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College Football: The AP Preseason Top 25

Landry Jones (AP Photo)

Preseason rankings are basically guesses and contribute to the competitive imbalance of college football. However, from a fan’s perspective they are very helpful and give a moderate idea of what to expect from the coming soon.

Here’s this year’s preseason AP Top 25:

1. Oklahoma (36)
Landry Jones leads an impressive passing attack that could be the highest-scoring in the nation. They are the consensus No. 1, but they have a tendency to underwhelm, so don’t be surprised if they have a hiccup at some point this season. Oklahoma State who is No. 9, is the best bet to beat them. OSU will be hosting the Bedlam Series this year, and there’s nothing they would enjoy more than destroying Sooner dreams.

2. Alabama (17)
Nick Saban’s teams consistently find themselves in the top 5. Once again, they are a legitimate contender. They are more than capable of winning the BCS Championship, if they can get out of the SEC West. As a division it will have more depth than most conferences.

3. Oregon (4)
How about that? A BCS runner-up returning most of its best players being ranked highly. Expect them to once again score a lot of points.

4. LSU (1)
See what I said about the SEC West? It has its second team ranked before eight conferences have their first. They won’t win the BCS Championship. Les Miles lucked into one, but he is too ill-prepared to win a second. His team will create some chaos though, and that’s always fun. Perhaps this year his defense can 14 men on the field at one point.

5. Boise State (2)
America’s Team just doesn’t go away. The first place votes are a little surprising, but there’s no reason to think they don’t deserve them. They’ve been in and around the Top 10 for the better part of a decade and show no signs of slowing down.

6. Florida State
This is too high for an ACC school. Especially with the loss of Christian Ponder, Florida State should not be this high. They play a tough non-conference schedule (Oklahoma and Florida), but the ACC will continue to be terrible. They won’t get past Oklahoma but will manage to stay in the top ten by burning through a terrible conference schedule. They’ll win the ACC but probably won’t be in the BCS Championship picture. The Florida game probably won’t mean anything because they’ll be on track for a BCS bowl but won’t be able to get any higher. A non-conference loss won’t help them or hurt them at that point.

7. Stanford
Jim Harbaugh’s gone, but Andrew Luck is still there. Expect the senior quarterback to lead the team on a spirited run toward the BCS Championship. They might not make it, and they won’t be as flashy as conference rival Oregon, but there won’t be any doubts about Luck’s leadership ability.

8. Texas A&M
Mike Sherman is Texas A&M’s coach, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they have jumped into the Top 10. If anything, I’m surprised it took him this long to build the team up.

9. Oklahoma State
Is Mike Gundy FBS’s most web savvy coach? There’s no doubt that Oklahoma State’s rise in recent years is at least partially the result of his rant four years ago. He’s also a good coach, but that gave him the players he needed to really succeed.

10. Nebraska
Nebraska moved from a conference with 10 schools to a conference with 12 schools, which of course meant a move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. The NCAA is stupid. This team, however, is not. Their style does not fit with the Big Ten’s bore-you-until-you-lose aesthetic, and that could create some interesting match-ups.

11. Wisconsin
They’ll probably do well, and they might even go to the Rose Bowl again. They’ll do it in a boring fashion though.

12. South Carolina
This is now the Ol’ Ball Coach’s seventh season at South Carolina. If he’s going to make an impact on the BCS, wouldn’t he have done it by now? They’ve been good, but no one should be truly scared of them, especially with a headcase like Stephen Garcia playing quarterback.

13. Virginia Tech
This seems like where Virginia Tech should be ranked every week of every season. They will look reasonably strong, lose two games, and go to an above-average bowl like the Gator Bowl. Is that worth being excited over?

14. TCU
Even though Andy Dalton’s gone, they’ve always been about more than just their quarterback. Expect them to have a very stout defense and make another run at the BCS with perpetual life partner and one-season-only conference mate Boise State.

15. Arkansas
Hey look, an SEC West school! Bobby Petrino is a poor man’s Nick Saban. He’s not quite as slimy, and his teams aren’t quite as good. Arkansas will be a tough team to beat this year though.

16. Notre Dame
This is fine. They have a tough schedule, and they’ll be forced to prove their worth almost every week. They should have a good team, and this feels like the right place for them to start.

17. Michigan State
See: Virginia Tech, minus any semblance of exciting football.

18. Ohio State
There is no way this ranking will hold. With threats of the Death Penalty being thrown around, The U might be getting all of the attention now. Don’t forget that Ohio State also committed a number of infractions, and they are going to get crushed with penalties. That much upheaval will not be healthy. Moreover, how will a team molded in Jim Tressel’s incredibly boring image fare under a coach who is not Tressel?

19. Georgia
When’s the last time Georgia did anything worthwhile? They’ve been a consistently good SEC school for the last decade, which by extension makes them one of the best teams in the country over that stretch. Mark Richt is, somewhat ridiculously, on the hot seat, and that might drive them to a better season than the last couple. Don’t they seem like the kind of SEC school that would come out of nowhere?

20. Mississippi State
SEC West, once again. How do you think Ole Miss feels about being the only unranked school in their division? Is it going to give them extra incentive to win the Egg Bowl, or are they going to be too beaten down at that point to care? Also, how ridiculous a name is the Egg Bowl?

21. Missouri
They will throw a lot, score a lot of points, and win eight or nine games. Their best-case scenario is 2008 Texas Tech, but that’s a lot to hope for.

22. Florida
How is Will Muschamp going to adapt to the SEC? Will he try to install a more high-scoring Big 12 attack or will he focus on Florida’s great team speed and build up the defense?

23. Auburn
Let’s throw the defending champions a bone, shall we? They lost a lot, but should be a decent team. Their trip through the SEC might get a little rough, but they won’t fall off a cliff competitively.

24. West Virginia
This is the Big East’s highest ranked school. They get an automatic BCS bowl bid. The Mountain West, whose consistent superiority the past few years is evident in this poll, does not. This is just another example of how messed up the NCAA is. Who wants sacrificial lamb WVU in the Orange Bowl instead of ultra competitive Boise State or TCU? Ok, clichéd NCAA rant over.

25. USC
Is this just a taunt? Can they gain anything from being ranked, especially on the cusp like this? They can’t go to a bowl for the next two years, and giving them the last spot in the poll just seems cruel, especially since they aren’t ranked in the USA Today poll. If they were terrible, they could have shrugged off the sanctions because a bowl ban wouldn’t be taking them away from too much. If they were amazing, they could claim that they would have deserved a shot at the BCS Championship, which would be somewhat rewarding in its own right. Being in this position just feels like it will encourage malaise, “Eh, we’re decent, but why try to improve our position? We don’t have anything to gain.”

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