College football: Team-by-team look at The Oklahoman's Top 25

BY GINA MIZELL and STEPHANIE KUZYDYM, Staff Writers Published: August 26, 2012
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Here is a look at The Oklahoman's college football coverage crew's Top 25 and a brief look at each team:

1. SOUTHERN CAL

Coach: Lane Kiffin

2011 record: 10-2 (7-2 Pac-12)

2011 postseason: None (probation)

Noteworthy: Matt Barkley, the Heisman front-runner heading into 2012, put the NFL on hold and returned for his senior season to try to lead the Trojans to the national title following the two-year NCAA postseason ban.

Makes a BCS bowl if … it beats Oregon — likely twice. The Trojans host the Ducks on Nov. 3, and there could be a rematch in the Pac-12 title game a month later.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Hawaii

Sept. 8 Syracuse

Sept. 15 at Stanford

Sept. 22 California

Oct. 4 at Utah

Oct. 13 at Washington

Oct. 20 Colorado

Oct. 7 at Arizona

Nov. 3 Oregon

Nov. 10 Arizona State

Nov. 17 at UCLA

Nov. 24 Notre Dame

2. LSU

Coach: Les Miles

2011 record: 13-1 (8-0 SEC)

2011 postseason: Lost to Alabama 21-0 in BCS title game

Noteworthy: Tyrann Mathieu, a Heisman finalist and arguably the most exciting player in college football last season, was kicked off the team earlier this month. The Tiger secondary should still be stout, but Mathieu's return skills are unmatched.

Makes a BCS bowl if … new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a junior college transfer who originally signed with Georgia, can navigate an always-tough SEC gauntlet. The Tigers travel to Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas, and host Alabama and South Carolina, this season.

Schedule

Sept. 1 North Texas

Sept. 8 Washington

Sept. 15 Idaho

Sept. 22 at Auburn

Sept. 29 Towson

Oct. 6 at Florida

Oct. 13 South Carolina

Oct. 20 at Texas A&M

Nov. 3 Alabama

Nov. 10 Mississippi

Nov. 17 Ole Miss

Nov. 23 at Arkansas

3. ALABAMA

Coach: Nick Saban

2011 record: 12-1 (7-1 SEC)

2011 postseason: Beat LSU 21-0 in BCS title game

Noteworthy: College football has not had an outright repeat national champion since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995. When ‘Bama tried to defend its title in 2010, it went 10-3 and finished fourth in the SEC West.

Makes a BCS bowl if … it finishes second in its division. That got the Tide into the national title game last season. In all seriousness, if ‘Bama can reload on defense — it lost six 2012 NFL Draft picks on that side of the ball alone — this squad is a contender to repeat.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Michigan

Sept. 8 Western Kentucky

Sept. 15 at Arkansas

Sept. 22 Florida Atlantic

Sept. 29 Ole Miss

Oct. 13 at Missouri

Oct. 20 at Tennessee

Oct. 27 Mississippi State

Nov. 3 at LSU

Nov. 10 Texas A&M

Nov. 17 Western Carolina

Nov. 24 Auburn

4. OREGON

Coach: Chip Kelly

2011 record: 12-2 (8-1 Pac-12)

2011 postseason: Beat Wisconsin 45-38 in Rose Bowl

Noteworthy: The Ducks will break in a new quarterback — a still-to-be-determined battle between sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota — in 2012 but sill feature two of the nation's most explosive weapons in Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.

Makes a BCS bowl if … that new signal-caller can direct the offense effectively and distribute to those talented playmakers. As noted above, Oregon will likely get two cracks at USC this season if both win divisions, as expected.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Arkansas State

Sept. 8 Fresno State

Sept. 15 Tennessee Tech

Sept. 22 Arizona

Sept. 29 at Washington State

Oct. 6 Washington

Oct. 18 at Arizona State

Oct. 27 Colorado

Nov. 3 at USC

Nov. 10 at California

Nov. 17 Stanford

Nov. 24 at Oregon State

5. GEORGIA

Coach: Mark Richt

2011 record: 10-4 (7-1 SEC)

2011 postseason: Lost to Michigan State 33-30 (3OT) in Outback Bowl

Noteworthy: Leading rusher Isaiah Crowell was kicked off the team after a weapons arrest, but Aaron Murray returns as perhaps the SEC's best quarterback. Also back is linebacker Jarvis Jones, who led the conference with 13.5 sacks last season.

Makes a BCS bowl if … it wins the SEC title. With powerhouses Alabama, LSU and Arkansas all in the SEC West, it's likely Georgia would miss out on a BCS bowl again if it won its division but lost in the conference championship game.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Buffalo

Sept. 8 at Missouri

Sept. 15 Florida Atlantic

Sept. 22 Vanderbilt

Sept. 29 Tennessee

Oct. 6 at South Carolina

Oct. 20 at Kentucky

Oct. 27 Florida

Nov. 3 Ole Miss

Nov. 10 at Auburn

Nov. 17 Georgia Southern

Nov. 24 Georgia Tech

6. OKLAHOMA

Coach: Bob Stoops

2011 Record: 10-3 (6-3 Big 12)

2011 postseason: beat Iowa 31-14 in Insight Bowl

Noteworthy: Fifth-year senior Landry Jones is back for his fourth year as the Sooners starter after deciding to skip the NFL Draft. He's back to accomplish his goal: win a national title.

Makes a BCS bowl if … the team has a better conference record than last season, but that could prove tough with the additions of TCU and West Virginia to the Big 12.

Schedule

Sep. 1 at Texas-El Paso

Sep. 8 Florida A&M

Sep. 22 Kansas State

Oct. 6 at Texas Tech

Oct. 13 Texas

Oct. 20 Kansas

Oct. 27 Notre Dame

Nov. 3 at Iowa State

Nov. 10 Baylor

Nov. 17 at WVU

Nov. 24 Oklahoma State

Dec. 1 at TCU

7. MICHIGAN

Coach: Brady Hoke

2011 record: 11-2 (6-2 Big Ten)

2011 postseason: Beat Virginia Tech 23-20 (OT) in Sugar Bowl

Noteworthy: Athletic phenom Denard Robinson is back for his senior season and an early Heisman contender.

Makes a BCS bowl if … the defense, which ranked sixth in the nation in points allowed (17.38), can continue its strong play, particularly up front.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Alabama

Sept. 8 Air Force

Sept. 15 Massachusetts

Sept. 22 at Notre Dame

Oct. 6 at Purdue

Oct. 13 Illinois

Oct. 20 Michigan State

Oct. 27 at Nebraska

Nov. 3 at Minnesota

Nov. 10 Northwestern

Nov. 17 Iowa

Nov. 24 at Ohio State

8. WEST VIRGINIA

Coach: Dana Holgorsen

2011 record: 10-3 (5-2 Big East)

2011 postseason: Beat Clemson 70-33 in Orange Bowl

Noteworthy: The Mountaineers enter their first season of Big 12 play with the conference's preseason Player of the Year in quarterback Geno Smith.

Makes a BCS bowl if … the WVU defense can handle Big 12 offenses, which are much more prolific than the ones it faced in the Big East. The Mountaineers ranked 60th in the nation in scoring defense last season against lesser competition. That won't translate well in the Big 12.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Marshall

Sept. 15 James Madison

Sept. 22 Maryland

Sept. 29 Baylor

Oct. 6 at Texas

Oct. 13 at Texas Tech

Oct. 20 Kansas State

Nov. 3 TCU

Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State

Nov. 17 Oklahoma

Nov. 23 at Iowa State

Dec. 1 Kansas

9. FLORIDA STATE

Coach: Jimbo Fisher

2011 record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC)

2011 postseason: Beat Notre Dame 18-14 in Champs Sports Bowl

Noteworthy: One of college football's biggest disappointments in 2011, Fisher enters his third season as the head coach with quarterback E.J. Mannuel returning for his senior season.

Makes a BCS bowl if … Mannuel stays healthy, something that has hampered him throughout his career. The Seminoles, who ranked 104th in the nation in rushing offense last season, must also find a running back to complement Mannuel.

Schedule

Sept. 1 Murray State

Sept. 8 Savannah State

Sept. 15 Wake Forest

Sept. 22 Clemson

Sept. 29 at South Florida

Oct. 6 at NC State

Oct. 13 Boston College

Oct. 20 at Miami

Oct. 27 Duke

Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech

Nov. 17 at Maryland

Nov. 24 Florida

10. WISCONSIN

Coach: Bret Bielema

2011 record: 11-3 (6-2 Big Ten)

2011 postseason: Lost to Oregon 45-38 in Rose Bowl

Noteworthy: After wild success in 2011 with Russell Wilson, who transferred to Wisconsin for one season of immediate eligibility after graduating from NC State, the Badgers hope they can duplicate those results with Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien. The running game should be stout again this season, with Heisman finalist Montee Ball back for his senior season and Ricky Wagner anchoring the line.



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