Spring practices have wrapped up. We've collected more data. Another NCAA investigator just arrived at Auburn.
The time has come to update BH's top 10 for 2011.
Again, this is a power poll. The objective is to rank the teams in terms of who'd be most likely to beat whom at Hamill Field in Tulsa, Okla., on a random Thursday in the fall. In other words, I'd favor No. 1 against every other team in the country, No .2 against every other team except No. 1 and so on. Schedules and projections for where teams will end up at the end of the season don't matter.
Let's do it.
Blatant Homerism Way Too Early Top 10 for 2011 (Part II)
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
I've had a change of heart since January.
Like Florida in the Tebow years and USC before that, 'Bama now lords over the sport as college football's "it" program. Top to bottom, the Tide boasts the most talent of any team in the country to go along with a coaching staff that is the envy of the rest of the nation. Nick Saban's grind-it-out style leverages the Tide's physicality, taking full advantage of Alabama's greatest strengths.
Plus, do you really want to bet against the SEC at this point?
I suspect 'Bama drops a game or so this season, but from where I sit, I'd favor the Tide over every other team in the country, all things being equal.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
Frankly, I feel better about OU after the spring than I did going in, but I still had to drop the Sooners out of the top spot.
At the end of the day, my biggest concern is that Oklahoma may be just a little short of talent – and heft – on the offensive and defensive lines to beat all the SEC teams. However, no other team in the country can match OU's collection of potent offensive skill players.
3. LSU Tigers
Can Steve Kragthorpe kickstart the LSU offense? Do the Tigers have a quarterback? Does Les Miles know how to form complete sentences?
So many questions surround this team. So much talent, too.
4. Florida State Seminoles
Will FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher match the recent second-year successes of Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel and, um, Gene Chizik? The Seminoles definitely have the horses to challenge the nation's upper echelon. (Dave Bartoo at College Football Matrix actually has FSU rated No. 1 overall in his four-year composite recruiting rankings, ahead of Alabama.)
In year two under defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, the D appears to be rounding into shape. After watching the FSU spring game, the real question facing the 'Noles seems to be whether or not they can consistently generate enough points on offense.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes
Without the Tattoo Five, the Buckeyes wouldn't rate in the top 10. I'm ranking them at full strength, though.
OSU has shaken off its big game blues with back-to-back wins in BCS bowls in the last two years. To the delight of Mark Emmert, I make the Senator the odds-on favorite to win his 47th Big Ten championship.
6. Oregon Ducks
Courtesy of mega-booster Phil Knight and innovative head coach Chip Kelly – and Will Lyles, the highest-priced recruiting "consultant" in college football – the Ducks are hovering around the edge of superpower status. This season won't change that, as UO remains the class of the Pac-12. The losses on the offensive and defensive lines should concern the denizens of Autzen Stadium.
7. Arkansas Razorbacks
My preseason enthsuiasm for the Hogs last year was validated by a BCS bowl appearance. Even with talented quarterback Ryan Mallett off to the NFL, I expect Arky's offense to keep flying high. For my money, coach Bobby Petrino may be the best offensive mind in college football, and he'll find plenty of ways for Mallett's replacment, Tyler Wilson, to get the ball to Knile Davis, Joe Adams, Greg Childs, etc.
Big problem: The defense isn't quite there.
8. Georgia Bulldogs
Lately, rolling with the 'Dawgs has proven to be a losing proposition. There aren't that many quarterbacks in the country I'd take ahead of Aaron Murray, though, and it's not like that roster is bereft of offensive weapons. On the other side of the ball, look for Georgia's defense to take a big step up in the second year of Todd Grantham's tutelage in the 3-4.
Something important to watch is how the coaching staff and team responds to all the whispers about Mark Rich'ts job security.
9. Boise State Broncos
We'll know pretty quickly how this edition of the Broncos stacks up relative to their predecessors. The last time Boise opened up at Georgia, it didn't end well. Losing speedster Titus Young at receiver hurts, but this is still a well-coached, experienced team with a quarterback who hasn't lost too often in the last few years.
10. Texas A&M Aggies
A&M took off last season after finally making the switch to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback six games into the season. Was the Aggies' second half surge more a matter of the schedule lightening up? A pummeling at the hands of LSU in the Cotton Bowl showed just how long A&M still has left to go.
The Aggies do have the benefit of underappreciated coordinator Tim DeRuyter coaching up the defense.