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:
**–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.
**–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.
**–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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