As 95 degree temperatures fade away and one can smell autumn in the air, it is time to get jacked up for my favorite season of the year…football season. We begin first with college, the ostensible domain of amateur student athletes (except for those playing in Columbus and Coral Gables).
I realize there is a new coach in Palo Alto after Jim Harbaugh’s defection to the NFL, but the Cardinal still has QB Andrew Luck, who is widely expected to be the #1 overall pick in next spring’s draft. It’s a tough schedule, with away games at Arizona & USC and home tilts against Notre Dame & Oregon, but I have good vibes about this team.
The Sooners seem to be everyone else’s choice for #1, but I don’t like to follow the crowd.
Ohio State has had a rough offseason, losing both their coach & starting QB (and most of their credibility), so the Big Ten race becomes wide open. The Badgers aren’t the most exciting team to watch, but they’ll pound the ball and wear down opposing defenses.
4 Florida St.
Coach Jimbo Fisher…a fellow Clarksburg, WV native and also an alum of my high school alma mater…looks to have the Seminoles back on the brink of dominance after the mediocrity of the final Bobby Bowden years.
The Tide is also a popular pick to contend for a national title, and with good reason. The last 5 national champions have all come from the SEC. It will take 2 losses to knock ‘Bama out of the running, and I believe that to be a real possibility. They could still win the SEC title though.
The Ducks will provide stiff competition for Stanford in the Pac 10, with their clash on November 12 deciding the race and a likely spot in the national championship game. That game is at Stanford. Sorry ‘bout your luck Oregon.
7 South Carolina
Is this the year Spurrier’s Gamecocks put it all together?? Maybe. I’m looking forward to a ‘Bama-SC SEC title game.
8 Texas A&M
Who knows what conference the Aggies will end up in down the road?? And really, who cares?? For now they are in the depleted Big 12 and will suffer only one loss…to division rival Oklahoma.
The Wildcats have back to back contests against Stanford & Oregon early in the season. Even if they lose both they could run off 8 straight wins afterward and finish 10-2. If they are somehow able to win one of those two games there’s no reason to believe they can’t be a rock solid Top 10 team.
The Cougars are now an independent, free from all conference ties. I’m not sure whether that is a good or bad thing, but I have looked at their schedule. Trips to Texas and TCU might be a bit intimidating, but otherwise this is a 10 win team.
11 Oklahoma St.
Former offensive coordinator Dana Holgersen is now the head coach at West Virginia, but the Cowboys return starting QB Brandon Weeden and top flight NFL wideout prospect Justin Blackmon. There are tough games at home against Arizona & Oklahoma, and an away battle with Texas A&M in College Station. Three losses would totally blow up this pick, but if the boys from Stillwater can steal one of those three they will get the attention of voters.
12 Michigan St.
The Spartans went 11-2 last season and return starting QB Kirk Cousins. However, the schedule is t-o-u-g-h. Away games at Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Nebraska along with a home game versus Wisconsin will be grueling. A split of those contests would be amazing, but it is just as possible that they lose all four and make me look like a fool.
The Razorbacks do have to replace QB Ryan Mallett, so I’m a little nervous about putting them in this spot. But when I look at the schedule I see 8 wins, and that’s without any upsets. If the Hogs can pull off a surprise or two against the likes of ‘Bama, Auburn, Texas A&M, or South Carolina this pick is golden.
14 Mississippi St.
It doesn’t seem like all that long ago the Bulldogs were at the bottom of the SEC barrel, but they are coming off of a 9 win season and an impressive mauling of Michigan in the Gator Bowl. It’s kind of the same deal as Arkansas – 8 wins looks to be a lock, but an upset or two in games against ‘Bama, LSU, Auburn, and South Carolina would solidify a top 20 ranking.
In case anyone missed it, Northwestern was a bowl team last year. I say they keep the momentum going in 2011. Somewhere ESPN’s Mike Greenberg & Michael Wilbon are smiling.
16 West Virginia
Someone’s got to win the overlooked, disrespected Big East, and the consensus is that Coach Holgersen’s high powered “Eer Raid” offense will lead the Mountaineers to the crown. Yours truly is calling an upset over LSU on September 24th, which would give WVU a legit shot at an undefeated season. Sadly, even if that comes to fruition they still might be outside the championship picture looking in at a 1 or even 2 loss SEC/Big 10/Pac 10 team getting a shot at the national title.
17 Air Force
I really like watching the service academies play football. You know these guys are a lot more special than the average student athlete, and they all play a unique style that is just plain fun to see. Playing in the same conference as Boise & TCU makes a tough road for the Falcons, but I think they upset one of those two adversaries this season. Defeating Notre Dame on October 8th would be the cherry on top, although I don’t look for that to happen.
This might seem like a low ranking for a team coming off of an undefeated season, one that many felt deserved a chance to play for the national championship. But whereas power conference teams often reload instead of rebuild, replacing a starting QB is a little bigger bump in the road for the little guys. My vibes are telling me that the Horned Frogs will still be good, but won’t be anywhere near the BCS hunt this season.
The Tigers schedule is brutal, with conference games at Oklahoma and at Texas A&M, plus an out-of-conference battle at Arizona St. They also have to replace a starting QB who is now in the NFL. Still, 8 or 9 wins would be plenty good enough for a solid top 20 finish.
20 Boise St.
I think we may be nearing the end of Boise’s 15 minutes of glory. I just don’t think we’ll see them in the top 10 mix anymore, even if they win 10+ games. The Mountain West…especially once TCU bolts for the Big East…just isn’t worthy of much esteem.
The Cornhuskers move to The Big 10 (which now has 12 teams) this season, so some might logically believe there would be a period of adjustment. However, I don’t believe there will be much of a dropoff, if any. As a matter of fact, I think they’ll blow thru the conference with relative ease save for a game at Wisconsin and maybe a couple of tough home games versus Northwestern & Michigan State.
I look for the Cougars to rebound from a disappointing 5-7 in 2011 and run roughshod over Conference USA. The season opener against UCLA looks a bit daunting, but it’s at home and the Bruins were only 4-8 themselves last season.
23 Arizona St.
The Pac 10 has suddenly become one of the deeper conferences in the country, with atleast half of its teams receiving preseason Top 25 buzz, depending upon where one looks. The Sun Devils have a 6ft.8 junior QB that opposing defenses should have difficulty bringing down.
Your traditional polls all have the Bayou Bengals firmly ensconced as a top 5 team, but as previously mentioned I’m not a follower. I’m predicting losses to out-of-conference foes West Virginia & Oregon and atleast two fellow SEC teams. The subpar two headed QB monster of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will finally blow up in the faces of the folks in Baton Rouge.
25 Notre Dame
It honestly causes me physical pain and emotional distress to put the hated Fighting Irish in my rankings. But the fact is that Notre Dame won’t stay down forever (no matter how much I fervently wish they would), and Brian Kelly is the best head coach to come to South Bend since Lou Holtz left in 1996. They will probably win atleast 9 games with relative ease.
- College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: 5 Most Overrated Teams in the Country (bleacherreport.com)
- The issue: Will the SEC win a sixth straight national title? (aol.sportingnews.com)
- College Football Rankings 2011: SEC, Big 10 Dominate “Human Poll Composite” (bleacherreport.com)
- College Football Recruiting 2012: 3 Reasons SEC Will Remain Class of CFB (bleacherreport.com)
- College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: The Make or Break Game for Each Team (bleacherreport.com)
- SEC West reigns superior in the South, tops all divisions (aol.sportingnews.com)
- College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: Breaking Down the USA Today/ESPN Poll (bleacherreport.com)
- SEC West Preview (aseaofblue.com)
- College Football Preseason Rankings 2011: Predicting the AP Top 25 Poll (bleacherreport.com)
- Arkansas Razorbacks and SEC Predictions (bleacherreport.com)