2010-2011 NCAA College Football Top 25 Preview

Fooch's Note: We started up more college football coverage last bowl season and I thought it would be worth providing coverage all season long. For those who are not college football fans, or prefer only 49ers coverage here, these posts can at least help provide some context when we get to the 2011 draft season next spring.

Hey Niners Nation, it's been a while since I've posted anything and it's good to be back in the fold. Now that the college football season is right around the corner, I plan on posting quite a bit more frequently.

This years season should be fun-filled and nothing short of exciting. There are several teams that will work their way up and down the top 25 boards. Next weekend will kick things off and I don't know about you all, but there is nothing better than waking up Saturday mornings to the voices of the College Gameday Crew, a hot cup of coffee, screaming fans, and of course cheerleaders. College football has had some of the most exciting and memorable moments in sports history. A lot of us have had the privilege of seeing some of them happen live. There is no doubt that there will be a few of those moments that will be engraved in to history forever in 2010 and 2011.

There has been quite a bit of controversy and speculation over the past five years or more in that there should be a playoff system in place for college football. Whether you're on one side or the other, nothing will change for this season. All the Bowl Games will stay put as they are. Last years National Champs, Alabama will be looking to repeat the success they had and are in fact the Nation's front runner once again. Will anyone be able to knock them off? And if so, who?

After the break, I will be putting together a preview of the AP Top 25 Teams in the nation. Feel free to discuss anything and everything college football related in this post. I look forward to many more throughout the course of the '10-'11 Season and I hope you do as well.

#1 - Alabama Crimson Tide - The Tide will have many returning players from last years National Championship Team. On offense, Greg McElroy will be looking to get the ball to Julio Jones as much as possible. Mark Ingram will be in the Heisman chase once again this year and has a very legitimate shot at getting it again if his knee heals up pretty quickly from the surgery he just underwent. Preston Dial will be a solid target over the middle for McElroy as well. The offense didn't lose too many players. Defense will be the biggest question mark for the Tide. If they want to make another solid run, Chris Jordan, Dont'a Hightower, and Courtney Upshaw will have some pretty big shoes to fill in the void of Rolondo McClain's departure. They lost a few guys in the secondary, but have some very good young talent back there to replace the guys that are now playing on Sunday's... For more on the Tide, here is the link to SBNation's Alabama Crimson Tide Site RollBamaRoll.

#2 - Ohio State Buckeyes - Buckeye's fans should be excited for the upcoming year. Although they have a relatively tough schedule, they should fins themselves on top for most of the year, if not all. A lot is riding on Quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Some folks believe that he has Vince Young-like potential, others find themselves laughing at the concept. I find myself somewhere in between and look at him more as a Dennis Dixon type of guy (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Pryor will be looking to go to OSU's top receiver in DeVier Posey when the Bucks do decide to air it out. The Buckeyes may find themselves not having to pass or rely on Pryor though with two stud running backs in Daniel Herron and Brandon Saine. Between those two, there shouldn't be much of a problem moving the chains. The defense is just as stacked. Cameron Heyward will have the spotlight shinning on the defensive side of the ball. In most pundits eyes, Heyward is a sure-fire top-five pick in next years NFL Draft. If you haven't had a chance to see the kid play, be prepared to be amazed. Cornerback Chimdi Chewka could potentially be another 1st Round talent if he can produce some solid numbers... For more on the Buckeyes, here is the link to SBNation's Ohio State Buckeye Site AlongTheOlentangy.

#3 - Boise State Broncos - Can one team have too much talent? That's a good question and we will find out this year by watching the Broncos play on that strange and unique blue-turfed field. Kellen Moore will be leading the stampede once again for the '10-'11 Season. Between Jeremy Avery, Titus Young, Austin Pettis, and company, Moore will have plenty of options across the field on any given play. Defense is not quite as stacked as the offense for the Broncos and will be tested an awful lot this year. Out of the top 5 teams, the Broncos could conceivably be the biggest question mark. They open up with Virginia Tech and will have their work cut out. Two weeks later, they will face Jacquizz Rodgers and the Oregon State Beavers. So within the first few weeks, we should all know if the Broncos should be slotted number three in the Nation... For more on the Broncos, here is the link to SBNation's Boise State Broncos Site OneBroncoNationUnderGod.

#4 - Florida Gators - With Tim Tebow gone and John Brantley in, Gator fans across the Nation can finally be excited to have a true quarterback at the helm. Jeff Demps will more than likely see most of the touches as running back but Emmanuel Moody could see some of the action as well. If the offense can get things going then the Gators will be set up very well to contend for a National Championship. The defense was for the most part depleted last year with several players moving on to the NFL. However, there are still a few solid guys in the line-up, such as Ahmad Black and Lawrence Marsh, that will be there to help provide some veteran leadership. All in all, I think that the Gators have a very good chance at contending to get in to that top-two to play for a National Championship... For more on the Gators, here is the link to SBNation's Florida Gators Site AlligatorArmy.

#5 - Texas Longhorns - Wide Recivers Malcolm Brown and Marquise Goodwin, and Quarterback Garrett Gilbert seem to be the highlight of the Longhorns offense going in to the season. They will need strong contributions in the run game though. Mack Brown would like to get back to good, solid, hard-nosed football and in order to do that, the run will need to be effective. It will be interesting to see who will emerge for the Longhorns out of Running Backs Tre Newton, Cody Johnson, and Foswhitt Whitaker. The defense had quite a few departures from last year. It will be an entirely new cast just about with the exception of stud Defensive End Sam Acho. Cornerback Curtis Brown is ranked very high and depending on how well he plays this year could catapult himself as being considered the number one Cornerback on the board in next years NFL Draft... For more on the Longhorns, here is the link to SBNation's Texas Longhorns Site BurntOrangeNation.

#6 - TCU Horned Frogs - When I did my NCAA Quarterbacks Post earlier this year, some folks laughed at the concept that Andy Dalton would be a highly rated prospect after the season was in the books. There isn't much of an argument until the end of the season is over. Either way, he will show leadership and command of that potent TCU Offense for the '10-'11 Season. Antoine Hicks and Jeremy Kerley should be Dalton's top targets while Mathew Tucker and Ed Wesley should see a majority of the carries. Losing Jerry Hughes and Daryl Wahington on defense seems like it would not be the best situation, but there is enough young talent to potentially fill those enormous shoes. Linebacker Tank Carder should be an interesting player to keep your eye on throughout the year... For more on the Horned Frogs, here is the link to SBNation's Mountain West Conference MountainWestConnection.

#7 - Oklahoma Sooners - The Sooners could quite possibly be slotted too low at number seven. They have all the makings and looks of a National Champioship contender. Quarterback Landry Jones is now out of the shadow of Sam Bradford for good and can make this team his own. When you look at the depth that the Sooners have on both sides of the ball, it's very hard to dispute that they could have a flawless run this year. Bob Stoops is one of college football's best coaches and in some folks minds "thee best". DeMarco Murray is explosive in all facets an quite frankly underrated. Mossis Madu will share carries and has earned the right to do so. Ryan Broyels will be Jones' number one guy this year and Broyles could end up as a top three wide receiver behind A.J. Green and Julio Jones if all goes well. Stoops loves his defenses and takes pride in putting together solid ones just about every year. The Sooners defense will be lead by Linebacker Jeremy Beal and the rest will rally around him. However, they will be tested early on when they face Christian Ponder and The 20th Ranked Florida State Seminoles in week two... For more on the Sooners, here is the link to SBNations Oklahoma Sooners Site CrimsonAndCreamMachine.

#8 - Nebraska Cornhuskers - A lot is riding on the shoulders of Quarterback Zac Lee this year should he get the nod. If the Huskers plan on staying in the top ten, Lee will undoubtedly have to show up every single week and if he doesn't Taylor Martinez will be right there waiting to snatch that job up. Roy Helu will take some of the pressure off of either Lee or Martinez but it will take a team effort to stay on top of things in Nebraska. Ndamukong Suh is no longer a factor and he will missed greatly on the defensive side but Jared Crick could emerge as a fill to that void...well somewhat. In any case, it is difficult to say whether or not Nebraska will be able to hold steady in the top ten. The one thing they have going for them is Bo Pelini and his ability to bring the best out in his players... For more on the Huskers, here is the link to SBNations Nebraska Cornhuskers Site CornNation

#9 - Iowa Hawkeyes - When you think Hawkeyes, you automatically associate it with Adrian Clayborn. By season end, there may not be a better defensive lineman in the Nation. Clayborn will also have help behind him in Tayler Sash. Sash has a lot of potential to be one of the best safeties in the Nation. The defense for the Hawkeyes looks to be very strong this year. We could be seeing several highlights from this very talented squad this year. On the offensive side of the ball, Ricky Stanzi will have quite a bit to prove to his fans. Marvin McNutt should provide Stanzi a solid target to go to throughout the season. Running Back Adam Robinson should lead the charge on the ground and be a solid option for Stanzi out of the backfield as well... For more on the Hawkeyes, here is the link to SBNations Iowa Hawkeyes Site BlackHeartGoldPants.

#10 - Virginia Tech Hokies - Will Ryan Williams be able to continue to get as many carries as he did last year with the return of Darren Evans? Only time will tell. If it was me coaching the Hokies, it would be a no-brainer. I'd keep Williams as "the guy" all year long. Maybe that's why I'm not a coach though. The Hokies open the year with a big-time test against #3 Ranked Boise State. The offense should be able to score enough points with Tyrod Taylor leading The Hokies, but it will ultimately be up to the defense to pull off the week one upset. The secondary is solid but The Hokies lost three tremendous pass rushers in Worlids, Brown and Grimm. This game could potentially be the best match-up to kick the season off... For more on the Hokies, here is the link to SBNation's Virginia Tech Hokies Site GobblerCountry.

#11 - Oregon Ducks - With all of the side show incidents in the off-season between LaMichael James and Jeremiah Masoli, it's hard to say that Oregon will be ranked as high as #11 by the end of the year. They will be lead by Sophomore Quarterback Darron Thomas who obviously doesn't have much experience. Once James is back though after the first game, he will see a majority of the action on the offensive side of the ball. Oregon always seems to have a stacked defense and most often as far as the Pac-10 is concerned is the best in that regard. It could be a large reason why they received this ranking to start the season out. Casey Mathews will be one of the key guys on defense and will be an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. Even though The Ducks look strong on paper, there is doubt that they will lead the Pac-10 this season... For more on the Ducks, here is the link to SBNations Oregon Ducks Site AddictedToQuack.

#12 - Wisonsin Badgers - The Badgers will rely heavily on Running Back John Clay as far as offense goes. However, their passing game could potentially be very solid. Scott Tolzien will most likely favor Lance Kendricks for a majority of the season. Kendricks could quite possibly be the best Tight End in college football this year once it's over. On the defensive side of the ball it will be J.J. Watt who will anchor the defensive line with Blake Sorensen right behind him to clean things up at the Linebacker position. The Badgers will have their work cut out for them due to the Big Ten being pretty stacked this year... For more on the Badgers, here is the link to SBNations Wisconsin Badgers Site Buckys5thQuarter.

#13 - Miami Hurricanes - Led by young phenom Quarterback Jacory Harris, The 'Canes should expect to have an excellent season.  There may not be a more composed and cool-headed Quarterback in the Nation as far as college football is concerned. Senior Running Back Damien Berry, Sophomore Mike James, and Freshman Lamar Miller should lead the charge on the ground while Leonard Hankerson will be receiving a good majority of the passes from Harris. The defense has plenty of depth and talent. Top prospect Allen Bailey will be a menace to deal with for most offensive coordinators this season. Look for Defensive Back Brandon Harris to make a major impact as well. The Hurricanes could be a sleeping giant this year and seem to look very good when you look the roster over. Their biggest test this year will be week two against The Ohio State Buckeyes... For more on the Hurricanes, here is the link to SBNations Miami Hurricanes Site The7thFloor.

#14 - USC Trojans - Hmmm... Lane Kiffin? Don't trust this guy, he's a fraud (well, we'll see anyhow). USC looks very good on paper and most often that's the case. However, with the Reggie Bush scandal and all that is going on with that, the recruiting for Southern Cal may see a significant dip. If there is a dip in recruiting, a dip in production should follow. Although this seems to be in USC's not so far away future, the team this year will have some dynamite talent. This will be Matt Barkley's second year running the offense and he is lined up with a great supporting cast. Between Allen Bradford, Marc Tyler, and C.J. Gable, the running attack will be one of the best in the Nation. This will take some of the pressure off of Barkley to do everything himself. The offensive line seems to be pretty solid and that will more than likely allow Barkley to hook up with star Wide Receiver Ronald Johnson quite a bit this year. But all in all, if the Trojans season is anything less than stellar, we'll all know where to point the finger... For more on the Trojans, here is the link to SBNations USC Trojans Site Conquest Chronicles.

#15 - Pittsburgh Panthers - If the Panthers want to win, they need to give the ball to Dion Lewis, Dion Lewis, and Dion Lewis. Lewis will take some of the pressure off of Sophomore Tony Sunseri who has only taken 17 college snaps in his career. Dave Wannstedt seems to be very confident going in to the season after a very solid year for the '09-'10 Season. Wide Receivers Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan are tall and physical targets for the inexperienced Sunseri to go to in the small amount of time Dion Lewis is not carrying the ball. Greg Romeus will be just as much of a factor on the defensive side as Dion Lewis will be on the offensive side. This is a very talented and well-coached team that could surprise a lot of folks and sneak their way in to the top five... For more on the Panthers, here is the link to SBNations Pittsburgh Panthers Site Pittsburgh.SBNation.com.

#16 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - It will be interesting to see how Joshua Nesbitt leads the Yellow Jackets this year. With the departure of key guys such as Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, and Morgan Burnett, it will be very interesting to see who and how those roles will be filled. Embry Peeples and Roddy Jones could see most of the action but the Jackets have a plethora of younger talent at the halfback position that could emerge during the course of the season. Logan Walls will anchor that 3-4 Defensive Line up front to set things up for the veteran linebacking corp behind him. Mario Butler could quite potentially emerge as one of the top prospects at corner. I am not so sure the Yellow Jacket will be able to hold this preseason #16 ranking for very long. But college football is a unique sport in that you just never know... for the most part anyway... For more on the Yellow Jackets, here is the link to SBNations Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Site FromTheRumbleSeat.

#17 - Arkansas Razorbacks - Ryan Mallett will be one of the top rated prospects at the Quarterback position if he continues having the same success as the last couple years. Arkansas has some very large and athletic Running Backs that may pound theopposing defenses in to submission all year long. Ronnie Wingo and Broderick Green will both be very difficult to bring down. Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, and D.J. Williams will all be dangerous targets for Mallett to go to. There is a few question marks on the defensive side of the ball for the Razorbacks but overall they could have a very significant and solid year. For more on the Razorbacks, here is the link to SBNations Arkansas Razorbacks Site ArkansasExpats.

#18 - North Carolina Tarheels - Quite frankly this ranking is shocking to me. The Tarheels have several players that will most likely be playing on Sundays. There are obviously other factors that go in to having a great season such as coaching and keeping guys healthy but when a team is as stacked as the Tarheels are this season, it's hard to justify this slot for them. They will be climbing the board from here on up. Guys that will make make their mark on the opposition this year include but is not limited to: (on offense) T.J. Yates, Greg Little, Erik Highsmith, Shaun Draughn, and Zack Pianalto; and on defense it is not just about every player, but all of them. The biggest impacts will be Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, Quan Sturdivant, Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams. It is a chock-full of talent. The Heels are going to be contenders this year... For more on the Tarheels, here is the link to SBNations North Carolina Tarheels Site CarolinaMarch.

#19 - Penn State Nittany Lions - Most people, including myself thought that Evan Royster was going to enter the NFL Draft last year but he chose to stay for his Senior year. Royster will most definitely lead the Nittany Lions on offense next to Kevin Newsome (assuming he gets the nod). There is a battle for the Quarterback position and it's still uncertain who will start against Youngstown State. It could be treated as a preseason game considering the competition. The Lions defense is usually and most often stacked on the defensive side, however, this year seems to be running a little more shallow than Nittany Fans are used to seeing. Ollie Ogbu will be the captain and leader on defense but has his work cut out to rally the rest of the troops. Penn State will have to chisel their way through the Big Ten to move up in the rankings. With Joe Paterno all things are possible. For more on the Nittany Lions, here is the link to SBNations Penn State Nittany Lions Site BlackShoeDiaries.

#20 - Florida State Seminoles - Christian Ponder has tentatively been mentioned as a Heisman "Watch" Candidate this preseason. I like Ponder, but I am not sure anything about him says Heisman. He still has much to prove in order to be mentioned in the same sentence as Heisman Trophy. In any case, Ponder should have an excellent year at Quarterback. Florida State has been looking to get some of that swagger back that they have been missing for the last few or more years. There is plenty of talent on the roster and with Bobby Bowden out, it will be interesting to see the changes in attitude there. Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones will split carries but neither really posses a star quality. A good hard-nosed defense is where the 'Noles will earn their bragging rights. If the defensive unit stays healthy, Florida State has a real shot a being in one of the major Bowl Games once again... For more on the Seminoles, here is the link to SBNations Florida State Seminoles Site TomahawkNation.

#21 - LSU Tigers - Do the Tigers have the second coming of JaMarcus Russell for their Quarterback this year? Probably not but some could say that. One thing is for sure, there may not be a better target to throw it to than Terrence Tolliver. Stevan Ridley will see a majority of the carries for the Tigers but Freshman Michael Ford could see action as well. On the defensive side, you have JUCO transfer Kendrick Adams that could end up being a top prospect. To help him out the Tigers have a very stout linebacking corp and behind them is a top-notch prospect in Corner Patrick Peterson. The Tigers will finish top 25, but may not crack in to the top 20. For more on the Tigers, here is the link to SBNations LSU Tigers Site AndTheValleyShook

#22 - Auburn Tigers - Cameron Newton will be the starting Quarterback this year and will have a decent supporting cast around him. The loss of Ben Tate will hurt a bit, but Running Backs Mario Fannin, Ontario McCalebb, and Michael Dyer will try their best to fill the void. Newton's main targets will be Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery. Other than those few players, the defense seems to be running a little thin. The Tigers may be the toughest team to gauge heading in to the '10-'11 Season. The Tigers may be in jeopardy of falling out of the top 25 early on when they face a tough, up and coming Clemson Tigers team in week 3... For more on the Tigers, here is the link to SBNations Auburn Tigers Site TrackEmTigers.

#23 - Georgia Bulldogs - One of the top prospects and one of my own favorite college football players A.J. Green will be one of the main focus' of Bulldogs football this year. Green is perhaps one of the most exciting and electric players in the Nation. When this guy gets the ball, he can turn it in to six nearly every time. Whatever NFL Team gets him will be very pleased. If your name is Aaron Murray and you happen to be a red-shirt freshman, there's no better guy to get to throw it to than A.J. Green. The Dawgs will feature Caleb King at the Tailback position. King will take some of the pressure off of the young Quarterback as well. Akeem Dent and the entire secondary behind him could catapult the Bulldogs beyond this ranking by season end. For more on the Bulldogs, here is the link to SBNations Georgia Bulldogs Site DawgSports.

#24 - Oregon State Beavers - There may be a little optimism in the Beavers being ranked and staying ranked anywhere in the top 25. The talent in the Pac-10 will be pretty tight and teams talent levels will be fairly equal across the board. In short, it's not going to be a walk in the park. Jacquizz Rodgers is could be a top five Running Back once the season is over. He is small, shifty, and speedy. His brother James will be on the squad as well. Together they will be a tough combo to stop. James Dockery will probably get a majority of the highlights on defensive side and by season end should be a top prospect at the Cornerback position. The Beavers open up against TCU and after that it could be all downhill (potentially). Coach Mike Riley hs his work cut out... For more on the Beavers, here is the link to SBNations Oregon State Beavers Site BuildingTheDam.

#25 - West Virginia Mountaineers - The little men (Noel devine and Jock Sanders) will be the big men on the field for the Mountaineers. Freshman Geno Smith is fortunate to have a supporting cast like that. Reed Williams played for the Mountaneers going on his fifth year and the coaching staff will look to him for leadership to bring a very thin defense together. West Virginia has a semi-tough schedule ahead of them and will have to fight and scratch for every inch they get this year. In any case, Devine should be exciting to watch again; it's almost if he was possessed by the ghost of Barry Sanders nearly every time he touches the ball... For more on the Mountaineers, here is the link to SBNations West Virginia Mountaineers Site TheSmokingMusket.

 

Drew's Top 25 Sleeper Teams - Note: Here are five teams that I feel could potentially crack the Top 25 before season-end.

1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2. Boston College Eagles

3. Washington Huskies

4. Michigan State Spartans

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys


Drew's Top 5 Heisman Watch Candidates -
Note: These are only opinions, feel free to post it in the comments below as you see it.

1. Dion Lewis (Pittsburgh) - Running Back

2. Mark Ingram (Alabama) - Running Back

3. Jake Locker (Washington) - Quarterback

4. Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech) - Running Back

5. A.J. Green (Georgia) - Wide Receiver

The college football season kicks off tomorrow. Football is officially in full-swing!!

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