Countdown to No. 1: Can Alabama handle the expectations?

It’s been a fun week counting down our Top 25 teams for 2010. It will come as no surprise to you that I have Alabama at No. 1.

Yes, Alabama has to replace nine starters on defense and both of its kickers. And logically, the Crimson Tide should not be able to win a second straight national championship. Nobody has done it since Nebraska in 1994-95. But I’m putting a lot of this preseason ranking on two things:

1. Alabama has a lot of really, really good players. They played a bunch of people on defense last season and so replacing all those starters will not be as complicated as it might seem.

2. If any coach can guide his team through the mental mine field of trying to win consecutive championships, it is Nick Saban. This season, more than anything else, will be an exercise in mental toughness at Alabama. Saban and his staff do that well.

So here we go. Here is our preseason Top Five for 2010:

 

1. Alabama

 **–It will be a good season if: The Crimson Tide goes 12-0 for the third straight regular season and reaches the SEC championship game. If that happens they will win in Atlanta again and play for another BCS title. Alabama last won back to back national championships in 1978-79.

**–It will be a disappointing season if: They stumble on the road against Arkansas on Sept 25 or at home against Florida on Oct. 2. It’s not fair, but anything less than an undefeated regular season is going to be a disappointment.

 2. Ohio State

**–It will be a good season if: The Buckeyes win their two toughest road games at Wisconsin (Oct. 16 at night) and Iowa (Nov. 20) and get another shot at an SEC team in the BCS championship game. It looks like coach Jim Tressel is finally ready to turn quarterback Terrelle Pryor loose. If Pryor plays the way he did against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes are going to be hard to beat.

**–It’s will be a disappointing season if: They are not ready to play when Miami, a very athletic team, comes to the Horseshoe on Sept. 11. Lose that one and the Buckeyes will have a tough time getting to the big game. Miami has the physical talent to go to the Horseshoe and win. My CSS broadcast partner, Brady Ackerman, has already picked the Hurricanes in that game. I’m not so sure.

3. Texas

**–It will be a good season if:  Texas successfully reshapes its offense to emphasize the run and the Longhorns win back-to-back games against Oklahoma (Oct. 2 in Dallas) and at Nebraska (Oct. 16). With Gilbert Garrett at quarterback, Texas will have a more traditional, pro-style offense. Garrett came off the bench in the national championship game against Alabama and showed that he will be a good player for the Longhorns.

**–It will be a disappointing season if: The losses of quarterback Colt McCoy (45 career wins) and defensive stars like Sergio Kindle and Earl Thomas are too much to overcome. If Texas loses to Oklahoma on Oct. 2, then they could get eliminated in the division with a loss at Nebraska. A 10-2 or 11-2 record still gets Texas in a BCS bowl.

 4. Florida

**–It will be a good season if: The Gators, despite the loss of Tim Tebow and five NFL draft choices off the defense, reach the SEC championship game for the third straight season. Over the past five years Florida has recruited as well as anyone and will plug those holes with some very talented people. Also, the pressure is off. Alabama is wearing the crown and so I expect Florida to be a much more relaxed football team than it was a year ago, when the Gators were anything but relaxed.

**–It will be a disappointing season if: New quarterback John Brantley struggles and the Gators slip up somewhere other than Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2. We simply don’t know what the defense is going to do with a bunch of new faces, including new defensive coordinators Teryl Austin and Chuck Heater. How much will Florida miss long-time DC Charlie Strong, now the head coach at Louisville?

5. Boise State

**–It will be a good season if: The Broncos go undefeated for the second straight season and are rewarded with a spot in the BCS championship game. I still think it is a long shot for Boise because to get to Glendale it means all of the champions in the Big Six conferences would have to have a loss. The real question is whether or not a 12-0 Boise would go to the BCS championship ahead of a one-loss champ from the SEC, Big Ten,  ACC or Big 12?

**–It will be a disappointing season if: With 21 of 22 returning starters, the Broncos stumble out of the gate and lose to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 in Landover, Md.  If that happens, the Broncos can still get to a BCS Bowl, maybe even the Rose, but they won’t play in the Big Game.

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474 comments Add your comment

Gator Mike

August 20th, 2010
9:29 am

I fail to understand why Tony insinuates that Chuck Heater as a new guy on the UF coaching staff which is false. He has been at UF as long as Meyer, and he and Dan McCarney served as Charlie Strong’s key associates with the defense. Remember, Charlie was the Defensive Coordinator in 2007 and the defense was terrible. The players are the key. My concern is not so much the coaches as it is the new starters on defense; however, this year most have significant experience which was not true in 2007. Also, how is it that the new defense coordinator from the NFL is seemingly so much more experienced than Austin at UF according to some folks at UGA.
As for Tebow being gone and Brantley now at the helm – so what. Every program eventually goes through a change. As I remember, McElroy at BAMA did not get any respect last year before the season srted, and BAMA di very well with him at the helm.

I also find it interesting that so many folks want to toss bricks at BAMA and UF and pick them as loosers this season. BAMA is going to be athreat as long as Saban is at the helm, and the same is for the Gators with Meyer. I do not know where UF will end up this year, but for those of you who predict a 2007 type season you may be disapointed with the final results. This UF Team will take nobody for granted.
I am concerned with the UF team only, and I do not really care one bit what happens in Athens, Knoxville, Auburn, etc. The Gators have enough on their plate.
I wish ALL fervent college football fans well, and I hope your teams fare well.

Go Gators.

CharlotteGator

August 20th, 2010
9:29 am

Well, I really tried to plug into football coverage in ACC country up here, but today was the last straw. Had to listen to sports radio the entire drive in ramble on and on about how Ed Cunningham at ESPN said UNC is a national title contender. Are you serious? Had to come back to a decent place to talk football. Only way an ACC team is playing for the title is if they’re undefeated and I don’t think any team in the ACC is good enough to do that.

UF – Excited because this is the first season in a while that will be fun. Pressure is gone and we can just enjoy this team. WR and DL are the biggest question marks for us right now. I’d argue the OL is one of the best in the country and I’m very happy w/ Brantley and the backs we have. The secondary will be good and the LB’s will be fast, so the keys to the UF season in my view will be the play of the WRs and DLs. Lots of young talent for sure, but they need to get experience and ‘learn’ how to play/win.

Bama – I see similarities to UF in 2007. I don’t think the result will be the same as that UF squad, but I see Bama’s offense being really, really good, and the defense having to plug a lot of young guys in like the Gators did in 07. The difference for Bama is that some of these guys have played where as those Gator inserts were totally green. It’ll take a few weeks, but I think the Bama defense will figure things out. The key to that team in my mind is Hightower. You know what the offense will do, but the usual cliche of defense wins ‘chips rings true. If Hightower has that defense flying high, then they’re the team to beat.

UGA – Very interested to see Murray perform. AJ, Ealey, and the TE (who’s name escapes me) are great players and real threats. They key to their offense is going to be the play of Murray. An honest UGA fan has to admit they’re a little nervous about what’s gonna happen with him. As a UF fan, I have nerves about Brantley, but they’re somewhat calmed by the fact that he’s a junior who’s been there for a while and doesn’t go to Columbia at the beginning of the season. USF will be a decent test, but it’s not the same as at Columbia under 125 degrees. Murray doesn’t have luxuries afforded him right now. If he struggles, watch out. If he does well, then UGA vaults into contending for the East. Much the same as Brantley and UF. The defense will be better than last year, which probably isn’t saying much, but I think there will still be growing pains. In a few years, the junkyard dawgs may return, but I just don’t see it this year. They’ll be improved and hungry, but I don’t know if the personnel is there just yet for that system. Just like it took Bama a few years to make the switch, I think Grantham needs what many of us fans don’t really want to offer: time.

Again, just my humble opinion. More than happy to have logical and intelligent discussion/banter back and forth.

Go Gators.

RxDawg

August 20th, 2010
9:30 am

“The real question is whether or not a 12-0 Boise would go to the BCS championship ahead of a one-loss champ from the SEC, Big Ten, ACC or Big 12?”

NO. Not even close.

joe

August 20th, 2010
9:30 am

bama wont repeat and will not go undefeated. its way too hard to repeat. miami couldnt do it when they lost to ohio st and usc couldnt do it when they lost to texas. its too hard. and while bama is still good on defense, 9 new starters doesnt help. when usc lost cushing, rey maluga, etc all the analysts said no big deal, and they struggled even though they reurned entire secondary. no matter how talented its hard to reload the same talent regardless of who u r especially playing in the sec

Paul in RDU

August 20th, 2010
9:31 am

Out of MrSoFB’s top 25 there are 7 SEC, 6 ACC, 3 Big 10, 3 Big XII, 2 Pac 10 and 4 others.
What a homer.
I am supposed to believe that the South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, Clemson, Auburn and Navy are better than Penn State and West Virginia??? At least he didn’t put ND in his top 25 unlike Phil Steele.

RxDawg

August 20th, 2010
9:36 am

“check his record against top 10 teams. Certainly not stellar!”

Ok Blue, fair enough. Now name me a coach who’s record is steallar against top 10 teams.

Greg

August 20th, 2010
9:38 am

Hey rx
their qb(mccoy) went out in the first qtr dumbass. and they managed to get within a score in the 4th qtr. i would hardly call that manhandle. god do you delusional morons want the entire top 10 to be sec? your conference is in for a rude awakening this year. it all starts when unc crushes lsu.

Brookhaven Gator

August 20th, 2010
9:38 am

Spot on about the Gators, Tony. We are all hopeful that Brantley comes out strong and the team immediately adopts him as their leader. One thing Meyer has been genius at over his career is adapting an offense to score points around his QB. We have the fastest running backs returning behind the most experienced offensice line we’ve had in years. That may give Brantley some time to adjust.

Six retunring starters on defense and another three that saw plenty of PT last season. We have 4 star recruits two spots deep at pretty much every position. They will be fast and cause lots of turnovers like they have in the past and give our offense great field position.

Jort Wearin' Gator Fan

August 20th, 2010
9:40 am

Gatorbait 17-3, why don’t you just copy & paste War & Peace next time?

Greg

August 20th, 2010
9:42 am

How about bowden, paterno, meyer for starters.

Beast from the East

August 20th, 2010
9:42 am

Brookhaven Gator,
I hope you’re right about the defense. I just want to see us play more physical up front. We got somewhat exposed on the line of scrimmage against Bama last year. Lot’s of athleitcism but they got pushed around too much. Of course, Bama did that to almost everyone they played.

MichaelGT

August 20th, 2010
9:43 am

It’s Garret Gilbert, not Gilbert Garret.

Gatorbait 17-3

August 20th, 2010
9:43 am

Is reading a problem for you, or should I read it to you? Just setting the record straight.

Paddy

August 20th, 2010
9:44 am

ToccoaDawg…Ohio State is #2 only because they are really, really good! It is hard for Ohio St not to be good year after year in a state that rivals Texas in their love and passion of football. If you have never been to a HS game in Ohio or Texas, you don’t know what you are missing!!! Sorry to say, but it makes HS football in Georgia look sort of puney!

Habersham Dawg

August 20th, 2010
9:45 am

Until they lose, Bama should be number 1.

My ranking

Alabama
Florida
Boise St
Texas
Ohio St

RxDawg

August 20th, 2010
9:45 am

I duno yellowjacket1975…

Colt got hurt early in the game, and Texas was dinking and dunking moving the ball, but I was feeling a Bama dominence there. From the get go I was saying Bama has got this. I remember vividly because I knew right away I was going to have to listen to trash from my Bama buddies all year.

How2fish

August 20th, 2010
9:46 am

Goalie Head hell I’m a member of the Bull Dog Nation and you make me ill..Beast from the east I swear he is a troll and not a dawg and my guess would be not out of his teens yet.

Greensboro, GA

August 20th, 2010
9:47 am

.
… Nesbitt for Heisman
.

Beast from the East

August 20th, 2010
9:47 am

Jort Wearin’ Gator Fan,
We all have mullets, wear “jorts’, wear orange tank tops, drink Natty Lite, etc. Just like all Dawgs are 400 pounds, wear a camo UGA hat, drive a 82 Ford F-150, marry their sister, live in a single-wide and chew tobacco…..right? Enough with the childish commentary. Will you ever grow up?

Delbert D.

August 20th, 2010
9:47 am

Alabama and Virginia Tech have similar issues: 2 fine RBs for each team returning to an experienced offense, pretty good but could be better QBs, 2 new kickers and punters, and 9 new starters on defense (Virginia Tech has a couple of partial-year starters, so they are closer to 8.) I brought up VaTech because of the Boise St. question. Bud Foster is presently working a miracle with the Hokies’ D right now if they are stopping Kellen Moore & company in the opener. Boise St. has 20 of 22 starters returning, and by far the highest % of lettermen overall returning at 91.7% (South Carolina and Arkansas are 2nd and 3rd at 83.1%.) ‘Bama is #109, with 63.1%. Penn St. is only one spot ahead at 63.2%. Either a true soph or a former walk-on RS soph will start at QB. against ‘Bama on 9/10.

Boise may or may not go undefeated, but I don’t see undefeated champions for the SEC and ACC. The ACC Coastal and SEC East and West will be tough sledding.

The % of lettermen returning was complied by Phil Steele.

You want Mediocrity?

August 20th, 2010
9:47 am

keep Mark Richt. You want Champioship football teams get you a Stoops, Saban, Meyer or Tressel.

dawgfan

August 20th, 2010
9:47 am

Brookhaven Gator, don’t forget that your defense also touts some of the best eye gougers in the nation. I think you’ll also be okay in the showboating and taunting aspects of the game, although now that St. Timothy is gone the excessive celebration rule might actually apply to Florida this year. We’ll see.

Bucky

August 20th, 2010
9:48 am

no you’re wrong YellowJacket1975…AND STUPID!

Paddy

August 20th, 2010
9:48 am

JDW..Ohio St could very well be #1 at the end of the season, they are that good! Wish our Dawgs could get a home and home with the Buckeyes.

RxDawg

August 20th, 2010
9:49 am

Welcome back Charolette. Nice thoughts.

“An honest UGA fan has to admit they’re a little nervous about what’s gonna happen with him.”

Oh you bet. Any Dawg fan saying otherwise is just having fun and talking trash.

GT Fan ...

August 20th, 2010
9:49 am

We all know TB will not be correct with this “TOP 5″. But, if TB’s only correct with 2 of this “TOP 5″ when the season ends, it will be Ohio St. and Boise State. If he’s only correct with 1 team it will be Boise State. I think 3 is the best TB can do, and the 3rd team, will be the FLA – BAMA winner.

Goalie Head

August 20th, 2010
9:50 am

shut up Alphare. nobody likes you

ramma bama

August 20th, 2010
9:50 am

This bama team is loaded—the new players on D may be better than last year and with Ingram, the bama running game will put up huge numbers—no D in the SEC can stop this powerful running game. Look for another bama blowout over florida in the SEC title game and an easy win over Ohio State in the bCS title game. Title #14—-on the way to bama baby—mark it down!!!!!

17-3!

August 20th, 2010
9:53 am

Florida—another blowout win over georgia coming soon, making it 18-3 in the last 21 years—total dominance! Hard to be humble when you’re a Gator fan. Don’t worry dawgs–you will not have to go back to shreveport again this year, since the SEC dropped that lowly bowl game.

BIGWOOD

August 20th, 2010
9:56 am

Tony,
What’s your thoughts on BYU going independent?

#2 BAMA FAN

August 20th, 2010
9:56 am

Bama has had the pleasant of being on ESPNU and the mothership ESPN for a week and it was fun to watch!! Early polls are good if your team is on top and my favorite is on SI and just about every sports
magazine in the business the past month!! Alabama will get beat by somebody this year but I still think
will win the SEC championship!! RTR

Brookhaven Gator

August 20th, 2010
9:57 am

dawgfan – try not to lose to Tech this season. I know that game is a stretch for you guys every year.

Gatorbait 17-3

August 20th, 2010
10:02 am

RxDawg

I hope you noticed Spikes was starting for New England last night—–all you folks do is cry and make excuses for losing year after year after year, after year after year after year to the Gators. Even your running back said he wasn’t polked in the eye. Oh, by the way how is your midget linebacker doing in the pros?

Marble Rye

August 20th, 2010
10:05 am

Would Tony even have a ‘countdown’ series if an SEC team wasn’t slated to be picked the #1 team?

UGA is Just Fine...

August 20th, 2010
10:11 am

I think THIS year’s Boise St team is going to be a lot better than people give them credit for. They lost one starter – CB Kyle Wilson, and he’s been holding his own with the Jets while Revis is out.

I think they will beat VA Tech. They’re used to playing in big games now, and they are a lot more physical than people think. Do they deserve a shot at the title? At this point I’d say yes. You can’t fault a team for the conference they’re in, and it’s not like Boise doesn’t try to upgrade their non-conference schedule. Keep in mind also that even though they play in a weaker conference they totally dominate their conference, rarely if ever is their a close game, so they beat lesser oponents the way you would expect any top 5 team to. The fact is they ask a lot of teams but get turned down because their is no upside to playing a team like Boise. If you beat them like a drum then you were supposed to. Win a close game, more people will question how good your team is rather than give them credit for playing a tough game. Lose to them and your team’s season circles the drain. How many people wrote Oregon off after last year’s opening game? All the ducks did was go out and win the PAC 10.
At some point it stops being a “fluke” that they beat BCS teams.

npgator

August 20th, 2010
10:11 am

Goalie Head – I think you have your Goalie Head up your bottom! You must like the view from up there.

dawgfan

August 20th, 2010
10:12 am

Brookhaven, yeah we’ve only won the past 8 of 9 against them. What a big stretch.

Try not to embarass the SEC again like you did in last year’s Sugar Bowl prancing and jawing all over the field like a bunch of punks. Hey, let’s run up the score on hapless Cincinatti because our azzes are still chapped from the beating Bama gave us. Florida is a disgrace.

Nothing lasts forever Gator fans. Your time is coming…

Oscar Meyer

August 20th, 2010
10:13 am

Florida might be reloading on talent, but you can’t replace a Tebow, and it’s gonna show early. Also, they just lost a heck of a coach on defense. Just look at Georgia’s transition from Van Gorder to Wille to see how that usually works out.

UGA is Just Fine...

August 20th, 2010
10:13 am

Brookhaven Gator = Tech Fan in disguise

Fast Eddie

August 20th, 2010
10:15 am

Goalie Head (second poster), your name should be Goat Head given your thought process and lack of logic. Have UGA beat UF for a change before you cry about meaningless preseason rankings.

UGA is Just Fine...

August 20th, 2010
10:15 am

Brookhaven Gator = Tech fan in disguise

What REAL Gator fan would even CARE about what happens with UGA vs GT?

They care about that about as much as a Dawg fan cares about UF vs FSU.

Goalie Head

August 20th, 2010
10:16 am

hahaha, derrrrr – good one npgator

Cracker Jacket

August 20th, 2010
10:16 am

Bucky – it’s one thing to have confidence and pull for your team. The only word that comes to mind is delirious. And I’m trying to be nice. I’ve seen the same content in your post under several other posters in the last week. ALL DELIRIOUS!

Beast from the East

August 20th, 2010
10:16 am

Oscar Meyer,
I get your point, but comparing any DC to Willie is a low blow. Only YOUR HC could make a mistake THAT BIG! LOL!!!

Cracker Jacket

August 20th, 2010
10:18 am

Florida’s time may be coming…..but it WON’T be the mutts giving it to them.

1eyedJack

August 20th, 2010
10:21 am

Beast from the East
“I get your point, but comparing any DC to Willie is a low blow. Only YOUR HC could make a mistake THAT BIG! LOL!!!”

I think Bob Stoops at Oklahoma might disagree with you in a couple of years.

Brookhaven Gator

August 20th, 2010
10:22 am

dawgfan – I know, what a total embarassment when an SEC team whoops the arse of an out of conference team. I was glad when UGA did it to Hawaii and more so when my Gators did it to Cinci. Too bad you are so blinded by hate you can’t see that. Florida is a disgrace? Really? I mean…… Really? I won’t even stoop to that level.

One thing that does last for ever is Florida 40+ to Georgia 10 every year in Jacksonville.

Munson

August 20th, 2010
10:23 am

“Jort Wearin’ Gator Fan,
We all have mullets, wear “jorts’, wear orange tank tops, drink Natty Lite, etc. Just like all Dawgs are 400 pounds, wear a camo UGA hat, drive a 82 Ford F-150, marry their sister, live in a single-wide and chew tobacco…..right? Enough with the childish commentary. Will you ever grow up?”

Don’t sell me short Beast, I’m one of the wealthy UGA fans and actually own a double wide! Cooking fries for a living has been good to me!

Delbert D.

August 20th, 2010
10:23 am

Greg McElroy and Tyrod Taylor, “pretty good but could be better QBs.” Very different players. Here are the stats comparisons:

McElroy – 198/325, 2,508 yds, 60.9%, 17 TD, 4 INT, 7.7 yds/att, 140.5 Passer Rating
Taylor – 136/243, 2,311 yds, 56.0%, 13 TD, 5 INT, 9.5 yds/att, 149.4 Passer Rating

McElroy is the embodiment of a steady QB who doesn’t make many mistakes. He led his team to the BCS championship.

Taylor is sometimes spectacular, but his 56% completion included 4 games under 50%, 0 games of 60-69%, and 3 games over 70%. He is a dual-threat, and he had 28 sacks in 2009. His worst games were against Alabama (83.2 PR, 5 sacks), East Carolina (95.0 PR), UNC (106.6 PR, 3 sacks) and Nebraska (116.4 PR, 4 sacks).

Bob Lablah

August 20th, 2010
10:23 am

Bucky – your man crush on Richt is very obvious. He’s married and you have no chance. Let it go.