It’s that time TSHQ nation. The time where we begin looking at the CFB offseason and what better way to prepare for 2012-2013 than to look at the top 25 teams heading into next season. Some CFB “experts” like to post their top 25 immediately following the national title game, as if that somehow proves something. They come up with some catchy nickname like “The Far Too Early Top 25″ or “The Wow I’m So Smart I Can Predict The Top 25 Before I Know Who is Coming Out Top 25.” That’s cool and all. I’m not impressed. You know what I’d rather do? Wait till I know who is gone from school, what schools pulled in for recruiting classes and then base my judgement on whether a team is top 25 or not by what they are, not what they might be. “Woopdie-doo Bryan, what’s the fun in that? What do you know anyways?” You know what I knew last year? Arkansas was a top 10 team even without Ryan Mallet (placed them 8th). You know who didn’t know that? A LOT of writers didn’t know that. Being the first to post your top 25 doesn’t mean much if it’s wrong. Now I won’t pretend to be perfect. I had some terrible picks. I had some great picks outside of Arkansas. These things are never flawless. But if I’m going to be wrong, I’ll be wrong with info I can say I relied on instead of the guessing game. But enough self-promotion, there’s enough of that all the time on here….
To make it clear, this top 25 (as all top 25′s should be) is based on the teams I believe are the 25 best in America. I don’t care what their records may be. Season predictions will come in August. If a team is likely to lose 2-3 games in league play, I’m not ranking them lower than a team who may lose only once if I think the 2-3 loss team is better. This was broken down into 3 parts concluding now with part 3, the #1-8 teams in College Football heading into 2012. Don’t agree? Let me know why. Want to tell me I’m brilliant? I’ll welcome that too. I had two guys who stood out most noticeably last season in my offseason previews. One guy was an Iowa fan who took exception to my projections for his Hawkeyes who I projected at 4th or 3rd in their division with about 7-8 wins. I hit Iowa on the head last year. The other was a BYU fan who thought at worst they were 10-2 with 11-1 potential. I said 9-3 preseason and then he persuaded me to go with 10-2 come predictions time and well, the Cougars went 9-3. Bastard…
Here you go, my personal, potentially different on purpose, bound to look good and bad at various points, top 25 for the 2012-2013 College Football Season…..Teams: #1-8
For Part one and #’s 18-25 click HERE.
For Part two and #’s 9-17 click HERE.
Writer’s Note: ***Returning starters are based on PhilSteele.com. I’ve scoured the internet for hours and the consensus from many I’ve asked is to use his numbers. If you’re a fan and feel the numbers are wrong, take it up with him. I’ve seen 1000 different numbers for each team.
8. Georgia Bulldogs
2011 Record: 10-4 (Lost to Michigan St. in Outback Bowl)
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 9 defense
Key Games: 9/8 at Missouri, 10/6 at South Carolina, 10/27 vs. Florida (WLOCP)
Synopsis: We’ve been down this road before with the Bulldogs. We’ve seen this story write itself many times. The Bulldogs have quite a bit of talent coming back from a team that went to the SEC Championship game and if football games were only one half would have been able to call themselves SEC champs. They played a very good Michigan State team in the Outback Bowl and let the game slip away after repeated opportunities to win the game in regulation and overtime. Still, for a team who supposedly had their coach with one foot out the door after a week 2 loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs rebounded and went into the SEC title game 10-2 on the season. In 2012 the Bulldogs enter the SEC East as the clear favorites to repeat. Offensively this team will need to find a way to protect the QB but if they can get that solved in the offseason, they’ll be a tough matchup for most opponents. Cody Glenn, Ben Jones and Justin Anderson leave the offensive line from 2011 with questions on the depth chart of who will step in and fill those voids. Aaron Murray, a talented junior QB that was all-conference last year has the majority of his weapons back this season with Orson Charles being the one key loss off his backfield and receiving group. Isaiah Crowell is expected back for his sophomore season but the embattled RB who was the prized recruit of Georgia’s class a year ago has had his issues with Coach Richt and will see plenty of competition from incoming recruits Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Marshall is listed as high as the #1 RB in this class by some recruiting services while Gurley is considered a high character, hard working back. If Crowell is back and these two freshman can be close to what they are projected to be, the UGA run game could become the major factor it was a few years ago with Knowshon Moreno and co. If not, Murray has a talented group of receivers back led by Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell. All in all, UGA has 3 of their 4 top pass catchers back from last season and give Murray plenty of choices with the ball both down field and over the middle. Defensively the Bulldogs return 9 members of a stout defense that ranked 5th in the nation overall last year, including top 10 nationally against both the pass and run. As was discussed in the intro, this team has few weaknesses to point to. All-American JR LB Jarvis Jones is back for likely his last season and will spearhead a Bulldogs defense that allowed 20+ points only twice in their last 10 games after going 0-2 to start the year. An experienced group with a ton of seniors in place, they could potentially even be better than last year. The most amazing thing about Georgia in 2012 is their schedule may even be softer than the one on 2011 they rode to a division title. There’s no Boise St. caliber opponent in non-league play and they once again avoid the 3 heavyweights in the SEC West in cross-division play. The biggest challenge will be their road trip to South Carolina in a game that could very well play a key in deciding the division champ at year’s end. Still, with the talent in place and the roster coming back, this team has an outside shot at running it up to the SEC title game. Anything less than 10-2 on the regular season schedule would be a drastic underachievement.
7. Ohio St. Buckeyes
2011 Record: 6-7 (Lost Gator Bowl to Florida)
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 9 defense
Key Games: 10/6 vs Nebraska, 11/17 at Wisconsin, 11/24 vs Michigan
Synopsis: I’m not as isolated on this team as I thought I might be. There’s actually others I’ve seen who have put Ohio St. in their top 10 and I won’t lie I’m a little disappointed. After the Arkansas play last season that I was killed for preseason, only to watch it come to fruition, I was hoping to repeat that in 2012 with the Buckeyes. I’ll be honest, this is an Urban Meyer ranking. Make no mistake about that. If Luke Fickell was still coaching this team I’d have them about 10-12 spots lower. I buy Urban Meyer stock and in this instance I’m pushing all my chips into the middle of the table on a man who has won at his prior stops and has won BIG. If not for that whole little thing we in the collegiate sports world call violations, the Buckeyes would likely be a popular pick to get back to the Rose Bowl in 2012, at the very least a contender to do so. However, the Buckeyes made their own bed and for this season at least just get to play spoiler to those teams trying to get there themselves. Urban Meyer was not left with an empty cabinet when he took the Ohio St. job. In fact there’s quite a bit for him to toy with. First for starters, contrary to what we’ve done this entire poll, we’ll talk defense first and point simply to 9 starters back from the 19th ranked defense in the country that was probably even better than their numbers suggested if not for the intolerable situations they were put into at times last year because of anemic offensive play. All-American DE John Simon and all-conference safety C.J Barnett are the most recognizable names back for Ohio St. but the defense as a whole is loaded and deep. Add in 9 of the Buckeyes 16 recruits that rank as 4 or 5 star players will be defensive players and it’s easy to see Urban is starting to load up a unit that has routinely been elite in the country. Add in they added two Catholic Memorial Knights, CB Armani Reeves and LB Camren Williams and Urban clearly has his mind in the right place (shoutout to the former HS of myself, Gus Elvin and Coley Michalik). Offensively OSU did lose playmakers Boom Herron and DeVier Posey but have a strong group of starters returning, most notably Urban’s new pet project, sophomore QB Braxton Miller. Miller was pretty poor a year ago as a passer and it will be interesting to see how Urban handles that given he had a similar situation with Tim Tebow down at Florida. The guess here is Braxton Miller could become a breakout player nationally next year and the Buckeyes will become more of a dangerous offense as a whole with Urban Meyer’s attack. As mentioned before, the schedule is relatively irrelevant with the sanctions against OSU but looking at games they could play spoiler, Wisconsin likely becomes the favorite to win the division and with the Buckeyes traveling to Madison, a home win by Wisconsin there would go a long way towards improving those chances. In the Legends division, Ohio St. plays Michigan, Michigan St and Nebraska, the 3 teams most likely to compete for that division title so how those 3 games play out could be a key in that race as well. The Buckeyes will look nothing like the 6-7 team from a year ago and are predicted to be one of the most improved teams in the nation in 2012. The only question is will they improve enough to justify this preseason top 10 ranking.