Bob McClellan Rivals.com College Football Columnist
Rivals.com isn't some Reggie-come-lately to the 2006 college football preseason prognostication table.
Hey, we love college football. So do you, or you wouldn't be reading this. We already have dished out a few helpings of preseason polls.
We gave you a poll after last season's bowl games. We gave you another after Signing Day, because a top-notch freshman class can have a major impact (see Steve Slaton and Tyrell Sutton last
Even though fall camps haven't begun, spring practices gave many players their first chances to catch coaches' eyes. Others players had a chance to test their bodies after missing time with injuries
a year ago.
We'll take one more look at the top 25 prior to kickoff. We'll see if there are any academic casualties or injuries in fall drills that could affect the rankings. That will be the one we look back on to
determine if we were geniuses or goofballs.
There have been some changes in our poll along the way. There have been subtle moves up and down throughout the list, but Nos. 1 and 2 have remained constant. Take that to mean Rivals.com believes Ohio State and Notre Dame will meet for the national championship.
Rivals.com 2006 Preseason Top 25
We've liked the Buckeyes from Day One, and so far we've seen nothing that would make us change our minds. The defense may be a little suspect early because it's breaking in a lot of new
personnel, but for the most part the new starters are big-time talents. We'll know a lot about Ohio State after it goes to Texas on Sept. 9. If the Buckeyes survive that one, the Big Ten is in big
trouble. Quarterback Troy Smith looked sharp all spring, and freshman running back Chris Wells could break through. (Previous rank: 1)
Like Ohio State, the team that bested it in last year's Fiesta Bowl, the Irish have most of their questions on the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame simply was not good on defense in 2005, so it's
hard to decide if returning nine starters from that unit is a plus or a minus. The secondary probably will be composed of four seniors, and that can't be a bad thing. But what makes the Irish go is
offense. If Brady Quinn fulfills the Heisman expectations being bandied about, Charlie Weis' team will be in the thick of things all the way. (Previous rank: 2)
It hasn't been the smoothest offseason for Pete Carroll's Trojans, but that didn't bother our voters. There is a lot of talent to be replaced, but there is a lot of talent on hand, too. Some of it is proven (wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett - if eligible - and offensive tackle Sam Baker), and some of it is unproven but could break out big (running back Chauncey Washington, tight end Fred Davis). More than likely this USC team will be predicated on defense, a big change for Trojans fans but one that could produce great results. (Previous rank: 3)
The Tigers are one of the big movers and shakers in our latest poll, rising from No. 7 to No. 4 despite the recent media circus regarding academic issues and the football program. There is plenty to like about Auburn on the field, led by running back Kenny Irons and quarterback Brandon Cox. The SEC coaches know how scary the Tigers are: They put seven Auburn players on their preseason
all-league first team. Georgia had five first-teamers; no other SEC team had more than three. (Previous rank: 7)
Texas will be strong on defense again this season, but the storyline in Austin is the quarterback situation. No one is pretending Colt McCoy or Jevan Snead can fill Vince Young's shoes. All one of
them has to do is be competent and get the ball in the hands of various other playmakers such as Jamaal Charles, Limas Sweed and Billy Pittman. Be it McCoy or Snead, it will be baptism by fire: Texas' second game of the season is at home against Ohio State. (Previous rank: 5)
The Sooners jumped a couple of spots in our latest poll. A few voters said they are starting to get "that feeling" about them. Undoubtedly that feeling has something to do with a healthy and happy
Adrian Peterson. QB Rhett Bomar still must make giant strides for OU to win the national title, but if Peterson makes his expected run at the Heisman Trophy, anything is possible. (Previous rank:
The Tigers haven't necessarily done anything wrong to drop three spots in our latest poll. It seems more due to our voters growing more enamored with Auburn and Oklahoma. LSU has plenty of
offensive firepower returning, though JaMarcus Russell did not participate in spring practice. The QB situation will be one to keep an eye on, and the defense will have to answer questions in the front
seven. Oh, and the road schedule is murderous. (Previous rank: 4)
The Mountaineers also took a tumble, down from No. 6. Again, less about anything they did poorly in the spring or summer and more based on opinions growing stronger about non-Big East teams.
The schedule such as it is, WVU probably will be an underdog only once all season - when it visits Louisville on Nov. 2. If Pat White and Steve Slaton improve on their freshman seasons, the
Mountaineers have a chance to vie for the national title. (Previous rank: 6)
At his past two posts, year two is when the Urban Meyer offense took off and put up
gaudy numbers. It also doesn't hurt that quarterback Chris Leak has returned
for his senior season. On the down side, there are questions about the offensive line. Running back also is an area of concern. The defensive front seven should be stout, and it will have to be to
protect a suspect secondary. (Previous rank: 9)
The Hurricanes probably will feature some different wrinkles this season because Larry Coker has brought in six new assistant coaches. The talent isn't as bountiful as other recent UM teams, but
there is enough to go around. The secondary is among the best in the country, and the defensive line has a chance to be top-notch. The offensive line is unproven, and QB Kyle Wright must make
some huge strides. (Previous rank: 10)
The Cardinals climb the ranks from No. 15, possibly because they get West Virginia at home. If Brian Brohm recovers from ACL surgery and is 100 percent, the offense will be virtually unstoppable. The defense returns nine starters. (Previous rank: 15)
Is a healthy Michael Hart the key to reversing the fortunes of a disappointing 7-5 season? (Previous