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Phil’s Projected Preseason AP Top 10

Well here it is, my projected AP Top 10 for next year as of February 1, 2010! I will mention it now and I will mention it numerous times throughout today’s blog but this is not MY preseason Top 10 for next year, it is where I project the AP Top 10 to come out at the start of the season.

Last year my projected Top 10 for the AP Poll was #1 Florida, #2 Texas, #3 USC, #4 Oklahoma, #5 Alabama, #6 Virginia Tech, #7 LSU, #8 Oklahoma St, #9 Ohio St and #10 Mississippi. The actual AP Top 25 was #1 Florida, #2 Texas, #3 Oklahoma, #4 USC, #5 Alabama, #6 Ohio St, #7 Virginia Tech, #8 Mississippi and#9 was a tie between Oklahoma St/Penn St.

nailed nine of the ten teams that appeared in the Preseason Top 10 with the only exception being LSU/Penn St and I may have had something to do with that. It’s interesting to note that of the main preseason magazines, only two had Penn St ranked in the Top 10 and I had them my #1 surprise team and ranked #5. Most had Penn St out of the Top 10. Perhaps since I had them rated so high in my magazine, it influenced a few voters across the country, bumping them into the Top 10.

Now let’s take a look at this year’s projected Preseason AP Top 10:

#10 VIRGINIA TECH – Expectations were high for Virginia Tech last year as they were the Preseason favorite to win the ACC but lost 3 games. They did rebound to win their final 5 including a 37-14 blowout of Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. VT not only returns QB Tyrod Taylor and RB Ryan Williams, but Darren Evans was 2nd Tm ACC in 2008 rushing for 1,265 yds (4.4) and he also returns at the RB spot. DC Bud Foster did not land a head coaching job so he returns once again but will have some work to do on that side of the ball as they replace 7 starters (had 7 starters back last year). Depending on the events of signing day and the spring, there is a chance Georgia Tech could take this spot over VT if they become the preseason favorite in the ACC Coastal Division, but for the moment, I give the Hokies a better shot at being in the Top 10.

#9 NEBRASKA – Even though the Huskers lose the player that will likely be the top pick in the draft in Ndamukong Suh and four of their top 5 tacklers, they do return DT Jared Crick who is 6’6” 285 and had 9.5 sacks. Last year’s offense struggled with just 323 yards per game including 282 ypg in Big 12 play. That was with inexperience throughout the lineup and this year the unit returns intact and should be much improved. The Huskers figure to be the preseason favorite for the Big 12 North.

#8 FLORIDA – The Gators do lose Tim Tebow and are a less experienced unit than they were heading into last season. Keep in mind in 2009 they were the consensus Preseason #1 gaining more preseason votes than any team had ever done so and had 18 starters returning. This year on defense, they lose six starters and offensively lose Tebow as well as their top TE and WR. There is still plenty of talent left for the Gators and while they do have to travel to Alabama on October 2nd, they will probably be a favorite in the rest of their games.

#7 IOWA – Last year the Hawkeyes entered the season #22 and even I had them only #20 but did write an article in July which compared them to Alabama of 2008. Keep in mind Alabama finished the regular season #1 in ‘08 despite only being ranked #24 to start the year. Just like Alabama, all of Iowa’s losses the previous year were close and keeping them down in the rankings was a schedule that had road games vs Penn St, Wisconsin, Michigan St and Ohio St. The Hawkeyes almost went undefeated during the regular season and had they not lost QB Stanzi vs Northwestern, could actually have been playing in the Title game. This year they will not be under the radar. DE Adrain Clayborn turned down the NFL and the bulk of their outstanding defense that shutdown Georgia Tech in the bowl holding them to 155 yards offense and 9 FD’s, is back. Offensively almost all of the key players are back as well and Iowa gets to host Ohio St. The Hawkeyes’ road slate this year is vs Arizona, Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota which is much more manageable than last season.

#6 TCU – The Frogs dominated most of their opponents last year. They had only 2 games which they won by less than 16 and that was a 4 point win at Clemson and 3 point win at Air Force. They did have a disappointing bowl game vs Boise St. Last year’s Frog squad had just 10 returning starters but was arguably the most talented of the non-BCS schools. This year the Frogs lose DE Jerry Hughes but have 16 returning starters including QB Andy Dalton who led the Frogs most potent offense in recent memory. Last year they had to replace their top 3 tacklers and this year have 3 of the top 4 back and a look at their schedule only shows road games at SMU, Colorado St, New Mexico, UNLV and Utah.

#5 TEXAS – You have to wonder how the national championship would have turned out had Colt McCoy not been injured early 1Q. While they did not win the national title, it did give backup QB Garrett Gilbert (PS#2) some tremendous experience at a high level. The Horns only lose 4 starters on defense, although they were 4 of the top 5 tacklers. Offensively, McCoy is gone as is their top WR Shipley but they have 6 starters back and should be solid once again. They do have to play both Nebraska and Oklahoma away from home but last year won their games by 22 points per game and even with the loss of McCoy, will be one of the top teams in the country.

#4 OREGON – The Ducks did not start 2009 off in a solid fashion and looked in complete disarray after the opener but rebounded to have a fine season blowing out USC 47-20 and California 42-3 in Autzen Stadium. The Ducks probably would have been a contender for the #1 spot had they won the Rose Bowl but since AP voters remember the last game, the Ducks probably will not be #1 or #2 this year. Last year’s squad had only 9 returning starters and then had a lot of attrition after new coach Chip Kelly took over. This year’s squad is in much better shape as they return an outstanding 17 starters including their top rusher, LaMichael James (1,546 (16.7) and QB Masoli. Defensively after returning just 5 starters last year they only replace 2.5 this year. The Ducks will be the preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 especially with USC losing Coach Pete Carroll.

#3 BOISE STATE – Last year I had Boise St rated as the top non-BCS team heading into the year and for the 4th straight year a top non-BCS team made it to a BCS Bowl. Boise St then knocked off TCU in the bowl game. Last year’s Boise St team had just 11 returning starters and this year the team returns almost intact with 21 starters plus both specialists returning. The only loss is CB Kyle Wilson. This is the best Boise St team ever and I expect them to garner numerous preseason 1st place votes in the AP poll. Some of the voters will have Boise St ranked lower because they play in the WAC, which is why I pegged them at #3 despite the fact I think they’ll get more 1st place votes than Ohio St in the August poll.

#2 OHIO STATE - The Buckeyes finally won a BCS game once again with their domination of Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes had a 419-260 yd edge and 26-12 FD edge. While they probably would rank in the Top 5 if they only returned one starter, as long as that starter was Terrelle Pryor, this team is more talented than just their QB. The Buckeyes had a young offensive line last year that was poor in the first half of the season but great in the second half and returns nine starters on offense and six on defense. There is some talent departing for the NFL, but Ohio St deals with draft losses every year and will likely enter the season #2 in the AP poll.

#1 ALABAMA – Take the defending national champ and return Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram as well as RB Trent Richardson (PS#2) and they now have an experienced QB in Greg McElroy who threw for 2,508 (60.9%) with a 17-4 ratio after entering last season with just 196 career pass yards. Julio Jones was banged up during the season and returns healthy and the Tide has 8 starters back on offense. It is a concern that they return just 2 starters on defense but Saban always fashions a fine unit and in 2008 they had just 5 starters back and allowed 14.3 ppg. Alabama will not enter the season with the same level of favoritism as Florida, but it should be close as most voters look at QB, RB and receivers and last year’s record and using that criteria, the Tide will clearly be a preseason #1 team.

THOSE THAT JUST MISSED OUT:

I mentioned at the start of the blog that last year I had nine of the top 10 teams correctly predicted and it was the same case in 2008 where I also missed out by 1. If one of the team’s I have projected in the Top 10 doesn’t make the polls, there are 5 teams that have a shot at jumping into the Top 10.

Right now, I would project Georgia Tech to be #11 heading into the season and as mentioned, if the events between now and August are positive for GT, they could even leap past Virginia Tech as the preseason favorite in the ACC.

At #12 in the AP poll should be Wisconsin who had a fine finish to the season and returns 16 starters.

The rest of the top 15 are #13 Oklahoma, #14 Miami, Fla and #15 LSU.

There you have it – My projections for the AP Preseason Top 10. As mentioned a couple of times in this article, these WILL NOT BE THE TOP 10 IN MY MAGAZINE. As you know, I tend to go out on a limb in a lot of cases and have a lot of surprise picks in my magazine. Those will be unveiled at the start of June when my magazine hits the newsstands but when the first AP poll comes out in August this year, go ahead and take this list and compare it and you’ll find that probably 9 or maybe even all 10 will be in the Preseason AP Top 10 this year.

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  • Lewis15

    This top ten is right all the way. Its odd not seeing Oklahoma in the top 10.

  • mwcconnection

    So, If Ohio State or Alabama slip up its Boise in the title game?

  • Zgeo

    Don’t buy it. Bama loses its key people on defense, Boise had a 1 game season, TCU looked really bad in their bowl game. Texas loses its 4 year QB, best reciever best defenders, 3 ol, etc… Oregon seems to have too much drama at QB with the laptop incident…

  • Anonymous

    While I’m hoping your magical sets of stats show Penn State near the top, my observations are that it will have to wait until the 2011 season. Royster can do only so much. Hoping I’m wrong…..

  • Brendan

    Don't see why GT would be ranked higher than Miami. Miami thoroughly dominated them on both sides of the ball. Miami is returning everyone minus some OL (the only worthwhile one being Fox), an LB, and a SS. GT losing their best receiver, best DE, best DB, and best RB. Get real.

  • HERK

    My Preseason 2010 projection from two weeks ago…

    1. Alabama
    2. Ohio State
    3. Oregon
    4. Oklahoma
    5. Boise State
    6. Iowa
    7. Texas
    8. Pittsburgh
    9. TCU
    10.VT
    11.Nebraska
    12.Florida
    13.Wisconsin
    14.LSU
    15.Miami
    16.Georgia
    17.GT
    18.Utah
    19.USC
    20.Penn State

  • darryl

    I have to agree with you Phil. Great job as always.

    Geaux Tigers

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    Darryl, Thanks. LSU was young last year and had a difficult schedule. This year I expect the Tigers to be much improved on offense.

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    Brendan,
    Again these are not my rankings just my projection of what the AP will be in August. Miami's schedule this year is very difficult with the Hurricanes having to travel to Ohio St and Pittsburgh in non-conf and then also to Clemson and Georgia Tech (lost last trip 41-23 in 08 while ranked #23) two teams that played in the ACC championship game last year. Last year the Hurricanes had a brutal 4-game stretch to start the season and went 3-1 so it is nothing new for them. AP voters usually factor in the last game played into their rankings and Miami had a disappointing effort against Wisconsin. Remember I like to include a lot of surprise teams in my rankings and when my final rankings come out in mid-May the Hurricanes have a shot to be very high!

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    I actually have Penn St as the projected #16 team in the preseason AP poll so the Nittany Lions just missed out!

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    Zgeo,

    Remember these are not my rankings, just a projection of what the AP will look like. A lot of AP voters look at who is coming back at QB, WR, and RB and how the team performed in the bowl game. Alabama, Ohio St and Boise St all pass that criteria with flying colors and that is why I project them to be #1, 2, and 3 in the preseason AP poll. TCU returns 16 starters including their QB from a team that won 10 of its 12 games by more than 16 points! Who would you have in your Top 10?

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    Put it this way if Boise finishes the season as one of the two remaining unbeaten teams they wont have to settle for the Fiesta Bowl!

  • Steve

    Where do you see BYU coming into the season next year? They return 4 out of 5 offensive lineman, most of the remaining offense (of course they loose Max Hall, Dennis Pitta, and Andrew George) but have a great recruiting class and a lot of returning players from missions. I expected to see them in the preseason top 25, maybe around 20, but I haven't seen them anywhere?! Does their bowl game not give them any credit?

  • paulfromtempe

    but you think the Broncos will get crushed by Bama if they make it to “the BCSNCG hosted by the tostitos fiesta bowl” right?

  • paulfromtempe

    pretty sure GT ran for over 500 yards on Miami two years ago. so there you have it, one complete blowout by GT over Miami, followed by a convincing win by Miami over GT the following year.

    also, didn't miami have a bye week before they played GT last year as well? anyway, “past performance is not a guarantee of future results… you should assess your investing objectives, risks, and fees before making any decisions…”

  • paulfromtempe

    Phil, do you care to weigh in on Les Miles “clock/game management” skills? i was just having a conversation about him the other day, a friend of mine who mostly watches NFL didn't understand the gravity of just how badly the Ol Miss, Arkansas, and then Bowl games were managed. i tried to explain, but was at a loss for words.

  • Phibbs Jenkins

    Also, last season's game was Georgia Tech's third game in 12 days. Leg weary to say the least.

  • Eddie Lee

    Phil, I'm a little confused. You keep stating this is not your top ten, just your prediction of some other organization's top ten. So, when you come out with your own top ten (available only in your magazine?) will it be a prediction of your TT or will it be your TT? Stay with me, Phil, old buddy! So the margin of error is irrelevant (not irrevalant, as some would insist, to be irreverent!) since predicting a prediction is, it seems to me, quite silly! Not that you're silly, just this entire ranking stuff. But, if it sells mags for you….good on you, brother!

  • Lewis15

    If you think 2009 was down 2010 will make up for it. Wide open for alot of teams

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    Eddie,
    Sorry for the confusion. The reason I project a AP Top 10 is many people want to know who is going to be ranked highly next fall and the AP poll is the one most fans follow and use throughout the course of the season. My predictions on the AP Top 10 have been very accurate the past couple of years getting 9 of the 10 right and as you know this I project it well before Spring practice even takes place where there could be several injuries and position changes. You are correct my rankings will not be finalized until Mid-May as I tend to go out on a limb and include several surprise teams in my rankings and they are always mine and not a projection of where the AP or the other polls will have them.

  • Matt K.

    I just read that Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli has been suspended for the entire 2010 season.

    Here is a link to the story:

    http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/35844444/ns/sport

  • nyceguy9mm

    I think you’re right on with this list (as far as what the AP will say)……I just hope you see Miami for what they are (and not what they did in the bowl) and rank them accordingly. During reg season play, Miami has beaten the ACC champ the last two years…..this is their year.

  • gargoil

    I enjoy the website. Very informative. In ref to the AP poll predictions. I would put Texas as the number 2 or 3 team. By mid-season Texas will be a fine tune football machine. Defense will be great from the start and the offense by game 4 will be awesome to watch. I am going to say Texas and Ohio State play in the BCS championship. Texas is in rebuilding just imagine what 2011 will bring to the Longhorns next year. I have Florida losing a game in the season then beating Alabama in SEC champ game. Have Texas playing Ohio State because the big 10 is weak conference compared to the SEC and Big 12.
    Should be interesting Texas, Alabama and Florida.

  • jagerdog

    What do you think of South Carolina,s chances of
    inproving on last years record?

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    Jagerdog,

    This could be the year that Steve Spurrier envisioned when he came to Columbia. The Gamecocks have 16 returning starters and are one of the top teams in the SEC. They have my #3 rated D and lose just 11 lettermen. They have not caught a lot of breaks in the last 3 years. This year they do have to play Florida on the road and draw Bama from the SEC West but it would not surprise me if Spurrier had the team in the SEC Title game and they even made it as one of my Surprise Teams this year despite facing the 2nd toughest schedule in the country.

  • TJLMFT2BE

    That's really a shame, too. Because of their high preseason ranking, they literally have to win one legitimate game (VT) to make it to the national championship. We really need to implement something like the RPI system in football. It's imperfect, but at least it's some attempt at qualifying wins.

  • Jchall1996

    what about miami (FL)

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    Jchall,
    I am with you on this one. I have the Hurricanes ranked #9 in my Preseason Top 40 and are my pick to be the ACC Champ. However, this is my projection of what the AP will look like in August and I think voters will have them #14. The loss to Wisconsin in the bowl game will no doubt weigh heavy on AP voters minds. Thanks, Phil

  • Dreamon

    You are correct paulfromtempe -just like you thought Utah would get crushed by bama in the Sugar bowl a couple of years ago.

  • Football fan

    Why oh why do people keep putting Ohio St. in the mix. Is it because the Big 10 has no other power. What is the deal? They are not that good. Yes put them in the top 25(maybe 20) and then earn what they get. But don't just give it to them and then they play one of the softest schedules every year. The sports media just can't stand for them to be out of the top..Drop the rankings all together and let the teams earn it by playing a real schedule every year. If they had to earn it the schedules would be full of real good teams. Win those then you can be no. 1 or no. 2.

  • Football fan

    Why oh why do people keep putting Ohio St. in the mix. Is it because the Big 10 has no other power. What is the deal? They are not that good. Yes put them in the top 25(maybe 20) and then earn what they get. But don't just give it to them and then they play one of the softest schedules every year. The sports media just can't stand for them to be out of the top..Drop the rankings all together and let the teams earn it by playing a real schedule every year. If they had to earn it the schedules would be full of real good teams. Win those then you can be no. 1 or no. 2.