One criticism of preseason polls is that often pollsters rank teams too high. Last year, the USA Today Coaches Poll gave too much love to Texas and Iowa.
Texas began the 2010 season ranked No. 4 and Iowa started ranked No. 9. Texas crashed hard last year finishing 5-7 and failed to even qualify to go to a bowl game.
Iowa was not ranked among the Top 20 teams in the last Coaches Poll, but the Hawkeyes did acquit themselves well in the end finishing 8-5 with a 27-24 Insight Bowl win over No. 12 Missouri.
Which begs the question as to which team in the USA Today Coaches Poll is most likely not to finish the season ranked among the Top 20 teams in the final poll of the season.
Below, a discussion of the teams which are least likely to most likely to finish among the Top 20 teams prior to the Conference Championship games:
Boise State QB Kellen Moore
The Broncos spanked No. 19 Georgia 35-21 to begin the season and they now appear poised to run the table once again with Heisman Trophy candidate Quarterback Kellen Moore leading the way.
The two toughest games for Boise State will be October 7 at Fresno State and when they host No. 14 TCU on November 12. Both teams started the season with a loss.
Moore is likely licking his chops in anticipation of both games as California threw for two touchdowns and 266 yards against Fresno State and Baylor threw for six touchdowns and 359 yards against TCU.
I like the chances of Boise State going undefeated and Moore being invited to the Downtown Athletic Club at the end of the season.
Stanford QB Andrew Luck
The Cardinal could run the table this year as the Pac-12 appears to be very weak and they arguably have the best quarterback in the country with Heisman Trophy frontrunner Andrew Luck.
Oregon State lost to Sacramento State, UCLA lost to Houston, Colorado lost its 19th road game to Hawaii and USC barely survived against Minnesota.
Sure, Washington State looked good with a win but their quarterback Jeff Tuel fractured his clavicle.
The schedule is also very favorable for Stanford in that two of the three preseason ranked teams that they play have to come to Palo Alto.
The Cardinal plays Associated Press No. 25 USC on October 29 in the Coliseum. Stanford hosts No. 3 Oregon on November 12 and No. 16 Notre Dame on November 26.
Stanford should end up in a BCS game at the end of the year.
Florida State's EJ Manuel
The Seminoles appear to be back on track and their timing is impeccable as the ACC seems ripe for the picking this season.
North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson has left the ACC conference to go play at Wisconsin.
In Week 1, Boston College lost to Northwestern with Wildcat Quarterback Dan Persa on the sidelines, Wake Forest blew a 15-point lead against Syracuse and Duke continues to struggle as they lost their home opener to Richmond 23-21.
Clemson continues to play inconsistently as they fell behind Troy 16-13 at halftime before finding their rhythm in the second half.
The Seminoles only play two preseason ranked opponents.
Florida State hosts No. 1 Oklahoma on September 17 and then finish the season on the road at No. 22 Florida.
The Seminoles should have no problem finishing among the Top 20 teams in the country in the final Coaches poll.
Oklahoma's Landry Jones
Yes, they play enough quality opponents to take a tumble as they face No. 6 Florida State, No. 21 Missouri, Texas, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Oklahoma State during the season.
However, I don’t see anyway the Sooners take such a precipitous fall in the standings. Coach Stoops has a talented squad led by an experienced quarterback in Heisman hopeful Landry Jones.
Furthermore, the schedule is not really ominous.
Oklahoma has an open date before taking on the Seminoles and they get a chance to have a tuneup game against Ball State before playing Texas.
The Sooners also get to play Missouri and the Aggies at home in Norman.
Barring horrific injuries, Oklahoma should not have to worry about finishing among the Top 20 teams.
LSU Coach Les Miles
The Tigers have such a ridiculously tough schedule that they likely can lose three games and still finish among the Top 20 teams in the country in the last Coaches poll.
The Tigers beat No. 3 Oregon 40-27 to start the season but still have six games left against teams ranked among the Top 20 teams in the preseason poll.
LSU goes on the road to play No. 20 Mississippi State on September 15, Associated Press No. 24 West Virginia on September 24 and No. 2 Alabama on November 5.
LSU hosts No. 23 Florida on October 8, No. 19 Auburn on October 22 and No. 14 Arkansas on November 25.
Fortunately for Coach Les Miles he has enough talent and depth as evidenced by the Tigers Week 1 win over Oregon that the real question is whether they can find a way to get into the BCS Championship game.
Oregon fans still have reason to smile
The Ducks are likely the trendy pick after losing to LSU 40-27 on the opening weekend.
True Oregon fans however know that there is no reason to panic. Oregon plays their next two games at home against Nevada and Missouri State and should be able to right their ship before they begin conference play.
Oregon should win their first six conference games which would give them an 8-1 record before they end the season with their toughest three games of the year.
The Ducks finish the season at No. 7 Stanford on November 12 and then come back home for two games against Associated Press No. 25 USC and arch rival Oregon State.
Barring an upset early in the season, the Ducks need to win only one of their last three games to finish the season among the Top 20 teams. I think Stanford is the better team but I don’t see Oregon losing to the Trojans or Beavers.
The Ducks will likely end the season among the Top 10 but should be playing in a prominent bowl game this year.
Wisconsin's RB Montee Ball
The Badgers have a bruising offensive line, two incredibly nimble running backs in James White and Montee Ball, two big experienced wide receivers and a talented quarterback in Russell Wilson.
Wisconsin is a juggernaut on offense.
The October 1 game in Madison against Nebraska will propel the winner into the National Championship game discussion. The Cornhuskers will have their hands full as the Badgers are very tough to beat at Camp Randall.
If Nebraska beats the Badgers, the big question for Coach Bielema is whether his defense can go on the road and smash the Spartans and Buckeyes in the mouth during the last two weeks in October to stop the potential free fall in the standings.
While it is not inconceivable that the Badgers could lose all three games, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which Wisconsin is blown out in any of the three games such that they fall completely out of the Top 20.
Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden
The Cowboys appear ready to seriously challenge in-state rival Oklahoma this year with quarterback Brandon Weeden, wide receiver Justin Blackmon and safety Markelle Martin among the 16 starters returning from last year’s squad.
The road to the Big 12 Championship for Oklahoma State will not be easy as they have to go on the road to play No. 8 Texas A&M on September 24, Texas on October 15 and No. 21 Missouri on October 22.
If the Cowboys have an Achilles heel, they do not get consistent pass rush from their front four.
After quarterback Robert Griffin III's coming out party against TCU in Week 1, the Cowboys' game on October 29 against Baylor will likely be a high-scoring affair that may go to the team with the ball last.
Then there is the bedlam game against No. 1 Oklahoma to end the season.
Oklahoma State will not finish the season unblemished but even if they lose three games they should do well enough to finish among the Top 20 teams.
RB Cyrus Gray may be the difference maker for the Aggies
The Aggies are wearing the scarlet letter in their farewell tour of the Big 12 with their announcement that they are leaving to seek fame and fortune in the SEC.
Texas A&M is likely to go out with a bang with 18 returning starters including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Cyrus Gray, wide receiver Jeff Fuller and the entire secondary that started the Cotton Bowl game against LSU.
The Aggies have four difficult home games against No. 9 Oklahoma State, Baylor, No. 21 Missouri and Texas.
Texas A&M also has to play No. 15 Arkansas on a neutral site and No. 1 Oklahoma on the road.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Oklahoma State and Arkansas are on back to back weekends.
Of course, the Aggies aren’t worried as they beat Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas within a span of 19 days last year.
Alabama's horse this year is Trent Richardson
I know that it is heresy in SEC country to suggest that the Crimson Tide could fall from grace like Texas did last year.
Yes, the Tide is loaded with talent. Yes, Alabama has a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Trent Richardson. And yes, Nick Saban is still coaching in Tuscaloosa.
However, the Crimson Tide is inexperienced at the most important position on the field—the quarterback position. Alabama played sophomore A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims in their opener.
The good news was that McCarron and Sims threw for nearly 300 yards and a touchdown.
The bad news is that McCarron and Sims also threw four interceptions and the opposition was Kent State.
The schedule is brutal beginning this week with a road game against Penn State and three later road trips to No. 23 Florida, No. 20 Mississippi State and No. 19 Auburn.
Alabama also has to be ready to defend their home turf with games against No. 14 Arkansas and No. 4 LSU in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama will have reason to cheer at the end of the year
This year it is unlikely that any of the Top 10 teams in the preseason poll will finish out of the Top 20 as the top ten teams are very deep and for the most part are led by very experienced quarterbacks. Not all of the preseason Top 10 teams will finish in the Top 15, but they will all be playing in a major bowl at the end of the year.