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: Aug 13, 2010
Posted on: January 18, 2012 10:01 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Facts don't get in the way of SEC hate. The thing to wonder if USC's easiest conference games were against Vandy and Miss State instead of Arizona state and, well to be honest I don't even know who else sucks over there. Records against clowns don't mean a whole lot to me. Boise can talk because they win their big games, none of the other schools out west have a case.

Since: Aug 4, 2008
Posted on: January 18, 2012 5:57 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

@rath of khan
 I was looking at the final score from this season game between Oregon and SC. When I looked this game up under Oregon it indicated a loss 35-38. When I looked this game up under SC it indicated a win 38-35.

You lost your starting quarterback to the NFL, do you actually thing that the team with a returning quarterback would lose ground to the team he beat with a new starting quarterback?
That must be some good stuff up in Oregon. Don’t you have to come to our house this season? You have a lot not going for you 1. The Ducks have a new Quarterback. 2. The Ducks are playing an away game. 3. Playing against a team that is ranked #1 in a few of the polls. 4. A potential Heisman trophy winner in Barkley playing his senior season at quarterback a four year starter. 5. Both his receivers are returning PAC-12 All Conference, One the PAC-12 rookie. .

All the items mentioned does not guarantee a win, however, there are enough facts to predict a win. I seen no evidence on your part that your part that the Ducks would crush the Trojans like an empty can at a frat party.

I can now understand how you made your prediction. You have started collecting the empty cans already. How many cans do you have now? With the statement you made, I can imagine about 12-24 and still counting.

We will see you at the LA coliseum    


Since: Jul 29, 2009
Posted on: January 18, 2012 4:05 pm

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

DID you watch the Orange bowl. Did you not see who is going to be the best college quarterback next year and yes even better than Barkley. WV will dominate the big east if they r still there( I hope not) and I think that ranking is right where they should be.  

Since: Jan 5, 2011
Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:53 pm

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: Nov 24, 2009
Posted on: January 18, 2012 11:08 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Hope 11-2 takes BCS and beating of ohio into next year. Go Blue!

Since: Sep 7, 2007
Posted on: January 18, 2012 8:56 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Shoulda gave USC the death penalty when they had a chance.

Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: January 18, 2012 8:00 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Just because your team shyte the bed the last couple of years, no reason to clime out of your  armadildoe hole and rag on USC.  4 & 1 all time.

BTW here are the records from teams since their last NCG. read em and weep!!! try showing som sack

USC 2004 - 2011  ( 80-16 ) 0.83333  92% games against BCS opponents

Tex  2005 - 2011  ( 67 - 15 ) 0.81707 68% games against BCS opponents

LSU 2007 - 2011 ( 45 - 13 ) 0.77586 58% games against BCS opponents

Fla  2008 - 2011  ( 37 - 8)  0.82608 80% games against BCS opponents

I didn't use 2009  or 2010 due to the small sample, or 2006 due to Fla being in the NCG in 2007, or it would be worse. However, one could say USC hasn't fallen off to far, considering opponents played and the amount of said games. and here USC played 92% of their games against BCS opponents while the rest played against cup cakes

@bigboy troy--Your numbers are complete nonsense.  LSU plays 8 conference games every year, and all are against BCS schools.  That would mean they play at least 8 of 12 games against BCS schools, and that would only be if all of our nonconference games were against nonBCS schools.  So, we are at least 67%  before we play any BCS opponents nonconference.  Last season alone, we played both Oregon and WVU, so that is at least two.  If you are going to crack on an opponent, at least be correct.  A basic understanding of math would not hurt either. 

Since: Oct 17, 2010
Posted on: January 18, 2012 7:50 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Heres what I think the problem is with this top 10. LSU is losing 2 QBs and their heir apparent has left for Notre Dame and Alabama still wont have an offense capable of scoring on a good defense.  5 field goals is all I will say about that. Why is Boise not mentioned Coach Peterson is not leaving and the back up to Moore got plenty of playing time last year. USC plays in a conference that doesnt know how to play Defense but they still got completely crushed by Arizona State which is a team that got crushed by Boise State after which the sports writers called them a lower tier PAC 12 team so how did they crush USC unless USC is also a lower tier team. West Virginia in the top 10 along with Arkansas & Georgia of these teams I will be OK with Georgia who as stated will win the SEC East but West Virginia flopped into the BigEast title and Arkansas was 0 for whatever against ranked teams. We will see if the Big East gets this kind of support next year when Boise joins the conference.

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: January 18, 2012 3:51 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Hmm...I'm an SEC fan of long standing.  Right now I would say that this list is as good as any other shot in the dark.  I mean we haven't even gotten to the national signing day, much less spring football, so it's only guesswork at this point.  The only question I would have is what makes you think that Georgia is going to be any better than last year?  They may win the SEC East, but there is no way they make it past the SEC championship next year against whichever team from the West.  Richt likes to play on the reputation of Georgia being big and bad, but as was evident in the this year's game against LSU, until he gets a strength and conditioning program, he's going to have a bunch of big guys cannot sustain for foru quarters against real teams.

Since: Sep 27, 2011
Posted on: January 18, 2012 12:48 am

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

That's absolutely amazing, given that there are only five BCS bowls, ergo ten BCS teams each year.  So you're saying that 9 out of every 10 games USC plays is against a team going to a BCS bowl?  With, what, 8 or so conference opponents, that would mean the majority of the conference makes a BCS bowl.  How is this not the biggest story in CFB?  That's dominance that makes the SEC's 6 straight titles look pathetic.

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