Based on the odds in Vegas, here's the Top 25 for next season in college football:
4. (tie) Tennessee, Oklahoma
6. (tie) Florida, FSU, Michigan, Ohio State
10. (tie) Iowa, LSU
12. Virginia Tech
13. (tie) Auburn, Georgia, Texas A&M
17. (tie) Alabama, Boston College, K-State, Nebraska, Wisconsin
23. (tie) Arizona State, Cal, Texas Tech
A few thoughts:
1. There is (or at least oughta be) a slight difference between ranking the Top 25 and ranking teams based on their likelihood of winning the national title. The former should solely be a measure of which teams are better than the teams ranked below them; the latter combines an evaluation of a team's merits with the ease of their schedule.
2. The rankings reflect the gambling public's view of the hierarchy in college football this year (or the casinos' views of the gambling public's views.) Thus, in a way, this is nothing more than a public poll, although the public in question is generally very knowledgeable, especially the gamblers who put down the most money and therefore weight the rankings the most.
3. USC is an obvious #1, but I'm not sold on any of the next three. Texas is overrated because of their performance in the Rose Bowl last year, but we'll see how Vince Young does without Cedric Benson in the backfield to take pressure off. On the other hand, they did hire former Auburn DC Gene Chizik, so an offensive regression could be paired with defensive improvement. Miami has major questions. Aside from their QB issues, they haven't run the ball well in several years and they are replacing a lot of talent. Additionally, their two toughest games - FSU and Virginia Tech - are on the road. Tennessee is overrated because their defense was dreck last year and I'm not buying their hype until they come close to showing a national title caliber defense. Plus, they go to Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Notre Dame. Good luck running that gauntlet.
4. LSU presents great value at #10. They have as much talent as any team in the country and their schedule is very favorable. Plus, Les Miles is at least as qualified for that job as Nick Saban was when he arrived from Michigan State. Miles is an offensive guy, which LSU needed, and he adds a great defensive coordinator in Bo Pelini, who is coaching for a major head coaching gig. I'm also surprised that Virginia Tech is behind Miami and FSU, since the Hokies return more starters from a team that was better last year and their schedule is more favorable.
5. How is Louisville so low, given their returning starters and weak schedule. On the other hand, maybe Vegas is telling us something about them. Mid-majors rarely live up to high rankings.
6. How is Wisconsin on the list, given that they were overrated last year, they lose all the good parts of their 2004 team, and their schedule is tougher? And Purdue isn't on the list with 18 returning starters and a schedule that omits Ohio State and Michigan and sees Iowa and Notre Dame come to West Lafayette.