Fansided’s pre-season top 25 was released Thursday, as apparently some other poll was as well. I’ve heard something about it.
Anyway, estimating teams before a game has been played is all about conjecture. Obviously USC is better than say, Oregon State and rankings reflect. But ultimately, it’s guess work. On any Saturday, any team can beat another — or Friday, as was the case with Iowa State’s upset of Oklahoma State a season ago. There is no predicting such occurrences, and if there was, I would spend a lot more time in Las Vegas. That said, I tried my hand at formulating a pre-season top 25.
There are notable omissions I wanted to include. NC State is a team that finished 2011 on a high note, which I believe will carry into 2012. Presumptive Big East favorite Louisville, which NC State faced in the season finale, has a lot to love. Freezing out the Big East was not a calculated decision. Meanwhile, I slotted the overwhelming WAC favorite in at 25. That’s probably a head scratcher for some, but the Bulldogs are a team I can see winning 11 games.
Because the Fansided poll of course has no bearing on postseason standing — not *yet* at least — However, this blog has touted transparency from voters, so long as polls impact postseason positioning. Therefore, let’s take a look at the thought process of at least one top 25 ballot, shall we?
To Be The Man, You Gotta Beat The Man. It’s that simple. Sure, Alabama lost Trent Richardson. The Tide also saw a bevy of other players depart for the NFL. But when you lead the nation in recruiting year after year as Nick Saban has, you simply reload. Alabama is the team to beat.
2. Florida State
There might be a Chicken Little feel to the proclamations that Florida State is back, but…Florida State is back. The Seminole defense is as stingy as any in college football, and quarterback EJ Manuel is an experienced leader with dark horse Heisman potential. The Seminoles are the most talented team in the conference, get defending ACC champion Clemson at home, and should run the regular season table.
This Tiger team is actually better than the 2011 version that beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa and won the SEC title. LSU is experienced and plays eight home games. However, the BCS title game exposed critical flaws in the offense. Can other SEC teams capitalize?
The addition of Silas Redd did factor into my vote. His hard nosed rushing approach and block ability complements Curtis McNeal’s style, and only adds to the amazing passing attack Matt Barkley provides. USC has arguably the best offense in all of college football, but the adage is not “offense wins championships.” Questions about the Trojan defense deducted a few points.
Landry Jones is primed for a tremendous season. Kenny Stills is one of the top receivers in the nation, Jaz Reynolds’ suspension was lifted, and Penn State wideout Justin Brown could make the leap to Norman to give Jones one of the most talented receiving corps in football. The health of Dom Whaley will be significant for the offense, and a new defensive staff that includes Mike Stoops must rectify a unit that surrendered 130 points in its three losses.
Gone are quarterback Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and Lavasier Tuinei but that means more opportunities for Kenjon Braner, D’Anthony Thomas and other breakout stars just waiting to thrive in Chip Kelly’s potent offense. But what makes Oregon a potential championship team is a defense that does not garner the attention it deserves. The Duck defense will prove to be its defining characteristic in 2012.
7. West Virginia
The 70 points West Virginia dumped on Clemson in the Orange Bowl set a tone for 2012. Geno Smith might be the second most buzzed-about pre-season Heisman candidate, and will post eye-popping stats in Dana Holgorsen’s system. Holgo is familiar with the Big 12, so expect a smooth transition for the Mountaineers.
8. South Carolina
Marcus Lattimore’s absence hampered the Gamecock offense, almost assuredly to a point that it kept South Carolina from a second straight SEC title game appearance. His return makes SC the favorite to win the division this time around, adding offensive punch to complement a stout defense.
The spring firing of Bobby Petrino obviously shook things up, though bringing on John L. Smith ensures some level of continuity. Tyler Wilson will benefit from the return of Knile Davis. The Hogs also host divisional rivals LSU and Alabama. An upset in one of the two might be enough to catapult the Hogs into the conference title game.
Heisman finalist Montee Ball returns from a record campaign to lead a Badger offense that should remain among the nation’s elite, regardless of who starts at quarterback. If that ends up being Danny O’Brien, the Maryland transfer did flourish in 2010 and would provide a proven, Pro Set ability to complement Ball.
Mark Ricth’s dismissal of running back Isaiah Crowell and the suspensions of Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo garnered most of the headlines coming out of Athens. Early season unrest will be an issue, but with a talented defense and star quarterback Aaron Murray, UGa. is capable of ending the SEC West’s conference domination.
12. Kansas State
Quarterback Collin Klein may have deserved an invite to New York for the 2011 Heisman Trophy presentation. The hard rushing playmaker could rectify the oversight this season, leading an unappreciated, underrated bunch in a dark horse pursuit of the Big 12 championship.
Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, Fansided Top 25, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Bulldogs, Louisiana State Tigers, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, NC State, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, South Carolina Gamecocks, Stanford Cardinal, TCU Horned Frogs, USC Trojans, Utah Utes, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wisconsin Badgers