Tuesday, August 5, 2008

UPDATED: College Football Top 25 Preseason Rankings

About a month ago I dropped upon thee my Revamped Top 25, the second in a series of my College Football Top 25s. Of course The Original Top 25 came back in January when we didn't know too much about the 2008 College Football season, but my second round of picks weren't too much different than my first round. Well I promised you all that I would continue to update my Top 25 up until and throughout the season. I should preface this by saying that this is my personal opinion and I will tell you why. The season hasn't started yet and as we've seen in year's past, specifically last year, things WILL change so don't be upset if I put your team 3 spots lower than you think they belong. As of right now this is my prediction of the way the Top 25 will look at season's end. Upsets will happen, injuries will happen, and this list will change, every Monday, during the football season.

The team's rank in this updated Top 25 will appear at the left of the Team name, as well as past rankings in my BearDown Top 25 lists.

1. USC Trojans [2 (last ranking) 3 (first ranking)]

In a slow but steady pace the Men of Troy have taken over the Top Spot. Before all you SEC honks get on my case think about this. You all constantly argue that your conference is the toughest conference so don't be pissed when I think that USC has a pretty damn decent shot at going undefeated this year and I can't say the same thing about ANY of the SEC teams. Georgia, Florida, LSU, everyone, WILL LOSE, flat out. I think USC is the best team in the Pac and if they can get past Ohio State, which they will since it's at home, and they can run through the Pac. Don't expect them to falter again this year like they did against Stanford.

2. Oklahoma Sooners [1, 2]

Slipping back to where they started Oklahoma locks in at Number 2. The Big XII is better this year than last year but Oklahoma's toughest games are going to be in Norman (except the Red River Shootout in Dallas). Oklahoma could very easily slip early and often but I think too highly of Sam Bradford. Each week is going to be tough for Oklahoma but I think Bob will be able to keep them on task, at least until they lose the bowl game.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes [4, 5]

Continuing their ascent up the polls Ohio State looks better and better to me. They've got too much returning talent in a weak Big Eleven. As usual they have their marquee match up against Youngstown State but have bulked up their non conference with the addition of USC on the road. I think this will be one of the top games of the season. On the road the Buckeyes are going to have an uphill battle. On the plus side though, overcoming a loss and moving back up into the top 3 is a lot easier earlier in the season than later.

4. Georgia Bulldogs [3, 1]

Continuing their descent Georgia is the best team in the country. They have top tier talent at many different positions. Stafford and Moreno are both Heisman Caliber. So why aren't they number 1 or 3 anymore. Their media guide should say "8 in 08" based on the fact that they continue to have players getting into off-field troubles. Teams have a hard time focusing around that atmosphere. Plus who knows how many players are going to wind up missing games due to suspensions or possibly jail time. Plus the SEC is the best conference and getting out of their tough schedule with less than 2 losses just doesn't seem probable. They're lucky that they're one of only a few SEC teams that have a returning QB.

5. Missouri Tigers [6, 6]

Chase Daniel and Co. have finally gotten out of the seemingly concrete 6 spot of the past 2 rankings and have moved up to 5. Huge first game against Illinois will set the tone for their season. Their toughest games will be Texas on the road and Kansas at home to end the season. I think they can get through their schedule relatively pain free. This is a very similar team to the one that was in NC contention late last season and Daniel is a year better.

6. Florida Gators [5, 4]

Florida's good. Tebow's good. Harvin's good. The SEC's good. Georgia's better. Florida will be in the Top 5 at some point during the season but after their late season loss to Georgia at the Cocktail Party the Gators will slip to 6. The opposite of Ohio State will affect the Gators here. The Gators big loss will be at the end of the season rather than the beginning.

7. Clemson Tigers [10, 7]

Sticking around at 7 Clemson should be happy. They're the best in the ACC and they will be pretty unscathed after their schedule run. The early match up against Bama should be good, their only hiccups might be coming with both Wake and Florida State games being on the road. Clemson will probably only have 1 loss, maybe 2 but 1 loss in the ACC isn't as good as 2 losses in other conferences.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers [9, 8]

Your Welcome Mountaineerfans, because of your constant berating of my rankings I have decided to listen to you and rank West Virginia higher than I think they deserve. Which means sticking around at 8. They aren't as good as you think, but they could very well be Top 10 and are the class of the Big East. They won the BCS game against Oklahoma last year and surprised everyone, you're right. Bill Stewart hasn't proven anything yet and Noel Devine, despite the constant commenting of Mountaineer fans in ALL CAPS, is not the second coming of Barry Sanders or Bo Jackson. He's good. They will be the best in the Big East (which yes is a second tier conference) but will lose to one of their Big East counterparts and Auburn. The South Florida game at the end of the season will probably be the conference championship game.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders [10, 13]

Moving up yet another spot Texas Tech holds a single digit rank in the Top 10, chances are by season's end the success will cripple the Red Raiders deep in Conference Play, but as of right now welcome to number 9. That offense is just too good to not be in the Top 10. Playing Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma in 3 of 4 weeks will prove to be the real test for this Red Raider team. Going 3-0 against those teams and I'll probably be chanting for a shot at the National Championship berth.

10. Auburn Tigers [9, 11]

Hanging out in the Top 10 the Tigers hold the final spot. Auburn's place in the SEC this year will be the official conference spoiler. Getting almost all of their toughest conference games at home they could prove to be the ones that hold Georgia, LSU, or really any other SEC team they face out of the National Championship game. Playing West Virginia on the road should prove to be one of the top games of that week.

11. LSU Tigers [13, 7]

Up a couple spots LSU moves closer to the Top Ten. Now since the AP has them in there at #6 it is guaranteed that LSU fans will be all over me for not having LSU higher. After 3 games LSU will be 3-0 and probably in the Top 5 in the AP, yet most likely won't be any higher than 9th in my book. I understand the SEC is a tough conference but Appy State, Troy, and North Texas for the returning champs is kinda pathetic. Come the end of the season they will have at least 3 losses since this is not the same LSU team. They were depleted by the draft and the incoming Quarterback is now playing at Jacksonville State. They won't be in the Top Ten come season's end and they'll be happy to accept their Chik-Fil-A or Outback Bowl invitation.

12. Texas Longhorns [11, 8]

Down a spot due to the rise of the Tigers the Horns will be one of the top teams to watch this season. This will be a make or break season for Mack Brown and Colt McCoy. Texas is no longer the top team in the Big XII and this year they have to go on the road against Kansas and Texas Tech which are two teams that could beat them. The Big XII is full of talent and Texas is going to come up short of Oklahoma and Tech in the South.

13. Kansas Jayhawks [12, 14]

Jayhawks slide along with the Horns with LSU's rise. I've got to say I thought Kansas was overrated last season since they had Duke Coach Mike Krizooski plan their schedule and they played a handful of High School teams, but their bowl game win was enough for me to believe in Kansas a little bit more. As opposed to last year's cake walk through the easy Big XII schedule they will be playing the tougher conference slate this year. They've got Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, and Missouri this year as well as a South Florida team on the road. Jayhawks will most likely slide out of the Top 20 at some point during the season, but they've still got enough talent and should pile up enough wins to finish the season in the Top 25.

14. Wisconsin Badgers [14, 12]

Settling in at 14 again the Badgers look to be more like the 2006 Badgers that finished #7 in the AP poll than the 2007 team that underachieved and finished at #24. Quite different than a few years ago, number 2 in the Big Eleven doesn't hold a whole lot of water anymore. Wisconsin should have a pretty flawless season. They've got most of their biggest games at home this year which should alleviate the pressure but going Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois in a 5 game span will most likely wear down the Badgers and give them 2 losses. The last 3 games of the season should give Wisconsin 3 wins and bring them back into the Top 20 and maybe the Top 15.

15. BYU Cougars [15, 18]

If they played in another conference I believe they would be at least a little higher, but as we've seen in years past mid-majors don't get enough credit. They've continued their practice of scheduling Pac-10 teams to boost their non conference schedule, but Washington and UCLA aren't the top powers in the Pac-10. TCU on the road and ending the season and Utah will be what stands between BYU and a BCS game. Wins in both of those and BYU could be looking at 1 or less losses on the season and this could be their best year yet.

16. ASU Sun Devils [16, 16]

Unable to move an inch I just can't see ASU moving any higher. ASU still ahs serious questions on the offensive line and lost members of the line that allowed 55 sacks last season, of course some of those sacks were due to Rudy Carpenter holding onto the ball too long. If something doesn't change Carpenter could very easily go down for the season and ASU will be mediocre at best. USC is the best in the Pac and everyone else in the conference is going to be bunched in two groups the couple losses (ASU, Oregon, Arizona, Cal) and the lotta losses (Oregon State, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, and Washington State). Because of all that and ASU's early season loss to Georgia, getting into the Top 15 doesn't seem too likely.

17. Tennessee Volunteers [18, 21]

The only question in Volunteer camp is the defense. Crompton and Foster will hold together that offense this season just fine. They just can't outscore people every game and last season allowing 23 Points Per needs to drop this season. If they can't get that down below 20 they aren't going to be able to fulfil the promise that they have. Back to back to back games against Florida, at Auburn, and at Georgia will be at best a 1-2 record, hopefully they'll be able to rebound. The last 3 games could wind up being enough to get Tennesse back into the Top 25 since they could slip out after the tough 3 game set against Florida, Auburn, and Georgia.

18. Oregon Ducks [19, 17]

Up a spot from the last set, Oregon faces the same things that ASU does in the Pac. There are different questions but this is still a talented team without Dixon and Steward. The return of Jeremiah Johnson is huge. They don't have to face Georgia early like ASU, but I think they'll drop at least one more in conference play which will have them sitting a few spots below the Devils.

19. Virgina Tech Hokies [17, 15]

I find myself questioning them more and more each time. Again slipping 2 spots the Hokies I don't think they are a Top 25 team, talent wise, but have one of the easiest schedules in the NCAA which should be enough to keep them in the Top 20. They drew the easier ACC schedule and will avoid Wake and Clemson with their only real test being against the unranked Noles of FSU. They could find themselves in the Top 10 capitalizing on a schedule and some talent like Kansas did last year. Despite the fact the ACC is a second class conference being 10-2 at seasons end will mean a top ranked Hokie team (that won't look too great in a bowl game).

20. Penn State Nittany Lions [20, 19]

I know, I know you're sick of it but it comes down to schedules. You can go ahead and thank the BCS Honks for that. No one schedules good games anymore because 12-0 against terrible teams gets you into a BCS game. They'll probably slip out of the Top 25 if they can't get at least one road win between Wisconsin and Ohio State. But starting the season 4-0 will keep Penn State in the Top 25 and the weak bottom half of the Big Eleven almost guaranteeing 9 wins on the season. 9 wins in a major conference will usually keep you in the Top 25. Penn State finished at 25 last year with a 9-4 record and 2008 will likely be a very similar year.

21. Illinois Fighting Illini [21, 20]

Week one will set the tone for the Illini and Zook this season. a victory over Mizzou will be HUGE in setting up the Illini for another big run. Chances are they aren't headed to the Rose again this year. They are looking at a 3rd place ceiling in the Big Eleven, but more than likely will finish 4th. Their road game to Penn State most likely will end in a loss and be the tie breaker between them and Penn State in the Big Eleven standings. Both should finish with 9 wins. 2009 is a better year for the Illini as long as Juice sticks around.

22. Wake Forest Demon Deacons [22, UR]

This is basically because I see them being the 3rd best team in the ACC and the ACC having three teams in the Top 25. The conference is so bad that there are 4 teams who could wind up with 2 or less wins, and I'm talking overall not just in conference. That just means wins will stack up for the top of the ACC. With a clear distinction between the top 4 ACC teams (Clemson, Va Tech, Wake, and Florida State) and the rest of the teams this will be the definition of the rich and the poor and no middle class. Thought North Carolina might surprise people and be the only middle class team.

23. South Florida Bulls [UR. UR]

Making their first appearance strictly on the strength of the Big East needing a second team. South Florida scheduled Kansas and Pitt to give them a little bit of cred going into the soft conference schedule. Look for at least 9 wins this season. Don't expect to see them at #2 again this year. The November 15th game against Rutgers should be a nice revenge game for the Bulls holding a grudge since Rutgers knocked them out of the #2 spot and sent the spiraling into a 3 game skid.

24. Pittsburgh Panthers [25, UR]

LeSean McCoy is the reason Pitt is being considered this high. Pitt only needs to show up for 4 games this season. South Florida, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and (insert typical surprising Big East team here). Winning at least 2 of those games should keep Pitt in voters minds enough to grab one of the bottom 3 spots.

25. Fresno State Bulldogs [23, 25]

Back where they began the Bulldogs did nothing in my mind to slip, but they still did. This year's WAC entrant. The Wac has made a name for themselves recently by having their one team continuing to make noise. First Boise State, then Hawaii, not Fresno State. The Dogs won't be as dominating as either of the previous team so we won't hear BCS talk with them as we did in years past. Losses against Wisconsin and one of UCLA/Rutgers/Hawaii will keep Fresno State in the bottom 5, but ranked nonetheless.

Teams that most likely will see the Top 25 at some point during the season:

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Too Easy of a schedule not to be included, at least at 25, once during the season, should wind up bowl eligible. Only 4-5 real contests during the season.

Michigan Wolverines - They play in the Big Eleven and should have more than a few conference wins to make a run at the Top 25.

Alabama Crimson Tide - A couple of possible big SEC wins and Bama will shoot into the Top 25.

Florida State Seminoles - The ACC is weak and an early win over Wake would move the Noles into contention until the tougher back end of the season

South Carolina Gamecocks - This is my first 25 without the Gamecocks represented, I'm sure that they will make their way back into talks at some point before the season wraps up.

California Bears - Cal could definitely replace either ASU or Oregon and make their way into the Top 25 for a week or two.

Arizona Wildcats - The Spread will be running at full speed this year. With a full year under their belt, talented Senior Leadership, and a 3 game buffer and honest chance to start the season 6-0 Arizona should see the Top 25 at one point early in the season.