Blog Entry

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 2:20 pm
Since this is the first Tuesday Top 10 list of 2012, I figured I'd start with the topic that'll get broached the most between now and September: my preseason top 10. My colleague Brett McMurphy wrote about his too-early rankings last week, but some things have cleared up with more top underclassmen announcing their NFL draft intentions since then. Anyhow, here goes:

1. USC: The Trojans finished 2011 with a bang, ending Oregon's long home-winning streak and thumping rival UCLA. Better still, they were the biggest winner in the NFL underclassmen derby with star QB Matt Barkley opting to remain for his senior season. Yes, they lost stud LT Matt Kalil, but the rest of the O-line, which was pretty young last year, is back and now it's a pretty deep group. Barkley also has the best 1-2 receiving tandem in college football: rising junior Robert Woods is an All-American, and there are some inside the Trojan program who think rising sophomore Marqise Lee is already surpassing him. Curtis McNeal, a 1000-yard rusher, returns, so does the entire back seven, including standout DBs T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey and their top two tacklers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, both freshmen in 2011. The D-line has some guys to replace, but does return three players with starting experience and a bunch of blue-chippers who redshirted. The schedule also breaks well: Oregon and Notre Dame, the two most talented teams they'll face, both have to visit the Coliseum. I realize that it probably seems foolish to list anyone other than an SEC team in the No. 1 spot, but if there's any college QB up for such an undertaking, it's Barkley, and he's got the weapons to pull it off.
2. LSU:
I was tempted to have Alabama in this slot after the way the Tide dominated the BCS title game and especially after seeing how sharp A.J. McCarron was last week, but the Tigers were younger and have more key guys back. They also get 'Bama in Baton Rouge in 2012. As I wrote the other day, there is a lot of enthusiasm about Zach Mettenberger taking over the team, spurring the staff to open things up more. They're going to be loaded at RB, and despite the loss of DT Michael Brockers and CB Mo Claiborne, the Tigers are still stacked at both positions. The youngsters to keep an eye on: DT Anthony Johnson and redshirt freshman CB Jalen Collins.

3. Alabama:
Nick Saban will have a legit shot to win his third BCS title in four seasons because he'll still have a stellar O-line and a proven QB (McCarron). Eddie Lacy is also ready to be a feature back. They will have to replace most of the defense, but there is plenty of talent ready to break out in the front seven, led by powerhouse DE Jesse Williams, who is still raw but an offseason of polish should make him a nightmare for SEC offenses. LB Xzavier Dickson is also a guy that has Tide coaches buzzing after a nice freshman year. They'll have a nice test in the opener in Texas against a good Michigan team. The bad news is they do have to go on the road to face the other two heavyweights in the conference: LSU and at Arkansas.

4. Oklahoma: Landry Jones is back after what had to be a disappointing season given expectations going into 2011. It certainly didn't help that OU lost its leading rusher (Dom Whaley) and star WR (Ryan Broyles) to injury near midseason. Jones has a good group of WRs led by Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds. They do have some sizable holes in the front seven to fill, but defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is back and that is a very good thing for the defense. The younger Stoops also has a lot of talent to work with in the secondary.

5. Oregon:
Even though it was a stunner that QB Darron Thomas bolted for the NFL, his understudy Bryan Bennett is even a bit faster and a more accurate passer, and he showed some of those skills in midseason when he was forced into action. Bennett still doesn't have the seasoning in this system, but that should come, although don't rule out redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, a raw 6-foot-4 QB who may have even better tools for this scheme. LaMichael James also is gone, but with De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, Chip Kelly still has so much speed at his disposal, you still feel sorry for rival defenses. The interior of the O-line returns intact, which is key, and safety John Boyett is back, along with LB Kiko Alonso, one of the stars of the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, to anchor the D. Interesting opener against Gus Malzahn's Ark State squad, but the real game to circle is when the Ducks visit USC Nov. 3.

6. West Virginia:
After a tumultuous year, the Mountaineers kicked off 2012 in grand fashion, obliterating Clemson in the Orange Bowl by hanging 70 on the Tigers. The scarier thought is that QB Geno Smith and the bulk of those skill guys are not only back, but now they'll have added reps to get even better at the timing of Dana Holgorsen's scheme. Most of the O-line returns, and that includes standout Josh Jenkins, a three-year starter on the line who had to redshirt the 2011 season. Look out Big 12 (assuming WVU is cleared for take off in time). If not, brace yourself Big East because an ornery bunch of Mountaineers probably will be trying to hang 100 on everybody in that league on the way out the door. The thing keeping this group from being top-five caliber: WVU's D has some very good players to replace and respected DC Jeff Casteel also is gone, off to re-join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Still, the offense is so explosive they should be able to outscore almost everyone they face. Almost.

7. Georgia:
The Dawgs won the SEC East thanks to an improved defense but still really didn't beat anyone of the caliber that you have to beat to show they're ready to overtake the powers of the SEC West. Losing to Michigan State in the bowl game didn't help either. However, there is still a lot of reason for optimism here. The defense returns almost everyone; QB Aaron Murray is very good; young WR Malcolm Mitchell is a budding star. Isaiah Crowell looks like he could be too if he can mature. The kicking game does have to be overhauled though. Maybe the best news of all is that Mark Richt's team has about as manageable a schedule as an SEC team can have, avoiding the top three teams of the SEC West and opening with four of its first five at home.

8. Arkansas:
Bobby Petrino gets back star RB Knile Davis to go with Tyler Wilson, his gifted QB coming off a terrific first season. The defense, which has been shaky for awhile, has some very good players it must replace. And there is a new DC running the show. I do like that the Hogs get both Bama and LSU at home this year, but it's the D that still has me skeptical.

9.  TCU:
The Horned Frogs make another conference move. This one is their biggest yet, over to the Big 12 to rejoin some old friends. No doubt it is a step up in competition. Do they have enough quality depth to handle the attrition that figures to come with that? Well see, but I think Gary Patterson's program is ready for the move. In 2011, the Horned Frogs had as many key freshmen and sophomores contributing as just about anyone. QB Casey Pachall had a very good first season replacing Andy Dalton. Now, the question is, can Pachall take the next step as a leader to elevate this team even higher and do all of the detail stuff in preparation that Dalton was so good at? The physical tools are certainly there. He also has a good supporting cast led by standout WR Josh Boyce and a deep group of RBs. LB Tanner Brock is back from injury to anchor the defense along with big-play DE Stansly Maponga and a more mature secondary.

10. FSU:
After the underwhelming season the Noles had following all of the hype they had entering 2011, I swore I wouldn't give in and allow myself to rank them in the top 10, so I had them at 11. Yet, here they are. This is something we in the media need to realize: The Noles are your preseason dirty addiction. They are that ex-girlfriend who still can put it together and show up at the other side of the bar and catch your eye. And then you give in, and not long after you feel foolish for it. Anyhow. Jimbo Fisher should have a nasty defense, led by a ferocious D-line. The O-line will be better with much-needed experience. Same for QB E.J. Manuel and a young group of receivers. They do have to go to Va. Tech this year and get WVU at home.  Just Missed the Cut: Michigan, South Carolina, Ohio State, K-State, Michigan State.


Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: January 19, 2012 1:23 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Yes, the Trojans are good.

But, they have to play at UTAH in 2012. The Utes do not lose very often in Salt Lake City. Utah has a bye week to prepare, anyone who follows the Utes knows that with an increase in prep time Kyle Whittingham can make miracles happen, just ask Alabama.

Utah gave USC fits in Los Angeles last year and they barely won by blocking a kick with time expiring and then adding points to the scoreboard 4 hours after the game, ha!

Beware of the Utes!    

Really, didn't they just lose to Colorado at home?  In fact, they lost three games at home this year.  There is nothing about RES that intimidates anybody.  A 45,000 seat stadium where the team wins half the time is not that scary.  USC also has way better talent all the way around, including a Heisman contender for a qb.  Utah will be breaking in a new qb (they hope), a new offensive coordinator, and have zero momentum. 

Anything can happen on any given day, but there is a 99% chance Utah loses that game.

Since: Nov 24, 2009
Posted on: January 19, 2012 1:07 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Id like to see the bowl predictions for ohio next year..WHOOPS?!?!

Since: Oct 11, 2009
Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:05 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

LSU at #2 I just don't buy. I'll believe it when I see it. I don't think you rebound from such a debacle that easily by just reloading and saying a new QB will help open up the offense. LSU basically had the equivalent of a 1/4 of an offseason to ready themselves for Bama, and we all saw how that ended up. Don't see how sports writers can ignore that fact so completely and so blindly say ok LSU is #2. Its like reaching for a piece of candy and getting an electric shock, then reaching back for the candy again. We had to listen and read all the writers and fans, esp on the CBS Sports blogs, about how dominant LSU was and how their wins vs 8 ranked teams in 2011 made them easily the top team and possibly one of the best college teams ever. Time, and Alabama, proved that was just a lot of preening, wishful thinking, and "my dad is bigger than your dad" braggadocio. To call that was the worst offensive performance in BCS history, and quite possibly major bowl history, is right on the mark. Also showed how highly overrated the LSU offense was despite the 30+ pt per game avg. Defense and special teams were a huge part of that 30+ pt per game avg, due to turnovers and field position. And even the defense didn't come to play that night. If you're that good, giving up yards that easily to AJ McCarron should never have occurred. Doesn't matter how good the Bama defense was that particular night, no team with a #1 ranking should have been that awful and had such poor QB play. Any one of the other teams in the top 10 would have been a better "offensive" match for Bama. Notice I only said "offensive" match, not a complete overall match per se. If bowl season showed us anything, its that FBS is now primarily offense based. Very few of the top ranked defensive squads actually played to their defensive ranking in their bowl game. Simply put, a quality defense is great, but your offense still has to put points on the board. 

Since: Dec 4, 2006
Posted on: January 19, 2012 11:27 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

With all of the talent LSU has coming back and a legitimate stud at QB I put them in the top spot.  They're only losing a couple of people that had/have three-deep depth behind them.  I don't know what to think about USC.  They had (1) good win and suddenly they're back!?  People tend to forget that they had (1) really bad loss and a bunch of ho-hum games against Minnesota and the like.  It's hard to think of the Pac 12 as anything other than a mediocre conference.  It would be nice for some team to give the SEC some competition but I don't think USC can match up with the "big dogs" in that conference. 

Alabama is losing a ton of people but McCarron looked fabulous against LSU.  They'll lose in Baton Rouge however and won't make the SEC Championship game again.

The SEC East will be up for grabs Florida ever going to regain their stride???

Oklahoma could be good if they stay healthy or could fall off the map once again.  The rest of the Big 12 looks average again.

Clemson is a team that was very young and will be in the mix after beating Auburn to open the season.

I'm interested to see what Ohio State does this year.  Wisky had their best team ever and couldn't even beat the Ducks.  Michigan is so unorganized and have a wide receiver for their QB.

LSU wins it all and becomes the first team to win (3) BCS Championships!

Since: Oct 29, 2009
Posted on: January 19, 2012 10:20 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

But, they have to play at UTAH in 2012. The Utes do not lose very often in Salt Lake City. Utah has a bye week to prepare, anyone who follows the Utes knows that with an increase in prep time Kyle Whittingham can make miracles happen, just ask Alabama.

Really??? It's going to be 2032 and Utah fans are still going to be saying, "Yup, we beat Alabama!" Utah was a one hit wonder, They had a great team in 2008, to compare this team to the 2008 team is a far cry from reality. I was at the Sunbowl and was amazed to see Asadia (sp?) still playing, he's like 35 years old now..... Point bieng Utah might be a National Title dream destroyer, but never a National Title contender.    &

Since: Apr 30, 2009
Posted on: January 19, 2012 8:54 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

The heir apparent at LSU is still there in Mettenberger, not HS QB Kiel.  Get your facts stright.  Behind him is Stephen Rivers.  Kile was 3rd string at this point.   That is not to say that he would not have moved up but heir apparent, get informed. Additionally, Alabama will do just fine, offensively and defensively.  Where are you getting your facts and opinions. Also, do you know what a run-on sentence is?  I thought not.

Since: Sep 7, 2010
Posted on: January 19, 2012 3:42 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

I can see people thinking USC is not that good only because of the loss to AZ St. At that point of the year USC's offensive line was still being shuffled. But after that loss everything started clicking.  The freshman neede to catch up to speed. One big thing that never was mentioned last year was their extremely young team.  Has their ever been another Div-1 team ever to start 14 freshman out of 22 with only 50 playerss on the sideline? That was USC's travel corp for the year. And yes that was even against the ducks.  Do you think Chip will only travel with 50 players since he is the best coach in college football? Never!

As far as scheduling goes this is a weaker schedule than normal but at least they are all from AQ conferences. The floaters were so hurt with that loss to LSU for their opener I believe they scheduled 2 or 3 Div-2  games this year. 

Since: Jan 16, 2011
Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:07 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

I am not sure who ragging on who in this post from OSU Sillinger to USC fan???? Liar...cheating....breaking the off way to easy.....

It is almost like POT.....KETTLE..... BLACK.... 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

yea sc is back,stacked and ready to do some all you sc haters sanctions were only a speed bump... but just remember how sc picks up momentum as the season goes on and by the time the bcs games roll by they are hitting on all cylinders.....thats why they are 6-1 in bcs bowls and they always show up for big games....nat'l champs?.....i like there chances alot!......if they make it to ncg they will win it.

Yeah. you guys got off way to easy and it shows. Congrats on getting the basic slap on the wrist for lying cheating and breaking tons of benefits. Should've gotten the death penalty.

Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: January 18, 2012 11:08 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Yes, the Trojans are good.

But, they have to play at UTAH in 2012. The Utes do not lose very often in Salt Lake City. Utah has a bye week to prepare, anyone who follows the Utes knows that with an increase in prep time Kyle Whittingham can make miracles happen, just ask Alabama.

Utah gave USC fits in Los Angeles last year and they barely won by blocking a kick with time expiring and then adding points to the scoreboard 4 hours after the game, ha!

Beware of the Utes!      

Since: Apr 27, 2010
Posted on: January 18, 2012 11:05 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Arkansas was 5-2 against teams ranked at the time.  They were 3-2 against teams in the final AP poll.  They were 2-2 against Top 10 teams.  I get that you don't respect Arkansas, but at least get your facts straight.

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