2012 Ridiculously Early Rankings

Last week I gave you my top five teams for 2012: USC, LSU, Georgia, Oregon and Alabama. It's time to take a look at which teams should finish out the 2012 season in the top ten. Remember, this is how I see them finishing the season, not where I think they'll be ranked preseason.

6- Oklahoma

Oklahoma finished 10-3 and considering all the key losses they had—including the tragic death of teammate Austin Box—they played admirably in 2011. Quarterback Landry Jones will return and running back Dominique Whaley should be completely rehabilitated from his ankle injury. They have some key skill positions to fill in but overall, they look like a top ten team.

At this time, the Big 12 conference schedules are not finalized due to TCU's first year in the conference and West Virginia's on-going legal hurdles in its exit from the Big East and into the Big 12. The Sooners do have a date with Texas on October 6 and a home game against Notre Dame on October 27.

7- West Virginia

It's very difficult to gauge just how well West Virginia will do in its first year (presumably) in the Big 12 without a schedule to peruse, but I'm putting them in a top ten projection for several reasons. First, head coach Dana Holgorsen knows the Big 12—he was an offensive coordinator at both Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Second, any team that puts up 70 points on Clemson—in a BCS Bowl, no less—deserves a lot of love.

Quarterback Geno Smith is back, as well as his top receivers and leading rusher Dustin Garrison, so there is no reason to believe the Mountaineers can't cause havoc in the Big 12. But the schedule could be the deciding factor in their success since their road games are a long way from Morgantown, West Virginia. Their first three games are hosting Marshall, at Florida State and at Landover, Maryland with James Madison.

8- Michigan

Michigan's season could be well-defined in September—the Wolverines open up 2012 on the road at Arlington, Texas for a date with defending BCS Champions Alabama and then host Air Force and UMass before traveling to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame. UMass isn't an FCS team anymore—the Minutemen are now an FBS team as a MAC member and will be bowl eligible starting next year. The Wolverines get Michigan State and Iowa at home but travel to Nebraska and Ohio State.

How the Wolverines do will pretty much rest on the shoulders of quarterback Denard Robinson. Robinson can frustrate defenders with his outstanding running ability, but he can also frustrate offensive coordinator Al Borges when he "arm punts" his passes. Look for improvement in accuracy from Robinson as well as a stingier defensive performance.

9- South Carolina

South Carolina comes off a historic 11-2 season to begin their 2012 campaign—just think what "could have been" if running back Marcus Lattimore hadn't suffered a season-ending injury. South Carolina is flirting with greatness and while it's interesting to follow, we want more.

This year could be their year in an SEC division that has been weak the last two years. Georgia has made a push by playing in the SEC Championship, but the biggest problem for the Gamecocks has been the West—their two losses were to Auburn and Arkansas. The good news is that South Carolina avoids Alabama. The bad news is that South Carolina gets Missouri, LSU (at Tiger Stadium) and Arkansas. It's a championship schedule—let's see if they deliver.

10- Kansas State

The Wildcats didn't have any "superstars" on their team last year although quarterback Collin Klein (over 3,000 yards in passing and rushing) was on a few Heisman candidate lists. Bryce Brown was a promising running back but he had sparse carries and wasn't on the team by midseason. So how did the team end up with a 10-3 record when many pundits had them finishing toward the bottom of the Big 12?

Head coach Bill Snyder knows how to evaluate and develop talent better than most coaches. Every play the offense or defense runs is executed with precision—the Wildcats were one of the least penalized teams in the country. There are no diva personalities allowed—it's all about team work. The blue-collar work ethic and sound fundamentals make Kansas State a top 10 team. If the offense is more productive this year, Kansas State could be a real player.

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