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2012 NCAA College Football Top 25 Preview - teams 11-25

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

Rick Gagliano | August 15, 2012


11. Arkansas Razorbacks

It was a tough off-season for the Razorbacks, with the scandalous departure of head coach Bobby Petrino, but he's been replaced by John L. Smith, who assumes the top job for the first time.

However, Arkansas returns 15 starters from last season, including QB Tyler Wilson, who is sure to light it up in 2012 with a bevy of talented receivers with which to work. Tailback Knile Davis also returns, giving this team some balance.

Defense isn't a strong suit at Arkansas, but experience is, and that may be telling in the late stages of close games. The turmoil within the coaching ranks is about the only think that will keep Arkansas out of the Top 10, That, and having LSU and Alabama on the schedule, but, the Razorbacks catch both of them on home turf.

12. West Virginia Mountaineers

Coming off a successful 2011 campaign capped off by a 70-33 win in the Orange Bowl over a stunned Clemson squad, coach Dana Holgorson has what he wants: eight returning starters on an offense that averaged 34.9 points per game in 2011 and was seventh in the nation in passing yards, at 4102.

Quarterback Geno Smith has another year under his belt and even though the Mountaineers move from the relative ease of the Big East to the Big 12, they may find their new conference more to their liking, as few remaining teams sport great defensive prowess. With some luck, West Virginia could find itself in a BCS game, but certainly a high level bowl at season's end.

13. Clemson Tigers

After an 8-0 start, turnovers plagued the Tigers down the stretch as they lost four of their next six games, but that's something head coach Dabo Swinney can correct.

Taj Boyd returns at QB and he'll have the talented Sammy Watkins all over the field, in addition to a veteran group of running backs, featuring senior Andre Ellington.

Clemson has plenty of balance on offense and a defense that should improve with seven returning starters under the tutelage of Brent Venables, who came to Clemson from Oklahoma. The Tigers may repeat as ACC champions and head to another BCS bowl if the defensive backfield and line contributes.

14. Michigan State Spartans

With Kirk Cousins and his top two receivers gone to the NFL, the quarterbacking chores fall to junior Andrew Maxwell, who should step into the role well, having taken many practice reps and seen the Spartan offense first hand over the past two seasons.

Look for the Spartans to run the ball behind a powerful offensive line which returns four starters.

The defense is a strong point, with eight starters coming back. The Spartans ranked #6 overall in defense in 2011 and will be an imposing force in the Big Ten this year.

15. Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies will have to hope that their defense, which allowed just 17.2 points per game in 2011 (tied for seventh nationally) will win of keep them in games because the offense returns just three starters from last year.

With nine returning on defense, that's a good sign, but QB Logan Thomas will have to get up to speed with a host of new players, because the offense graduated four offensive linemen, the school's two all-time leading receivers and running back David Wilson, the ACC Player of the Year.

Tech blocked only one punt last year and wasn't the usual "Beamerball" kind of squad on special teams that made the Hokies so dangerous in years past. If head coach Frank Beamer can find a few playmakers, the Hokies will challenge for the ACC title.

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16. Nebraska Cornhuskers

After a 9-3 regular season record in their first year in the Big Ten, the Huskers are looking to improve against their new conference rivals. They topped Ohio State, but lost badly to both Wisconsin and Michigan, though both of those were road games, and this year get both of those foes on their home turf.

Returning 18 starters including QB Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. Martinez, when healthy, is one of the more dangerous runners from the QB position, but will be looking downfield more this season as coach Bo Pelini looks to open up the offense.

Defense is where Nebraska needs improvement, especially against the run and in late stages of games.Last season, the Cornhusker defenders were undersized against most of the bulky Big Ten opponents, so off-season conditioning and additions to the line and linebacking corps will be crucial.

17. Oklahoma State Cowboys

After two sensational seasons with Brandon Weeden at quarterback, that position will be filled by true freshman Wes Lunt, a pure passer who will learn his role on the fly. He'll have little time to learn, because the first three games are against Savannah State, at Arizona and home for Louisiana-Lafayette before the Big 12 season starts against Texas.

Also missing on offense are six other starters, including all-world receiver Justin Blackmon, but the line and running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith are solid.

Defense has never been a strong suit for the Cowboys, but with seven returning starters, they hope to improve on their 107th ranking from last year.

18. TCU Horned Frogs

Three starters on TCU's offensive line graduated and will be a focus for the Horned Frogs in 2012, because Casey Pachall returns at QB after a record-breaking season and almost all the skill positions feature returning starters.

Overall, TCU should be as good as last season, but they'll be tested in the diminished Big 12. The defense was not up to usual standards, but returns eight starters. The concern is the secondary, which was torched all too often in 2011, but the Horned Frogs have a load of young, talented defensive backs and safties, including Sam Carter and Jonathan Anderson, who should provide some depth.

19. Texas Longhorns

The eyes of Texas will be on returning QBs Case McCoy and David Ash, both of whom struggled over the past two seasons. The good news is that the Longhorns have a stable of young running backs and an offensive line that returns four starters. Still, without consistent play from the QB position, the Longhorns have an uphill battle in the Big 12.

The defense will hold its own for the Longhorns in 2012 after finishing 15th in the nation overall and returning seven starters. The Texas defense should perform well, with a fast secondary behind the defensive line lead by DEs Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor.

20. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Tommy Rees has to improve at QB this season or he'll lose his job. In 2011, rees threw 14 interceptions and lost five fumbles, not the kind of production head coach Brian Kelly was looking for. Rees won't have Michael Floyd to throw to this season, so the onus to produce with younger players is upon the Irish offense.

Defensively, Notre Dame was good, but not great, in 2011, and they'll be tested in the secondary, where three starters have moved on.

What works for the Irish is the semi-softness of the schedule, as they'll catch a few teams on the downside, like Navy (their opening game opponent), Purdue, Miami, Stanford, BYU, Pitt and Wake Forest. Still, the Irish need to make good showings against the likes of Michigan, Oklahoma and Michigan State, and in their season-ender against USC.

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21. Florida Gators

Florida will not resemble some of the recent, prominent Gator teams that featured speed on the wings and out of the backfield. This will be a more physical offensive group that returns eight starters, with the offensive line coming back virtually intact. The key is which of Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will emerge as the starting quarterback. Both have little experience and a battle for the job may extend into SEC play.

Defensively, the Gators return a stunning ten starters to a unit that was ranked ninth nationally in 2011. The secondary is among the best in the conference and the defensive line and linebacking groups have plenty of experience and depth.

Florida will likely reach bowl status easily, but probably won't be too competitive against the likes of Georgia, Alabama and LSU.

22. Stanford Cardinal

How does a team replace a quarterback as proficient as Andrew Luck? That's the question the Stanford brain trust, led by head coach David Shaw, now in what appears to be a challenging second season. Either sophomore Brett Nottingham or junior Josh Nunes will try to fill the void left by luck, but they'll be aided by running back Stephan Taylor, one of the best RBs in the nation and a stout offensive line.

Besides Luck, the offense lost seven other starters, including most of their receivers, so the defense will have to come to play every week. Six returnees lead a unit that allowed 20.3 points per game last season, but gets back linebacker Shayne Skov, who was lost after the third game of 2011 with a torn ACL. If fully recovered, Skov could lead the conference in tackles. The defensive line is solid, but questions remain in the secondary as both safties moved on after graduation.

23. Boise State Broncos

After challenging for the national title in each of the past four seasons, the Broncos will have to reload, losing QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin and wideout Tyler Shoemaker on offense.

The man behind center will be either junior Joe Southwick, who will likely get the job, though true freshman Nick Patti has shown ability.

The defense also lost a lot of veteran players, and the Broncos are returning only eight starters overall, but, under coach Chris Petersen, the system will bring Boise back to prominence before long.

24. Louisville Cardinals

Behind QB Teddy Bridgewater and 14 returning starters (six on offense, eight on defense), the Louisville Cardinals will challenge for the Big east title this season, though the league as a whole is still considered a notchor two below the elite conferences in the country.

Louisville's defense was solid against the run, ranking 10th in the nation, but needs to fill voids in the secondary and at linebacker. Leading tackler from 2011 Dexter Heyman has graduated and the Cardinals' defense only picked off 10 passes last year.

Still, the Cardinals have enough firepower on offense to challenge in the Big East.

25. Kansas State Wildcats

Everything revolves around K-State QB Colin Klein, who rushed for over 1000 yards and threw for more than 2000 as a junior and should be a leading Heisman contender.

Klein will have most of the offense intact, as eight starters return. The Wildcats could have one of the most explosive offenses in the Big 12.

The defense will have to improve in 2012, but the task is difficult, with only six starters coming back. There are holes to fill on the line and in the secondary, though the linebacking unit is powerful. With some luck and improvement on defense, the Wildcats could be a big surprise this season and finish much better than their preseason ranking.

Click here for teams 1-10

Copyright 2012, 2013, 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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