Daily Blog •January 30, 2013

Projected Preseason AP Top 10

For the past several years I have projected the preseason AP Top 10 nearly six months in advance and I have correctly projected at least nine of the Top 10 teams each year and last year I projected all 10 of them correctly on January 30, 2012, more than six months prior to it being released in August! It is one of my more popular blogs in the off-season and last year with its overwhelming popularity I decided to expand it for the first time to 24 teams on March 2. Despite it being five months prior to being released, I correctly projected all 24 teams to be among the Preseason AP Top 25 teams!  

Today I released my top projected AP preseason Top 10 on ESPN Insider, If you are not an ESPN Insider already, I suggest you become one today, the cost is extraordinarily low for the amount of premium information you get not only in college football and the NFL but all sports for that matter.  If you recall this past Fall, I began writing for them with my bold predictions for each week and will continue to do so throughout the off-season. If do not choose to become an ESPN Insider, no worries, I will release my projected AP Top 10 teams right here on this blog next Tuesday on February 5th.

What I will release here today on this blog are the four teams that just missed the cut and are my projected AP #11, #12, #13 and #14 teams.   

I will mention it now and I will mention it numerous times throughout that blog that this is not MY preseason Top 14 for next year, it is where I project the AP Top 14 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.
In 2011, 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.

Last year on January 30, my projected preseason AP Top 10 for 2012 was #1 LSU, #2 USC, #3 Alabama, #4 Oregon, #5 Oklahoma, #6 Georgia, #7 Michigan, #8 Florida St, #9 Arkansas, and #10 South Carolina.

When the AP poll came out more than six months later in August it read: #1 USC, #2 Alabama, #3 LSU, #4 Oklahoma, #5 Oregon, #6 Georgia, #7 Florida St, #8 Michigan, #9 South Carolina and #10 Arkansas.

This time I nailed a perfect 10 for 10 giving me a 4-year run of hitting 37 out of the 40 teams (93%) six months in advance!

While naturally some teams fell a spot or two including LSU who lost All-American Tyrann Mathieu prior to fall camp, all ten of the teams were there in my projection even prior to signing day and spring practice.
Now to this year….again you can get my complete projected AP Top 10 list right now on ESPN Insider, or you can wait until next Tuesday and get it right here on PhilSteele.com.

Again this is not MY preseason Top 14 for next year, it is where I project the AP Top 14 to come out at the start of the season.

Here are the teams that just missed the cut:

#11 Clemson -I agonized a couple of days between South Carolina, Louisville and Clemson at the #9 and #10 spots but decided to go with the Gamecocks and Cardinals. First, all three teams return their quarterbacks and many of their key performers on defense. However, the tie-breaker to me came down to schedule as South Carolina who has owned Clemson as of late, gets the Tigers at home while Louisville on the other hand plays a cakewalk schedule in non-conference and conference play and Clemson also has to play Georgia in non-conference action. Still, the Tigers have solidified themselves quite nicely the last few years under head coach Dabo Swinney, They are off a 11-2 2012 campaign highlighted by their comeback win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Quarterback Tajh Boyd announced his return for his senior season and he will still have the super talented Sammy Watkins to throw to. They did lose their other outstanding wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins who led the team with 1,405 yards and 18 td’s early to the NFL as well as running back Andre Ellington who topped the 1,000 yard mark. Unlike their non-conference schedule, they do catch some breaks as they get Florida St and Georgia Tech at home and avoid North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech from the Coastal division.

#12 LSU-Arguably no one in recent history lost more production to the NFL Draft than the Tigers who saw a record-11 players declare early. The losses are massive especially on the defensive side of the ball, which will see the loss of arguably its top 5 or 6 players. It starts with Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery at DE and continues with their best LB in Kevin Minter followed by CB Tharold Simon and S Eric Reid. On offense, quarterback Zach Mettenberger does get back his top two rushers and top two receivers and the OL will have to do a much better job of protecting him after allowing 32 sks (9.0%). The schedule is very difficult starting with the opener against TCU in Arlington, which could be more like an away game and they also pull Florida and Georgia out of the SEC East. They do play Alabama and Texas A&M both in November but conveniently get a bye week prior to both games.

#13 Florida St-My pick to win it all last year came within one fourth down stop away against NC State (blew a 16-0 HT lead), of starting the season a perfect 11-0. Even with that disappointment, they still would go on to win 12 games and win the ACC and the Orange Bowl. The Noles look to continue their run back among college football’s elite but will have to do so in 2013 without quarterback EJ Manuel who incredibly won four bowl games as a starter. It looks like Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston will battle it out to replace him but whoever the starter is, they will be surrounded by plenty of talent specifically at the wide receiver spot and will be taking snaps behind one of the best offensive lines in college football for 2013. On the other side of the ball, they lose several key players from last year’s No. 2 total D including All-American DE Bjoern Werner and lost DC Mark Stoops to Kentucky. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has recruited well lately so I don’t think the cupbard is bare and the ACC Atlantic title will probably be decided with a road trip to Clemson as the Noles avoid Virginia Tech and North Carolina from the Coastal division.

#14 Oklahoma/TCU/Texas/Oklahoma St or Boise St–Since we are releasing this a week before signing day, I think the #14 spot will come down to either the team that comes out the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 with it being between four teams (OU/TCU/TX/OKSt) or it could also possibly go to Boise St who looks like the clear favorite to win the MW as they are much more experienced than last year’s team which finished 11-2. All five of those teams will clearly be preseason AP Top 25 teams and I will be releasing my Preseason Projected AP Top 25 once again in early March after hitting on all of the teams a year ago.

Once again, check back next Tuesday February, 5th for my Projected AP Top 10 list or go to ESPN Insider right now.