College Football: Predicting the USA Today Rankings After Week 1

Tom PerryCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2011

College Football: Predicting the USA Today Rankings After Week 1

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    While there are a few outstanding games the first week of the season, there aren’t enough to truly shake up the rankings.

    The loser of No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU won’t fall too far.  The biggest fall could hit the loser of No. 7 Boise State and No. 22 Georgia.

    Is it possible someone new will crack the USA Today Coaches Poll after the first week?

    Let’s take a look at how the poll will look next week.

No. 25: Penn State

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    The Nittany Lions have no business being in the top 25, but Penn State will pick up an easy win over Indiana State in the opener and remain at 25.

    Penn State’s days in the rankings will be short-lived as No. 2 Alabama will put a whipping on Joe Paterno’s boys in State College on Sept. 10.

    It should be another mediocre season as Penn State plays for a spot in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.

    Preseason ranking: No. 25

No. 24: Texas

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    If the Longhorns are truly back after last season’s disappointing 5-7 season, then Mack Brown’s team should win its first four games.

    Texas could be up around Nos. 14-16 in the rankings when it faces No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 8.

    If the Longhorns show us that last year was really the direction this program is headed, then the second week game with BYU will be a lot tougher.

    Preseason ranking: No. 24

No. 23: Florida

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    The Gators’ early season schedule should allow Will Muschamp to settle in as the coach in Gainesville.

    Florida will get past Florida Atlantic and UAB before opening the SEC schedule at The Swamp with rival Tennessee.  The Volunteers should be improved in the second season with Derek Dooley.

    Florida should stick around No. 23 for two weeks before potentially dropping out of the rankings completely.

    Preseason ranking: No. 23

No. 22: Missouri

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    If Missouri doesn’t watch out, defending Mid-American Conference champ Miami (OH) could sneak up on the Tigers in Columbia.

    But it’s not likely.

    The following week, Missouri will likely lose and drop out of the top 25, as the Tigers travel to underrated Arizona State.

    Preseason ranking: No. 21

No. 21: Mississippi State

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    Dropping one spot this early in the season isn’t that big a deal, and the Bulldogs will have a chance to make a statement after dismantling Memphis in the opener.

    The following week Mississippi State should ride into the Plains and pull out a close win over Auburn.

    A win should equate to moving up the poll five or six spots.

    Preseason ranking: No. 20

No. 20: Auburn

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    Even though Auburn has lost some great talent from last year’s championship team, Gene Chizik’s group should manage just fine against Utah State.

    As mentioned in the slide before, Auburn might fall out of the top 25 the following week after facing Mississippi State.

    Even if Auburn doesn’t fall out after opening 1-1, the Tigers will after the third week playing at Clemson.

    Preseason ranking: No. 19

No. 19: Michigan State

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    Michigan State will drop two spots, but not because of the Spartans’ performance.

    Kirk Cousins and co. will take care of Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic in back-to-back weeks.

    The voters will determine how good Michigan State really is the following week when it takes on Notre Dame.

    Preseason ranking: No. 17

No. 18: Notre Dame

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    Should we believe what we saw from Notre Dame in the final four games last season?

    Or should we be skeptical when a young, but athletic South Florida team comes knocking the first weekend?

    The Irish are improved on defense and should avoid an upset against the Bulls, but Notre Dame could run into trouble the few weeks that follow that game.

    Preseason ranking: No. 18

No. 17: Boise State

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    Following a tough loss to Georgia, Boise will drop 10 spots. That may seem like a lot, but the voters will have that type of reaction to a Mountain West program.

    Boise could work its way back into the top 10 if the Broncos win out, but a tougher schedule this year could mean one or two more losses.

    Preseason ranking: No. 7

No. 16: Ohio State

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    For all of the turmoil and bad luck that has surrounded Ohio State since December, the first real break comes with the season opener.

    Akron went 1-11 last year and Ohio State will roll big in Luke Fickell’s debut.

    Ohio State might creep into the top 10 with wins over Colorado and Ohio State still to come.

    Preseason ranking: No. 16

No. 15: TCU

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    TCU faces a stiff challenge with Baylor, and the Horned Frogs have lost a number of key components from last year’s undefeated team.

    The biggest loss is quarterback Andy Dalton, but TCU will find a way to win at Baylor and hold onto its position in the rankings.

    Preseason ranking: No. 15

No. 14: Arkansas

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    Arkansas needs a cupcake opener like Missouri State to get its footing after losing Ryan Mallett to the NFL and Knile Davis to injury.

    Bobby Petrino is a great coach and by the time the Razorbacks play No. 2 Alabama he will have all of the kinks worked out.

    It just may not equate to a win over the Crimson Tide.

    Preseason ranking: No. 14

No. 13: Georgia

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    As you probably figured out already, I’m predicting that Georgia upsets Boise State in the opener.

    That’s right, Aaron Murray out-duels Kellen Moore in Atlanta.

    The Bulldogs have to stay focused because they get South Carolina the next week in Athens. The game with the Gamecocks is much more important to the overall success for Georgia’s season.

    Preseason ranking: No. 22

No. 12: Virginia Tech

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    The Hokies’ joke of a schedule should allow Frank Beamer’s team to easily move up in the poll.

    Where it will stop depends on everyone in front of them because Virginia Tech is going to win a lot of games this year.

    But no one will really know how good the Hokies are until they play Florida State in the ACC Championship.

    Preseason ranking: No. 13

No. 11: South Carolina

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    South Carolina is the most talented it has been since Steve Spurrier arrived.  You could even say this is the most talented group in Columbia ever.

    They have All-American talent at receiver, running back, defensive end and corner.

    If quarterback Stephen Garcia puts it all together, South Carolina could even challenge for an SEC championship.

    The Gamecocks will take care of East Carolina in the opener and move up one spot.

    Preseason ranking: No. 12

No. 10: LSU

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    LSU’s recent legal troubles will cost the Tigers against Oregon in the first week.

    Les Miles’ team will still be very competitive in their season opener with the Ducks, so the Tigers will have an opportunity to get back into the national title hunt.

    Preseason ranking: No. 4

No. 9: Nebraska

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    Nebraska has one of the toughest schedules in the Big Ten, but Bo Pelini’s team gets a cupcake in the opener with Tennessee-Chattanooga.

    The next three weeks will be a little more of a challenge with Fresno State, Washington and at Wyoming. But the Cornhuskers should be 4-0 as they head to Wisconsin on Oct. 1.

    Preseason ranking: No. 11

No. 8: Wisconsin

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    Everyone around the Wisconsin program is excited for the debut of North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson.

    The talented quarterback is going to love playing in front of the frenetic Wisconsin crowd and he’ll also like having a running attack led by Montee Ball and James White.

    UNLV is a long ways from being a concern for the Badgers.

    Preseason ranking: No. 10

No. 7: Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M should get a stiff challenge from SMU’s potent offense, but the Aggies are too talented to fall to the Mustangs.

    A&M’s offensive firepower is going to be on full display, led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    The Aggies’ defense is also experienced, so A&M may just begin its amazing season with SMU.

    Preseason ranking: No. 9

No. 6: Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State’s offense will exploit Louisiana-Lafayette for at least 50 points, and the starters will likely be pulled before the fourth quarter.

    Quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon will each begin their potential Heisman campaign in the first week.

    The Cowboys will find out if they are a legitimate top 10 team when they hit the road for Texas A&M on Sept. 24.

    Preseason ranking: No. 8

No. 5: Stanford

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    New coach David Shaw takes over a top-10 program and has the best player in college football.

    Yet, it’s still nice to open with an easy win against San Jose State.

    The Cardinal should remain among this elite company at least until the end of October when they travel to USC on Oct. 29.

    Preseason ranking: No. 6

No. 4: Florida State

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    The Seminoles move up a spot and could move up higher after Florida State gets No. 1 Oklahoma in Tallahassee on Sept. 17.

    Jimbo Fisher’s team still has a few other tough games to get through, but the contest with the Sooners is a huge litmus test.

    Preseason ranking: No. 5

No. 3: Oregon

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    Ten days ago, I would have put LSU here and Oregon at No. 10.

    But a few too many key Tigers have allegedly run afoul with the law and are now suspended for the opener.

    So it looks like the Ducks could be on a path to the BCS Championship again.

    Preseason ranking: No. 3

No. 2: Alabama

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    Alabama has never been afraid to take on a serious contender the first week, but this year the Tide catch a break as Kent State travels to Tuscaloosa.

    The following week Alabama must step up its game as it travels to a hostile environment at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium.

    Preseason ranking: No. 2

No. 1: Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma is not exactly opening with a patsy, but the Sooners should handle Tulsa just fine at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

    The Sooners’ top ranking won’t be seriously tested until Sept. 17 when they travel to Florida State.

    A victory at Doak Campbell Stadium might mean Oklahoma holds onto the No. 1 ranking for almost the entire season.

    Preseason ranking: No. 1