|Daily Blog • Monday, January 30th|
PROJECTED PRESEASON AP TOP 10
Well here it is, my projected AP Top 10 for next year as of January 30, 2012! I will mention it now and I will mention it numerous times throughout today’s blog but this is not MY preseason Top 10 for next year, it is where I project the AP Top 10 to come out at the start of the season.
Most AP voters usually look at a couple of criteria when they evaluate a team for the upcoming season. First they look at the number of returning starters that the team has coming back particularly at the offensive skill positions. A team that returns its starting QB and a combination of its RB and WR’s is often times more highly thought of than a team that loses its starting QB but returns its entire offensive line. Similarly a team that returns most of its starters on offense but loses a lot of its defensive playmakers usually is more highly thought of than a team that returns a majority of its defensive starters but loses its skill position players on offense.
Another factor that is heavily weighted is the performance of the team in the bowl game, which undoubtedly is the lasting image of that team in the offseason. A team coming off a huge bowl win usually is more highly thought of than a team that is coming off a bowl loss regardless of what their schedule looks like for the upcoming season.
Using these criteria and a few more, I project the preseason AP Top 10 every year at the conclusion of the previous season, which in most cases is nearly 6 months in advance. Now as you all know, a lot can happen from January to August including injuries, suspensions, transfers, etc.
In 2009, my projected Top 10 for the AP Poll was #1 Florida, #2 Texas, #3 USC, #4 Oklahoma, #5 Alabama, #6 Virginia Tech, #7 LSU, #8 Oklahoma St, #9 Ohio St and #10 Mississippi. The actual AP Top 10 was #1 Florida, #2 Texas, #3 Oklahoma, #4 USC, #5 Alabama, #6 Ohio St, #7 Virginia Tech, #8 Mississippi and #9 was a tie between Oklahoma St/Penn St.
I nailed nine of the ten teams that appeared in the Preseason Top 10 with the only exception being LSU/Penn St and I may have had something to do with that. It’s interesting to note that of the main preseason magazines, only two had Penn St ranked in the Top 10 and I had them my #1 surprise team and ranked #5. Most had Penn St out of the Top 10. Perhaps since I had them rated so high in my magazine, it influenced a few voters across the country, bumping them into the Top 10.
In 2010 I projected the preseason AP Top 10 would be #1 Alabama, #2 Ohio St, #3 Boise St, #4 Oregon, #5 Texas, #6 TCU, #7 Iowa, #8 Florida, #9 Nebraska and #10 Virginia Tech.
The actual AP Top 10 was #1 Alabama, #2 Ohio St, #3 Boise St, #4 Florida, #5 Texas, #6 TCU, #7 Oklahoma, #8 Nebraska, #9 Iowa and #10 Virginia Tech.
For the second year in a row I nailed nine of the ten teams that appeared in the Preseason Top 10 with the only exception being Oregon/Oklahoma, which I can defend easily.
First, at the time I wrote my projection back in early February Duck QB Jeremiah Masoli was not yet suspended. With Masoli still in the fold at that point Oregon had 17 returning starters including RB LaMichael James and Masoli in the backfield. The Ducks clearly would have been a preseason Top 10 team and probably Top 5 had Masoli not been kicked off the team. Even without Masoli Oregon was still rated #11 in the preseason poll.
The team that I did not have in my projected AP Top 10 was Oklahoma (#7) and if you have purchased the 2010 magazine or listened to one of my radio shows across the country you know I thought very highly of the Sooners as I had them ranked #1. Like Penn St in 2009 perhaps since I had them rated so high in my magazine, it influenced a few voters across the country, bumping them into the Top 10 despite the Sooners having five losses in 2009 and the fact that they did not even finish in the final AP Top 25.
I also am pleased that six of the 10 teams were ranked in the exact position that I projected including the Top 3 in Alabama, Ohio St and Boise St. I also had Texas, TCU and Virginia Tech ranked in their exact positions in the poll.
Last year I projected the preseason AP Top 10 would be #1 Oklahoma, #2 Alabama, #3 Oregon, #4 LSU, #5 Stanford, #6 Texas A&M, #7 Boise St, #8 Florida St, #9 Oklahoma St and #10 South Carolina.
The actual AP Top 10 was #1 Oklahoma, #2 Alabama, #3 Oregon, #4 LSU, #5 Boise St, #6 Florida St, #7 Stanford, #8 Texas A&M, #9 Oklahoma St and #10 Nebraska.
For the third year in a row I nailed nine of the ten teams that appeared in the Preseason Top 10 with the only exception being South Carolina/Nebraska, which I can defend easily.
First, when I released my projection back in February of last year South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia was still on the team and was not suspended which would end up costing him the spring and summer with the team. With Garcia’s status up in the air at the time of the AP ballots being due in late July and early August, South Carolina was dropped a bit giving way to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers meanwhile were my pick to win the Big Ten in last year’s magazine which probably influenced a few voters as well.
Now let’s take a look at this year’s projected Preseason AP Top 10:
***#10 West Virginia-The Mountaineers get the nod here due to a dominating 70-33 Orange bowl win over Clemson. This year WVU returns 14 starters including QB Geno Smith who should be more comfortable in his 2nd-year of Dana Holgorsen’s offense. The asterisk is put on them because at the time of this projection it is not sure whether the Mountaineers will play in the Big East or the Big 12 for 2012. If they remain in the Big East they will be the clear-cut favorites with an easier schedule but if they are joining the Big 12 for 2012, their schedule will be tougher and I would project South Carolina for the #10 spot.
#9 Arkansas-The Razorbacks have had their most successful B2B seasons since 1988-89 going 22-5 the last two years. This year they return 13 starters including QB Tyler Wilson and will get back 2010 All-SEC RB Knile Davis who was out all of last season with an ankle injury. Last year the Razorbacks lost only two games to the top 2 teams in LSU and Alabama (both on the road) and this year the Crimson Tide and Tigers have to travel to Arkansas.
#8 Florida St-The Seminoles were a darkhorse pick for the National Title last year but an injury to QB Manuel saw the Noles drop to 2-3 at one point in the season. FSU would respond to win 7 of its last 8 games including wins over Florida and Notre Dame in the bowl to cap off the season and this year they return 15 starters including QB Manuel and defensive stars DL Jenkins and DB Reid. FSU looks to also bring in one of the best frosh classes in the country and should clearly be the favorites in the ACC.
#7 Michigan-The Wolverines were one of the biggest surprises in college football last year winning 11 games and a BCS Bowl under first-year HC Brady Hoke. This year they return 7 starters on offense led by QB Denard Robinson and RB Toussaint who should be more comfortable in the 2nd-year of the new offense. UM also return 7 starters from a defense that allowed just 17.4 ppg (#6) which was nearly an 18 ppg improvement from 2010! Michigan finished #12 in the final AP poll and figure to be the favorites to win the Big Ten this year.
#6 Georgia-I was one of the few people in the country last year to pick Georgia to win the SEC East over South Carolina thanks to a favorable SEC slate that had them avoiding Arkansas, LSU and Alabama out of the West and the Bulldogs would not disappoint taking home the SEC East crown. This year they return 15 starters including QB Aaron Murray, leading rusher Isaiah Crowell, their top 2 rec’s and a 1st-Team All-American candidate on D in OLB Jarvis Jones. Again the Bulldogs AVOID LSU, Alabama and Arkansas out of the SEC West and will be the favorites to repeat as SEC East Champs.
#5 Oklahoma-The Sooners were the preseason AP #1 team last year and clearly underachieved losing three games including a 44-10 beatdown in Bedlam. They did win their bowl game over Iowa, return 15 starters including QB Landry Jones who will play better than last year’s finish and HC Bob Stoops and the Sooners have won at least 10 games in a season 10 times since 2000!
#4 Oregon-The Ducks have become a fixture among the nation’s elite under HC Chip Kelly with 3 straight BCS appearances and last year captured their first Rose Bowl win since 1916! While QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James are gone, their replacements are plenty capable as QB Bryan Bennett and RB’s Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas return with some valuable game experience and the Ducks do not open with a marquee non-conference game like they did last year vs LSU.
#3 Alabama-The Crimson Tide were my pick to win the National Title last year and they did just that avenging an earlier loss to LSU by dominating the Tigers in the BCS Championship game 21-0. This year the defending champs return 7 starters on offense led by QB AJ McCarron who played magnificently in the title game. While the defense returns only 4 starters from last year, keep in mind in 2010, the Tide returned only 2 defensive starters and were the Preseason AP #1 team!
#2 USC-Last year while the probation-stricken Trojans were not eligible to play in the Pac-12 title game, I picked them to be the best team in the South and clearly they were just that going 10-2 (7-2) beating their crosstown rival Bruins who were the de facto Pac-12 South Champs 50-0 in the regular season finale! The Trojans locked up their spot here with the surprising return of QB Matt Barkley who is clearly one of the Heisman favorites in 2012. He will have plenty of skill position talent surrounding him with his top 2 WR’s Robert Woods and Marqise Lee back and 1,000 yd rusher Curtis McNeal also returning. A case could be made at the end of last season that no team in the country was hotter than USC winning 7 of their last 8 games with a 3OT loss to Stanford their only blemish. With 15 returning starters, the Trojans clearly will be one of the favorites to take home the crystal ball.
#1 LSU-Last year LSU was picked 2nd in the SEC West behind Alabama and would go on to have arguably the best regular season in school history going 13-0 winning the SEC Championship and would beat EIGHT Top 25 teams! While the National Title loss to Alabama still stings, many of the Tigers’ star players return for 2012 including Heisman candidate DB Tyrann Mathieu along with 2 of their top 3 rec’s and their top 4 rushers. Throw in QB Zach Mettenberger who Miles said last year was his best pure passing QB and a home game vs Alabama and the Tigers will be the favorites to win the National Title!
JUST MISSED OUT:
I mentioned at the start of the blog that last year I had nine of the top 10 teams correctly predicted and it was the same case in 2009 and 2010 where I also missed out by 1. If one of the team’s I have projected in the Top 10 doesn’t make the polls, there are some teams that have a shot at jumping into the Top 10.
This year I believe there is just one team with a shot and it is #11 South Carolina who could jump the Mountaineers depending on what conference WVU will be in for 2012. Also putting the Gamecocks here is the fact that if they are in the Top 10 that would mean 5 of those teams would be from the SEC. The Gamecocks do return 13 starters including QB Connor Shaw and get back RB Marcus Lattimore who missed the last six games with a knee injury. They also get last year’s SEC East winner Georgia at home.
There you have it - My projections for the AP Preseason Top 10. As mentioned a couple of times in this article, these WILL NOT BE THE TOP 10 IN MY MAGAZINE. As you know, I tend to go out on a limb in a lot of cases and have a lot of surprise picks in my magazine. Those will be unveiled at the start of June when my magazine hits the newsstands but when the first AP poll comes out in August this year, go ahead and take this list and compare it and you’ll find that probably 9 or maybe even all 10 will be in the Preseason AP Top 10 this year.