I'm not quite sure why the polls are always done in a Top 25 format, because in college football it's really only the top two that matter and only about 15 that are relevant. I guess its so guys like me can incite debates with blogs.
Like South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said in a preseason interview “The thing I like about baseball is every school in America has a chance to win the National Championship.” He cites Stony Brook in baseball and Butler in basketball, and I’ll add Fresno State to the list, who won the College World Series after being the last team into a field of 64 a few years ago.
“College football, we don’t do that,” Spurrier said. “If we had the six conference champs, the six BCS conferences, and two at large teams, almost every player could say ‘well if we really, really have a great year, we could win in all.’ That’s just a suggestion to try to get more in modern times.”
The four-team playoff gives two more teams a chance. Big deal.
My opinion, which doesn’t count, is that the first qualifier for the four-team playoff is that you are unbeaten. You win em all, and you have a chance. Of course the problem comes when, in the rare occasion like 2009 where we had five unbeatens, Boise, TCU, Alabama, Texas and Cincinnati. Its not perfection, its progress.
As is this column. And thank heaven we have football back, finally. This season I’ll be doing a weekly TD & Three, your seven best picks and strategy to win your pick em league.
For the preview this year we’re going to take the AP Top 25 and analyze them in a unique style that will project their record (Including title and bowl games) and their projected floor/ceiling ranking. Let the debate begin.
1. USC – (14-0) – Ceiling 1 / Floor 5 – The Trojans are finally off the Reggie Bush naughty list and this is the opportunity QB Matt Barkley has been waiting for. Its BCS Title or bust this year. USC has 17 total starters returning from a 10-2 season and barring another slip up to the likes of Arizona State, USC controls their destiny, finally. The one game they have to be aware of, besides the obvious Oregon, is @Washington, which is a team that could see a ranking by year end.
2. Alabama – (11-2) – Ceiling 3 / Floor 10 – Could Alabama win another title this year. Sure they could, anyone in the SEC could. Alabama returns QB AJ McCarron, yes, but the reality is The Tide were a mediocre 69th in passing offense last year. Their strength is defense and ball control and they lose 1500+ rushing yards and their second-leading receiver with the departure of Trent Richardson, not to mention nine regulars on defense. Their swing games are Michigan, @Arkansas, @Mizzou, @LSU , and I think they lose two of those.
3. LSU – (12-2) – Ceiling 2 / Floor 12 - I see LSU taking a step back. Although their lines are stout, lost is Tyrann Mathieu and his defensive production and special teams game changing. There will be title buzz for the first couple months as their season doesn’t really intensify until Oct 6 @Florida and that four-week stretch will test them.
4. Oklahoma (12-1) – Ceiling 1 / Floor 5 – Oklahoma shouldn’t lose more than one game and they better hope that one game is the BCS title, because if they stumble in the regular season, they risk a one-loss SEC team getting voted ahead of them. But I see Landry Jones sweeping his team through the regular season and the lack of a Big XII title game may benefit them, a la Ohio State a few years back. They return 17 starters from a team that was Top 50 in rushing, 31st in scoring D, 10th in scoring and 5th in passing. The Big XII is deep, but I don’t see Kansas State, Okie State or even West Virginia, not to mention an overrated Texas team, having the stones to better the Sooners.
5. Oregon (12-2) Ceiling 5 / Floor 8 – To me, it’s very clear how the Ducks season is going to go down. Their schedule is pretty weak, other than the inevitable track meet against Washington on Oct. 6. Otherwise its simple, they lose twice to USC and win their bowl game. Thus with two losses, they won’t crack the top 4, but won’t be any lower than 8.
6. Georgia (11-3) Ceiling 1/Floor 15 – Georgia is a complete wild card at the No. 6 spot. How lucky they got to be in the SEC and not play Alabama, Arkansas or LSU until the potential SEC title game, which is why I give them a No 1 ceiling. Their tests are @Mizzou, @South Carolina and Florida. They are the one SEC team that you could argue that even if they run the table, you would take an unbeaten Oklahoma over them.
7. Florida State (13-1) Ceiling 1 / Floor 10 – Here we go again with Florida State getting pre-season love. This year I think will be different. In years past I have been correctly critical of their preseason hype. This year I think they deserve it more. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, the ACC isn’t a strong enough conference for any team to withstand one regular season loss and still get into the BCS title. I think FSU loses a regular season game and all hopes are dashed.
8. Michigan (12-2) Ceiling 5/Floor 13 – I applaud Michigan for having the stripes to schedule Alabama right out of the gate and I am in the minority thinking they might actually win that game. However Michigan is still prone to let down (see Iowa 2011). I think they win the Big Ten but drop one to either Michigan State, @Nebraska or @Ohio State.
9. South Carolina – (9-4) Ceiling 10/Floor Unranked – Despite Spurrier’s common sense approach to the playoff system, his team No. 9 South Carolina is way over rated. With Georgia, @LSU, @Florida back-to-back-to-back then Arkansas and @Clemson, I’m hard pressed to see how the Cocks win double digits.
10. Arkansas – (11-2) Ceiling 4 / Floor 16 – Returning QB Tyler Wilson to an offense that was 13th in passing and 15th in scoring is a step in the right direction for the Hogs. They get both Alabama and LSU at home but they probably lose at least one of those games, and if they do, they don’t make the SEC championship, considering the three are in the same division. They win them both then they are in the BCS title game vs. USC.
11. West Virginia – (11-2) Ceiling 7 / Floor 23 – Welcome to the Big XII, West Virginia! Their transition to the new conference adds depth to a conference sans title game. On the surface WVU plays five teams in the preseason Top 25. I don’t expect three of those teams to be ranked by year end. With the passing proficiency the Mountaineers have, they should fit right in, but that will also be a challenge for a defense that was 61st last year. I might be more optimistic than I should be about these guys.
12.Wisconsin – (9-4) Ceiling 15 / Floor 25 – Wisconsin returns Heisman hopeful Monte Ball, but little else. Just 10 starters returning from a team that was two hail Mary’s from a perfect regular season, the Badgers missed their chance last season. They will make the conference championship game by default (Ohio State and Penn State ineligible) but they won’t win. Either Nebraska or Michigan will beat them there. Reputation alone has them No. 12.
13. Michigan State – (8-5) Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked – Unranked is most likely for the Spartans this year. The defense is the specialty of this team, but last year’s 11-3 was a bit of luck. Three point wins over Georgia and Ohio State and a miracle against Wisconsin or this team is 7-6 last year, and this year’s squad isn’t as good offensively. Schedule includes Boise, Notre Dame and OSU then @Michigan, @Wisconsin, Nebraska all in a row.
14. Clemson – (11-2) Ceiling 5 / Floor 17 – This is perhaps a bit low for Clemson. We will see how they rebound from the Orange Bowl thumping from West Virginia, but if Clemson comes out and stomps Auburn and carries momentum to Florida State they could easily win the ACC. But alas, I think FSU is too good this year. Tajh Boyd is the key.
15. Texas – (8-5) Ceiling 22 / Floor Unranked – This is a joke. Texas isn’t good. They lost 3 of 4 to close the regular season last year and this year they could lose three straight in late September/early October and then likely @KSU to close. McCoy to Shipley isn’t Colt to Jordan … if only.
16. Virginia Tech - (11-3) Ceiling 8 / Floor 16 – The ACC is top loaded. Clemson, FSU, Va Tech
and everyone else. Va Tech may not be a premier team, but they may be unbeaten until the Oct 20 match-up at Clemson and by then may be a top 10 team. Two of their projected three losses could be to Florida State.
17. Nebraska – (10-3) – Ceiling 10 / Floor 22 – The Huskers could be the spoiler of the Big Ten. They could get live up to the projection some have of a Fiesta Bowl bid. I’m a bit more skeptical. Until Nebraska proves it won’t overlook games like Northwestern last year, and they can win on the road, I’ll temper. Nebraska is probably the third best team in the conference, but the stretch of five games, three on the road in the heart of the season will be a true test. The offense if pretty much intact. The defense is assumed to be collectively better, and the Big Ten is down this year in my opinion. They have to beat Michigan at home to play for a title.
18. Ohio State – (11-1) – Ceiling 5 / Floor 20 – If they were eligible, I would have the Buckeyes winning the Big Ten hands down. Urban Meyer will light Columbus on fire this year and if Braxton Miller can mature into his role at QB, he could be Terrelle Pryor reincarnate (skills-wise). They get both Michigan and Nebraska at home, which I believe to be their toughest two games.
19. Oklahoma State – (8-5) – Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked – The loss to Iowa State will haunt the Cowboys until they get back to the top of the mountain. The losses of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon will haunt them badly this year. Going from a 28 year-old QB to a trufrosh 18 year-old will come with adjustment and that adjustment feels like four games.
20. TCU – (9-4) – Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked – TCU could creep into the top 15, if not higher as their schedule doesn’t get difficult until late October. I could see them starting 7-0 or 6-1 but they finish with five straight pre-season Top 25 teams.
21. Stanford – (10-3) Ceiling 12 / Floor 25 – They don’t get much prep for USC in the first couple games against San Jose and Duke and the USC loss will look worse than it actually is for this team. Stanford returns the core of a top 20 rushing game and will be fine for most games in the Pac 12.
22. Kansas State – (10-3) Ceiling 14 / Floor Unranked – Kansas State is an interesting wrinkle in the Big XII. Their only three losses last year came against teams that finished in the top 10. However seven of their wins were by seven points or less. Colin Klein is a force many teams won’t be able to deal with.
23. Florida – (8-5) Ceiling 24 / Floor unranked – Florida shouldn’t be ranked, but because they are going into the year ranked, they probably will be until they play LSU on Oct 6. They might go 1-4 over those next five and the season will be lost.
24. Boise State – (11-2) Ceiling 10 / Floor 20 – If Boise loses to Michigan State (which I don’t think they will), they won’t be ranked again until the pollsters start looking for one-loss teams in October. Do I think Boise is a top 10 team? Not this year. But I think Chris Petersen is a good enough coach to get the team past a weak schedule again.
25. Louisville – (11-3) – Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked. Are we discussing the Big East this year? No? Ok.
In case you haven't figured out by now, I am picking USC to beat Oklahoma in the BCS Championship this year. Yes, LSU, Alabama and Georgia have a shot, but Georgia mostly due to their easier road. Don’t forget to check back weekly for TD & Three, your weekly picks breakdown and thank me later!