Way-too-early look has UGA as top 'Dogs

Running back Isaiah Crowell and the Georgia Bulldogs have an easy schedule that should help them make a deep run this season. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 12:24 a.m.

Welcome to the desert, that vast wasteland that the most ardent college football fans face until September when toe meets leather again. Sure, we have signing day and spring games, but for the most part we use crutches to get through the off-season.

Recruiting is one of the crutches because even the most rabid college football fan realizes what a crapshoot it is to join 18-year-olds at the hip.

And spring football, especially at places where you aren't allowed to watch practice and the spring game is an exercise in staying healthy, has lost most of its luster.

So we look for the little things to keep feeding our habit, and it's usually around this time of year that it starts. I mean, it has been six whole days since we've had a football game, and that one was about as tasty as a dirt sandwich.

You've seen a few way-too-early preseason top 25s for next year. The problem with these is that too much weight is placed on bowl performances and too many of them come out before we know which players are going pro.

So I waited until today, the NFL deadline, to come out with mine. It is, of course, subject to change as things happen, scandals unfold, coaches are disgraced and conferences are realigned. Oh wait, that was last year.

1. Georgia: I didn't believe in the Bulldogs a year ago, and they proved me right with bookend back-to-back losses. But I saw something in this team that tells me they are ready, thanks in part to the cupcake schedule spit out by the SEC computer.

2. Oklahoma: The Sooners can't have the bad injury luck they had last year.

3. USC: The Trojans will miss Matt Kalil, but there's enough talent to make the Rose Bowl.

4. LSU: Tigers are set for another big year and get Tide at home.

5. Oregon: I'd like to see Chip Kelly win it all so other people would realize how good a coach he is.

6. Arkansas: The Razorbacks get LSU and Alabama at home this time.

7. Michigan: Could this be the year Denard Robinson wins the Heisman? The schedule will offer plenty of big stages.

8. Florida State: Defense will again be dominant, and if offense can improve a little, 'Noles could challenge.

9. West Virginia: Hard team to figure because we don't know about the schedule.

10. South Carolina: Connor Shaw will have to take major leap for Gamecocks this year.

11. Alabama: So much has been lost and the schedule will be brutal.

12. Michigan State: Tough schedule and loss of Kirk Cousins keep Sparty out of top 10.

13. Oklahoma State: Hard to see the Cowboys staying in rarefied air.

14. Stanford: It will be interesting to see the Cardinal without Andrew Luck.

15. Kansas State: Was 2010 a fluke? We will see.

16. TCU: The Horned Frogs are stepping up in competition. Can they hang in there?

17. Boise State: It's hard for me to believe it was all Kellen Moore.

18. Texas: Longhorns are ready to get back on the saddle.

19. Nebraska: Still not sold on the Cornhuskers as a contender.

20. Virginia Tech: You know Hokies will be in the mix.

21. Ohio State: Urban Meyer is worth three wins for the Buckeyes.

22. North Carolina: I believe in Larry Fedora, especially in that bad conference.

23. Clemson: Can they shake off the 70-point hangover?

24. Florida: Defense should be good, offense can't be as bad.

25. Louisville: Charlie Strong did a great job with a young team last year.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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