Also, Chas Rich and I have put together most of the Big East preseason stuff over at FanHouse. I still need to finish up the songbook for the Big East after work Monday, but I'm sure you'll be amused. OK, on to the ballot.
1. Georgia- First off, I think that anyone that has moved Georgia out of the top spot because of the injury to LT Trinton Sturdivant needs to think about it again. Everyone suffers injuries and depth should play a factor. One thing Georgia has is depth. 17 starters and 45 lettermen return from last years squad that I thought was the best team in the country when the season was over. They'll be tested almost every week, but if they can run the table there won't be any question who the best team in the country is.
2. Ohio State- It pains me to say this, but last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year and they went to the national championship. With 18 starters returning, 52 lettermen, and an unbelievable group of incoming freshman. They only need to beat USC early and they should be able to cruise to an undefeated season and another spot in the national title. Better wear a rubber while you're on the left coast, guys.
3. USC- This team is every bit as talented as anyone in the country, but with only 13 starters returning I don't think they'll gel in time to beat Ohio St. But they'll probably look like the best team in the country by the end of the year and they won't be in the national title game.
4. Florida- Sometimes being the second best team in the SEC east isn't a bad thing. If they had any depth at strong safety and the ability not to tear their ACL's I'd have a hard time not putting them at #1.
5. LSU- Like the four teams above them, they have as much talent as anyone in the country. What they don't have that the others do is a proven quarterback to lead them. They have three cupcakes to start the season and develop a quarterback. But after that there won't be any margin for error.
6. Missouri- I haven't see a quarterback that reminded me of Stan Humphreys more than Chase Daniel. Little known fact, he doesn't wear a rib protector. That's all natural, baby! They have 16 starters returning, but only 37 lettermen returning. So it will be important for them to stay healthy. It's a little scary to me that the leading returning rusher is also the leading receiver, Jeremy Maclin. Other than that, this looks like a solid team.
7. Oklahoma- It's hard for me to put them there since they only won one of the three times I watched them last year. For all the good things they do in the regular season, they just plain stink in the post season. Their more talented than Missouri, but at this point I question their heart.
8. Clemson- They've got a lot of talent returning, including two of the best running backs in the country. Not to mention one of the better quarterbacks you've never heard of in Cullen Harper. And they play in the ACC. If it doesn't happen this year, it never will.
9. Auburn- This year is a real chance for Auburn. They have an incredible defense, Brandon Cox isn't the quarterback anymore, and Alabama is still one year away. Not to mention LSU's quarterback situation. If they can pick up on the schemes of their two new coordinators before they get into the heart of the schedule this should be a tough out.
10. West Virginia- For the rest of my life, I will probably start West Virginia out #10 in my preseason poll. It's always worked well in the past, and this year like the rest, I think it's appropriate. No need to get into the offense. I think we all know what will happen there. It's the defense that worries me. I know there's talent there. It's just a question if they can come together and play like last years defense. I think they'll be more talented and faster. But that doesn't always = results.
11. Texas Tech- I can't wait to watch this team play! They might be this years sleeper if they can play even an ounce of defense.
12. South Florida- I think this team returns 19 starters. The real question will be if they can develop a consistent rushing attack. Grothe has led the team in rushing the last two years. But for them to get over the hump, he's got to get the rest of the team involved. He's an uncanny talent, but they became too predictable toward the end of the season.
13. Texas- They only return 11 starters, but 47 lettermen. They have as much talent as anyone in the Big 12, and they don't really play anyone until the first week in October. So they should have more than enough time to put things together. Having a good quarterback can make up for deficiencies elsewhere. Colt McCoy had a monster year last year, and he should be better this year. Also, "Boom Motherfucker" is the defensive coordinator and I would expect the defense to be very good by the end of the year.
14. Kansas- It's always tougher to stay on top than it is to get there. Kansas has never made it to consecutive bowl games, but that should change this year. Unlike last year, they will be tested early in a trip to South Florida. Other than the conference schedule, they don't have any other challenges. They have enough skill position and linemen returning that they shouldn't be weak in any one area.
15-25- This is mostly a grab bag and I could probably make a case for most of these teams as the #15 team in the country. I like Fresno State, and I think Pitt will make some noise this year for the Big East. Brigham Young will be tough again and with their easy schedule, they could end the season undefeated or with one loss. I wonder about Wisconsin. They have a lot returning outside of a quarterback and they play in the Big 10.