Ok, so I don't actually know when we will be submitting our preseason ballots but since I'm trying to get back in a good blogging habit after
blowing it off completely to get PAID a lot of real life getting in the way, I'm gonna go ahead and get mine ready. We'll start with the bottom and work our way up, and as usual the bottom 15 or so is pretty much a crap shoot based on a completely unreliable mix of last year's late season progress and personal bias. So here you go:
What I Like: The obvious dark horse pick this year, Arkansas returns 10 starters to the top passing and scoring offense in the SEC. With a full year under Ryan Mallett's belt and the top five leading receivers all back that doesn't look like it's going to change any.
What I Don't: With all that offensive firepower, we still don't know if they can run the ball. No single rusher topped 500 yards on the season and the Hogs finished 10th in rushing offense in the league last season. Also, will the defense continue to suck? They have seven starters coming back, but considering they were dead last in the SEC in both total and passing defense (and near the bottom in every other category) those returning starters better have done a lot of improving over the offseason or it will be the same old story this year.
22. Penn State
What I Like: Evan Royster and an experienced offensive line will be a nightmare for opposing front sevens, and even though they lose Darryll Clark Kevin Newsome has mop up experience and six of the top seven receivers from last season to throw to.
What I Don't: Penn State will always have a good defense, but they return only five starters and have to rebuild last year's linebacking corps, one of the best in the country.
What I Like: Nick Foles could easily be the best quarterback in the Pac 10 this year with Masoli gone at Oregon, and everyone that caught a pass last year besides Terrell Turner returns as well. The Wildcats also bring back their top four rushers, including Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin. The backfield was hit hard by injuries last season, but if both are healthy they are a solid tandem (Grigsby rushed for over 1000 in '08 and had a 7.2 ypc in nine games last year).
What I Don't: The defense wasn't great last season, and there are precious few returning starters (4) while the top four tacklers are gone. They had Oregon upset in the 4th quarter but gave up a last second TD and ultimately lost in 2OT, and gave up more than 30 points each against Oregon State, Washington, and Stanford. They will still be the Achilles heel of the team and if the offense struggles any they probably can't bail them out.
24. Michigan State
What I Like: Besides Mark Dantonio, I'm honestly not sure. They return Kirk Cousins at QB and the top three rushers from last season, but leading receiver Blair White is gone and the offensive line brings back only two starters. Call this one a gut feeling.
What I Don't: Having Greg Jones back for his senior season is big for the defense, but with only six returning starters for a defense that gave up 42 to Penn State in the season finale and over 30 points five times last season...yeesh.
25. UAB Blazers
What I Like: I went there. Also, nine starters back on defense and some depth for a change, plus Frantrell Forrest back at WR and a mostly intact offensive line. Even with Joe Webb gone this is probably the most complete team Calloway has had since he came to Birmingham.
What I Don't: Joe Webb is gone and Joe Webb was the Blazer offense last season, rushing for 1619 yards and 11 TDs. Backup David Isabelle is supposedly the next Joe Webb (both literally and figuratively) and he saw plenty of time last season as a change of pace guy, but with only 14 passing attempts under his belt and no running backs to speak of he likely isn't ready to be the full time spark the offense desperately needs.