No Sleep Till Football

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NCAA Strongest Teams for 2010

Football Outsiders has posted their top-25 college football teams for 2010 according to their F/+ ranking system. Please keep in mind that these ranking are based on projected strength of the football teams and NOT based on how the teams will finish the season. Go read the article as it’s well worth the time & effort. This is somewhat similiar in my opinion to Phil Steele’s power rankings he posts in the back of his college annual. I’ll list the top-25 (Phil Steele’s power rankings will be in parenthesis) and make some comments:

1. Alabama (3)
2. Florida (5)
3. Ohio St. (2)
4. Texas (8)
5. Oklahoma (1)
6. Virginia Tech (11)
7. TCU (4)
8. Penn St. (18)
9. Oregon (9)
10. LSU (21)
11. USC (14)
12. Clemson (31)
13. Miami-FL (10)
14. Boise St. (7)
15. Iowa (13)
16. Texas Tech (33)
17. Wisconsin (20)
18. Arkansas (16)
19. Georgia (12)
20. Tennessee (55)
21. Nebraska (6)
22. Pittsburgh (40)
23. South Carolina (19)
24. North Carolina (17)
25. Mississippi (48)

Not surprised in the least about the top-5. I think for Oklahoma & Texas, their starting QBs going down last year was a blessing in disguise. Instead of both squads breaking in new QBs, the Sooners essentially got a full year from Landry Jones which means no transition year for the Sooners. Sure they lose Sam Bradfrod & Jermaine Greshem, but they didn’t play last year anyway. They really didn’t lose anyone they can’t replace. The same goes for Texas. The transition might be a bit more difficult as Colt McCoy did play all season, but he got hurt in the BCS Championship forcing Garrett Gilbert into the fray. Gilbert isn’t going to see any defenses as tough as Alabama’s and the Longhorns have a ton back on defense.

I’m not surprised with Florida either. By all accounts, John Brantley is outstanding as QB and will give Florida a little more as a conventional QB. Florida did lose quite a bit on defense, but the Gators have recruited exceptionally well and boast arguably the best coach in college football. They aren’t as good as Alabama, but nobody else is either going into the season. I think the Gators were the 2nd best team in college football last year. I think they are most likely the 2nd best team this season.

Penn St. might seem a bit high at #8, but I don’t know. The thing that worries me the most about Penn St. is their LB situation, but this is “Linebacker U” and they have outstanding athletes taking over for Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman & Josh Hall. Beyond the LBs, Jared Crick and Daryll Clark, the Lions lose NOTHING! They have road games against Alabama, Ohio St. & Iowa which might make them into a 9-3 squad (they miss Wisconsin this season), but this is an incredibly strong team who should threaten a 7-1 mark in Big 10 play. I think Phil Steele is undercutting Penn St. just a bit.

Really surprised the Outsiders have Clemson as high as #12. Even with this being about “potential strength” over actual results, Clemson lost their #1 QB, their leading rusher and their top-3 leading receivers. Yes the defense will be strong, but Clemson as the 2nd best ACC team behind Virginia Tech? I don’t know if I see that. I’d think they are at least worse off than Va Tech, Florida St., Miami-FL & North Carolina. Very interesting to see how it works out for the Tigers. I see between 4-6 losses on that schedule.

Another surprise is LSU being in the top-10! They have only 4 returning starters on defense and lost their 2 best rushers on offense along with their LT Ciron Black. The offense wasn’t very good to begin with last season and with Jordan Jefferson still calling the shots under center, I’d expect some of the same. It would be interesting to see how Russell Shepard would do as QB, but he’s likely 3rd on the depth chart behind Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. With those kinds of losses, I wonder out the Outsiders got LSU at #10?

I think the Outsiders are right about Texas Tech. The Red Raiders unfortunately are going to go through some transition because of the Mike Leach firing, but they have their entire offense back and Tuberville is going to try and keep the same offensive system in place. They have 6 of their top-8 tacklers back on defense plus they get Texas at home in Week 3. If they can keep up the level of play from the Leach era while installing Tuberville’s good defensive schemes then Texas Tech could easily be looking at 11-1 if they beat Texas. They do have to go to Oklahoma which might be a but much to ask but if Tech goes 10-2/11-1 in Tuberville’s first season it’ll be a huge success. Frankly I don’t see how they avoid it.

I think Wisconsin is being a little underrated. They have 10 starters back on offense and the defense returns 10 of their top-13 tacklers! They get Ohio St. at home but Iowa on the road. I know the Outsiders are solely looking at “strength of team” but Wisconsin looks like they have a pretty good team to me. This team should challenge for the BCS and a perfect 12-0 season. At the very worst the Badgers should go 10-2 which would be the best season Bielema has had in 4 years time.

Tennessee is a real shocker here. The Outsiders think they are the 20th best team in the land according to the F/+ rankings. Wow. Offensively the Vols lose their QB and their top-2 rushers. Compounding things is the loss of their entire offensive line! Then they have a new coach to deal with. They lose their top-4 tacklers on defense including uber-superstar Eric Berry. Despite all that they are one of the 20 most strongest teams in the nation? Whew! I don’t get that one.

As much as Tennessee is overrated, Nebraska seems ridiculously underrated! Yes the offense was a disaster last year but they bring back EVERYBODY from an offense that did score 25+ppg! This is a team that went 10-4, almost beat Texas in the Big XII Championship game and blew out Arizona 33-0 in the Holiday Bowl. They do lose Ndamukong Suh but Jared Crick might be just as good as Suh by the end of the season. The defense is amazing despite the losses and the Cornhuskers have a shot at 12-0. They miss Okahoma & Texas Tech and get Texas at home. They do go on the road to Washington & Texas A&M, but a Big XII North title along with a possible 10-2 record is an exceptionally strong showing in Nebraska’s last year in the Big XII.

The other big thing I want to point out is North Carolina. They have it rough by any metric. They have to play LSU (in Atlanta), @Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Clemson, @Miami-FL, @Florida St. & Virginia Tech giving them a hellacious schedule for 7 of the 12 games! This could very well be a top-15 team and yet have a losing record. They weren’t great offensively last season but return 10 starters. The defense is actually getting better despite being very tough last season. The Tar Heels return 9 on defense. This is a top-10 team in my eyes. Doesn’t that mean they are strong too?

The two omissions I think worthy to discuss are Notre Dame & Florida St. The Seminoles return 9 on offense & 6 on defense. The Outsiders are using a “potential strength” metric when using F/+ rankings and recruiting plays a role in that. Florida St. is filled with highly touted prospects at almost every position. They haven’t had recent success but all signs point towards a great season for Florida St. They get all their tough games at home except for Miami-FL & Oklahoma. That’s a ton of talent playing a lot of home games. They are an Oklahoma slip up from potentially going 12-0.

Maybe I’m being an Irish homer, but I wouldn’t sell Notre Dame short. New HC Brian Kelly inherits more talent than he ever had at Cincinnati where he led the Bearcats to a 33-6 record over 3 years at the helm. In all 3 years, Kelly won Big East coach of the year! Sure ND loses quite a bit on offense, but offense is where Kelly shines and he still has players like Dayne Crist, Armando Allen, Michael Floyd & Kyle Rudolph to utilize. The Irish bring back 9 starters on defense which should be special to watch. One thing about Kelly’s Cincinnati teams is how amazing they were at playing a “ball hawking” style defense. Expect the same from ND except with loads more talent. ND should be favored to win every game they play this season except for the game at USC. ND should win 9 games at a minimum with an 11-1 or even 12-0 record not entirely out of the realm of possibility. A lot of pundits are selling Notre Dame short, but Kelly’s track record is outstanding & the Irish have A LOT more coming back than people think.

Very cool stuff indeed. A little less than 3 months and college football season will be here!!!

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June 23, 2010 - Posted by | Previews

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