As the end of Spring Football draws near, some major college football programs have answered some questions, while others have more questions than they had in February. In this three-part series, College FootBlog will release our Preseason 2010 Top 25 with some insight on each team and the season that will be here in five months. In this first edition, we will break down #16-#25.
16. Oregon State: The Beavers surprised many outside of their conference last season, but to the Pac 10, their rise in ’09 was a continuance of what they have been doing for the last four years, the Beavers are 36-17 and have finished second in the Pac 10 in each of the last two years. The Rodgers brothers (Quizz and James) return to lead the offense. There is a battle between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich to replace Sean Canfield at quarterback, but if the last four years are any indication, Oregon State is for real and they are here to stay.
17. Miami: Many doubted the Hurricane offense going into last season, but then sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris proceeded to light up defensive secondaries en route to a 3,000-yard passing season. Harris and his receiving corps faltered against Wisconsin in their bowl game, but with only one wideout leaving for graduation (Leonard Hankerson), look for Miami to put up good numbers on offense again in 2010. Couple that with a very athletic defense led by linebacker Sean Spence, and the ‘Canes will be tough this fall.
18. LSU: The Tigers were a decent offense away from ending Tim Tebow’s BCS Championship long before Alabama knocked the Gators off in the SEC Championship Game. Les Miles had a solid defense last season, and senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard returns to anchor this season’s unit. Do-everything offensive game-breaker, Russell Shepard should make a name for himself in his sophomore season.
19. Nebraska: Bo Pelini brought respect back to the storied program that had been in a major drought since the days of Eric Crouch. Pelini has brought back the “black shirt” defense as opposed to what had looked more like the “mesh shirt” defense in the earlier part of the last decade. The loss of Ndamukong Suh is significant, but luckily for Husker fans, the rest of the Big 12 is not good at tackle football.
20. Georgia: After a disappointing 8-5 season, look for the Bulldogs to bounce back this fall. The offense should take a step forward, with one of the top receivers in the country in AJ Green and running back Washaun Ealey. The defense was a major reason the ‘Dawgs underachieved in 2009, so head coach Mark Richt has revamped his coaching staff on that side of the ball, and the buzz coming out of Athens so far this spring sounds like those changes are already having a favorable impact.
21. Penn State: Look for JoPa to make one last run in 2010, although we believe the Nittany Lions don’t quite have enough to dethrone Ohio State for a run at the Big Ten title. The thing that Penn State has going for them is their conference. While there are four teams that should be very good in 2010, the rest of the conference takes a significant nosedive, and PSU should benefit from that.
22. Georgia Tech: After scoffing at Paul Johnson bringing the triple option to a major college offense a couple years ago, we have all learned one thing–he is a great football coach. And we have learned to not count him out. The loss of stud running back Jonathan Dwyer will hurt the Yellow Jackets, but if quarterback Josh Nesbitt can stay healthy, GT will make another run at an ACC Championship Game.
23. North Carolina: Butch Davis has the Tarheels playing great football…well, at least on defense. UNC boasted the nation’s 6th ranked total defense, allowing opposing offenses just under 270 yards per game. Unfortunately, for the ‘Heels, the offense was as bad as the defense was good. UNC was ranked a pathetic 108th in total offense. If the offense can improve at all (which isn’t exactly a tall order), look for Butch Davis’ squad to give teams fits in 2010.
24. West Virginia: The Mountaineers will have to overcome the loss of quarterback Jarrett Brown, but Geno Smith will look to show why he was such a highly-touted QB out of Florida. Noel Devine has been one of the most explosive players in the country since his freshman season, and the fact that he returned for his senior means that the Mountaineers can always one play away from breaking one.
25. Auburn: The heavily criticized hiring of Gene Chizik worked out well, as he led the Tigers to an 8-5 record and a bowl victory over Northwestern in his inaugural season. Look for even more improvement from the offense and a stout defense. Look for freshman running back Michael Dyer and freshman DE Corey Lemonier to make immediate impact this fall.