I admire The Associated Press for scheduling the release of its
top 25, arguably the most credible set of preseason rankings, in
mid-August, half a month before Opening Weekend.
It is both ridiculous and ridiculously uplifting to see newsstands packed with college football-preview magazines in early spring.
Release dates for these magazines, complete with throw-away rankings and bowl predictions, seem to get earlier each year, and I’m not complaining. The experts at Athlon and Lindy’s Sports are simply catering to demand.
That said, I admire The Associated Press for scheduling the release of its top 25, arguably the most credible set of preseason rankings, in mid-August, half a month before Opening Weekend.
I couldn’t wait that long. Here is how I think the AP Top 25 will look.
1. Alabama: No real room for argument here. Nick Saban, straight faced and unsatisfied as ever after coaching the Crimson Tide to its first national title since 1992; Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram, eight starters back on offense — what’s not to like?
2. Ohio State: A 26-17 Rose Bowl dismantling of Oregon will do wonders for quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is poised to make a run at the Heisman while guiding the Buckeyes to a sixth straight Big Ten Conference crown and a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
3. Boise State: The Broncos will enter September with their best preseason rank in history — and their best chance of cracking the elusive top two at seasons end. Kellen Moore, another Heisman hopeful, is in his third year under center and will have back two of his favorite wideouts.
4. Texas: The Longhorns are without Colt McCoy but still feature a defense brimming with future NFL talent. Garrett Gilbert showed glimpses of success while filling in at quarterback for then-injured Colt McCoy in the 2010 BCS title game.
5. Texas Christian: The Horned Frogs piggy-backed Boise State’s midmajor support in 2009 and, like the Broncos, should receive top-five preseason treatment. Texas Christian lost several key defenders but returns a decent core of talent.
6. Florida: Running back Jeff Demps’ playmaking ability will sooth the Gators’ pain from missing Tim Tebow. Florida has a veteran offensive line, a defense filled with prized recruits and, yes, Urban Meyer.
7. Wisconsin: Those pesky Badgers are always full of surprises. That they were able to win 10 games yet again in 2009 says a lot. So does the fact they return 16 starters, including 1,500-yard rusher John Clay.
8. Southern California: The championship-ineligible Trojans welcome the Lane Kiffin Era with a staggering collection of blue-chippers, plus future-Heisman favorite Matt Barkley. The talent is there.
9. Iowa: Part of a Big Ten renaissance last bowl season, the Hawkeyes appeared Pasadena bound until junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi was injured in Game 10.
10. Oregon: Disgraced signal-caller Jeremiah Masoli is out of the picture, but the defending Pacific-10 Conference champs have enough veterans — nine on offense, eight on defense — to curry top-10 votes.
11. Virginia Tech: Beamer Ball never gets old. This year’s Hokies also have a promising offense, led by one of the top tailback tandems in the country.
12. North Carolina: What’s this about defense winning championships? The Tar Heels’ D was ranked sixth last year and has nine returners.
13. Oklahoma: The injury-plagued disaster that was the Sooners’ 2009 season shouldn’t fool voters. The players who filled in then are a year better.
14. Miami: Jacory Harris guided the Hurricanes back to relevance, but there is much more room to improve. Miami should be a marked team heading into its early road test at Ohio State.
15. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers nearly derailed Texas’ BCS hopes in the Big 12 title game before burying Arizona in the 2009 Holiday Bowl. Ndamukong Suh is gone, but the defense is sturdy enough to compensate for a rebuilding offense.
16. Arkansas: Arkansas suddenly owns the most dangerous quarterback in the Southeastern Conference in Ryan Mallett. The high-scoring Hogs could be Alabama’s biggest test in the SEC West.
17. West Virginia: Tailback Noel Devine (I thought he graduated, too) will put up big numbers in a new offense, and the Mountaineers feature nine defensive holdovers.
18. Pittsburgh: Have to put another Big East Conference team in here somewhere, why not a likely future-Big 10 member with a Heisman dark horse (Dion Lewis)?
19. Louisiana State: Still riding the diminishing wave of their 2007 national title run, the Tigers remain one of the most consistently tough teams to beat in the SEC.
20. Penn State: Another win for consistency. The Nittany Lions have won 51 games in the last five years. Evan Royster is closing in on the program’s rushing record.
21-25: This is where it becomes a toss-up between fairly good teams with something to prove. I see Georgia at No. 21, Utah at No. 22, Georgia Tech at No. 23, Cincinnati at No. 24 and Houston rounding things out.
See you in two weeks.