March 09, 2010
It's March, spring practice is just now grinding into gear for most teams, and there's barely any on-field action to write about. So it must be time for the nation's college football pundits, for the sake of showing the world they're still paying attention, to start putting together their "pre-preseason" top 25 lists.
Actually, it's way past time, evidently: As you'll see from the brief rundown below, three people had taken their first cracks at a 2010 ranking before the newly minted national champions had even checked in for their flights home from Pasadena. Most of the usual suspects from last year's pre-preseason rundown return, and as with last year, there seems to be a general feeling that the previous year's champions are nicely set up for another run at the crown this season. But that feeling isn't unanimous, and there are plenty of other head-scratching picks to be found:
• Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News had one of the more amusing pre-preseason lists last year, and this year's offering, evidently banged out immediately following Alabama's national-title victory, is a doozy as well. Wilner seems to imply that USC traded up in going from Pete Carroll to Lane Kiffin -- the Trojans finished 2009 ranked in the 20s in both polls, but Wilner has them at No. 10. He's also got Arkansas following close behind at No. 12 (the Razorbacks and Crimson Tide are the only SEC West teams able to crack his top 25) and Houston, which started strong in '09 but closed out the season on a 2-3 skid, at No. 16. Rounding out the weird picks are the Tennessee Vols, who endured the most tumultuous January in recent memory but still are on his list at No. 18 with a bullet, and Rich Rodriguez's beleaguered Michigan squad, clinging to No. 24 despite not having beaten a single FBS team since September. After all that, the Miami Hurricanes seem like only a slightly optimistic pick at No. 5.
• A little-known upstart called The Big Lead didn't put quite as much effort (surprise!) into their day-after-the-title-game list -- they only bothered to put together a top 10 -- but that just makes their crazy even more concentrated and potent than Wilner's. TBL took the trendy bait and put Boise State in their top spot; this is followed by Oregon State at No. 5 (one slot higher than Oregon), Arkansas at No. 9 and USC rounding out the top 10. The post does include a gratuitous YouTube of clips from Pamela Anderson's "Baywatch" days, though, so there's that.
• College Football Saturday, last of our Jan. 8 trifecta, is likewise unconcerned with USC's coaching change (they've got the Trojans at No. 11) -- and they're even less fazed by the fact that Florida is losing their once-in-a-generation QB, top two receivers, and heralded defensive coordinator: The Gators still check in at No. 5 on CFS's list. South Carolina, which hasn't cracked a final top 25 once in Steve Spurrier's five seasons, gets the No. 18 spot, and Nevada earns the "Well, we gotta put somebody here" nod at No. 25. (Hey, at least it wasn't Duke.)
• SI.com's Andy Staples, perhaps befitting a list bearing the imprimatur of a major media outlet, is refreshingly free of truly outlandish selections. But Georgia Tech seems a wee bit high at No. 8, considering the Yellow Jackets lose their top two skill-position players and are breaking in a brand-new defensive front. Given that Wisconsin hasn't finished higher than fourth in the Big Ten since Bret Bielema's rookie season, the Badgers might be a risky top-10 candidate as well.
• The Sporting News also hedged its bets by only putting out a top 10 as opposed to a top 25. It has Georgia Tech and Miami at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively -- surely the most optimism to have been generated about the ACC in years -- with Wisconsin rounding out the top 10.
• NationalChamps.net also remains high on both the Gators (No. 6) and Trojans (No. 12) despite personnel losses and/or coaching shakeups. Arkansas at No. 20 is a somewhat more reasonable proposition, but that still puts them at second-best in the SEC West by NationalChamps' ranking.
• ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach cranked out his first list on Jan. 8, then turned in a revised version on Feb. 10, but even the revisions seem a bit suspect -- he, too, has Wisconsin in the top 10 (No. 9), with newly Brian-Kelly-less Cincinnati at No. 13 and Arkansas not far behind at 15. In contrast to his SI counterpart, though, he might actually have Georgia Tech too low at No. 24.
Wednesday, we'll synthesize these lists to determine which non-traditional-powerhouse teams are garnering the kind of "sleeper" hype that will almost certainly cause you to be sick of hearing about them by June. Stay tuned.- - -