College football season is now just fifteen days away. The two week mark is about the time when I begin to wake up, realize that I have absolutely no reason to even acknowledge baseball anymore, and get ready for the five months that make life worth living. It's also time for me to release my annual authoritative college football rankings. I say authoritative because I have about as much relevance as the Harris Poll, which I'm still convinced is voted on by a sinister cabal of insane Nazis, and because hell, I probably do more research. Mostly of this sort:
That is Phil Steele's annual college football preview and it is nothing short of the work of the Gods, given only to those humans wise enough to listen. If you think I haven't relentlessly scanned all 328 pages of this tome, well, you don't understand me at all. I'm fully prepared to declare the North Texas Mean Green as a potential Sun Belt sleeper. Do not trifle with me.
With that said, most people only give a shit about the top 10 (okay maybe you care about the top 25, but that's a lot of freaking work) and I'm sure most of the people reading this here site are Big 4x3 (10+2?, 24/2?) fans, so I'll give both my top 10 and my predicted order of finish for the "Legends" and "Leaders" divisions. Miami will not be appearing in this film. On with the rankings!
1. Oklahoma- They're the consensus number one for good reason. Landry Jones may not approach the freakish numbers Sam Bradford posted during his legendary 2008 season, but he'll come close and this is the best Sooner team since then.
2. Alabama- I have issues with this, because I actually think Alabama will falter at some point without much experience on offense beyond Trent Richardson, but it's hard to argue with Saban's typical soul-crushing defense.
3. LSU- I don't like gambling on a Les Miles coached team, but if they receive any kind of positive contributions from the QB position (and they've done just fine without it since 2008, so maybe it doesn't matter) they'll be a very dangerous team. The defense is scary good, and the offense expunged itself of Gary Crowton, who has now declined from innovator at Lousiana Tech to curiosity as Bears offensive coordinator to head-coaching flop to a twice-failed offensive coordinator.
4. Stanford- I, too, am just that much in love with Andrew Luck, and I think their schedule is manageable since they get both Oregon and Notre Dame (probably their two most difficult games) at home. I think Harbaugh left an experienced team behind him that'll probably manage to keep the ship running.
5. Oklahoma State- Losing Dana Holgorson to West Virginia will hurt, since he's one of the most brilliant and entertaining minds in college football at the moment, but the combination of Weeden-to-Blackmon should be enough to keep them highly competitive in a crumbling Big 12 (is there Any team in the old Big 12 North that's even remotely scary? No?).
6. Wisconsin- Thanks to the transfer of Russell Wilson I'd say they're my favorite now over Nebraska in the first year of the Big 36/3. Wilson's a very accurate and productive passer who is a threat as a runner at well, meaning that Wisconsin will have more than just another HandoffBot9000 in the Sorgi/Bollinger/Stocco/Tolzien tradition to pair with that beefy offensive line and 2 of it's 3 superb runningbacks from last year.
7. Boise State- They tried running off to the Mountain West to increase their strength of schedule, since they thought they'd be joining a conference with BYU, TCU, and Utah that would easily surpass the Big East and ACC as a BCS-caliber conference, but instead they're left to battle it out with TCU for a year before TCU scrambles off to the Big East. TCU suffered much higher attrition than Boise did from last year's awesome squads and has the all-important factors of an experienced quarterback and homefield advantage (the Mountain West switched the game from a TCU home game to a Boise home game after TCU announced they were leaving the conference next year. Highly amusing dickery if you ask me) in their matchup.
8. Virginia Tech- The Hokies have incredible depth, the usual mediocre ACC slate to face, and an incredibly promising young quarterback in Logan Thomas. They always wind up here eventually.
9. Nebraska- Their schedule is tough, and they have the misfortune of facing Ohio State after the five-game suspensions are over, but I still think this team will go far in the Leaders division if they can keep Taylor Martinez healthy. They also still have a healthy defense led by Jared Crick. They'll be fine.
10. Florida State- I'm not a fan of the hype on this team, because I still like to believe FSU is closer to the shambles of the Late Bowden Era than it is to a resurgence under Jimbo Fisher, but their defensive talent is undeniable and E.J. Manuel is more experienced than most first year starters given the brittle nature of Christian Ponder. So, guh. They'll probably win at least ten. Assholes.
Big Ten Standings:
1. Nebraska- For reasons stated above. Michigan doesn't have the defense to stop them, Michigan State is bound to fall from a lucky 2010 season, and Iowa's lost a ton of experience.
2. Iowa- Never underestimate a Kirk Ferentz team with low expectations. They've suffered heavy attrition but should adjust enough to get to the 7-8 wins they're comfortable with, which should be enough to fit them in at second in a thin division.
3. Michigan State- I'm down on them, I can't help it. They got absolutely thrashed in the games they lost last year and had too many close wins. They'll still be a bowl team, but nowhere near the 11 wins they got last year.
4. Northwestern- Because you know they'll be just good enough to lose a bowl game.
5. Michigan- If they had kept Rich Rod and continued to build based on the players he finally had recruited for his scheme, I'd say they're the second best team in this division, but they're right back to the mismatch of talent/scheme they were a few years ago. Robinson will still point up points, but they'll be handicapped trying to run a power offense with spread personnel while their defense still blows.
6. Minnesota- Duh.
1. Wisconsin- See above.
2. Ohio State- Even without Tressel, the loss of so many skill players for all or part of the season should make them the most Tressely-Tresselball team ever, but they still have enough talent on defense and in the run game that they can probably manage their way to 8-9 wins.
3. Illinois- I'm a homer, naturally, but there's logic behind this despite the loss of LeShoure, Martez Wilson, and Corey Liuget. The decline in schedule strength should compensate for the loss of talent, as Illinois no longer begins with the brutal match up with Missouri and instead starts with 5 straight home games (and 8 overall) and enough winnable matchups that an 8-10 win season seems well within the realm of probability. The Zook Factor applies, however, so I may swallow these words. And a lot of tears. And then some scotch.
4. Penn State- Because neither of their quarterbacks excite me, they've lost Evan Royster, and their defense was average last year.
5. Purdue- Until Danny Hope shows me anything worth believing he can actually right the ship, they're stuck in the basement.
6. Indiana- Recruiting Gunner Kiel was a huge score for them, but he won't arrive on campus until next year. Instead they're left with a gaping hole where Ben Chappell used to be (hehe, Chappell was fat. Great QB, though), and he was the only reason they were competitive in some games last year. It don't look good, folks.
In the new title game I expect Wisconsin to eke out a win over Nebraska. So there you have it. You are, of course, complete welcome to disregard my rankings since they're as full of shit as everyone else's, but hey, ain't college football great?
Two weeks. Thank you, almighty football lords.