2010 CFN Preseason Rankings - The Top Five
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Posted Aug 9, 2010

Who are the best teams going into the 2010 season? Mark Ingram leads a loaded Alabama offense, but this should be a wide open season with several teams (including a few surprises) good enough to be in the mix for the crystal football. Check out the elite of the elite teams: The CFN Preseason Top Five.

Preview 2010 - Preseason Rankings

The Top Five

2010 CFN Preseason Rankings
- 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
- 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120
- CFN Preseason Rankings 2009 | 2008 | 2007

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There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell meaning they might be better than their final record might indicate. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 120

5. Oklahoma
- 2010 Oklahoma Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Why Oklahoma Should Be No. 1: Very, very quietly, the Sooners could sneak up on everyone and have another one of those years when everything clicks in the regular season. QB Landry Jones has a year of experience, and he might have the best receiver in college football (Ryan Broyles) to throw to. The ground game will once again best great, while the defense should finish in the top ten in most major categories.
Why Oklahoma Isn't No. 1: The jury is still out on whether or not Landry Jones can be consistent. The offensive line is good, but it isn't the killer it was a few years ago. This appears to be the type of team that should be just good enough to stay in the national title chase all year long, but just incomplete enough to miss out by a whisker.
Key to the Season:: The offensive line. The front five patched things together and did a strong job last year in pass protection but struggled a bit in the running game. That's to be expected considering there were nine different starting lineups up front. While there isn't a Trent Williams-type of talent to lead the way, there are some good returning starters and a few solid talents like Donald Stephenson and Tyler Evans to get excited about, but everyone has to stay healthy.
Relative Strength: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The emergence of name players to become superstars. OU has never had a Biletnikoff winner, but Ryan Broyles could end that if he has another season like he did last year. Landry Jones was the best freshman passer in America and had a statistical season that many quarterbacks would dream of, and he's only going to get better with time. DeMarco Murray has always had next level talent, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If he can stay on the field, he has the potential to be one of the nation's most productive running backs. And why should the skill stars be better? The offensive line should be far more consistent than it was last year, even though it actually came through with a good season. More on that in a moment.
What to watch for on defense: The corners. There's a concern on the defensive front with star tackle Adrian Taylor needing to come back healthy after suffering a broken leg, but the production will be there in the front seven. The safeties, Quinton Carter and Sam Proctor, will be terrific, and in time the corners will be fine. But OU has always had issues against teams that can run an effective post pattern, and in the pass-happy Big 12, the spotlight will be on Jonathan Nelson, Demontre Hurst, Gabe Lynn, and Jamell Fleming. All have talent, quickness, and a world of upside, but they're all a bit green and will be the one area of the defense that's a question mark until around midseason.
Fun Stat: Punt return average: Oklahoma 16.3 yards per try – Opponents 1.8 yards

4. Florida
- 2010 Florida Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Why Florida Should Be No. 1: Urban Meyer has never been afraid of putting freshmen and other young players into key spots, and he'll do it again this year to reload. Out goes a slew of NFL talent, and in comes another crop. John Brantley might not be Tim Tebow, but he's an NFL passer who'll be the next great Gator quarterback.
Why Florida Isn't No. 1: Tim Tebow, Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Maurkice Pouncey, Dustin Doe, Riley Cooper, David Nelson, Ryan Stamper, Carlos Dunlap, Jermaine Cunningham, and Major Wright. Yeah, Florida can reload, but it's asking a lot to replace almost all the key parts from last year's team right away.
Key to the Season:: Pass protection. The sack total of last year (28) is a bit misleading since Tim Tebow held on to the ball far too long sometimes because 1) he was Tebow and 2) the downfield pass plays sometimes take ten days to work in the Gator attack. Brantley will need time to let his receivers fly up the field, and the line that's experienced, but not necessarily a wall against speed rushers, has to keep him clean. If Brantley gets hurt, it's uh-oh time with a shaky backup situation.
Relative Strength: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Relative Weakness: Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: The attempt to put a square peg into a round hole. It would be interesting to see what a pro-style coaching staff would do with the talent on the Florida offense. Urban Meyer will try to keep elements of his beloved spread attack with John Brantley running a little bit, and quarterback-turned-tight end, David Reed, acting a bit like Tim Tebow as the offense tries to go back to 2006 when Chris Leak and Tebow traded turns. However, the Gators have a massive and experienced offensive front, built perfectly to pound away with the ground game, and has an NFL-caliber quarterback in Brantley who can make secondaries look silly thanks to the mismatches created by the speedy Florida receivers. Even with a little mix of I-formation along with the spread, the offense will still blow up for around 450 yards per game with big play after big play.
What to watch for on defense: The tackles. As is, the combination of Lawrence Marsh, Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard and Terron Sanders might form the best group of tackles in college football. The scary part? They're probably not the most talented defensive linemen on the team. Ronald Powell might be the nation's top prospect, and he'll flourish on the end, but his 2010 classmates, the huge and talented Leon Orr and Sharrif Floyd, have the ready-made bodies to step into the middle of the line and form a brick wall. The Gators will be devastating up the gut, and that will allow everything to work on the outside.
Fun Stat: Scoring: Florida 502 – Opponents 174

3. Georgia
- 2010 Georgia Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Why Georgia Should Be No. 1: Don't be fooled by last year's slide. The loss of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, along with a laughable array of injuries, kept Georgia from being Georgia, but this year's team should be back to form thanks to a deep offensive line that will be among the best in the country (if everyone stays healthy), a phenomenal linebacking corps, a strong backfield, and a future NFL star in WR A.J. Green. Throw in the best kicking game in college football, and shhhhhh … here's your sleeper for the national title.
Why Georgia Isn't No. 1: Aaron Murray. The Georgia quarterback situation wasn't exactly settled this offseason with Murray the best of a mediocre lot. Murray has the tools and he has the talent, but he has to prove he can navigate his way through the SEC wars. On the other side, unlike last year, the defense has to play up to its talent and athleticism.
Key to the Season:: Turnover margin. Georgia, with enough talent and speed to hang around with anyone in the SEC, forced two fumbles and picked off ten passes, while the offense gave it away 28 times. Alright, so takeaways aren't necessarily indicative of success (Florida and Cincinnati only recovered three fumbles and Alabama came up with seven), but the knucklehead streak when it came to penalties didn't help. The Bulldogs were flagged 105 times; only five teams got hit with more penalties.
Relative Strength: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The health of the offensive line. There were a slew of injury problems throughout the line last year, highlighted by a second knee injury to OT Trinton Sturdivant, and there was plenty of scrambling. The starting combination was rarely the same with the right starting five not set until halfway through the year. Even with all the drama, the production was still solid. Now, with talent, depth, and plenty of experience, the line might be the best in America if everyone stays healthy and the skill players will get plenty of time to work.
What to watch for on defense: The 3-4. Grantham will install a pro-style defensive scheme taking pass rushing star Justin Houston off the line and making him into a hybrid. The idea is to put three sides of beef up front, and the Georgia linemen are quick enough to get into the backfield, too. The four linebackers will be turned loose to be disruptive, swarm around the ball, and fly to the quarterback from a variety of angles.
Fun Stat: Fumbles: Georgia 23 (lost 11) – Opponents 18 (lost 2)

2. Ohio State
- 2010 Ohio State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 11-1
Why Ohio State Should Be No. 1: Nine starters return to an offense that should have the Tressel Ball game down to a T. Terrelle Pryor doesn't have to make the next-level jump to Vince Young status for the Buckeye attack to go, but if he can keep the interceptions down and if his line has a more consistent season, the Heisman could be waiting for him. Seven starters are back from the nation's No. 5 defense.
Why Ohio State Isn't No. 1: Are you 100% convinced that Pryor is about to be the transcendent star everyone is waiting for him to become? He has to prove he can keep the interceptions to a minimum, while the offense can't bog down for long stretches like it did last year. The pass rush has to be far better, while the kicking game has to get back up to Ohio State standards if the Buckeyes want to go to Glendale.
Key to the Season:: Running for 100 yards a game. OSU has gone 21-5 over the last two years, and in those five losses the running game only went over 88 yards once. The Buckeyes are 20-0 over the last two seasons when rushing for 125 yards or more, while rushing for 71 against USC and 61 against Penn State in the 2008 losses and 88 against USC and 66 against Purdue in 2009.
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: Terrelle Pryor's consistency. When he was on, he was one of the most dangerous playmakers in America. The brilliant day against Oregon in the Rose Bowl brought the higher profile, but before that he was terrific against Iowa and Indiana. However, he also went 5-of-13 against Wisconsin and 8-of-17 against Penn State. OSU can win the Big Ten title without Pryor being ultra-sharp all the time (it did it last year), but it can't win the national championship unless he he's on each and every week. The team can win because of him, and now he has to do it more.
What to watch for on defense: The young prospects. The defense was a rock against the run throughout last year failing to allow more than 186 yards in a game (and those came in the season opener against Navy), while the secondary came up with a strong year. The D will be strong again, but the difference between being great and national title-good could be the play of some of the top young prospects. Sophomore John Simon is a great-looking tackle who should shine with a bigger role, while redshirt freshman linebacker Dorian Bell, sophomore safety Orhian Johnson, and junior Nathan Williams are just a few of the new faces to the mix who should quickly become stars.
Fun Stat: Fumbles lost vs. Purdue and Illinois: 5 – Fumbles lost in the other 11 games: 2

1. Alabama
- 2010 Alabama Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Why Alabama Is No. 1: The offense will be unstoppable. Whether it's Heisman-winner Mark Ingram carrying the attack, or super-sub Trent Richardson, the running game will be dominant with NFL backs working behind a strong offensive line that should be every bit as good as it was last year. QB Greg McElroy has a year of starting experience under his belt, and more importantly he has Julio Jones and an explosive receiving corps to throw to. The defense might lose everyone of note, but there's a ton of talent waiting to shine.
Why Alabama Shouldn't Be No. 1: Alabama is No. 1 almost by default. No one else appears worthy of the preseason honor, and while the Tide offense is national title-good, the defense has a ton of work to do. Alabama can replace the star talent with several future pros, but to have everything come together right away and to get the same production out of such an inexperienced group is a stretch. With a few green kickers about to feel the squeeze of the expectations of another national title, there are just enough concerns to argue that Bama should be in the 3-to-5 range in the preseason rankings.
Key to the Season:: Tight special teams. It's not like Bama played a ton of close games last year, but it needed four Leigh Tiffin field goals and a huge blocked kick from Terrence Cody to beat Tennessee. This year, there should be a few more tight ones and the kicking game needs to be solid. That could be a problem with true freshmen Cade Foster handling the placekicking and Jay Williams taking over the punting duties. Throw in that teams were 3-for-3 on converting onside attempts, averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return, and 9.2 yards per punt return, and there's work to be done.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Weakness: Defensive Line
What to watch for on offense: A bit more from the passing game. While it's not like Alabama will be turning into Hawaii, there will be more balance thanks to a loaded receiving corps and the experience of QB Greg McElroy. The bread will still be buttered with Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and a punishing and explosive ground game, but the passing attack should average more than 200 yards per game mainly because the veteran targets, as well as the backs, should do even more cranking out yards after the catch. The veteran receivers are all great downfield blockers, while McElroy should do a better job of taking advantage of the mismatches.
What to watch for on defense: Not that much of a drop-off. This isn't going to be the nation's second-best defense again, but it's not going to be all that far off. Rolando McClain came up with a huge year at middle linebacker, the secondary was drum-tight, and Terrence Cody was the definition of an anchor in the middle, but it's a group effort for the Alabama defense. It seemed like someone different was making a big play at a key moment, and it should be more of the same this year with more speed, athleticism, and upside than anyone in America. There might not be that much experience returning, but the D is littered with four and five-star talents with prototype skills and NFL money waiting, almost literally, on the other side of the fence.
Fun Stat: Fourth Quarter Scoring: Alabama 121 – Opponents 32

2010 CFN Preseason Rankings
- 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
- 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120
- CFN Preseason Rankings 2009 | 2008 | 2007