Here is my early 2008 pre-season rankings, which are subject to change once all of the surprises of summer camp shake out. My Irish moved up my list from where I had them a few days ago, with the official announcement that Will Yeatman and Pat Kuntz will be back with the team this year (during Spring Football, Yeatman was suspended and Kuntz was not enrolled). Many will probably criticize my optimism for the Irish this year, but I was looking through the teams being bandied about as top 25 material, and many of them had bigger holes to fill than the Irish.
1. Ohio State
I vasillated back and forth between Georgia and Ohio State here at #1, as both are teams without major holes to fill, top to bottom. Wells may be one of the year's leaders for the Heisman, in a year where there seems to be a lack of superstars.
Georgia is also an unexciting pick, but they are so solid across the board, it's hard to put anyone else ahead of them. Look for Knowshon Moreno to have a breakout year.
Championships are won in the trenches, and nobody has a better trench than the Sooners this year. The question for them is whether they can find a running back to run through those holes. QB Bradford appears to be the real deal.
4. Southern California
The Trojans have more raw talent than any two teams in the country right now, but their program is quickly devolving into a circus. They'll run away from most of the teams they play, but they'll stumble along the way as they lose focus.
5. Louisiana State
LSU has a lot of talent returning on offense, and they always put out a solid defense, even if they did lose alot from their defensive line. Alot like the Sooners, the Tigers need to find a tailback.
With Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin back, this offense will have pop. Can they find a new tailback to balance the passing game? Their senior-laden defense should be solid.
7. Virginia Tech
The biggest question in Blacksburg is whether the Hokies can effectively manage their two quarterbacks (Taylor and Glennon), while struggling to rebuild their front seven on defense.
A slightly cheaper knockoff of Mizzou, the Jayhawks return a top QB, and are looking for a new tailback to go with a senior-laden defense. However, the 'Hawks don't have phenom Jeremy Maclin.
Florida brings back Heisman winner Tim Tebow, and at first glance appeared to be a top team. However, their losses to the draft hurt them. Percy Harvin and Tebow have the pop to make this team dangerous, but the holes on the defensive line and defensive secondary are cause for concern.
Strange, but true: Illinois could be the best team in the Big Ten this year. Although the Buckeyes are clearly deeper and more balanced, Illinois has some talent (Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn) that could give them some explosiveness. Replacing Rashard Mendenhall is problem #1 for the Illini, and could hurt them (badly) this season.
13. Texas Tech
17. Arizona State
18. South Florida
19. Penn State
20. Notre Dame
The Irish have so much young talent, and there isn't anyhwhere to go but up. Michigan and Purdue are going to have off years, making Michigan State our second biggest challenge behind the Trojans. The favorable schedule, with the warm-up game against San Diego State, should build confidence as this young team comes into it's own. They'll stumble a bit, as fully half of the starters will still be underclassmen, but there will be huge gains from last year's ordeal.
23. Boise State
24. Florida State