|Posted by TheBEEZER 4 Days Ago
Should Brady Hoke, be fine, suspended, banned, and or fired for how he handled his injured QB, Shane Morris?
Let me know if any of you would be interesting in participating in a poll. I may start one next week if there is sufficient interest.
LSU plays Auburn this week, so if you’re interested, here is my LSU/Auburn Rivalry blog.
1 Auburn 1
2 Florida St. 3
3 Alabama 5
4 Oregon 4
5 Oklahoma 2
6 Miss. St. 10
7 BYU 7
8 TX A&M 6
9 UCLA 16
10 Nebraska 23
11 Ole Miss 8
12 Notre Dame 12
13 Ga. Tech 17
14 LSU 13
15 Arizona 22
16 E. Carolina 14
17 Baylor –
18 Georgia 15
19 S. Carolina 9
20 Louisville –
21 Okie St. 20
22 NC State 24
23 TCU –
24 Marshall –
25 Missouri –
Full computer rankings 1-128 (as I will explain, these are not in agreement with the top 25 given above)
Out of rankings: (11) Penn St., (18) Rutgers, (19) Arkansas. (21) Washington, (25) Virginia
Explanation and future rankings
As I mentioned last week, this is my transition week into adopting all or most of my computer rankings.
I would have liked to have kept Arkansas, after its very good game against Texas A&M, and Virginia, which lost to two top-10 teams above and beat a top-20 team. I didn’t keep them because they were not in the top 35, and I didn’t want to deviate more than 10 spots.
The team where I deviated the most was East Carolina. I couldn’t justify putting them behind a Baylor team whose best win is Iowa St. Georgia has one win over an ACC team, but East Carolina has two.
South Carolina is the only two-loss team that made it, but the Gamecocks did so on the strength of their wins. Virginia’s just weren’t strong enough to merit consideration.
I don’t like ranking Missouri, but they have three wins over FBS teams. Obviously one of them is a very good win. I consider Indiana a bad loss, but it will take some time for them to show up that way even if the Hoosiers are in fact bad. Indiana is 2-2, including an FCS win; but the FCS team they beat is Indiana St., who is otherwise undefeated and has a win over an FBS team. So for right now it’s just sort of a mediocre loss. I do have Missouri a few spots below where the computer put them though.
I certainly didn’t want to put USC (the loss to Boston College isn’t looking so good) or Minnesota (who was destroyed by TCU) in the top 25 even though the computer had them there.
The only other team I was really reluctant to rank was Marshall, but they’re undefeated, and I couldn’t justify putting anyone else ahead of them.
I tried with Michigan St. and Ohio St., because I certainly think either would beat Marshall; but there just isn’t a good argument being that I’m trying to transition into the objective system. Michigan St. was the best available team; but they were 10 spots lower than Marshall, so there was really no way to justify bridging that gap. Ohio St. was even lower.
Michigan St.’s only wins are Jacksonville St., Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming, so I don’t think that’s good enough. At least Marshall beat Akron (who beat Pittsburgh). I know that isn’t much to go on, but it’s more than Michigan St. has; and again, the formula is something to go on as well.
It’s also more than Ohio St. has to go on. Navy and Cincinnati are just not looking like good wins right now. Cincinnati only beat Miami U. and Toledo, and Navy now has three losses after losing to Western Kentucky. Even if the Buckeyes do have better wins than Marshall does, that still doesn’t address the loss to Virginia Tech, whose only other wins are William and Mary and Western Michigan.
Cincinnati travels to U. Miami (the one in Florida) in a couple of weeks and also plays East Carolina in November, so if they win a string of games, that will help Ohio St. of course. Two byes and two wins over MAC teams (with two FBS wins between them) doesn’t help much right now though.
Ohio St. and Michigan St. both have decent opportunities to join the top 25 next week.
I moved the top 25 teams an average of four spots each. There are only four teams that I moved 7 or more spots up or down. I moved Arizona down 8, North Carolina St. down 7, East Carolina up 10, and Louisville up 7. I am trying to avoid any larger jumps next week.
Note that I still moved East Carolina down two spots compared to last week, I still moved Arizona up 7 spots as compared to last week, and I moved North Carolina St. up two spots as compared to last week despite a loss.
I want to go back to the teams I skipped over for a second, I’ll have no problem ranking USC if they beat Arizona St. next week and are still in the computer top 25. I just think they need that additional quality win in light of Boston College losing to Colorado St.
Minnesota has a bye week, so they’ll probably fall slightly on their own. If their past opponents are still good enough for them to stay in the top 25, I will probably still put them there. TCU plays Oklahoma, and Michigan travels to Rutgers, so we shall see. The Gophers are 22nd in the computer formula right now, so if they stay 22nd, that won’t bother me anyway.
I’m not 100% sure that next week won’t be another transition week, but I’m leaning toward going to the computers exclusively or almost exclusively (sometimes I slightly rearrange the very top teams in early October) next week. I take serious issue with a relatively small number of the results for this point in the season.
I predict I will stick to the computer rankings in full after the games of October 18. Alabama plays Texas A&M that day. Auburn is idle, but in the two weekends before their bye (i.e., this coming weekend and the following weekend) they play LSU and Mississippi St. Mississippi St. is idle the week of the 18th as well, but not before playing Texas A&M and Auburn. Florida St. plays Notre Dame on the 18th. Oregon plays UCLA on the 11th (which could also make or keep UCLA #1), followed by Washington on the 18th.
Nebraska plays Michigan St. this Saturday, but I doubt they can get enough points in the next three weeks under any combination of wins and losses by the other teams I mentioned. The Huskers are idle on the 11th and play Northwestern on the 18th.
Oklahoma is back at #10, but they have a decent combination of games in the next three weeks: TCU, Texas, and Kansas St.
I had a couple more LSU thoughts. I never fully process everything the first night. As you may know, LSU has not had an undefeated season since 1958. Now that I’ve seen two national championships, really my long-term hope as a fan is to see another, so the first loss will always be somewhat frustrating.
There has been a game or two every season going back as long as I remember where I get intensely frustrated with the coaches and so forth. I was going to detail several of them, but I decided it would be pointless griping to do so. Hopefully it won’t happen again this season even if there are losses. I think I gave an adequate explanation of why I felt that way in the post-game blog.
I do have some hope that this season can turn out well. Some of the prognosticators have already written LSU off as a contender, but how many one-loss teams have been written off for the two-team playoff (aka BCS) only to come back into the picture or even to play in the title game? There was a one-loss team just about every year.
Of course, in 2007 we had a one-loss team many did write off at #1 (Ohio St.) and a two-loss team at #2 (LSU) going into the championship. If they have to finish with one loss to make the playoff, that means they have to win nine in a row to do so. I certainly wouldn’t put money on that, but I would be less surprised by that than I was by everything that happened in the 2011 calendar year.
Les Miles and LSU after the Tigers won the SEC Championship in 2011.
To paraphrase the Mark Twain quote, the reports of LSU’s long-term demise are greatly exaggerated.
I’m not worried about it yet. The last time I was worried about it was 2009 when LSU lost to Houston Nutt’s unranked Ole Miss Rebels. Disastrous time management and Les Miles’ instructing quarterback Jordan Jefferson to spike the ball had caused time to run out on LSU’s final possession at the Ole Miss 6-yard line (Final score: Ole Miss 25, LSU 23), not that they really deserved to win anyway. That was LSU’s 8th loss in 20 games. Rather than spiraling downward from there, LSU has gone 47-10 since the 2009 season ended. If you’re winning over 80% playing the type of competition LSU typically plays, you’re doing something right.
However, a long-term decline is inevitable. I don’t think a single early-season loss to a veteran dual-threat quarterback is a sign it’s all going to hell in a hand-basket, but at some point LSU is not going to be a serious title threat for a while. It will even happen to Alabama. Saban may have to retire, but it will happen. It wasn’t that long ago that Alabama had no serious national-title-contending teams for a decade or so. When they did win in 1992, it was their first national championship since 1979.
Anyway, if LSU has peaked, it has still been a period of success to be extremely proud of. Compare the Tigers to other top programs from around 2003 (the year of LSU’s first national championship since that 1958 undefeated team I mentioned).
Seasons with losses of four games or more since 2003 (inclusive):
LSU 2, with two BCS championships, one runner-up in the same period.
Ohio St. 2, with two BCS runners-up
Oklahoma 2, with one BCS runner-up
Oregon 4, with one BCS runner-up
USC 4, with one BCS championship, one runner-up (and one AP title)
Texas 4, with one BCS championship, one runner-up
Florida 5, with two BCS championships
Auburn 6, with one BCS championship, one runner-up
Florida St. 7, with one BCS championship
LSU has won two national championships since the last time either Oklahoma or Ohio St. won one, so I wouldn’t switch places with them either.
Tennessee had won a national championship in 1998, just 5 years before LSU won in 2003, but the Vols haven’t had a season with fewer than four losses since 2004. They had a decent run in 2007, but the loss to LSU in the SEC championship game (after Les Miles told everyone to have a great day) was Tennessee’s fourth. That’s certainly an example of a program I hope LSU is not similar to in the foreseeable future.
Alabama wasn’t really a relevant team in the early 2000s, but they’ve had 4 seasons with four losses or more in case you wanted to know, all from 2003 to 2007. Of course, since then the Tide has had three BCS championships and two Sugar Bowl berths.
Tennessee and Alabama were the only programs that won a major national title from 1992 forward that I did not include on the list above. I included Oregon, which hasn’t won any, but they arguably should have made the BCS championship game in 2001 and have been a consistently strong program since, so I thought they deserved inclusion.
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(Logos are posted for teams that are new to the rankings for the year.)
1 Auburn 1
2 Oklahoma 3
3 Florida St. 4
4 Oregon 2
5 Alabama 5
6 TX A&M 6
7 BYU 10
8 Ole Miss 9
9 S Carolina 11
10 Miss. St. –
11 Penn St. 12
12 Notre Dame 8
13 LSU 7
14 E. Carolina 15
15 Georgia 13
16 UCLA 17
17 Ga. Tech –
18 Rutgers –
19 Arkansas –
20 Okie St. 25
21 Washington –
22 Arizona 23
23 Nebraska –
24 NC State –
25 Virginia 19
Out of rankings: (14) Pittsburgh, (16) Boston Coll., (18) Va. Tech, (20) USC, (21) Louisville, (22) Ohio St., (24) Missouri
Explanation and future rankings
I’m putting this at the bottom because it’s probably too boring and technical for many of you, but I do get questions about these things often.
Just to get to the point, what I’m going to do is make next week (and possibly the following week) a transitional period. I will compute and publish my computer rankings, but I won’t use those for my official top 25 right away. I’ll try to ease into that. For instance, if I don’t have a team ranked this week, but they’re #10 in the computer ratings after next week, I will put them between #15 and #20, then maybe if they’re still #10 the following week, it won’t be as dramatic to actually rank them #10. Or maybe they’ll lose, and it won’t be a seesaw from unranked to #10 to #20-something.
I’ve already made some changes in anticipation of what may happen in moving toward that system. I gave very little weight to any preseason preconceptions about given teams or their opponents.
I did my best to do the ratings above fairly, but it has gotten difficult, and that’s why I can no longer use a fully subjective system going forward. I continue to second-guess myself and remain unsatisfied.
There are a lot of conflicting motivations at this point. I’m still moving from “Are you going to be a good team?” to “What have you proven?” At the same time, I don’t want to put a team in the top 25 based on an early-season scheduling quirk and have that team get blown out. It will take some time before the teams that look good in games and teams that look good based on objective measures line up.
There is a team like this every year. In 2011, Stanford didn’t really play anyone until October 22, then they played three of the next four against ranked teams and the fourth game was against Oregon St. on the road (which is rarely an easy win). Then the Cardinal still had to play Notre Dame (who was also ranked at the time) later on in November. This was the year they played in the Fiesta Bowl despite losing big to Oregon.
Anyway, getting back to this year, Florida St. is a good example of some of the difficulties. The Seminoles are not even in the top 10 based on wins and losses that have happened so far this season (a loose description of what my computer rankings consider). They beat Clemson, who I really believe is a good team, and Oklahoma St., who might be a good team also, but that doesn’t do it at this point. Clemson doesn’t look any better than Northwestern because the Tigers are winless against FBS competition (but both Clemson and Northwestern have an FCS win). Florida St. doesn’t get credit for beating an unsuccessful (so far against Division I anyway) FCS team, nor do they get credit for a bye week. So that leaves Oklahoma St. The Cowboys have a somewhat respectable win over UTSA, but beating the team who beat UTSA is hardly something to hang your hat on.
Oddly enough, Florida St. has a good chance to improve its rating by beating North Carolina St., who I do not believe is a good team, but three FBS wins at this point over teams with four combined FBS wins makes them look good for the moment. All three of those teams are probably well below average, but that won’t be clear until later.
There is a preliminary step in the process where I get initial ratings of teams between 0 and about 7. So if right now, North Carolina St. is 6 and Clemson is 1, maybe in a couple weeks, they’ll both be 3.5, and at the end of the season Clemson might be about 5 and North Carolina St. about 2. So Florida St. might get similar credit for the two wins combined for the rest of the season even if neither team ends up anything like what has shown up so far.
It helps Florida St. that Clemson will likely get a wins of some quality by playing North Carolina and North Carolina St. in the next two weeks. Oklahoma St. isn’t playing a great team in Texas Tech, but that will be an opportunity for them to add some substance to their resume.
The other major contenders already rate highly. Alabama, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Oregon all rate in the top 7 of the current computer ratings. Florida St. is still in the top 20 though.
So what I’m going to do is release my first computer ratings next week (a week earlier than originally planned), but I’m still going to do subjective ratings for next week and possibly the week after that. They just won’t be purely subjective. Let’s say the winner of Miss. St. and Texas A&M comes out #1. I might move Miss. St. up to #5 or A&M up to #3 or #4, but I wouldn’t rank either #1, at least not for a couple more weeks.
It’s also possible I’ll do another transition week after October 4. In other words, the subjective ratings may overlap with the computer ratings for a couple of weeks, but what I feature here will be the subjective ratings.
Also, sometimes for the first few weeks of the computer rankings, I change the top 5 of what I post here. I always make clear what those changes are, and I never make any subjective changes on my ratings site. I try to keep any subjective preferences off of that site.
Although that Missouri had a good chance to win the SEC for a while in the championship game last year, I’m still glad I didn’t take the leap and make them #1. They should never have been regarded as the top team to beat in the country last year. I also wouldn’t want to take that step early on for A&M, Miss. St., Arizona, N.C. St., or UCLA. On the other hand, if one of those teams is undefeated and rises to the top a month from now or more, I’m not going to alter anything.
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1 Auburn 1
2 Oregon 3
3 Oklahoma 4
4 Florida St. 2
5 Georgia 5
6 Alabama 6
7 LSU 9
8 TX A&M 10
9 Va. Tech –
10 Notre Dame –
11 BYU –
12 Ole Miss 15
13 Clemson 13
14 USC 8
15 Louisville 20
16 Mich. St. 11
17 Stanford 14
18 S Carolina 16
19 Ohio St. 7
20 Arizona St. 17
21 Baylor 21
22 Florida 22
23 Duke 23
24 Penn St. 25
25 N. Illinois 24
Out of rankings: (12) UCLA, (18) Texas, (19) Michigan
It will take me a little while to think of and compose my next “column” to write, so I’m just going to do the rankings now even though it’s only been a few days since I released the last rankings.
Auburn hasn’t really played anyone, but I thought they had enough coming back to leave them in the top 2 in preseason, then I moved them into #1 last week and have no reason to make a change again.
I also don’t like to rank a new team #1 for the first time lightly. I’ve never rankedOregon #1. If Auburn loses and Oregon keeps winning by convincing margins, they may earn that spot soon.
I moved Florida St. below both Oregon and Oklahoma. I was surprised that Louisiana Tech, whom the Sooners beat in Week 1, won on Saturday. Tulsa also beat an FBS opponent in its other playing week. Oklahoma dominated both teams. So the Sooners have been about as impressive as possible being that they have yet to play a major-conference opponent.
LSU and Texas A&M each moved up a couple spots. It’s not because it matters to me whether they won by 40 or 70 this week; but Ohio St. lost, and USC had probably the most pathetic win over a ranked opponent I’ve ever seen.
I couldn’t justify keeping anyone else ahead of the three big winners, Virginia Tech,Notre Dame, and BYU. I may have been wrong about them being competitive, but I can’t imagine Texas and Michigan are as bad as Rice and Connecticut (whom Notre Dame and BYU beat by similar margins in Week 1), but their opponents deserved credit for making them look that way. I was a lot more confident in Ohio St. being a deserving ranked team, so that’s why I put Virginia Tech highest of the three (and why the Buckeyes are still in the top 20). I put Notre Dame second because I considered them a lot more strongly for the top 25 going into the season, but it was a close call.
Ole Miss went up a few spots. They still haven’t had a true home game, and they did all you could have asked them to do on the road against rival Vanderbilt, which has has some success against the Rebels in recent years.
South Carolina didn’t really do anything wrong this week, but the three new teams had to push some winning teams down. Same goes for Arizona St.
I was able to keep the next three in place after easy wins.
I moved Penn St. up a spot because I’m skeptical Northern Illinois is a top-25 team after that Northwestern performance. But at least it’s not two extremely questionable games, which is what happened to both Washington and UCLA, two other undefeated teams that I ranked in the preseason and have since removed. I’m open to bumping the Huskies if a team like Tennessee (which plays Oklahoma) wins, but I’m thinking that’s highly unlikely. East Carolina (could be a let-down for the Hokies) and maybe Virginia (not saying that’s any more likely than Tennessee) are the only others I see that could get themselves ranked by beating a ranked team.
The winner of Central Florida and Missouri will be a strong candidate next week.
That UCLA-Texas game lost its luster in a hurry, but maybe an impressive UCLA win could get them back in the top 25. An impressive Texas win probably would not be enough for the Horns to return.
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I meant to post this here on Wednesday. Sorry about that.
The AP and coaches poll each put 5 SEC teams in the top 13 (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and LSU). I don’t happen to think teams with 11 starters or fewer (such as Stanford, Michigan St., or Baylor) belong ahead of any of the five, so I’m putting all 5 in the top 10. I’d expect one or two of them not to finish in the top 10, maybe not even the top 25, but it won’t be because of a big difference in talent.
I should probably mention a couple other things. If I expect a team to have a significant drop-off, I ranked them accordingly. I didn’t decide not to rank Wisconsin because I think LSU will beat them easily (I don’t… I didn’t expect LSU to beat Ole Miss easily last year even though Ole Miss wasn’t ranked before the game, for instance). But I didn’t have Wisconsin ranked after last season, and it’s hard to improve when less than half of your team comes back. It’s not hard for a team like LSU to lose to a team that might be 30th or 40th if they have a bad game though. Even Florida St. could very well lose such a game.
I consider Missouri to be in about the same category as Florida last season (which I didn’t drop nearly far enough, although I did get criticized by many for ranking them third in the East) or Cincinnati a few years ago after the Bearcats finished in the top 5. I just don’t see the makings of a ranked team coming back. The other teams that fell out weren’t near the top and don’t seem to have a lot coming back. Fresno St. is an exception, but they have a lot coming back on a porous defensive unit, so I’m not too confident in them doing particularly well. I suppose they may be a candidate in the Mountain West though.
When in doubt, I kept teams in. I find it interesting that teams like Texas, Michigan, and Florida will soar in the rankings if they win a couple of games, but people don’t want to rank them preseason. I will show the previous rankings below. I have some other comments about things that I’ve read and discussed in the last week, but I will post those on Thursday or Friday.
1. Florida St. – I don’t think the Seminoles are likely to repeat, to be honest; but they are the defending champions, and there is no other strong candidate for preseason #1.
2. Auburn—similar logic here. I did mention that the Tigers of the plains have a difficult schedule in my SEC West preview (they will have to play all four of the other highly-ranked SEC teams), but that doesn’t mean they’re not among the best teams.
3. Oregon—The Ducks have one more returning starter than Auburn has, which gives them among the highest numbers of returning starters among teams that finished ranked last season. We’ve gotten used to the Ducks being a top 5 team, so I would expect better than another mid-top-25 season.
4. Alabama—This is another team that we’ve gotten used to competing for the top spot no matter what you say about returning starters, so that’s why even with 12 returning starters, the Tide still have a place in the conversation. We don’t know how the quarterback and defense will come along, but it’s safe to say a Saban defense will be more than adequate in most games.
5. Oklahoma—I hate picking Oklahoma to be in the top 5 because that never seems to be what happens (at least not since 2008), but again, it’s hard to pick someone else here. The Sooners do return 14 starters, most of them on defense.
6. Georgia—The Bulldogs were rather mercurial last season, scoring wins over LSU and South Carolina, then coming so close to beating Auburn. Two mid-season losses in a row in the division were devastating though. By the standards of this season, 15 returning starters is a lot, and although the quarterback is not a returning season starter, he seems ready to go based on his play last year.
7. UCLA—The Bruins have a ton of returning starters, but they haven’t been quite able to turn the corner into being a nationally competitive team. Could this finally be the year? They could even be this year’s Florida St., although I remember Florida St. winning national championships before.
8. South Carolina—It could be interesting outside of the division for the Gamecocks as they will face Auburn and Clemson, but Georgia will have to do the same, so with 14 starters, this is a team with a respectable chance to win the SEC. They may have to do it with a loss or two though.
9. Ohio St.—The Buckeyes should still be hanging around with another strong chance to win the conference. It wasn’t long ago that they won 24 games in a row, so 12 returning starters still seems formidable.
10. LSU—As I said in the SEC West preview, I do think the winner of the LSU/Alabama game is the most likely SEC West champion. I expect Alabama to be favored of course, but like with South Carolina, that still leaves a reasonable chance for the Bayou Bengals.
11. USC—I don’t think the Trojans have lagged all that far behind the major teams in recent years. They’ve just had some difficulty in striving for consistency at times. Maybe a stable head coaching position and 14 returning starters will provide just that.
12. Clemson—The other ACC team and the other South Carolina team is tempting to overlook, but these Tigers did beat every team they played apart from the Gamecocks and Seminoles on their way to an Orange Bowl win, their second appearance in a BCS bowl in three seasons.
13. Michigan St.—Sticking with BCS bowl winners from last season, Michigan St. should compete for a spot in the Big Ten title game again; but it might be just a bit more challenging with 11 returning starters, only four of whom will be on defense, the Spartans’ strong suit. The Spartans will now be in the same division as the Buckeyes, by the way, so I’d say the chances of making the Big Ten title game are reduced.
14. Central Florida—I’ll throw in one more to make it three in a row. It’s difficult to be the best mid-major/“Group of Five” team two years in a row, but the Knights appear to be in good shape coming off the Fiesta Bowl win last season. In fact, they’re the only team from my top 10 last season to return 15 starters or more. The Knights have only lost three games since September 2012, very close ones at that.
15. Stanford—The Cardinal have earned a top-10 spot four seasons in a row, but I think that may come to an end this season. USC and UCLA both seem to be getting stronger, and it will be difficult to get past Oregon in the Pac-12 North. Eleven returning starters may not be enough.
16. Ole Miss—Going back to the SEC, the Rebels may actually play a role in the SEC West this season. They’re most likely to try to be spoilers, but if LSU, Auburn, and Alabama all beat each other (or maybe if Auburn loses to Ole Miss and wins the rest in the division), that may provide an opening. Fifteen starters return from last season, which saw the Rebels in the top 25 before losses to eventual SEC East champion Missouri and rival Mississippi St. (in overtime) to end the regular season.
17. Washington—The Huskies are an improving team with 12 returning starters. They may not win the Pac-12 North, but a strong second would not be a surprising result. The Huskies should be in good hands with former Boise St. head coach Chris Petersen. Like Georgia and a couple of other teams, there is an experienced quarterback, just not last season’s starter, “off-the-field issues” notwithstanding.
18. Arizona St.—Staying in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils won 10 games against a very tough schedule last season but return only 10 starters in what should be a challenging Pac-12 season. The offense should be strong, but the defense will remain a question mark until conference play begins.
19. Texas—The Longhorns return 13 starters, not even including David Ash, who played well in two out of three games last year before injury and very respectably in 2012. I just don’t see Texas staying down and out for long. The Horns may not challenge Oklahoma, but they did beat the Sooners last season. I’ll mention Baylor, but I don’t see another strong competitor in conference.
20. Michigan—I’m surprised the Wolverines haven’t shown up in more top 25s. I see them similar to how I saw their rivals from East Lansing going into last season. They had a high loss total last season, but upon closer inspection, most were very “good” losses. One point to Ohio St., three points to Iowa, four points to Nebraska, and three points (in four overtimes) to Penn St. They didn’t really show up to the bowl game, but the only other loss that wasn’t close was to that Spartan team I mentioned. The increase in experience (15 returning starters) may help turn many close losses into wins.
21. Louisville—The Cardinals’ main problem is being put into the same division as Florida St. and Clemson, but they should still have another solid season. They won all but one game last year (a three-point contest against Central Florida) and will have 13 returning starters.
22. Baylor—You may wonder why they’re so low (at least before I explained above), but with 9 returning starters, I debated taking the Bears out entirely. At least they have a returning starter at quarterback and the other returning starters are evenly distributed on both sides of the ball. Still, the Bears haven’t been big enough players on the national scene of late for one to expect an abundance of talent just waiting to move into key positions.
23. Florida—I thought at least one more SEC team might be appropriate. Florida appeared out of nowhere two seasons ago to compete for a national championship, although they ultimately fell short of even making the SEC championship game. But then the Gators disappeared just as fast last season. It might be another quick turnaround with 14 returning starters though. I’m not picking them for the top 5, but I think top 25 is a good bet.
24. Duke—Another team with 14 returning starters (I guess that’s down to 13 now) that used to be led by a certain be-visored ball coach. Duke had an outstanding year by its standards last year though. I had them in my final top 25, so I’m not seeing a strong reason to keep them out of the preseason top 25.
25. Northern Illinois—Two teams that would fall outside of the original BCS contract in the top 25 (Louisville is in the ACC now) seems like a realistic expectation, and as I said, a lot of the big programs seem a little thin, so I thought, “why not”? Of course the Huskies won the MAC a couple of years ago, followed up by winning the first 12 games of last season; and they return just about everyone but the quarterback on offense and approximately half of their defense.
I will show all the top 25 relative to the previous one below. I put symbols for the teams that were previously unranked. I tried to make them similar sizes to one another.
1 Florida St. 1
2 Auburn 2
3 Oregon 13
4 Alabama 11
5 Oklahoma 8
6 Georgia –
7 UCLA 16
8 S Carolina 7
9 Ohio St. 9
10 LSU 17
11 USC 19
12 Clemson 12
13 Mich. St. 3
14 UCF 5
15 Stanford 6
16 Ole Miss –
17 Washington 24
18 Arizona St. 15
19 Texas –
20 Michigan –
21 Louisville 14
22 Baylor 10
23 Florida –
24 Duke 25
25 N. Illinois 20
Out of rankings: (4) Missouri, (18) Okie St., (21) Fresno St., (22) TX A&M, (23) Notre Dame
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