College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: 10 Teams That Won't Win It All
The USA Today recently released its preseason top 25 poll, giving plenty of teams that have been given an inside line to compete for the BCS National Championship in January.
However, as we know, only two schools can meet in that game each year, meaning that at least 23 of the top 25 will have to wait another year to have the chance to win.
This year's top 25 features a lot of familiar names, but many of those teams will find themselves at home watching the BCS National Championship rather than competing in it.
It's still very early to be writing off any team from making a run at the BCS title, but here are 10 schools that I don't think will be able to win it all.
No. 24 Texas Longhorns
Possible Losses: Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas A&M Aggies, Missouri Tigers
The Texas Longhorns are coming off one of the worst seasons in recent school history, and although they figure to be much better than last season, they probably won't find themselves in the big game come season's end.
Mack Brown and the Texas coaching staff have done a good job putting the team's 5-7 season behind them, taking on the old "every position is open for competition" mantra during spring practice. But with only five returning starters on the offensive side of the ball and seven on defense, this likely won't be the Longhorns' year.
Texas will be relying on young players to shoulder much of its offensive load. True freshman Malcolm Brown is expected to get most of the carries at running back this season. With the quarterback position somewhat up in the air, sophomore Case McCoy or freshman Connor Wood could be under center when the season starts, if Garrett Gilbert doesn't win his spot.
Games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Missouri will likely be the toughest games for the Longhorns, though UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor are all coming off victories against Texas last season.
All things considered, Texas will be much better this season and could surprise a lot of people, but finishing the season with zero to one losses just doesn't seem plausible this year.
No. 23 Florida Gators
Possible Losses: Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, LSU Tigers, South Carolina Gamecocks, Florida State Seminoles
The Florida Gators are another team coming off a disappointing season from a year ago who are expected to be better this season but likely won't be competing for a national championship.
Despite having a new coaching staff and inexperience on the offensive line and defense, the thing working against the Gators most this season is their schedule.
Playing in the SEC is never easy, but Florida's schedule this year seems to be even more difficult than usual.
Road games against LSU, Auburn and South Carolina will be difficult enough for Florida, but the Gators will also face two preseason top five teams: Alabama (No. 2) and Florida State (No. 5).
Though Will Muschamp will have the Gators in top form by season's start, Florida's schedule and inexperience in key areas on the team will likely prevent it from making a run at the BCS National Championship.
No. 19 Auburn Tigers
Possible Losses: South Carolina Gamecocks, Arkansas Razorbacks, Florida Gators, LSU Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide
Unlike Florida and Texas, Auburn is coming off its best season in school history, yet its chances of repeating as national champions are far slimmer than they were last season.
The loss of Heisman Trophy-winner Cam Newton at quarterback would be significant enough to argue that Auburn won't be able to reach the title game, but that's not the only factor working against the Tigers.
Auburn lost four starting linemen from a season ago. Although the Tigers will be reloading in that position with a lot of talent, an inexperienced line protecting an inexperienced quarterback isn't the typical formula for a national championship-caliber team.
Returning running back Michael Dyer will be good this season, but he is one of only four returning starters on a offense that seems like it will be going through some growing pains.
The defense looks eerily similar too.
Auburn suffered several key losses to their defense, including most of its defensive line—which included Nick Fairley—and the position's coach, Tracy Rocker. Not to mention key losses in the secondary.
The Tigers should still be good in 2011, but just not as good as they were a year ago.
No. 18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Possible Losses: Stanford Cardinal, Michigan State Spartans, USC Trojans
There might not be any team that won eight games or less last season that has higher expectations for the 2011 season than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is returning all but three of its starters from a year ago and is heading into the season with a schedule that doesn't feature too many "heavy hitters," but the chances of the Irish winning a national championship might not be as high as people think.
Even though the schedule might not seem tough on the surface, early games against USF, Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh will likely be tough, especially those being played on the road.
Though only Michigan State is in the preseason top 25, USF, Michigan and Pittsburgh are expected to be very competitive and are coming into the season with something to prove.
A late October game against long-time rival USC Trojans will be a great indicator for how far Notre Dame can go.
I see the Irish falling to Stanford and losing another game to either USC, Michigan State or Michigan.
No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes
Possible Losses: Michigan State Spartans, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Wisconsin Badgers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan Wolverines
If you've followed college football over the past few months, you're not surprised to see that the Ohio State Buckeyes are on a list of teams that probably won't win the BCS National Championship.
I mean, what hasn't gone wrong for the team?
Its iconic head coach, Jim Tressel, resigned, its star quarterback left school, the program is on the brink of serious penalties from the NCAA and four of the team's key players will be serving a five-game suspension at the start of the season.
Yes, Ohio State still has plenty of talent and Luke Fickell seems to be handling the cards he was dealt pretty well, but the adversity the Buckeyes are facing heading into the season will probably be too much for the team to handle.
No. 11 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Possible Losses: Wisconsin Badgers, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan State Spartans, Penn State Nittany Lions
Though the Nebraska Cornhuskers might end the 2011 season with 10 wins, they likely won't be in contention for a BCS National Championship.
Nebraska is entering its first year in the new Big Ten conference, and in terms of scheduling the Cornhuskers are getting rookie treatment.
The team will have to play on the road against defending Big Ten champ Wisconsin and traditional powers Michigan and Penn State. They will also have home matchups against Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa, meaning that the Cornhuskers won't avoid any of the top contenders in the Big Ten.
In addition to its tough schedule, Nebraska will be relying on Taylor Martinez to carry an offense that lacks depth on the line and weapons at receiver.
Nebraska will definitely be in contention for a Big Ten tittle, but with tough games against four or five teams, the Cornhuskers will likely end the season with a couple of losses and be out of contention for a BCS championship.
No. 7 Boise State Broncos
Possible Losses: Georgia Bulldogs, TCU Horned Frogs, Nevada Wolfpack
In the case of the Boise State Broncos, it's a simple, yet unfortunate, reason as to why they won't be awarded the BCS National Championship: They won't be given the chance to play for it.
For the past few years, the Broncos have been one of the best teams in all of college football—going 38-2 since 2008—yet not once have they had the opportunity to play for a BCS National Championship.
There has been great debate recently about whether a team from a non-BCS conference should have the opportunity to play in the BCS championship game. As of now, the answer seems to be a resounding "no."
For Boise State, that means that even if it should win every game in 2011, like it did in 2009, it would still probably not get a shot at a championship.
Wouldn't a playoff system be nice?
No. 6 Stanford Cardinal
Possible Losses: USC Trojans, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Oregon Ducks
One of this year's top contenders for the BCS National Championship is expected to be the Stanford Cardinal.
Last season, Andrew Luck led Stanford to its best season in some time, finishing 12-1 with an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
This year, the Cardinal return Luck, as well as the two linemen that protected him best—Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro—but that's about it.
Stanford's head coach, Jim Harbaugh, left for the NFL along with the Cardinal's two best wide receivers and some key members of the defense.
The Cardinal will be good again in 2011 and will likely battle it out with the Oregon Ducks for the first ever Pac-12 championship, but unless Stanford goes undefeated, it'll have to settle for a plain 'ol BCS bowl game—not a bad place to settle.
No. 5 Florida State Seminoles
Possible Losses: Oklahoma Sooners, Florida Gators
Perhaps no team is expected to do more after under-performing a year ago than the Florida State Seminoles.
After finishing the 2010 season with a bowl victory over South Carolina, the Seminoles will be returning 16 total starters in a season that many think will end with a national championship.
Roster-wise, Florida State looks pretty good, with only a few concerns on the offensive line and at receiver.
However, it's a couple of non-conference games on the schedule that could prevent the Seminoles from winning it all.
On Sept. 17, Florida State hosts the preseason No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners, which, for both teams, could be a game that makes or breaks their national championship hopes.
That game against Florida and the ACC championship game could all prevent the Seminoles from winning it all.
No. 4 LSU Tigers
Possible Losses: Oregon Ducks, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Florida Gators, Tennessee Volunteers, Auburn Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks
There probably isn't any team in all of college football with a tougher road to the BCS National Championship than the LSU Tigers.
LSU opens up the season with a very tough matchup with the Oregon Ducks, who reached the national championship game just a year ago.
The Tigers follow that game by playing six of the top SEC contenders, including a road game at Alabama, who just so happens to be ranked as the No. 2 team in the nation, according to the coaches poll.
The Tigers are going to be good, with one of the best offensive lines and defensive secondaries in the country. With a schedule this brutal, it's going to be very difficult for LSU to finish the season without a couple of losses.
No. 3 Oregon Ducks
Possible Losses: LSU Tigers, Stanford Cardinal, USC Trojans
The Oregon Ducks are ranked No. 3 in the USA Today preseason poll, a year removed from their loss in the BCS National Championship game.
Oregon returns a majority of the offense that led to that success last season, including quarterback Darron Thomas and Heisman Trophy-candidate LaMichael James.
Defensively, the loss of Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger, Kenny Rowe and Brandon Blair will hurt, but perhaps the biggest question marks are Cliff Harris and Kiko Alonso, who are both suspended indefinitely for getting in trouble with the law.
Harris has already been told he will miss the Ducks' opener against the LSU Tigers, which could prove very significant.
Even if his absence doesn't affect Oregon in that game and the Ducks win, the larger distraction of the possible recruiting violations could prevent them from making it back the big game again.