6. LSU Tigers -First off, this does, in fact, mean that I have our own beloved Crimson Tide ranked in my top five. Just where in my top five you'll have to check back tomorrow to find out. Anyway, if there is another team in the Western division that truly has everything in place to make a run at Atlanta, it's LSU. Largely untested QB that has shown flashes of brilliance? Check. Serious talent at the skill positions? Check. What should be a much improved defense loaded with talent and a veteran DC calling the shots? Check. Staples was right in claiming LSU is our biggest challenge for the West and, even though I certainly believe Ole Miss has a chance at Atlanta if everything falls right, LSU has the ability make a straight run at the title.
7. Ohio St. Buckeyes -It's tOSU, so they have to be this high, right? right?
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -Nine starters back on an offense that will truly be hitting it's stride in year two, and eight back on an underrated defense makes the Jackets as likely a title contender as you're going to see in the ACC. Losses on the d-line makes me nervous, but the entire linbacking corps and secondary returns.
9. Cal Golden Bears - Fifteen starters back from a nine wi....oh, who am I kidding. They're this high for one reason and one reason alone:
I'm not saying I would ever want to trade Ingram, Upchurch, Richardson, or Lacy or anything, but I covet Jahvid Best and so wish he was ours.
10. Ole Miss Rebels - Honestly, I don't want to rank them this high, but I can't see not ranking them this high. For all the problems on their defense, they have a lot of firepower on their offense and they have a real chance, however slight with Alabama and LSU around (and Arkansas looking to rain on someone's parade), to make it to Atlanta (or at the very least double digit wins).
11. Virginia Tech Hokies - I was all set to put them at around the #7 spot before the loss of
Darrell Darren Evans, but without their workhorse back I had to drop them back out of the top ten. Will be hell on defense, as always, but not having a consistent offense is what is keeping them from truly breaking out as an elite power.
12. Penn St. Nittany Lions - Daryll Clark is a heck of a QB and Evan Royster should be topping 1000 again this year, but the losses of Williams, Norwood, and Butler at WR and only four starters back on defense makes me uncomfortable. They're also like us in the o-line department, returning 2 of 5 starters from last season. If it weren't for the defensive losses, I'd take them over tOSU, if only for spite.
13. TCU Horned Frogs - The defense is always solid and Andy Dalton is both a solid passing QB as well as a legit rushing threat. If not for a special teams melt down against Utah last year the Horned Frogs could have been the ones with the undefeated season.
14. Oklahoma St. Cowboys - Not much defense to speak of, really, but they bring back 8 starters (including all of the skill guys) on a prolific offense and could be this year's Texas Tech.