You, Mark Sanchez, with your future millions? You, Sam Bradford, with your morning chemistry lab?
|Tebow and Meyer: Go, fight, win, can they do it again? (Getty Images)|
One more reason to wait until now to assemble a 2009 top 25. Thursday's early entry deadline made it a necessity and renders all previous preseason top 25s something less than complete.
Who knew that Bradford would defy logic and stay at Oklahoma? Who knew that Sanchez would defy his coach and leave USC?
Anyway, now that the game pieces are pretty much in place it's time to take an early look in '09. One note: We're not taking into account any future suspensions, NCAA investigations or New York Jets interviews.
1. Florida: No Harvin? No problem. More Rainey. More Demps. Oh, and that Tebow guy is pretty good, too. The Gators are locked and loaded to make it three in four years. Issue: National championship hangover.
2. Oklahoma: OU won't average 54 again, will it? The entire backfield is back. The defense will be older and wiser. Special teams have to get better, but Bob Stoops has the entire offseason season to work on them. Issues: DeMarco Murray's health. Bob in big games.
3. Texas: Heisman finalist Colt McCoy returns with perhaps even a better set of receivers. Quan Cosby is gone but watch Malcolm Williams and Dan Buckner. Issues: Beating Oklahoma and, uh, hoping for the best.
4. Alabama: The offensive line has to be rebuilt. The other side of the ball is juuust fine. What is it they say about defense and championships? Issue: 'Bama arrived a year early under Saban. So what do you do after 12-2?
5. Virginia Tech: Settled at quarterback and tailback. Defense is a given at Virginia Tech. Finally some love for the ACC. The Hokies should rule again, winning at least 10. Issue: Unless they go ACC on us and win eight.
6. Oregon: By the time you read this, coach-in-waiting Chip Kelly might not be waiting anymore. Even if Mike Bellotti decides to stay on, have you seen the schedule? The Ducks might end USC's death grip on the Pac-10. Issue: Transition from Bellotti to Kelly. But so far things are going smoothly.
|Terrelle Pryor should take large steps forward in 2009. (Getty Images)|
8. USC: Carroll is pissed and he doesn't care who knows it. The departure of Sanchez (the coach thinks, unwisely) sets up one of the best spring quarterback battles in the country. Issue: Even without Sanchez, the offense is loaded -- and it will have to be. Only two starters are back on defense.
9. Oklahoma State: Another powerful offense and Texas comes to Stillwater. What more could you want? Maybe a win in Norman for the Pokes this year. Being a top-10 team but third in the Big 12 South is tough. Issue: This could be the best Cowboys' offense since Dykes, Sanders and Gundy in '88. The problem is a defense that has to make just a few stops.
10. Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson threw together a nine-win season using some old costumes and his uncle's barn (see every Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movie). Now he has his pieces in place. The ACC, and the country, should be concerned. Issue: Forgetting just what the heck happened against LSU.
11. LSU: Everybody is allowed a down year, right? Les Miles is retooling, quickly. Jordan Jefferson looks like he is ready to take over at quarterback. The D-coordinators are gone and the defense can't be that inconsistent again, can it? Issue: Where does mega-recruit Russell Shepard, fit in?
12. Penn State: The karma is good, if nothing else. Penn State comes off a Rose Bowl appearance. JoePa is wrapped up with a new contract. A lot of teams would take their chances with Evan Royster and Stephfon Green. Issue: The offensive line has to be rebuilt. That's a big deal in the Big Ten.
|Snead will have plenty of returning targets to throw to. (Getty Images)|
14. Kansas: Any team with quarterback Todd Reesing is capable of anything. That includes winning the Big 12 North, which the Jayhawks should be favored to do in '09. Even with the linebacking unit having to be replaced, KU could be better defensively. Issue: A better running game would be nice to keep Reesing from getting beaten to a pulp.
15. Utah: Navigating the Mountain West schedule has been akin to jumping into a bag of knives. For the second consecutive year, three teams should be ranked. Most of the skill players are gone, but Kyle Whittingham will do it like he always does -- with defense. Issue: The early departure of impact defensive lineman Paul Kruger was huge.
16. Nebraska: Slowly, surely the Huskers are getting their swagger back. The difference in the Big 12 North is the Kansas game being in Lawrence. Issues: Spelling lessons when writing about receiver Curenski Gilleylen and nose tackle Ndamukong Suh.
|Ten to Watch|
17. Cal: Former quarterbacks guru Jeff Tedford is now churning out NFL tailbacks. The latest is Jahvid Best, a Heisman favorite in '09. Issue: USC at Berkeley on Oct. 3. Are the Bears ready to supplant the Trojans in the Pac-10?
18. Oregon State: The Rodgers boys (Jacquizz and James) should be able to lead the Beavers to eight wins. At least. Issue: Getting over that mind-boggling beatdown by Oregon.
19. TCU: If talented defensive end Jerry Hughes (15 sacks) could play running back, he would. He came to TCU as one. Issue: Replacing most of the skill players.
20. Georgia: The 2008 preseason No. 1 has some 'splainin' to do. Can Joe Cox replace Matthew Stafford? Will Caleb King make up for the loss of Knowshon Moreno? Can the offensive line improve? Issue: It's the SEC East, dude, and Florida is No. 1. We'll see.
21. Boise State: We'll know early if the Broncos are BCS busters. They open at home with Oregon and play at Tulsa in October. Issue: A young front seven.
Which team should be preseason No. 1 come August?
Team not listed
Total Votes: 20,136
22. Florida State: Don't get fooled by the bowl game. There is still a ways to go for FSU to get back to being FSU. Issue: The non-conference schedule. Who put this together? At BYU and Florida, plus a homer against South Florida?
23. North Carolina: The offense took some hits with the loss of Hakeem Nicks and Cameron Sexton, but Butch Davis is doing it the right way. With defense. Carolina led I-A in interceptions. Issue: How to deal with roadies at Boston College, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
24. BYU: This finesse offense has to get tougher before it can challenge TCU and Utah for the conference title. If not, the Cougars will be third in the Mountain West and barely in the top 25. Issue: Watch 1,000-yard-receiving tight end Dennis Pitta take over after the early departure of Austin Collie.
25. Notre Dame: The schedule, the schedule, the schedule. Charlie Weis should be able to squeeze eight wins out of it. That and good vibes left over from the Hawaii Bowl. Issue: The problem is, if Weis doesn't win at least nine and get ND to a BCS bowl he might be gone.