February 11, 2010

Looking ahead: Updated preseason top 25

We released our early, early preseason top 25 last month. Now, after underclassmen have declared for the draft, after National Signing Day and after a few more coaches switched jobs, we are unveiling one more early top 25.

Our next -- and last -- preseason top 25 will come this summer.

1. ALABAMA
BUZZ: The Tide are the pick of many to repeat as national champs, given the abundance of talent that returns on offense. Will there be a better tailback duo than Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson? Of course not. But Alabama must shore up a defense that lost nine starters. And will the Tide still be hungry?
2. OHIO STATE
BUZZ: The Buckeyes finished 2009 as one of the nation's hottest teams, winning their final six games. Most of the playmakers on that team are back, including QB Terrelle Pryor. That's why Ohio State is the favorite to win a sixth Big Ten title in a row.
3. BOISE STATE
BUZZ: There is plenty of talent back on both sides of the ball, with QB Kellen Moore being the headliner. Expect him to be a legit Heisman Trophy contender. One cause for concern: Top-notch defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox left to become the defensive coordinator at Tennessee.
4. OREGON
BUZZ: The Ducks will be loaded. Every key starter on offense is back, save for TE Ed Dickson. And the defense is equally stacked.
5. NEBRASKA
BUZZ: Entering his third season as coach, Bo Pelini has the Huskers on the fast track. The defense will be tough, fast, aggressive and good -- even without DT Ndamukong Suh. The key will be the emergence of a quarterback. Now would be a good time for Cody Green to shine.
6. FLORIDA
BUZZ: Tim Tebow is gone, but the Gators will have one of the nation's best offensive lines and a deep -- though unproven -- receiving corps. Defensively, if the Gators can adequately replace their two starting ends, the unit will be mighty salty again.
7. TEXAS
BUZZ: Perhaps Colt McCoy's departure means Texas coaches will get serious about improving the rushing attack. The secondary should be a good one. While the front seven has to be rebuilt, the talent is there.
8. IOWA
BUZZ: A rebuilt offensive line is the big question mark for Iowa. QB Ricky Stanzi returns; dog him all you want, but the Hawkeyes were unbeaten in games in which he took the majority of the snaps.
9. VIRGINIA TECH
BUZZ: Rebuilding the lines on both sides is the key. The rushing attack could be devastating, and the passing attack progressed nicely last season. The defense needs to get tougher against the run.
10. TCU
BUZZ: The Horned Frogs' perfect season was spoiled in the Fiesta Bowl, but a majority of the key players return -- especially on offense. While there are some big-time talent losses on defense, coordinator Dick Bumpas will have that unit in solid shape.
11. WISCONSIN
BUZZ: QB Scott Tolzien, RB John Clay and six defensive starters are back from a team that posted 10 wins in '09. If everything breaks right, the Badgers could win the Big Ten.
12. USC
BUZZ: Can Lane Kiffin pick up where Pete Carroll left off? That's a tough task. QB Matt Barkley and an experienced defense will help.
13. OKLAHOMA
BUZZ: QB Landry Jones will improve and WR Ryan Broyles is explosive, but there are concerns on defense. The biggest issue might be finding two new starting corners.
14. PITTSBURGH
BUZZ: The Panthers can vault higher if an effective quarterback emerges to complement RB Dion Lewis and WR Jonathan Baldwin. The defense should be fine.
15. LSU
BUZZ: Defensive coordinator John Chavis will field a solid unit, and QB Jordan Jefferson should be better in his junior season. But the Tigers must find a way to rev up their rushing attack.
16. MIAMI
BUZZ: Miami returns loads of talent on both sides of the ball and features one of the nation's most promising quarterbacks in Jacory Harris. Miami could win the ACC if Harris reduces his interceptions, RB Graig Cooper recovers from injury and the Hurricanes find a suitable replacement for OT Jason Fox.
17. UTAH
BUZZ: Jordan Wynn didn't take over as Utah's starting quarterback until midway through his true freshman season, but he showed enough promise during his brief stint to show he has star potential. Wynn will need a breakthrough season because Utah has plenty of holes to fill on defense.
18. NORTH CAROLINA
BUZZ: North Carolina should boast one of the nation's top defenses now that all its top underclassmen have chosen to stay in school. But the Tar Heels won't seriously challenge for the ACC title unless they upgrade their offense. The pressure is on QB T.J. Yates.
19. GEORGIA TECH
BUZZ: Georgia Tech looked like a potential top-five team until RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Demaryius Thomas, DE Derrick Morgan and SS Morgan Burnett decided to enter the NFL draft instead of returning for their senior seasons. Those losses leave Georgia Tech seeking a pass rusher and a new favorite target for QB Josh Nesbitt.
20. OREGON STATE
BUZZ: Oregon State is a legitimate top-15 team if the NCAA grants QB Lyle Moevao one more year of eligibility. If Moevao can't play, the Beavers might not even crack the top 25. We'll compromise for now by putting Oregon State at No. 20 while we await the decision on Moevao.
21. ARKANSAS
BUZZ: Bobby Petrino's team received a major boost with the return of Ryan Mallett, who could be the top quarterback in the SEC. While the defense loses four starters, it can't get much worse after the Razorbacks ranked last in the SEC in total defense.
22. PENN STATE
BUZZ: A game at Alabama will be a non-conference challenge for the Nittany Lions. QB Daryll Clark is a big loss, but Evan Royster and the wide receiver corps will help the new quarterback. Don't expect a major dip in the defense despite the losses of Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Jared Odrick.
23. CONNECTICUT
BUZZ: The Huskies' five losses came by a combined 15 points. With nine starters returning on defense plus the return of RB Jordan Todman, some of those narrow losses could turn into wins. Connecticut should make a run at its first outright Big East title.
24. NAVY
BUZZ: With a 35-13 victory over Missouri in the Texas Bowl, the Midshipmen became the first service academy to win 10 games since 2004. Can Navy repeat the feat? The Midshipmen must replace six starters on defense, but they return QB Ricky Dobbs -- who accounted for 33 touchdowns last year (27 rushing, six passing).
25. CINCINNATI
BUZZ: Brian Kelly, Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard are gone, but their replacements have potential. New coach Butch Jones won two MAC titles at Central Michigan. Zach Collaros was a super-sub quarterback last season. The trio of Armon Binns, D.J. Woods and USC transfer Vidal Hazelton should be able to replace Gilyard's production.


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