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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Weekly Rankings

Two Days Later, 25 for 2011

This is pretty self-explanatory: as of now, prior to any late withdrawals to the N.F.L. draft and unforeseeable coaching changes, here is Pre-Snap Read’s very, very early top 25 for 2011. How much movement will we see prior to September — or August, when the Countdown will reveal the real top 25 teams heading into the season opener? Quite a bit, I’d imagine. As of today, however, here are 25 teams I feel will rank among the nation’s best in 2011. You know the drill: each team gets a one-sentence breakdown; final 2010 ranking and 2010 records are also listed in parenthesis. Questions, comments and concerns should be listed below.

The Early Top 25

1. (7) L.S.U. (11-2, 6-2)
Les Miles returning lends more stability to a talented roster.
2. (9) Oklahoma (12-2, 6-2)
The Sooners should have the nation’s most explosive offense.
3. (6) Boise State (12-1, 7-1)
The road will be tougher, but 11 wins should be very doable.
4. (3) Oregon (12-1, 9-0)
Oregon just needs to clean up its bowl preparations.
5. (11) Alabama (10-3, 5-3)
The Crimson Tide look good, but have holes in the backfield.
6. (5) Ohio State (12-1, 7-1)
If the Buckeyes can make it through September, look out.
7. (17) Florida State (10-4, 6-2)
We seem to be in the middle of another F.S.U. run.
8. (4) Stanford (12-1, 8-1)
The talent is there, but I worry about life after Harbaugh.
9. (2) T.C.U. (13-0, 8-0)
There are some holes to be filled on both sides of the ball.
10. (36) U.S.C. (8-5, 5-4)
Year two under Kiffin will yield a dynamic offense.
11. (21) Texas A&M (9-4, 6-2)
Hard not to be impressed with the way Texas A&M closed.
12. (23) South Carolina (9-5, 5-3)
Depth, experience, talent — Spurrier’s best team at U.S.C.
13. (16) Mississippi State (9-4, 4-4)
Expectations continue to climb for Mullen and the Bulldogs.
14. (15) Virginia Tech (11-3, 8-0)
Another year, another run to an A.C.C. title.
15. (33) Florida (8-5, 4-4)
The Gators will improve under Muschamp, but how much?
16. (30) Notre Dame (8-5, 0-0)
Brian Kelly will have this team playing terrific football.
17. (8) Wisconsin (11-2, 7-1)
Some pieces must be replaced on offense.
18. (1) Auburn (14-0, 8-0)
This year was nice; next season might be a bit of a struggle.
19. (12) Arkansas (10-3, 6-2)
A new quarterback, but the questions are on defense.
20. (19) Nebraska (10-4, 6-2)
Not a good finish; not an easy 2011 schedule.
21. (13) Oklahoma State (11-2, 6-2)
Can the offense survive without Dana Holgorsen?
22. (50) B.Y.U. (7-6, 5-3)
Welcome the Cougars back to 10 wins.
23. (26) N.C. State (9-4, 5-3)
It looks like the Wolfpack have turned a corner.
24. (55) Georgia (6-7, 3-5)
Mark Richt knows his career at Georgia lies in the balance.
25. (34) Utah (10-3, 7-1)
The Utes seem to play better when counted out.

Also Receiving Imaginary Votes

26. (18) Missouri (10-3, 6-2)
27. (61) Georgia Tech (6-7, 4-4)
28. (77) Texas (5-7, 2-6)
29. (20) U.C.F. (11-3, 7-1)
30. (27) Air Force (9-4, 5-3)
31. (14) Michigan State (11-2, 7-1)
32. (40) Pittsburgh (8-5, 5-2)
33. (29) Iowa (8-5, 4-4)
34. (34) Northern Illinois (11-3, 8-0)
35. (39) South Florida (8-5, 3-4)
36. (49) Northwestern (7-6, 3-5)
37. (35) West Virginia (9-4, 5-2)
38. (45) Arizona (7-6, 4-5)
39. (63) Tennessee (6-7, 3-5)
40. (65) S.M.U. (7-7, 6-2)

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  1. Ezra says:

    Much as I hate to admit it, TCU isn’t a top-ten team in 2011. There’s just too much inexperience at QB, center, wide receiver, defensive tackle, and the critical free safety.

    9-3 will be a very good year in Fort Worth; ten wins a dream. A top ten ranking? That’s for 2012.

    Paul: Thought very hard about it. Came to conclusion that until T.C.U. disappoints, it deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  2. George says:

    What about the Heels? Not one imaginary vote?

  3. spuddybuddy says:

    Paul, you have 8 of the 12 SEC teams in the T25. There are only so many wins to go around.

    The following will be out:

    The following will be in:
    Arizona State

    Pick two of three:
    Texas A&M
    Oklahoma State

    Paul: Yeah, it’s difficult now to see eight SEC teams finishing in the top 25. But I was trying more to identify the top 25 teams in the country, not necessarily the teams that will finish in the top 25. Kind of like how the Countdown isn’t a predictor of how the top 25 will play but instead a list of the 25 teams that will achieve the most over the span of the season. So if Georgia at No. 24 is a stretch in terms of how the Bulldogs will finish record-wise, I do think Georgia is going to be one of the 25 best teams in the country in 2011. As of now, at least.

  4. Scott says:

    I concur with spuddybuddy- Arizona State is going to be good. I am a Mizzou grad and I am scared about that week 2 trip to Az St. If the Sun Devils get above average quarterback play, they will win the Pac 12 South- it won’t even be that close.

    Also, don’t sleep on Missouri- we have a quarterback named James Franklin that is going to be a stud. For whatever reason, Missouri knows how to pick quarterbacks (just look at the last three- Gabbert, Daniels, Smith). If the secondary doesn’t regress too much, our defense will be better too.

  5. DMK says:

    I can foresee Boise being ranked 3, but I cannot see how anyone could call them the third best team.

  6. Spectator says:

    Hmmm, as noted 8 SEC in the top 10 is rather a lot. What about the PAC-10? Only 4 in the top forty (Stanford, USC, Utah and Az)? I would have thought ASU or Washington would rate a mention.


  7. [...] top 25 per PSR. Pre-Snap Read: A College Football Blog [...]

  8. Patrick says:

    Yeah, as pointed out by others, I think ASU is the biggest omission from this (admittedly) premature ranking. 19 starters come back, Vontaze Burfict played with his head on straight, but his hair on fire and no team collectively played Oregon, Stanford and USC as tough as the Sun Devils.

    They do have trips to Utah and Oregon in back-to-back weeks — possibly the toughest two-game road stretch in the country for any team not in the SEC. If they can enter their bye no worse than 6-1, this team at best will be in the national title picture at season’s end, and have the inside track on the Pac-12 South crown at worst.

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