If the coaches have it right, the LSU Tigers will reign supreme this college football season, by a narrow margin.
LSU received 18 first-place votes in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll to squeeze by one of the tightest preseason coaches polls at the top in recent memory. LSU edged No.
2 Alabama by a total of four points despite the defending BCS champion Crimson Tide receiving 20 first-place votes. No. 3 USC also received more first-place votes (19) from the coaches but trailed LSU in the total points by just 15 points.
With LSU, Alabama and USC all so close in the national title contention according to the USA Today Coaches Poll, it would seem as though we are setting up for a year in which the USC Trojans bounce right back into the big picture in college football and will look to put an end to the SEC’s string of BCS Championship success.
Oklahoma and Oregon follow the Trojans in the polls, respectively. Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina, and Arkansas round out the top ten.
The SEC’s influence in the poll is noticeable. Aside from having the top two ranked teams and occupying half of the top ten, the SEC two teams, No. 23 Florida and No. 25 Auburn, helped to fill out the top 25 ranking.
The Big 12 is led by the Sooners but is also well represented with new conference members West Virginia (No. 11) and TCU (No. 17) as well as No. 15 Texas, No. 19 Oklahoma State, and No. 21 Kansas State, giving the conference a total of six schools ranked by the coaches.
Defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin is ranked 12th in the poll, with Big Ten Leaders Division champion Michigan State starting the year right behind them in the poll. No. 16 Nebraska is the final Big Ten team to record a single vote in the poll, with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the coach’s poll. In all the Big Ten has four schools ranked. The Pac 12 has three schools with No. 18 Stanford behind USC and Oregon.
Here is a quick look at the rest of the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll.
1. LSU (18) – Tigers start the year in the pole position, and should actually have an easier time returning to the BCS championship game with an easier non-conference schedule and getting Alabama at home in November. Road trips to No. 23 Florida and No. 10 Arkansas could be prickly.
2. Alabama (20) – Defending champions certainly not being disrespected by the coaches but will get early opportunities to prove worthy of number one with games vs. No. 8 Michigan in Dallas and on the road at No. 10 Arkansas two weeks later.
3. USC (19) – With the addition of running back transfer Silas Redd, the Trojans are fully loaded for a return to glory as they come off a postseason ban. Armed with Heisman favorite Matt Barkley at quarterback and future NFL receivers in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, Trojan’s offense will be tough to slow down.
4. Oklahoma (1) – Last year’s preseason favorite could play into the conversation. Quarterback Landry Jones will look to leave his mark as Bob Stoops and the Sooners look for one more Big 12 championship, but will two bye weeks in September make for a tough stretch with games away from home against Texas, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and TCU?
5. Oregon – Ducks could still be the team to beat with that offensive style and figure to be the biggest hurdle for USC to jump over this year. But the Trojans clipped the Ducks last season and Oregon must travel to Los Angeles this season.
6. Georgia – The Bulldogs will be in for another tight battle with No. 9 South Carolina in the SEC East but look to return to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game for a second straight season.
7. Florida State (1) – Preseason ACC favorite Seminoles look to finally live up to preseason hype. Last year Florida State was a top-five team early on before the wheels started to fall off, but with players healthy and learning from experience this year could see Florida State make a return to the BCS bowl stage.
8. Michigan – Coming off a fantastic turnaround season in Brady Hoke’s first year on the sideline and a victory in the Sugar Bowl, the Michigan hype machine is in full flight with dazzling Denard Robinson leading the way. Can the Wolverines upset Alabama in Dallas or will it be a dose of reality early on?
9. South Carolina – Gamecocks look to have a full season of quarterback stability and avoid any early letdowns at Vanderbilt and at home against Missouri in September. Steve Spurrier’s team gets Georgia at home but travels to LSU the following week and Florida the week after that.
10. Arkansas – A coaching change leaves some questions but the rest of the team and coaching staff remains in place and look forward to a solid season. LSU and Alabama receive all of the national attention but Arkansas gets both of them at home this season. Can the home field advantage help Arkansas make a move up the polls?
11. West Virginia – New Big 12 member enters the conference with high expectations, but was Orange Bowl blowout a preview of what will unfold in 2012 or just a brief shining moment?
12. Wisconsin – Defending Big Ten champions hope to have a healthy Montee Ball to lead the offense, and will call on transfer quarterback Danny O’Brien to take control under center. O’Brien could be the best Big Ten quarterback by the end of the season, but nobody seems to be talking about it.
13. Michigan State – The Spartans’ defense will have to carry the team early on while some questions are answered on offense. Michigan State opens the season at home against always dangerous Boise State and plays Notre Dame two weeks later.
14. Clemson – Defending ACC champions made plenty of noise in recruiting and have some skilled players back for more in 2012. An early test against Auburn and September trip to Florida State should show what Clemson will be made of in 2012.
15. Texas – Longhorns figure to have an improved season but until they can prove what they can do on the field, this may be a tad high.
16. Nebraska – Year two in the Big Ten once again should be led on the ground by running back Rex Burkhead.
17. TCU – The other new Big 12 member has waited for this opportunity to compete against the southwest powers. What does Gary Patterson have in store?
18. Stanford – No Andrew Luck, but the Cardinal should still be a physical team and tough to wear down.
19. Oklahoma State – Defending Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl champs need to find some new playmakers on offense but should be considered a decent threat every time they take the field. Defense needs to improve.
20. Virginia Tech – Hokies figure to be a strong contender in the ACC once again, but do not seem to have enough to be seen as a national threat.
21. Kansas State – Wildcats enjoyed a fine 2011 season and look to continue building off of what was learned a year ago.
22. Boise State – Broncos may not be at the same level we have grown accustomed to seeing, but the early game at Michigan State could be a statement game.
23. Florida – Gator’s offense was awful in 2011, but with Charlie Weis, gone expectations can begin to rise in Gainesville. Florida gets SEC East favorites Georgia and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks in October, with Missouri in the first week of November.
24. Notre Dame – Fighting Irish have a quarterback problem to solve, and a difficult schedule to face as well. Notre Dame plays at Michigan State, Oklahoma, and USC this year in addition to hosting Michigan and Stanford.
25. Auburn – Two years removed from a BCS Championship, Auburn figures to be a bit improved in 2012 after playing a number of less experienced players on both sides of the football.
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