An 'early, but not too early' top 25 projection


Florida players celebrate their national championship.

Rob C. Witzel / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 4:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 4:37 p.m.

I think the first 2009 college football preseason poll came out online seconds after David Nelson caught the clinching touchdown pass from Tim Tebow in Miami. The Right Now generation can't wait too long.

Since then we've seen dozens of them, all with the cliched adjective "Way Too Early" Top 25.

Me, I like to wait at least until we know which underclassmen are coming back and which are leaving. Now that we know, I'm ready for my "Early, but Not Too Early" Top 25 for the 2009 season.

1. Texas

This was supposed to be the year for the Longhorns, not 2008 when they were a dropped interception away from playing for it all. Losing defensive end Brian Orakpo hurts, but having Colt McCoy back offsets that loss. There will be no hungrier team in 2009 than Texas. And the 'Horns don't play anyone with a pulse in the non-conference portion of the schedule.

2. Florida

All 11 starters back on defense. Tim Tebow back. Don't underestimate the losses of Percy Harvin and both offensive tackles. The schedule sets up nicely but the Gators will have to deal with the high expectations of likely being the preseason No. 1 team.

3. Oklahoma

I am reluctant to put the Sooners this high because they lose so much on the offensive line. But with Sam Bradford back and amazing tight end Jermaine Gresham returning, Oklahoma-Texas will be a de facto playoff game.

4. Virginia Tech

Frank Beamer is a great coach and the Hokies seemed to figure it out offensively at the end of the season. The defense will be its usual salty self.

5. USC

Losing Mark Sanchez and a ton of defensive players will be an issue, but Southern Cal simply reloads each year. The key will be getting past Ohio State in Columbus and not stubbing its toe against a Pac-10 team ... again.

6. Boise State

The Broncos will be the non-BCS team playing in a BCS bowl game this year. Kellen Moore, the quarterback, has a year under his belt. Look for Boise to be undefeated.

7. Alabama

New quarterback, revamped offensive line. But Nick Saban has done a wonderful job in recruiting. Memo to Nick: Throw it to Julio Jones more.

8. Ohio State

The Buckeyes lose a lot but as long as Terrelle Pryor is at quarterback they have a chance to win the Big 10.

9. LSU

The Tigers found their quarterback a little late in the season and having a real defensive coordinator in John Chavis should solve the defensive woes from 2008.

10. California

I love Jahvid Best but the Bears have to settle on a quarterback and stick with him.

11. Oklahoma State

Probably not enough defense to contend for the conference title but enough offense to make things interesting.

12. Mississippi

The Rebels were my sleeper pick a year ago and having Greg Hardy back should make Houston Nutt smile.

13. Penn State

Don't let the Rose Bowl debacle fool you. This is a very good team no matter where Joe Paterno sits during the games.

14. Georgia Tech

Year Two under Paul Johnson may prove to be better than the first year.

15. Miami

Randy Shannon is bringing another stellar recruiting class to Coral Gables and knows who his quarterback is this year.

16. Utah

The Utes have a lot to replace on offense but should be good enough for a 10-2 record.

17. Iowa

Maybe it's just a hangover from watching the Hawkeyes dismantle South Carolina, but Kirk Ferentz knows what he's doing.

18. Florida State

Unless there is serious damage from NCAA sanctions, the Seminoles should be better.

19. Texas Tech

Mike Leach will work his magic offensively, but losing Michael Crabtree is a big blow.

20. Kansas

After a down year, Todd Reesing is back to show 2007 was no fluke.

21. Georgia

Excellent recruiting will offset the three defections, just not enough to make the Bulldogs a top 20 team.

22. Oregon

A lot to replace but still enough personnel to win nine games in what could be Mike Bellotti's last season.

23. North Carolina

Butch Davis has his team ready to compete for a division title.

24. TCU

Horned Frogs lose seven defensive starters but have enough back to be strong again this season.

25. Arkansas

You saw how the Razorbacks improved as the season went along. Bobby Petrino's second team should be much better.

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