College FootBlog 2011 Preseason Top 25

With the conclusion of spring football for all major FBS programs, it is time to release this year’s College FootBlog Preseason poll.  We will count down to the top five teams in five separate posts over the next couple of weeks, so check back often to see what teams we feel are the best of the best, long before two-a-days begin in August.  In this edition, we’ll break down teams #21-#25.

25.  Mississippi State:  Many analysts have the Bulldogs higher, but the SEC West is absolutely stacked in 2011, and we feel that while head coach Dan Mullen will continue to bring MSU along, although they get Alabama, LSU and South Carolina at home, it’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs winning two of those games.  Tack on trips to Arkansas and Georgia, and Mississippi State will be doing a lot to finish 4-4 in conference play.  Still, with a very forgiving non-conference schedule, the Bulldogs should have a great shot at a nine-win season, which is saying a lot for the toughest division in the FBS.

Can Garrett Gilbert get the Longhorns back on track in 2011? (google images)

24.  Texas Head coach Mack Brown will try to get the Longhorns back on track after finishing 5-7 and failing to make a bowl game for the first time since Brown took the coaching job in 1998.  The defense will have to replace fiery defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who left for the head coaching job at Florida, but the ‘Horns have a ton of talent on defense, and new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz showed a lot of promise with his work at Mississippi State–it will be interesting to see what Diaz can do with the talent pool at Texas.  The success and/or failure of this year’s Texas team will lie at the quarterback position.  As a sophomore, Garrett Gilbert was a major drop off from legends Colt McCoy and Vince Young .  Gilbert led the Big 12 last season with 17 interceptions, and posted a dismal TD/Int ratio of 6:16 in Big 12 play.  In order for Texas to take a step forward, Gilbert or one of the younger quarterbacks on the roster (Case McCoy and Connor Wood) will need a much improved offense in 2011.

23.   Auburn All the allegations and continued inquiries from the NCAA aside, it could be a tough year for Auburn.  Head coach Gene Chizik has talent coming back in 2011, led by explosive running back Michael Dyer.  Some polls have Auburn ranked higher, but we just can’t see a top 10-15 finish.  The Tigers must replace four starters on the offensive line, Nick Fairly, who was arguably the most dominant defensive player in the nation last season and the best player in the country last season, in Heisman Trophy winner and first overall NFL Draft selection Cam Newton.   Dyer and the offense will have success, but they will have a tough time with Bama and LSU this time around.

22.  Arizona State:  At first glance from the 2010 season, you might think ASU’s 6-6 record should not equal a preseason top 25 selection, but a deeper dive into the Sun Devils’ games show a lot of promise for 2011.  ASU was the only team in the country to challenge Oregon during the regular season, losing a heartbreaker at home 42-31.  The defense, which held Andrew Luck and Stanford to just 17 points last season, will once again be led by stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict.  More good news for the Devils is that quarterback Brock Osweiler was productive last season, after starter Steven Threet went down with a concussion.  ASU will need to get past Stanford and a sure-to-be improved USC team to stay in the top 25.

21.  West Virginia:  The Mountaineers lose electric running back Noel Devine, but they should roll through a weak Big East Conference in 2011.  The September 24th match up against LSU will be a tall order, but if WV can get past Pitt in Morgantown, the Big East should be theirs for the taking.  Quarterback Geno Smith was very effective last season, throwing for over 2700 yards and 24 touchdowns, and only 7 picks in his first full season as the starter.  Key to the success of WVU will be trips to Rutgers and South Florida.  If they can win one of those two games, they will be in great position to represent the Big East in a BCS bowl.

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