Top Teams for 2005

Without taking into account 2005 schedules, here are the best teams going into 2005.

USC, LSU, Tennessee, Miami, Texas, and Ohio State are on a different level than everyone else. They are all loaded with talent, and return plenty of key players. Florida State, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Michigan also seemingly have full, talented rosters, but they each have enough questions or lack of experience to drop them down a few slots. Iowa and Florida also have some good players along with a few questions. Iowa is not as good as most of the media thinks, and no team/coach is as good as the legend of Urban Meyer’s arrival in Florida. Auburn should have another good defense and great receivers, but can anyone really replace three first round picks in the backfied?

Of the top six, USC has a huge advantage at quarterback. Am I the only person still not sold on Vince Young? However, underneath the hype (remember when the 2003 OU team was ‘the greatest team of all time’), USC has quite a few questions with both coaches and players. This is especially true on their defense, which when all is said and done, only returns 5 starters from a group that was surprisingly unimpressive on more than one occasion last year. The biggest question though is Chow, Carroll is not an offensive guy, and from the outside it looks like he’s replaced perhaps the greatest OC in college football with a couple of yes men.

The SEC has a number of potential contenders. Tennessee is well rounded, deep, and talented. However, Fulmer always seems to screw up at least one game, and they had a lot of close wins against the bottom dwellers in the SEC last year. LSU has recruited as well as anyone the last five years, and with fewer academic casualties, discipline problems, and early departures the Tigers have more depth than anyone. On offense, every single RB, WR, and TE that played a snap last year returns. The line and QB lose one player each. On defense, as many as eight seniors could start. The front seven returns 5 of the top 6 linemen and 4 of the top 5 LB’s all of whom have starting experience. At defensive back, two outstanding corners are gone, but everyone else is back including 4 players with significant starting experience. The success of the Tigers rests squarely on JaMarcus Russell’s shoulders. Elsewhere in the SEC, Auburn and Georgia each lost some key guys, but have recruited well enough to potentially reload, and with a solid defense and the return of Brodie Croyle, Alabama has the potential to surprise.

Up North, Braylon Edwards made Michigan’s offense look better than it was last year and should be a good but not great team. OSU is loaded; they simply need a QB to lock up the job and a RB to step out of a very talented pool. The defense will be suffocating.

Last year Oklahoma returned their top 15 offensive players and couldn’t put it together at the end. This year they lose 11 players to the draft, and that doesn’t include All American’s Jason White and Vince Carter. Mac Brown is the only thing OU has going for them in this year’s Red River Shootout. Despite Mac, Texas should be a great team. The Horns are overflowing with talent, as they have been every year since Mac arrived. As usual, the season depends on the Texas coaching staff’s ability to harness the abilities of an incredibly talented quarterback. Don’t expect this year to change Mac’s championship record.

In the ACC, Florida State is a bit of a puzzle. They’ve continued to recruit about as well as anyone over the last four years, and they’ve won enough games to still be considered an elite team over that period. On the other hand, they return no more than 10 starters from a team that wasn’t all that impressive last year despite winning 9 games. While FSU may be the only ACC team whose schedule hardly changed with the conference realignment, there is no way they will beat Miami twice. The Canes aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Eleven or more players return with starting experience from what is always an excellent defense. The line is solid, and plenty of talent is available at the skill positions.

Frank Beamer is a good coach, but I’ve never bought in to Va Tech as an elite team. They had a great year last year, but overall VPI has been a quality team in a weak conference. If Marcus Vick changed his last name, would anyone expect great things from this team?

Defense wins championships… enter NC State. The Pack has the potential to be the surprise team in the ACC if not the nation. They’ve recruited well under Amato and are clearly in the right division of the ACC to do some damage. As much or more than any other team, success in 2005 rests on the QB.

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