We’re 25 days from the first college football game, and that’s good news for all. Preseason polls are trickling out to the public, so you know what that means …
It’s time for the Breslanta Preseason Top 25.
Over the next four weeks, I’ll be rolling out my own preseason poll, little by little so I don’t inundate you with only college football. But I still want to give my thoughts on the 25 teams that are most likely to make a splash in the 2012 season, and remember — you can see every ranked team I roll out on my Top 25 page.
And yes, I want you to weigh in on every preseason preview article, so tell me what you think in the comments below!
25. Georgia Tech
2011 record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC), third in ACC Coastal, Alamo Bowl appearance
Key returners: QB Tevin Washington (Senior), A-back Orwin Smith (Senior), LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Junior)
After a 6-0 start to the 2011 regular season, the Yellow Jackets struggled to the finish line. But the nation’s best rushing attack over the last few years will return in force, and with a weakened ACC Coastal up for grabs, they should be able to absorb the loss of wide receiver Stephen Hill (drafted in the first round by the New York Jets).
Head coach Paul Johnson has looked — gasp! — vulnerable in the past few years, but Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Mark Bradley thinks the Yellow Jackets will be a smarter team in 2012, starting with Johnson. He’ll have to prepare the Yellow Jackets for a gauntlet of games at the beginning of the season; in their first four games, GT will play Virginia Tech (away), Virginia (home) and Miami (home).
Look for the defense to be improved yet again as defensive coordinator Al Groh continues to stockpile decent and better-than-decent talent and teaches them to succeed as a unit. Of course, the key for the defense, as always, will be getting off the field as quickly as possible so their clock-chewing offense can dominate time of possession.
24. Notre Dame
2011 record: 8-5, Champs Sports Bowl appearance
Key returners: QB Tommy Rees (Sophomore), RB Cierre Wood (Junior), LB Manti Te’o (Junior)
Head coach Brian Kelly begins his third year on the job, with the role of cleaning up Notre Dame Football still unfinished. Three consecutive above-average recruiting classes are getting the Fighting Irish on track, slowly but surely.
Quarterback Tommy Rees was arrested over the summer and will be suspended for their first game of the season. That opener, played in Dublin, Ireland against Navy, is suddenly in doubt for the Irish if they can’t find a capable quarterback to lead the offense.
Kelly will have to choose between backups Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel (a transfer) for that first game, and only Hendrix has game experience. Once they get past the Rees suspension, the Irish should be fine — especially if they can win that all-important rematch with Michigan in South Bend on Sept. 22.
23. Boise State
2011 record: 12-1 (6-1 Mountain West), Maaco Bowl Las Vegas champions
Key returners: RB D.J. Harper (Senior), WR Matt Miller (Sophomore), CB Jamar Taylor (Senior)
The darlings of the Mountain West Conference are back, but they’ll have some big shoes to fill at quarterback. And they won’t be in the Mountain West for long — they’ll be members of the Big East soon (makes sense, right?).
Head coach Chris Petersen will have to find a way to win without the NCAA’s winningest quarterback of all-time, Kellen Moore. They also need to make up for the departure of running back Doug Martin, who ran for 1,300 yards in 2011. But the Broncos play in a depleted MWC, as 2011 conference champion TCU is now in the Big 12 and BYU has gone independent.
Name recognition alone should keep Boise State in the top 25 for most of the season, and they’ll still win far more games than they lose. But Petersen must get his new-look roster ready as quickly as possible, because a massive game looms with Michigan State in East Lansing on the last day of this month.