Some folks crank out a preseason Top 25 during the fourth quarter of the BCS title game. I didn’t, for two reasons: First, I was still too astonished by Mack Brown’s shovel-pass-before-the-half to have a coherent thought; second, I wanted to wait and see which juniors were leaving. The shovel pass rankles still, but we now have clarity regarding the NFL early entrants. And here we go:
1. Alabama: Sports Illustrated just proclaimed the Tide a dynasty, which is cart-before-the-horse stuff. Wasn’t it this time a year ago that we were saying Florida was unbeatable?
2. Iowa: Football, as with all things in life, is cyclical. And we saw in the bowl season that teams from the slow and boring Big Ten looked neither slow nor boring.
3. Oregon: Football is cyclical. (Am I repeating myself?) There’s room at the top of the Pac-10, and coming off one Rose Bowl the fleet Ducks — is that an oxymoron? — are poised to go back.
4. Ohio State: Here we have a second Big Ten team before we come to our second SEC representative. I’m not trying to be a heretic. I just think Terrelle Pryor is really good.
5. Boise State: The Broncos leave their blue turf to play Virginia Tech in Washington, D.C., next season. I’m sorry, but I don’t see them winning that game.
6. Florida: Lost Tim Tebow. Lost three big-time defenders. Might lose the head coach. Probably won’t lose more than one regular-season game, though. Cupboard’s not entirely bare.
7. Texas: I keep hearing that Garrett Gilbert showed signs in the BCS title game of being a top-flight quarterback. I thought he showed signs of being not nearly as good as Colt McCoy.
8. Virginia Tech: If you’re looking for the nation’s most consistently overrated team, look first to Blacksburg. But I see the Hokies winning the ACC in 2010, which I guess makes me complicit.
9. Nebraska: Scan these ratings and you won’t find LSU. How long before the Tigers make a hard run at Bo Pelini, who has done nice work in Lincoln, to replace Les Miles? Not long, I think.
10. TCU: Interesting, is it not? With all the coach-swapping we’ve just seen, two guys still in place are the two who coached the Fiesta Bowl — TCU’s Gary Patterson and Boise’s Chris Petersen.
11. Wisconsin: Earlier I noted that the Big Ten isn’t all that ponderous anymore. It is, however, still powerful. Check out this offensive line if you’re a fan of road-grading.
12. North Carolina: It hasn’t yet happened for Butch Davis in Chapel Hill, but it’s getting closer. Last season he had the D. Next season he upgrades the O and finishes ahead of the reigning ACC titlist.
13. Arkansas: Want a heartwarming story? Bobby Petrino upsets Alabama on Sept. 25, striking a blow for good guys everywhere. Yes, I’m kidding. About the story and the upset.
14. Pittsburgh: Dave Wannstedt wasn’t much of an NFL head coach, but he has built Pitt into something special. With Brian Kelly no longer at Cincinnati, here’s your Big East beast.
15. Georgia Tech: No, I’m not bailing out on Paul Johnson and his stylized offense. I just don’t think you can lose four of your five best players a year early and expect to be as good.
16. Penn State: Another Big Ten team! This one coached by a guy who fought in the Civil War! (I exaggerate, slightly.) Is the globe spinning backward on its axis? Is global warming real?
17. Oklahoma: We went almost a decade without being able to compile a preseason ranking that didn’t feature Big Game Bob Stoops in the top five. Time’s up on BGBS, I’m afraid.
18. Florida State: Two ways this can go in Year 1 after Saint Bobby — either the ‘Noles fall apart or they reclaim some sense of discipline. I’m taking Door No. 2.
19. South Carolina: This marks the 97th consecutive offseason Gamecock fans are getting geeked up for their big breakthrough. The 97th time just might be the charm, though.
20. Utah: The second-best team in the Mountain West (behind TCU) just might have the best coach (Kyle Whittingham). Tennessee just tried to hire him. He didn’t bite.
21. Georgia: Ten offensive starters return, but the exception is the quarterback. The defense gains Todd Grantham but loses six starters. You might say it’s a good-news-bad-news thing.
22. Navy: I’m not suggesting that losing Paul Johnson was a boost, but it didn’t exactly derail the Middies. They’re 18-9 in two post-PJ seasons. And they still run the ball.
23. Miami: Yes, there are four teams from the ACC Coastal on this list, another reason I don’t see Georgia Tech repeating. Although Tech should beat Miami this time.
24. Oregon State: The second-best team in the Pac-10 should be the Beavers, though it could be Stanford or Cal. It won’t be Southern Cal, though. You know why.
25. Houston: The Cougars have this quarterback. He has passed for 10,691 yards the past two seasons. His name is not Andre Ware. His name is Case Keenum. Pretty good name.