Football previews. Here I arbitrarily throw out how I think the 6 major conferences will shake out and who I have in my preseason top 25. Whats my basis for most of this? Hearsay, hunches, and downright bullshit! With maybe a fact or two or a quarterback or defensive line thrown in there for fun. So onto the Big Ten (the only league I'm actually going to attempt to figure out the actual records of)
Ohio State 10-2 (7-1)
They have Terrelle Pryor back, and maybe this year he'll actually know how to pass and be a true dual threat quarterback, regardless of how ESPN decided to just overlook Daryll Clark and Juice Williams and annoint him TEH BEST DUAL THREAT QUARTERBACK IN THE HISTORY OF THE BIG TEN EVAR I MEAN COME ON DID U NOT SEE WHEN HE THREW FOR LIKE 200 YARDS AGAINST PENNS TATE ZOMG?! Not saying he won't end up being far better than those two over the course of his career, but he sure as hell wasn't from the moment he stepped on the field. They don't have Beanie Wells anymore but they do have his top backup Daniel Herron who looked pretty damn good as a freshman, and they have experience at wide receiver and on the o-line. The defense looks as solid as any other Tressel defense, and the conference is still pretty weak. Another Big Ten Championship and disappointing bowl loss for the Buckeyes this year.
Penn State 10-2 (6-2)
They have Darryl Clark back as well as the man who takes over Shonn Greene's mantle as the best runningback in the Big Ten, Evan Royster. They have to retool their offensive line and only return four starters on defense, but Penn State usually has little trouble reloading on defense and their offense will be more than good enough to carry them until they get things sorted out.
Iowa 9-3 (5-3)
Fuck them. No, seriously. Fuck them. After three nice lackluster seasons signalling the decline of the Ferentzian Empire they go ahead and go 9-4 last year. Its not cool. They lose Shonn Greene but they return 7 starters on offense and 8 fuckers on defense, and they'll probably be even better than I give them credit for, but fuck them.
Illinois 8-4 (5-3)
They return 6 starters from the nation's 19th ranked offense including Juice Williams, who I think will have a big senior year, as I mentioned before. New offensive coordinator Mike Schultz seemed to crank out 60% passers and a balanced offense every year at TCU and I have high hopes he'll be a more efficient play caller near the red zone than Mike Locksley. Their defense only returns 4 starters, but as awful as they were last year is that really a bad thing? Their schedule is weaker than last year and with any luck they can pull off a return to a bowl bid. Anything less than 7 wins looks to be a disappointment, but honestly just a bowl game is all I ask. I really can't get greedy.
Northwestern 8-4 (4-4)
I'm really not convinced that Mike Kafka, who split time at quarterback with CJ Bacher last year, can handle the job full time, even with the added threat of his rushing ability. They lose Tyrell Sutton and return Zero skill position starters on offense, though they should be solid up front with four returning starters on the o-line. They do return 8 starters from a defense that was pretty solid last year, and in a strange turn of events their defense should be good enough to carry NW's offense for a while.
Michigan State 7-5 (4-4)
I know they went 9-4 last year and return 14 starters (though neither at quarterback or runningback), but I just don't see Michigan State having TWO good years in a row. AMIRITE?
Minnesota 7-5 (4-4)
They started hot last year at 7-1 before losing 5 in a row to finish the season. They're transitioning from the spread offense to more of a pro style, and I think that's a bad move with QB Adam Weber and 8 players back on offense. They return 7 on defense as well, but their schedule is tougher and it'll be a more difficult trip to a bowl game than it was last year. I have them at 7-5, but I really wouldn't be surprised to see them finish as poorly as 5-7.
Purdue 5-7 (4-4)
They were more or less awful in Joe Tiller's last season, and I don't see them improving all that much in Danny Hope's first year with just 3 returning starters on offense and none of them at the skill positions. Fifth year senior Joey Elliot is the most likely candidate to start at quarterback, but I think they'd be better off throwing touted redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush out there and just letting him learn under fire.
Wisconsin 6-6 (2-6)
They return 7 starters on offense, but that includes the quarterback (Dustin Sherer) who wasn't very good and not the runningback (PJ Hill) who was. They shouldn't really experience too much of a drop off in the running game, however, as Hills backup John Clay ran for 884 yards with a 5.7 average last year. The defense returns five starters, but only return two of their front seven and its likely their defense will experience a drop off quite a bit from its top 40 ranking last year.
Michigan 5-7 (2-6)
They should be better on offense than last year, when they finished dead last in the Big Ten in both rush and pass offense, but they still lack a true spread option quarterback like Rich Rodriguez likes. The defense returns 5 starters but have an inexperienced secondary. They'll be hard pressed to improve on last year's 87th ranked pass defense.
Indiana 2-10 (0-8)
They backslid from their 7-6 record and bowl game appearance in 2007 to 3-9 last year when the defense fell apart and Kellen Lewis struggled without James Hardy. Lewis was then moved to wide receiver but has since been kicked off the team. Ben Chappel takes over under center and is more of a dropback passer than Lewis, with little else special about him. They'll take a step back this year as it looks like Bill Lynch is just gonna have to blow the whole thing up and start over again.
The Top 25
1. Florida- Tim Tebow and 6 starters overall from last year's 4th ranked offense, and 11(!) starters back from last years 4th ranked defense. Oh, and they won the national championship last year, their second in three years. Until someone finds a way to knock 'em off, there's no logical explanation for picking someone else.
2. Texas- Its pretty much a draw in the Big 12 between Texas and Oklahoma, and I like Texas' defense just a little bit more.
3. Oklahoma- See above.
4. USC- God damnit Pete Carroll.
5. Ole Miss- I don't know why, I just like Jevan Snead and Houston Nutt and I hate Nick Saban and Alabama, so they're in my top 5.
6. Ohio State-Here we go again.
7. Virginia Tech- Tyrod Taylor will make the necessary improvements and that defense will be pretty damn good. I think they knock off Alabama in the season opener
8. Alabama- They're good and they return 9 starters from an awesome defense, but they have too many questions on offense for my liking. And fuck you, Nick Saban.
9. Penn State- Darryl Clark and Evan Royster make them dangerous.
10. Oklahoma State- Zac Robinson's pretty damn good and Mike Gundy Is a grown man, so they have that going for them
11. Oregon- Do you know who Jeramiah Masoli is? You should.
12. Boise State- Kellen Moore's good enough to overcome their inexperience on offense and defense.
13. Georgia- Good news? Lower expectations than last year and enough returning starters to make a run. Bad news? None of those returning starters is Matt Stafford.
14. Cal- Jahvid Best is one hell of a beast at runningback, but its about time Tedford worked his magic with Kevin Riley.
15. Georgia Tech- I'm probably going a little bit high on them, but 16 returning starters for Paul Johnson's kick ass spread/triple option/flexbone whatever the hell you wanna call it kickass ride of awesomeness equals a top 15 team in my book.
16. Nebraska- I like what Bo Pelini did in just a year with the program to clean out the funk of douche leftover from Bill Callahan. They're thin on returning starters on offense but their defense will be good enough to win the Big 12 North.
17. LSU- They should be able to run the ball on offense and that defense should be improved from last year, but it won't be enough to win the SEC West.
18. Cincinnati- Senior quarterback Tony Pike will lead an offense that is good enough to win the incredibly weak Big East, despite heavy losses on defense. Plus, for some reason, Ron Guenther scheduled Cincinnati as a late November nonconference game for Illinois AT Cincinnati. Why? Dear God, Why?
19. North Carolina- They return 16 starters, and their losses from last year (TE, WLB, FB, etc) are at fairly minor positions. It's Butch Davis's third year and the ACC is usually a crapshoot. They're a sleeper.
20. NC State- They have the ACC's best quarterback in Russell Wilson (who threw 17 touchdowns with only 1 interception last year), and they have 7 starters returning on each side of the ball. They'll definitely improve from their 6-7 record last year.
21. Utah- The losses on offense are heavy for the team that went 13-0 and pantsed Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl last year, but they can still play ball in the Mountain West.
22. Iowa- Fuck them.
23. Notre Dame- Clausen and ten starters return on offense. They'll still probably lose their bowl game.
24. Oregon State- They have an impressive looking offense, but only 3 returning starters on defense. Perfect for a Pac 10 team.
25. Illinois- Forgive me. I'll have them out of here as soon as they lose their first game to a Chase Daniel-less Missouri and I allow myself to throw away my foolish dreams.