Last season, someone on this blog infamously declared Indiana to be a borderline Top 25 team, 7-5ish is how I think that dumb person described them.* And, we were on course for that to happen, after a Tevin Coleman one-man wrecking crew on the road versus defending (and eventual) SEC East Champ, Mizzou. Alas, injuries kicked in and the wheels fell off in Bloomington.
But, this year I'm not nearly so ambitious. (Although, if you were to ask me who my flier, wild hair team is this year? The California Golden Bears. Sonny Dykes almost has all the toys for that offense, and if the ST/D could get out of their way, maybe 6-7 wins isn't completely unreasonable.)
There are many teams I like...a lot (the USC Trojans, if Sarkisian has half a brain. Michigan State Spartans, if they can escape the Ohio State Buckeyes.) And there many teams that I "like," that I can't in good faith rank at the moment. Today, we discuss the latter.
Without further adieu, here are the Roll 'Bama post-spring/pre-fall Top 25 (and honorable mentions)
Texas Longhorns - I want to, and do, believe in Charlie Strong. This team just has all sorts of issues on the offense and little to no depth everywhere on the field. I suspect Mack's headcase, tissue-thin roster kept Saban in Tuscaloosa as much as anything. Still, this is a 6-7 win team largely on the strength of an excellent defense and a manageable B12 schedule.
Oklahoma State Cowboys - The Cowboys were pretty close at times last year, and are notoriously a difficult out in Stillwater. Eight starters return on either side of the ball, though the backfield must be replaced. But if Mason Rudolph is as good as advertised at QB, as is Juco RB Chris Carson, the Cowboys will be lethal. If those players flounder, another .500ish type year is on the horizon. I don't believe they will, though. The road trips are manageable (Morgantown, Austin) and the Pokes get Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma at home. A 3-2 run against that slate should make Okie Lite a top-15 team by year's end.
Miami Hurricanes - I love Brad Kaaya. I do not like anything else, up to and including the head coach. Sweaty Babyface Al Golden is in over his head, and if four years haven't shown that in Coral Gables nothing will.
Mississippi State Bulldogs - There are seven bowl teams in the SEC West. One returns seven total starters and is not coached by a Saban or Miles. Questions at RB, along both lines, and at LB abound. There is also the target on the chest factor: Last year State laid it on and bullied a few teams that customarily destroy them (Auburn, LSU among them.) And, they weren't particularly graceful about it either. In fact, they were pretty dirty. Payback time is coming, folks. Still, this is the most dangerous 7-5 team in America.
Louisville Cardinals - A team I really want to like and which could catch fire. But, until Petrino gets the horses for that offense, this is a team still led largely by its defense -- a defense decimated by graduation. The running game will be stout, but don't think for a second that Petrino won't have Jawon Pass suited up for opening kickoff in 2016.
Memphis Tigers - Justin Fuente has a legitimate offense for a change largely thanks to Paxton Lynch. It will be interesting to see how a 10-win team with a defensive identity responds to the necessary changes in its MO and learns to win some shootouts. (Barry Odom, the great UM DC, was snatched up by Mizzou this offseason.)
BYU Cougars - Returns nearly everyone on offense, including the dynamic Taysom Hill. The problems lie on defense, which even last year was a liability at times. After heavy losses, and returning just five starters, I'm not sure the Cougars can make waves as an independent, least of all with a schedule that features road trips to Nebraska, Michigan, and a de facto away game versus Mizzou in KC. The Cougars also host Boise State, Cincinnati and East Carolina. Brutal slate.
*Spoiler: I was that dumb person