2011 Preseason College Football Poll

Hey Everybody: Welcome to the 2011 College Football Season! It's a bit early I know but isn't that what sports is about: loving the game and wanting to start the season a bit early? As far as I'm concerned, college football can never start early enough so I put together my first preseason college football poll. As you will notice, this analysis is short (we are so very far from the season after all) but more will be coming as we get closer to the season, including a far deeper top 25 preview and an in-depth look at some of my favorite teams. But, for now, enjoy my top 25 preseason rankings and, as always, if you disagree then let everyone know what you think on the Forum!

1. Alabama
What is there to say really? The Tide will lose talent in defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, wide receiver Julio Jones, and quarterback Greg McElroy but most of the team's standouts remain in place. After drubbing Michigan State 49-7 in their 2010 Bowl win, the Crimson Tide are ready to compete for another National Championship. Indeed, with this team, anything else might be considered a disappointment.

Auburn VS Alabama
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2. Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher has brought Florida State back from the doldrums. After three strong recruiting classes culminating in the top class nationally in 2011, Florida State should have the talent to build off last year's ten win season. The sky is the limit for the iconic Seminoles program.

3. Oregon
Last year's BCS runners-up did not lose too much this offseason. Receiver Jeff Maehl is headed to the NFL but the team's core players-quarterback Darren Thomas, running back LaMichael James, and cornerback Cliff Harris-will all be there for 2011. That means that the Ducks are primed for another title run.

4. LSU
Les Miles won a BCS title in 2007 but he did it with Nick Saban's recruits. Since, Miles has been consistently good at LSU but never contended for another title. With that said, this team returns a lot of talent, adds more from its recruiting the past three seasons, and should be a top contender from the SEC.

Lsu All American Halfback Billy Cannon #20

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5. Oklahoma
The Sooners will return all the major talent from a team that went 12-2 in 2010 and won a BCS Bowl game. Of course, that win was over lowly Connecticut and Bob Stoop's recent history at Oklahoma suggests that the team will put up stats and win a lot of games but not necessarily be a prime title contender by the end of the season.

Sooners 71, Oklahoma vs Texas
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6. Auburn
The defending BCS champions should field a very competitive team in 2011. However, they will be without talented and enigmatic quarterback Cam Newton AND defensive anchor Nick Fairley (a possible first overall pick). The loss of their offensive and defensive leaders will hit Auburn hard but don't think they can't contend for a repeat title this year despite the losses.

7. Ohio State
Ohio State would be a top three team this season if it were not for the suspension that quarterback Terrelle Pryor suffered at the end of 2010. Out for the first five games, Pryor will be unable to lead the Buckeyes through the start of the season and, if Ohio State loses a game as a result, he will be the primary reason that they don't get a shot at another National Championship. Not to put too much blame on him of course; the justification and reasoning behind his suspension was suspect at best.

7. Ohio State
Ohio State would be a top three team this season if it were not for the suspension that quarterback Terrelle Pryor suffered at the end of 2010. Out for the first five games, Pryor will be unable to lead the Buckeyes through the start of the season and, if Ohio State loses a game as a result, he will be the primary reason that they don't get a shot at another National Championship. Not to put too much blame on him of course; the justification and reasoning behind his suspension was suspect at best.

8. TCU
The Horned Frogs seem to be getting no respect whatsoever for their Rose Bowl win over Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin. Not that TCU cares: the program returns a strong core of starters and likes to prove their worth on the field instead of the press room. That model has worked in recent years and its' a good bet to work in 2011 as well.

9. Boise State
Boise State is underrated every single season. This one is no exception but I've decided to try and give them their due this year. The team has lost two games in four years and that trend should continue in 2011. Still the reality remains that their schedule-and the voters are unforgiving: if they lose a game they will be back in a midlevel bowl regardless of anything else they do next season.

10. Notre Dame
This ranking is ambitious but warranted. After falling into the 4-5 doldrums midway through last season, the Irish suffered a tragic accident and seemed to right the ship. Playing with more effort and up to their talent level, the Irish ran the table (including impressive wins over Utah and Miami) and finished the season with eight victories. The Irish have added impressive defensive talent over the last two seasons-particularly along the defensive line-so, if that defensive unit becomes respectable (or even elite) then the Irish should contend for a BCS berth.

11. Florida
Will Muschamp was the coach-in-waiting at Texas for a reason. He is a brilliant defensive mind and recruiter. Much will depend on whether he can co-exist with the brilliant but mercurial Charlie Weis (and let Weis run his always effective offensive scheme without too much interference) but, if the two can work together, the Gators have the talent to win it all in 2011. Don't forget, the Gators 2010 recruiting class, which should be ready to contribute in 2011, was labeled "historic" by almost every evaluator. The talent is there; will the leadership follow?

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12. Stanford
Although Jon Harbaugh is gone, Andrew Luck remains and that alone should keep the Cardinal in contention. Luck is an incredible pocket passing quarterback and, with a strong offensive line and capable running game, Stanford's offense should continue to hum. Moreover, Stanford fields a smart team that plays with heart every weak so, at the very least, expect these players to work as hard as they can this year. This team may not win another Orange Bowl anytime soon but these are not the 2-14 Cardinals of yesteryear either.

Stanford VS University of Michigan
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13. USC
Yes I know USC is again bowl-ineligible but that will not stop the Trojans from making a serious impact in 2011. USC over-recruited under Lane Kiffin this year so, contrary to popular belief, the program may actually ride out its sanctions relatively unscathed. Either way, the offense looks primed for success under a mature Matt Barkley and, with some new recruits, the defense could return to its past dominance.

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14. Michigan State
Michigan State is a very strong, solid team that plays with heart every single week. Despite the program's humiliating bowl loss last year, the Spartans should be ready to compete in 2011. But will that discipline and attitude be enough to win the Big Ten title in such a deep conference? We'll see.

15. South Carolina
Steve Spurrier may have finally found the right mix at South Carolina. The offense should be spectacular in 2011-like usual-but, bolstered by incredible defensive line prospect Jadeveon Clowney, the defense could be good in 2011. If it is, then watch out because the Gamecocks could repeat as SEC West champions and even win the unified SEC title.

16. Nebraska
Well, it's go time: Nebraska is about to join the Big Ten. The move should work out for both the school and the conference. That said, the Big Ten will be very tough in 2011 and Bo Pelini will have to continue to work magic and replace Cornhusker standout cornerback Prince Awakamura. If they can, they will make a run at the Big Ten title.

17. Wisconsin
Wisconsin was a borderline top ten team in 2010 and, while the Badgers will not fall of the map in 2011, they will lose a few contributors. Steady quarterback Scott Tolzein is gone and, even more importantly, defensive wrecking ball J.J. Watt will be headed to the NFL. That said, the line and running game remain strong so it's hard to envision Wisconsin winning less than nine games and being completely out of the Big Ten title race.

18. Virginia Tech
Tech always seems to outperform preseason expectations and get its 10 plus wins and major bowl berth. Though the offense will need to be rebuilt with the departures of Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams, and Darren Evans, the Hokies defense should be as stout as ever. In a weak ACC conference, that should be enough to stay on top.

19. Missouri
I have the Tigers rated low here because they lost quarterback Blaine Gabbert to the draft. Gabbert is a very special talent and was a perfect fit for the spread offense. With that said, James Franklin should be an effective replacement and, with Nebraska's departure for the Big Ten, Missouri could really assert itself and outperform this ranking.

20. Miami
Under new coach Al Golden (who actually managed to win games at Temple) the Hurricanes are 2011's biggest wildcard. Miami has recruited top talent for years now so no recruiting turnaround is needed; the team's talent just needs to perform up to par and 11-12 wins and a BCS bowl berth will be in reach.

21. Mississippi State
Fresh of slaughtering Michigan in the Gator Bowl, Mississippi State will look to improve in 2011. Coach Dan Mullen has completely turned the program around and, with 14 returning starters and a strong 2010 recruiting class looking to contribute, this team could surprise everyone in 2011. Well, everyone except the Wolverines faithful; they already know what these Bulldogs are capable of doing.

22. Texas A&M
The Aggies grew quite a bit as a team during their 9-4 2010 season and should only get better in 2011. Former NFL coach Mike Sherman has recruited effective players and, if quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Cyrus Grey develop into stars then watch out for this team. It could crash the BCS party.

23. West Virginia
This ranking comes mainly because West Virginia remains the favorite to win the Big East. According to the current BCS rules, that would give them a (likely undeserved) BCS berth. To be fair, they also have an excellent new offensive coordinator in Dana Holgerson and should see improved play from Geno Smith so it's possible they will come close to deserving that BCS berth after all.

24. Arkansas
Losing Ryan Mallett will definitely hurt the Razorbacks because he was one of the best quarterbacks in the college game. However, Mallett's successor Tyler Wilson looks like an excellent fit for coach Bobby Petrino's system so the Razorbacks should win at least eight games-even in an absolutely brutal SEC conference.

25. Michigan
Even during Michigan's epic three season collapse beginning in 2008, the team has not completely fallen off the rails. The Wolverines have been ranked in the top 25 several times since early 2009. Now, with new coach Brady Hoke returning to a pro-style offense that is a better fit for Michigan (and, contrary to popular belief, phenomenon quarterback Denard Robinson will be just fine) the team is ready to return to being a stable eight to nine win team at the very least. Plus, while its 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes were hardly historic, Michigan did get some talent for its linebacking corps and secondary so the defense this year could be at least defense. Since the offense remains elite, that would make a huge difference.

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