Where the Coach's Pre-Season Top 25 Will End Up in January
1. Georgia: lower = I think the Dawgs are going to be solid this year, and could even get through their schedule with only 1 or 2 losses. But when you start at #1, the only place to go is down. (No, this isn't an easy cop-out that breaks rule #1 - they do get harder, and overall this method has a lot more balance than trying to correctly pick what the exact order of the Top 25 will be five months from now. And don't worry, I'll own up to the ones I get wrong in January.)
2. USC: lower = The Trojans have lost two games each of the last two seasons, but rebounded to finish with a bowl win and a top-4 ranking. They still could be top-4, but do I think they will make it to #1 by winning the national championship? Probably not.
3. Ohio State: lower = The Buckeyes have the schedule to get back to the national championship, especially if they beat USC on Sept. 13. But can they do it three years in a row? My sources say no.
4. Oklahoma: higher = The Sooners will be a top-3 team? I think so. I don't forsee Bradford having a down sophomore year as big as McCoy did last year, and their defense should be able to keep them in games. I think they'll make it back to a BCS game, and I think this year they'll win one.
5. Florida: higher = Tebow? Harvin? Meyer? The Gators aren't gonna lose 4 games like they did last year. No way. Maybe 1 or 2.
6. LSU: lower = It's not so much that the Tigers are going to be worse this year, though they are - it's more that other SEC teams are going to be a lot better.
7. Missouri: higher = This one’s tricky. Daniel is back at QB and is a Heisman hopeful, and the schedule isn’t too bad (pretty easy non-conf, no Oklahoma). But like Kansas, can they put together stellar seasons two years in a row?
8. West Virginia: lower = The Mountaineers are going to miss Rodriguez a lot more than they're willing to admit. Pat White will help break their fall, but there will be a drop-off.
9. Clemson: lower = There's no real undisputed toughies on the Tiger's schedule (yeah, Alabama, yeah, Florida State, yeah South Carolina - they're all hit or miss usually though). At the same time, they often lose a game or two that they shouldn't. I'm not sold on them just yet.
10. Texas: higher = The Longhorns should be 5-0 heading into the showdown with Texas, and I think McCoy will probably be one of the top QB's in the nation this year. A BCS game? Maybe as an at-large. I can see it.
11. Auburn: higher = Another Tiger mascot? This is getting a bit out of hand, really. But all of Auburn's toughest games are at home (sure, West Virginia will be a test, but they should win that one). They miss Florida, but get the Dawgs, LSU, and Tennessee - if they can win two of those three, they'll be top 10.
12. Wisconsin: higher = If the Badgers can make it through weeks 3-6 of the season relatively unscathed, they're BCS bound.
13. Kansas: lower = Last year was magical for the Jayhawks. I hope they enjoyed it while it lasted, 'cause it's gonna disappear this year. Poof.
14. Texas Tech: lower = A lot of people have the Red Raiders as a team to watch out for this year, but I'm not a believer. They've got the usual cupcake non-conf schedule, sure, but Harrell & Crabtree a top 15 team do not automatically make. Maybe if their D steps up. Maybe.
15. Virginia Tech: higher = I like the Hokies chances this year. The schedule is pretty friendly, and the Beamer Boys should be able to stay atop the ACC.
16. Arizona State: lower = The Sun Devils missed out on a BCS game last year, and I have a feeling that's going to add some oomph to their game this year. They should be solid, but USC, Georgia, and Oregon are probably three losses right there.
17. BYU: lower = The Cougars are being touted as a BCS-buster this year, but the schedule is a bit rough. If they don't win both of their games against the Pac 10, they have no shot.
18. Tennessee: lower = The Vols should do okay this season, and I doubt they'll lose more games than they did last season, but I don't see the SEC title game or a BCS bowl happening this year.
19. Illinois: lower = The Illini bring back Mendenhall, and the schedule isn't too bad, but I'm sensing a down year. They had the Rose Bowl to work for last year, and that didn't work out so well.
20. Oregon: higher = The Ducks were reeling at the end of last season without Dixon, but still managed a solid bowl win that should set them up nicely for this year.
21. South Florida: higher = The Bulls had a great run for a while last year before some uncharacteristic losses brought them down. They'll be more solid this year and will weather the storm better.
22. Penn State: lower = The Nittany Lions aren't looking so hot to start the season. I'm not sure this will be Paterno's final year, but I don't think it'll be a successful season, which won't help his situation.
23. Wake Forest: higher = The Demon Deacons have had two great seasons in a row - can they sustain their high level of play? I don't see an ACC championship game in their future this season, but they should be top 25 still.
24. Michigan: lower = This ranking is all about Rich Rodriguez, but he needs time to make a program stellar. Not this year, Wolverines.
25. Fresno State: higher = I like the Bulldogs and their football philosophy - always have. If they can make it through the first four weeks of the season (@ Rutgers, Wisconsin, & @ UCLA), they're going to be something special.