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It's USC and ... (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday August 30, 2005 12:05PM; Updated: Tuesday August 30, 2005 2:04PM
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NCAA Football Power Rankings (part II)
Rank LW Team
13 -- The defense will be dominant -- juco CB David Irons will even ease the loss of star Carlos Rogers -- but it will be interesting to see how coordinator Al Borges reworks an offense whose strength is no longer its runners, but rather its receivers.
First game: Saturday vs. Georgia Tech.
14 -- The Dawgs, 34-6 the past three years, feel they're being overlooked, but it's hard to imagine their defense won't slip a little after losing renowned coordinator Brian VanGorder and stars David Pollack, Thomas Davis and Odell Thurman.
First game: Saturday vs. Boise State.
15 -- The Broncos haven't fared well against SEC foes in the past (losing 32-13 at South Carolina in 2001 and 41-14 at Arkansas in '02), but the talent level in the program has risen considerably. Enough to beat Georgia? We'll find out.
Next game: Saturday at Georgia.
16 -- There's no question this team has the pieces for a special season, but it's also a squad whose once-projected starting tailback is in jail on a murder charge. ASU's biggest question mark is whether the Loren Wade fallout will carry over onto the field.
First game: Thursday vs. Temple.
17 -- Raise your hand if you, like me, are sick of hearing about Purdue's "lucky" schedule. The Boilermakers beat both Ohio State and Michigan during their 2000 Rose Bowl season -- and still lost four games. This won't be a cakewalk.
First game: Sept. 10 vs. Akron.
18 -- Just how good is RB Marshawn Lynch? Jeff Tedford has instituted special media polices for the guy, and he hasn't even started a game. Offense certainly won't be a problem for the reloaded Bears. Defense? That could be another story.
First game: Saturday vs. Sacramento State.
19 -- The Bulldogs have not one, not two, but three tailbacks (Bryson Sumlin, Wendell Mathis and Dwayne Wright) who have gained at least 995 yards in a season. The coaches can't even flip a coin to decide who should get the ball.
First game: Sept. 10 vs. Weber State.
20 -- QB Cody Hodges will become the third straight fifth-year senior to take the reins of Mike Leach's powerful offense. He'll have no shortage of veteran receivers (Jarrett Hicks, Cody Fuller, Joel Filani) at his disposal.
First game: Sept. 10 vs. Florida International.
21 -- It appears Drew Weatherford has won the starting QB job by default (Xavier Lee went 2-of-17 in a scrimmage and has been hampered by injuries). Look for the 'Noles to hand off to Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker early and often.
First game: Monday vs. Miami.
22 -- The expectations surrounding Dennis Franchione's third team seem awfully lofty, considering they lost four of their last five games a year ago. Reggie McNeal is poised for a huge year, but he's going to need some help from the defense.
First game: Saturday at Clemson.
23 -- Poor Kansas State. The Wildcats basically handed over Omar Jacobs to then Falcons coach Urban Meyer when the QB was a recruit. Four years later, BGSU is a top 25 team almost entirely because of Jacobs, while K-State sure could use him.
First game: Saturday at Wisconsin.
24 -- The atmosphere at Heinz Field should be electric for Dave Wannstedt's debut, a prime-time showdown with Charlie Weis and Notre Dame. Pitt alums have been craving a return to the glory days; it should feel that way for at least a night.
First game: Saturday vs. Notre Dame.
25 -- This one's a vote for the offensive coordinator. Oregon has been an enigma the past couple of years. There's little question the Ducks have the talent, starting with QB Kellen Clemens. Here's guessing Gary Crowton's spread attack will better utilize it.
First game: Thursday at Houston.

On the cusp: Virginia, Minnesota, Wyoming, Alabama, Boston College.

Stewart Mandel's Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. They will appear each Tuesday throughout the season.