Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Revised Top 10: How the Coaches Should Have Voted

Most of you are aware that the USAToday top 25 coaches poll was released yesterday.

As far as the top 10 goes, some teams were ranked too high—some teams were ranked too low—and a couple of teams that belong in the top 10 actually found themselves on the outside looking in.

The controversy over preseason polls will never end, but I believe my revised rankings will right a few of the wrongs and please everyone—or cause an outright riot.

Either way, it should be a good time. After all, the 2010 college football season is almost here!

Coaches top 10

No. 1—Alabama

No. 2—Ohio State

No. 3—Florida

No. 4—Texas

No. 5—Boise State

No. 6—Virginia Tech

No. 7—TCU

No. 8—Oklahoma

No. 9—Nebraska

No. 10—Iowa

My top 10, and a few thoughts on each

No. 1—Alabama

The Tide lost 9 defensive starters and almost slipped from the top spot because of those losses, but the offense, led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and his talented understudy Trent Richardson, should be very prolific. I still am not sure QB Greg McElroy is as great as Alabama fans believe he is, but it won't hurt him to have Julio Jones to throw to after the running game likely opens up some huge passing lanes. Because of their numerous weapons on offense, they maintain the top ranking for now, but we all know it's hard to go wire-to-wire unbeaten with that huge target resting squarely on your back.

No. 2—Boise State

I moved BSU up three spots from five to two. Did someone forget to tell the coaches that Boise State was a perfect 14-0 last year and that they return all 22 starters including QB Kellen Moore? Ultimately their conference schedule may hurt their overall SOS down the road when the BCS rankings are released, but it's not their fault no other top teams want to schedule them. Either way, Moore is a stud and he would be a star in any conference in the country in my opinion.

No. 3—Ohio State

To show my ability to be objective, I moved the Buckeyes down one spot from two to three behind Boise State because the Broncos have all their starters returning. If the Buckeyes and Broncos each go unbeaten, Ohio State's SOS would give them the clear edge and once again eliminate any BCS title hopes of yet another mid-major program. QB Terrelle Pryor will be improved in 2010 just as Troy Smith was in 2006 and he is surrounded by top-notch players at every offensive position. The Buckeyes and their fans are hoping this is the year they get back to, and win, the BCS championship. It's definitely possible, but it won't be easy. Miami, Wisconsin, Iowa, possibly Penn State, and yes, perhaps even lowly Michigan, all intend on ending those dreams when they each get their shots.

No. 4—Virginia Tech

There are several reasons why I moved the Hokies up from sixth and into my top five. QB Tyrod Taylor has consistently improved in each of his first two seasons and year three should reveal more of the same. They also have a problem every team and coach would love to have--two top-tier running backs in Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Add in the fact that they always have a pretty solid defense and an excellent coach in Frank Beamer and that all adds up to a top 5 team in my book.

No. 5—Florida

I dropped UF from third to fifth for multiple reasons. In short, Tim Tebow is gone and there is some uncertainty as to what new QB John Brantley will bring to the table. UF really has no No. 1 big name workhorse running back that could help take some of the pressure off of Brantley. Also, the questions that are still looming (at least for me) about Urban Meyer's health and ability to withstand the pressures of coaching for the entire season are a factor. Lastly, UF had a few key losses on defense. I feel compelled to be skeptical of the Gators being ranked in the top three and maybe even being in the top five, but until I see them play, I really can't justify dropping them any further at this point.

No. 6—TCU

Andy Dalton could prove to be one of the nation's top quarterbacks and I believe it is safe to say the Horned Frogs will field one of the best defenses in all of college football. I moved them up one spot from seven to six for those reasons. As is the case with Boise State, TCU's overall schedule may prevent them making a legit BCS title run, but at the very least, making a BCS bowl is a distinct possibility.

No. 7—Iowa

If coach Kirk Ferentz ever had an Iowa team that appears more ready than ever to contend for the Big 10 and possibly the BCS titles, this would be it. Offensively, senior signal-caller Ricky Stanzi returns along with running backs Jewell Hampton and Adam Robinson and wideouts Marvin McNutt and Derrell-Johnson Koulianos. The defense is led by Orange Bowl MVP Adrian Clayborn, who is one of the favorites for the conference and national defensive POY awards. The schedule is near perfect with only one difficult away game (at Arizona), while Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all have to play the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. If Stanzi, who has had a propensity for turning the ball over at inopportune times, can protect the football, the Hawkeyes will have a solid chance of unseating the Buckeyes as the best of the Big 10.

No. 8—Pittsburgh

Even after losing proven starter QB Bill Stull, the fighting Wannstedt's are my favorite to win the Big East. The main reasons are, first and foremost, phenom running back Dion Lewis, and secondly, the schedule. When examining Pitt's schedule, you might be ask yourself in reference to me, "Is this guy insane?" No, I assure you I am not, and here is why. Pitt has stepped up in a big way with their scheduling and if they win all of their games or lose just one against any one of the ranked teams they will face, they should still be in the running for the conference title and a BCS berth. They will open the year at Utah, then they host Miami-FL a couple weeks later, followed by a trip to South Bend three weeks later to face the Irish. They then host WVU and travel to Cincinnati to finish the year. The BCS computers will love their SOS, and the rankings at season's end will show it, provided the Panthers win most or all of those matchups.

No. 9—Wisconsin

I have been unimpressed, and therefore critical of the Badgers over the past couple of seasons. That may all change this year. UW returns 10 offensive starters including reigning Big 10 offensive POY, running back John Clay and the conference's passing efficiency leader from a year ago, QB Scott Tolzien. The Badgers should be a literal offensive juggernaut in 2010. They host the Buckeyes, then travel to Iowa City the following week. I believe those two games will define their season, as the other 10 games are all practically locks for them to win. I wouldn't call it a huge worry, but as I see it, the one area of concern will be their defense. It could be the missing puzzle piece that ends up derailing the season, or the saving grace that preserves a magical season in Madison. The "O" should score plenty of points, but can their "D" preserve leads and hold on for real wins instead of moral victories?

No. 10—Texas

With QB Colt McCoy now in Cleveland playing for the Browns, and with heavy losses elsewhere including Jordan Shipley and Sergio Kindle among others, the Longhorns may be in for a long season. Garrett Gilbert, McCoy's replacement, did show that he's no slouch when he stepped in for the injured McCoy against Alabama in last season's title game, but he also had five turnovers. The Longhorns must also find the running game that they have lacked in recent years. Experience is priceless, so 2010 may be somewhat of a rebuilding year in Austin. That being said, 2011 may just find Texas right back in the hunt for another national championship.

Just FYI, I'm not like the majority of SEC fans. I know my conference is not a team. In Big 10 country, we pick one team to root for, not all 12. I'm stressing this just so nobody gets the wise idea to accuse me of being a homer for ranking three Big 10 teams in the top 10. All three deserve to be there, end of story.

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