Pre-Spring, Post-Bowl 2007 Preseason Top 25

Jan. 17, 2007

By Adam Caparell           



Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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1. USC

Sure the Trojans will be without Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith on offense, but with John David Booty back and the talent-mill Pete Carroll has turned USC into, there's no doubt the Trojans are the clear cut preseason No. 1.


2. West Virginia

Steve Slaton and Pat White make up the most dynamic rushing tandem in the country, and when the two are healthy almost no one can stop them. Replacing Dan Mozes on the line will be tough, but seven starters should be back on a defense that was disappointing, but figured to improve. West Virginia's non-conference schedule is once again should present very little in the way of challenges.  


3. Florida

The national champs will be without Chris Leak and a boatload of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but Gainesville is turning into the USC of the East. Urban Meyer is starting to stockpile players and he'll have his prototypical QB running the offense. Expect to see a lot more options with Tim Tebow behind center and he'll have Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell to throw to. The Gators schedule isn't as difficult as last season's.


4. Michigan

Every offensive weapon is back for the Wolverines. Chad Henne, Michael Hart, Mario Manningham and even Jake Long will make up the Big Ten's most dynamic offense. Things have also broken out nicely for the Wolverines schedule-wise. They get Oregon, Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame at home this year. They're lone tough road game comes against Wisconsin.


5. Texas

Can Colt McCoy top his scintillating freshman season? No reason why not with Limas Sweed and Jamaal Charles back to help make Texas' offense one of the most feared in the Big 12. But they're not without issues in other areas. The Longhorns will suffer some heavy losses on the offensive line, most notably Justin Blalock. And the defense is going to miss the services of Tim Crowder and Michael Griffin, just to name a few.


6. Wisconsin

Freshman sensation P.J. Hill should be able to duplicate his 1,500-yard plus, 15 TD season. Bret Bielema had a heck of a debut campaign and the Badgers could return as many as 19 starters from their school-record 12-1 team.


7. LSU

JaMarcus Russell's early departure isn't LSU's only big loss. Gone will be LaRon Landry and several other key members of the Tigers vaunted defense. But Glenn Dorsey has decided to stick around, Les Miles has shown he can coach and Baton Rouge has become a bastion for talent in not only Louisiana, but the South.


8. Cal

Nate Longshore and DeSean Jackson. That's nearly reason enough as the quarterback and wide receiver/special teamer make up the best deep threat combo in the country. Losing Marshawn Lynch won't be easy to stomach, but Justin Forsett has shown he's capable of stepping up for Cal.


9. Louisville

It'll be interesting to see how the defection of Bobby Petrino to the NFL will affect the Cardinals. In steps new coach Steve Kragthorpe and the question is how much will he change Louisville's high-flying, high-scoring offensive philosophy? Probably not much with Brian Brohm coming back and Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas still out there on the ends, ready and willing to catch whatever is thrown their way. The defense will take a big hit with Amobi Okoye gone and a few other upperclassmen.


10. Georgia

The Bulldogs showed some guts as the year wore down, getting big wins over Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech to close out the season. Georgia's going to lose some big names on the defensive side of the ball like Quentin Moses and Tony Taylor, but Matthew Stafford should step in with more confidence and poise to lead the offense with his first season under his belt.


11. Penn State

The Nittany Lions weren't a Top 25 team last season, despite what many Penn State supporters wanted everyone to believe. This year, it'll be a different story. They got a great win over Tennessee in the Outback Bowl and Anthony Morelli will be a seasoned sophomore come fall. Linebacker Dan Connor is returning to Happy Valley, but Paul Posluszny leaves. Best news may be that Penn State gets Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Florida International and Buffalo at home.


12. Tennessee

David Cutcliffe helped transform Erik Ainge into one of the best QBs in the SEC last year, so there's no reason not to think he won't improve upon last season's impressive numbers. Plus he'll have a more mature LaMarcus Coker running the ball to take a large load off. The real question is how Ainge will fair without the services of Jayson Swain and favorite target Robert Meachem.


13. Rutgers

The challenge for Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights will be to top the best season in school history. Expectations will be unprecedented, but with feature back Ray Rice and an improved Mike Teel, another 10-plus win season is more than a distinct possibility. Rutgers will lose Brian Leonard and a handful of defensive starters, but their only tough Big East road game comes at Louisville. Everyone else visits Piscataway.


14. TCU

Everyone thought the Horned Frogs were going to be Boise State last year. They could very well become the 2007 version of the Broncos with a defense that should shut down the competition in the Mountain West. Top defensive end Tommy Blake is back, but TCU must find a new quarterback with Jeff Ballard gone.


15. Virginia Tech

The defense is what carried the Hokies down the stretch and it's going to carry them again in 2007. They're going to have plenty of players back, including one of the ACC's top runners in Brandon Ore, but ultimate success is going to come down to whether Sean Glennon can produce when Virginia Tech really needs him.


16. Texas A&M

The Aggies are going to be loaded on offense with Stephen McGee, Mike Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane as the featured players for Dennis Franchione, who will now feel the pressure of topping last season's big win over Texas in the season finale. But getting their doors blown off in the Holiday Bowl by Cal derailed some of their momentum and the defense could use some shoring up.


17. Auburn

Kenny Irons is out, so is Courtney Taylor along with some big bodies on the offensive line. If the Tigers can find some consistent play out of their quarterback, that should go a long way toward at least another 10-win season. The defense will have to carry the Tigers.


18. Arkansas

Turmoil has set up camp in Fayetteville with the departure of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, QB Mitch Mustain and a general unhappiness with coach Houston Nutt. But the Razorbacks get Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden back. The quarterback position should be better resolved now with Casey Dick the clear cut choice. Don't forget about McFadden's trusty sidekick in the backfield, Felix Jones. But two key defections on defense and a tough road schedule will leave Arkansas hard pressed to repeat as SEC West champs.


19. Ohio State

There's no doubt the Buckeyes defense is going to be great. They were young last year, with nine new starters, and played great until they got bowled over in the BCS Championship Game. But replacing the Heisman Trophy winner, top running back and top receivers is a daunting task for the best of them. Jim Tressel can coach, despite a sub par effort in Glendale, and there's no doubt he'll have his team right in the mix in the Big Ten.


20. Oklahoma

Allen Patrick filled in more than admirably for Adrian Peterson and he should be able to continue his stellar play. But Losing Peterson, and not to mention C.J. Ah You and Rufus Alexander on defense, is beyond big for the Sooners. Bob Stoops still attracts tons of talent to Norman, so there won't be much a drop off, especially at quarterback with Paul Thompson out of there.


21. Boise State

Jared Zabransky's departure isn't going to hurt the Broncos all that much. The success of Chris Petersen's offense has spanned several quarterbacks so there seems to be no reason why we shouldn't expect good things from Boise State's next signal caller - which figures to be Nick Lomax. But whoever it ends up being he'll be helped by Ian Johnson. There are more than a few departures on defense, but Boise is still the class of the WAC. 


22. UCLA

The pressure is going to on Karl Dorrell after his team finished the regular season on the high of all highs, defeating USC. The Bruins aren't losing much at all as they'll return nearly all their starters from last year's team. Who's going to be the QB? It's between Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson. UCLA is still third best in the Pac-10, at best, behind the Trojans and Cal.


23. Nebraska

Gone is Zac Taylor, but in comes Sam Keller, via Arizona State, to run the Cornhuskers pro-style offense. Gone also are a bunch of key players on the defense - a defense that couldn't stop anyone in a big spot last season. But Nebraska will be the cream of the Big 12 North crop, yet again.


24. Boston College

A healthy Matt Ryan will go a long way toward Boston College earning its eighth straight bowl win. The Eagles aren't losing much, but they'll have to deal with a new coach and new offensive coordinator. And the ACC should continue through its down cycle meaning the Eagles should be right there in the mix for a conference title.  


25. Kentucky

Who was the SEC's leading passer? Andre Woodson, who's back for his senior season and ready to burn defenses whenever the chance presents itself. The Wildcats have a lot of momentum after their first bowl win in 22 years and they'll get Louisville, Florida, LSU and Tennessee at home. That's not to say you should expect any upsets, but it certainly makes the prospects much easier.


Lurking (and in no particular order)

Wake Forest, South Carolina, Florida State, South Florida, Alabama



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