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

Arthur Redding, Jr.

January 13th, 2011
10:20 am

Fairly is going to be drafted by Buffalo?

That’s kinda like going to hell, isn’t it?

Sorta fits him, I guess.

Tom

January 13th, 2011
10:21 am

I’m out. WAR EAGLE.

JB

January 13th, 2011
10:23 am

Tom…..It starts at the Top……. And kicking a FG from the 3 yard line on fourth and one against Central Florida after running it down their throat in a meaningless crapper bowl game is one big example. Think Chip Kelly or your own Chiznik would have done that. Friends of mine at the game said our players just hung their head and never recovered.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:24 am

For all of the AU fans out there.

Good Ole Al Borges has surfaced again. Apparently he will be Brady Hoke’s new OC at Michigan.

Interesting hire.

Nice Job SEC East

January 13th, 2011
10:27 am

Steve/JB
Been out of the country for a couple weeks. Please tell me that Georgia didn’t really lose to UCF 10-6. Seriously?
Just as Auburn fans have been saying all season, AU was not a one man team. Newton played well enough Monday night but the game was won by a defense led by Nick Fairley and a true freshman running back. I know it’s tough being a GA fan now, but after a few more years you can get back to 7-5.
Tony, don’t know if it will be next year but Seminoles are on their way back.

War Eagle

January 13th, 2011
10:28 am

Looks like a good predication, LSU, Bama, Miss State and Ark. will be very good football teams. I think there is a good chance Cam Newton will return, this will change West situation if this happens. If not, Auburn will be 8-4 or 7-5, with a pretty tough road schedule.
I know there are young “whipper snappers out in blogland today , but being a former player on the 1957 Auburn National Champioship and played against Pat Dye, Fran Tarkenton, and other great UGA players, I have been totally shocked at the negative blogs since Auburn won NC.
This negativism can cause future rivarly betwwen the two schools. We have always considered UGA a family rival and bama a HATE RIVAL
The Auburn-bama rival is unprecedent to any in college football. I don`t want Auburn and UGA in the same mode as this rival. I was born and bred in Georgia and I like UGA except when UGA is in the stadium.

atltiger15

January 13th, 2011
10:29 am

JB

i always go back to the preseason when Richt decided to go to one days instead of two adays.I beleive that is where the toughness sets the tone for the upcoming season. The state of GA has some of the best high school coaching in America with talented players to fill at least 2 sec rosters… the Dawgs will be backed in a corner and come out swinging. Richt knows he must win now and and the players will sense the urgency..Sometimes this is what it takes players to realize we must bust our rear ends, Granted, it should never come to that, just sayin

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:30 am

jumbeauxtiger

Who will Miles pick to replace Crowton? Looks as if Mack Brown has already hired all of the top notched coaches that are available.

Matt

January 13th, 2011
10:31 am

My Top 5 for 2011:

1) Alabama – I just think there’s too much talent and the hunger to get back to the top will be back with this team in 2011.

2) Oklahoma – Yes, they do return a lot of people…and I think they could be on a collision course with Alabama to play for the 2011 BCS Title…

3) Oregon – Nobody in the PAC-10 (or 12…or whatever they are now) can compete with Oregon…Stanford comes close, but you’re right, they’ll be down a touch due to the Harbaugh thing.

4) Ohio State – Yes, they do lose a lot of players to begin the season due to the suspensions, but I don’t expect them to lose any of the games they’ll play without Pryor and Co. and while the Big 10 is a bigger league this year, there aren’t a lot of teams that scare you, including this one…but they are the best of the bunch.

5) LSU – A new QB (Metzenburger) will help steady an offense that has needed a true drop-back QB since Flynn left a few years ago. There is a LOT of talent on both sides of the ball, and Les seems to get those players to play hard.

Dink

January 13th, 2011
10:31 am

Pretty good Tony, but I’m not sure about the Seminoles. I think I would have to put the Buckeyes (can’t believe I said that!) in the 5 hole.

Thanks for all of your great work this past season, Go Dawgs!

Huh?

January 13th, 2011
10:33 am

K-Stater,

The Big12 loses it’s championship game because it lost two of it’s best teams. With Tubby actively destroying Tech, Only Oklahoma and Texas have a real shot at the Top 10, and Texas sucks.

Auburn Man

January 13th, 2011
10:36 am

This is a bunch of crap. The idea you can tell me in January what a team is going to do 8 to 10 months later is just BS! If anyone could do that Los Vegas would have been out of business years ago. The reason we get schools over ranked is because the media picks a darling, bandwagon each other and we get teams picked as a top 5 or so and then another team is overlooked and they get screwed at the end of the year because they had too far to rise. The best thing for college ball is to remove the media from poles and not have a pole until October 15th. By then the cream is rising or not and we have a much better idea of who is doing what. You know better than this kind of crap Tony…. This smacks of a mail it in effort by Mark Bradley, I thought you were better than this.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:38 am

Re: Newton coming back for 2011.

My question is: why would he? He’s already done everything you can do in college football. As of yesterday, he’s projected to be in the top 25 of the NFL draft. I can’t imagine his stock rising a lot by playing next year. He would be playing behind a rebuilt OL, and the odds of an injury go up dramatically.

Can’t see it happening.

atltiger15

January 13th, 2011
10:38 am

WAR EAGLE

I think you’re dead on as far as next season goes.I think Cam leaves though..Dont see him being able to enjoy another year will all the inneundo surrounding him and his dad..With 4/5 OL gone, granted several backups cross-trained OL positions and got experience, still tough down in the trenches in the sec..We recruited the OL and DL positions last year really well, so next man up..I’ve always said it will take Chizik 3 to 5 yrs to get us where we wanted to be. Didnt know there was a Cam Newton out there….The way this staff has bonded and gone after the top players in the country, the future hant been brighter in y 31 years on earth. WDE, thanks for your service to AU

Tony Barnhart

January 13th, 2011
10:40 am

I made an error in identifying Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles. My apologies.

K-Stater

January 13th, 2011
10:41 am

@jumbeauxtiger

Okay, I misunderstood you. Sorry. I thought you meant, in general, that missing a title game was an advantage. Do you mean the loss of Nebraska? Because I think that they’ve become irrelevant in the B12 the last few years (Callahan and Pelini). They look a lot better because of the division in which they play. All of that aside, however, the fact remains that if a school runs the table in the Big 12, they ought to go to the national title. That isn’t a slight to the SEC, however, as it remains the top conference in the country.

Analyst Urban Meyer

January 13th, 2011
10:42 am

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.

Sorry, I get all my family members mixed up. I love all these guys and sometimes forget who they are without their numbers. Yes, Jack Rabbit is the one who’s coming back.

Huh?

January 13th, 2011
10:43 am

K-Stater,

“if a school runs the table in the Big 12, they ought to go to the national title”

There are plenty of Tech fans around here who feel the same way about the ACC.

atltiger15

January 13th, 2011
10:44 am

TB

Has anyone at the U of Phoenix stadium ground crew members given any explanation to the horrible condition of the surface?

Paul in RDU

January 13th, 2011
10:45 am

A preseason top 5 right now is just a way to fill out a blog
It would be nice if Tony took a leaf rfom Bradley and wrote a column on how his predictions for the previous year worked. Here is Tony’s top 5 from August 2010
1) Alabama final AP ranking 10
2) Ohio State – finished 5
3) Texas – finished NR
4) Florida – finished NR
5) Boise State – finished 9

atltiger15

January 13th, 2011
10:45 am

i know the new sod came in fron Oregon but damn did they water it for 5 days stright or what

Huh?

January 13th, 2011
10:46 am

atltiger15,

The explanation is simple. The grass was soaking wet. You need to ask the BCS why they scheduled a game in such a Podunk location to begin with.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:47 am

re: pre-season pick for Oregon.

What am I missing here. I agree that they’re a fun team to watch, and that they have speed out the wazoo in thier skill positions. But look at their last two bowl games. OSU,and AU shut them down. I’m unconvinced that offense works well against a solid defensive team.

The telltale for me was the goal line stand AU made. Oregon didn’t try one play bewteen the tackles.

K-Stater

January 13th, 2011
10:49 am

@Huh?

You can’t possibly rationalize that the ACC is even close to the Big 12 in terms of competitiveness. The Big 12 is the consistently the second best conference in Division 1-A. Without a doubt.

atltiger15

January 13th, 2011
10:52 am

K Stater

No argument here. There were 5 to 6 teams in the Big 12 that could have won ACC

Huh?

January 13th, 2011
10:52 am

I never said they were good. My only point is that fans tend to be biased.

NoGaGator

January 13th, 2011
10:54 am

Way too early but at this point, list looks good – with exception of FSU. They finished strong but play in ACC and still have some ground to cover to be in top 5. I’d put BSU or Stanford in for now.

I think UF will be better than last year (Weis>Addazio for starters) but they have too much ground to make up considering the needed gelling of a new coaching staff. They’ll also have one of the toughest schedules in the country w/ LSU, UA and AU from the West in addition to USCe and FSU.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:54 am

K-Stater

I’d be a little careful there. My tally has the ACC 2-0 vs the SEC in the bowls. Looking at VaTech, FSU, and UNC I think the ACC is climbing the hill.

UGA=Yawn

January 13th, 2011
10:55 am

No matter what he thinks – Ohio State will be pre-season Top 5. Always have been – always will be. To exclude is just silly. We-do list with OSU in Top 5.

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
10:58 am

K-Stater, I understand what you are saying. I think Nebraska is much improved with Pelini with my point being one less game for Oklahoma is an advantage. This gives them an extra week to prepare for a BCS title game, they don’t have to take a chance with someone getting injured in a 13th game and likely will not have to face another ranked opponent.

K-Stater

January 13th, 2011
10:59 am

@3rdN8

I refuse to let a sample size of 2 games affect my conclusion. Over the years, time and time again, the Big 12 is the second best in the country. And really, the ACC is likely behind the Pac-12, Big 10, and MWC.

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
11:01 am

3rdN8, I have not heard who Miles will hire to replace Crowton. Crowton denies that he is fired but I would bet Miles has told him to look for another job. Miles typically tells coaches to look for another job rather than fire them which allows the assistant to save face.

It would not surprise me if Billy Gonzales is named the OC. He is the Passing Game Coordinator that was the WR coach with the Gators in 2009.

GTBob

January 13th, 2011
11:04 am

Are the Big 12/8 developing conference coat riders like the SEC now? You guys really should strive to be different from them.

BAMA dude

January 13th, 2011
11:04 am

Love it. In 2009 we were replacing a QB, had the number one recruiting class, and were ranked #5 preseason. That turned out well.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
11:05 am

How long is it to September?

2011 should be one of the more intersting seasons ever in the SEC.

I look for Florida to come back quick. Muschamp has put together a great staff, and Meyer left him loaded with talent. Spurrier gets a lot of talent back as well. If Dooley keeps trending up, the Vols are going to have some big wins. UGA is a question mark, but may be the dark horse.

I look for LSU to be the team to beat in the west. Bama is the team that can (?) beat them. Arkansas is a close third, with AU and MSU the dark horses.

Top to bottom, this will be as good as the SEC has ever been. I suspect the survivor will play for the NC.

JB

January 13th, 2011
11:06 am

Bobo will be available in 2012….maybe sooner for those planning ahead.

BrianMAC

January 13th, 2011
11:07 am

Auburns title will get pulled! Idiot Aubies keep sayin they also have onein 57 but thats a joke. They got in trouble for paying two players 500 dollars a piece and wernt elligable. lol. Sound familiar.lol.. look it up cause historys repeating its self.

Fink

January 13th, 2011
11:09 am

Lets take a look at the pre season rankings since 2000

Notice specifically the higher-ranked teams from the SEC.

One of the pre season top 10 SEC teams will always disappoint.

So…..don’t put too much stock in LSU

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
11:09 am

jumbeauxtiger

I’ve noticed the same thing about Miles, and think it’s pretty classy. For all of the grief he takes about clock management, the guy can coach. Year in, and year out, LSU plays as hard as any that I see.

DeeNole

January 13th, 2011
11:10 am

Agree that #5 for FSU is a reach. Possibly top 10 with a top 5 in 2012.

JB

January 13th, 2011
11:11 am

Les is living large… if he get’s fired tomorrow, they owe him 28 mil…..Sweet

JB

January 13th, 2011
11:12 am

What did Shannon leave in the cupboard at Miami? Anyone.

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
11:13 am

bamadude & 3rdN8,

Did you guys hear McElroy on ESPN Radio’s Gameday on Monday? He was in the Hartford studio and I listened to it just after he started speaking. I thought he was one of the regulars! He was very knowledgeable and polished. I was impressed.

JB

January 13th, 2011
11:14 am

2012 predictions. Christian LeMay will be the starting QB at Georgia under new head Coach Kirby Smart ( he get’s it by default,ala Dooley) and Dawgs win 10 games.

BAMA dude

January 13th, 2011
11:15 am

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
10:54 am
K-Stater

I’d be a little careful there. My tally has the ACC 2-0 vs the SEC in the bowls. Looking at VaTech, FSU, and UNC I think the ACC is climbing the hill.

They beat a four loss and a six loss team. Their other two wins were West Virginia and ECU. They lost to Nevada, Air Force, South Florida, and Notre Dame; their champion got annihilated by Stanford, the Pac 10’s second best team. The only wins they had that could be considered “quality wins” by any remote definition were the USCe and WVU games, neither team being ranked in the final polls. I don’t think they’re heading anywhere.

jumbeauxtiger

January 13th, 2011
11:16 am

3rdN8, the most impressive thing about Miles to me is that the players play hard and never seem to give up.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
11:16 am

jumbeauxtiger

I didn’t see McElroy on TV, but one of my sons (an AU grad) was saying the same thing. McElroy is a smart, articulate young man. I’m quite sure he will succeed in any endeavor he chooses.

BAMA dude

January 13th, 2011
11:17 am

GMac definitely has potential in the broadcasting booth. He’s acting as though he may go that direction with all the in-game tweeting and what-not.

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
11:17 am

correct….McElroy was an the radio

3rdN8

January 13th, 2011
11:17 am