TR TOP 25: "The Top 5"

As USA Today unveiled its preseason Coaches Poll recently, Tiger Rag now presents "our" College Football preseason Top 25. Today, we annouce our top 5 and the No. 1 team in the land.

5. Wisconsin Badgers

2006 Record: 12-1, 7-1 Big Ten

Was there ever any concern about first year coach Bret Bielema replacing the legendary Barry Alvarez? Not when Bielema put together a 12-1 2006 campaign and led the Badgers to a 17-14 win over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. With 16 starters back, Wisconsin is favored to win the Big Ten in 2007. However, replacing quarterback John Stocco is Bielema's primary objective. But P.J. Hill is back after rushing for 1,569 yards last season and 15 touchdowns last season and should carry the offensive load well. The defense returns seven starters and must replace the team's top two tacklers from a year ago. The Badgers do get Michigan at home and the non-conference slate is far from demanding, but the schedule does include trips to Ohio State and Penn State.

 

4. West Virginia Mountaineers

2006 Record: 11-2, 5-2 Big East

West Virginia dodged a bullet when coach Rich Rodriguez spurned an offer from Alabama and returned to Morgantown. A year after West Virginia won a record 12 games, the Mountaineers are poised to do so again with the sensational junior duo of Pat White and Steve Slaton back. Quarterback White (1,218 yards, 18 TDs) and tailback Slaton (1,744, 16) combined to run for over 2,900 yards last season en route to a piece of the Big East title and a Gator Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. The Mountaineer defense isn't all that shabby either after allowing just 93.3 yards per game, good enough for 13th nationally. WVU could make a national title run with a fairly easy non-conference schedule. The ‘Neers get Louisville at home, but have to travel to South Florida and Rutgers.

  

3. Texas Longhorns

2006 Record: 10-3, 6-2 Big XII

Following a rebuilding season of sorts in Austin, the Texas Longhorns are back in the mix to contend for a national championship. Replacing Vince Young was a tall task and it showed early on last season. However, freshman Colt McCoy found his groove and set an NCAA Freshman record throwing 29 touchdowns in 2006. McCoy spearheads an offense, in which his top four receivers return, led by Limas Sweed. Jamaal Charles has run for almost 1,800 yards in the last two seasons and will be back behind three offensive linemen from a year ago. The defense will be anchored by tackle Frank Okam and returns all three starting linebackers from a season ago. Ohio State is gone from the schedule and the toughest road game is at TCU. Aside form the annual clash with Oklahoma in Dallas, look out for possible road blocks at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

 

2. LSU Tigers

2006: Record: 11-2, 6-2 SEC

Had LSU returned quarterback JaMarcus Russell to its 2007 lineup, the Tigers would be ranked No. 1. However, Russell was taken with the first pick of the NFL Draft and leaves the reigns of the offense with senior Matt Flynn. The Tigers, who led the SEC in pass, scoring and total defense and was second against the run, return eight starters on defense, including all-American Glenn Dorsey. The offense, which was third nationally (76.5-percent) on fourth down conversions, is littered with skill players and should employ an extremely balanced attack under new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. The schedule is favorable with home games against Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas. However, watch LSU must watch out for a trap game at Kentucky and the Nov. 3 showdown with former coach Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide. 

 

1. USC Trojans

2006 Record: 11-2, 7-2 Pac-10

After losing two games by a combined six points last season, USC finds itself back in the nation's top spot. Pete Carroll, who has led his team to four straight top four finishes, four straight 11-win seasons and 56 wins in its last 60 games, has his Trojans back in the nation's top spot. USC is a heavy favorite to play for the national championship by virtually every media outlet; however, a tough schedule includes trips to Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Cal and Arizona State. The Trojans do get arch rival UCLA in the Coliseum. Led by quarterback John David Booty and linebacker Rey Maualuga, the Trojans offense will be explosive while the defense will rank among the best in the country. If USC can break in a new batch of skill people and win its share of big games on the road, there is little doubt the Men of Troy will be playing for it all come January.


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