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It's USC and ...

In inaugural '05 rankings, Ohio State begins at No. 2

Posted: Tuesday August 30, 2005 12:05PM; Updated: Tuesday August 30, 2005 2:04PM
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Ever since Auburn's Orange Bowl exclusion last season, much has been made of whether preseason polls place an unfair "handicap" on teams -- such as the Tigers -- who start low but wind up contending for the national title.

Since I started doing the Power Rankings three years ago, however, I have always made a point once the season starts of evaluating teams as much as possible on their actual play, not on preseason expectations. My philosophy won't change now that these rankings serve as my ballot in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. This first edition is identical to the what I gave the AP folks in mid-August, but take it for what it's worth: a mostly-for-fun evaluation of who I think are the 25 most "powerful" teams in the country headed into the season. Once they start playing the games, anything can and will happen.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 --
USC Trojans (13-0 in 2004)
The Trojans' offense will be one of the best the college game has ever seen. Their defense will be a work in progress. Therefore, expect some 45-35 victories early in the season before USC's annual, midseason kick into overdrive.
First game: Saturday at Hawaii.
2 -- No more 16-13 wins for the Buckeyes. For one, they can't afford close calls without clutch kicker Mike Nugent around; secondly, such little offense would be a waste of Ted Ginn Jr.'s abilities. Besides, OSU's veteran defense might not give up 13 points.
First game: Saturday vs. Miami of Ohio.
3 -- I'll admit it: I don't have much faith in the Longhorns to actually live up to this billing. On paper, it's hard not to like a team that returns Vince Young and 15 other starters, but you also can't understate the loss of Derrick Johnson.
First game: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.
4 -- Ron Zook will always hold a notorious spot in Gators lore, but fans should thank him for at least one thing: He recruited nearly all the key components of a squad that Urban Meyer will have contending for the national title within two years.
First game: Saturday vs. Wyoming.
5 -- Erik Ainge? Rick Clausen? Does it really matter? When you have as deep and talented a front seven as the Vols do, you can expect Phillip Fulmer to play it close to the vest on offense and hand off to Gerald Riggs Jr. an awful lot.
First game: Saturday vs. UAB.
6 -- You know the history: Rank Virginia Tech high in the preseason and the Hokies inevitably choke. Take them lightly and they'll sneak up and reach the Sugar Bowl. Can Marcus Vick help this seemingly loaded squad break the cycle?
First game: Sunday at N.C. State.
7 -- Last year was disappointing, yet considering the injuries they endured, it's impressive the 'Canes even won nine games. Many of the same questions linger, but here's guessing both their running game and run defense will improve mightily.
First game: Monday at Florida State.
8 -- The Wolverines have all the weapons you'd want on offense, from solid QB Chad Henne, to workhorse RB Mike Hart, to game-breaking WR Steve Breaston. Now let's see if UM's oft-maligned defense can live up to its end of the bargain.
First game: Saturday vs. Northern Illinois.
9 -- After three straight seasons of finishing in the top 10, the Hawkeyes finally start there thanks to QB Drew Tate and LBs Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge. The new D-line will need to develop quickly, however, for Iowa to stay among the elite.
First game: Saturday vs. Ball State.
10 -- You can already see it coming. QB Paul Thompson gets the starting nod for now, but, after the Sooners struggle early with a young O-line and receiving corps, he becomes the scapegoat and Rhett Bomar rides to the rescue.
First game: Saturday vs. TCU.
11 -- On pure talent alone, this team would rank in the top five, but RB Alley Broussard's season-ending injury wasn't a good sign. And, no disrespect to new coordinator Bo Pelini, but something tells me LSU's defense won't be as dominant without its mastermind.
First game: Saturday vs. North Texas.
12 -- With Brian Brohm at the helm, Bobby Petrino's offense will light up more scoreboards, but those who think the Cards will cruise through another season either aren't giving the Big East enough credit, or are giving C-USA too much credit.
First game: Sunday at Kentucky.

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