My spring Top 25 ballot

April, 5, 2011
4/05/11
10:00
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For the second consecutive year, "College Football Live" will be counting down its spring Top 25. The fine folks in Bristol asked me for my take in compiling the rankings, and as an ESPN.com weekly Power Rankings voter during the season, I happily obliged.

Keep in mind there's a LONG way to go between now and September so many things will change, but here are my spring rankings:

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

Four Big Ten teams made my rundown, the same four you'll likely see in most major preseason polls. Ohio State undoubtedly has a lot of question marks entering the season, and the Jim Tressel situation could provide a major distraction, but the Buckeyes' track record the past decade can't be ignored. You're delusional if you think Ohio State won't have a very strong defense, and the Buckeyes very well could survive their opening stretch at 5-0.

I most likely have Nebraska ranked a little higher than most folks. Although the Huskers are adjusting to a new offensive scheme and must get a lot more consistent on that side of the ball, I love what they have coming back on defense. No Big Ten team returns more standout defenders than Big Red, and with a healthy Taylor Martinez at quarterback, the offensive numbers should improve.

Not far behind Nebraska are both Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Badgers lose six All-Big Ten performers, and this season will truly test their ability to reload. I love what Wisconsin returns at running back and offensive line, and the defense could be solid if the coaches can identify more pass-rushers. The big question mark, of course, is at quarterback. Scott Tolzien's steady play will be missed, but Jon Budmayr has a higher ceiling if he puts it all together. Michigan State must upgrade both lines, but I like the skill-position depth on this team, and Mark Dantonio's recent recruiting success really could pay off in the next few seasons.

Penn State was the only other Big Ten team I considered for the rankings, as Nos. 20-25 are a crapshoot. There are too many injuries and unknowns right now to include the Lions, but this is a team that could make a run in the Leaders division if things fall right.

I included three Big Ten nonconference opponents in my ballot: No. 1 Alabama (visits Penn State on Sept. 10); No. 19 Notre Dame (visits Michigan on Sept. 10 and visits Purdue on Oct. 1, hosts Michigan State on Sept. 17); and No. 24 Arizona State (visits Illinois on Sept. 17).

So there's my take. What's yours? Send me your Top 25s.

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