Any rankings at this point in the offseason are clearly premature. All the drama on the coaching circuit, for instance, makes it tough to gauge what kind of teams Florida and USC will have in 2010. That's not stopping Homerism from giving it my best shot, though.
Blatant Homerism's 2010 Preliminary Power Poll
The Crimson Tide loses plenty off of its ferocious defense. With Nick Saban running the show, however, don't expect a substantial dropoff on that side of house in 2010. The offense, meanwhile, returns eight starters, including major skill-position contributors Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Greg McElroy, Julio Jones and Marquis Maze. Also, the Tide should benefit from the continuity of retaining offensive coordinator Jay McElwain and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
2. Boise State
I get all the arguments out there about why a WAC team has an easier go of it than the big boys. I think we've reached the point where we all have to admit that Boise can play with anyone in the country, at least in a one-off scenario. In 2010, Chris Peterson's team brings back 23 starters from the team that went undefeated this season, beating Pac-10 champ Oregon and Mountain West king TCU. In a year that looks to be pretty much up for grabs, the Broncos seem like a fitting number two.
With the dangerous backfield duo of Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James returning, the Ducks have a shot at beating just about anyone. This season, the Oregon also showed it can play a little defense, too, finishing 11th in the country in yards allowed per play (4.6). Chip Kelly will have 18 starters back in 2010, making his team the odds-on favorite in the Pac-10.
4. Ohio State
I know, I know–the Buckeyes just beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes got that BCS monkey off their backs in 2009, but that hasn't quite erased the doubt created by the stink bombs OSU has unleashed against quality competition in recent seasons. I still don't trust OSU coach Jim Tressel to take the reins off Terrelle Pryor when it counts. I need to see how Ohio State comes out in its first few games before I'll be willing to buy the hype.
5. Virginia Tech
One day, the Hokies actually will live up to my inflated opinion of them. Virginia Tech won't change its strategy much next season. The difference is that in Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, the Hokies will have their most talented backfield in recent memory. Va. Tech's top six pass catchers return, too. When combined with its lunch-pail defensive mentality, that explosiveness will make Frank Beamer's team a tough out.
Continuing the "mudders" theme we have going here, the Badgers bring back potential Heisman candidate John Clay and a host of offensive talent. The real question about this team is whether or not it can play the kind of defense they've become accustomed to in Madison. Sack master O'Brien Schofield graduates, as does leading tackler Jaevery McFadden. If Bret Bielema can find some replacements in those key spots to bolster the D, it will keep the pressure off of game-managing quarterback extraordinaire Scott Tolzien.
Call me crazy, but I'm still buying what Bobby Petrino is selling. Quarterback Ryan Mallett's decision to stick around Fayetteville for one more year may be the most significant development of the offseason so far, as he will be surrounded by offensive weapons, such as running backs Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo and receivers Joe Adams and Greg Childs. Obviously, the Razorbacks have to improve on a defense that gave up 25.1 points per game and a staggering 5.8 yards per play.
The U looked to be on the cusp of a major revival early on in 2009, only to stumble some down the stretch. The Hurricanes' offense should continue to improve with a year under hyped offensive coordinator Mark Whipple's NFL offense. Defensively, coach Randy Shannon appears to have some of the pieces needed to help regain Miami's once-dominant form. For some reason, though, this unit has struggled to put it all together.
In what is shaping up to be another down year for the Big 12, the Longhorns check in this high based more on potential than production. Texas loses a bunch of key contributors on both sides of the ball. Mack Brown has stocked up on young studs like Garrett Gilbert and Alex Okafor to fill the shoes of the departed, but that's easier said than done. Why UT can't run the ball better than it has remains a mystery, and the 'Horns don't appear to have the personnel to solve it next year.
OK, hear me out. I do get that this is a team that lost to Syracuse by 18 points in 2009. However, the Scarlet Knights were sneaky good defensively this season, and you'd expect them to keep that up next year under Greg Schiano. More importantly, they are loaded with young talent on offense, including freshmen Mike Savage and Mohamed Sanu, who has the skills to become one of the top gamebreakers in college football. Rutgers has the makings of a pretty nice little sleeper and should be considered one of the favorites in the Big East.
(Just missed the cut: Oklahoma, Florida, Nebraska, LSU.)