2012 CFN Post-Spring Rankings - Top Ten

Posted May 7, 2012

Based on where we think the teams are going to end up, here are the CFN post-spring rankings - The Top Ten

CFN 2012 Post-Spring Rankings

The Top Ten

2012 CFN Post-Spring Rankings
(where the teams will end up)
- Top Ten | Rankings 11-20 | Rankings 21-30
- Rankings 31-40 | Rankings 41-50 | Rankings 51-60
- Rankings 61-70 | Rankings 71-80 | Rankings 81-90
- Rankings 91-100 | Rankings 101-112 | The Bottom 12

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Which teams looked great this spring? Which ones reloaded, rebuilt, and looked surprisingly sharp? Which ones struggled a bit and need more time and more practice time? These are the CFN Post-Spring Rankings based on where we think the teams are going to finish up when all is said and done. Part of the rankings are based on talent and potential, and part of them are based on schedules and what the teams might do. Coming later this summer are the CFN 2012 Rankings based on how good the teams are.

10. Wisconsin
(2011 Record: 11-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2)

Here's the little secret that Wisconsin doesn't like to talk about over the last two Rose Bowl years: the schedules have been really, really soft. Oh sure, there's a blowout over Nebraska here and a steamroll over Penn State there, but for the most part the Badgers haven't exactly had to deal with the SEC West. The same goes for this season in what should be yet another terrific run to the Big Ten championship game – helped by Ohio State being ineligible.

Going to Oregon State sounds dangerous, but it's not, and while Utah State is an interesting test, it shouldn't be a problem for Bucky before starting out the Big Ten season at Nebraska. The other road games are against Purdue, Indiana, and Penn State – the Badgers will be big favorites in all three games. Michigan State and Ohio State both have to come to Madison.

The offseason addition of QB Danny O'Brien will fill the giant hole left by Russell Wilson, and Mifflin Street Block Party tickets aside, Montee Ball will still be a front-runner for the Heisman working behind a line that has two possible first-round 2013 NFL draft picks in Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick. The defense needs some retooling, but the linebacking combination of Mike Taylor and Chris Borland should be among the best in college football.

9. Florida State
(2011 Record: 9-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2)

Will this finally be the year Florida State lives up to its talent level and its billing? There aren't many excuses thanks to a defense that should be among the best the program has had since its national title-level days with only three players gone off the two-deep depth chart. Quarterback E.J. Manuel has elite skills, and if he can take a step up in his production to make up for the weak running game the offense will do enough to get by; it won't take that many points to let the defense take care of the rest.

On Thursday, November 8th the Seminoles have to go to Virginia Tech and should be the underdog for the only time all season. Going to NC State won't be easy, the South Florida away game is a landmine, and road trips to Miami are always entertaining, but the schedule is manageable even with five road games in seven weeks. Florida and Clemson have to come to Tallahassee.

8. Georgia
(2011 Record: 10-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3)

The Bulldogs are loaded. The lines are going to be terrific, the skill players are fantastic, and Aaron Murray could be the best quarterback in the SEC if a few breaks go his way. There are superior playmakers on a strong defense led by LB Jarvis Jones and safety Baracci Rambo – even with his off-the-field issues – to be able to hang around with any team on the slate, but can the Dawgs get through the road games?

The home schedule should be a relative breeze with the Georgia Tech game by far the most dangerous to worry about, and while Mark Richt has traditionally been able to get his teams up for road games he'll have some concerns this year. Georgia is better than Missouri, but it'll be the first SEC game in Columbia and the Faurot Field crowd will be jacked up. Going to South Carolina is bad enough, but it'll be followed up by the Don't-Call-It-A Cocktail Party game against Florida. The Auburn trip will also be nasty meaning it wouldn't be a shocker if Georgia lost three of their five games away from home. They'll beat Kentucky in Lexington, though.

7. South Carolina
(2011 Record: 11-2, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3)

Will there be a more dangerous set of pass rushers in America than Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney? Throw in the great set of linebackers and a secondary that should be fine without CB Stephon Gilmore, and the Gamecock defense should be devastating. The hope is for the offense to get back Marcus Lattimore at 100% to carry the running game, while Connor Shaw – if he can hang on to the starting quarterback job – should be steadier and should be able to wing the ball around the yard a bit more. While the team should be at least as good as it was last year, it's going to be a fight to get through another interesting schedule.

Not only is there a midseason stretch of three road games in four weeks, but the last two games are on the road at LSU and Florida after hosting Georgia. Throw in the home dates against Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee along with the end-of-the-year road trip to Clemson and there are more than enough landmines to worry about at least a three-loss season. However, if the Gamecocks can hold serve at home they should be in for a tremendous year.

6. USC
(2011 Record: 10-2, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2)

USC will be everyone's hot team going into the preseason rankings because it's eligible to play for something again, but it's a whole different world once the pressure is on. After years of treading water, what will happen under Lane Kiffin when it becomes Pac-12 title or bust? There might be not be a better starting 22, but the depth is a bit thin. The D line needs some reworking and it's never a positive to lose a left tackle as good as Matt Kalil, but there's talent across the board. No, the problem will be when the team has to take everyone's best shot week after week.

There won't be problems against Syracuse, California, or Colorado, but the Trojans are going to be on the road for four games in five weeks during the first half of the season including a scary date against a Utah team that should be good enough to challenge for the Pac-12 title. While the home schedule eases up, they also have to deal with Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, and Notre Dame over the second half of the season. Don't forget that as good as last year's team was, it was blown out by Arizona State late and had to fight with bad Minnesota and Arizona teams. This will be a great USC team that should at worst end up in a BCS game, but that still could mean another 10-2 record.

5. Texas
(2011 Record: 8-5, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2)

Texas should finally be back to being Texas again because of a wee bit of an improvement on offense. The defense will be its same old dominant self after very, very quietly finishing 11th in the nation. The secondary is loaded, the line is fantastic, and there are four-and-five-star athletes across the board, but it's the offense that'll make the big difference. Assuming David Ash really and truly is the main man at quarterback, the offense will be more consistent and should have a stronger running game to rely on. Yes, this is the year when Texas gets back on track, but it still might not be enough to get back in the national title chase.

Nothing can be taken for granted after the last few seasons schedule-wise, but the Longhorns should be 3-0 against Wyoming, New Mexico, and at Ole Miss before diving into Big 12 play head first going to Oklahoma State, facing West Virginia, and trying to get past Oklahoma. Road games at Kansas, Texas Tech, and Kansas State aren't that bad, and if Texas is good enough to get past the early stretch unscathed, it'll be strong enough to blow up the back half of the slate without a problem.

Enough is enough. The defense that led the Big 12, and finished 11th in the nation despite playing in a conference loaded with top offenses, will be fantastic. It's deep, talented, and full of next-level playmakers even with tackle Kheeston Randall, MLB Keenan Robinson, and WLB Emmanuel Acho gone. End Jackson Jeffcoat should be in for a huge year, while Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom form a good corner tandem for a great secondary. And then there's the offense. David Ash is expected to take the starting quarterback job by the horns, but he'll have to fight to keep it. Malcolm Brown has the ability and potential to be the program's best back since Cedric Benson, while the receiving corps of Jaxon Shipley, Marquise Goodwin, and Mike Davis could be the best Texas has had in a decade. The O line that started four underclassmen should be a rock. The biggest loss might be clutch kicker Justin Tucker.

4. Alabama
(2011 Record: 12-1, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2)

Alabama will be loaded again and it should be even stronger in the passing game, but can the running game continue to shine without Trent Richardson? Can the defense be the same sort of killer it was throughout last year without seven starters? Will the kicking game come through when it has to in the big games? Can the offense shine without offensive coordinator Jim McElwain? The answer to all of the above is probably a resounding yes, but that still might mean a really, really strong two-loss season.

The Tide has to go to Death Valley to deal with a loaded LSU – made worse with the Tigers getting two weeks off to rest up and prepare. While Bama will be better than everyone else on the schedule, there are four other landmines against Michigan (in Arlington, Texas), at Missouri, at Tennessee, and at Arkansas. Throw in the always-tough Auburn game and a home date with Texas A&M and there are just enough tough battles to assume a slip-up.

3. Oregon
(2011 Record: 12-2, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 11-1)

Everyone wants to pump up USC and assume it's going to roll through the Pac-12 now that it's eligible for the title, but Oregon still might be the league's most dangerous team. The machine won't stop just because QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James are gone with more speed to burn in the offensive backfield and the Chip Kelly offense certain to be as strong as ever. The defense will be good enough to get by with Michael Clay one of the league's best linebackers and John Boyett a special safety.

The schedule is a breeze until November. Consider it a shocker if any of the first eight teams on the schedule come within two touchdowns of the Ducks, and then comes the showdown in L.A. against USC to kick off a run of three road games in the final four. However, even with a loss to the Trojans Oregon should still go 11-1 and play for the Pac-12 title.

2. Oklahoma
(2011 Record: 10-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 11-1)

Every year it seems like everyone wants to push Oklahoma as a possible national title contender, and almost every year comes the disappointment from out the blue. Last year it was Texas Tech and the collapse against Baylor that ruined any hopes of a national title run before the Oklahoma State debacle. This year, though, the potential is there to be far more consistent and far more effective with QB Landry Jones leading a high-octane offense that should roll behind a great offensive line a receiving corps that should be fine - eventually - even with the recent suspensions.

The running game will be a question mark, but Blake "Bulldozer" Bell should have a huge year and Jones should be good enough to pick up the slack. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops should put the teeth back in the Sooner D that gets eight starters back.

If the Sooners play like they're supposed to they shouldn't have a problem at home against anyone who has to come to Norman including Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma State, but Texas will be tougher and going to West Virginia and TCU late in the year will be battles. Even so, OU will be better than everyone on its schedule, and while it might slip once, that should be it.

1. LSU
(2011 Record: 13-1, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 12-0)

If you liked the 2011 version of the Tigers, there's a chance you'll love the sequel even more with a killer of an offensive line paving the way for what should be the nation's most dominant running game. It might not put up the numbers of a Wisconsin or Navy, but the LSU front line is loaded with NFL talent and all the running backs return to bring wave after wave of big, strong pounders to wear down a defense.

The problem, though, is that the 2011 Tigers seemed to feed off the really big game-changing play to get energized, and when that didn't happen in the BCS championship, everything broke down. This year, the offense will generate more big plays down the field with QB Zach Mettenberger pushing the deep play down the field a bit more after the defenses are softened up by the killer ground attack. On the other side of the ball, Tyrann Mathieu and the defense should be dominant again even without DT Michael Brockers and CB Morris Claiborne. DE Sam Montgomery should be in the NFL right now, Barkevious Mingo will dominate on the other side, and the defensive tackle combination of Anthony "Freak" Johnson and Bennie Logan will be special.

The 2012 Tigers will be great, but they might not be quite as good across the board as they were last year. Fortunately the schedule will be far easier with Alabama coming to Death Valley and with no brutal Oregon-like non-conference games. Going to Arkansas could screw up the dream year in the regular-season finale, and going to Florida, Auburn, and Texas A&M will be challenging, but if everything goes according to plan the worst-case scenario could be 10-2.

2012 CFN Post-Spring Rankings
(where the teams will end up)
- Top Ten | Rankings 11-20 | Rankings 21-30
- Rankings 31-40 | Rankings 41-50 | Rankings 51-60
- Rankings 61-70 | Rankings 71-80 | Rankings 81-90
- Rankings 91-100 | Rankings 101-112 | The Bottom 12