Preseason Top 25

USC and LSU remain on top, Florida and Virginia Tech move up

Aug. 8, 2007

By Adam Caparell



Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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With the season less than three weeks away and the Coaches' Poll out, it was time to update the Post-Spring, Pre-Preseason Top 25 that we put out May 2.


But four months later, things haven't changed a whole lot at the top. It's still USC, LSU and Michigan as the top three teams and Boston College and Florida State making big jumps up the rankings. Two SEC teams dropped out and the ACC picked up another one as well.


So, with the regular season set to kickoff Aug. 30, here's a look at how the best teams in the nation stack up against each other with camps now open across the country.




1. USC - When you can go nine or 10 deep at running back, that pretty much says it all. The Trojans will feature the most loaded team in the country and one of the top defenses, as well. There's John David Booty and quite possibly the best linebacking corps in the nation that makes them an overwhelming favorite to win a third national title in Pete Carroll's tenure. Previous: 1


2. LSU - It's all about the Tigers' defense with another stellar group expected. Glenn Dorsey will lead the charge on the defensive line that's ridiculously athletic. If you're the most talented team in the SEC, chances are you're one of the best in the country. Previous: 2


3. Michigan - Just how good will the Wolverine offense be? By far the Big Ten's best and one of the best in the nation with Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham and Jake Long all returning. Questions remain as to how good the defense can be after all its losses from last season, but signs point to the Wolverines being more than capable of holding their own. Previous: 3


4. Texas - Offensively, the Longhorns could be a beast. After his sensational freshman season, Colt McCoy goes back to work with Jamaal Charles at running back and Limas Sweed as his go-to wide out. And after last season's dreadful performance against the pass, there's no way the Texas defense will be that bad this fall. Previous: 6


5. West Virginia - Two players, two speedsters, and one's a quarterback, make the Mountaineers as dangerous an offensive team as there is in the country. Pat White and Steve Slaton are two Heisman Trophy candidates who run like the wind right past defenses. With a line that's expected to be even better than last season, the defense should be quite good. Previous: 4


6. Florida - There are defensive losses galore, but with the talent stream that's now roaring through Gainesville, the Gators shouldn't fall down too far. Figure they'll experience a few growing pains, but should be just fine when it's all said and done. And as for the offense, we'll really get a chance to see what Tim Tebow is all about and Urban Meyer finally has his prototypical quarterback to run the spread offense for the first time in his two seasons at Florida. And Tebow's got plenty of weapons to unleash on the SEC. Previous: 8


7. Virginia Tech - The No. 1 ranked defense the last two years will be the favorite to wind up as the best for a third straight season. Stacked on the defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary, scoring's going to be at a premium against Tech and the offense shouldn't be half bad, either. Previous: 10


8. Wisconsin - They're the Big Ten favorites in my opinion, but get slotted five spots lower than Michigan because of the quarterback situation right now. Other than that, the Badgers are loaded for another stellar season with P.J. Hill back and an underappreciated set of receivers. Plus, that defense is going to be pretty tough with a number of starters retuning from last year's squad that allowed only 12 points per game. Previous: 6


9. Louisville - Arguably the best quarterback/wide receiver combo in the country just may be Brian Brohm and his two polar opposite pass catchers: Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia. One's small, the other's a tree, and both spread the field. The Cardinals should feature a better-than-advertised defense. If the offensive line protects Brohm all season, then look out. Previous: 9


10. Oklahoma - No Adrian Peterson? No returning quarterback? No problem for Bob Stoops and his Sooners. With an experienced offensive line, running backs Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray, the yards are going to come easy and whoever he settles on for a quarterback has Malcolm Kelly to throw to. The defense should be very good. Previous: 11


11. Cal - The best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the Pac-10 will make the Bears' offense go. Nate Longshore and DeSean Jackson are studs and Jackson is the premier punt returner in the nation. Justin Forsett should fill in quite nicely for the departed Marshawn Lynch. There are questions regarding the defensive line, but it's the offense that makes this team so good. Previous: 7


12. Auburn - Tommy Tuberville just seems to get the job done with his Tigers and this year they'll feature another tough defense and a much healthier Brandon Cox behind center. All Tuberville has to do is sufficiently fill in the questions marks at the other offensive skill positions. Previous: 16


13. Boston College - There's a whole lot of change in Chesnut Hill with new coach Jeff Jagodzinski taking over. He's already instituted a new zone-blocking scheme and the offense has been tailored around the skill sets of the most talented quarterback in the ACC, Matt Ryan, which should make the Eagles a heck of a lot more dynamic. Plus, they're going to feature a defense that's will surprise some people. Previous: 18


14. Florida State - After revamping his coaching staff, Bobby Bowden is getting ready for his "last run" at a national championship. Quarterback is still a question mark with Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee, but if anyone can right the two it's new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. Plus there's talent at receiver and running back and the defense will be stout, especially up front. This is a team that's going to get better as the season goes on - if they can survive the brutal schedule. Previous: NR


15. Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights are going to feed opposing defenses a healthy dose of Ray Rice and ride their star running back to wins. Mike Teel needs to be more consistent, but he has weapons to use. The defense has questions at linebacker, but it's still going to be the best in the Big East. Previous: 12


16. Ohio State - There are so many losses on offense - quarterback, running back, wide out and the offensive line - yet Jim Tressel doesn't seem too worried about how it will perform, especially with that backfield featuring the two Wells. There are losses on defense as well, but are we to expect any drop-off from this unit? Remember last season when everyone predicted the defense would struggle? So much for that. Previous: 21


17. Tennessee - Phil Fulmer thinks Erik Ainge is the best quarterback in the country. He's definitely in the discussion, but it hurts he doesn't have his favorite targets to throw to. The Vols should have a much better running game this season after a dreadful 2006, but their defensive line has some issues. Previous: 22


18. Texas A&M - The Aggies are going to run it right down other teams' throats and with Stephen McGee under center, and a very good offensive line, they're going to be a tough team to beat. The defense should be much improved as well. Previous: 13


19. Georgia - Matthew Stafford is firmly entrenched as the starter after distinguishing himself as the Bulldogs' best option. So no more quarterback controversy in Athens where Mark Richt will have to deal with some big losses on defense. Previous: 17


20. Nebraska - Bill Callahan's Cornhuskers are once again the team to beat in a very weak Big 12 North. Sam Keller takes over the offense that should be one of the better units in the conference. Defensively, Nebraska seems to be set at linebacker and in the secondary. But how are they going to replace those losses on the defensive line? Previous: 20


21. Georgia Tech - Here's another ACC team - like Boston College - not getting the kind of credit it deserves. So what if there's no Calvin Johnson? How about having the conference's leading rusher back in Tashard Choice and Taylor Bennett behind center, who takes over for the departed Reggie Ball. And then there's the defense that's going to be very good. Previous: NR


22. TCU - The Horned Frogs are going to be a beast on defense yet again with nine starters returning, none better than Tommy Blake. Only a handful of starters return on offense, but TCU will feature a top notch running game as always with an offensive line that will be as solid as ever. Previous: 19


23. Arkansas - Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are the best running back duo in the country and if Casey Dick can get the ball to his considerably talented wide receivers, then Arkansas really could have something going. But the one thing that makes you take a step back with the Razorbacks is the fact that there are some big holes to fill in defensively. Previous: 15


24. Penn State - For the second straight year, others are sold on the Nittany Lions while I'm not. They're very young, need Anthony Morelli to find some consistency fast and are rebuilding the defensive line. Things aren't looking as rosy red as some might have you believe. Previous: 13


25. Hawai'i - Colt Brennan and the Warriors are going to throw the ball at a prodigious pace this season, especially considering the wide receiving corps that's coming back. Defensively, they should be better against the pass than they were last season with a much more experienced secondary. Previous: NR


Dropped Out: South Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA


Right On The Cusp: South Carolina, Boise State, UCLA, Alabama, Oregon State, Kentucky, Miami