Early Top Five for 2011: Oklahoma is No 1

New York–Trying to tie up the loose ends of the 2010 season and get home.  Here is my (ridiculously) early Top Five for 2011:

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners return 35 of the top 44 players including quarterback Landry Jones. Two guys I thought would turn pro–wide receiver Ryan Broyles and linebacker Travis Lewis–also return. The schedule becomes easier because the Big 12 no longer has a championship game. This will be the first year of the nine-game Big 12 schedule. Oklahoma has five home conference games and four on the road. A Sept. 17 trip to Florida State could be interesting.

2. Oregon: After losing to Auburn in the BCS championship game, Oregon coach Chip Kelly said “we’ll be back.” And I think the Ducks will. Running back LaMichael James decided to come back for his senior season. Quarterback Darron Thomas did not have a good BCS championship game (two interceptions) but he is only going to get better in Oregon’s offense. I don’t see who in the Pac-10 is going to beat Oregon because USC is down and Stanford, even with QB Andrew Luck returning,  will take a dip with head coach Jim Harbaugh leaving for the pros.

3. LSU: The Tigers are going to lose three studs on defense in CB Patrick Peterson, who will turn pro early, LB Kelvin Sheppard, and DT Drake Nevis. But when LSU gets decent to good quarterback play, like Jordan Jefferson gave the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl, they are hard to handle. The quarterback position will only get better with the addition of Zach Mettenberger, a junior college transfer who started his career at Georgia. LSU has a chance to be the Auburn of 2011.

4. Florida State: I’m taking a little bit of a flyer on the Seminoles because they are going to have to rebuild their offensive line. It may be a year too early to make this call but I think the offense will be more versatile with E.J. Manuel at quarterback and that the defense is going to be pretty good because of the talent Jimbo Fisher and his staff as recruited. This is a reach pick. So what do you think?

5. Alabama: You saw how good Alabama could be when the Crimson Tide just beat down Michigan State in the Cap One Bowl. Yes, they’ll miss Greg McElroy at quarterback but I think AJ McCarron or Phillip Simms will fit right in and run the offense. Yes they will miss RB Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. But Trent Richardson just might win the 2011 Heisman Trophy. LB Dont’a Hightower, who missed most of the 2009 season with a knee injury, started regaining his old form in the second half of 2010. He will come back and become an All-American in 2011. And if safety Mark Barron comes back, that’s two guys that coach Nick Saban thought he might lose. After playing six teams after they had open dates this season, the schedule will be much kinder in 2011.

In case you’re wondering, LSU comes to Alabama on Nov. 5, 2011.

Who am I leaving out? Boise State returns quarterback Kellen Moore (74 TD, only 9 INT) over the past two years. TCU will be good again even without quarterback Andy Dalton. Does Florida bounce back big under Will Muschamp?

Give me your Top Five for 2011.

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342 comments Add your comment

Steve

January 13th, 2011
8:24 am

Black Coffee & Bourbon

January 13th, 2011
8:28 am

Some early love for the ‘Noles? I like it. The rest of the ACC should be very worried about the boys in Tallahassee.

Special K

January 13th, 2011
8:35 am

Looks about right. Can’t argure with it. RTR!!!!!!!!!!!

The rest of us

January 13th, 2011
8:36 am

Where is THE Ohio State the best team in the Big Ten, err plus two?

Hobnailbooty

January 13th, 2011
8:36 am

I’m not sure how to react without a Ohio State reference in the top 5. I thought that was a proclamation by GOD.

FSU!!! REALY????

January 13th, 2011
8:37 am

quit living in the past. FSU and the Canes get the hype every year and they don’t come close to living up to it. FSU was an avgerage team in a weak division in a average conference.

Steve W

January 13th, 2011
8:38 am

Looks good Tony; FSU headed in right direction but I think one more year to get to Top 5. Going into bowls, almost half of Top 10 were teams that were 8-5 previous year (Stanford, Ark, OU and Auburn) so I think I’d include one even bigger reach then FSU. So I’ll say Notre Dame – 17 returning starters, played well late and 2nd year of new coach. Usually it’s the 2nd year that you get the big breakthrough and Kelly has proven to be able to turn programs quickly. Thought about picking Gators but that’ll be hard with a first year coach.

Analyst Urban Meyer

January 13th, 2011
8:38 am

The Gators return a senior at quarterback and Ahmad Black returns and the Gators aren’t top five? I disagree.

Auburn Fan

January 13th, 2011
8:39 am

Back to life, back to reality……

Dog Island Gator

January 13th, 2011
8:39 am

Looking foward to Will Muschamp running the Gator program. It may take a year or two, but they might be in the hunt sooner than later. Gator nation feels good today.

Franny

January 13th, 2011
8:39 am

Not a huge stretch for FSU in the top 5…A great amount of quiet optimism for the Noles in 2011 with NC hopes for 2012…

What's a d a w g?

January 13th, 2011
8:42 am

Where’s Georgia? And how dare you rank UAT at the bottom of your list. Don’t you know they’re God’s team and they have the right to be ranked number 1? It’s blasphemy! You’ll surely burn in Hell for this.

78 DAWG

January 13th, 2011
8:42 am

Montez Robinson just got arrested again.
and so did Dowtin.
Do these count toward the 2011 Fullmer award or 2010?
Seriously I’m glad Boykins coming back, not many players can dance and strut after every play of a 6 – 7 season, like he can.

merculf

January 13th, 2011
8:42 am

If Newton and Fairley return don’t you think Auburn should be ranked in the top 5? I mean this past season Auburn rose from nowhere to #1.

bird

January 13th, 2011
8:42 am

How many times has a sports writer picked a team early and said, ” they have to rebuild their offensive line but…” only to be burned by it later? FSU has great skill players, but the O-Line is too important to ignore. They’ll be good, but not top 5 good. Not yet anyway.

FSU

January 13th, 2011
8:45 am

FSU deserves it. Division champ in a fairly improving conference that beat down a quality out of conference opponent. Returns most everyone. I’m glad they are in the Atlantic though. I don’t see why Ohio State isn’t ranked though. They don’t play anyone while the “Big 5″ are suspended, save Miami.

Mtn Dawg

January 13th, 2011
8:47 am

You forgot Stanford.

UGAFan

January 13th, 2011
8:47 am

Ain’t it great to totally be off the sports media radar?

Tony, just curious. Would you have ranked UGA if Richt had demoted Bobo and gotten some NFL – offensive genius?

And, would you have UGA ranked if say, McGarity had fired Richt, and hired Dan Mullen?

Gatorzip 74

January 13th, 2011
8:48 am

Analyst Urban Meyer,
Gator fan here. Ahmad Black played his last game, AS A SENIOR, with you in the Outback Bowl. I think it’s Janoris Jenkins you may be thinking about.

UGAFan

January 13th, 2011
8:52 am

So did the Big 12 do away with the North/South divisions?

Gatorzip 74

January 13th, 2011
8:52 am

Tony,
I’m a huge SEC homer, but how can you leave Stanford out of your Top 5? Yes they lose their HC, but they return almost everyone, to include the Heisman favorite, their OC and DC. Plus Harbaugh’s recruiting classes put a lot of depth in that program. That will be a very dangerous team next year!

Les Miles

January 13th, 2011
8:54 am

Why do you think I’m returning to LSU? Who wants to rebuild a program in the ditch when I’m coaching a team competing for the national championship in 2011 and beyond? I’m too old to start rebuilding a program. Give it to the younger coaches.

PMC

January 13th, 2011
8:55 am

I like FSU to win the ACC next year too…. but putting any ACC team in the top 5 is a little rich.

gt45

January 13th, 2011
8:57 am

Dog Island, wish I was there!

78 DAWG

January 13th, 2011
9:00 am

I don’t care what anybody says, Todd Grantham deserves to the the 3rd highest paid coordinator in college football! At UGA we’ll pay whatever it takes to be below mediocre!

Dawg_Mike

January 13th, 2011
9:03 am

Why did the Big 12 discontinue their Championship game?
I thought this was something that other Conferences would eventually have to do to keep up with the SEC.

dawgfan

January 13th, 2011
9:05 am

Does anybody want to mention that Mettenberger was getting beat out by Murray for the UGA job? Say what you will about the state of Georgia football, but Richt and Bobo still know how to evaluate QBs. Lot’s of hype about a guy who has yet to take a college snap. He’s going to LSU so he must be a stud. And of course nobody is trashing LSU for taking a guy that can’t keep his hands to himself after having a few drinks, underage no less.

What a joke.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:13 am

Most have my Dawgs 8th, 9th……………………..But that’s in the SEC pecking order………..But some on here will say we’re close….. Close to last I say………….Geez……………2012 can’t get here soon enough.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:16 am

Also, didn’t realize Boise is being so well thought of for 2011. Tough first two weeks for Dawgs.
Carolina is loaded with returning players, and for those who study the SEC, they are always tough AT THE BEGINNING of the season before they nose dive.

Don

January 13th, 2011
9:17 am

Tony gets it wrong again – Auburn was the LSU this year (has two crystal gonads)

SoonerFan

January 13th, 2011
9:17 am

Tony – that is Ryan Broyles – not Jones.

Dick the Weasel

January 13th, 2011
9:18 am

When you say LSU could be next year’s Auburn, are you implying that Mettenberger is getting paid to play?

FSU

January 13th, 2011
9:18 am

FSU went 2-0 vs. the great SEC last year they have a ton of talent coming back and finally have a coach that can recruit and develop talent. Good call on FSU.

I think Stanford should be in top 5.

Atlanta Gator

January 13th, 2011
9:19 am

I know Urban Meyer. Urban Meyer is a friend of mine. And you, Analyst Urban Meyer, are no Urban Meyer.

saban

January 13th, 2011
9:20 am

What will I do with all the Georgia Recruits?

Hard to say.

Another National Championship coming up.

Wonder if the dawgs will make a bowl game next year? Nah

Joe Bob Thibodaux

January 13th, 2011
9:22 am

Tony: LSU the next Auburn?

LSU is the real Tiger, Tony.

JBT

ratherBgambling

January 13th, 2011
9:22 am

F$U?????????

Calling that a ‘flyer’ is an understatement. They will lose a minimum of 3 games and will get destroyed in Gainesville. Rebuilt O-line a new QB is a recipe for disaster. See Texas and UF this year.

Steve

January 13th, 2011
9:23 am

It will be funny to watch the one man team Auburn go 7-5 or 6-6 next year. You morons who love Gene Chizik and think he is a good coach crack me up. The ONLY reason Auburn did good this year was because they cheated to get sCam Newton. Think about it, in 2009 they had almost all of the same players and went 8-5 yet ONE PLAYER comes along and they go 14-0. One man team! Plus, the NCAA will be taking away your little title in a few years anyway.

Paul N Destin

January 13th, 2011
9:23 am

Alabama will win it all in 2011.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:23 am

The Slot machines were closed down at Victory Land In Shorter, Alabama a few month’s ago with McGregor arrested and going to Trial, Could be a rough recruiting year For Auburn.
Doing things the “Auburn Way’ make have to change course…..LOL

Nole77

January 13th, 2011
9:27 am

Love what CJF and staff are doing in the post-Bowden era – but think we are still 1-2 recruiting classes away. Top 5 teams have depth and that is what has been lacking.

Doug Barfield

January 13th, 2011
9:28 am

Auburn cheats and always has

Doug Barfield

January 13th, 2011
9:29 am

Can Nick Fairley read a childrens’ book?

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:30 am

Nole77…… Can’t believe you guys didn’t want Richt Back……. What do FSU fans think of Mark Anyway.?…I know he’s getting kicked around up here pretty good, But he has a good record of winning in the SEC, just not the last 2-3 years.

ratherBgambling

January 13th, 2011
9:32 am

Doug-

All Nick needs to know is how to sack the quarterback and cash $50 million worth of checks.

kh

January 13th, 2011
9:32 am

@JB ur just a dawg basher. Uga return 4 of the 5 starters on OL there te an 3 rbs along a yr under Murray’s belt. The defense returns nearly everyone once Houston says he’s staying to an with a yr of actual play under the 3-4 they will b way better. Don’t forget Alabama went from losing to Louisiana Monroe under the 3-4 yr one to SEC champ game. Write it down uga wins the east

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:35 am

Doug Barfield…………..Georgia folks have always liked AU…..And the feelings from last year will fade…But My opinion is there are 2-3 powerful, rich men down there who have been allowed to have way to much influence and say so in the program, and not the right way. It has tainted them. 99% of AU folks are good folks who just love their team……….But because of that group, there is a stench.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:37 am

kh……………………….Care to bet………let’s start at 1,000 if your serious…… and returning 4 of 5 of the OL IS PART OF THE PROBLEM………… I have a big heart for Dawgs also, But I also have a mind and eyes.

Nole77

January 13th, 2011
9:38 am

To JB
As much as Dawg fans don’t want to hear it, CMR is a better head coach than he was OC and we were trying to get rid of him a year or 2 before he left. Brad Scott was the real innovator of the FSU offense and Richt came along and removed all the innovation – play calling became very predictable and stale (if I can predict what’s coming from in the stands then I am sure that every opposing DC can also). That’s why I thought it a mistake when he assumed play-calling duties at UGA.

Thuga

January 13th, 2011
9:39 am

AU won eight in ‘09 with a terrible QB, very little depth on the DL and average play from the OL. They easily would have won 9-10 this past season with Trotter or Caudle at QB as they had one of the best O lines and D lines in the nation. Not to mention increased depth throughout the roster. They will finish with a top rated recruiting class like last year and continue playing at a high level. 2011 will be tough due to the schedule and loss of many seniors but, watch out for AU in 2012! War Eagle!!! 2010 National Champs!!! Deal with it……