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2010 NCAA College Football Top 25 Preview - teams 11-25

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Fearless Rick's 2010 NCAA Top 25 - Teams 11-25

Rick Gagliano | August 4-12, 2010

NCAA TOP 25 Teams 11-25 - Predicted order of finish

11. Miami Hurricanes - One of the most exciting teams in 2010, the Hurricanes will once again be in the hunt for the ACC title after a 5-3 conference and 9-4 overall record in 2009.

Led by strong-armed QB Jacoby Harris, Miami should be an explosive offense again with Graig Cooper getting the majority of carries from the backfield and a complete contingent of fleet receivers returning, including Leonard Hankerson and Travis Benjamin.

While the offense will provide the thrills, the defense may be more important to winning in Miami. Returning eight starters from a year ago, this bunch will be nearly impossible to run against and they almost surely will have some deep, young talent in the secondary. Opposing quarterbacks will find themselves on their heels more often than not, as the Miami pass rush has re-emerged to national prominence.

The Hurricanes face a brutal early schedule following their cream-puff opener against Florida A&M, with consecutive road tests at Ohio State, Pitt and Clemson. Playing on the road against the Panthers and Buckeyes is about as ambitious a non-confernece schedule as you'll find, plus, there are no real breathers in the ACC this season. The Hurricanes end up at Georgia Tech on November 13, followed by home games against Virginia Tech and South Florida, November 20 and 27.

If Miami manages to survive that brutal schedule, will they have anything left for a potential ACC title game and then a BCS bowl?

12. Washington Huskies - Even though they finished just 5-4 in the PAC-10 and 5-7 overall, there is enough talent on the Huskies' roster to make them a powerful force on the West coast, especially since USC will be ineligible and Oregon without their starting QB (Jeremiah Masoli) from the past two seasons. QB Jake Locker, RB Chris Polk and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse might be the best offensive trio in the PAC-10 and certainly one of the best in the country.

Look for the Huskies to run up scores early on opponents and then hope their rather thin defense can keep teams at bay. The Huskies have holes to fill along the defensive line and they had better do so in a hurry because they open the season against LSU in Maryland and then play USC, at Stanford and at Notre Dame back-to-back-to-back September 19 to October 3.

If Locker proves to be everything he's supposed to be and the defense is just adequate, the Huskies will find success in 2010. Locker has all the tools of an NFL quarterback and the supporting cast to propel him and his team to new heights.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes - The Hawkeyes put together a very impressive 11-2 season in 2009, culminating in a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Their two losses were heartbreakers near the end of the season - a 17-10 loss to Northwestern and a memorable 27-24 OT defeat at Ohio State, which deprived the Hawkeyes a Rose Bowl bid.

Most of the talent positions return on offense, including QB Ricky Stanzi, RB Brandon Wegher and wideout Marvin McNutt, but the offensive line will have to be retooled as three of the starters from last year graduated.

Iowa finished 10th in the nation defensively, allowing just 15 points per game, and that unit is again loaded, so the rest of the conference better be prepared for devastating hits from anywhere on the field. The schedule works a little bit against Iowa in 2010, with key games on the road at Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Winning even one of those three should be enough to keep the Hawkeyes on track for a solid bowl bid; beating either Ohio State or Wisconsin or both puts them on track for the conference title and possible national championship consideration.

14. Texas Longhorns - After two spectacular seasons in a row without a national championship to show, the Longhorn faithful are going to have to adjust to life without Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley, both of whom have moved onto Sunday football in the NFL.

Texas may have one of the better QBs in the conference in Garrett Gilbert, who was rushed into action in the national title game against the Crimson Tide and did not embarrass himself. Gilbert will attempt to make fans forget McCoy with throws to wideouts Malcolm Williams and James Kirkendoll, but the Longhorns are still searching for a stable player at running back, which might pose a problem.

On defense, there's plenty of talent, but also plenty of question marks, though the Big 12 has evolved over the past few years as a throwing-no-defense division, so the plan will be to just outscore opponents every Saturday.

A ton of talent has departed from the Big 12 at most of the top schools, so Texas may have a bit of an edge in experience overall. Midseason road games at Oklahoma and Nebraska back-to-back (with a week off in between) appear to be the major obstacles in the way of the Longhorns' pursuit of another BCS bid.

15. South Carolina Gamecocks - It's about time the "Old Football Coach," Steve Spurrier, cranked up a title run at the East coast version of USC. The defense is sound and Spurrier is going to be calling the plays for the offense this season. With QB Stephen Garcia having barely survived a tumultuous freshman year, he should be ready to make the big plays the Gamecocks need to win in the rugged SEC.

Garcia will find an ally in freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, one of the most highly-recruited players in the nation. Four of the five leading receivers from last year return, and with a defense that can stop just about anything thrown or run at it, this could prove to be SC's year in the sun.

A couple of key games are on their home turf, including Alabama (Oct. 9) and Arkansas (Nov. 6), but the Gamecocks will be tested at the "Swamp" when they visit Florida November 13. After winning just 3 of 8 conference games in 2009, the Gamecocks should be one of the most improved teams in the conference.

16. Oregon Ducks - Despite losing Jeremiah Masoli to various crimes and misdemeanors (he's transferred to Ole Miss), the Oregon program will still be a big-time contender in the wide-open PAC-10. The Ducks return nine starters on offense, eight on defense, to a team which hammered the rest of the conference (8-1) and finished high in the national spotlight at 10-3.

Chip Kelly is back for his second year as head coach, which means the Ducks will have stability, despite the loss of Masoli and the off-season domestic violence arrest of extraordinary running back LaMichael James.

Nate Costa is the likely heir to Masoli's position, but he'll have to get the playbook down pat early on, as there will be great pressure on him to lead the explosive Oregon offense, which rolled up 37.7 points per year.

The Ducks won the PAC-10 last season and will be on edge to repeat, though the entire conference is up for grabs in 2010. The season ends against two of the three teams which chased Oregon in the standings last season, on the road at Oregon State after playing Arizona at home the day after Thanksgiving. Those key games may decide the Rose Bowl participant.

17. Penn State Nittany Lions- The Nittany Lions will be up against some serious competition in 2010 from Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State, plus an early contest at Alabama (Sept. 11), but if Joe Paterno has proven anything over his four decades at Penn State, it's to never underestimate the power of his program.

While Penn State will not have to play Wisconsin this season, the will have to travel against both Iowa and Ohio State, which could be their undoing. Even if they lose those two games and an out-of-conference game to the Crimson Tide, they still may manage to finish the season with all wins in their other 9 games and merit inclusion in the Top 25 and a decent bowl bid.

Running back Evan Royster will have his hands on the ball a lot this season as Kevin Newsome learns the QB position. On defense, all three linebackers will be new faces, though that usually turns out to be more a pleasant surprise than a cause for concern at Linebacker U.

If all goes accrding to plan, the Nittany Lions will finish no worse than 8-4, head to a bowl game and demolish some upstart. If they're better than expected, the sky's the limit as there are so many unknowns.

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18. Stanford Cardinal - Last season, the Cardinal, under head coach Jim Harbaugh, finished 8-5 with its first bowl bid since 2001. Tied for second place in the PAC-10 with Arizona and Oregon State, Stanford was unbowed even in their 31-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl.

Toby Gerhart has graduated to the next level, meaning the offense will revolve more around QB Andrew Luck, who passed the test as a freshman and will have a solid complement of receivers in 2010 including returnees Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen. But, with USC on probation and Oregon without QB Jeremiah Masoli, the Cardinal is in position to contend for the PAC-10 crown and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Defensively, Stanford needs to improve. They ranked 69th nationally in points against, a figure which they hope to bury in 2010 with a switch to a 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, an NFL veteran.

The schedule appears daunting, especially in the early going, when Stanford plays at UCLA, vs. Wake Forest, at Notre Dame, at Oregon and home vs. USC in a five week span from September 11 to October 9. If the Cardinal comes through that rough patch 3-2 or better, they may run the table and end up atop the standings at the end of November.

19. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - After winning the ACC, fans are wondering what coach Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets will do for an encore. Jonathan Dwyer departs as the featured back, but Anthony Allen - a transfer from Louisville - should fill in admirably. Allen rushed for 618 yards and 6 TDs on just 64 carries last year and will handle the ball more often in the spread-option offense. He and Roddy Jones will make Dwyer easily forgotten.

Additionally, the Tech defense, which was a joke at times in 2009, will be better under new hire Al Groh, and with that may turn into a true ACC powerhouse, though they'll need rapid improvement this season to repeat as conference champs.

The schedule is somewhat uneven, with key ACC games against Virginia and Miami at home and North Carolina and Clemson on the road, though the true test will come at Virginia Tech on November 4. After losing in the Orange Bowl, 24-14, to Iowa, the Yellow Jackets will be looking for another BCS bid, though they may find it hard to come by in the topsy-turvy ACC.

20. Houston Cougars - Of all the teams in Conference-USA, the Houston Cougars finished with the best overall record in 2010, at 10-4, despite losing their final two games of the season - 38-32 at East Carolina in the C-USA Championship, and 47-20 to Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Thanks to a spread offense and the passing arm of Case Keenum, the Cougars led the nation in passing yards (433.7) and points per game (42.2) in 2009, and Keenum is back for another year behind center, looking to add to his impressive TD total. He threw 44 TD passes in each of his last two seasons.

Houston's out-of-conference schedule isn't very rugged. They travel to UCLA for a Saturday night tilt on September 18, then host Mississippi State on October 9. Their season ends with an in-state rivalry game at Texas Tech, November 27. Finishing 6-2 within their conference last year, the Cougars are seeking a conference championship this time around.

21. Utah Utes - The Utes lost just three times in 2009, and all of them were road games - at Oregon, TCU and BYU, and they managed a nice 37-27 win over Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl to finish a respectable 10-3.

QB Jordan Wynn, who began starting mid-season, had to do a lot of learning in a hurry, but looks like a keeper for the Utes. He's got a big line in front of him, returning four of five starters from last season, and loads of talent on the wings. The Utes should climb the stats charts quite nicely in 2010, after averaging 29.3 ppg in 2009.

Defensively, there are major holes to fill at linebacker, but the front line and secondary are both sound.

The schedule is about as tough as a Mountain West team can handle with Pitt and Notre Dame on the out-of-conference list. The Utes will benefit from playing both TCU and BYU at home this season, and wins over either of those teams should be enough to land a solid bowl bid. Utah probably won't go undefeated like they did in 2008, but 10 wins looks to be an achievable goal.

22. LSU Tigers - For Tiger fans, the 9-4 record from 2009 was a bit of a disappointment. However, considering the losses were to Florida (13-3), Alabama (24-15), Mississippi (25-23) and Penn State (Capital One Bowl, 19-17), it really was a positive experience.

Coach Les Miles isn't used to second or third best though, and the Tigers are geared up for a run at Alabama and the SEC West title. With only the reigning national champion as opposition, it's going to be an uphill battle, especially having to replace a lot of stars on a defense that allowed just 16 points and 326 yards per game in 2009.

Returning QB Jordan Jefferson has the tools to lead the offense, but he'll need more help from the offensive line than he got in 2009 when the Tigers finished dead last in the SEC at 305 yards per game.

LSU will have a big test against North Carolina right off the bat on September 4, but play a couple of creampuffs after that prior to back-to-back home games against West Virginia and Tennessee on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2. The outcome of those games, plus their showdown at Florida on October 9 will be a good indication of whether or not the Tigers are ready for prime time.

23. Texas A&M Aggies - Returning ten starters to a defense which allowed 32 points per game might not sound like a great deal, but considering that the Aggie offense put up 33.9 per game in 2009 (15th nationally) and the two teams which generally have the best offenses (Texas and Oklahoma) both graduated star quarterbacks, there is cause for some optimism.

A&M finished the regular season 6-6, qualified for the Independence Bowl and were mauled by Georgia 44-20, but that was last year, and the Aggies are looking to do much better in 2010.

Returning most of the skill positions on offense, including 6'5" senior QB Jerrod Johnson, running back Cyrus Gray and WR Jeff Fuller, though most eyes will be on running back Christine Michael, who blasted into the national spotlight last season by leading the team with 844 yards and 10 TDs.

If the defense improves at all, the offense - which figures to be one of the top-scoring ones in the country - should score enough points to win 8 or more games and maybe even upset Oklahoma or Texas along the way.

24. North Carolina Tar Heels - Coach Butch Davis has a wealth of talent on defense, which returns nine starters to a strong bunch that helped North Carolina win eight games for the second straight season. This year's aim is higher: the ACC title and a possible BCS bowl bid.

While the defense is top-notch, offensively, the Tar Hells struggled at times in 2009, but should improve now that most of the players know their roles. Wide receiver Greg Little is a weapon that will be used extensively, and big Erik Highsmith is a mismatch for most secondaries.

QB T.J. Yates will have to improve on his 2009 performance (14 TDs, 15 INTs), but if the line protects him better (24 sacks), he has proven ability. The running game is still up in the air, and that's an area which could use significant improvement.

The season kicks off with three tough outings, beginning with a nationally-televised tilt with LSU on September 4. After a week off, the Tar Heels host Georgia Tech on the 18th and then travel to play Rutgers on the 25th.

With the ACC wide open once again, winning early is not mandatory, though winning down the stretch will be. The tough early opponents will serve as a good measuring stick to North Carolina's potential.

25. Arkansas Razorbacks - Coming off a successful '09 campaign in which the Razorbacks finished 8-5, including a 20-17 OT win over East Carolina, the upcoming 2010 season in the SEC holds great promise.

Quarterback Ryan Mallet returns to run one of the hottest offenses in the conference after throwing for 3,627 yards and 30 TDs with only 7 interceptions. Mallet will need some help from his offensive line and running backs, but should be stronger now that their two top backs - Ronnie Wingo and Knile Davis have successfully passed from their freshmen to sophomore years.

Bobby Petrino's offense will still rely heavily on Mallet's arm in 2010, adding Lance Ray to the mix and probably getting a big season from tight end D.J. Williams, who looks like a solid pro prospect.

Defensively, Arkansas needs to improve greatly to reach the upper echelons, but being average should be good enough to produce positive results. The schedule includes some tough tests, like at Georgia, followed by home games against Alabama and Texas A&M the end of September into October, but the next six contests up to their SEC finale against LSU are easier, the toughest opponent being South Carolina. A repeat of the 8-5 season or better is anticipated.

Click here for teams 1-10

Copyright 2010, 2011, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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