Sunday, July 14, 2013

My College Football Preseason Top Ten

With the dog days of summer in full swing and conference media days on the horizon, what better time than now to break down my top ten schools for the upcoming college football season.
10. Michigan Wolverines:
Coming off an 8-5 campaign last season, the Wolverines dealt with the key losses of star players such as Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs.
The Wolverines have reloaded by adding freshman quarterback Shane Morris as a backup.
With redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner being granted an extra year of eligibility, it will give Morris more than enough time to develop into a great talent.
Unlike last season, the Wolverines’ schedule is less daunting and the majority of their toughest games are at home.
If third year coach Brady Hoke can steer clear of injuries and show more consistency on both sides of the ball, then the Wolverines could be looking at another Bowl Championship Series birth.
Notable Games: vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 7), at Michigan State (Nov. 2), vs. Nebraska (Nov. 9), vs. Ohio State (Nov. 30).
9. Florida Gators:
Fresh from a stunning 33-23 loss to the Louisville Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators have a lot of questions to answer— most notably on offense.
Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel never looked comfortable in the offense as they finished 118th in passing yards last season with 146.3 yards per game.
The Gators defense was their strength as they allowed 14.5 points per game, good enough for fifth in the nation.
If Florida wants to win their first Southeastern Conference title since 2008, then their offense must become more fluid and productive.
Notable Games: at LSU (Oct. 12), vs. Georgia (Nov. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.), at South Carolina (Nov. 16), vs. Florida State (Nov. 30).
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
Even with the key losses of quarterback Everett Golson (Academic Reasons) and middle linebacker Manti Te’o (NFL Draft), the Fighting Irish appear to be on track for another great season.
Senior quarterback Tommy Rees will take the reigns again as starter after losing his job to Golson last season.
Rees’ arrest last off-season attributed to the loss of his job and is looking to prove to skeptics that he has what it takes to win in South Bend, Ind.
Notable Games: at Michigan (Sept. 7), vs. Oklahoma (Sept. 28), vs. Southern California (Oct. 19), at Stanford (Nov. 30).
7. Stanford Cardinal:
The sudden medical retirement of quarterback Josh Nunes due to a freak accident while lifting weights leaves their situation up in the air, but with a power running attack led primarily by senior Anthony Wilkerson and a defense which finished 11th in the country allowing 17.2 PPG, expect the Cardinal to be a contender in the Pac-12 again.
Notable Games: at Oregon State (Oct. 26), vs. Oregon (Thu. Nov. 7), at USC (Nov. 16), vs. Notre Dame (Nov. 30).
6. Georgia Bulldogs:
Time ran out on the Bulldogs’ chances of going to the national championship as they fell to Alabama 32-28 in last season’s climactic SEC Championship game.
With senior quarterback Aaron Murray returning, expect Georgia to use the disappointment as motivation to get back to the SEC title game and right the wrong from last season.
The Bulldogs will be tested out the gate as they play rivals Clemson and South Carolina to start the season.
We will know very quickly if they were able to get rid of that bitter, nine-month hangover.
Notable Games: at Clemson (Aug. 30), vs. South Carolina (Sept. 7), vs. LSU (Sept. 28), vs. Florida (Nov. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.).
5. Clemson Tigers:
Could this be the year that head coach Dabo Sweeney gets the Tigers over the hump and into a BCS bowl game?
Juniors Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins highlight the returning players for the Tigers.
The knock on the Tigers has always been that they start strong, but always slump to finish line.
We will know right out the gate when Georgia comes calling in Death Valley whether they have what it takes to be a legit national title contender.
Notable Games: vs. Georgia (Aug. 30), vs. Florida State (Oct. 19), at South Carolina (Nov. 30).
4. Oregon Ducks:
Even with former head coach Chip Kelly bolting to the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League, expect the Ducks to not miss a beat.
With sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota and junior wide receiver DeAnthony Thomas returning, expect to good times to keep rolling in Eugene.
The Ducks’ defense quietly finished 25th in the country last season, giving up 21.6 PPG.
If both sides of the ball stay consistent, expect the Ducks to be quacking their to way to Pasadena.
Notable Games: vs. UCLA (Oct. 26), at Stanford (Nov. 7), vs. Oregon State (Fri. Nov. 29).
3. Alabama Crimson Tide:
Can the Crimson Tide threepeat? Only time will tell, but their schedule once again is daunting and on top of it, they must find a replacement for running back Eddie Lacy— who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
Expect sophomore T.J. Yeldon to follow in the recent lineage of great running backs, such as Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
Senior A.J. McCarron has been the perfect game manager, but finally proved last season in the LSU game that he can lead a team down the field with the game on the line and win it with his arm.
Expect this season to be no different as the Crimson Tide as long as they can endure the grind that is the SEC regular season and potentially the conference championship game.
Notable Games: vs. Virginia Tech (Aug. 31 in Atlanta, Ga.), at Texas A&M, (Sept. 14), vs. LSU (Nov. 9).
2. Ohio State Buckeyes:
With their one-year bowl ban a thing of the past, the Buckeyes are now back on everyone’s national radar with head coach Urban Meyer leading the way in his second season.
Junior quarterback Braxton Miller will be counted on to carry most of the load on offense and with senior Corey “Philly” Brown and junior Devin Smith returning at wide receiver, expect the scoreboard to light up multiple times in Columbus this upcoming season.
Notable Games: at Northwestern (Oct. 5), at Michigan (Nov. 30).
1. Louisville Cardinals:
No other team in the country is riding the wave of momentum than Louisville. Last season, they knocked off the Florida Gators, 33-23, in the Sugar Bowl and as a result, put the rest of college football on notice.
With 19 returning starters most notably, preseason Heisman Trophy candidate junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals are primed to make a run for the national championship in their final season in the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East Conference) before moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, 2014.
You can make the argument that their soft schedule would be a weakness, but that might become their strength if they are able to not let all of the preseason hype get the best of them.
The Cardinals have proven already that they can any of the “big boys” on a neutral site.
Notable Games: vs. Ohio (Sun. Sept. 1), at Kentucky (Sept. 14), at Cincinnati (Thu. Dec. 5).
Honorable Mention (11-25):
11. LSU Tigers
12. Texas A&M Aggies
13. Boise State Broncos
14. South Carolina Gamecocks
15. Texas Longhorns
16. Northwestern Wildcats
17. Nebraska Cornhuskers
18. Oklahoma Sooners
19. Florida State Seminoles
20. Oklahoma State Cowboys
21. Kent State Golden Flashes
22. UCLA Bruins
23. Washington Huskies
24. Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
25. USC Trojans
Social Media:
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.

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