With the College Football season kicking off Thursday, it’s time for our experts here on the site to weigh in with their preseason picks for the top 25 teams in the nation. These aren’t polls, these are the opinions of our College Football editor, Danny Hobrock, and staff College Football writer Jared Levine.
There is no exact science here and it is strictly opinion at its best as even where the educated College Football follower is involved, there are differences of opinion. We’d like to hear your feedback and if you enjoy the rankings and commentary we’ll provide it for you each week. Send us an e-mail to let us know.
Xtra Point Football 2010-11 NCAA Football Preseason Rankings
Danny Hobrock Comments
Jared Levine Comments
The defending champs may lose a lot of stars on defense, but the talent they have stepping in could be even better. They'll have to gel early with a showdown against Penn State looming in Week 2.
Alabama’s defense might be a little susceptible, but their offense returns Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and starting QB Greg McElroy. Their offense is proven, and their defense will reload, garnering them the top spot.
2. Boise State
We'll see where they are on Monday night against Virginia Tech. Just about everybody's back on a squad that went undefeated a year ago. Other top teams may recruit more four and five stars to step in for their departed starters, but this is an experienced team that will play with a chip on their shoulder all year long no matter how high they're ranked.
2. Ohio State
Besides Alabama, Ohio State is the other favorite to play for a National Championship. Star QB Terrelle Pryor is said to throw more than run this season; we’ll see if it pays off for them as the season goes on.
I'm not one to believe Garrett Gilbert got all the bumps and bruises of a developing quarterback out of the way by playing in the BCS National Championship, but I do think it helped. I was debating whether to put the Longhorns this high with the young, unproven quarterback taking over full-time duties, but I like the depth and overall talent in Austin to carry this team to another big season.
3. Boise State
This could be Boise State's season to finally make a National Championship. A veteran team with an easy schedule (other then this week's Virginia Tech game), Boise State deserves to be a top team.
4. Ohio State
Terrelle Pryor is a Heisman candidate at this early point and word is that he's refined his passing skills over the offseason, not to mention his leadership. Could be scary if his offseason development manifests on the field.
Although the Tim Tebow era is over, the Gators should not miss a beat. They have a talented offense led by rookie QB John Brantley. He is said to have all the tools to become a star over in Gainesville.
The battle for the Big 12 South will be tight and the Red River Rivalry on October 2 could ultimately determine who plays for the conference title. Landry Jones got some valuable experience last season and the hope is that it will translate into a special year in 2010.
Texas’s young offense did not get them to the #5 ranking, it is their defense and secondary that ranks among the best. Keep an eye out for QB Garrett Gilbert; he could have a big season now that Colt McCoy is gone.
I think this is a team that could make another run at a national title even without a certain somebody taking snaps, but before I go putting them in the top five, I want to see that the new blood can play up to the level of the last few seasons in a full-time role. (Alabama loses a lot as well, but with the majority of their offense returning, there are arguably fewer question marks.)
Last year Sooners fans' hearts sunk as they saw Bradford go down in the first week. There will be nothing like that this year. If they stay healthy and win, they could move up a couple spots in the rankings.
With so much attention being paid to Boise State and their #3 ranking in the AP Poll and #5 ranking in the Coaches' Poll, the Horned Frogs are flying under the radar at #6 in the AP and #7 in the Coaches'. Like the Broncos, we'll know a lot about their chances this season in Week 1 when they take on Oregon State Saturday night.
Most teams like Nebraska with a question at QB would not be ranked this high; however, Bo Pelini’s defense will dominate and will warrant their position at number 7. Nebraska will be successful solely because of their defense.
Big things could be in store for the Hawkeyes this season if they don't drop a game against a team they should easily handle.
Oregon’s running game last year averaged 231.7 yards per game and could improve those numbers with returning back LaMichel James. The Ducks have a veteran offense with all their offensive line, running backs, and receivers coming back. Oregon is another team to watch as the season goes on.
9. Virginia Tech
In an odd twist, there are fewer questions on offense than there are on defense in Blacksburg. Watch out for running back Ryan Williams as a possible Heisman-buster.
Iowa’s defense is very talented and could be one of the best in the country. Iowa rode their talented defense to a BCS Bowl win last year, and they will continue to do so this year.
Don't make the mistake of sleeping on the Badgers in the Big Ten. Ohio State may be the conference darling and Iowa is a trendy pick for the Big Ten title, but Wisconsin returns a hell of a team.
The dark horse. Wisconsin has a veteran offense with returning QB Scott Tolzien and talented RB John Clay. Their defense is susceptible, but with John Clay healthy and productive, Wisconsin could be a force this year.
I really like the Cornhuskers this season, but questions on offense have me hesitant to put them in the top 10. So I went with 11.
This might be too low of a ranking for this talented and deep Miami team. With Jacory Harris (QB), Damien Berry (RB), and the talented receiving core, the Miami Hurricanes offense should cause problems for opposing defenses. If they get by Ohio State with a win, watch out for the U.
Will things finally come together for Randy Shannon's 'Canes? His famed 2008 recruiting class is entering its collective junior season. No more youth excuse for this team. I have Miami winning the ACC, but before they leapfrog VTech, they need to play at that level. I'm betting they will.
12. Virginia Tech
Every year Virginia Tech reaches the top ten and a BCS Bowl. This year could be the same, but they have a lot more competition in the ACC with the resurgence of Miami. With that said, Virginia Tech's talent overall is second to Miami, hence the rankings.
Pitt returns a defense that could rank among the best in the nation. They also return a running back in Dion Lewis who could make a run at the Heisman.
Another team to watch out for is Pittsburgh. They have talent on both sides of the ball with Offensive Player of the Year Dion Lewis and co-Defensive Player of the Year Greg Romeus. In order for this team to have success, Dion Lewis will have to have another great season in order to make it to a BCS Bowl.
I'm not as high on the Ducks as some people. The Pac-10 is wide open and I don't see anybody running away with the title. Oregon may start as high as 11 in both polls, but they may not last with so much parity in the conference. Of course, I have been wrong before…
This team is very questionable; they could be ranked in the top 10 because of their talent, but also could be unranked because of their NCAA sanctions. USC should play with a chip on their shoulder and eventually will be a spoiler to a team with BCS hopes. "I do get a sense from the players that they have an us-against-the-world mentality, that everybody is counting them out," said Lane Kiffin.
The offense could be among the most prolific in the nation and Ryan Mallet could win the Heisman, but as I stated in the Arkansas team preview, the defense, particularly the secondary, needs to play at a higher level to compete in the SEC.
15. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech's unique offense granted them this spot. However, they lost some key pieces of their offense from last year, losing their top rusher and receiver to the draft. But because their offensive scheme is tough to stop, 15 is a good spot for them.
16. North Carolina
Marvin Austin's suspension sure hurts, but the defense is still loaded. If more defenders fall victim to an NCAA investigation, the Tar Heels are in trouble. But for now, one of the best defenses in the country will carry this team.
16. North Carolina
North Carolina could have one of the better defenses in the country. However, in recent news the NCAA has been investigating the team, which could result in player and team penalties. Since there is no proof of any violations yet, their ranking should stay, but the Tar Heels could be in trouble if the NCAA finds anything.
17. Penn State
The Nittany Lions will start a true freshman at quarterback and head to 'Bama in the second week, but this is a bit of an underrated squad. The Buckeyes, Hawkeyes and Badgers may get most of the hype this season, but Penn State (and Michigan State for that matter) is a team that could play spoiler. Evan Royster is perhaps the conference's top back.
Once Ryan Mallett decided to come back for another year, expectations for the Razorbacks soared. All of his top targets return as well, which produced 2,901 yards and 25 touchdowns. The offense could lead them to a better ranking in weeks to come.
18. Florida State
I'm high on Christian Ponder and one of the best offensive lines in the country. They may not come away with the prettiest record in a highly contested battle for the ACC, but they could end up playing for the conference title in December.
18. Florida State
Say goodbye to Bobby Bowden and welcome a new dynasty under Jimbo Fisher. Not many new coaches have the opportunity to take over a team with a QB as good as Christian Ponder, who is a Heisman hopeful and a potential first round pick. Florida State will hover around this spot throughout the year, with an above average team.
I have the Trojans finishing fourth in the Pac-10 by virtue of the tremendous parity in the conference. There is still a lot of talent on this team and while they've taken some heat lately to say the least, this is still a very good football team. There are question marks, but if they can answer them they could be in for a good year even if they can't play in the postseason.
LSU is on its way up, but it does not have the talent of the elite teams this year. In order to have any sort of chance to be ranked higher, they will have to improve their running game from last year.
20. Georgia Tech
Others like the Yellow Jackets more than this, and who can blame them considering this team won the ACC and came away with the second ranked rushing offense on the back of the triple option, but if teams are able to figure out how to stop it (like Miami and Iowa did last season), they could be in trouble with few other elements to the offense. Anthony Allen should be a good replacement for Jonathan Dwyer at the B-Back.
20. Penn State
Joe Paterno just named freshman Robert Bolden as their QB. This means that the Nittany Lions will rely heavily on running back Evan Royster, a candidate for the Doak Walker Award. The defense lost many key players, therefore don’t expect Penn State to be ranked that much higher by the end of the season.
This team could creep up on the Gators in the SEC East with a lot of talent across the board. It helps that the schedule isn't too bad either.
Under Gene Chizik’s second year, the Auburn Tigers should improve, but still are not ready to be considered a top team. With a new QB and possibly many underclassmen starting on defense, the Auburn Tigers don’t have much of a chance this year.
I like the Tigers and they'll be fine if the offense can come together and they get better play from the offensive line.
22. Oregon State
Jacquizz Rodgers is a talent. He is a Heisman hopeful who could possibly carry the team.
23. Oregon Staten>
1. The Beavers will face two big out of conference tests against 'mid-majors' TCU and Boise State in the first month. What's more, they will compete for the Pac-10 title on the back of the Rodgers brothers with no team the clear favorite in the conference.
23. West Virginia
West Virginia has a talented running back in Noel Devine. With inexperienced Geno Smith at QB, Divine will have to carry the load and produce. In the end, West Virginia could improve, but that depends on Devine.
A lot is expected of sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn this season. He has a good team around him and with a good showing the Utes should be in for a nice farewell season in the Mountain West before heading off to the Pac-10.
With a new QB and a defense, it does not look good for Georgia this season.
The Tigers play in arguably the toughest conference division in college football heading into this season. They've been left out of a lot of discussions regarding possible SEC champions with most of the attention given to Alabama and Florida with Arkansas, LSU and Georgia being tossed a bone here and there. They started 5-0 last year with little fanfare outside of Alabama, but they'll begin the season ranked in 2010 with an opportunity to move up if they can pull out a similar showing early on.
The Utes could be a surprise pick this year. They have three great runners and an impressive defensive lineman in Sealver Siliga. Also keep in mind they have an easy schedule.
Check out these other stories.....