College Football Top 25 According To Our Panel - Week 1
1. Alabama 12-1 (8-1) in 2012
Will Robinson- The defending national champions start the year at college football’s apex. The Crimson Tide’s depth is scary, especially the five guys on the offensive line protecting A. J. McCarron. Either ‘Bama or LSU will likely represent the SEC in the BCS title game; that’s as safe a bet as one can make.
2. USC 10-2 (8-2)
Danny Lee- Matt Barkley stated “unfinished business” as one of the main factors that led him to return to USC for his senior season. Barkley, who connected for 20 touchdown passes during the Trojans’ final five games last season, will once again have the services of arguably the nation’s top receiving duo in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
With the addition of Penn State transfer Silas Redd, head coach Lane Kiffin’s squad brought in much-needed help at tailback for Curtis McNeal. But with scholarship limitations taking a toll on their depth, the Trojans can ill-afford to have injury setbacks if they have hopes of returning to the BCS title game.
3. LSU 13-1 (8-0)
Max Meyer- Despite the dismissal of star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, the Tigers are still loaded with quality defensive talent, such as defensive linemen Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan, along with safety Eric Reid. While most people know that the defense is really good, the offense needs to be better than last year's, which did not score a point in the BCS National Championship game. With an extremely tough schedule, LSU will need to rely on junior quarterback and junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger to lead the way for the offense.
4. Oklahoma 10-3 (6-3)
Aaron Fischman- Heisman hopeful Landry Jones returns for his senior season along with the entire offensive line. With that said, last season’s leading receiving, Ryan Broyles, has moved on to the NFL. Although junior Kenny Stills will serve as the primary receiver, a slew of young and inexperienced receivers and tight ends will be relied upon to catch passes from Jones.
5. Oregon 12-2 (8-1)
Jacob Freedman- Despite the departure of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, the Ducks’ offense will be fine with running back Kenjon Barner and the football equivalent of a Swiss Army knife in De’Anthony Thomas, who is a threat to find the end zone every time he touches the ball. With bona fide stars on both, the defensive line with Dion Jordan, and in the secondary, with safety John Boyett, the defense should be among the Pac-12’s best, as well.
Robinson- Isaiah Crowell was supposed to be a dark-horse Heisman candidate for the Bulldogs… but he was kicked off the team. Fortunately, UGA has a top quarterback in Aaron Murray, who can pilot the squad to a BCS bid.
7. Michigan 11-2 (6-2)
Lee- It’s debatable if quarterback Denard Robinson will ever back up the claim that he can beat Olympic champ Usain Bolt in a race. But the Heisman Trophy contender can without question terrorize opposing defenses with his legs, having compiled 14 100-yard rushing games and 35 rushing touchdowns for his career.
The Wolverines won’t have any cupcake opponents to feast on to ring in the new season. They face defending BCS national champion Alabama in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, where the loser could possibly be out of the running for a trip to Sun Life Stadium in January.
8. Florida State 9-4 (5-3)
Meyer- This team has incredible talent on the defensive line, led by ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner. Senior quarterback EJ Manuel is very talented and is an early contender to win ACC Player of the Year. Coach Jimbo Fisher will try and return Florida State to its glory days after last year's disappointing season. It helps a lot that the Seminoles only have two tough games (Virginia Tech and Clemson) on their schedule.
9. South Carolina 11-2 (6-2)
Fischman- Then a sophomore, Marcus Lattimore Jr. was well on his way to recording a second-straight 1,000-yard season when he tragically tore his ACL in a victory over Mississippi State. Although the Gamecocks face a difficult conference schedule, Lattimore’s apparent 100 percent-health is a promising sign for Steve Spurrier’s squad.
10. West Virginia 10-3 (5-2)
Freedman- In their first year in the Big 12, the Mountaineers could very well take home a conference title. Geno Smith threw for more than 4,300 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2011, so look for the Mountaineers to use their passing prowess to win plenty of shootouts this fall, as well.
11. Arkansas 11-2 (6-2)
Robinson- The Razorbacks are the fifth SEC team in the top 11. Yeesh. Though former head coach Bobby Petrino exited, to put it lightly, unceremoniously, John L. Smith inherited a loaded roster starring quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis on O with linebacker Alonzo Highsmith on defense. It will be tough for them to move past the other four SEC teams, though.
Lee- The Badgers' explosive attack is headlined by Heisman candidate running back Montee Ball, who has the support of a beefy offensive line in front of him. But head coach Bret Bielema's squad will have to tighten up the defense if it wants to lock down a Big Ten title. The Badgers coughed up an average of 38.3 points in their three losses last season.
13. Michigan State 11-3 (7-1)
Meyer- Star quarterback Kirk Cousins is now a Washington Redskin, but that doesn't mean that this will be a rebuilding year for the Spartans. The defense is really balanced, and has talent all over the place. Junior running back Le'Veon Bell will be the focal point of the offense. Michigan State will have an immediate test to see if they can adjust to life without Cousins, as they play Boise State the opening weekend of the season.
14. Clemson 10-4 (6-2)
Fischman- After winning its first eight games last season, Clemson imploded away from Memorial Stadium, as it lost four of its final six affairs. Sophomores on the offensive and defensive lines will be integral to the team’s success, according to coach Dabo Swinney. The offensive core of quarterback Tajh Boyd, tailback Andre Ellington and receiver Sammy Watkins is back and seemingly ready to inflict pain on its opponents.
15. Texas 8-5 (4-5)
Freedman- The Longhorns have struggled in going 13-12 over the past two seasons. Quarterback David Ash is green, but nine returning starters on offense, combined with monsters on the defensive line in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, means high expectations are back in Austin.
16. Virginia Tech 11-3 (7-1)
Robinson- Junior QB Logan Thomas is a monster, standing at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, and will lead the Hokies in his second season as starter. The ACC Coastal division is theirs to lose, but getting past Florida State or Clemson for the title will prove to be difficult.
17. Nebraska 9-4 (5-3)
Lee- Nebraska's final position in the national poll could hinge heavily on whether or not dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez can make significant strides in his passing game. The junior's 5,559 career all-purpose yards is the third-most overall in Nebraska history, but his 12.5 completions per game last season was 89th out of 120 FBS teams.
18. Texas Christian 11-2 (7-0)
Meyer- The Horned Frogs begin life in the Big 12 conference, and coach Gary Patterson could have his hands full with the increased amount of competition in TCU's new conference. Explosive running back Waymond James, who averaged over seven yards a carry last season, will be the key player for TCU to be able to upset some of the heavyweights in the Big 12.
Fischman- After a one-year coaching hiatus, Urban Meyer returns to lead a Buckeye squad that finished 6-7 with five of the six losses coming by a touchdown or less. Ohio State boasts a strong defensive line that features two players from the Bednarik preseason watch list - senior defensive end John Simon and junior tackle Johnathan Hankins.
20. Stanford 11-2 (8-1)
Freedman- Despite losing one of the best college quarterbacks in recent memory, the Cardinal still have the talent to contend. Linebacking duo Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas will give opposing offenses nightmares all season, while running back Stepfan Taylor will anchor the offense.
21. Oklahoma State 12-1 (8-0)
Robinson- After a tremendous season, Okie State comes back without its starting quarterback Brandon Weeden or star wideout Justin Blackmon. Wes Lunt and Joseph Randle will have to command the offense as close to its 2011 version as possible. The defense will be key again. Last year, it forced a national-best 37 turnovers. It will need to approach that number to stay relevant in the Big 12.
22. Kansas State 10-3 (7-2)
Lee- The Wildcats quietly racked up 10 wins last season as senior quarterback Collin Klein willed the team to eight victories decided by a touchdown or less. Klein set an FBS record for a quarterback with 27 rushing TDs in 2011. That being said, it might be tough to duplicate that close-game magic against a very deep Big 12 this year.
23. Boise State 12-1 (6-1)
Meyer- This will be an interesting season for the Broncos, who have several new starters this year. One of them, quarterback Joe Southwick, will be taking over for Boise State legend Kellen Moore. If Boise can upset Michigan State in Week 1 though, they have a decent shot of running the table thanks to their Mountain West schedule.
Fischman- Following a mediocre 7-6 season, the Gators still have not decided on a starting quarterback in what will be offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s first year with the team. Until further notice, coach Will Muschamp will play both sophomore quarterbacks, Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. Last season’s Gators won just three of eight conference games, as they were outscored, 72-22, in the fourth quarter of those games.
25. Washington 7-6 (5-4)
Freedman- The Huskies’ 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl was just a microcosm of their putrid defensive performance last year, where Washington ranked 108th in the nation in allowing nearly 36 points per game and was 106th in yards allowed. Quarterback Keith Price is a dark horse Heisman candidate, but new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox needs to manufacture instant improvement in order to keep the Huskies on the winning side of high-scoring shootouts.