Monday, January 16, 2012

Wrapping Up

Well, it's been a week since the title game and I figured it was finally time to swing back by here and start the off-season process. We're only three weeks from signing day, so we need to officially cap this year off with a final top-25 and start some way-too-early looks ahead to next season.

Top-25 Here's the final FTS rankings for 2011. I went with 'Bama at number one, unchallenged, after their BCS Title game win. There performance was just dominant. It helped that Jordan Jefferson just looked confused and frustrated all night long, but no one can argue the Tide's near perfection on the defensive side of the ball. LSU drops to number two, staying ahead of Oklahoma State who needed a Stanford combo of poor decision making/bad kicking to win in OT. If you compare the resumes, there's nothing to discuss. Period. The Cowboys lost to Iowa State; LSU lost to Alabama. The Cowboys beat Oklahoma; LSU beat Alabama. The rematch makes the BCS math a little trickier. I the computers were still crunching numbers, Alabama and LSU would be one-two, but by a larger margin than before thanks to the rematch, 'Bama would get a huge boost for beating the number one team, who already got a boost from beating Alabama. If they played again, thanks to that bump, I'd gamble they'd stay one-two, as the numbers on who they've beaten would be enough to absorb the extra loss since it was still a loss to one of those two teams. Deep, huh?

Next up is the PAC-12 knot. It's basically a three-way tie, with Oregon taking the higher spot for that dominant Rose Bowl win. Stanford choked in their bowl, but at least they got to play in one, unlike USC. Arkansas gets the next spot, and you could argue for them be higher, busting up the west-coast three way ahead of them. Boise State gets a very Boise-like ranking at eight, while Wisconsin and South Carolina round out the top-10.

Kansas State is the second highest ranked Big-12 team, coming in at 12, right behind a very solid Michigan State. Baylor and their traveling laser show end up in the top-15. Oklahoma sits at 15. I know the Sooners destroyed K-State, but this isn't the same OU team. You can always just watch the malaise set-in over the Sooners over the second half of almost every season. One regular season loss and they just kind of curl up.

Beyond that, it's 'throw-it-up-and-see-what-sticks' situation. West Virginia gets a bump thanks to the 70-points they dropped on Clemson. Conference foes Clemson and VA Tech get coupled at 20. and 21. and three little guys finish out the top-25: BYU, Cincy, and No. Ill. The Bearcats could arguable be higher, but that blowout loss to Tennessee earlier just looks ugly now and Vanderbilt isn't a stringent enough cleanser to take that stain away.

Looking Ahead Let's get right back into it, shall we? Even when you look at who left early, there's not a lot of drop of for LSU and Alabama. But, we saw this with 'Bama after '09 and Arkansas will have a lot to say in the SEC Western division next season. I have a sneaking suspicion that we will see the end of the SEC's string of national titles, unless an overrated Georgia team with an inflated record wins the SEC CG and the BCS CG - which trust me, as a Georgia fan, I can tell you, will NOT happen. So, who replaces them in the void? A perennial contender? Maybe. But my money's out west. No one survives the SEC unbeaten, USC and Oklahoma play for the national title, highest rated SEC team ends up number two. Here's an early top-12 for 2012.
  1. USC
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Arkansas
  5. LSU
  6. Oregon
  7. TCU
  8. West Virginia
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Georgia
  11. Virginia Tech
  12. South Carolina
 Whoever emerges from the SEC East will be served up in Atlanta to the West champ - much like UGA-LSU this season. The Dawgs will have a great defense and a VERY EASY schedule, but could wrap their season up with two losses again (SEC CG and a bowl). South Carolina will again have a good season and I see them finishing strongly with wins over Clemson and in a bowl. Wisconsin loses Wilson, but they still have Ball so they could very easily get to a third Rose Bowl. West Virginia seems a little high, but we've seen what happens when Smith clicks in Holgo's air raid and there won't be all the off-season drama in Morgantown. I see a much more focused 'Neers squad. Virginia Tech? Why not.

While we're at it, let's take a look at some key players who could be headed to NYC at season's end.
  1. Montee Ball
  2. Matt Barkley
  3. Tyler Wilson
  4. Braxton Miller
  5. Marcus Lattimore
  6. Kenjon Barner/De'anthony Thomas
  7. Denard Robinson
  8. Geno Smith
  9. Landry Jones
  10. Eddie Lacy

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