College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: The Best and Worst of Every Top Team
Using ESPN.com's early preseason top 25, this article will break down the best and worst part of the top 25 teams in college football this season.
We all know that every season, each team loses talent, but gains more, that is what makes this so interesting to watch play out, and why a lot of us tune in on Saturdays.
So here it is, the best and worst of every top 25 team for 2011.
25. West Virginia
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The quarterback position is something to really watch this season for the Mountaineers. Geno Smith who will be in his second year with the starting role should improve even further this season.
Just a season ago as a sophomore, Smith threw for 2,763 yards for 24 touchdowns giving up only seven interceptions.
Smith should provide a huge spark for the Mountaineers this season as he returns most of his deep threats at wide-out and will grow further as a quarterback.
Defense is going to be a big time struggle for the Mountaineers this season. They are losing seven starters from the defense and will need to step up big time if they expect to be able to give their offense any help this year.
Look for them to be hurt mostly in the secondary, as they are losing two great safeties this season and will need to fill the void.
24. Mississippi State
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The running attack for Mississippi State this season as they return a potential Heisman candidate in Vick Ballard.
Ballard burst onto the scene last season by having an absolutely explosive season.
He ran for 968 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, which is pretty good for a team that uses it's quarterback as a runner often.
Look for Ballard to get some serious carries this season, and with the dual threat, it very well could be trouble for opposing defenses.
Special teams is going to be tough this season for the bulldogs and it will be very difficult for them to compete if they cannot get their special teams working.
They lose not only their kicker, but their punter as well, so will be looking for replacements all around the special teams unit this season.
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Talent is the best thing that Florida has going for them right now. We do not know much about the Gators due to the questions surrounding the new regime, but one thing we know for sure is that the Gators bring a lot of talent to the table.
They have dominated the high powered recruiting state they are in, and continue to bring in top-notch recruits to a program that has an uncertain future.
I would say the worst thing right now for the Gators is the coaching. Who knows what is going to happen with this new coaching regime.
Losing one of college football's best coaches isn't going to do the Gators any favors, and the controversial hiring of former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is making a lot of people wonder what is going on in Gainesville.
Although this is the worst for now, they might prove the doubters wrong, but it is definitely a new system to learn in Florida this season.
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Experience will be most beneficial to the Longhorns this season. After an embarrassing season for Mack Brown of 5-7, look for the Longhorns to bounce back steady this season.
Although they might not have what it takes to reach a BCS game, they will have the tools to make a bowl game this season and avenge that horrible season just a year ago.
The players are older and the system is revamped, so with this more experienced team, who knows how far the Longhorns will be able to go.
The worst thing Texas has going for them is all of the changes. It will be interesting to see how the players adjust to such drastic changes on the coaching staff, but knowing Mack Brown, he will have his team fired up and ready to go.
It will difficult for the current players to warm up to these new schemes and the first few games of the season could be a bit of a struggle on the fundamental end, but considering their first opponent is the college football powerhouse Rice, they should have some time of adjustment.
21. Arizona State
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Player hospitality given to the hottest girls on any college campus campus. Besides that, they should have a pretty decent player at the quarterback position this season.
Although Brock Osweiler struggled injury last season, he should be good to go for the upcoming season which could mean bad news for the rest of the Pac 12.
Osweiler the 6'8" 240 pound quarterback is a machine. Last season in only five games played, Osweiler threw for 797 yards for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Osweiler should have grown from last season and is looking to finally reach a bowl game.
Besides the Sun Devils' schedule, they might struggle a bit on the receiving core.
Last year they were led by receiver wide-out Kerry Taylor who led the team in all of the main receiving statistics.
Osweiler will need to find a new favorite target this season and will have to figure out someone else he can trust to score.
20. Virginia Tech
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The defense is going to be a key component to the Hokies this season. Last year, they were unsure on whether or not their defense was going to do anything of relevance and were surprised.
They had one of the toughest defenses in the country and return most of that same squad this season.
They only lose three starters on that side of the ball and are looking to pick up this season where they left off last season, minus the pounding Andrew Luck placed on them.
The biggest struggle for the Hokies this year will be replacing quarterback Tyrod Taylor along with running back Jerrod Evans.
These two guys were the heart and soul of this offense and it will be tough to find players of their caliber that are able to play at the same level right away.
That being said, VT is known for being able to reload, even when people think they are down. Tech needs to just build off of their offense line and try to get that running game on the way.
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The best thing going for the Cornhuskers is that they return freshman sensation Taylor Martinez, who started last year in his first season.
He will come back this season refreshed and stronger than last, and hopefully be able to improve not only his decisions, but his numbers.
Last year, Martinez passed for 1,631 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns. Martinez is one of the best dual threats in the country, and could possibly be a Heisman candidate in a year or two if he keeps improving.
The secondary might be a struggle this season for the Cornhuskers. They lose two of the key components to their defense in Prince Amukamara and Eric Hagg. It could be tough to stop some of the elite receivers in the Big Ten with an inexperienced secondary.
The Cornhuskers' young secondary is going to have to grow up fast, or risk getting pummeled by some of the nation's premier passing threats of the Big Ten.
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Gary Patterson is probably the best thing that TCU has going for them this season. They will need all of the coaching they can handle with the huge losses they are taking.
Patterson is a great coach, who more than likely was able to mold replacements just a season ago with his back-up players but only time will tell.
Luckily for TCU, Patterson is one of the best in the business right now, and should be able to lead this young team to a bowl game in their last season in the MWC.
On a team that was taken to the cleaners by graduation, this team is going to struggle the most on the offensive end of the ball.
The loss of quarterback Andy Dalton very well could be what hurts the Horned Frogs the most.
Dalton was one of the best in the country last season and is an irreplaceable asset to this squad. The offense loses it's key receivers, but returns it's leading rusher Ed Wesley.
if this team is going to recover from the huge loss on offense, they will need to rely heavily on Wesley to carry a lot of the offensive load.
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Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb are going to have to carry a lot of the offensive load for the Tigers this season. If there was ever a one man show on the football field it was Auburn a season ago. Cam Newton had 48 touchdowns on his own accord and is not going to be replaced.
Dyer and McCalebb where the only other two players who really contributed a ton offensively.
These guys together are going to have to step up and lead this offense if Auburn expects to compete in the SEC this season.
Although a lot of attention will be placed upon the quarterback position, the defensive line is going to really hurt Auburn this year.
They lost Nick Fairley and will need to fix this especially in the conference they play in.
The SEC backs will run all over Auburn if they cannot figure out a way to strengthen the line. If they cannot, it will be a tough season for the Tigers.
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The rushing game for Missouri will be very important if they plan on being successful this season. After losing quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the running game will be the key component into how successful the Tigers will be this season.
Luckily for Mizzou, they return De'Vion Moore and Henry Josey who were able to carry the rushing load just a season ago.
Together they rushed for 12 touchdowns, which is a good number considering the mainly passing offense that Mizzou ran last year.
The quarterback position is going to be the toughest part of the transition from the Gabbert era at Mizzou. Gabbert was one of the most successful quarterbacks in the history of the school and he will not be able to be replaced right away.
Gabbert's younger brother is actually competing for the starting spot for the Tigers this season, but it seems as though they are leaning to a more mobile threat.
Who knows though, anything could happen if a quarterback has the tools around him, he is usually able to compete, no matter what kind of experience he has.
15. Michigan State
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Kirk Cousins is by far the best asset that the Michigan State Spartans have this season. Cousins last season broke out on the national scene as one of the best pocket passing quarterbacks in the nation.
He threw for 2,825 yards last season for 20 touchdowns while only throwing 10 picks.
Cousins has proven that he is one of the best in the collegiate ranks and plans on following up his breakout season with another great one.
The defense is going to have to be rebuilt this season after losing a couple of great linebackers and some other key aspects.
It will be tough for the Spartans to replace these guys, but knowing the Spartans they will have it all together when it comes down to crunch time.
Michigan State is looking to win the Big Ten again this season, and it will be quite the spectacle if they are able to pull it off.
14. Notre Dame
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Michael Floyd is a big target and tends to almost always come up with the ball, whoever is throwing to him which is key for the Irish.
The Irish have no idea who is going to be throwing to Floyd, but since the senior wide-out was reinstated to the team, it should definitely be a big boost for the Irish.
Look for Floyd to be the key of the offense coming up with huge catches late in games. he might be what the Irish need to take them back to a BCS game.
The quarterback position could very well be the downfall for the Irish this season. They don't know who is going to be playing the position yet which could lead to some controversy down the road.
Knowing the state of the Notre Dame media, it could be harsh if coach Brian Kelly cannot come up with the right guy for the job.
Last season it was Dane Crist, but when he went down with an injury, Tommy Rees proved that he was capable of leading the Irish.
Either way, it's hard to see the quarterback position being a strength for the Irish this season.
13. Texas A&M
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The offense of the Aggies is going to be stellar this season. They might actually have one of the best offenses in the country returning to the gridiron.
They are led by Ryan Tannehill who only started five games but threw for 1,638 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Tannehill will be looking to make one last push at the NFL in his senior season and will surely bring his A-Game this year for the Aggies.
Okay so this team is pretty solid in general, but if there is one thing that is lingering is going to be the performance of the offensive line.
They are mostly underclassman, but all played last season for the Aggies as well so they should be improved, but that still isn't saying a whole lot.
It will be interesting to see how they compete against the Big 12's stellar defensive lines.
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The defense is going to be the saving grace for the Wisconsin Badgers this summer. Once again they will reload and have a great squad.
They will need to have some help in the secondary, but their line and linebacking crew seem to be pretty solid once again this year especially since they have added some stellar recruits to the squad.
One again the Wisconsin defense should be at its best again this year.
The offensive line is going to be the biggest struggle for the Wisconsin Badgers this season. They lose a lot of key players this season in the trenches which could be a major problem for the Badgers who will also have to replace a quarterback.
With an inexperienced line, it could be a tough road for the Badgers this season in the running game, hopefully they will be able to reload with some more huge dairy fed linemen.
11. South Carolina
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Marcus Lattimore was only a freshman last season and rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. This kid has the potential of winning the Heisman trophy if his freshman year is an indication of anything.
Lattimore is the key player for the Gamecocks offense and will need to have yet another huge season if they plan on being as successful as they were a season ago.
He will have some help this year, as they should have a very balanced attack.
The Gamecocks had a great defense last season, but that did not show in the last two games of the season, which did not leave a good taste in their mouths.
What even is a bigger blow, is the fact that they are losing half of their defensive line and a few linebackers.
This could be a big problem if they cannot come up with a way to fill these voids, as they play in the best conference in America and do not want to get steamrolled.
10. Ohio State
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Ohio State does not have a whole lot going for them right now after the whole Tressel thing, but have almost all of their main players back, minus Pryor offensively.
Offensively they should be fine. After finding a replacement for Pryor, they still have a lot of key aspects to their team.
Running back Dan Herron ran for 1,115 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He will not be eligible for the first five games of the season, but he should make an impact when he gets back.
I would say the worst aspect of the actual team is the defense. They lose a lot of starters on defense and will have to work hard on developing new ones.
This could be a problem this season, but is the least of the programs worries.
The biggest problem right now is the state of unknown for the program. Who knows what is going to happen with the NCAA investigation and a bowl game might not even be allowed this season.
*This ranking was posted before Tresselgate. Although they should not be this high, I will leave them here as I am just continuing on the list.
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The offense for Stanford this season should be just fine. They are returning almost all of their starters and possibly the best quarterback in the nation in Andrew Luck.
Luck threw for 3,338 yards and 32 touchdowns last season leading Stanford to a BCS bowl, but he is looking for a national title.
After having the opportunity to leave early for the NFL, luck decided to stay which should really help the program.
Replacing Harbaugh will be the toughest job for Stanford. It is going to be tough to be able to recreate the success they had under such a great coach.
Harbaugh who is now with the 49ers, was able to get his players to play and will be missed a lot especially on the motivational front.
David Shaw might prove to be a great coach, but he has some huge shoes to fill.
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Arkansas's offense is going to be amazing this season. Although they lose quarterback Ryan Mallet they are set in the rest of the positions.
They only lose one key player other than Mallet: tight end D.J. Williams.
If they can figure out the quarterback position, this is a squad to really watch for. They could make some national title noise if everything falls their way.
The quarterback is going to be the trickiest spot for the Razorbacks this season. Arkansas is looking to really fill some big shoes left by Mallet.
They had the talent on the bench a season ago to help a little at the spot, but will they be able to translate that into success is the question.
7. Florida State
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The Seminoles are going to be very good on offense once again this season. Although a difference style of play is expected without Ponder, they return numerous key players.
Look for Chris Thompson to really play strong this season and have a breakout year.
Thompson ran for 700 yards and five touchdowns last season, while splitting carries.
Look for FSU to have a strong running game this season.
The secondary is going to be in question for the Seminoles. Although their defense was one of the best in the country last season, they lose two key corners that could cause some issue.
Lucky for the Noles that they have a weaker conference schedule than usual this season, but they do play Oklahoma at home, which they will need those corners ready to gun.
6. Oklahoma State
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This one is a no brainer, the offense is by far the key component for OSU again this season. They return the number one duo in college football.
Receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden passed for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Blackmon who missed a game with suspension caught 111 passes for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. Look for these two to make some serious noise again for OSU.
The defense is going to have to have some serious work put in this season. It will lose six starters and will have to really focus on replacing these guys.
It might be a tough road for the defense, but as long as they can keep their opponent under 35, OSU has a shot at winning with their offense.
5. Boise State
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Kellen Moore will be able to lead the Boise offensive attack once again this year on the smurf turf, shouldn't this guy be graduated by now? Moore who is looking to make a huge impact in his senior season will have to do it without some of his favorite targets.
This shouldn't be a problem however as Moore is able to make a lot of anything usually.
Look for the Boise offense to once again be the talk of football, and of course the BCS debate will be strong again this season.
Boise State is yet another team that is going to be struggling in the secondary. They are going to be losing two of their starting safeties which will be a huge blow.
It will be very hard to have someone with limited playing time start out right away at these positions, but they don't have much of a choice.
If Boise can replace these two guys somewhat, they will have a shot at the BCS again.
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LSU should be pretty decent this season at the quarterback position. Look for quarterback Jordan Jefferson really step up with the added pressure of a junior college transfer this season.
Last year Jefferson threw for 1,411 yards and seven touchdowns, number that need to improve if he looks to keep this job, but will.
Look for this to be a surprise player for the tigers, as a lot of people are doubting him right now.
The defensive line is going to be hurt badly this season for the Tigers. In a conference that demands a good defensive line they are losing two of their key starters which could be very problematic.
If they cannot find a way to clog the holes upfront, they will be in big trouble.
Look for the defense to pick up the slack though and have their returners play a key role in this. It will still be difficult though for them to replace those guys.
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LaMichael James is the key returner that will be super important to the Ducks this season. He will be able to really kick start that offense and help the Ducks outscore opponents all day.
James has had his issues off the field but continues to be one of the best players in college football.
Look for James to make a serious run at the Heisman this season.
Oregon's defense is going to lose some key pieces this season, but it shouldn't hurt them too badly.
Although they are going to struggle stopping some of the higher powered offenses, they should be able to count on their offense to have their back.
Look for the Ducks defense to continue to improve all season.
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The running game should be as fierce as ever for the Crimson Tide. Although they are going to miss Mark Ingram, they back him up with Trent Richardson who has proved that he is an elite back.
Look for Richardson to really step up and lead this offense.
Along with Richardson, the Tide also bring in some freshman that are going to be great. Look for freshman Demetrius Hart to come in and play right away,
The quarterback position could be a little bit sketchy this season for the Tide. After having McElroy for the past two seasons they will be looking to rebuild on that front.
Although this may seem like a major problem, it's Nick Saban. Saban always seems to reload on every position year in and year out, that is why he will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time in the college football ranks.
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The offense of Oklahoma is going to be phenomenal this season. They return everyone from last seasons squad except for their leading rusher DeMarco Murray.
Look for Landry Jones to have another huge season at quarterback, just a season ago he threw for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Jones is going to be a household name by the end of this football season and could very well contend for a Heisman bid.
There is not a whole lot wrong with Oklahoma this season and they are very solid all the way around, but they still have a few weaknesses.
The defensive secondary could struggle a bit as they are going to have to replace a few starters from last season's squad, but knowing Bob Stoops, he probably has something great lined up.
Oklahoma is ready to go, and is by far the favorite this year, that being said, anything can happen in college football.