College Football Rankings 2011: 7 AP Top-25 Teams Who Will Be Out by October
The AP preseason Top 25 is a time honored tradition. We love college football so much that we can't wait until teams have actually started playing to begin ranking them.
This system is not without flaws. Voters are forced to speculate on how inexperienced college players will adjust to the big stage. This is not the NFL, and it is more difficult to predict how a player will adjust to an unfamiliar situation.
The Top 25 does not go through a season without change. There are several teams in the Top 25 who have first-round picks to replace at key positions. Underachieving in the first two weeks could mark a short stay in the rankings, especially for teams closer to the bottom of the 25-team list.
There is less margin for error at the bottom. An underwhelming performance against a cupcake or worse, a loss, could send these teams tumbling from the rankings.
So, which teams on the list now will be gone by the time October rolls around?
23. Auburn Tigers
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There will be no raising of the crystal football at the end of this season for Auburn. The Tigers simply lost too much.
Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner who accounted for basically all of the team's offense last year, is gone. The new starting quarterback, junior Barrett Trotter, will play behind an offensive line that has to replace four starters. The lack of experience on the offensive line could be more of a problem than the loss of Newton. In all, only three starters return from the title-winning offense.
The defense will be missing Nick Fairley and seven other starters. In the nation's best conference, the SEC, an inexperienced defense could spell trouble.
Replacing 16 starters is never easy. The Tigers are lucky to be ranked at all. Their first challenge comes in week two. Mississippi State comes to Jordan Hare Stadium. The Bulldogs are an up and coming team. Quarterback Chris Relf is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks.
He has a stable of talented wide receivers to target. On the defensive side, the Bulldogs experienced secondary, could feast on the inexperienced Trotter.
A year ago, picking Mississippi State to beat Auburn would draw questioning stares. This season, it looks like Mississippi State will do the honors of knocking the defending champs out of the Top 25.
22. Florida Gators
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The Gators struggled to move the ball during last season's 8-5 campaign. They did not have the right quarterback in John Brantley to run Urban Meyer's spread offense.
Meyer is retired now, but Brantley is left to try and learn new coach Will Muschamp's pro style offense. That could prove challenging for Brantley.
The Gators must replace four starters on the offensive line, and are lacking star power at wide receiver. That will not help Brantley. The bright spot on the Gators offense is running back. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are a very speedy duo, but if the line cannot open holes, that speed will be wasted.
Florida's defense will sorely miss Janoris Jenkins who finally ran out of second chances. Their secondary is now bereft of veteran leadership. The defensive line and linebackers may be able to cover up this weakness in the opening weeks, but once SEC play begins, that may not be possible.
The Gators open the season with FAU and UAB, two games they should win. Unfortunately for Florida, losing games is not the only way to fall out of the Top 25. Not playing well against inferior opponents can also drop a team from the rankings.
Expect the Gators to get off to a slow start under a new coach. That should be enough for them to fall from the rankings.
21. Missouri Tigers
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The Missouri Tigers are another team on the fringes of the Top 25 who must replace a first-round quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is gone, and his replacement, James Franklin, is just a sophomore who does not have much in game experience running Gary Pinkel's spread offense.
The Tigers have never been a team to run the ball much or play great defense. They need Franklin to grow up quickly, as they will be challenged during their first four games.
Missouri faces Arizona State in Week 2, and top ranked Oklahoma in week 4. Arizona State is a team on the rise. A loss in Week 2 would all but assure a 2-2 start for the Tigers and a quick exit from the Top 25.
19. Georgia Bulldogs
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Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt is in serious trouble. It may not be entirely his fault that the Bulldogs have struggled the past two years, but in Athens, someone has to answer for a team that has gone 14-12 the past two seasons and could start 0-2 this year.
The Bulldogs are not without a strong roster, and their spot in the Top 25 is certainly justifiable. Their problem is their murderous early season schedule. Number five Boise State awaits in week 1. A few years ago, the Bulldogs would certainly have been the favorites.
The Broncos are no longer the feel good story of college football. They are a title contender and Georgia will have a hard time beating them.
A loss to Boise State might not knock Georgia out of the Top 25, but their opponent the next week, South Carolina will. The Gamecocks will be contenders for the SEC title again this year.
Coming off a tough game against Boise State, it's hard to see the Bulldogs rebounding to knock off Steve Spurrier's boys.
16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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Brian Kelly's teams are usually known for their offensive prowess. This year's edition of the Fighting Irish could actually be known for their defense. Linebacker Manti Te'o leads a defense that will outshine the offense in South Bend.
The problem with Notre Dame is that they simply don't inspire that much confidence. The Irish have lost to former punching bag Navy two years in a row. This team simply has not exhibited a killer instinct in recent seasons.
This year, they open with four potential losses, South Florida, Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. Both Michigan teams laid losses on the Irish last year, and look poised to do so again this year. Michigan's dynamic Denard Robinson and State's veteran Kirk Cousins will be early season tests for the defense.
A 1-3 start to the season is a real possibility in South Bend. That would dull the shine on golden boy Brian Kelly and certainly knock the Golden Domers out of the Top 25.
15. Arkansas Razorbacks
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Replacing Ryan Mallett, one of the country's best quarterbacks would be hard enough for coach Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks. That task got a lot harder when the leading rusher in the SEC last year, Knile Davis, was lost to an ankle injury. He will be out the entire season.
Arkansas opens with three warmup games. Then the going gets a lot tougher. Week 4 features a matchup against Alabama. Arkansas' suspect defense will not be able to shut down the Tide's offense, and without their best weapon moving the ball, it will be next to impossible.
An October 1st date with Texas A&M follows. The Aggies have one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. If Alabama's offense tears up Arkansas, how will they fare against a much better A&M unit?
Two losses in a row by Oct. 1st should spell the end to Arkansas' time in the Top 25. The rankings came out before Knile Davis went down. Voters would probably be more reluctant to put the Razorbacks in the Top 15 if a vote were taken today.
4. LSU Tigers
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This was supposed to be the year Jordan Jefferson put it all together for the LSU Tigers and Coach Les Miles.
Now, after getting involved in a barroom melee that left a man with serious injuries, Jefferson is suspended for the season opening clash of the titans against Oregon. Jefferson's suspension casts a huge shadow on the Tigers' season.
Miles has had to focus his attention on getting backup quarterback Jarrett Lee ready to start against the Ducks. His attention would have been better served planning to stop the spread offense Oregon employs.
The schedule does not get any easier after the Oregon game. After a pick me up against Northwestern State, LSU is forced to play Mississippi State and West Virginia in successive weeks.
Jordan Jefferson couldn't have picked a worse time to get himself suspended. Distractions at the start of the season have spelled doom for many teams ranked in the top five of preseason polls. Each year it seems there is one highly ranked team that struggles right away and is eliminated quickly from the BCS discussion.
This year, thanks to Jordan Jefferson, it looks like LSU could be that team.