This year we'll be taking part in the BlogPoll, so every Monday we'll each be posting our initial thoughts on poll rankings and letting you guys either praise our genius or tear us a new one in the comments before submitting a final, unified ballot. I've got my initial Top 25 ready (though, without internets, it's been hell doing so), so over the next few days I'll be posting them for your perusal and/or criticism, while Nico will also be posting his. Once we've gotten your feedback and have put our heads together we'll come up with one ballot to submit. This should be a lot of fun, and we encourage you guys to post your own lists and arguments for or against certain team's inclusion each Monday since we'll take those into account while forming the final ballot. So, without further ado, my Top Ten.
1. Southern Cal
What I Like: What's not to like? 10 returning starters on defense, 6 on offense, and so much talented depth (seriously, seven Parade All-Americans in the backfield? That's ridiculous.) that the second team units could probably win the Pac-10 on their own.
What I Don't: USC has some tough road games on the schedule, with a trip to Nebraska the second game of the season, and conference games at Oregon and Cal, plus what should be an improved UCLA just itching for another chance to end the season on the upswing coming to visit. Also troubling were a few too many poor decisions by Booty and some key passes batted down at the end of the season last year. Couple that with two new starting wide receivers for him to get accustomed to, and those Parade All-Americans might be more important than you'd think.
|If Booty can avoid games like these this year, it should be smooth sailing for the Trojans.|
What I Like: A defense that should be just as solid as last year's unit, plus playmakers aplenty on offense, means this team could finally get over the proverbial hump and live up to both their expectations and potential. The schedule is favorable, with all of their quality opponents save our own beloved Tide coming to them this season.
What I Don't: Matt Flynn's hype is from a bowl game two seasons ago against a Miami team already well on it's way to utter implosion, and the solid defense and special teams of Virginia Tech in week two will go along way towards judging if he's an every week performer or a fluke. Also, Les Miles.
3. West Virginia
What I Like: Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Owen Schmitt all return to throw up some more gawdy rushing numbers, while super recruit Noel Devine joins them. The Big East is theirs to lose, and they'll be favored in all twelve contests this season, so if LSU and/or USC stumbles early on the 'Eers might find themselves atop the polls rather quickly.
What I Don't: That wacky 3-3-5 they run went haywire at the end of last season, surrendering a combined 193 points in their last six outings (counting the Gator Bowl win over Ga. Tech) and seeing the previously undefeated Mountaineers drop a game each to Louisville (34-44) and USF (19-24), while needing OT to top Rutgers and a come from behind rally in the Gator Bowl.
What I Like: Henne and Hart are both back, as well as OT Jake Long, all of whom could have gone to the pros after last season. Also returning is leading receiver Mario Manningham, plus all four of their road games are winnable and arch-nemesis tOSU is in rebuilding mode when they visit Ann Arbor.
What I Don't: Last year's defense performed incredibly poorly against tOSU and in the Rose Bowl after playing lights out all season long, but the core of that group is gone as the defense loses seven starters (including four All-Big Ten selections). There are a couple of early tests for the Wolverines as well: Oregon comes to A2 the second week of the season, and Penn State looms large in week four. And let's not forget Jim Tressels apparent voodoo hold over Carr.
What I Like: The offseason troubles, robbed of a win at Oregon, forever being the team on the receiving end of Boise's magical finish...man, it must have sucked to be a Sooner last year. This year, though, thinks should look up, with only the Red River Shootout in Dallas and a trip to Texas Tech posing a threat to an easy road to the Big 12 Title Game. The D returns nine starters and should be one of the best in the country, while depth at running back should make up for the loss of Adrian Peterson, and the top five receivers from last year all return.
What I Don't Like: Well, they do have to get past Texas, but unfortunately for them the Sooner QB outlook isn't as bright as the one in Austin. No one has really stepped up to replace Paul Thompson, while the loss of two All-Big 12 selections at DE (Ah You and Birdine) and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Rufus Alexander at linebacker leaves the front seven without some key playmakers.
6. Florida State
What I Like: Much like ourselves, Seminoles fans have watched as inept playcalling cost a talented team capable of more stumble in grand fashion the past few years. All that changes with the arrival of new OC Jimbo Fisher from LSU, who should finally help this team live up to their potential. The schedule is rough, with road games against Clemson (week one, no less), Colorado, Alabama (Jacksonville), Virginia Tech, and Florida, but the 'Noles should come out on top of a down conference fairly handily.
What I Don't: I mentioned the road schedule, right? Plus, neither Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee have shown any hint that they are the QBs to lead FSU back to the prominence of the '90s, but both will be battling for the starting job in the fall.
What I Like: I've been pretty high on the Dawgs all offseason, and still think the SEC East is theirs to lose. The offense should be potent, with Matt Stafford finally coming around down the stretch last season and plenty of targets for him to throw to, and the defensive secondary will be a key strength for UGA even with Paul Oliver's unexpected departure.
What I Don't: The Dawgs open against Oklahoma State and welcome South Carolina to Athens in week two, and both of those teams bring rushers with them that could gash the untested front seven of UGA for ugly yardage. Combine that with an inexeperienced O-Line full of freshmen and JUCO transfers and UGA might be looking to dig themselves out of a 1-2 hole by the time they reach Tuscaloosa in week four.
What I Like: Before going down with an injury against K-State last season, Colt McCoy was one of the best QBs in the country. He should easily return to form this season, while WR Limas Sweed and RB Jamal Charles are serious weapons for the offense. The schedule is also exceptionally favorable, with OU the only real threat to keep the Longhorns from running the table in the Big 12.
What I Don't: The Texas D was a baffling affair last year, with the secondary earning awards and getting drafted as if all those passing yards they were routinely burned for were all in your imagination. The only starter returning in the secondary is SS Marcus Griffin, so there's a strong possibility the Longhorns will be on their heels a lot this season, too.
9. Virginia Tech
What I Like: The defense and special teams will be as solid as always, and there are eight starters back on that side of the ball. They get Florida State at home, and the ACC is so screwy from top to bottom that it's anyone's game (well, not anyone's...I'm looking at you Duke) at this point.
What I Don't: QB Sean Glennon isn't exactly what you'd call an All-American candidate. He's decent, but he's not going to win games by himself, and the Hokie's schedule won't be doing him any favors. Week two they travel to LSU, and they also face Clemson and Georgia Tech on the road. They get both FSU and Miami at home, but both are back to back at the end of the season when they should be playing their best ball of the year.
10. Penn State
What I Like: QB Morelli and the O-Line are far more experienced after a solid season last year (all their losses came to teams either ranked in the top ten at the time or who finished in the top ten), and the offense returns 8 starters including the top four receivers. The schedule is far more manageable this year, too, with the trip to Ann Arbor in week four looking like a big deciding factor in the race for the Big Ten title.
What I Don't: The D returns only four starters, and must replace Paul Posluszny, a 1st Team All-American at LB, but they are, after all, Linebacker U and have plenty of depth at that position.
|A big key for the Nittany Lions this year would be avoiding more scenes like the one pictured above.|