Spring practice has concluded for teams across the country, so it’s time to tweak my way-too-early preseason Top 25 and publish my post-spring Top 25 as we head into the summer months.
Of course, until Nick Saban’s squad loses a game, defending BCS national champion Alabama headlines the list.
Note: These rankings are definitely subject to change.
ICONEddie Lacy will pick up where Trent Richardson left off in Tuscaloosa.
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide lost a ton of talent on defense to the NFL Draft, but running back Eddie Lacy and quarterback AJ McCarron will lead a stronger offense, which will feature more production at the receiver position.
2. LSU: Former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger showed in spring drills that he is ready to step in for Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. And the Tigers return a lot of their deep and talented dominant defense.
3. Oklahoma: Landry Jones will be able to rely on a promising set of receivers, led by freshman Trey Metoyer. But new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops must help shore up a talented yet disappointing defense, particularly the secondary.
4. Oregon: Chip Kelly has a tough decision to make at quarterback, where Marcus Mariota has really pushed Bryan Bennett. And the defense that really grew up in the second half of 2011 will be even better.
5. USC: The Trojans get a ton of starters back from a team that was playing as well as any squad in the country, with the exception of LSU and Alabama, by the end of the 2011 season. Star quarterback Matt Barkley leads an explosive offense, and Monte Kiffin’s defense was much improved in his second season running the unit. The only concern will be depth.
6. Arkansas: Quarterback Tyler Wilson and a healthy Knile Davis at running back will help the offense maintain its high-scoring ways despite losing Bobby Petrino. Home games against Alabama and LSU should have Razorback fans excited, but all eyes will be on John L. Smith, who will coach the Hogs in 2012.
7. Virginia Tech: Quarterback Logan Thomas is primed for a huge year because of a deep receiving corps, and the Hokies always have a running back to step up when a star moves on. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster will return his entire front seven, and the Hokies’ toughest non-conference games are against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Their schedule is the reason why the Hokies could find themselves in another BCS bowl game at the end of the year.
8. South Carolina: Steve Spurrier finally found a quarterback he’s comfortable with in Connor Shaw, and Marcus Lattimore will continue to run the football with great effectiveness. Defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney is ready to become even more beastly, which is a scary thought for opposing SEC O-Linemen.
9. Michigan State: The Spartans will once again have one of the best defenses in the nation under coordinator Pat Narduzzi, and LeVeon Bell will pace a strong rushing attack. The biggest question will be how Andrew Maxwell responds to adversity after taking over for veteran Kirk Cousins under center.
10. Georgia: The Bulldogs return much of the team that ran off 10 straight wins after an 0-2 start in 2011. Most importantly, they have a 3-4 defense that was one of the best units in the nation, led by linebacker Jarvis Jones. However, the secondary is thin and the rebuilt offensive line must gel right away.
11. West Virginia: Geno Smith showed how comfortable he is in Dana Holgorsen’s offensive attack in an Orange Bowl thrashing of Clemson, but how will the Mountaineers adjust to life in the Big 12? My guess is they will seamlessly ease into their new league.
12. Clemson: Receiver/returner Sammy Watkins showed as a freshman that he’s a stud, and the offense coordinated by Chad Morris is very prolific. There’s material on defense, but consistency is the key. And that's what new Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables will have to make happen.
CONTINUE TO PAGE 2 FOR NOS. 13-25