1. Florida Gators: Returns most of a championship team including the Patron Saint of College Football. Mr. Tebow. Until someone shows otherwise, these guys are on the fast track to the BCS championship game.
2. Texas Longhorns:A big part of the country thought that the Horns should have been in the Championship game last year against the Gators. They return a strong nucleus including their leader Colt McCoy. They did lose their leader on defense in Brian Orakpo and made it through their hellacious schedule last season without a lead back. Sergio Kindle has taken over the leadership reigns on the defense and they feel good about the playmakers they have stepping in on the DL, but it remains to be seen if they can replace the production in the pass rush portion. The biggest question comes in the running game as they are as of yet unsettled at Running Back. All that negative aside, this team is a machine. They will make plays on offense, defense, and special teams.
3. USC Trojans: USC is loaded on both lines, in the defensive secondary, at running back, and on the sidelines. They do have questions though. They are replacing 3 NFL caliber linebackers and an NFL starter at QB. The linebackers were replaced by veterans, but the QB has been replaced by a true freshman QB. But..... Oh yeah, that freshman QB was all-world in high school and is as polished a QB as has come into college in several years. If they can make it through the first few games while Barkley gets used to leading this team of stars, you should expect USC to make a real run at the BCS. They have one real advantage compared to the other teams at the top of the standings: the Pac-10 does not present the murderer's row that the SEC and Big 12 present.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide: Alabama blasted onto the screen last year with a balanced, consistent offense and a devastating defense. Their defense returns nearly intact while their offense puts the pieces back together after losing their leaders at Left Tackle, Quarterback, and Running Back. It is difficult to say which of these players (John Parker Wilson, Andre Smith, and Glenn Coffee) will be missed the most. All 3 were veterans and standout performers. Smith was the most dominant and dynamic, but the other 2 were the steadying influences on a young team that vastly outperformed expectations. Well, those expectations have changed this year. As for the question regarding the players replacing those offensive leaders, their passed their first test with flying colors as Bama beat a good Virginia Tech team in a solid fashion.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys: The Cowboys return a loaded offense and an athletic, though inconsistent defense. It remains to be seen if that defense can improve in their consistency over last year, but they looked fast and physical against a good Georgia Bulldog Team. The question that glares to those who saw the game is, where did all the mental lapses come from. If you can't focus for a game as big, and with as much lead in as this game had, are the Cowboys going to be able to focus game to game as the season goes. They have a history of letdowns and the expectation is that there will be at least one. But, it hasn't happened yet, so the Pokes are getting the credit that they have earned this year. Big talent, big win, high ranking. Look for them to tune things up until their October 17th game with Missouri. If they don't have it figured out by then, it is going to be a long second half with Texas, OU and a couple of other possible bowl teams lurking.
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