Hope everybody had a good weekend. We are less than three weeks from the start of the season. So we’re going to take the next five days to preview our Top 25 for 2010. Starting today with No. 25, we’ll give you five teams each day down to Friday when we’ll present our top five.
If you see teams that don’t deserve to be ranked at all or shouldn’t be ranked in that position I have them, please tell me why. When we get to the end of the week I’ll be interested in your Top 10. So start putting them together now and ship them to me on Friday.
Here, to get the week and the conversation started, are No. 21-25:
**–It will be a good season if: Ricky Dobbs can go the distance. Dobbs, a native of Douglasville, was just sensational in 2009. He ran for over 1,000 yards, passed for over 1,000 yards, and broke Tim Tebow’s record for a quarterback by scoring 27 rushing touchdowns. And he played the last six games with a broken kneecap as the Midshipmen went 10-4.
**–It will be a disappointing season if: They don’t beat Army for the ninth straight time. This team is good enough to win 10 games for the second straight year—something that has never been done at Navy. But this senior class does not want to be the one that ends Navy’s streak of seven straight Commander in Chief’s trophies.
**–It will be a good season if: Cameron Newton lives up to all the expectations. Newton, who transferred to Auburn after winning a JUCO national championship, appears to be the missing piece of an offense that could be one of the SEC’s best. Auburn is deep at every position on offense. The Tigers just need a trigger man who can run. At 6-6, 243, Newton fills the bill.
**–It will be a disappointing season if: The defense doesn’t get better. Auburn basically had only three linebackers last season and the lack of depth finally caught up with the Tigers, who finished 11th in the SEC in total defense. DC Ted Roof feels better about things with eight starters returning and some potential help from a very good freshman class.
**–It will be a good season if: The Tigers can find something that resembles an offensive identity. LSU finished 10th in the SEC and No. 90 nationally in rushing the football at 122.77 yards per game last season. That’s won’t work. LSU also has to find ways to get the ball to sophomore speedster Russell Shepard, a quarterback who is now a full-time receiver.
**–It will be a disappointing season if: They lose to North Carolina in the opener. Here’s why. If LSU beats the Tar Heels in Atlanta, three of the next four games are at home and the road game is at Vanderbilt. They could be 5-0 going to Florida on Oct. 9. Lose on Sept. 4 and things will get restless on the Bayou in a hurry.
**–It will be a good season if: The Tigers can find somebody to catch the ball. QB Kyle Parker is back but he must find some new targets. In RB C.J. Spiller, WR Jacoby Ford, and tight end Michael Palmer they lost three players who combined for 135 catches for 1,789 yards.
**–It will be a disappointing season if: Running backs Andre Ellington (7.2 ypc in 2009) and Jamie Harper don’t step up and give Clemson a solid running game. They can’t replace the explosiveness of Spiller, but they should be able to run the ball effectively behind an offensive line that returns four of five starters.
21. South Carolina
**–It will be a good season if: QB Stephen Garcia learns to get rid of the ball. Last season the Gamecocks led the SEC by giving up 37 quarterback sacks. A lot of those were because Garcia held onto the ball too long. Coach Steve Spurrier verbally beat on Garcia all spring and summer to make his point. If Garcia refuses to learn, Spurrier has freshman Conner Shaw waiting in the wings.
**–It will be a disappointing season if: The offensive line doesn’t get any better. Spurrier has hired his third offensive line coach in as many seasons (Shawn Elliott from Appalachian State). The Gamecocks were last in the SEC in rushing last season but hope to improve with the addition of highly-recruited freshman Marcus Lattimore at running back. If South Carolina has a better running game Stephen Garcia will be a better quarterback.
Tuesday: No. 16-20.
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