This isn't my first attempt at figuring out some preseason college football rankings, but with more clarity on recruiting class rankings after National Signing Day, it's time to revamp the rankings.
The guiding question here: "Who would beat whom on a neutral field?" As always, you are welcome — nay, encouraged — to call me an idiot in the comments.
Previously: First Preseason Rankings | 25-21
Florida has to hope a change at the top produces different results up and down the roster. Urban Meyer's final season in Gainesville was marked by inconsistency and offensive ineptitude; Will Muschamp's fiery personality might help rectify the former, while the hope is that new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis can do the latter. Weis will have a healthy John Brantley and Jeff Demps to work with, and a slew of talented if unproven skill position players, but he may also have a quarterback controversy (or two) on his hands if Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett play well early on. The Gators' defense is young, but loses little more than Will Hill and A.J. Jones, and should be reinvigorated by Muschamp's attacking style.
Pros: Renovated offense and defense may be enough to make Florida the SEC East champions; talent all over the roster will be expected to contribute.
Cons: Florida has Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State on the schedule from the West in a year when both the Tide and Tigers should be national title contenders.
Aaron Murray's freshman season (3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns) was one of the most impressive by a fresh-out-of-high-school passer in college football history. If Murray can clean up turnover issues that dogged him (three interceptions against Florida, two against UCF), Georgia may have one of the nation's five best passers in 2011. The questions lie elsewhere: can the vaunted "Dream Team" built around Isaiah Crowell by Mark Richt's fantastic recruiting effort be a force early on? Will a defense that gave up 30+ points in four of its last six games congeal? And can Georgia even approximate A.J. Green's production at wideout?
Pros: Murray and Crowell should give the Bulldogs an impressive backfield; youth movement could spark resurgence in the SEC East.
Cons: Secondary was flammable and might stay that way without immediate upgrades in pass rush.
The Cornhuskers lose NFL talent in Prince Amukamara, but Jared Crick's return means that the Huskers' pass rush should be just fine. And as for questions about Taylor Martinez' ability to play in the Big Ten: Denard Robinson did a decent job of befuddling Big Ten defenses in 2010, didn't he? Better to worry about whether the running game will be at full speed after losing Roy Helu Jr. to the NFL.
Pros: Defense should not be a concern.
Cons: Plodding offense needs Martinez to develop as a passer to compete for Big Ten title; 2010 flameout could carry over to poison chemistry of the combustible Pelini brothers.
17. Virginia Tech
Without Tyrod Taylor, the Houdini acts the Hokies could once pull might be harder, and with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans also headed to the NFL, Virginia Tech will be putting together a rather green offense in 2011. But if any coach can make do with that sort of attack and a stout defense, it's Frank Beamer, and the Hokies appear to be no worse than the second-best team in a shallow ACC in 2011. Could we see a VT-Florida State rematch for the ACC title this year?
Pros: David Wilson should provide frequent big plays on offense; defense full of no-names returns much of the core that performed well against all but the best teams on the Hokies' schedule in 2010.
Cons: Limitations in recruiting leave Virginia Tech with ingredients that tend to pale in comparison to the players Florida State and Miami can bring to campus.
16. Michigan State
The Spartans' fantastic 2010 season may have been more of a mirage than Sparty fans would like to admit: after a 7-0 start, Michigan State was shellacked at Iowa and against Alabama, and struggled with mediocre Penn State and Purdue teams. This matters because Michigan State returns its offensive stars from 2010 with quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Edwin Baker, and has already seen them falter in big games, while its 2011 defense will miss linebacker Greg Jones dearly. Other teams improved far more than the Spartans did through recruiting, too. Michigan State may be very good, but after a 2010 that verged on great, it might feel like a slide.
Pros: Cousins and Baker should provide stability; Mark Dantonio's no slouch.
Cons: Spartans may have peaked against weak 2010 slate, and a brutal schedule sends Spartans to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Nebraska in the first year of the Big Ten (B1G?) as a 12-team conference. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell has departed for Miami of Ohio.