Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My First Top 25

1 LSU 25
2 Southern Cal 24
3 Louisville 23
4 Oklahoma 22
5 Virginia Tech 21
6 Michigan 20
7 West Virginia 19
8 Ohio State 18
9 Texas 17
10 Auburn 16
11 California 15
12 Florida 14
13 Oregon 13
14 Arkansas 12
15 Penn State 11
16 South Carolina 10
17 Wisconsin 9
18 Rutgers 8
19 Florida State 7
20 Boise State 6
21 Georgia 5
22 Oregon State 4
23 Oklahoma State 3
24 Notre Dame 2
25 Tennessee 1

Dropped Out:

As a preliminary note, I am basing this assessment solely on the teams that I think are the best in the country. It is not meant to be an assessment of where I think they will finish. I refuse to discuss schedules in ranking teams before the season, except to say things like "South Carolina will end up being a better team than their record or ranking will reflect because their road schedule (Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, and Tennessee) is brutal." And with that said, a few thoughts on the rankings:

1. It never crossed my mind to rank a Big Ten team after the first four. Indicative of the fact that the conference lacks depth or am I having a "fighting the last war" problem where I assume that last year's Big Ten will be the same as this year's? In contrast to the Big Ten, I ranked seven SEC teams and would have been perfectly content putting Alabama in the top 25, as they should be good.

2. I feel queasy taking LSU as my #1 team, especially since I'm not sold on Gary Crowton or Les Miles, but by the same token, I'm not sold by the coaches running the USC offense, either. The bottom line is that this USC team shouldn't be getting the absolute consensus #1 ranking that everyone is bestowing upon them (especially in light of the fact that their focus waxed and waned last year to a significant degree) and if I have to be Jeannette Rankin, then so be it. I am high on LSU's defense, Bo Pelini, Matt Flynn, and LSU's running backs. I also like both of their lines.

3. I am higher on Auburn than most. They return a decent number of starters, they should be better balanced on offense with a healthy Brandon Cox, and they have a great history when little is expected of them. The combination of the West being awarded to LSU in the off-season, combined with all of the focus on Nick Saban, leads me to believe that Auburn will be extremely motivated this year. Combine that fact with a pair of excellent coordinators and I think the Tigers should be a real threat. I refuse to downgrade them simply because they, like South Carolina, play a lot of difficult road games this year.

4. I'm not going to lie: the thought of bestowing spots in the top five to teams quarterbacked by Sam Bradford and Sean Glennon scares me, but those teams are so loaded at every other position that I'm willing to hold my nose and rank them high. I generally operate on the assumption that teams with great defenses will have great seasons. Defense, incidentally, is the reason why I have Louisville ahead of West Virginia, even though WVU is the favorite in the Big East because they get the Cards at home. Doing the rankings reminded me, by the way, that the Virginia Tech-West Virginia series ended just as it was about to get really, really good.

5. I got really stuck on the "O" portion of the alphabet. If Frank Solich can show me a little this year, then the Bobcats could make it a clean sweep for "O" teams in my rankings. Oregon State over UCLA was a tough call, but Karl Dorrell brings so little to the table that I am willing to overlook 20 returning starters. That's probably a mistake. Actually, I could be persuaded to put the Bruins in the rankings in place of Tennessee, which I see as having little going for it this year.


Anonymous said...

ND? Why? They're coming off back-to-back blowout losses and have about 15 new starters.

Michael said...

Because they have talent (albeit young talent because Ty couldn't recruit), they have a pretty good coaching staff, and they will benefit from low expectations. Three of the last four times the Irish have started the season unbeaten, they have ended up with a three-loss season, which is their apex since 1993. (Ah, the subtle dig even when defending the Irish.) Here's a helpful chart:

Michael said...

Here is the link I was trying to post.

Ed said...

Notre Dame has started a season unbeaten?! You don't say? (subtle dig at typo).

Notre Dame's season hinges on whether they can pull 1 win out of that tough 3-game stretch to start the season. The likeliest candidate for defeat is Penn State, but that requires winning a night game in Happy Valley -- something that much better ND teams have struggled with...

If they are 1-2 (or better) heading into MSU, the schedule gives the decided appearance of 8-4. In which case, your no. 24 ranking is spot on.

If they're 0-3, all bets are off. It doesn't mean the season will be a disaster necessarily; it will just be interesting to see how the faithful react to a 5-game losing streak....

Michael said...

Ed, I pretty much agree with you on the schedule breaking down the way you say it does. The opener is critical for the Irish. It ought to be a close game because both teams will be better on defense than on offense. It strikes me as the sort of game that Tech will blow at the end. If you get that game, then you have a puncher's chance in the next two and then the schedule gets easier. If ND starts 1-2, then ND will be a favorite for the rest of the season, save for the USC game and possibly the UCLA game. 8-4 against a fairly challenging schedule would be consistent with being #24.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I guess I'm not quite as sold on their coaching as you are. This will be the first truly inexperienced team Weis will have, and I think it's anyone's guess how he handles it. They also have a rookie DC (Corwin Brown), and while I'm disposed to like him because he's a Michigan guy, this could be a tough year for him to get his feet wet. We'll see.

Michael said...

I'm not totally sold on Weis, either. His offense didn't produce commensurate with its talent and experience last year. That said, he's certainly not a bad coach; he's just not Mola Ram like NDNation thinks. I think he'll do fine with this team. A lot depends on Evan Sharpley, as I am not at all sold on Jimmy Clausen as a prospect.

Anonymous said...

You may want to go ahead and revise your expectations for the victors.