The 2010 college football season ended last night with Auburn beating Oregon for the national championship it is never too early to start looking ahead to the 2011 contenders. These extremely early rankings are fun to debate and usually futile when predicting the actual final rankings. Take the 2010 season, Auburn was ranked 22nd and Oregon ranked 11th in the preseason coaches poll. The preseason number one and two were Alabama and Ohio State and they both ended the season on a high note, but going wire-to-wire is very difficult.
Onto the extremely premature college football 2011 top 10, and trust most will be incorrect come next year at this time, but time to carry on with the proceedings.
Phil Steele was a year too early by predicting the Sooners as the top team in 2010, but with their returning talent they should be the top team coming into the 2011 season. They return quarterback Landry Jones who will be on everyone's 2011 Heisman Trophy list, plus the Sooners return their best receiver in Ryan Broles who passed up the NFL Draft for a shot at a BCS title and will be the favorite for the Biletnikoff Award. While running back DeMarco Murray is a senior and is going to the NFL, however Oklahoma should be returning four of their five starting offensive lineman. Also, the Sooners earned positive big game experience by ending the school's five game BCS game losing streak by defeated Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.
2. Oregon Ducks
Oregon returns running back LaMichael James who turned down the NFL for another chance to win the Heiman trophy. They also return quarterback Darron Thomas to guide the ultra-fast Oregon offense. The Ducks do lose their top two receivers in Jeff Maehl who was the team's only 1,000 yard receiver and D.J Davis. Oregon does lose three starting offensive lineman and they lose six starting defenders. Oregon will benefit from only four home games and they have a blockbuster match-up against LSU which will be played at Cowboys Stadium.
3. LSU Tigers
LSU's offense reared their head in a blowout over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, and that performance put LSU in the discussion for the BCS championship: the Tigers return 10 starters on offense which could allow them to keep their offense humming in 2011. However on defense thyey will lose Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis, Terrence Toliver, Lazarius Levingston, Kevin Shepard and Drake Nevis. If the defense holds up then LSU could be very dangerous.
4. Texas A&M Aggies
The hype for the Aggies might be a little early with how they finished down the stretch, but the Texas A&M Wreckin' Crew defense looks to be back for Texas A&M as they stepped up their defensive play toward the end of the season, well except for the Cotton Bowl loss. The defense should be just as potent in 2011 as they are expected to return nine starters. On offense the Aggies will return 10 starters and none other are bigger then quarterback Ryan Tannehill who went 5-1 after he took over the starting job. With a more experienced offensive line, the Aggie offense has the chance to be one of the best in the Big 12.
The Tide started the 2010 as the favorite, but their youth caught up to them and they stumbled against South Carolina, LSU and Auburn. Their dominating win over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl could be a preview for what is to come in the 2011 season for the Tide. Alabama do lose 2009 Heisman Trophy winner running back Mark Ingram and wide receiver Julio Jones to the NFL. However, running back Trent Richardson will be back in school and is considered as good or even better then Ingram by some. Losing quarterback Greg McElroy will hurt and the replacement will come down between AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims. Whoever the new quarterback will be will be well protected with four lineman return and having Trent Richardson to hand the ball off to help out the newbie under center.
6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys surprised everyone in 2010 as they were the most inexperienced team in the country, but came within a win against rival Oklahoma to go to their first Big 12 title game. As for 2011 the Cowboys will miss running back Kendall Hunter and offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia, however if wide receiver Justin Blackman and quarterback Brandon Weeden return then the Cowboys will be in the running for the Big 12 title. If the two players do enter the draft then the Cowboys will be nowhere near the top 10 once the 2011 season begins.
7. Boise State Broncos
It is hard to doubt Boise State and putting them in the top 10 is no disrespect to Boise, but putting them in this spot is based on having quarterback Kellen Moore back running the higher powered Bronco offense, plus they get running back Doug Martin back for the 2011 season.. The two biggest losses are wide receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis who combined to catch 142 passes for more than 2,100 yards with 19 touchdowns in 2010.
Others have Stanford in the top five because they have quarterback Andrew Luck returning to Stanford. However, they lost their coach Jim Harbaugh to the 49ers as well three offensive lineman and seven offensive starters over all. Luck is a very good quarterback, but they will need a new coach to come in and keep the intensity and toughness that Harbaugh brought to Stanford. Luck will be one of the Heisman Trophy front-runners for 2011 and will have to take the Stanford team on his back if they want to replicate their success from the 2010 season.
10. Florida State Seminoles
Those who missed the cut:
Ohio State who will be missing Terrelle Pryor and others for the first five game, Michigan State's Capital One Bowl lose to Alabama could be a negative carry over into the 2011 season, Wisconsin replaces their offensive line and efficient quarterback Scott Tolzien, Auburn will have their preseason ranking judged on if Cam Newton returns to schools, and TCU will have a good defense but they lose four year starting quarterback Andy Dalton.