There it is: my best guess at a Preseason Top 25. Leave your suggestions for alterations in the comments, as it’s almost guaranteed that I completely overlooked a team, heinously overrated an undeserving squad, or even ranked Notre Dame. (Wait, I did that? Seriously? Damn.) Some explanation for the picks below, before I get completely blasted in the comments (explanations for my top five and Big Ten rankings can be found here and here, respectively):
- The complete omission of Oregon — Yes, the Ducks do not appear on my preseason ballot, despite being the consensus preseason #15 team in the country. However, there’s a whole lot of transition going on in Eugene: Head Coach Mike Bellotti is gone, replaced by Chip Kelly, who has never been a head coach at the Division I level, they lost three starters on each line, and return only nine starters total. Last season they had to eke out an overtime win over Purdue and only beat UCLA and Stanford by seven points each. This season they have to open up at Boise State (a team they lost to last season) and play Utah in the non-conference schedule. I doubt Oregon beats both, and there’s even a chance they start 1-2 before facing Cal on Sept. 26.
- Mississippi at #11 — I had no idea what to do with Ole Miss. They have a very favorable schedule, getting Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU all at home, and missing Florida during the regular season (although they, in all likelihood, will have to face the Gators in the SEC title game if they make it). They have Jevan Snead at quarterback surrounded by talented skill players. They have a great defensive line, bolstered by the return of Greg Hardy at DE after an injury-marred 2008 in which he managed to tally 8.5 sacks despite requiring offseason surgery on a bum foot. They were the only team to beat Florida last year. However, they also return only two starters on the offensive line, have a tough early road game at South Carolina, are coached by Houston Nutt, and seem destined to be the trendy preseason pick that falls flat come fall.
- Notre Dame is ranked — Before I started plugging in teams, I really didn’t expect to rank the Fighting Irish. However, once I started getting down towards the bottom of the contenders, I ran out of reasons to keep them out of the poll. You can’t argue against their talent, and they return nine offensive starters, including four on an o-line full of blue-chip prospects. The defense has some holes, to be sure, but every team from about #4 on has some major flaws that need addressing.
Again, leave your thoughts in the comments, as I’m sure I’ve made some controversial picks. The bottom of the poll, especially, will be tweaked in the next couple weeks before I submit my final preseason poll. However, bear in mind this is a preseason poll, and likely will be completely overhauled in week one anyway, so tweaks such as “BYU looks more like the #24 team than #25” will probably be completely ignored barring a stirring argument that calls my logic into question.