College Football Preseason Rankings: 10 Most Overrated Teams in Early Polls

jim beamContributor IIIAugust 19, 2011

College Football Preseason Rankings: 10 Most Overrated Teams in Early Polls

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    Many believe that preseason college football rankings are an unnecessary and inaccurate evaluation of teams. There is plenty of truth to that argument.

    Some programs are given high rankings based more on their team's prestige than their actual talent. Others are ranked too low based on what happened the previous season.

    Here is a list of 10 teams who are ranked too high in the preliminary college football polls.

     

No. 8 Oklahoma State

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    The Oklahoma State Cowboys were an offensive juggernaut in 2010, and their preseason No. 9 ranking has many believing they can capture a Big 12 championship.

    But don't be surprised if the Cowboys fail to say within the top 10.

    Gone is offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who was the mastermind behind the Cowboys' powerful offense last year. Oklahoma State improved in total offense from 70th to third during Holgorsen's only year with the program. It is likely to regress now that he is gone.

    An early season game against Texas A&M could knock them out of the national title picture early, and their matchup against Oklahoma at the end of the regular season will be equally as important.

    The Cowboys' defense is also a serious liability, since they gave up more than 400 yards per game last season.

     

No. 10 Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin is a strong favorite to win the Big Ten in 2011, and they begin the season ranked 10th in the nation. It won the Big Ten in 2010 and has added former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson to replace Scott Tolzien.

    But the losses of running back John Clay, offensive lineman Gabe Carimi and defensive end J.J. Watt will hurt the Badgers more than many think. And though Wilson is a talented quarterback, he has not been with the Badgers very long and could be slow to adjust to his new school in such a short amount of time.

    The Big Ten finds itself in a rare position as neither Ohio State nor Michigan are expected to contend for the conference title. But the addition of Nebraska and a conference championship game will make it harder to dominate  the Big Ten.

    The Badgers have a huge matchup against Nebraska on Oct. 1, as well as road games against Ohio State and Michigan State, who defeated Wisconsin in 2011.

    Wisconsin also has a tendency to play poorly against teams it is supposed to route, especially from other conferences.

     

No. 5 Florida State

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    Florida State begins the season as it did for many years during the 2000s; ranked high in the preseason polls with gaudy expectations. The Seminoles are the clear-cut favorites to win the ACC, and many believe they are a national title contender.

    But behind that cloud of hype is a vulnerable team that faces two difficult opponents early in the season. At quarterback they will be transitioning from the resilient and talented Christian Ponder to E.J. Manuel, a good player but certainly not in Ponder's class at this point.

    Adjusting to a new quarterback is usually a season-long process. Though Manuel has star potential, things probably won't go as smoothly for him as he would like this season.

    For the third game of the season, Manuel and the Noles will have to face the Oklahoma Sooners, who defeated FSU, 47-17, last season. And things won't get much easier the following week when they have to face Clemson at Death Valley.

    A road game against Florida and a possible conference title game will also make things difficult for FSU.

    This is not to say that FSU is a bad team, or will have a bad season. They play in a weak ACC conference, have a good coaching staff under Jimbo Fisher and have enough talent to win.

    But, to expect FSU to contend for the national title this season is unrealistic. And finishing second in the ACC and winning the Chick-Fil-A Bowl should not warrant a No. 5 ranking.

    FSU will be good this year, but not top-five good.

     

No. 16 Ohio State

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    There is too much uncertainty around the Ohio State program to warrant a No. 16 ranking.

    Yes, the roster is still loaded with potential stars, and yes, their defense will remain strong despite losing most of last year's starters.

    But their offense will hold the rest of the team back. They are led by a rookie head coach who has not picked a quarterback, and his three best offensive players cannot play until the sixth game.

    Their receiving corps is talented but raw, and will probably struggle early on. They have a deep stable of running backs, but it remains to be seen how well they can carry things for the offense.

    Don't expect the Buckeyes to be a realistic Big Ten title contender until 2012.

No. 6 Stanford

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    The Cardinals, led by Heisman Trophy-favorite Andrew Luck at quarterback, begin the year ranked sixth in the nation.

    But while they could be neck-and-neck against Oregon for the Pac-12 championship, the personnel turnover the program went through during the offseason will spoil any national title hopes.

    Luck should have a big year and make a strong bid for the Heisman Trophy, but he will be missing some important pieces who helped put him on the NFL radar. The Cardinals lose four of the five starting offensive lineman from last season, as well as fullback and two-way starter Owen Marecic.

    Most importantly, they lost head coach Jim Harbaugh, the man responsible for resurrecting the program, to the San Francisco 49ers.

    They will face difficult late-season contests against Oregon, Notre Dame and USC. Don't expect them to finish higher than where they started this season.

     

No. 11 Nebraska

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    Nebraska is not ranked as high as they were at the start of last season, but they still have high expectations, even in a new conference.

    The Cornhuskers are predicted to be an instant threat to win the Big Ten championship in their first year with the conference. But there are several factors that will likely prevent this from happening.

    The effectiveness of quarterback Taylor Martinez diminished as the season went on in 2010. And now Nebraska's run-heavy offense, which had run its course by the end of last year, will face the strong defenses of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State.

    There could be parity throughout the Big Ten this season, and Nebraska may very well win the conference. However, they will probably have a few losses and finish in the polls far from where they started.

No. 19 Auburn

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    The defending national champions are a very different team from what they were in 2010.

    Their offense loses quarterback Cam Newton, who almost single-handidly willed them to a title last year. They also say goodbye to defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

    Overall, the entire team returns only six starters.

    Add that personnel turnover to a brutal SEC schedule and you have a team that will have a tough time staying within the top 20, which is where they are now.

     

No. 18 Notre Dame

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    Irish fans are buying into second year head coach Brian Kelly after Notre Dame had a decent 8-5 mark during his first year in South Bend.

    But the Irish are still far from where they need to be, despite what their No. 18 ranking suggests.

    Their schedule is filled with trap games and matchups against schools of equal or greater talent than the Irish. Michigan State, USC and Stanford immediately jump off their schedule. Rival Michigan could also defeat the Irish, as could Maryland and South Florida.

    It is still too early to tell if the Irish are back.

No. 9 Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M football returned to respectability in 2010, going 9-4 with wins against Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Its season was going down the tubes until the emergence of quarterback Ryan Tannenhill helped the Aggies close the regular season with six consecutive wins.

    Like last season, the Aggies are vulnerable during the first half of the 2011 season with games against Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Texas Tech in succession. What's more, they will have to face national title-contender Oklahoma and arch rival Texas in November.

    With a schedule like that, it will be very hard for A&M to stay in the top 10, which is where they start the season ranked No. 9.

No. 13 Virginia Tech

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    Virginia Tech starts the year ranked No. 13. And although the Hokies are usually ranked higher than 13th in preseason polls, they are still ranked too high.

    Their schedule is weak enough that they should only lose a few games in 2011, but even that probably won't justify a top-15 ranking. And even with an easy schedule, they have been known to lose in stunning fashion against inferior opponents.

    The Hokies lose quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and while they are optimistic about Logan Thomas replacing him, expect plenty of growing pains during his first season as a starter.