O.K. Orson, you make some good points in your initial poll suggestions, but you are way off in others. For instance, not only did Utah lose Urban Meyer, but they lost the number 1 draft pick and all everything quarterback Alex Smith (look what happened to UCF after Culpepper left). So, without further ado, my top 10 preseason picks.
The Utes are hoping they don't fall as fast in the post Alex Smith era as the Knights did when Culpepper left.
1) USC Trojans: They have tied for a mythical national championship with an SEC team for each of the last two years. They return two of the three best players in college football on offense and have a defensive wizard for a head coach. Sure, the potential dynasty is showing some cracks by losing Norm Chow and mounting off season problems, but that won't start to cause a problem for a season or two (if ever depending on how the young Kiffin does).
2) Oklahoma: College football is about coaches and talent and the Sooners have both. Although the Sooners are flirting with becoming the Buffalo Bills of college football, those Bills were always pretty damn good. Don't forget, the Sooners still have Adrian Peterson who was perhaps the best freshman in college football since Marshall Falk. Their liabilities are that they have to replace the long time quarterback Jason White and facing the fact that Texas has to win one of these years. Mack Brown probably has a bit more talent this year all around, but Bobby Stoops will still win the Red River showdown. And that is why they are my number 2.
3) Virginia Tech: Again, I am putting a premium on coaching and Frank Beamer is one of the most underrated out there (as is defensive coordinator Bud Foster). Tech will win with fundamentals on defense and special teams and special plays by Ron Mexico's younger brother Marcus. I'm going out on a limb with this one just a bit in that Vick has never proved it on the field in the fall, but I'll buy the hype for now.
4) Iowa: They are not exciting but they are fundamentally sound. They have a returning quarterback and a mostly veteran team. The Hawkeyes will mix strong defense with success in the play action game on their way to a solid season and a BCS appearance. Question marks remain, however, at the defensive line where they lost all four starters from last year. The big early test will be at Ohio State, but they get the Wolverines at home.
5) Florida: Call me a homer, but watching a fired up Gator squad do the "circle of life" drill before a spirited Orange and Blue game sold me that Urban Meyer can translate his mid major success to the SEC. The Gators will have to pick up on the spread offense (an offense with options, not an option offense) quickly as they will run into possibly the nations best defense in week 3 against the Vols, but that game is in the Swamp and Chris Leak is a film room nut with a vendetta against coach Fulmer and the Vols.
6) Louisville: Petrino has the offense cooking so well that I don't think the loss of Shelton and Lefors will hurt them a bit... especially with blue chipper Brohm ready to step up into a full time roll. Now, playing in the Big East they have a chance to be favored in every game they play this year, but with a still suspect defense, they'll lose one of them.
7) Tennessee: Tennesee has it all this year. Riggs is a top talent who'll have an opportunity to be the feature back this year, Ainge showed flashes of brilliance last year with Clausen as an able back up, and Chavis' defense might just be his best ever. They could well content for a national championship, but with the SEC on an up year playing Florida and LSU back to back is too much (and I already picked the Gators to win).
8) Texas: Cedric Benson was the centerpiece of Texas' unimaginative offense for the last four years, and he'll be missed. Texas still has too much talent to not be a top ten team, but until Mack Brown proves he can beat Oklahoma, Vince Young proves he can throw on third and long, and some one steps up to be the work horse at running back, I'll never be a full believer. Expect alot of low scoring games with Texas returning most of the starters off of their ferocious defense of a year ago. Oklahoma, of course, Ohio State and even A&M at the end of the year will be their biggest tests and I wouldn't be surprised if they lose 2 out of 3.
9) Michigan: Lloyd Carr is a master of consistency so that you can pencil him in for a top 10 team every year regardless of who's on the team. Their only problem is that when the offense is better, the defense has holes and vice versa. Hart is the real deal and Henne should be yet another solid Michigan quarterback, but this year the defense will be their problem. They'll still be a contender in the Big 10, but playing at Iowa means they'll have an uphill battle.
10) Boise State: Miami almost got this spot, but I think Boise earned some pre season recognition with their strong showing in a Bowl game loss to Louisville. I actually expect Georgia to be one of the bigger disappointments of the year, so Boise should give them a run for their money between the hedges. After that, it is a tough road, but one in which they have a good chance to win out (if they can get past the revenge game in Corvalis) and impress by taking out Fresno State on the road.
1) Georgia: Too many losses, no faith in Shockley
2) Utah: They're the hunted, and don't have Alex Smith or Urban Meyer
3) California: The most important thing for Tedford is a quality quarterback... and that is a major question this year.
4) Alabama: If Croyle goes down, so will they. History says he'll be gone by the midway point.
OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH:
1) Miami: Hard to believe Miami could fly under the radar but they have this preseason.
2) Wyoming: Better than you think.
3) Utep: Good coaching in a weak conference.
4) Purdue: Favorable schedule, new innovative offense.