By: David Folz
As the countdown continues on the college football pre-season top 25 poll, we are now at 15-11, and we start to see teams that will probably be big players in their conference and possibly the BCS this year.
15. Oklahoma State- No Brandon Weeden or Justin Blackmon this year will hurt the Cowboys. Wes Lunt is a true freshman taking over the reins of a team returning just two full-time starters from a year ago. The running game should be solid as one of those players is Running Back Joseph Randle. The line returns one full-time starter but returns players with starting experience so the offense should be explosive if Lunt and the new cast of receivers get going early. The defense was a lot like the Green Bay Packers last year, forcing turnovers while getting torched for points and yards. They return eight starters on that side of the ball so they should improve in that aspect. Their season could be made when they face Texas because if they win, they will be en route to their third straight ten win season. They lose, and they are most likely a middle of the road Big 12 team.
14. Clemson- Even with the suspension of Sammy Watkins for the first two games, the Tigers offense should be explosive if the line can keep Boyd on his feet. The defense is a huge story because the Orange Bowl still looms over the Tigers’ heads. They were torched for 70 points against West Virginia in that game, and most will not let the Tigers forget it. With a switch in coordinators from last year, the Tigers are hoping they can forget the bowl game and focus on this year. If the defense can come around this year, another ACC title is in the mix, if not, then it could be a long year in Death Valley.
13. Wisconsin- I may be criticized for this ranking but it’s honestly because I don’t know how Wisconsin will be in big games this year. To say it will be on Montee Ball’s shoulders this year is an understatement. The year will depend how the Heisman finalist carries his team, because Scott O’Brien is new and was very unproven at Maryland before transferring. The defense was largely ineffective in big games last year and if they don’t get pressure on the quarterback, it could be a struggle. The linebackers are stout but it will be on the secondary and defensive line if they want to contend for another Rose Bowl berth, but should be back in the Big Ten title game.
12. Virginia Tech- The Hokies may be the most quiet top 25 team in the nation. That is because everyone is overseeing the Hokies over Florida State, Clemson and everyone in the SEC. The Hokies are carried by their defense, running attack and Beamer Ball every year, and it has led to an ACC powerhouse. Eight players are back from a defense last year that ranked tenth in the nation, while the offense brings back three. One of them is QB Logan Thomas, who threw for over 3,000 yards a year ago. For Virginia Tech, it was a change after having a dominant ground game, and now they must find a running back after its two leading rushers left. For Virginia Tech this year, it will be the same story but with a different tune, defense will keep them in it, and the quarterback will win it for them.
11. Georgia- The offense will be relied on returning Quarterback Aaron Murray because Isaiah Crowell got kicked off the team in the off-season. For the receivers it is not a spectacular bunch but Tavarris King is a solid number one option. The Running Back position and the Offensive Line are question marks on offense but on defense, there will be no question marks as they return all but one starter. If there is a struggling unit on that side of the ball, the Bulldogs have no one to blame but themselves. If it comes down to a special teams moment, the Bulldogs are breaking in a new punter and kicker and that could make for uneasiness with the fans. Remember, Richt has been on the hot seat for a while, and a bad season means he may be gone, but a good season will keep him around.