BOZICH | Explaining my pre-season college football Top 25 ballot
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I have studied the pre-season magazines (at least five).
I have read the transcripts from the conference football media days (at least a few).
I have studied the video (well, I watched a few minutes of 2014 games on ESPNU.)
There’s no reason to wait for practice to begin. Here is my college football pre-season ballot. (I’m not actually voting in the Associated Press poll, but I am considering organizing my own poll.)
(If you're scoring at home, I included six teams from the Southeastern Conference, six from the Pac-12, five from the Atlantic Coast, three from the Big Ten, three from the Big 12, one from the Mountain West and one independent.)
1. Ohio State
Why the Buckeyes: Because everybody is picking the Buckeyes. Aren’t you? Why not?
Why NOT the Buckeyes: Because doing the back-to-back thing is rarely a joy or attainable. And because Ohio State football fans are relentlessly insufferable. They email over comments like this.
Fun Fact: ESPN says Ohio State halfback Ezekiel Elliott gained 836 yards after contact last season.
Remember the Name: Linebacker Justin Hilliard, just the latest five-star addition from the Urban Meyer Designer Linebacker Factory.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND. Big Ten road games are Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois and Michigan. Can't get much easier. Ranked 45th most difficult by Phil Steele.
Why the Horned Frogs: Raging disrespect. Thought they belong in 2014 playoff. Prepare to hear the TCU players chirp about that all season.
Why NOT the Horned Frogs: I’m still not convinced they’re better than Big 12 rival Baylor.
Fun Fact: In a world of chasing the next great job, Gary Patterson is starting his 15th season. Hat tip for Patterson, who does fabulous work at a school that used to be a dreg.
Remember the Name: They say Trevone Boykin is the best quarterback in the country.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND. Texas, West Virginia and, most importantly, Baylor at home. Ranked 49th by Phil Steele.
Why the Crimson Tide: Can you imagine a post-season where Nick Saban is not involved, especially coming off a disappointing defeat like the Ohio State game last season?
Why NOT the Crimson Tide: The quarterback position is still awfully blah. I don’t see a Joe Namath or Kenny Stabler in the pipeline.
Fun Fact: According to 247 Sports, the Crimson Tide signed the nation’s best recruiting class for the fifth straight season.
Remember the Name: Madison Southern star Damien Harris expected to get into the mix at running back. He’d better. He could have played immediately for Kentucky.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – season opener with Wisconsin. Road games with Georgia, Texas A&M and Auburn. Ranked most difficult in nation by Phil Steele.
Why the Trojans: Coach Steve Sarkisian has been doing a lot of chirping about Oregon. Either he knows something or he’s not very smart.
Why NOT the Trojans: USC has lost four or more games for three consecutive seasons.
Fun Fact: Two of USC’s four defeats came on the game’s final play.
Remember the Name: Quarterback Cody Kessler starts the season in the front tier of Heisman contenders after throwing 39 touchdown passes.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – at Arizona State, at Notre Dame, at Oregon and season finale with UCLA. Ranked second by Phil Steele.
Why the Bears: Who is going to score more points? I don’t believe you if you disagree.
Why NOT the Bears: Can you actually win a national title giving up more than 380 yards per game?
Fun Fact: Do you remember that former UK coach Guy Morriss coached at Baylor from 2003-07? Morris works in the Texas A&M-Commerce athletic department now.
Remember the Name: Shock Linwood, a tiny halfback who ran for 16 touchdowns in an offense that threw the football 519 times.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND. SMU, Lamar, Rice with Oklahoma at home. Ranked 58th by Phil Steele.
6. Michigan State
Why the Spartans: Mark Dantonio has averaged nearly 11 wins over the last five seasons. He is serious about taking Ohio State down.
Why NOT the Spartans: They struggled with Oregon’s speed last season – and the Ducks visit in Week Two.
Fun Fact: Quarterback Connor Cook’s father, Chris, played football at Indiana.
Remember the Name: Freshman halfback Larry (L.J.) Scott, chose the Spartans over Ohio State.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE. Road opener at Western Michigan, the MAC favorite. Then Oregon. Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State away. Ranked 36th by Phil Steele.
Why the Bulldogs: Georgia has talent. Speed. Experience. And the best halfback in the nation in Nick Chubb.
Why NOT the Bulldogs: Georgia always has talent and usually finds a way to lose a game the Bulldogs are not supposed to lose, like the stumble against Florida last season and the one against Vanderbilt in 2013.
Fun Fact: The Bulldogs have lost at least one home game in nine of the last 10 seasons.
Remember the Name: Chubb rolled to 2,168 during a freshman season when he was supposed to be the back-up to Todd Gurley.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND – Non-league games with Louisiana-Monroe, Southern and Georgia Southern, plus Alabama and Missouri at home. Ranked 37th by Phil Steele.
Why the Tigers: Gus Malzahn made a brilliant move by recruiting former Georgia coach Will Muschamp to fix his defense.
Why NOT the Tigers: Malzahn has to replace his quarterback as well as his leading rusher.
Fun Fact: Auburn has averaged 493 yards of offense during Malzahn’s two years as head coach.
Remember the Name: The Tigers ran the ball on 68 percent of their snaps last season. That will change with new drop back quarterback Jeremy Johnson.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – season opener with Louisville and SEC road trips include LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Also play Georgia and Alabama. Ouch. Ranked 6th by Phil Steele.
9. Notre Dame
Why the Fighting Irish: Everett Golson has taken his 14 interceptions and eight fumbles to Florida State, leaving Malik Zaire at quarterback.
Why NOT the Fighting Irish: Notre Dame’s last seven regular-season opponents all scored 30-or-more points.
Fun Fact: The Irish return 10 starters from that defense, including linebacker Joe Schmidt, whose mid-season injury led to the decline.
Remember the Name: Mike Sanford, the son of the former U of L offensive coordinator, Mike Sanford, is now running the Notre Dame offense with Brian Kelly.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – Texas in home opener. Road trips to Clemson and Stanford. USC in South Bend. Ranked 24th by Phil Steele.
10. Florida State
Why the Seminoles: Somebody from the ACC belongs in the Top 10. Don’t they? Well, I believe so.
Why NOT the Seminoles: No Jameis Winston. No Nick O’Leary, No Eddie Goldman. Too much off the field noise. In bars. With video evidence.
Fun Fact: The Seminoles are 14-0 at home the last two seasons.
Remember the Name: Everett Golson arrives from Notre Dame to run the show, but he can be a turnover machine.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND – Texas State, South Florida, Chattanooga, then Miami and Louisville at home. Ranked 61st by Phil Steele.
Why the Ducks: They’re still fast, they still obsess over scoring and they still have all that marketing juice from Nike.
Why NOT the Ducks: There’s a major question at quarterback, and there’s just a sense that the program has started to slip while transitioning from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich.
Fun Fact: The Ducks have gone 60-8 over the last five seasons.
Remember the Name: Vernon Adams, an FCS all-American quarterback, walked out on Eastern Washington to play his final season in Nike’s latest gear.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – At Michigan State, at Arizona State and at Stanford. Ranked 33rd by Phil Steele.
12. Louisiana State
Why the Tigers: If Nick Chubb falters at Georgia, LSU halfback Leonard Fournette is ready to strike a Heisman pose in Baton Rouge.
Why NOT the Tigers: In case you have forgotten, the Tigers have quarterback issues and lost five games last season.
Fun Fact: Les Miles turned to former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron to fix the Tigers’ recruiting.
Remember the Name: Davon Godchaux, a sophomore, looks like the next great LSU defensive lineman.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND. McNeese State, Syracuse and Eastern Michigan? Ranked 27th by Phil Steele.
Why the Tigers: They say that quarterback Deshaun Watson is the most spectacular offensive talent in the ACC.
Why NOT the Tigers: They also say that Watson (knee, finger) is injury prone.
Fun Fact: Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney has joined the chorus of Notre Dame critics – and gets to host the Fighting Irish on Oct. 3. Can’t wait.
Remember the Name: Freshman receiver Deon Cain picked Clemson over Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Louisville and others.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND. Wofford and Appalachian State. Notre Dame and Florida State at home. Ranked 48th by Phil Steele.
Why the Bruins: Because Jim Mora will tell you UCLA has actually been better than USC the last two seasons, buddy. He's right.
Why NOT the Bruins: Mora is breaking in a new quarterback, and it could be true freshman Josh Rosen.
Fun Fact: ESPN actually ranks UCLA ahead of USC. All access guaranteed.
Remember the Name: Jerry Neuheisel is in the scrum to start at QB, and he is the son of former UCLA quarterback Rick Neuheisel.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – At UNLV, at Arizona, at Stanford, at Utah, at USC. Ranked 20th by Phil Steele.
15. Ole Miss
Why the Rebels: Hugh Freeze keeps recruiting as if he doesn’t understand the Rebels are not supposed to hang out in the Top 25 every season.
Why NOT the Rebels: Quarterback Bo Wallace isn’t around to generate any more fourth-quarter magic.
Fun Fact: The Rebels have not celebrated a winning record on the road since 2008.
Remember the Name: Junior college transfer Chad Kelly, the nephew of Bills’ star Jim Kelly, arrives to play quarterback – with a powerful arm and the reputation of a troublemaker.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND – Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State, plus SEC East games with Vanderbilt and Florida.
Why the Sooners: The fan base is beginning to crank up some heat on Bob Stoops, especially after OU was buried by Clemson, 40-6, in its bowl game.
Why NOT the Sooners: OU’s passing defense was dreadful, giving up 23 touchdowns and nearly 3,600 yards.
Fun Fact: Oklahoma lost three home games last season for the first time in Stoops’ 16 seasons.
Remember the Name: Halfback Samaje Perine showed he was a Heisman contender by sticking 427 yards on Kansas last season.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – at Tennessee, at Kansas State, at Baylor, at Oklahoma State. Ranked 26th by Phil Steele.
Why the Cardinal: The Stanford offense returns seven starters from a group that averaged 38 points over its last three games.
Why NOT the Cardinal: Stanford slipped to 8-5 after playing in four straight BCS game.
Fun Fact: The Cardinal have delivered six straight winning seasons.
Remember the Name: Quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for nearly 2,800 yards and ran for another 300 and five scores. He’s no Andrew Luck, but he’s solid.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – at Northwestern, at USC and Notre Dame to finish the season. Ranked 9th by Phil Steele.
Why the Razorbacks: The Hogs outscored LSU, Ole Miss and Texas 78-7 to win three of their last four games.
Why NOT the Razorbacks: Despite the strong finish, coach Bret Bielama is only 2-14 in SEC play.
Fun Fact: The Razorbacks return two 1,000-rushers – Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.
Remember the Name: Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter was considered one of the best junior-college linemen in the nation.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – SEC road games are Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. Ranked third by Phil Steele.
19. Arizona State
Why the Sun Devils: Because despite all his job-hopping Todd Graham is a really good coach with a career record of 77-41.
Why NOT the Sun Devils: They must play USC (home) and UCLA (away) on back-to-back weekends.
Fun Fact: Graham has delivered back-to-back 10-win seasons after the Sun Devils failed to celebrate a winning season from 2008-through-2011.
Remember the Name: Quarterback Mike Bercovici has been around since the Truman Administration.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE – Texas A&M to open the season, plus trips to UCLA and Utah. Ranked 18th by Phil Steele.
20. Georgia Tech
Why the Yellow Jackets: Is anybody more underappreciated than Tech coach Paul Johnson, who has won 11 games twice in the last six seasons at a non Football Factory.
Why NOT the Yellow Jackets: Are you really going to win a conference title averaging 7.5 pass completions per game?
Fun Fact: ESPN says quarterback Justin Thomas led all FBS quarterbacks with 48 runs of 10 yards or more.
Remember the Name: Tech believes P.J. Davis is the best linebacker in the ACC and his 119 tackles support the argument.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE, Georgia, plus at Notre Dame, Duke, Clemson and Miami. Ranked 16th by Phil Steele
Why the Hurricanes: Phil Steele picks Miami as the Most Improved Team in the nation.
Why NOT the Hurricanes: Miami fans are ready to sack coach Al Golden and get to work at turning The U back into The U. Not a happy place.
Fun Fact: Although Miami was 3-5 in ACC play, the Hurricanes outgained their conference opponents by 75 yards per game.
Remember the Name: Quarterback Brad Kaaya. After a shaky start against Louisville, Kaaya rallied to throw for nearly 3,200 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Schedule, friend or foe: NEITHER. Start with Bethune-Cookman and Florida Atlantic, but visit Cincinnati, Florida State and Duke. Ranked 28th by Phil Steele.
Why the Utes: They’ve got a real chance to make a splash beating Michigan in their season opener and they won five road games last season.
Why NOT the Utes: The talent remains a cut below the rest of the Pac-12.
Fun Fact: Utes’ coach Kyle Willingham has a 7-1 bowl record.
Remember the Name: Halfback Devontae Booker blasted for more than 1,500 yards.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE -- Season opener with Michigan in Salt Lake City and trips to Oregon and USC. Ranked 8th by Phil Steele.
23. Boise State
Why the Broncos: You have to like 17 returning starters and the chance to make a splash by beating a Power Five conference team (Washington) in the season opener.
Why NOT the Broncos: Boise is looking for a new quarterback and halfback.
Fun Fact: Bryan Harsin won 12 games in his first season, four more than Chris Petersen won in his farewell season.
Remember the Name: The new quarterback could be freshman Brett Rypien, nephew of former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien of the Redskins.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND – Washington at home and games with two of the worst teams from the other Mountain West division. Ranked 104 by Phil Steele.
Why the Badgers: Veteran QB, solid halfback, the usual corn-fed offensive and defensive lines.
Why NOT the Badgers: Bye bye stud running back Melvin Gordon – and coach Gary Anderson walked out of Madison after two seasons.
Fun Fact: New coach Paul Chryst is not only a former Bret Bielama assistant, he’s also an alum. Which means that unlike Bielama and Anderson, Chryst is not a flight risk.
Remember the Name: Halfback Corey Clement averaged better than 7 yards per carry in the fourth quarter as Gordon’s backup.
Schedule, friend or foe: FOE. Open with Alabama and travel to Nebraska and Minnesota. Don’t agree with Phil Steele who ranks the schedule 68th, not with a season opener against Team Saban.
25. Virginia Tech
Why the Hokies: Tech whipped Ohio State last season and the Buckeyes will be down four suspended players when they visit Blacksburg on Sept. 7. Stranger things have happened.
Why NOT the Hokies: Check the trend line – Virginia Tech is 22-17 the last three seasons. You’ve heard the whispers: Frank Beamer has lost his fastball.
Fun Fact: Phil Steele picks Tech to win the ACC Atlantic Division.
Remember the Name: Receiver Isaiah Ford made 56 catches, while working with a quarterback who failed to complete 60 percent of his throws.
Schedule, friend or foe: FRIEND. Furman, Purdue and East Carolina, despite home opener with Ohio State. Ranked 47th by Phil Steele.
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