarely live up to their hype, and it could be another long season in Tempe.
Iowa Replacing Auburn
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Most experts will write off the Hawkeyes this year after they failed to live up to lofty expectations in 2010. However, that's just how Kirk Ferentz and Iowa like it. Quarterback James Vandenberg will need to step up in order to replace Ricky Stanzi, but he will have help from star wide receiver Marvin McNutt. He will also benefit from a veteran offensive line and star running back Marcus Coker.
The defensive front needs some work, but the secondary should be solid. And with an easy schedule, Iowa looks to be in prime position to sneak up on some teams in the Big Ten.
It seems crazy to knock a defending national champion out of the top 25, but with only eight total starters returning, Auburn has a lot of work to do.
Running back Michael Dyer should help make the transition easier, but the offense could struggle mightily, especially early on. The defense could have problems as well, as it must replace star defensive lineman Nick Fairley.
Add in the fact that the Tigers must play Mississippi State and travel to Clemson in weeks two and three, respectively, they could be 1-2 after the first three weeks of the season.
Utah Replacing Tulsa
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While most people will turn their attention to Boise State and TCU as sleepers, Utah should have a solid team next season and could turn some heads in its first season in the Pac-12. It returns quarterback Jordan Wynn and six other starters on offense.
The Utes are the type of team that sneaks up on people, and that could certainly be the case again in 2011.
Tulsa should have a solid team next season, with 19 returning starters. However, its schedule could prohibit it from making it into the rankings past September.
The Golden Hurricane must play Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State in non-conference play, and no matter how good a team is, that's a tough schedule for anybody.
USC Replacing Missouri
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After two down seasons in a row, USC may finally be climbing back to the top.
The Trojans still have to wait a year before they can play in a bowl game, but with 14 starters returning, they have a shot to make some noise in the rankings.
USC will always have talent, and quarterback Matt Barkley has been one of the few consistencies for the Trojans as of late. If he can distinguish himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the game, Southern Cal could be on its way back up the Pac-10 standings.
Missouri ended another successful regular season with a disappointing loss in its bowl game. The Tigers blew a late lead to Iowa in the Insight Bowl, and the defense surrendered 219 yards to freshman running back Marcus Coker.
With star quarterback Blaine Gabbert gone and defensive leader Aldon Smith gone as well, Missouri could struggle to find leadership in the early-going in 2011.
West Virginia Replacing TCU
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After a few down seasons, West Virginia is looking to make a climb back to the top of the Big East. The Mountaineers return quarterback Geno Smith and should have a solid offensive attack built around an experienced offensive line.
The defense needs work, but WVU has relied on offense for much of the past decade, and in such a weak conference, that shouldn't be a problem in 2011.
TCU had an outstanding run to an undefeated season and Rose Bowl victory last year, but with only 10 starters returning, the Horned Frogs will be in rebuilding mode for their last year in the Mountain West.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is gone, and the offensive line will be receiving a makeover. On defense, the secondary should have a number of holes to fill, as will the defensive line.
TCU's program is on the rise, but next season should be a down year, as there are so many questions to address.
Maryland Replacing South Carolina
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After a nice run last season, Maryland is looking to build on its success and continue moving forward in 2011. Sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien is a star on the rise, and with six offensive starters returning, he will have a good unit to work with, including an experienced offensive line.
The Terrapins' defense should be even better, as linebacker Kenny Tate will be one of the best in the country at his position. While the secondary needs work, the front seven should be one of the best in the ACC.
South Carolina rarely lives up to expectations (no, winning the weak SEC East last year doesn't count), and don't expect that to change this season. Quarterback Stephen Garcia is back after yet another suspension, but he has been very inconsistent in his time with the Gamecocks. Running back Marcuse Lattimore will be outstanding, but he cannot be a one-man team.
On defense, the secondary should be decent, but the front seven needs work. Overall, South Carolina has done nothing over the past decade that proves it can live up to expectations. And until they prove otherwise, the Gamecocks don't deserve a place in the top 25.