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22 Jun 2010

2010 College Football Preseason Top 10

by Bill Connelly

Yesterday, we took a look at the teams ranked No. 11-25 on the Projected F/+ countdown. Today, we move to the Top 10 -- the toppermost of the poppermost.

It is with a perverse sense of pleasure that we steal the following disclaimer from the weekly DVOA rankings:

To save people some time, we remind everyone to put their angry troll hatred into the official zlionsfan angry troll hatred Mad Libs form:

<team> is clearly ranked <too high/too low> because <reason unrelated to F/+>. <subjective ranking system> is way better than this. <unrelated team-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>

Ah, that felt good.

A reminder: These rankings are based on projected strength, not projected results. Yesterday, we revealed that Tennessee was ranked 20th in Projected F/+. However, they will find it nearly impossible to better No. 21 Nebraska's record, as they face a whopping six more projected Top 25 teams than the Huskers. Similarly, Boise State will likely finish with a much better record than most teams ranked ahead of them, because their schedule is more maneuverable. They are a potentially legitimate national title contender despite ranking just 14th.

No. 10 LSU Tigers

2009 Record (Conference): 9-4 (5-3 SEC)
2009 Ranks: 13th F/+ | 17th FEI | 13th S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 39th F/+ | 45th FEI | 30th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 12th F/+ | 11th FEI | 12th S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 23rd
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 9th
Top 25 Opponents: 6 (3 home, 2 away, 1 neutral)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Talent and athleticism in droves. LSU ranks fourth in five-year recruiting. While they have had issues with youth and execution in the past couple of seasons, the ceiling is always tremendously high with this squad, to the extent that they have won two national titles in the last seven seasons and can semi-legitimately be called "underachieving."

2. The bones of a great defense. The Bayou Bengals must replace seven starters on defense, but all of the main predictors -- long-term success, strong recruiting -- point to a small drop-off at worst. LSU should be sturdy up the middle, with tackle Lazarius Levingston, middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and safeties Brandon Taylor and Jai Eugene anchoring the defense. Plus, they could have the best cornerbacks in the SEC. The experience is not heavy, but the talent is.

Two Red Flags

1. The offense needs a spark. Considering the five-star talent the LSU offense has had at its disposal recently, the fact that they have finished 34th and 39th in Offensive F/+ the last two years is almost inexcusable. Former four-star quarterback Jordan Jefferson runs the show, and he has three five-star receivers at his disposal. With Jefferson entering his junior season, they better start making their way back toward the Top 20 soon.

2. The running game especially needs some help. LSU's Rushing S&P+ ranked fourth in 2007, the year they won the national title. It fell to 14th in 2008, then 42nd in 2009. Whoever replaces Charles Scott as their starting running back -- be it Stevan Ridley or somebody else -- will need to improve on Scott's injury-plagued 2009 performance.

No. 9 Oregon Ducks

2009 Record (Conference): 10-3 (8-1 Pac-10)
2009 Ranks: 8th F/+ | 9th FEI | 10th S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 8th F/+ | 7th FEI | 11th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 21st F/+ | 22nd FEI | 18th S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 4th
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 17th
Top 25 Opponents: 2 (both road)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Recent offensive history is on their side. In the last four years, Oregon's offense has ranked 16th, third, 12th, and eighth in Offensive F/+. They have finished no lower than seventh in Rushing S&P+ and no worse than fifth in Standard Downs Rushing S&P+. They had what one would call a less-than-impressive offseason. Jeremiah Masoli was kicked off the team after multiple arrests, LaMichael James was suspended for one game, and four receivers were suspended or booted -- but the system works, and it appears Chip Kelly still has enough pieces to make the ball move down the field.

2. The defense has improved. The Ducks are known for their offensive proficiency, but their defense ranked has ranked no worse than 31st in the last three seasons. Eight starters return from last year's 21st-ranked defense. Linebackers Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger are outstanding, and a secondary that was a bit too young to be consistent a year ago is suddenly experienced and potentially outstanding. Safety John Boyett picked off three passes and led the Ducks in tackles as a freshman last year.

Two Red Flags

1. Recruiting is not yet elite. Oregon made waves in its most recent recruiting class, nabbing blue-chip running back Lache Seastrunk. They have slowly begun to increase the caliber of the athlete they attract, but they still rank only 25th in five-year recruiting. Clearly they have succeeded without a team full of blue-chippers, but strong recruiting gives you a good margin for error. After an offseason full of said error, Oregon is about to find out how their depth stacks up, especially on offense.

2. Not the best offseason. They are still the Pac-10 favorites, but Oregon's program took hit after hit this offseason. If the Fulmer Cup standings were a projection factor (and honestly, why shouldn't they be?), Oregon's overall projections would have dipped after Jeremiah Masoli stole frat boys' laptops and got caught with marijuana, LaMichael James was arrested for potential domestic assault, receivers Tyrece Gaines and Diante Jackson were deemed ineligible due to academic issues, and two other receivers (Jamere Holland and Garrett Embry) were booted from the team altogether. Chip Kelly is always very assertive in the way he handles these issues, but the issues probably need to stop while the Ducks can still field an offense.

No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions

2009 Record (Conference): 11-2 (6-2 Big Ten)
2009 Ranks: 7th F/+ | 12th FEI | 6th S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 21st F/+ | 30th FEI | 17th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 8th F/+ | 6th FEI | 10th S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 14th
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 8th
Top 25 Opponents: 3 (all away)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Point differential. Penn State has to replace their quarterback and four of their six leading tacklers, but last year's results point out what was a rather large gap between the Nittany Lions and opponents on their schedule. They outscored opponents by a healthy 16.6 points per game and just one of their 11 wins came by single digits -- their soggy, 19-17 win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl. Darryl Clark's leadership will be missed, and PSU will have to maneuver through the season with three new starting linebackers, but they've got things headed in the right direction once again. This Paterno kid is quite the up-and-comer in the coaching ranks.

2. Recent history has been kind. From 2000-04, Penn State went just 26-33. It looked like the wheels had come off the Joe Paterno bandwagon. He was beginning to lose his wins race with Bobby Bowden and recruiting was not up to par. That changed quickly and drastically. The Lons from the Nittany Valley have won 51 games in the last five seasons and rank sixth in Program F/+ and 18th in five-year recruiting. Three former blue-chip quarterbacks are vying to replace Clark at quarterback, and the defensive front seven has a wealth of former star recruits from which to choose.

Two Red Flags

1. That really was a lot to lose on defense. While the PSU secondary is in fine shape, having lost only two part-time starting cornerbacks, the front seven was hit pretty hard by graduation. Penn State is Linebacker U., of course, so maybe players like Nate Stupar or Michael Mauti will perform as well as the departed trio of Josh Hull, Navorro Bowman, and Sean Lee. But it's never a given, and at the very least, there might be a year of transition before the defense is truly clicking again.

2. They were quite lucky last year. PSU only had a +6 turnover margin last year, but they recovered a whopping 69 percent of the fumbles that took place in their games. That figure was not only highest in the country last year, but it was the fourth-highest in the last five years. Recovering only 50 percent of the fumbles would have resulted in a loss of up to six extra turnovers. Those bounces are not likely to go PSU's way a second straight season.

No. 7 TCU Horned Frogs

2009 Record (Conference): 12-1 (8-0 Mountain West)
2009 Ranks: 3rd F/+ | 8th FEI | 3rd S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 19th F/+ | 33rd FEI | 4th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 6th F/+ | 9th FEI | 4th S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 11th
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 7th
Top 25 Opponents: 0

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Gary Patterson knows 'D'. Yes, they lost to Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl, ceding not only the game but also this season's preseason hype to the Broncos in the process. But while Boise State has a solid chance of going undefeated and threatening to crack into the national title game, TCU's odds of going undefeated are even greater. In fact, they have the highest odds in the country. There are two main reasons for this: (1) a pillow-soft schedule (one that could potentially keep them out of the national title game), and (2) defense. The Horned Frogs have finished atop the Defensive F/+ rankings twice in the last four seasons, and they finished sixth last year. They have to replace leading tackler Daryl Washington, pass-rushing assassin Jerry Hughes, and both starting cornerbacks, but they have more than proven their staying power on the defensive side of the ball.

2. Who needs close wins? As mentioned with Boise State yesterday and Penn State above, it is possible to win games without looking tremendously impressive. That is not the path that TCU has taken in going 23-3 in the last two seasons. The Horned Frogs went 4-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer in that time and have won 19 games by double digits. After a tough win over Air Force last year, TCU won their final seven regular season games by an average of 47-10, taking out strong teams like BYU (in Provo) and Utah in the process. Somewhere along the way, TCU learned how to play offense (they improved from 85th in Offensive F/+ in 2007, to 47th in 2008, to 19th last year), and now they return nine starters and a ton of explosiveness on that side of the ball.

Two Red Flags

1. Recruiting, obviously. TCU's schedule features only two games against major-conference opponents -- Oregon State and Baylor. Regardless, this is not a team that is simply going to demolish opponents based on pure talent and athleticism. TCU ranks just 63rd in five-year recruiting, and though they have clearly won big recently, this does suggest that their margin for error may not be as strong as their dominant scores suggest.

2. Recent offensive history. Yes, TCU has been on an upswing offensively, but they have yet to demonstrate the sustained success we need to see before assuming they will be good year in and year out. The 2010 offense might hold steady -- seven returning starters are seniors -- but things might take a turn for the worse in 2011 when this batch of seniors departs.

No. 6 Virginia Tech Hokies

2009 Record (Conference): 10-3 (6-2 ACC)
2009 Ranks: 4th F/+ | 3rd FEI | 4th S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 7th F/+ | 12th FEI | 2nd S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 15th F/+ | 14th FEI | 16th S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 3rd
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 10th
Top 25 Opponents: 3 (2 away, 1 neutral)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Did anybody notice how good this offense was last year? Because of their conservative nature and somewhat plodding pace, even a really good Virginia Tech offense is not going to rank high in terms of how most people gauge successful offenses -- points, yards per game, etc. But in per-play and per-drive metrics, the Hokies' offense was one of the best in the country last season. They ranked third in both Rushing and Passing S&P+, and third in Standard Downs S&P+. The play calling was impeccable, Tyrod Taylor grew into the role of game manager (13 touchdowns to just five interceptions), and redshirt freshman running back Ryan Williams not only filled in well for injured starter Darren Evans, he also surpassed him. Williams rushed for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns in an astounding debut. Combined with three explosive receivers -- Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale, and Dyrell Roberts combined for 92 catches and 1,839 yards -- this offense had it all. Now they return eight starters, including all of their skill position players and 2008 starter Evans.

2. Blowout wins? By Tech? Really?. The Hokies have racked up double-digit victory totals in each of the last six seasons, and they have done so despite some rather unimpressive point margins. They were plus-14.8 in 2006, plus-12.6 in 2007, and just plus-5.4 in 2008. Last season's offensive success, combined with slight defensive improvement, resulted in a plus-16.2 margin, their best since 2005. They won seven games by at least 13 points and proved that they are once again on an upward trajectory.

Two Red Flags

1. Again with the recent history. Yes, Tech's offense erupted last year. And yes, the backfield is loaded once again. But after finishing 39th, 40th, and 59th in Offensive F/+ from 2006-08, it should go without saying that, like TCU, they have to prove that they can continue the success.

2. A questionable defense? This is a tentative red flag, but it is red nonetheless. Ever so slightly, the Hokies' defense has trended downward in recent years. After finishing in the top five in Defensive F/+ in both 2006 and 2007, they finished 17th in 2008 and 15th in 2009. Combine that with the fact that only four defensive starters return, including just one on the defensive line, and we might see the worst Virginia Tech defense in recent memory this season. If the offense continues to improve, it might not be a big deal -- even a bad Tech defense is likely still pretty good, and the offense can possibly compensate for any slippage. But until some new, young stars emerge, we might be looking at a step backwards here.

No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners

2009 Record (Conference): 8-5 (5-3 Big 12)
2009 Ranks: 10th F/+ | 21st FEI | 7th S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 54th F/+ | 51st FEI | 56th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 2nd F/+ | 4th FEI | 3rd S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 22nd
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 3rd
Top 25 Opponents: 2 (1 home, 1 neutral)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. This is still the OU defense. Oklahoma must replace six starters from one of the top defenses in the country last year. Tackle Gerald McCoy was a top five pick in April's draft, linebackers Ryan Reynolds and Keenan Clayton were long-time contributors, and cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson will be missed. But few programs have so consistently built top-flight defenses -- they have finished no worse than 12th in Defensive F/+ since 2006 -- and they are simply preparing to reload with the next batch of youngsters with potential. Get used to names like linebacker Ronnell Lewis, cornerback Demontre Hurst and tackle Jemarkus McFarland. Add to the equation stalwarts like ends Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander and safety Quinton Carter, and you've got yet another fantastic defense.

2. This is still OU. It was probably not hard for opposing fans to take a bit of delight in the Sooners' five-loss season in 2009. The Sooners had their worst record since 1999, Bob Stoops' first season. But despite a nearly unprecedented string of bad injury luck (Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham combined to play seven quarters all season, and the Sooners could barely find enough warm bodies to field a complete offensive line at times) and close losses (four losses by a touchdown or less), this was still a stout team. They ranked tenth in Overall F/+, with losses to the fifth-, 12th-, 18th-, 22nd- and 23rd-ranked teams, all away from home. They were very close to the type of season we have come to expect from Oklahoma, and it is not hard to imagine them rounding right back into form in 2010.

Two Red Flags

1. Where did the running game go? OU's running game was a shadow of its former self last year. While the patchwork offensive line did manage to protect Landry Jones for the most part after Sam Bradford went down, holes were just nonexistent for DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. After ranking sixth in Rushing S&P+ in 2008, the Sooners fell all the way to 88th in 2009. In theory, there should be more stability on the line this year, and Murray is another year removed from a spate of injuries, but even significant improvement in 2010 might not give them an elite running game.

2. The offense could have been even worse last year. Oklahoma recovered 55% of the fumbles in their games last year, and their Success Rate+ ranked just 73rd. Big plays bailed them out on many occasions, but as far as they fell in 2009, the fall was close to being much worse.

No. 4 Texas Longhorns

2009 Record (Conference): 13-1 (8-0 Big 12)
2009 Ranks: 5th F/+ | 6th FEI | 5th S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 13th F/+ | 15th FEI | 13th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 10th F/+ | 10th FEI | 9th S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 5th
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 5th
Top 25 Opponents: 3 (2 away, 1 neutral)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. If the formula is Recent History Recruiting ... well ... Texas ranks fourth in five-year recruiting and eighth in Program F/+. Despite the losses of Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Sergio Kindle, Earl Thomas, and others, this is one of the healthiest programs in the country, and their latest couple of batches of hand-picked recruits ("We'll take you, and you, and you ...") are likely to produce the same number of stars as any other. First up in a trip to the big-time: sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert, sophomore running back Tre' Newton, sophomore defensive end Alex Okafor, maybe even a true freshman or two.

2. They actually didn't get many bounces last year. And we're not talking about Colt McCoy getting bounced off an Alabama tackler and injuring his arm in the national title game. When the ball hit the ground, chances are that Texas wasn't falling on it. They recovered just 41% of the fumbles that took place in their games, and that alone could likely mean a two to four turnover shift in turnover margin.

Two Red Flags

1. Disproportionality. What is disproportionality? It is when an offense succeeds on passing downs at a disproportionately high level compared to their success on standard downs. Last summer, I spoke about Texas' disproportional success and how it likely signaled regression in 2009. Texas slid a bit -- from fifth to 13th in Offensive F/+ -- but upon further review, it turns out that the bigger slide comes when you're disproportionately successful and lose your quarterback the next season. It is a strong enough factor that it made the final projections equation. Texas still had more success than is maintainable on passing downs (they ranked second in Passing Downs S&P+ in each of the last two years, while ranking 24th and 16th in Standard Downs S&P+, respectively). The odds of Garrett Gilbert immediately pulling as many rabbits out of his hat as McCoy (especially without Jordan Shipley) are not great.

2. Talent out the door. Nobody is going to question the long-term health of Mack Brown's program. But the last time Texas made the national title game and lost quite a few starters (2005), they took a step backwards for a couple of seasons before threatening for titles again. For Texas, "a step backwards" means simply going 10-3, but ten wins does not a top five finish make, and the Longhorns might slip up in road trips to Lubbock or Lincoln instead of making it through another regular season unscathed.

No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

2009 Record (Conference): 11-2 (7-1 Big Ten)
2009 Ranks: 6th F/+ | 4th FEI | 9th S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 28th F/+ | 24th FEI | 26th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 5th F/+ | 3rd FEI | 7th S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/+ Rank: 7th
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/+ Rank: 4th
Top 25 Opponents: 4 (2 home, 2 away)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Recent history loves the Buckeyes' defense. In the last four seasons, the Ohio State defense has ranked seventh, fourth, eighth and fifth in Defensive F/+. Every year it seems they are losing a hefty batch of defensive starters, and every year they either hold steady or improve. Jim Tressel and his main defensive assistants -- Jim Heacock and Luke Fickell -- clearly know what they're doing. The Buckeyes have to replace three starters on the defensive line and will need former star recruits like sophomore tackles John Simon and Garrett Goebel and junior end Nathan Williams to step forward. Odds are, they will do just that.

2. The right players return. Losing five defensive starters can sometimes be hard to overcome, but only one of the five departed seniors was drafted before the seventh round of the NFL Draft. For a team that recruits like the Buckeyes (five-year recruiting rank: tenth), that loss can be overcome. All-conference linebackers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle return, as do three outstanding senior defensive backs -- cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence and safety Jermale Hines.

Two Red Flags

1. Is offensive improvement in the works? After ranking fifth in Offensive F/+ with Troy Smith running the show in 2006, the Buckeyes have ranked 26th, 22nd and 28th the last three seasons. That is certainly respectable, and it will win you a lot of games when your defense is as good as Ohio State's. But if you are wanting to win the national title, it likely needs to be a little better than that. Nine offensive starters return, and it seemed Terrelle Pryor was possibly starting to figure things out late in the season (14-for-17 passing against Iowa, 266 yards passing and 72 yards rushing against Oregon in the Rose Bowl). But can he take the Vince Young-esque leap from his sophomore to junior seasons? Ohio State will be very good regardless, but if Pryor leads a Top 10 offense, it will be difficult to keep them out of the national title game.

2. Turnover margin was a little too good. Very good defenses force more turnovers. Of this there is no doubt. And Ohio State recovered 52% of all fumbles last year, which is an extremely normal total. But their turnover margin of was still a bit too high to duplicate. They were plus-3 in an overtime win over Iowa, plus-4 in an 11-point win over Michigan, and plus-2 in a four-point win over Navy. Both of their losses were tight ones, but a lot of their wins were too, and if they're not winning the turnover battle, they could slip up at least a couple of times.

No. 2 Florida Gators

2009 Record (Conference): 13-1 (8-0 SEC)
2009 Ranks: 2nd F/ | 2nd FEI | 2nd S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 6th F/ | 9th FEI | 6th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 7th F/ | 16th FEI | 2nd S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/ Rank: 2nd
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/ Rank: 1st
Top 25 Opponents: 5 (2 home, 2 away, 1 neutral)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Talent, recent history, et cetera, et cetera. Any time you have to replace a player for whom you are building a statue, it is easy to assume you are going to suffer through at least a temporary step backwards. And in Tim Tebow's absence, maybe Florida will do just that. But the main components of the F/+ Projections -- recent history and recruiting -- obviously and significantly favor the Gators. They rank first in Program F/+ and first in five-year recruiting, and really, the only surprise is that they don't rank first here too. Only 11 starters return from last year's squad, but almost all of the new starters will be former four- and five-star signees. There could always be a temporary step backwards, but it will be very temporary.

2. The Gators were ... unlucky? Florida went 13-1 last season, winning twelve games by double digits, and the numbers suggest they should have been even more dominant. They recovered just 25 percent of all fumbles last year, the second lowest total in the last five seasons. They lost 11 of their own 17 fumbles and pounced on only three of their opponents' 19. Because Tebow threw only five picks, the Gators still ended up plus-7 in turnover margin, but with a normal amount of luck, that margin could have been in the teens. While new quarterback John Brantley might be more interception-prone, if the bounces even out, Florida will have an even healthier turnover margin than they did last season.

Two Red Flags

1. So much defensive talent lost. Using the Draft Points equation discussed here, Florida lost 86 draft points last season, easily the most in the country. (Second-most: Oklahoma's 68; third-most: Alabama's 49.) Fifty of those points came on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Joe Haden was a top ten pick, ends Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap were selected back-to-back in the second round, and two other players went before the fourth round. That's half of the starting defense! The blue-chip talent Urban Meyer has at his disposal is just staggering, but perhaps expecting these new players to immediately figure everything out is a bit unfair. The Gators lost a ton of talent after the 2006 national title season, and it took them a year to get their bearings -- they fell from a Defensive F/+ rank of third in 2006, to 53rd in 2007, then back to second in 2008. A similar bounce this season would not be completely surprising.

2. So much offensive talent lost. In comparison to the defense, Florida's 36 draft points lost on offense seems downright manageable. Still, the losses of lineman Maurkice Pouncey, Tebow, and tight end Aaron Hernandez to the upper half of the draft is certainly a hit. All three are likely being replaced by four- and five-star players, but again, a temporary step backwards would not be unheard of.

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

2009 Record (Conference): 14-0 (8-0 SEC)
2009 Ranks: 1st F/ | 1st FEI | 1st S&P+
2009 Offensive Ranks: 4th F/ | 6th FEI | 5th S&P+
2009 Defensive Ranks: 1st F/ | 1st FEI | 1st S&P+
Proj. 2010 Offensive F/ Rank: 1st
Proj. 2010 Defensive F/ Rank: 2nd
Top 25 Opponents: 7 (3 home, 4 away)

Two Signs for Optimism

1. Defense was solid in all the right ways. Below, we will discuss the impact losing nine defensive starters could have on Alabama this seasons. Here, though, we will focus on the fact that the Crimson Tide's defense ranked first in Standard Downs S&P+ last year. On offense, I often refer to standard downs as "play-calling downs," since teams are able to run or pass and execute the gameplan they intended. If that is the case, then Alabama's defense was the best in the country at executing their gameplan as well. The level of coaching provided by Nick Saban and his staff is as high as anywhere, and even if this inexperienced unit takes a step backwards, that step likely won't be a large one.

2. The offense could be ridiculous. Despite the fact that they have a Heisman winner in the backfield, it is almost easy to forget about the Alabama offense. Their defense was just that good last season, ranking first in both FEI and S&P+. But this year it is the offense projected to rank first. It's certainly not hard to see why: eight starters return, including almost all skill position players. Heisman winner Mark Ingram and his almost-as-capable backup Trent Richardson grace the backfield again, receiver Julio Jones returns, and underrated signal caller Greg McElroy is back as well. There is solid depth on the line, and the Tide lost only nine draft points as a whole from this unit. As with teams like Ohio State or Virginia Tech, they could compensate for defensive regression with offensive improvement. This is just a scary, scary team.

Two Red Flags

1. Two is a lonely number. No matter how well you have recruited (five-year recruiting rank: third), having to replace nine starters is still a tall task. The defense lost 49 draft points this April, most notably linebacker Rolando McClain, cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Javier Arenas, and mountainous tackle Terrence Cody. They were so good and experienced last year that their backup cornerback (Marquis Johnson) was also drafted. Recent blue-chippers like linebackers Nico Johnson and Jerrell Harris and cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and B.J. Scott will have to step up. Chances are, they will eventually. But they face a tricky early trip to Fayetteville to take on the loaded Arkansas offense (two weeks after facing Penn State at home), and it will be interesting to see how quickly the new guys get up to speed.

2. Standard downs weren't perfect. It is nit-picking here, but while Alabama's offense ranked in the top five in Offensive F/+, they ranked just 13th in both Standard Downs S&P+ and Rushing S&P+. That is obviously still good, but for them to end up with the top offense in the country, they will have to improve on that, especially if the defense is struggling out of the gates. Young defenses can react poorly to bad momentum, and it will be up to the Alabama offense to steady the game and keep putting points on the board. They will probably do it, but improvement is still necessary.

Summary

In list form, here is a recap of the Projected F/+ Top 25.

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Ohio State
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma
6. Virginia Tech
7. TCU
8. Penn State
9. Oregon
10. LSU
11. USC
12. Clemson
13. Miami
14. Boise State
15. Iowa
16. Texas Tech
17. Wisconsin
18. Arkansas
19. Georgia
20. Tennessee
21. Nebraska
22. Pittsburgh
23. South Carolina
24. North Carolina
25. Ole Miss

On a per-conference basis, we are looking at eight SEC teams (a ninth, Auburn, is not far behind), four from the Big 12, ACC, and Big Ten, two from the Pac-10, and one each from the Big East, Mountain West and WAC. When teams' actual schedules take effect, obviously projections shake out a little differently. We will likely have a little more teaser information released in the coming days, but full 2010 predictions will come on July 1, when the college portion of Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 is available for download.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 22 Jun 2010

51 comments, Last at 27 Jun 2010, 10:08pm by capt. Anonymous

Comments

1
by lionsbob :: Tue, 06/22/2010 - 3:36pm

On Alabama:
I always see the 9 defensive starters gone, which is true, but it is perhaps a little overblown.

The two starters back are Mark Barron, who had 7 picks last season and is seen as one of the best safeties in the game and Dont'a Hightower/Nico Johnson: Of course Hightower got hurt in the Arkansas game and Nico replaced him as a starter (how scary good would Alabama's defense been if Hightower was healthy all of last year, much like the Ingram isn't even the best RB for Bama comments you hear now, last summer people were saying the McClain wasn't the best LB on the team).

But, what this misses is that it includes BCS Championship MVP Marcel Dareus as a non-starter, Josh Chapman probably played as much as Terrence Cody as well. Courtney Upshaw was playing a lot by the end of the season (he was the one who put the hit on Gilbert and caused him to fumble in the 4th quarter).

The biggest loss is in the secondary of course-like mentioned they lose their first 3 corners, starting safety Justin Woodall, and backups like Ali Sharrief and Tyrone King as well-plus Robby Green is suspended for the season and JUCO transfer and early enrollee DeQuan Menzie is out for the season as well. Lots of depth is gone in the secondary. There is talent there, but if someone like Barron or Kirkpatrick goes down...not fun.

As far as the offense, the backfield is scary good. The WRs have the talent. McElroy has moxie.

The schedule...well it seems that every freaking SEC team has a bye before they play Bama-it will be interesting to see how that plays out as the season goes on.

2
by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 06/22/2010 - 3:54pm

Your issues with the returning starter data are why it doesn't carry much weight in the overall projection formulas. For every team that truly loses nine starters, there is one that kind of lost nine starters, but a few of the players were part-timers, or they got hurt and their backups were able to play at a similar level. We use that data because it is still somewhat telling, but the mushy nature of returning starters is why more concrete variables, like recent history, are weighted much more heavily.

9
by crimson37 (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 10:39am

I agree with most of what you have written, but it was Eryk Anders, who knocked the ball out of Gilbert's hands in the BCS CG, Upshaw recovered the fumble.

Kirkpatrick has had another (his second or third?) shoulder surgery, which is concerning. He's got great athleticism and pure talent, but will he be available?

I think the biggest question mark for Bama this year is their kicking game. They lost both kickers, plan to start freshman kickers and lost their talented long snapper, Brian Selman. Selman was a consistent snapper and commonly the first guy downfield on coverage. You don't hear much praise for LS in general, but he was exceptional.

51
by capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Sun, 06/27/2010 - 10:08pm

I tried this giving a program value that was heavily weighted towards having seniors who very very good(admittedly by possibly flawed observation). My thinking behind this was that younger players are best deployed in supporting roles and that a program must prove that it can develop very good players in 4-5 years without losing them to the draft or other problems(cough Oregon cough sorry about that).

Here we go

top 9(BCS bowl contenders)
1. Auburn
2. Ohio St.
3. Miami
4. BOise
Florida
PSU
7. UNC
USC
Nebraska
Because someone has to win the Big East
10. Pitt
WVU
Best of the rest(teams I expect to win 8+games)
TCU
LSU
Scar
Iowa
WVU
Gtech
Michigan
Oregon St.
Arkansas

12
by Muldrake (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 10:30pm

According to Phil Steele, though, Alabama is only returning 35% of its tackles from last year - worst in the country and significantly less than the >50% returning for PSU and VT. So even if there was significant playing time for some of the backups, they didn't make very many plays last year. Getting Hightower back helps that somewhat, but there I think that the lack of experience as a whole is going to be a problem early on. I can't see them better than 3-2 following the Florida game.

20
by crimsonpride2003 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 10:31am

If Alabama is 3-2 after the Florida game, I will take a flight to your house and wash your car/mow the lawn/do your laundry/pay the bills/take the dog for a walk.

36
by Anonymous333 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 2:32pm

I bet your job is washing cars, mowing grass, doing laundry and walking dogs. rtr.

22
by Anonymous123 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:40am

3-2??!!?? LOLOLOLOL. You citing Phil Steele tells me all I need to know about your level of football intelligence. Tell you what, why don't you piss in one hand and wish in the other and see which one fills up first.

21
by Pepa (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:06am

Courtney didn't deliver the blow to Gilbert in the 4th causing the fumble. Eryk Anders did. Courtney recovered the ball. Just lettin ya know....but the rest of your post is pretty solid.

However, our defense is gonna have times where we are flabbergasted. Our secondary is YOUUUUNNNGG and INEXPERIENCED. That may bite us in the ass a few times...hopefully not for game-changing plays.

34
by lionsbob :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 2:09pm

Yeah brain fart by me, forgot it was Anders that had that great hit.

I think Alabama can have a special front 7-there is a lot of talent there, especially if Hightower is fully recovered from his knee injury.

32
by Actually it was Anders (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:57pm

who made the hit on Gilbert but Upshaw recovered it.

3
by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Tue, 06/22/2010 - 5:30pm

I love the numbers, but Boise St. ranked 14th while TCU is ranked 7 just does not pass the giggle test. If Boise St. beats Virgina Tech, they are immediately ranked in the top 5.

4
by Will :: Tue, 06/22/2010 - 8:32pm

TCU is clearly ranked too high because they are worse than Boise St. The Giggle Test is way better than this. If Bose St can win games, dey will be rakned top 5 watch.

Will

5
by Rocco :: Tue, 06/22/2010 - 8:45pm

VT's defense should be better this year if only because Kam "2 steps late on every play" Chancellor has finally graduated and will no longer be giving up big plays at safety.

6
by An Onimous (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 4:30am

A sure sign that F/+ loves the SEC- LSU, UF, and Alabama have more top-25 teams on their schedules (18) than the rest of the top 10 combined (17).

In fact, the 8 SEC teams in the top 25 combine for 44 games against top-25 opponents, while the other 17 teams combine for just 40 games against top-25 opponents. And yet, people still complain about the SEC's scheduling practices while Boise State basically only has to win one game to make the national championship.

7
by dryheat :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 8:37am

I don't follow NCAA football as closely as I'd like to, yet I'm willing to bet that Boise State would have to win at least 9 games to make the national championship.

10
by crimson37 (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 10:52am

I'm sure that they would have to win all of their games to be in the CG, but they only have one or two teams that are rated in this top 25.
Quality teams abound in the BCS conferences. There is more attrition to account for when playing bigger, faster opponents. I'm not saying that Boise State, Utah or TCU aren't as fast, but they don't play as many teams with as big or as fast players as those in BCS conferences. Because of that their depth is less tested when compared to the teams that succeed in the BCS conferences.
I think that this is the crux of judging that teams like TCU and Boise State have a less tested route to a top 25 ranking.

15
by An Onimous (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 10:42pm

They'll have to win all of their games, but it looks entirely possible that they might only have one game against a team that finishes the season among the top 60 teams in the entire nation. If they win that one game, odds are that they'll be in the national championship.

11
by Brendan Scolari :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 9:51pm

Boise won 12 games last year and didn't make the national championship...

13
by An Onimous (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 10:33pm

That's my point. Winning 12 games shouldn't get them into the national championship game this year, either. One win against a top-25 team is not, in my opinion, an impressive enough resume. It's nice that Boise State scheduled VaTech, but if they really think they're a championship-caliber team, they need to add at least two more nonconference games of comparable quality. And non-AQ teams don't need to give that whole "nobody will play us" line, because it's hokum. They might not be able to get home-and-homes with teams like Florida or Texas, but if they really wanted games against power teams, they could get them. They might be road games, but so what? If they scheduled two true road games against power teams, they'd still have fewer road games against top-25 programs than UF or Alabama have.

I remember the days when up-and-coming programs like FSU and Miami who were looking to make a name for themselves scheduled under an "any one, any time, any place" premise. There was none of this sense of entitlement that the Utahs, Boise States, and TCUs seem to have today.

16
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 11:53pm

"They might not be able to get home-and-homes with teams like Florida or Texas, but if they really wanted games against power teams, they could get them."

How do you know this? Where have you read this?

From what I've read, Boise will take a home-and-home against any team in the country, period. They will also take a guarantee road game against any team in the country. Nobody wants to play them home-and-home except some of the more local Pac-10 schools and nobody wants to pay them money for the possibility to get beat by them at home (Virginia Tech being a notable exception).

18
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 8:30am

Nobody wants to play them home-and-home because they wouldn't get as much money for it as a home and home versus, say, Texas, and Boise's a long trip for most teams.

They will also take a guarantee road game against any team in the country.

I have never read that anywhere, and if it's a coach that says it, it's posturing. Boise's athletic department is basically completely supported by the 7 home games they have, and losing one would be very bad.

24
by Eddo :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 12:14pm

- "They will also take a guarantee road game against any team in the country."

- "I have never read that anywhere, and if it's a coach that says it, it's posturing. Boise's athletic department is basically completely supported by the 7 home games they have, and losing one would be very bad."

You're probably correct, Pat, but it's not that unheard of to play road-only games against AQ-conference teams. Hasn't Fresno State operated under that philosophy the past 5-10 years?

27
by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:10pm

I am sure the income from those bowl games the past few years would take a little sting out of losing money from a single home game. Since 2001, the year Dan Petersen joined the Boise St. coaching staff as OC, the Broncos are 4-4 in bowl games. Even their losses were marked by great performances (unlike, say, an Alabama vs. Utah,) coming from a combined 14 points. They lost to:
> #8 Louisville by 4
> #U Boston College by 6
> #U ECU by 3
> #9 TCU by 1

The notable wins are over Oklahoma in OT and TCU twice. The '07 and '10 Fiesta Bowls are the best bowl games I have watched over the past 5 years. Since Dan Petersen's arrival, Boise St. has been a dominant in conference performer and hitting one of the big boys in the mouth once a year. Point being, the bowl committees will continue inviting them to bowl game because they provide quality competition and exciting games. Financially, they could spare a home game for that bowl game payday. TCU schedules one out of conference BCS school per year, which is more than most BCS schools. If invited to the right bowl game, they face two BCS schools per year. How many years do they need to beat their scheduled BCS opponent and hope to get the right bowl game to defeat a second BCS opponent before winning 14 games wins them a BCS title? Sadly, since they are a small market, I do not think they will get the chance during this window of opportunity.

On a side note (rant):
While Boise St. played an excellent game, completely switching their standard paradigm and winning a defensive struggle, they victory in the Fiesta Bowl did not help them as much as it could have. Since beating OK, they have only faced ECU and TCU in bowl games. Both Boise St. and TCU would have been much better served playing any of the other big schools in the BCS series. Unfortunately, Ohio St. and Oregon were shield by the farce of tradition in the Rose Bowl. A victory over Iowa, Georgia Tech., Florida or Cincinnati would have definitely boosted Boise St.'s credibility with 2 wins over 4 years against BCS schools in bowl games. Instead we got an awesome game but traditionalists will still harp it was just a WAC team beating a Mt. West team.

30
by t.d. :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:51pm

It may not have been in the Rose Bowl, but Boise State did beat Oregon last season, pretty thoroughly, too. I can understand a bowl not wanting a rematch of a blowout from earlier in the year (it wasn't as close as the 19-7 score)

31
by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:54pm

Let's be careful with the "marked by great performances" stuff in the losses...

*The 17-16 loss to TCU two years ago saw Boise outgained 472-250, getting crushed at the point of attack. They dodged a few bullets and hung close despite the statistical rout.

*The 41-38 loss to East Carolina came as an 11-point favorite, and was the "bookend" to the Oklahoma game. Boise upset a flat Oklahoma team one year, but then was flat themselves for East Carolina the next season. Boise was outgained 476-368 by a double digit underdog.

*The 27-21 loss to Boston College came on Boise's home field, and they trailed 24-0 at halftime as hosts. A late punt return TD created a bit of a scoreboard illusion in terms of the flow of the game.

*The 44-40 loss to Louisville was another statistical rout, with Boise getting outgained 564-284. They used a 92-yard pick six to create a 14-point turnaround on the scoreboard at one point, and had a fumble recover TD later in the game.

There are certainly highlights worth bragging about for Boise fans in recent postseason games. Getting outgained 472-250 and 564-284 shouldn't be on the list, nor should a home loss where they were outclassed most of the afternoon, or an outright loss as a double digit favorite. We can certainly celebrate a "never give up" attitude for a team that's fresher at the end of the season than most because of a soft schedule. They've had serious issues at the point of attack vs. quality that would eventually prove fatal over the course of a tougher schedule in my view.

47
by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Fri, 06/25/2010 - 10:40am

Those two statistical routs had opponents doubling them up in points but were lost by less than a TD, less than two FGs. Is that all luck? Is that just failure to execute by their opponent? Or is that good play in all phases of the game by Boise St. against a good opponent?

They led TCU by 13 and TCU mounted a comeback win by one point. The yardage total may reflect being "crushed at the point of attack," but the game did not.

If they were outclassed by BC, I think it bares mentioning they were outclassed by an emerging Matt Ryan. They trailed 24-0 at half, had a late punt return to make it a six point game with 4 minutes left and got the ball back with a chance to win. What is not great about that? The three turnovers in the first half were definitely not great, but their response in the second half was.

When was that 11 point line established? Was that before or after Jeremy Childs (WR,) Keith McGowen (CB,) and Ben Chandler (LB) were suspended from the game? McGowen and Chandler were backups, but Childs accounted for 9 TDs and over 1,000 yards that season. [SOURCE] So Boise St. fielded a team less its number one WR against an ECU team led by Chris Johnson (yes, that Chris Johnson,) were down 24 points, came back to tie and were beaten by a last second field goal.

Boise St. posted 31 points in the first half against Louisville. Louisville responded in the second half, their defense clamped down and Boise St. could not hold on. It was a competitive game and 14 points off turnovers does not discount Boise St. performance.

It takes a special team to face quality opponents throughout the season and still be eligible for a BCS title shot. Boise St. does not have the recruiting to do that. But, they have proved they can play with teams on that level on a game to game basis. I think they have performed great, even in those losses. Two were against teams led by current NFL superstars. The other two highlight Boise St. working in all phases of the game. When they play in conference, the offense shines. When they play out of conference, high level competition, they depend upon execution in all phases of the game. There is nothing wrong with that.

48
by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 06/25/2010 - 12:53pm

Think we're on kind of arguing the ground between "I think they performed great" and "There is nothing wrong with that." I'm all for the "nothing wrong with that" stuff. Great that they never give up after falling behind. NOT great that they trailed BC 27-0 with a few minutes to go in the third quarter on their home field, or trailed East Carolina 38-14 five minutes into the third quarter as a big favorite. If you want to give them "greatness" points for comebacks, you have to give them "choke" points for blowing a 13-0 lead to TCU in the 17-16 loss two seasons ago too.

Not a sign of greatness:
Getting outrushed 275-28 by TCU
Getting outrushed 322-98 by East Carolina (!!)
Getting outrushed 127-43 by Boston College at home
Getting outrushed 329-88 by Louisville

That's three horrible defensive performances, and four virtually invisible offensive ones on the ground (and it's not like they're running the Texas Tech offense). "Great" teams don't allow 275-329 rushing yards in important neutral field games (particularly when only one opponent was a BCS-league team at the time).

We'll have to disagree about whether or not Matt Ryan was "emerging" in his second year as a starter when he finished the season with 8 TD's and 5 INT's. He certainly emerged later in terms of productivity (particularly with 31 TD's his senior season). BC finished tied for fourth in the ACC that year with an offense that wasn't explosive.

Covers.com shows that the closing line of EC/BSU was Boise by 11.5 (I rounded down), meaning that was AFTER news of any suspensions, and lines don't move much anyway on suspensions to backup defensive players, or WR's who scored 9 TD's for a team that ran up the score every week. Boise allowed 322 rushing yards and 6.4 ypc. Was that because a backup LB and CB got suspended? East Carolina was a 7-5 team from Conference USA, and wasn't good enough to play in the CUSA championship game that year.

"Execution in all phases of the game" couldn't possibly include getting outrushed badly on a regular basis, and allowing exorbitant ypc numbers on neutral fields or in home games. And, "yardage gained after you've fallen way behind" is generally not a great evaluation tool. I agree it speaks to the "never give up" attitude of the Boise players. I'm not paraphrasing Homer Simpson, saying "they're the suckiest suck team who ever sucked." Analysis means recognizing the plusses and the negatives, not celebrating the plusses and downplaying the negatives. The effort to figure out where Boise State stands in the big picture has to include the negatives too.

33
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 2:09pm

They only have 6 home games this year and are getting paid 1.25 million to go play Virginia Tech in DC. They can lose the game if they get paid.

38
by An Onimous (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 2:56pm

Big schools have demonstrated in the past that they'll schedule anyone as long as there's no return trip. A home game against Boise State, for instance, would be an absolute GOLD MINE for a major BCS-conference team, and at the end of the day it's all about the money. Boise/TCU/Utah have gotten big games in the past by not scheduling a return trip. Boise got the game against Va Tech this year, after all. Utah had a game scheduled against Texas a couple of years ago... but they backed out, and then at the end of the season complained that they were undefeated and not playing for a championship.

Like I said, "anyone, anywhere, anytime" was good enough to vault Miami and Florida State into the national elite. You think they liked the fact that they had to play so many road games when they were trying to make a name for themselves? I'm sure they didn't... but they believed that they could beat anyone, so they put their reputation on the line and went out and proved it. And, as a result, they earned their seat at the big-boy table, rather than beating one top-60 team and waiting for a handout.

8
by Dean :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 9:57am

I find it interesting that Georgia Tech isn't listed. I'm not a yellowjacket, but it seems to me that their running game will have them in the thick of things in the end.

No love for West Virginia, Oregon State, Georgia, or Oklahoma State, ether.

14
by Muldrake (not verified) :: Wed, 06/23/2010 - 10:42pm

Oklahoma State is probably going to be pretty bad this year. They're returning only 35% of their total yards, 45% of their tackles, and have a combined 12 total starts on their offensive line. Yeesh.

I'd feel sorry for Boone Pickens having to watch them this year, except that after the game he can go swimming in his olympic sized pool full of money like Scrooge McDuck.

17
by jpizme (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 12:30am

Nebraska, and Oklahoma have offered BSU a "2for1" and BSU said no thanks. BSU AD Bleymaier has alwyas scheduled poor non conf. games in hopes of going undefeated. He is a weasle.

25
by Eddo :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 12:15pm

Why is he a weasle[sic]? What's better for his school, going 11-2 or 10-3 against a tough out-of-conference schedule, and playing in the Holiday Bowl? Or going 13-0 and playing in the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl?

46
by jpizme (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:43pm

I do not know Bleymaier personally so using the term weasle is not a personal attack, it's just that he claims BSU will play "anyone anytime", but he fails to mention the match ups he has turned down. But yet he is the 1st to cry when BSU gets assigned to the Hawaii bowl or the Fiesta against TCU. NO one should be allowed to schedule 1 BCS opponent in OOC and get a premium bowl invite. The BCS needs to insert the SOS back into the formula so all BCS teams will play a formidable schedule. BSU is at best a legitamit top 30 team, not a top 5 by any means. The University of Montana has tried to schedule BSU and Bleymaier turned them down, a FBS school!

19
by An astute observer (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 9:59am

that Alabama and Forida will be pretty good?

23
by Tide411 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:49am

WOW @ Bama's schedule!!! 7 of the top 25 pre-season, plus another (8) in the SEC Champ game & a 9th should they reach the BCS NC game combined with 6 SEC opponents having bye weeks prior to their Bama game. Not to mention, Auburn always playing them tough in arguably the biggest rivalry game in the country & Univ of Auburn also being just outside top 25 to start the season = EXTREMELY DIIFICULT PATH TO REPEAT! And Boise State fans wonder why a 1 loss SEC team deserves to play over arguably a 1 win (1 decent opponent all season they face). The SEC has an argument that a 2 loss team deserves it over an undefeated Boise St. & this analytical website would affirm that assertation that a potential 2 loss regular season Bama that manages to win the SEC championship would be way more deserving of the opportunity. Potentially, 9 of 14 against games top 25, (10 if you consider Auburn rivalry & close proximity to top 25), with 6 of those opponents having BYE weeks = hands down, no argument, toughest schedule in the country & legit argument for a BCS NC championship spot if sitting at 11-2 after SEC championship game. Just as Boise St. has begun their campaign pre-season, Bama fans & CFB analysts need to counter with the above logic. Just simply, WOW @ that schedule!

26
by Anonymous11 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 12:41pm

"Not to mention, Auburn always playing them tough in arguably the biggest rivalry game in the country"

Wait, you can't be serious!!!! The state of Alabama has what, 12 people in it? I'm pretty sure a Pop Warner game in most states has more rabid fans than the ol' Alabama Rivalry. As if anyone cares about two nothing schools in a nothing state.

28
by Anonymous12 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:15pm

Naaaah, couldn't be! No one cares about Alabama, which is why the school is so famous for its college football. Which is why the state rivalry is always mentioned as one of the top in college football in every discussion.

And most people not consumed by jealousy actually respect a state like Alabama, with a small population to draw from, being able to excel against states such as, say Texas, with many more, in the most popular non-professional sport in America. But maybe you're different.

35
by Anonymous11 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 2:19pm

You're right, damn I wish I lived in that great state!!! Sure I live in California, but who would want the culture, weather, beaches, cities, and girls we have here when I can have some good ol' football in the corn fields!?!?!? It must be pure, RAGING jealousy that's infected me!!!!

And you're actually incorrect, most people don't respect Alabama, in fact I'd bet most people couldn't name a single city in Alabama, because no one really cares about it at all. They don't have a single city with as much as 250,000 people, and why anyone would want to live there is beyond me. But then you mentioned Texas, and if that's your high bar for a state, perhaps Alabama seems alright.

37
by lionsbob :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 2:33pm

Good for you buddy. California is a great state, economic disaster and all. Thankfully you have come to enlighten people on how much Alabama isn't respected by the great people of California. I think you made Alabama cry, with their small-towns and lack of girls and whatnot. Be nicer next time Mr. Big-time Cali dude, all 50 states have something to give this great country.

44
by sjt (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 9:13pm

And I'm sure Bama is a great state too, despite its economic woes. Good thing it has states like California to pay extra taxes so it can get by off of federal subsidies. Otherwise they may not have the cash to hire guys like Saban who over recruit and then tell kids that commit to the school to take a hike.

45
by lionsbob :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:16pm

Thank goodness for California then, Alabama is grateful for them and that big meanie Nick Saban who tells players to take a hike (I am not sure who those guys are, but he does!)

40
by Anonymous12 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 4:24pm

And yet you find time in your fulfilling life to snark on Alabama. Interesting. And I'm from California, but had the good sense to get the hell out as soon as I could. Enjoy the coming fiscal disaster, buddy.

43
by sjt (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 9:09pm

Bama has double digit unemployment and a projected fiscal deficit roughly equal to California in terms of percentage of budget in the red for FY 2011. That's following a 1.6 billion dollar deficit for fiscal year 2010. Not huge until you consider how small the entirety of the Bama budget is.

For all the hemming and hawing about California fiscal troubles, the fact is that its in the same boat as almost ever other state, the numbers are just bigger because the state is bigger. State law requires a balanced budget, so they just cut spending whenever a gap emerges. Sucks, but its not the sea of debt people make it out to be.

39
by An Onimous (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 3:14pm

You don't know anywhere near as much as you think you do if you don't think the Iron Bowl is arguably the biggest rivalry game in the country. Seriously, it's either Alabama/Auburn or it's Ohio State/Michigan... and my money's on Alabama/Auburn. We're talking European Soccer Fan-level passion and insanity. People literally murder each other over that game.

Seriously, why on earth should anyone listen to someone who can't name a single city in the state of Alabama when he pontificates about the reality of Alabama football? Would you listen to me if I said "I can't name a single city in California, but I know everything worth knowing about USC football"? You make jokes about how backwards Alabamans are... and you're right. They don't have any NFL teams. They don't have any MLB teams. They don't have any NHL teams. They don't have any NBA teams. All they have is Auburn and Alabama. Those are essentially the only teams in the entire state (unless you count UAB and USA and the like). Auburn losing to Alabama, for an Auburn fan, would be like if the Red Sox lost to the Yankees *AND* the Bruins lost to the Rangers *AND* the Celtics lost to the Knicks *AND* the Patriots lost to the Jets, and each and every one of those losses knocked the team in question out of title contention.

29
by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:15pm

If AL is the SEC champion at 11-2 and there are two undefeated conference champions out of the Big-12, Big-10, Pac-10, ACC or Big East, AL will not play in the BCS championship game. There is just no way to justify that in the current system.

42
by sjt (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 9:03pm

Ya, great, but you're making one huge assumption: that preseason rankings mean squat. Yes, Bama has a tough road on paper in June. But eventually they have to actually start playing the games, and some of those supposedly great teams are going to be exposed as frauds unworthy of their rankings. Maybe graduation will do them in, or injuries, or simple regression to the mean, but simply saying that teams are great months before the season starts doesn't make it true in October.

As for 1 loss SEC teams, how did 1 loss SEC Bama fare against a weakling from the Mountain West a few years back?

41
by john sparks (not verified) :: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 7:29pm

You forgot about them seminoles, I have a feeling they are going to shock alot of people!!!!!!!!!!!

49
by Bama (not verified) :: Sun, 06/27/2010 - 12:08pm

Good points in the article. Bama's schedule is tough this year with top teams and tough games in a short span (Penn St, Ark, FL). We have confidence in our coaching to allay the deficit in returning defensive starters. As to future, this Bama alum would LOVE our team to play Utah, Boise State and any other takers at home or away (who may think one post-season game defines Bama's strength or lack thereof). Other conferences would not be mouthing off 'bout Bama if their teams faced SEC teams every week. It takes tough coaches, talented players and mental toughness to excel in the SEC.

50
by Jon Burr (not verified) :: Sun, 06/27/2010 - 7:39pm

As a Tennessee fan, I'm thrilled to see them in your Top 25. Unfortunately, I have to ask: "why?" Most signs point to a miserable rebuilding season. Please show me the light at the end of the tunnel, folks!