College Football Predictions: 10 Teams Ready To Join the Top 25 in 2011

Joey HnathCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2011

College Football Predictions: 10 Teams Ready To Join the Top 25 in 2011

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  Justin Houston #42 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after returning a fumble for a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Ima
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Heading into the 2011 college football season, there are sure to be some surprise teams that crack the Top 25 once again.  But, at the same time, expect many of the regulars to return to the polls.

    In 2010, we saw upstart teams such as Mississippi State and Nevada achieve greatness and finish the college football season ranked.  At the same time, many of the traditional powers faltered last season, ending the 2010 campaign unranked.

    Here are 10 unranked schools that will join the Top 25 in 2011.

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 28:  Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountineers passes the ball during the Champs Sports Bowl against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Eh
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Heading into the Champs Sports Bowl against North Carolina State, West Virginia was ranked No. 22 with a chance at a 10-win season.  But after a 23-7 loss to the Wolfpack, the Mountaineers finished the season 9-4 and unranked.

    Behind quarterback Geno Smith—under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting, Dana Holgorsen—look for West Virginia to be back in the Top 25, making a push at a conference championship in the very weak Big East.

9. Michigan Wolverines

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines drops back to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Despite its recent struggles, Michigan has been ranked at some point during each of the past three seasons.

    With defensive-minded head coach Brady Hoke taking over, and quarterback Denard Robinson leading the offense, the Wolverines are perfectly capable of winning eight or nine games and reclaiming their spot in the polls.

8. Utah Utes

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 13: Jordan Wynn #3 of the Utah Utes looks for a recevier against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on November 13, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Utah 28-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Imag
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Despite the move to the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah is primed to return to the Top 25.

    With quarterback Jordan Wynn coming back to lead the Utes, Utah will be a surprise performer in the new conference.  Nine wins is a definite possibility, and now that they’re in a BCS conference, nine wins will get the Utes ranked.

7. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 20:  University of Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz takes the field with his team for the Ohio State Buckeyes NCAA college football game at Kinnick Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Ohio State won 20-17 over Io
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    After a 7-2 start in 2010, the Iowa Hawkeyes lost their last three regular season games before beating the Missouri Tigers in the Insight Bowl.

    Iowa will be relying heavily on running back Marcus Coker, who takes over for the recently dismissed Adam Robinson. 

    Coach Kirk Ferentz knows how to get his team ready to play, so expect Iowa to once again challenge for the Big Ten Championship.

6. Miami Hurricanes

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    PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23:  Jacory Harris #12 of the Miami Hurricanes drops back to pass against the Pittsburgh Panthers on September 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Miami began 2010 as a ranked team, but the Hurricanes finished the season with a measly 7-6 record.

    Under new coach Al Golden, Miami looks to once again regain its swagger. 

    Quarterback Jacory Harris needs to step his game up in 2011.  If he can, the Hurricanes will challenge for a BCS berth.

5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Running back Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a touchdown against the Miami Hurricanes during the Hyundai Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Fighting Irish finished 2010 strongly, winning their final four games after a 4-5 start.

    With quarterback Dayne Crist returning and highly recruited running back Cierre Wood finding his stride, Notre Dame is poised to take another step forward during coach Brian Kelly’s second season in South Bend.

4. USC Trojans

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    PASADENA, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Malcolm Smith #6 of the USC Trojans celebrates following his teams victory over the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on December 4, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  USC defeated UCLA 28-14.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    With NCAA sanctions preventing them from going to a bowl game, the USC Trojans played lackluster football in 2010, finishing the season 8-5.

    Despite another year with a postseason ban, the Trojans have too much talent to not finish the 2011 season in the AP Top 25.

3. Florida Gators

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30:  Janoris Jenkins #1 of the Florida Gators looks over the offense during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Even with a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Gators finished 2010 with an 8-5 record.

    With quarterback John Brantley returning to Gainesville, along with cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Florida will be in the hunt for yet another SEC Championship in 2011.

2. Texas Longhorns

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    AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Bevo, the mascot of the Texas Longhorns, stands in his corner during a game against the Colorado Buffaloes on October 10, 2009 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Texas won 38-14.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Ge
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    2010 was a season to forget for the Texas Longhorns.  A year removed from a berth in the BCS Championship Game, the Longhorns went 5-7 and finished last in the Big 12 South.

    Texas has a plethora of talent, and if quarterback Garrett Gilbert can eliminate some of his mistakes in 2011, the Longhorns will bounce back nicely.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  UGA VIII, mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs, against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Dawgs finished 2010 with a 6-7 record and a loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl.

    In 2011, Quarterback Aaron Murray returns for his sophomore season, and new recruits Isaiah Crowell and Johnathan Jenkins will have a big impact in their first season in Athens.

    The Bulldogs will have a 10-win season and represent the SEC East in the conference championship game.

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