In the last installment of the preview series, I unveiled my #21-25 ranked teams for the 2010 college football season. Here are now are my #16-20 ranked teams:
16) Arkansas– Bobby Petrino has proven to be an offensive mastermind and with the talent that he has coming back on offense in 2010, the Razorbacks are poised to take the next step towards an SEC title. Ryan Mallett may be the best pro-style quarterback in college football in 2010, and 9 other starters return on offense for the Razorbacks. Defensively, the Razorbacks got better as the season wore on, and while they still won’t be phenomenal, the 7 starters they have on that side of the ball coming back will help keep them in games so that their high-powered offense can win them. The schedule is in their favor to make a run in the SEC West as well as they host Alabama, Mississippi, and LSU. They’ll also play a neutral site game against Texas A&M and they’ll travel to play at Georgia, Auburn, and South Carolina.
17) Cincinnati– When last we saw the Bearcats they were being obliterated by Florida in the Sugar Bowl after their former coach Brian Kelly left them to become head coach at Notre Dame. Butch Jones takes over as head coach of the Bearcats, and he’s got a lot of offensive talent to work with as 8 starters return led by QB Zach Collaros who excelled in 4 games as a starter in 2009. He’ll have ample offensive talent around him, although losing star wide receiver Mardy Gilyard will hurt. They may struggle some defensively again as they were porous towards the end of last year and lose 6 starters from that group. Still, they are favored to win their third straight Big East Championship. Their tough tests include home dates with Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers and road tests at Fresno State, Connecticut, and West Virginia.
18) USC– The mighty appear to be falling just a bit coming off a 4-loss season and on the heels of the news that coach Pete Carroll is leaving to become head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. With the looming specter of NCAA sanctions above the program, there might be a bit of a lull for USC football coming up, although it’s a relative lull given the talent they have. Quarterback Matt Barkley will be better in his second season as a starting quarterback and they still have tremendous depth and skill along the offensive line and at running back. Defensively they should also be better given their immense talent level, and they bring back most of their front seven. There are questions in the secondary however, and that could prevent the defense from returning to the level of the some of the past Trojan defenses. The schedule is manageable as they’ll have home games against Notre Dame, California, and Oregon with road games at Oregon State, Arizona, and UCLA.
19) Georgia Tech– The Yellow Jackets achieved a goal that few felt was possible when Paul Johnson took over as head coach as they became ACC Champions in just his second season at the helm. His triple option offensive attack has thus far befuddled the majority of Tech’s opponents and should continue to do so in 2010. Quarterback Jamar Nesbitt returns to run the offense, but he’ll without the services of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and running back Johnathan Dwyer who are leaving early to turn pro. Still, most of the other pieces to this year’s offense return in 2010 and the offense will still give ACC defenses fits. Georgia Tech’s defense is the real key to their season. Al Groh is rumored to be taking over as defensive coordinator, and there could be some growing pains if the Jackets switch to a 3-4. They’ll also miss defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett, who are leaving school as well early for the NFL. Their schedule is difficult with a home contest against Miami and road games at Kansas, Georgia, Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech.
20) Oregon State– We could very easily be talking about the back-to-back Pac 10 Champions, and we would have had it not been for the Oregon Ducks, who have kept the Beavers from the Rose Bowl each of the past 2 seasons. However, Oregon State should have another fine season under coach Mike Riley as they bring back a healthy 17 starters including Heisman Trophy winner Jacquizz Rodgers and his brother James, who is a wide receiver. The defense began to wear down at the end of the year last year, but they still improved over the previous season. Look for that improvement to continue with the return of 9 starters on defense.
For more info: Please visit www.nationalchamps.net, www.collegefootballnews.com, www.miamiherald.com, and www.espn.com