Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 1:38 PM
The tedious four-month task of rating all 124 major college football teams is at last done after going through no less than eight revisions. When the dust settled, Southern California edged defending national champion Alabama for the top spot, with the top five rounded out by South Carolina, Florida State and LSU. Five of the top ten came from the Southeastern Conference which has won the last six national championships.
It may surprise some Boise State is not listed but that Tennessee is. It all has to do with talent and for the first time in many years Boise State is going to have to rebuild while the Volunteers are loaded with enough blue-chip players to make life miserable for all their opponents.
Boise State, which went 12-1 last year, 73-6 over the past five years and 126-17 over the past 11 seasons, returns but five starters on offense and just one on defense. There is no quick fix to replace superstar quarterback Kellen Moore and things are even a bit testier on defense where the team’s five best players are gone.
As for Tennessee, the collective blue-chip talent is there for the Volunteers to once again be an impact team in the brutally tough SEC. Third-year Coach Derek Dooley will be working with 19 returning starters and with quality depth at most positions, since the Volunteers return 49-of-65 lettermen from last year’s 5-7 team.
Boise State opens its season Friday, August 31, as a 7-point underdog at Michigan State (ranked 22nd) while Tennessee is a 4-point favorite at N.C. State on the same night.
It was not an easy call to decide whether the number one spot should go to USC or Alabama. There was a temptation to put the Crimson Tide on top because Alabama is a team that has won two of the last three national championships and just reloads with blue-chip talent each year. The Trojans won the top spot because of its offensive talent.
Trojans Have Offense That Can’t Be Stopped
USC returns quarterback Matt Barkley who completed 309-of-446 passes for 3,527 yards and 39 touchdowns, with just seven interceptions, in leading the Trojans to an unexpected 10-2 season. But he is just the beginning. The team also returns All-American wide-receiver Robert Woods who caught 111 passes last season for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is joined at the flank with budding superstar receiver Marqise Lee who last season as a freshman caught 73 passes, 11 of them for touchdowns.
In the backfield, returning senior Curtis McNeal rushed for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns as the back-up in 2011 and he will be joined by former Penn State superstar tailback Silas Redd who transferred after rushing for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns in a very conservative offense last season.
The figures say this is going to be an unstoppable offense and I believe it will be just that.
The Trojans open at home Saturday, September 1, as a 38-point favorite over Hawaii.
Gamecocks Have Most Collective Talent
South Carolina, which went 11-2 last season, losing only to Auburn 16-13 and at Arkansas, 44-28, has more collective blue-chip talent and depth than any of the 124 major college teams—and that makes them the sleeper to win it all. Remember where you got it.
It is extremely important for bettors to understand that winning in college football is based on talent, talent, talent, talent and more talent. It is no accident the same teams make the Top 25 list in everybody’s polls each season. They get the blue-chip talent, the game-breakers, and when a team gets enough of them it is capable of beating team on its schedule.
South Carolina opens its season Thursday, August 30, at Vanderbilt.
The talent factor is best illustrated by last year’s Vanderbilt at Alabama game. The Crimson Tide went into that game with 68 players that came out of high school rated as blue-chippers, i.e. can’t fail individuals. Vanderbilt had four on its roster. It should have surprised no one Alabama won 34-0
KELSO’S OPENING COLLEGE TOP 25
1. USC—Loaded, much better than last year’s 10-2 team.
2. Alabama—Talent to play for another national championship
3. South Carolina—More blue-chip talent, depth than any other team.
4. Florida State—Future is now with 68 lettermen, 16 starters returning.
5. LSU—Talent and depth to beat every team on its schedule.
6. Oklahoma—Potentially great quarterback and great defense.
7. Clemson—Best Clemson team in years—the sleeper to win it all.
8. Arkansas—Better than last year’s 11-2 team, could play for all the marbles.
9. Georgia—Just has to get past South Carolina to win SEC East title.
10. Oregon—Just reloads and keeps right on running over people.
11. Ohio State—Meyer will pick up pieces and win Big Ten title.
12. Virginia Tech—Always talented, has one of nation’s top five defenses.
13. Michigan—Loaded and with college football’s best 1-2 punch in backfield.
14. West Virginia—Quite good but much to prove in move to Big 12.
15. Wisconsin—Explosive offense and best tailback in country.
16. Oklahoma State—With 16 starters back, the Big 12 sleeper.
17. Stanford—Cardinal returns 61-of-76 lettermen—no one’s pushover.
18. Tennessee—Experienced, deep, most improved team in country.
19. Nebraska—You won’t get rich playing this group of Cornhuskers.
20. Auburn—Tigers are back and will be no one’s easy out.
21. Kansas State—With Snyder in charge, one never counts out the Wildcats.
22. Michigan State—Outstanding defense can carry Spartans entire season.
23. Florida—Talent is there but Gators have much to prove.
24. Texas Tech—Dramatic defensive improvement steps Red Raiders way up.
25. Louisville—Loaded but still one year away from being Top 10 team.
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For those following trends, underdogs have thus far prevailed by an 8-4-1 margin while the “under” has a modest 7-5-1 margin.