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OFD Pre-Fall Top 25: No. 21-25

We've gone about a third of a year without updating our preseason top 25 from spring, and with fall practice just around the corner now is the time to revisit our list and make some changes.

There has been a lot of news since our last poll (ahem, Ohio State) and some of it sent some rather large shock waves through our top 25.

We'll release the entire poll over the next two or three weeks, and here's the first five.

*Previous rankings in parentheses.


No. 25 Texas Longhorns (17)

It’s funny how Will Muschamp left Texas for Florida and how eerily similar the programs look right now. Both have talented defenses, but severely underperforming offenses with recently hired hot shot coordinators.

I like Florida’s defense a little bit more, and I like their offense a lot more…but Texas has the advantage of not playing in the SEC.

So what to expect from the Longhorns in 2011? Well, a clean sweep in September should be a goal, but their ceiling is probably around 8 or 9 wins this upcoming fall. In the past Texas could get away with some shoddy offensive play with some nasty defensive playmaking, yet I’m not sure that counterbalance is still there.

To put in another way, the defense is likely not dominant (although still very good) and the offense simply doesn’t scare anyone anymore. New OC Bryan Harsin might help a little bit, but not much.


No. 24 Auburn Tigers (20)

You could probably convince me that the defending champs don’t even belong in the top 25, but I have them holding steady just inside, although they did drop 4 spots.

The problems at Auburn are that outside of a couple running backs, they have no returning talent that is really going to scare a lot of teams in the SEC. The running game should be potent, and the offense should be one of the better ones with Gus Malzahn behind the controls, yet I don’t think this team has the defense to keep up with the big boys in the Southeastern Conference.

The Tigers play Mississippi State, at Clemson, at South Carolina, at Arkansas, Florida, at LSU (those last four all in a row!), at Georgia, and Alabama.

I would be shocked if Auburn did anything better than 4-4 in those games, and something like a 2-6 record is probably more likely. That means the Tigers are a lot like Florida in that they have the talent to be somewhere in the later portion of the Top 25, but their schedule will likely have them fighting to stay above .500 on the season.


No. 23 Mississippi State Bulldogs (18)

Everyone loves what Dan Mullen has done at Mississippi State (well, except Houston Nutt), it’s just too bad he’s still coaching in the SEC and that this is probably as high as he can take the Bulldogs. If this were an ACC team, they’d easily be half a dozen spots higher, if not more.

Almost the entire offense returns, as does the bulk of the defense. They are going to get their non-conference wins, but they might not be favored in 6 of their 8 SEC games.

If they can repeat last year’s nine win season, 2011 should be an overwhelming success as that would mean beating three out of the following opponents: Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas.

Last year the Bulldogs lost to Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas, but were able to defeat Georgia and Florida in down years. Can they beat a resurgent Georgia club in 2011 and a tough South Carolina team taking the Gators place on their schedule?


No. 22 Missouri Tigers (21)

Missouri is probably the quietest 40-14 over the past four years that we’ve ever seen in college football history. That .740 winning percentage is 14th best in the country since 2007, so we should expect the Tigers to have another very solid season in 2011.

Blaine Gabbert is gone as well as a couple other studs, but the Missouri offense will be efficient under youngster James Franklin, who has the entire offense returning to help him as the new starter.

The defense has some holes to fill in the secondary, but the defensive line is a lot better than most people think. No, Missouri isn’t in the same class as Oklahoma and their probably not going to win the Big 12, but this is a very solid program right now that should be a fixture in the rankings all season long.


No. 21 Ohio State Buckeyes (6)

Huge drop for the Buckeyes and rightfully so, but let’s not forget there is still plenty of talent in Columbus.

Interim head coach Luke Fickell should have the Ohio State defense playing up to their normal high standards, but will the offense be anything other than average with Terrelle Pryor suddenly gone?

I can see the Buckeyes having a good season, but not in comparison to what they normally achieved under the Vest. You have to think all of the offseason turmoil takes a heavy toll on this team in 2011, with three or four losses being the likely result.

I have them as the fourth best team in the Big Ten right now with losses coming to each of the higher ranked league opponents, as well as to the Miami Hurricanes on the road in week three. If Ohio State is anything better than 8-4, or wins their division in the newly split Big Ten, they should consider 2011 a successful season.