CFB: USA TODAY Top 25 team capsules
By Jack Carey
Preseason poll. 2008 records in parentheses. Times p.m. Eastern. Outlook by USA TODAY’s Jack Carey.
1. Florida (13-1)
Points: 1,466 (53 first-place votes). Previous ranking: 1.
Outlook: The Gators appear to have an excellent chance at being the first with consecutive Bowl Championship Series titles and three in four years. QB Tim Tebow is back for another crack at the Heisman Trophy, along with return man Brandon James and OLs Mike and Maurkice Pouncey. Every starter is back on defense, including E Carlos Dunlap, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Joe Haden and S Ahmad Black.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. Charleston Southern.
2. Texas (12-1)
Points: 1,386 (4). Previous ranking: 3.
Outlook: After missing out on the Big 12 title game last season because of a conference tiebreaker, the Longhorns should be poised for a big year behind returning star QB Colt McCoy, OL Adam Ulatoski, C Chris Hall, WR Jordan Shipley, DE-LB Sergio Kindle and CB Aaron Williams.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
3. Oklahoma (12-2)
Points: 1,358 (1). Previous ranking: 5.
Outlook: Last year’s BCS runner-up returns Heisman Trophy QB Sam Bradford and TE Jermaine Gresham, OL Trent Williams, RB DeMarco Murray, DTs Gerald McCoy and DeMarcus Granger and LB Travis Lewis. The Oct. 17 battle vs. Texas again could be pivotal.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. No. 24 Brigham Young in Arlington, Texas (ESPN, 7).
4. Southern California (12-1)
Points: 1,321 (1). Previous ranking: 2.
Outlook: Four years have passed since the Trojans played for a national title. They’ll be working in new faces, including at quarterback, where Aaron Corp will try to hold off freshman Matt Barkley and Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain. RBs Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson are back with C Kristofer O’Dowd, OLs Jeff Byers and Charles Brown, WR Damian Williams, S Taylor Mays and DL Everson Griffen. Opens: Sept. 5 vs. San Jose State (FSN, 3:30).
5. Alabama (12-2)
Points: 1,134. Previous ranking: 6.
Outlook: After missing the BCS title game bid by dropping the Southeastern title game, the Crimson Tide need to settle on a quarterback. The offense returns standout WR Julio Jones, RB Mark Ingram and OL Mike Johnson. K Leigh Tiffin and return man Javier Arenas also return, and the defense welcomes back T Terrence Cody and LB Rolando McClain.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta (ABC, 8).
6. Ohio State (10-3)
Points: 1,126. Previous ranking: 11.
Outlook: Dynamic QB Terrelle Pryor returns for his sophomore season as the Buckeyes try to take the Big Ten crown and contend for a third title-game appearance in four years. He will be joined by RB Daniel Herron, C Mike Brewster, OL Justin Boren, WR-return man Ray Small, DBs Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell, DLs Thaddeus Gibson and Doug Worthington and LB Ross Homan.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. Navy (ESPN, noon).
7. Virgina Tech (10-4)
Points: 1,020. Previous ranking:14.
Outlook:After sharing the quarterback job, Tyrod Taylor takes over exclusively as the Hokies bid for another Atlantic Coast title. He’ll work behind G Sergio Render and be throwing to TE Greg Boone. TB Darren Evans could be a star in the making. The defense brings back S Kam Chancellor, E Jason Worilds, CB Stephan Virgil, rover Dorian Porch and LB Cam Martin.
Opens:Sept. 5 vs. No. 5 Alabama in Atlanta (ABC, 8).
8. Penn State (11-2)
Points: 988. Previous ranking: 8.
Outlook: The Nittany Lions narrowly missed a probable BCS title-game appearance with a last-second loss to Iowa, so they settled for the Rose Bowl. There are holes to fill, but they return QB Daryll Clark, RB Evan Royster, C Stefen Wisniewski and OT Dennis Landolt along with LB Navorro Bowman, DT Jared Odrick and LB Sean Lee.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. Akron.
9. LSU (8-5)
Points: 917. Previous ranking: Not ranked.
Outlook: Tigers hope to rebound in the SEC West after a down year. Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson return at quarterback, and also back are OLs Ciron Black and Lyle Hitt, RB Charles Scott, WR Brandon LaFell, TE Richard Dickson, return man Trindon Holliday, DE Rahim Alem, CB Patrick Peterson and S Chad Jones. Opens: Sept. 5 at Washington (ESPN, 10:30).
10. Mississippi (9-4)
Points:889. Previous ranking:15.
Outlook:The Rebels, the only team to beat national champ Florida last year, appear to be on the rise in the SEC West. QB Jevan Snead leads the way along with WRs Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster, OL John Jerry, DE Greg Hardy and K Joshua Shene.
Opens:Sept. 6 at Memphis (ESPN, 3:30).
11. Oklahoma State (9-4)
Points: 861. Previous ranking: 18.
Outlook: The Cowboys continue to make waves in the tough Big 12 South and could be ready for a breakthrough behind standout WR Dez Bryant, QB Zac Robinson, OLs Russell Okung and Brady Bond, RB Kendall Hunter, KR-DB Perrish Cox, LB Andre Sexton and K Dan Bailey.
Opens:Sept. 5 vs. No. 13 Georgia (ABC, 3:30).
12. California (9-4)
Points: 711. Previous ranking: 25.
Outlook:The Golden Bears have their eyes focused on the top of the Pacific-10 with RB Jahvid Best, the nation’s leading returning rusher, QB Kevin Riley and OLs Mark Boskovich, Mike Tepper and Mitchell Schwartz along with CBs Syd’Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan, DLs Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan, LB Mike Mohamed and P Bryan Anger. They host USC on Oct. 3.
Opens:Sept. 5 vs. Maryland (ESPN2, 10).
13. Georgia (10-3)
Points:707. Previous ranking: 10.
Outlook:With QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno gone, the Bulldogs could look to QB Joe Cox to lead them to contention in the SEC. TB Caleb King returns with flanker A.J. Green, C Ben Jones and OLs Clint Boling and Trinton Sturdivant. Defense boasts LB Rennie Curran and L Geno Atkins.
Opens: Sept. 5 at No. 11 Oklahoma State (ABC, 3:30).
14. Oregon (10-3)
Points:694. Previous ranking: 9.
Outlook:This is Chip Kelly’s first season as coach after Mike Bellotti moved to the athletics director job. The Ducks will be leaning on returning QB Jeremiah Masoli, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Ed Dickson, DL Will Tukuafu, FS T.J. Ward, LB Spencer Paysinger and CB Walter Thurmond.
Opens:Sept. 3 at No. 16 Boise State (ESPN, 10:15).
15. Georgia Tech (9-4)
Points:559. Previous ranking:22.
Outlook: Coach Paul Johnson’s first season was a success, and the Yellow Jackets hope to continue their rise behind standout RB Jonathan Dwyer, QB Josh Nesbitt, WR Demaryius Thomas, OL Cord Howard, S Morgan Burnett and DL Derrick Morgan.
Opens:Sept. 5 vs. Jacksonville State.
16. Boise State (12-1)
Points: 542. Previous ranking: 13.
Outlook:After an unbeaten regular season, the Broncos could be ready to jump back into the BCS picture with the return of QB Kellen Moore, RB Jeremy Avery, C Thomas Byrd, WR Austin Pettis and TE Kyle Efaw. The defense brings back CBs Kyle Wilson and Brandyn Thompson, E Ryan Winterswyk and S Jeron Johnson. K Kyle Brotzman also returns.
Opens: Sept. 3 vs. No. 14 Oregon (ESPN, 10:15).
17. TCU (11-2)
Points: 461. Previous ranking: 7.
Outlook:The Horned Frogs are eyeing a push for a BCS game behind returning QB Andy Dalton, receivers Jimmy Young and Jeremy Kerley, T Marshall Newhouse and a platoon of RBs including Ryan Christian, Joseph Turner, Chris Smith, Jai Cavness and Ed Wesley. E Jerry Hughes helps pace the defense with CBs Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders and LB Daryl Washington.
Opens: Sept. 12 at Virginia (ESPNU, 3:30).
18. Utah (13-0)
Points: 404. Previous ranking:4.
Outlook:After an undefeated season and Sugar Bowl win against Alabama, the Utes eye another Mountain West title but must replace QB Brian Johnson. Returnee Corbin Louks, freshman Jordan Wynn or junior college transfer Terrance Cain could be the answer. They return RB Matt Asiata, OLs Zane Beadles and Caleb Schlauderaff, KR-WR David Reed, LBs Stevenson Sylvester and Mike Wright, DBs Robert Johnson and Joe Dale and DLs Koa Misi and Kenape Eliapo.
Opens: Sept. 3 vs. Utah State.
19. Florida State (9-4
Points:371. Previous ranking:23.
Outlook:The Seminoles hope to regain their top status in the Atlantic Coast with the return of QB Christian Ponder, RB Jermaine Thomas, WR Bert Reed, Gs Rodney Hudson and Andrew Datko and C Ryan McMahon. The defense brings back LB Dekoda Watson and CB Patrick Robinson.
Opens:Sept. 7 vs. Miami (Fla.) (ESPN, 8).
20. North Carolina (8-5
Points: 293. Previous ranking:Not ranked.
Outlook:The Tar Heels appear on their way up in the Atlantic Coast under coach Butch Davis with the return of QB T.J. Yates, TE Zack Pianalto, OL Kyle Jolly, CB Kendric Burney, DT Marvin Austin, LB Quan Sturdivant, S Deunta Williams and K Casey Barth.
Opens:Sept. 5 vs. The Citadel.
21. Iowa (9-4)
Points:257. Previous ranking: 20.
Outlook:After a bounce-back season, the Hawkeyes must replace star RB Shonn Greene but return QB Ricky Stanzi, RB Jewel Hampton, WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and OLs Julian Vandervelde, Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway. The defense calls on LBs Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, DBs Amari Spievey and Tyler Sash, Ls Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard and P Ryan Donahue.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. Northern Iowa.
22. Nebraska (9-4)
Points: 236. Previous ranking:Not ranked.
Outlook:After a bounce-back season that included a win in the Gator Bowl, the Cornhuskers need to settle on a quarterback, probably from among junior Zac Lee, redshirt freshman Kody Spano and true freshman Cody Green. TE Mike McNeill, OL Jacob Hickman and RB Roy Helu Jr. return to the offense. The defense brings back standout T Ndamukong Suh and E Pierre Allen. K Alex Henery also is back. Opens:Sept. 5 vs. Florida Atlantic.
23. Notre Dame (7-6)
Points:194. Previous ranking: Not ranked.
Outlook: After the Irish’s consecutive subpar seasons, the heat is on coach Charlie Weis. But the Irish should have improved depth with the return of QB Jimmy Clausen, RBs Armando Allen and Robert Hughes, WRs Golden Tate and Duval Kamara, TE Kyle Rudolph, DT Ian Williams, LB Brian Smith and DBs Harrison Smith, Kyle McCarthy and Raeshon McNeil.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. Nevada (NBC, 3:30).
24. Brigham Young (10-3)
Points:178. Previous ranking:21.
Outlook:he offensive line needs retooling, but the Cougars get back standout QB Max Hall, RB Harvey Unga, WR McKay Jacobson and TE Dennis Pitta. DL Jan Jorgensen paces an experienced front seven, with CB Brandon Bradley helping to anchor the secondary. The opener could answer many questions.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. No. 3 Oklahoma in Arlington, Texas (ESPN, 7).
25. Oregon State (9-4)
Points:165. Previous ranking:19.
Outlook:The Beavers knocked off Southern California a year ago and came within a win of playing in the Rose Bowl. They’ll count on returning QBs Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR-KR James Rodgers and C Alex Linnenkohl. The defense needs retooling but returns LB Keaton Kristick and T Stephen Paea. K Justin Kahut is also back.
Opens: Sept. 5 vs. Portland State.
Others receiving votes (2008 records): Kansas (8-5) 138; Michigan State (9-4) 136; Texas Tech (11-2) 114; Cincinnati (11-3) 90; Pittsburgh (9-4) 64; West Virginia (9-4) 55; Rutgers (8-5) 51; Miami (Fla.) (7-6) 46; Missouri (10-4) 44; Illinois (5-7) 38; Clemson (7-6) 30; South Carolina (7-6) 18; UCLA (4-8) 14; Auburn (5-7) 12; Nevada (7-6) 11; South Florida (8-5) 11; Kentucky (7-6) 9; North Carolina State (6-7) 7; Arkansas (5-7) 6; Wisconsin (7-6) 6; Northwestern (9-4) 5; Southern Mississippi (7-6) 4; Wake Forest (8-5) 4; Arizona (8-5) 3; Boston College (9-5) 3; Central Michigan (8-5) 3; East Carolina (9-5) 3; Colorado (5-7) 2; Maryland (8-5) 2; Navy (8-5) 2; Tennessee (5-7) 2; Houston (8-5) 1; Michigan (3-9) 1; Minnesota (7-6) 1; Troy (8-5) 1.
The USA TODAY board of coaches is made up of 59 head coaches at Division I-A institutions. All are members of the American Football Coaches Association. The board for the 2009 season: Robb Akey, Idaho; Gary Andersen, Utah State; David Bailiff, Rice; Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech; Tim Beckman, Toledo; Bobby Bowden, Florida State; Tim Brewster, Minnesota; J.D. Brookhart, Akron; Rich Brooks, Kentucky; Troy Calhoun, Air Force; Neil Callaway, UAB; Dave Christensen, Wyoming; Dave Clawson, Bowling Green; Mario Cristobal, Florida International; David Cutcliffe, Duke; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Butch Davis, North Carolina; Todd Dodge, North Texas; Ron English, Eastern Michigan; Larry Fedora, Southern Miss; Al Golden, Temple; Jim Grobe, Wake Forest; Jim Harbaugh, Stanford; Dan Hawkins, Colorado; Brian Kelly, Cincinnati; Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville; Mike Leach, Texas Tech; Jim Leavitt, South Florida; Bill Lynch, Indiana; Les Miles, LSU; Dan Mullen, Mississippi State; Rick Neuheisel, UCLA; Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; Tom O’Brien, N.C. State; Stan Parrish, Ball State; Gary Patterson, TCU; Bo Pelini, Nebraska; Chris Petersen, Boise State; Gary Pinkel, Missouri; Mark Richt, Georgia; Mike Riley, Oregon State; Rich Rodriguez, Michigan; Nick Saban, Alabama; Mike Sanford, UNLV; Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Mike Sherman, Texas A&M; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Kevin Sumlin, Houston; Jeff Tedford, California; Bob Toledo, Tulane; Jim Tressel, Ohio State; DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State; Charlie Weatherbie, Louisiana-Monroe; Charlie Weis, Notre Dame; Tommy West, Memphis; Paul Wulff, Washington State; Ron Zook, Illinois.