1. LSU – LSU was the best team in the country for every day of last season except the last and they should be at least just as talented as they were in 2011. They should be virtually impossible to pass against with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo on the ends and Tyrann Mathieu patrolling the backfield. They will have a tough offensive line and backfield and just need a quarterback to be almost unbeatable.
2. Alabama – It feels weird to have them behind LSU, but the Crimson Tide simply lost a ton of talent to the NFL. Regardless, the defending champs return a good amount of starters from one of the best defenses of all-time and a strong offensive line.
3. USC – The Trojans are probably the best all-around team going into the season and feature the nation’s best quarterback and receiver. They should also be extremely hungry after having sat out the postseason the last two years.
4. Oklahoma – The Sooners have seemed to underachieve in recent years but the 2011 squad is loaded with experience, talent and possibly the nation’s best quarterback outside of Matt Barkley.
5. Georgia – This team is so ridiculously talented and experienced, particularly on defense that I almost considered ranking them No. 3. If Mark Richt can finally get his team to live up to expectations the Bulldogs will contend for the SEC title.
6. Oregon – Oregon is the rare modern day program which can graduate most of its talent and not skip a beat because of their system. They took a little bit of a hit with the unexpected deflection of Darron Thomas but unless something serious comes out between now and the start of the season, expect the Ducks to pick up right where they left off.
7. Michigan State – Tough and well coached, the Spartans are far from flashy on offense but have a defense that is comparable to that of LSU and Alabama’s. If a new quarterback can step in and fill the shoes of Kirk Cousins they could easily win the Big 10.
8. Michigan – Denard Robinson will need to be more consistent, but Hoke has the Wolverines believing and a strong offense line should pave the way for Robinson and allow him to get the ball downfield to Roy Roundtree.
9. South Carolina – It’s rare that a Steve Spurrier team is highly rated for its defense, but The Old Ball Coach has a lot of defensive starters returning on a team that legitimately contended for the SEC title last year including super sophomore Jadeveon Clowney.
10. Kansas State – The Wildcats had one of the best under the radar great seasons in recent history last year and return on the nation’s best under the radar quarterbacks in Collin Klein.
11. Arkansas – The Razorbacks might have played for the national championship the last two seasons had they played in any conference/division than the SEC West. Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis will likely be the best QB/RB combo in the country.
12. West Virginia – The last time Geno Smith and the Mountaineers were on the field, they put up 70 points in a BCS Bowl game and a number of the very weapons that put up those points return with Smith including speedy receiver Tavon Austin.
13. Florida State – Senior quarterback E.J. Manuel and a defensive line led by Brandon Jenkins should make this look like a classic Seminole squad and lead them to a long awaited ACC title.
14. Wisconsin – The Badgers scored huge with the return of Montee Ball who should be a Heisman favorite and have a lot of talent to fill in for the starters that they lost including two of the best linebackers in the country in Mike Taylor and Chris Borland.
15. Oklahoma State – The two biggest superstars are gone but running back Joseph Randle should help the Cowboys put a lot of points on the board again and the defense should be improved.
16. Nebraska – Quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead should be thunder and lightning in the Cornhusker backfield and will run behind an experienced offensive line.
17. Notre Dame – Brian Kelly might finally be the answer at head coach for the Fighting Irish and Cierre Wood looks like he could be the workhorse running back the Irish have long needed.
18. Texas – This team is still young but simply too talented to have another down year. Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is the kind of difference making defensive lineman that can control a game all on his own.
19. TCU – The Horned Frogs are usually known for being stingy on defense, but this season’s team should be led by an experienced offense led by quarterback Casey Pachell.
20. Clemson –Tahj Boyd to Sammy Watkins should be the best connection not possessed by USC and despite being thoroughly embarrassed in their last game, the defense should be at least a little bit improved.
21. Stanford – The Cardinal lose four All-Americans but still have a lot of experience and talent on defense and the offensive line. Whoever fills in at quarterback won’t be able to fill Andrew Luck’s shoes but a stable of running backs should make up for that.
22. Virginia Tech – Despite losing a lot of talent, Virginia Tech is one of the most consistent programs in the country, a testament to Frank Beamer and Logan Thomas will be one of the best signal callers in the nation.
23. Boise State – These guys lose a ton of talent but always seem to bounce back each year. If a quarterback can emerge, the Broncos should be strong again because of Chris Peterson’s system.
24. Florida – Questions still remain on offense, particularly at quarterback, but there is enough talent on defense for the Gators to bounce back after a tough season in 2011.
25. Utah – The Utes have one of the nation’s best running backs in John White and one of the nation’s best defensive tackles in Star Lotuleilei. They also play in the Pac-12 South where every team other than USC and themselves is in a major transition.
Addendum: Why Utah over Washington (as UW was in the official blogpoll top 25 in the final spot?). I think Utah is a sleeper team because they are the only team in the conference that has a difference making defensive tackle in Star Lotulelei, and that will go a long ways, especially in a conference that is really lacking standouts along the defensive line. Also, Utah also has the conference's best running back and though they lost some talent and experience, still has solid players across the board and an established coaching staff. If quarterback Jordan Wynn is healthy, they might be the third best team in the Pac-12.
In comparison, Washington lost a lot of talent - a running back who carried their team the last three years, their two best receivers, their best offensive lineman and their two best players on defense which is scary considering how poorly they played on defense last year. The Huskies simply have way more questions about their team heading into the season than Utah does.
Who would you rank higher going into 2012, USC or Oregon?
USC (92 votes)
Oregon (81 votes)
173 total votes