College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: 5 Most Overrated Teams in the Country

Justin SparksCorrespondent IIIAugust 18, 2011

College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: 5 Most Overrated Teams in the Country

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    College football remains only days away. The preseason polls have been released, which could lead to only one thing: deducing which teams are overrated.

    Personally, the preseason polls have historically been a crapshoot for predicting who will end up at the top at the end of each season. Auburn's run last year tells you all you need to know about preseason polls.

    The basis of the following list of teams will be on who either will not maintain in their preseason ranking by Oct. 1. If you cannot maintain your preseason status—whether justified or not—your program has been given too much credit and is overrated.

    The following slides contain teams who will show their true colors and prove themselves unworthy of their high rankings. All judgements will be based on the USA Today coaches poll for Week 1.

No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Amidst all the PR storms the NCAA has faced this offseason—including one storm being upgraded to a category five hurricane—there remains one team that has faced a storm during the offseason that did not involve NCAA violations.

    What several people forget is that Tuscaloosa and the Gulf Coast region had been ravaged by tornadoes during the spring. A community and school collaborated together as they picked up the pieces scattered throughout Tuscaloosa. This story will be brought back in the limelight on Saturday nights this fall.

    This Alabama team has everything to play for and deserves all the support in the world for its community-first approach to this offseason. Motivation and new-found team-community continuity aside, this team has garnered far too much respect on the football field.

    There is just something about this team that does not sit well with me. To be honest, I cannot pinpoint it exactly, but there are some contributing factors. For starters, they lost too many key starting players at key positions for my liking.

    Nick Saban loses his starting quarterback in Greg McElroy, starting running back and Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram and top 10 NFL draft pick in wide receiver Julio Jones. I do not care if you are Alabama, USC, or Texas: Talent of that caliber does not simply get replaced, no matter how good your recruiting classes may be.

    McElroy went 24-3 during his collegiate career at Alabama. Whether A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims earns the starting quarterback position he will have a tough task following the former starting quarterback who brought Alabama its 13th national championship.

    Let us not forget the Tide play in the SEC, which has seven other programs in the USA Today coaches poll top 25. More specifically, they play the SEC West, which has the upper echelon of power in the SEC going into 2011.

    Alabama’s schedule includes games at Penn State, home against Arkansas, at Florida, home against LSU, at Mississippi State and at Auburn—a gauntlet of teams that will prove exceedingly daunting in remaining unscathed at the end of the season.

    All of the aforementioned games outside of the Penn State matchup could prove to be bumps in the road to New Orleans for the Crimson Tide. Both games at Florida and home against Mississippi State scream upset looking at their schedule.

    Alabama could very well lose its No. 2 ranking by Oct. 1 down in “The Swamp.” Coach Saban will have his hands full keeping this team from taking a week off throughout its relentless 2011 schedule.

No. 5 Florida State Seminoles

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    There has been quite the buzz stemming from Tallahassee this offseason. The Florida State Seminoles and Jimbo Fisher breathed life back into a program that has been gasping for air for almost a decade.

    Fisher took over as head coach of the Seminoles after Bobby Bowden left his post of 34 years of service in the program. Fisher wasted no time putting his mark on the team improving the overall record from 7-6 during Bowden’s last season to 10-4 during his inaugural season as head coach.

    Add a state title with wins over Miami and Florida, an ACC championship game appearance, a Chik-fil-A Bowl victory and a top-ranked recruiting class to Fisher’s first full year on the job, and you have yourself an overrated candidate.

    Look, there are a ton of ingredients about this team that smell fantastic, but the crucial test resides in the taste test. The first taste of how good this team really is comes Sept. 17 under the lights at Doak Campbell Stadium against the first-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.

    Before declaring that this once proud and dominant program has dusted itself off we must see how things shake out. If—and this is a big if—Florida State beats Oklahoma then you will hear a loud shriek coming out of Tallahassee.

    For me, the true test comes the following week when Florida State travels to South Carolina to play the Clemson Tigers. This team will be ready to face OU. The true test of a champion and a top five team can be found in how they look the following week after an emotional, hotly contested matchup, aka the letdown game.

    Florida State has a tougher schedule than what appears at first glance. Seminole fans have clearly been incognizant and jaded by their recent victory over in-state rivals at the University of Florida. FSU must go into "The Swamp" at the end of the year to face a potently talented team that wants to find retribution under its new head coach after a porous 2010.

    Until Florida State rides the Oklahoma-sized wave and the Clemson wake that follows, they remain overrated at No. 5 in my book. Top 10 seems justifiably fair, but E.J. Manuel and company must pass the tests.

No. 6 Stanford Cardinal

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    The Andrew Luck sweepstakes have begun in the NFL as teams wait for the next John Elway or Peyton Manning to graduate. In the meantime, Luck will be trying to lead his Stanford Cardinal squad to another BCS bowl without the help of his former head coach, Jim Harbaugh.

    Harbaugh bolted for the NFL and accepted a position with the San Francisco 49ers. Luck had been tipped to follow suit and move up to the next level. Luck decided to play out another year in Stanford.

    The Cardinal has been given a No. 6 ranking in the preseason coaches poll. I have a big problem with this. Yes, Luck has all the tangibles and intangibles that leave a puddle of drool next to every NFL scout’s feet. However, the Pac-10 has been upgraded to the Pac-12, and, oh yea, he lost his head coach.

    Luck goes to Stanford, so you know he remains capable of digesting a new system in the time span allotted from the beginning of spring to the end of the summer. My question lies with how his fellow teammates can handle assimilating into a new system without any hiccups.

    Anthony Wilkerson personifies what type of team this Stanford unit desires to be. His unselfish play to ice the game against Arizona State last November speaks volumes about the type of team this is. It thrives to be great while remaining unselfish and together as one.

    That is quite noble of the Cardinal, but that does not guarantee anything, let alone a 'w.' Stanford must play at Arizona during the third week of the season for its first true test of the 2011 schedule. Two weeks later it hosts the UCLA Bruins for a tricky home matchup.

    I realize on the opening slide my basis for stating whether teams were overrated or not was how they would fair by Oct. 1. However, Stanford’s schedule demands bending that guideline—I made it up, so it’s legal, don’t worry.

    Luck and Stanford face the Pac-12’s version of the gauntlet. Their last seven games are as follows: Washington at home, USC away, Oregon State away, Oregon at home, California at home, Notre Dame at home and the Pac-12 Championship.

    No matter how frequently NFL team executives day dream about drafting Luck during the NFL 2012 draft, there is no way on this green earth Stanford comes out of that final stretch without a blemish to its record. If it does, I will gladly admit I was wrong.

    Until that happens, Stanford must prove itself worthy of the No. 6 ranking.

No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies

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    The Texas A&M Aggies have been yanked around, tossed this way and that way and chewed on by the SEC over the past week like a dog playing with its favorite toy. The Aggies had been the centerpiece of a national story about the possibility of a move to the SEC. Then the SEC came out and retracted those statements, claiming satisfaction with the current 12 teams it has.

    The same reason Texas A&M should not go into the SEC is the same reason this team has been severely overrated.  The Aggies would not be able to keep up with their schedule. The SEC would use them like a bad date—give us a free meal so we cannot talk to you again.

    A&M finished its 2010 season with a 9-4 record—a respectable record that deserves recognition when you beat Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas in the same year. However, the Aggies got blown out by Missouri 30-9 at home, beat FIU by a measly touchdown, lost to Arkansas at home, skimmed past Nebraska by three, held off Texas by a touchdown and got shown up by LSU in the Cotton Bowl.

    If you are keeping score that made the Aggies 0-2 versus the SEC last season, losing by a combined 24 points between the two games.

    The last three games of 2010 could have very easily left the Aggies high and dry if they do not squeak out two wins versus Nebraska and Texas.

    The Aggies' first month of football will quickly test their resolve as the ninth best team in the nation. A&M hosts No. 8 Oklahoma State at home on the last weekend of September. What should be a top 10 matchup between Big 12 teams—barring neither team staggers out of the gates—will test the Aggies early on.

    If Texas A&M passes the Oklahoma State Cowboys test, the following week it must travel down to the Dallas Cowboys’ palace in “Big D” for a matchup against Arkansas. This game will be the true litmus test. Personally, Arkansas’ receiving corp will be too much to handle on the artificial turf in the house that Jerry Jones built. Speed, speed and more speed on the outside will give A&M headaches all game.

    Texas A&M will be a solid top 15 team in college football for 2011, but the likelihood it can sustain its top 10 spot has me skeptical beyond reason. For a team that went 4-8 in 2008, 6-7 in 2009 and squeezed by going 9-4 in 2010 its ability to cope with a tough schedule early and late had this team jumping off the rankings list as overrated.

    Not to mention the Aggies lost their best player to the 2010 NFL draft in Von Miller, the stud A&M linebacker in 2010. Even the 12th man, one of college football’s greatest spectacles and traditions, cannot will this team to remain in the top 10.

No. 16 Ohio State

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    I’m not sure if you heard the same thing I did this past Tuesday night, but there was a large unanimous sigh of relief that exhaled from the Midwest and in Ohio after the University of Miami allegations surfaced. Miami instantly made Ohio State’s violations seem like stealing bubble gum versus holding up the convenience store.

    The unanimous relief of the Buckeye nation may be all well and good, but they still must pick themselves up for the 2011 season. Ohio State is ranked No. 16 according the USA Today coaches poll. That may not be normal for the Buckeyes, who usually reside within the top 10 in preseason polls, but they are given too much respect with that ranking for my liking.

    The Buckeyes were a fumble away from losing the Nokia Sugar Bowl last season to Arkansas, which, by the way, had been their first victory over an SEC opponent in a bowl game under then head coach Jim Tressel, and that was with their full team allowed to play.

    Whether the five players involved in the allegations should have been allowed to play or not contains too many opinions on my part to discuss in this piece, but to sum them up I think Ohio State was shown grace by the NCAA so the Sugar Bowl would not be another SEC route and the NCAA could collect its television revenues. That said, those same five players would be absent for the first five games due to suspension or leaving the program.

    Ohio State goes into the 2011 season without its starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas from 2010. Oh, let us not forget the vest has left the building and a no-name assistant coach was promoted from within.

    Luke Fickell, a Buckeye through and through, has to pick up the pieces for this proud program and try to keep things straight with a new starting quarterback, which will prove to be the first big choice as head coach.

    The Buckeyes must travel to Miami for a prime time matchup with the Hurricanes in what should be labeled “violation Saturday”—a tough road game to send them into their conference schedule.

    Fickell will be tested early with games against Michigan State at home, at Nebraska and at Illinois all in succession. It is hard to foresee a scenario where Ohio State goes through their first two months of the season unblemished with a new, under qualified head coach and a new quarterback under center.

    Do not be surprised if Ohio State flirts with being bounced out of the top 25 rankings throughout the 2011 season.

    Follow me on Twitter (@Justinsparks22) for college sports news and stories.

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