June 26, 2006

Take two: Rivals.com Preseason Top 25

The second Rivals.com Preseason National College Football Top 25 was released the day after Signing Day. We'll revisit this list again prior to the season, given that injuries, academics and recruiting attrition can play a role in the rankings.

Several teams moved up or down a single spot in the rankings, but only one moved up more than one spot based on its recruiting haul. That was Penn State, which climbed from 16th in our poll that coincided with the NFL early-entry deadline to 12th. The Nittany Lions came in sixth in our recruiting rankings, making a huge charge in the final weeks.

Three teams experienced sharper drops than most in our post Signing Day top 25: West Virginia, Oregon and South Carolina. The Mountaineers dropped from No. 3 to No. 6, the giddiness of an impressive Sugar Bowl victory replaced by a sobering recruiting haul that was ranked 52nd in the nation.

The Ducks didn't fare much better than West Virginia, coming in at No. 49 in our recruiting rankings. That easily explains their fall from 13th to 16th.

It's a little more difficult to explain the Gamecocks fall from grace. They were a solid 24th in recruiting and did address some needs. Perhaps we were a little too enthralled with the Ol' Ball Coach and what he got from this bunch this past season when we voted them No. 18 a few weeks ago.

Here's what our second pass at the preseason college football top 25 looked like:

Rivals.com 2006 Preseason Top 25 2005 Record
1. Ohio State 10-2
Yes, we got the e-mails and read the message boards bemoaning the fact the Buckeyes lost virtually their entire defense. But you'd be foolish not to realize there are some very good players waiting in the wings. The recruiting class has four four-star linebackers and a five-star defensive end, so there could be some immediate impact. And even if the defense is slow to develop, what team in the Big Ten is going to be able to score with the Buckeyes? Not only does the offense return quarterback Troy Smith, who won over a lot of experts with his Fiesta Bowl performance, but all-around threat Ted Ginn Jr. is back. And don't forget five-star running back Chris Wells will add to the mix, too. (Previous rank: 1)
2. Notre Dame 9-3
Anyone for a Fiesta Bowl rematch? The Irish return 17 starters including Heisman Trophy candidate Brady Quinn and his favorite target, wide receiver Jeff Samardzija. The defense was hardly spectacular, but it figures to be bolstered by a recruiting effort that Rivals.com ranked eighth in the country. That after Notre Dame finished 40th in our recruiting rankings a year ago. Defensive backs Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls could see playing time very early. (Previous rank: 2)
3. Southern Cal 13-1
Don't worry about the Trojans. They'll be just fine. Matt Leinart is gone? Fine, plug in the next high school All-American. Reggie Bush and LenDale White opted out early for the NFL? Fine, the Trojans line will make a household name out of Stafon Johnson. At this point we're pretty convinced Pete Carroll and his staff can handle anything. (Previous rank: 4)
4. LSU 11-2
The resounding victory over Miami in the Peach Bowl and the play of quarterback Matt Flynn showed the public the Tigers have plenty of talent on the bench. Les Miles needs to replace three starters on the offensive line, but LSU has plenty of talent at the skill positions. A very deep, athletic recruiting class that Rivals.com ranked seventh will help as well. (Previous rank: 5)
5. Texas 13-0
There's little doubt the ranking of the Longhorns depended upon Vince Young's decision about the NFL. With his departure, fifth might be a lofty goal. But the cupboard is hardly bare and the recruiting class is chock full of great homegrown talent from whom much will be expected down the road. (Previous rank: 6)
6. West Virginia 11-1
West Virginia has a lot going for it offensively with head coach Rich Rodriguez having unearthed a pair of gems in last year's freshmen sensations QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton. But they won't be sneaking up on anybody this time around. And the recruiting class doesn't appear to have anyone who will make close to the same kind of impact. (Previous rank: 3)
7. Auburn 9-3
The Tigers under Coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Al Borges will continue to be a threat in the SEC West. There are some graduation and/or early entry losses from which the team will have to recover, but it's a deep recruiting class that includes 14 four-star prospects. (Previous rank: 7)
8. Oklahoma 8-4
Rhett Bomar has a much-needed year of experience. The key for the Sooners will be a healthy-from-start-to-finish Adrian Peterson. Anytime he's 100 percent OU is a threat to win. The offensive line lost four starters, so there is a chance for some of the freshmen in the ninth-ranked class to work their way onto the field. (Previous rank: 9)
9. Florida 9-3
At his past two posts, year two is when the Urban Meyer offense took off and put up stratospheric numbers. It doesn't hurt (does it?) that quarterback Chris Leak has returned for his senior season. Meyer also signed the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation and Rivals.com's No. 1 player in the land, WR Percy Harvin. It all points toward that aforementioned offensive explosion. (Previous rank: 8)
10. Miami 9-3
The Hurricanes will have a lot of questions to answer next season after overhauling virtually the entire of Larry Coker's staff. Kyle Wright will be expected to develop more rapidly. The recruiting haul wasn't quite up to standard as UM had a seven-year streak of top-10 finishes in our team rankings snapped.(Previous rank: 10)
11. Michigan 7-5
Offense should be fine with Michael Hart and Chad Henne, but defense must be fixed. (Previous rank: 12)
12. Penn State 11-1
Huge influx of talent from last two recruiting classes, but huge question at quarterback as well. (Previous rank: 16)
13. Georgia 10-3
Big holes to fill at quarterback and along the offensive line. (Previous rank: 11)
14. Florida State 8-5
Gave Penn State everything it could handle in Orange Bowl, but questions abound on offense. (Previous rank: 15)
15. Louisville 9-3
Brian Brohm and Michael Bush could be every bit as good as WVU's backfield tandem. (Previous rank: 14)
16. Oregon 10-2
Young quarterbacks gained experience, but Ducks will have to settle on one. (Previous rank: 13)
17. California 8-4
Another team with QB questions, but the Bears can run it with anyone. (Previous rank: 17)
18. Virginia Tech 11-2
No Marcus Vick, but Hokies always about winning with defense, special teams. (Previous rank: 19)
19. Nebraska 8-4
Big 12 North is there for the taking, Huskers could run away with it. (Previous rank: 20)
20. UCLA 10-2
Lots of production to replace as Maurice Drew and Drew Olson have moved on. (Previous rank: 21)
21. Clemson 8-4
Won six of last seven, freshman sensation James Davis can carry the load. (Previous rank: 22)
22. South Carolina 7-5
Ol' Ball Coach must find a running game to complement Sidney Rice. (Previous rank: 23)
23. Iowa 7-5
Drew Tate and Albert Young return to key offense, but big holes to fill at linebacker. (Previous rank: 18)
24. Texas Tech 9-3
The offense puts up the points, but the defense finished 30th in the country last year and is giving Mike Leach's team real credibility. (Previous rank: NR)
25. Alabama 10-2
Will be breaking in a new quarterback on an offense that struggled even with Brodie Croyle. (Previous rank: 24)

Dropped Out: Boston College. Also receiving votes: Boston College, TCU, Fresno State, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, Navy, Tennessee.


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