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.




Comments

Since: Jan 17, 2012
Posted on: January 17, 2012 6:43 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

WVU number 6?! Ehhh I don't know about that one. Linked at



Since: Jan 10, 2012
Posted on: January 17, 2012 6:38 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

rpm818 - BAMA fan here and I for one think that Matt Barkley is the best QB in the land right now.  I hate that you think the championship was cheap with the way it was won in such a dominating fashion, but to say USC should be number one is quite a stretch.  I must have missed the 21-point loss to Arizona State and then the second loss to Stanford this year.  If you say they should be number 1, then so be it.  Enjoy your QB, he is a gift to have.  Hopefully, we will see you in Miami at the end of this upcoming football season.



Since: Jan 17, 2012
Posted on: January 17, 2012 6:34 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Scoreboard.



Since: Jan 17, 2012
Posted on: January 17, 2012 6:34 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

USC is extremely lucky to have Matt Barkley back. without him, there would be no proven leader on the field. But I still disagree with these rankings.

First off, the Tide still has McCarron, and while Barkley may have better zip, McCarron has better throwing abilities. Losing Trent will hurt, but they have a great back in Lacy, who just hasn't gotten the chance to start.

Secondly, LSU's defense will still be one of the best in the country. Claiborne being gone will deplete the secondary, but they have Mattheiu, and their pass rush dominates. I don't get the negatives to the LSU defense, and why everyone's hating on them.

And lastly, this article only talks about the good of the Trojans. Anybody see a proven backup to Kalil? Anyone to replace him? Barkley's going to scramble a lot more, and will get pressured more and more.

Man, this article is a procrastination of college football. While I respect Bruce Feldman, these rankings are off. 1. Alabama. 2. LSU. 3. Oklahoma. 4. Georgia. And then USC. Anyone disagree? 



Since: Jan 2, 2012
Posted on: January 17, 2012 6:31 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

How can U.S.C. be ranked higher than a top team from the SEC. Their schedule is soft, and they play in a really weak conference. It is like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and so on. Pollsters love those teams, but their loyalty is often misguided. The SEC deserves top billing until someone from outside the conference proves they can beat a good team from the SEC. 



Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: January 17, 2012 6:07 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Before the ink dried on Alabama's cheap championship, while they still suffers from voters remorse for voting 2 boring SEC teams 1 & 2, they now clamor for USC to save them.
This ought to be the rankings for the end of this year, too.



Since: May 12, 2011
Posted on: January 17, 2012 5:55 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

If Barkely was not coming back, would USC be number 1? Oregon QB is not coming back and they barely moved down in the rankings.  USC stands little chance against Oregon and the three times defending pac 12 champion is poised for another. USC can not run with these ducks, but the big market of LA needs the hype. Good luck and thanks for the disrespect. We will crush USC like an empty beer can on corting day at the frat house.  



Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: January 17, 2012 5:42 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

I can see the top three here in any order and I'd be okay with it. USC definately looks like a team ready to do some serious damage. Alabama may have lost a lot of their starters, but they can never be counted out. LSU is loaded for bear again, and Zach Mettenberger looks like the real deal. It's hard to have a drop off from the quarterback position, considering the Lee/Jefferson tandem.

After a week of mourning from the NC Game, here is my opinion. Alabama kicked our a@@ up and down the field for four quarters. They completely dominated LSU in all phases of the game, and are a deserving champion. That being said, what we saw last week was not an accurate picture of a highly talented LSU team. Anyone that has played organized competitive sports knows this axiom to be true: Sometimes no matter how hard you practice, or how well you prepare, they other guy just has your number. What I saw was a team that made a few mistakes early, and started pressing. The more they pressed the worse it got. It just happens that way some times. Again, congrats to the Crimson Tide and their fans for a great season. We'll see ya'll in November for what is shaping up to be one of the greatest rivalries in college football. Geaux Tigers.



Since: Oct 29, 2009
Posted on: January 17, 2012 4:41 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

I think the only one I have a problem with is TCU.... rated a little high... I could be wrong, but I saw TCU goes 8-4



Since: Sep 26, 2010
Posted on: January 17, 2012 4:21 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

This is alot closer to a top ten than McMurphy's. The order will shuffle until week 4 or 5, but this is a good starting lineup. I can hardly wait to see Dodd's and Barnhart's my guess is their top 10 will all be from from the SEC with maybe a token ACC team thrown in just to offset criticism of being SEC homers.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com