Assessing the pre-preseason top 25

April, 25, 2011
4/25/11
10:00
AM ET


College Football Live has revealed its top 25 poll, voted on by a conglomerate of ESPN writers, editors and TV analysts, myself included.

Here's how it looks.

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Boise State
6. Florida State
7. Stanford
8. South Carolina
9. Oklahoma State
10. Ohio State
11. Texas A&M
12. Arkansas
13. Nebraska
14. Wisconsin
15. TCU
16. Michigan State
17. Notre Dame
18. Florida
19. Virginia Tech
20. Texas
21. Mississippi State
22. Auburn
23. Missouri
24. West Virginia
25. Arizona State

A few thoughts:
  • I can already hear your wailing and early preparations to riot in the streets, but if you will, let me ask you a question: Does this team belong in a preseason top 25? It plays in a league dominated by quarterbacks. Despite having a 12-game starter (who threw 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in those 12 games) on its roster, it has no idea who will start next fall, and will open fall camp with a three-man competition. Despite being in a passer's league, said team lost three NFL cornerbacks and has little to no experience in the secondary. Its front seven is as good as anyone's in the country, but the offensive line struggled last season, and the leading rusher had fewer than 600 yards. Additionally, while breaking in a new quarterback, that team will have to replace two of its top three receivers. Oh, and last season, that team went 5-7. Wait, what? That's Texas? Oh, let me edit my poll real quick.
  • Hey, I get it. Tradition of success, recruiting rankings, etc. But at this point, putting Texas in any preseason poll is just ludicrous. I'm well aware the team has plenty of potential, and hey, maybe it bounces back, exceeds my expectations and wins 9-10 games. It wouldn't surprise me at all. But if there was ever a year to make Texas prove something on the field, then clearly this is it. Two new coordinators and a handful of new assistants means there's a lot to learn for these new players. The Longhorns also have one of the Big 12's toughest nonconference schedules, with BYU and a trip to UCLA on the fall docket. They'll have a chance early to show us what they're made of. Mack Brown talked a lot about a sense of entitlement, and when players can turn in a shockingly bad performance like last season's, then look up and find themselves on a preseason poll, it's not hard to see why that kind of thing can surface. The Longhorns have a lot to prove this season. For once, pollsters should make them do it.
  • As for my poll, my two big outliers were Missouri and West Virginia. People want to pay attention to Blaine Gabbert leaving, but everywhere else, this is one of Missouri's best teams ever. That should be the case, by far, on defense. It also has two capable quarterbacks who will get plenty of help from a good offensive line that brings back four starters, four capable running backs and two glue-handed receivers. If Gabbert had come back, Missouri would be a top 10 team. Without him, they're still a solid top 20 team. (Also, this made me laugh.) Good question, Blaine.
  • As for the Mountaineers, I moved them that high solely out of faith in quarterback Geno Smith, an already great player who is about to become a star as Dana Holgorsen's next pupil. Add to that a Big East schedule, and I'd be shocked if West Virginia won fewer than 10 games this season.

And for comparison, here's how I voted. (actual ranking in College Football Live poll in parentheses, for comparison.)

1. Oklahoma (1)
2. LSU (4)
3. Oregon (3)
4. Boise State (5)
5. Alabama (2)
6. Florida State (6)
7. Stanford (7)
8. Oklahoma State (9)
9. South Carolina (8)
10. Texas A&M (11)
11. Arkansas (12)
12. Wisconsin (14)
13. Nebraska (13)
14. Ohio State (10)
15. TCU (15)
16. Missouri (23)
17. West Virginia (24)
18. Auburn (22)
19. Notre Dame (17)
20. Virginia Tech (19)
21. Mississippi State (21)
22. Georgia (NR)
23. Arizona State (25)
24. Utah (NR)
25. North Carolina State (NR)

I left out Texas, Florida and Michigan State.

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