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AP Poll College Football 2011: Every Team Labeled as BCS Contender or Pretender

Chris HumphreyCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2011

AP Poll College Football 2011: Every Team Labeled as BCS Contender or Pretender

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    The launch of the 2011 college season is one step closer to finally starting with the release of the annual preseason Associated Press Top 25 this morning.

    As with any poll in collegiate sports, there will be debate of whether or not a team is ranked too high or too low, and in some cases, if they were completely snubbed in the poll.

    In this article, every team in the AP preseason Top 25 is given the tag of either being a contender for the BCS title or just pretending before they are revealed to be an overrated squad this season. 

No. 25: USC Trojans

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 8-5

    Key Game: vs. Stanford on October 29

    Key Issue: Offensive Line

    Even with NCAA sanctions barring the Trojans from making the Pac-12 title or bowl game this season, Southern California can still make some noise this season as the spoiler, especially with solid offense led by junior quarterback Matt Barkley, along with Pac-10 Freshman of the year Robert Woods at receiver this season.

No. 24: West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 9-4

    Key Game: vs. LSU on September 24

    Key Issue: Expectations from Fans

    As Dana Holgorsen enters his first season as head coach of West Virginia, the expectations for the Mountaineers have risen to what they were back in the Rich Rodriguez days in Morgantown. If WVU can upset the LSU Tigers at home in September, you shouldn’t be surprised to see the Mountaineers in the BCS this season.

No. 23: Auburn Tigers

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 14-0

    Key Game: at LSU on October 22

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    Cam Newton isn’t walking through that door this season.

    The Tigers will have junior Barrett Trotter taking the snaps in 2011 for a team that will feature only five returning starters, with sophomore running back Michael Dyer being one of the five that could take the pressure off Trotter as he adjusts to being the starter. 

No.22: Florida Gators

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 8-5

    Key Game: at South Carolina on November 12

    Key Issue: Offense

    As Will Muschamp starts his first season in Gainesville, the new coach brought in former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis to be the offensive coordinator to help quarterback John Brantley and the Gators’ offense, who finished the 2010 season at 82nd in the nation.

No. 21: Missouri Tigers

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 10-3

    Key Game: at Oklahoma on September 24

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    Like many other programs across the country that lost their starting quarterback to the NFL, the Tigers were not spared from that fact, as Blaine Gabbert moved on, but with 16 starters returning to Columbia, Missouri should make another run at the Big 12 title. 

No. 20: Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 9-4

    Key Game: vs. Alabama on November 12

    Key Issue:  SEC West Division

    For a team that has shown a great deal of improvement since Dan Mullen took over the team two years ago, the animal that is the SEC West is going to relegate a really good team to third or fourth place but still win nine or 10 games in 2011. Ah, the beauty of the Southeastern Conference.

No. 19: Georgia Bulldogs

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 6-7

    Key Game: vs. Florida on October 29

    Key Issue: Running Game

    After a disappointing 6-7 season in Athens, the Bulldogs will have 11 players returning to the team for 2011 but only four of those are on offense, so Aaron Murray will depend on the running of freshman Isaiah Crowell to help with a passing game that loses AJ Green and Kris Durham.

No. 18: Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 12-1

    Key Game: vs. Wisconsin on October 29

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    With the dust settling from the tattoo-memorabilia scandal that saw Jim Tressel resign and Terrelle Pryor move on to the NFL early, the Buckeyes will have to jell together as they face off with MAC schools Akron and Toledo as new coach Luke Fickell starts his first head coaching job in such a difficult situation. 

No. 17: Michigan State Spartans

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 11-2

    Key Game: at Nebraska on October 29

    Key Issue: Offensive Line

    The Spartans can be just as good as the team was last season that took a share of the Big Ten title with Ohio State and Wisconsin if the offensive line that only returns guards Joel Foreman and Chris McDonald can help protect the dangerous duo of Kirk Cousins and Edwin Baker in East Lansing this season.

No. 16: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 8-5

    Key Game: at Stanford on November 26

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    As of writing this article, Brian Kelly and Notre Dame have yet to name a starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish’s season opening game against South Florida on the 3rd of September. If you want to read between the lines, it has been reported that Dayne Crist has been taking a number of snaps with the second team offense, which could mean that sophomore Tommy Rees could get the nod after four straight wins to end the regular season in 2010.

No. 15: Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 10-3

    Key Game: at LSU on November 25

    Key Issue: Running Game

    After the recent injury to Knile Davis that will keep him off the field for the entire season, the play of junior Ronnie Wingo will be much more needed than expected but will be a good option for new quarterback Tyler Wilson as he takes over for the departed Ryan Mallet.

No. 14: TCU Horned Frogs

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 13-0

    Key Game: at Boise State on November 12

    Key Issue: Quarterback and Offensive Line

    The two biggest issues facing the Horned Frogs coming off their 2010 Rose Bowl game victory over Wisconsin are the worst two issues to happen to a football team in transition: new quarterback and young offensive line.

    The TCU offensive line will feature only one senior player in Jeff Olson to help protect Casey Pachall who takes over for Andy Dalton, the most successful quarterback in school history holding nearly every major passing record at the program.

No. 13: Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 11-3

    Key Game: vs. Miami on October 8

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    With Tyrod Taylor moving on from Virginia Tech, sophomore Logan Thomas will be the man under center in Blacksburg this season, where there will be a bit of a learning curve, but with four of five offensive linemen returning, the curve will not be as sharp as at other programs.

No. 12: South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 9-5

    Key Game: vs. Florida on November 12

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    In Columbia, the long soap opera that of Stephen Garcia at quarterback might finally be over after his fifth and last suspension by the Gamecocks that points all signs to Connor Shaw taking over a team that could win its second straight division title in a weakened SEC East this season.

No. 11: Wisconsin Badgers

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 11-2

    Key Game: at Ohio State on October 29

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    The running game of James White and Montee Ball will be depended on more in Madison this season, as Scott Tolzien has moved on from the program, leaving Jon Budmayr the new starter of a team that has the talent to win the inaugural Big Ten championship game.

No. 10: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 10-4

    Key Game: vs. Michigan State on October 29

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    After the Cornhuskers introduced a new offensive coordinator in Tim Beck that brings a more no-huddle scheme, sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez will be the key, as if he can produce in the new offense, it will ultimately decide whether Nebraska’s first season in the Big Ten is a successful one this season. 

No. 9: Oklahoma State

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 11-2

    Key Game: vs. Oklahoma on December 3

    Key Issue: Front Seven

    The defensive line and linebacker corps will only return three starters this season, so the remaining returns, Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick most notably, will need to be leaders on defense, as the offensive side of the ball might surpass the 520 yards a game squad from last season. 

No. 8: Texas A&M Aggies

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 9-4

    Key Game: at Oklahoma on November 5

    Key Issue: Pass Rush

    As Von Miller moved on to the NFL, the Aggies will need to sure up the pass rush from the front seven,  but will feature the return of sophomore Damontre Moore, who will try to do his best to fill the void that the first round NFL draft pick left in College Station.

No. 7: Stanford Cardinal

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 12-1

    Key Game: vs. Oregon on November 12

    Key Issue: Head Coach

    Stanford fans were probably shocked to see their quarterback Andrew Luck return for his junior season in Palo Alto but disappointed to see Jim Harbaugh leave for the NFL, the coach that turned the Cardinal into a threat in the Pac-12.

    Offensive coordinator David Shaw will take over as head coach, first in his career, so if he can duplicate what he did as the OC from 2007 through last season, Stanford will be just fine this season.

No. 6: Florida State Seminoles

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 10-4

    Key Game: vs. Oklahoma on September 17

    Key Issue: Back-to-Back Key Games

    Jimbo Fisher can out due his first season if he can guide the Seminoles through a difficult two week stretch of games in September where FSU welcomes Oklahoma to Tallahassee and a trip to Clemson in ACC play.

No. 5: Boise State Broncos

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 12-1

    Key Game: vs. TCU on November 12

    Key Issue: Passing Game

    On a team that is a annual contender to make a BCS run, the Broncos have a stellar 14 players returning who started in 2010, but the one group that is hurting is the receiving corps who lose Titus Young and Austin Pettis to the NFL. Senior tailback Doug Martin can help alleviate any problems with the passing game this season that had a crazy six yards a carry last season on the way to 12 touchdowns.

No. 4: LSU Tigers

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    Contender/Pretender: Pretender

    Last Season: 11-2

    Key Game: vs. Oregon on September 3

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    With the recent news of quarterback Jordan Jefferson being an alleged bar fight yesterday morning, the hopes of a national championship in Baton Rouge could rest on the season opening game against Oregon at Cowboys Stadium, effectively daggering the 2011 season at the start.

No. 3: Oregon Ducks

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 12-1

    Key Game: at Stanford on November 12

    Key Issue: Offensive Line

    In a offense that’s explosive as the one Chip Kelly uses in Eugene, the offensive line is a definite must to be a strong, but when the Ducks only return three of the five members of the line, we’d have to see if Oregon can be as prolific with the ball as they were in 2010.

No. 2: Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 10-3

    Key Game: at LSU

    Key Issue: Quarterback

    With the graduation of Greg McElroy, Alabama will need to determine which quarterback, either AJ McCarron or Phillip Sims, will run the offense this season, but whoever gets the nod, a healthy dose of Trent Richardson will be needed in the first couple games in 2011.

No. 1: Oklahoma Sooners

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    Contender/Pretender: Contender

    Last Season: 12-2

    Key Game: at Oklahoma State on December 3

    Key Issue: Running Game

     On a team that seems to be locked in for a run at their first National title since 2000, the Sooners lose their star running back Demarco Murray to the NFL so Oklahoma may need to use a running back committee until the team can find a dependable back to carry the bulk of the running game.

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