Here’s my latest stab at a top 10 for the coming season. This is a power ranking, based on which teams are in the best shape heading towards the fall.
1. Florida–The Gators feature arguably the two best players in the country in Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. This could also be the fastest team in the country, bar none. All that young defensive talent is a year older and should be more effective, which will take the pressure off an already-deadly offense.
2. Oklahoma–Last year’s Sooners led the nation in the offensive yards per point (YPP) stat, which measures a team’s scoring efficiency. Most of that talent from that offense is back. Incoming freshman tailback Jermie Calhoun has the potential to be an instant star.
3. Ohio State–This is Jim Tressel’s best team since his 2002 title squad. They are fundamentally sound, talented across the board and will do almost nothing special to beat you. If they lose, they will lose playing Tressel Ball. That approach equals a win over 95 per cent of the teams out there, but requires all the planets to align properly for a clean sweep of the schedule. Doesn’t hurt to have the Heisman front runner in Chris Wells at tailback.
4. Georgia–I thought the Bulldogs were the best team in the country at the end of last season. How well they play this season, I think, depends almost entirely upon the development of Matt Stafford. If he makes that jump to becoming a top 5 or top 10 quarterback in the country, the Dawgs will be tough to beat.
5. USC–The Trojans are, once again, the nation’s most talented team. Once again, they are unlikely to play like the sum of all their parts. A ferocious back seven and a darkhorse Heisman contender in Stafon Johnson should ease the transition to the Mark Sanchez era.
6. Missouri–The Tigers are almost like Florida-lite on offense, with Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin playing the parts of Tebow and Harvin. Unless Missouri reverts back to being, well, Missouri, this should be another pretty good team.
7. LSU–Had Ryan Perrilloux not screwed up for the umpteenth time on his way to being booted from the program, I was prepared to put the Tigers at No. 1. I felt that Perriloux and tailback Keiland Williams were clear talent upgrades over Matt Flynn and Jacob Hester. But, alas for the Tigers, only one half of that equation will return. This team will be as good as its quarterback plays.
8. Texas–Colt McCoy is back for his third year as a starter, but I’d like to see how Texas can take advantage of the skills of John Chiles. As usual, the Longhorns will have the talent to win 10 games.
9. Brigham Young–This year’s potential BCS buster is tough, confident and physical, traits befitting of a team coached by a guy named ‘Bronco.’ I think the Cougars have a good shot at getting through the regular season unscathed.
10. Oregon–One would think that the task of replacing Dennis Dixon would be too difficult to warrant a top 10 ranking. However, I think that Nic Costa will slide nicely into the Chip Kelly system and, if healthy, Jeremiah Johnson could approach Jonathan Stewart‘s production at tailback. A sound defense should provide a buffer in the early going while these two get acclimated.
On the cusp: Auburn, Tennessee, South Florida, Texas Tech, Clemson