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

msnole

January 13th, 2011
9:44 am

FSU is not completely rebuilding their O-line. And EJ Manuel is not a new QB for us. FSU is getting a great recruiting class this year. The momentum is swinging back our way.

Buckeye

January 13th, 2011
9:47 am

I’ve seen OSU at # 10 and # 6 so far. Not to worry, inside the top 5 at years end. That’s what we are – a top 5 program.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:47 am

Nole77………….I don’t know how much Georgia football you watch, but being predictable is still a big problem for Richt. Bobo is just carrying out Richt’s game plan. We run a scripted offense, unless we are 3-5 TD’s behind, which is often lately. We run a certain play based on down and distance and field position. These blogs are full of Georgia fans who say their wife can guess the play 8 of 10 times. A well schooled DC shuts us down. In hid early years, he wasn’t that bad. also, we can start off running the ball and having big success, and then start throwing long, incomplete passes, the the Defense see’s that out passing is not working, loads the box and stops the run…….No. I’m not a coach, but after watching the NC game, I know more than ever we need help.

Sdumper

January 13th, 2011
9:48 am

Noles are on a roll no doubt about it and to say we have to rebuild the offensive line is a stretch.
We lose 1 key starter Rodney Hudson but we have tons of experienced line depth behind him with playing time.

Almost the entire team is back with the exception of Ponder who played hurt and missed 3 games.
EJ is healthy and is just as good probably better than Ponder. That said I still think were a year away from being a top 5 team and would have us maybe 9 or 10 to start. The Noles have a lot of proving to do before folks are going to be ready to declare them back.

GStateBen

January 13th, 2011
9:49 am

FSU belongs here. If they beat Oklahoma at home they will likely be in the Top 5 for the duration of the year. Take a look at the ‘Noles schedule and players returning. 9 starters on offense, 9 starters on Defense and a consensus Top 3 (and rising) recruiting class.

For the dopes who call this team average, they won 10 games and destroyed Florida (who still finished 2nd in the SEC East) with an injured QB and a 4th string RG.

The Lost Decade is Over!

Tom

January 13th, 2011
9:51 am

Gotta love all the Auburn hate. I guess that is what happens when you are #1. Because everyone strives to be there everyone must try to bring you down to their level. Yeah, if Newton and Fairly both leave Auburn won’t repeat, and with the schedule prob couldn’t even win the West, but to sit here and say that Auburn will be back to their old ways and back to reality in a sarcastic way as if we never accomplish anything is funny. What reality? You mean the reality of 710 wins which is 13th of all teams? You mean winning head to head records on UGA, TENN, FL, FL STATE, MIAMI, CLEMSON and pretty much every other team in the south? What, a six game deficit to Alabama and a 3 game deficit to LSU? That reality? And lastly, name me another BCS conference team that has gone undefeated 3 times in the past 17 years…good luck. Once in a lifetime my butt. WAR EAGLE.

Mindy

January 13th, 2011
9:51 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.

:lol: :lol: :lol:

Buckeye

January 13th, 2011
9:52 am

Oh, by the way, UGA is not. Face it, your a wannabee.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:53 am

I know Muschamp knows that also..FSU will have their best team in 10 years in his first. That sucks up the press, the recruiting,the glory etc. But, He is loaded with talent if he can get it to work.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:54 am

Mindy…………priceless.

Mindy

January 13th, 2011
9:54 am

If they beat Oklahoma at home they will likely be in the Top 5 for the duration of the year.

Didn’t Stoops used to be the OC at FSu before the Oklahoma job? I think he has FSu’s number (the only bowl he’s won, besides the one this season, was the BCS Championship against FSu).

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
9:54 am

I think anyone watching the FSU-USC bowl game got a peak into the future. The people returning, plus the recruiting class Fisher is putting together shapes up to be a heck of a team.

I wish the SEC could trade Vandy for FSU…buy the Titan’s stadium and throw that in for boot.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:55 am

Tom……………….As long as the money don’t dry up……..LOL

RTR22

January 13th, 2011
9:56 am

Your 57 NC did not include bowl appearance due to probation. Your 2010 will probably have an asterisk in front of it for obvious reasons. AU and you have to deal with it…..

Tom

January 13th, 2011
9:57 am

JB…don’t suffer from the delusion that we all don’t pay….and no…the money won’t dry up.

Tom

January 13th, 2011
9:57 am

RTR…you do realize that Alabama was no probation when they won last year don’t you? Same thing dude.

Mindy

January 13th, 2011
9:58 am

The Noles, Florida and Miami’s strengths are their home grown talent. A lot of the players like to stay close to home, (not too close tho;) so that mom and dad can see them play.

Tom

January 13th, 2011
9:58 am

on probation

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
9:58 am

Tony,

I think Stanford should be in the Top 5.

1. OU
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Stanford

OU has an unfair advantage in that the Big 12 has no title game.

JB

January 13th, 2011
9:59 am

Tom, and by the way, congrats….all kidding aside, the AU players played a great game. You guys have had to take all the Circus news with Cam, but at the end of the day, you guys rocked. Now, that’s not hate, it’s respect.

Family

January 13th, 2011
10:00 am

You UGA fans are pitiful. Haters gonna hate. Guess what? NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! And Cam Newton IS coming back. BOOK IT. Unfortunately for y’all, but luckily for the rest of the SEC, so is Bobo. Hang your hat on us having the crystal taken away, I would too after losing UCF and a 6-7 season. Ain’t gonna happen boys. It’s great to be in Auburn Tiger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
10:01 am

Some other teams that could make a run to the Top 5 in 2011:

FSU
S Carolina
Florida
Okla State
Texas A&M
Notre Dame
Ohio St

Silver Britches, Red Panties

January 13th, 2011
10:01 am

Tony, I think Our Beloved Dawgs will be right in the mix! Coach Richt is doing a great job and things will only get better!

Tom

January 13th, 2011
10:01 am

It was tough….got kind of old hearing we were a one man team and all the distractions. I think the rest of our players showed we have some talent. Ill be glad to see Cam go, but if he decides to return that would really clear his name…

Dawg_Mike

January 13th, 2011
10:01 am

Regarding the comments about Nick Fairley being illiterate let me say this-
Looking at some of his messages on Twitter he comes across better than most other players I have seen. He actually uses punctuation and grammar and …..wait for it……you can understand him !!

If you don’t believe me go on there and look at some of our ( UGA ) defensive players and see what I’m saying.

Of course, if someone is doing the tweeting for him all bets are off :)

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:01 am

jumbeauxtiger

Has Stanford replaced Harbaugh? I’ve lost the thread a little this week, and the coaching carosel spun a few times when I wasn’t looking.

JB

January 13th, 2011
10:01 am

Family………………..We’re hanging on to 2012…………..Enjoy it.

sec rules

January 13th, 2011
10:02 am

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:03 am

Later this year, Nick Fairly won’t have to read children’s books. He can buy a child, and have them read it for him.

Bill Stanfill

January 13th, 2011
10:04 am

GOOD NEWS, GOOD NEWS!!

Winner of the DAY award (Dirtiest player of the Year), Nick Fairly of Auburn, is going to be drafted by the BUFFALO BILLS!!

Sports fans from South Carolina to Oregon will never have to watch him play again as he will be exiled to the tundras of the north county.

Talk about snow and ice fatigue!

Start shopping for a good sled, St. Nick!

Silver Britches, Red Panties

January 13th, 2011
10:04 am

3rdN8, FSU would never join the SEC. They like having to only play one or two teams a year that can match their physical talent.

News Article: Latest Bama News 1/14/11

January 13th, 2011
10:05 am

[...] is No 1 Barnhart is no friend of the Tide,but even he has Bama at #5, in his early top five. Early Top Five for 2011: Oklahoma is No 1 | Mr. College Football Reply With Quote + Reply to Thread « Previous Thread | Next [...]

JB

January 13th, 2011
10:05 am

Tom…….We have Dawg fans that want to extend Richt’s contract, were as I would say 20 of the top 25 teams in this years final poll would have fired him after this year. The entire SEC is rooting for Coach Richt. GEEZ.

Nole77

January 13th, 2011
10:06 am

To JB
Don’t watch much UGA but I hear about it from friends who say the same thing – predictability, lack of innovation, scripted plays, etc. Sounds like he needs to hire a good OC and leave him alone? Gotta say also, though, that occasionally CJF will dial up a real head-scratcher which cause the Nole faithful start convulsing at the CMR flashbacks………….

JB

January 13th, 2011
10:07 am

Tell Nick there ain’t no fried Chicken in Buffalo. Or Grits

Tom

January 13th, 2011
10:09 am

JB…football is crazy. I do believe Richt is a fine coach but sometimes they just can’t turn it around. I would argue Richt is suffering from what Tuberville did and it normally happens around the 10 year mark. If you haven’t won it all by then you probably wont unless you reinvent yorself. Tubs tried to by going to the spread and it cost him his job because no one on his staff wanted to run that system. Richt is facing a similar situation. He has to turn this thing around mentally and physically and I personally think he has lost the team. Sometimes you just need a new spark. Chizik was a fresh start for Auburn. Who will UGA’s be?

JB

January 13th, 2011
10:09 am

I would give Richt 3 more years on one condition. He hire Leach as OC and get out of his way.

kh

January 13th, 2011
10:10 am

@JB…. I’ve got eyes as well an who will beat them outta the east. South Carolina comes to Athens tenn still young not vandy or Kentucky an that leaves FL who is getting a new coach an changing schemes. Not to mention FL wont make it through the month of Oct after lsu au an bama. Uga wins the east purely from the stance of familiarity.

DawginLex

January 13th, 2011
10:10 am

Nole77,

CMR flashbacks?

Like back to the days when FSU was relevant?

Jimbo has a good start going but when Richt left, FSU went into the crapper.

Richt now faces his biggest challenge EVER heading into 2011.
He is fighting for his job.

Guarantee you he ends up calling plays while not throwing Bobo under the bus publicly.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:11 am

I think Oregon will be in the pre-season top 5. But after watching the game, I think there are four or five SEC teams that could beat them….I would add OU and FSU to that list.

During the NC game Oregon’s line of scrimmage was moved about three yard back on almost every snap…that’s why they could never establish the run. Unless they overhaul that OL, you’d see the same thing aginst other top tier teams.

BTW – they didn’t get much press (except for Fairly), but I thought the AU defense had an outstanding season. Give me a Josh Bynes on my team any day.

Tom

January 13th, 2011
10:13 am

kh…..right there is UGA’s problem. How can you sit here and already be counting victories. Your fans do this every year and it trickles down to your players..ego and mental are huge in football and UGA just seems to think they can beat anybody because they are UGA. UGA will have to fight and claw all next year to go to a bowl.

K-Stater

January 13th, 2011
10:14 am

@jumbeauxtiger

Oklahoma has no advantage. Despite the Big 12’s elimination of the title game, schools now compete in a round-robin format. OU will have to play every school in the Big 12 now. That will bolster it’s schedule.

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
10:15 am

3rdN8, this was posted by Jon Wilner with the Mercury News in the Bay Area on Tuesday:

” I’ve been told by multiple sources that the Stanford administration was caught off guard by Jim Harbaugh’s departure – that, as late as the Orange Bowl, university officials were under the impression Harbaugh intended to return.”

Interesting.

JB

January 13th, 2011
10:15 am

Tom……Well said and true. loyal to assit coach’s. Most our coach’s did not even play the positions they coach when they played. You made a GREAT point. He is Stuck on his way, and won’t change. We had a seasoned, veteran OL this year, with depth, and were horrible.
Georgia will be back. Haters on here will say back to what? That’s somewhat true. We have too much talent in this state and too much money ( second most profitable program in Div 1) not the better than we are.

Nole77

January 13th, 2011
10:16 am

To DawginLex

Yes, flashbacks – CMR co-opted Brad Scott’s offense (yes, THAT Brad Scott) and managed to ruin it, getting by on talent alone. The decline when CMR was not due to him leaving as much as it was due to Chuck Amato leaving (yes, THAT Chuck Amato) causing us to lose our So FL recruiting base (notice when Chuck the Chest went to NCSt how many from So Fl were on their roster). Took a while to build that base back up.

JB

January 13th, 2011
10:17 am

kh……………I pray you are right….and admire your optimism.

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
10:18 am

K-Stater, Yes but that round-robin format will not include Nebraska.

One less game against usually a ranked division winner is an advantage in my opinion.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:18 am

Upon further investigation, I would scratch Stanford from the list. The top name to replace Harbaugh is Tom Williams, the HC at Yale.

I thought they might name Vic Fangio as the new HC. I thought he was the difference maker for Stanford….much more than Harbaugh.

Tom

January 13th, 2011
10:19 am

JB…UGA will be back. There is too much talent in Georgia. Any Auburn fan will tell you that. We have got some good ones over the years from Georgia. I think if UGA fans will calm down and learn humility and go back to fundamentals then their players will play with an edge again. But right now it seems like the players think they can just show up and beat a team. That is exactly why they lost to UCF. They thought the game was beneath them..and maybee it was in some aspects…but man you have to win that game…Where is the pride? It’s Richt’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:20 am

jumbeauxtiger

Apparently the powers at Stanford are a bit new to the big-time coaching world.