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I didnt take the Ohio State out, its not there

Top 25 teams <!--deck--><!--/deck-->

<storytext> </storytext> <!--byline-->By Dave Dye / The Detroit News<!--/byline-->

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</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <!--START COPY--> TEXAS

1. Texas has won 10 or 11 games each of the last three years, but the fans are running out of patience with Coach Mack Brown’s big-game woes. The biggest nemesis has been arch-rival Oklahoma, which has won four straight against Texas. The Longhorns must replace their receiving corps, including Lions first-round pick Roy Williams, so they’ll turn to the athleticism of sophomore quarterback Vince Young and Cedric Benson’s power running.


2. Matt Leinart has a chance to give the Trojans two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in three years, but he will be relying on a rebuilt offensive line. USC has only 10 returning starters, but Coach Pete Carroll’s last two recruiting classes have been arguably the best in the nation. The Trojans are anxiously waiting to find out the status of receiver Mike Williams, who petitioned the NCAA to have his eligibility restored.


3. The Bulldogs are a fashionable pick this year, and why not? They play LSU, which they lost to twice last season, at home. They have their nucleus returning (17 starters), including quarterback David Greene and defensive end David Pollack. They’re 24-4 the last two years under Coach Mark Richt, so they’ve been knocking on the door with consecutive appearances in the Southeastern Conference championship game and two bowl victories.


4. The Sooners have been the best team in the decade, going 13-0, 11-2, 12-2 and 12-2. But they must bounce back from losing their final two games last season to blow an opportunity to win another national title. Quarterback Jason White, the returning Heisman Trophy winner and a rare sixth-year senior, is one of 10 starters returning on offense. The Sooners will be tested during a five-week stretch that includes Texas in Dallas and games at Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.


5. The Hurricanes keep replacing NFL draft picks with more potential NFL draft picks, year after year, winning 11 or 12 games each of the last four seasons. The defense lost four first-round picks and returns only four starters. Quarterback Brock Berlin must improve significantly on his 12-touchdowns-to-17-interceptions ratio. Miami makes quite a debut in the Atlantic Coast Conference, playing host to Florida State in prime time on Labor Day.


6. The opener against Miami is crucial. FSU has lost five times in the last four years (twice last season) to the hated Hurricanes. Chris Rix returns as the starting quarterback for the fourth straight year. He has been erratic, but has his entire offensive line intact and some playmakers around him with the running-back duo of Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker.


7. Decisions by receiver Braylon Edwards and cornerback Marlin Jackson to return for their senior year put the Wolverines in the favorite’s role in the Big Ten. A run at the national title is also a possibility with games at Ohio State, Notre Dame and Purdue looming as the biggest obstacles. The defense could dominate if replacements up front generate a consistent pass rush. How far the Wolverines go comes down to how fast inexperienced quarterback Matt Gutierrez matures.


8. Schedule will make it tough for the Tigers to repeat as national champions, not to mention as SEC champs. The conference road games include Georgia, Florida and Auburn. Quarterback Matt Mauck, 25, chose not to return for his final year of eligibility, but Coach Nick Saban only needs a replacement that doesn’t make mistakes. Saban’s stifling defense should keep this team in contention again.


9.This is primarily a schedule pick. The Mountaineers should thrive in the watered-down Big East. Coach Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers came on strong to win their final seven regular-season games. They return eight starters on both sides, including quarterback Rasheed Marshall.


10. Four of the Golden Bears’ six losses last season were by seven points or fewer. They scored 50 points in three of their final five games. They also upset Southern Cal in triple overtime earlier in the season. Coach Jeff Tedford enters his third season with 16 returning starters. He needs to improve the defense and depth, but they’ve got a powerful offense, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They’ll have to overcome an early schedule that puts them on the road for four of the first five.


11. The pressure is mounting on Coach Ron Zook, who was 8-5 in his first two seasons after replacing Steve Spurrier. There’s hope of turning things around now because of the maturity Chris Leak showed as a freshman quarterback. Opponents are likely to come out passing against a secondary that lost all four starters.

12. More than likely, the Buckeyes are a year away from challenging for another national title. They have to break in a new quarterback, third-year sophomore Justin Zwick, while replacing 14 NFL draft picks. The running game needs to rebound with a revamped offensive line. Still, if the Buckeyes are to be a contender, it will be because of the defense, led by linebacker A.J. Hawk.


13. The Tigers should be 5-0 when the season really starts with a tough four-game stretch (at Texas, vs. Oklahoma State, at Nebraska, vs. Kansas State). Quarterback Brad Smith isn’t a great passer yet, but his athleticism makes this a difficult offense to defend. The Tigers return nine defensive starters. Former Toledo Coach Gary Pinkel has rebuilt this program in three years.


14. Rocky Top fans expect more than the consecutive Peach Bowl of the last two seasons. Seven of the Volunteers’ games are at home, including Florida and Auburn. Back-to-back trips to Georgia and Mississippi in October will help determine this team’s bowl destination. The question is whether two transfers can be the answer to replacing quarterback Casey Clausen — Rick Clausen, Casey’s brother, from LSU; and C.J. Leak, Chris’ brother, from Wake Forest.


15. Expectations are rising after a four-game winning streak to end the season included an upset of Florida State and a Peach Bowl victory over Tennessee. That relieved some of the pressure on Coach Tommy Bowden. The Tigers must replace both starting tackles on offense and defense. This is the third year as a starter for junior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.


16. Coach Glen Mason is confident about his team’s chances this season. A prolific running game — with tailbacks Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney and four returning offensive-line starters, including standout center Greg Eslinger — will give sophomore Bryan Cupito a chance to settle in at quarterback. The Gophers don’t play Ohio State or Purdue, but they have games at Michigan and Wisconsin. Minnesota’s last Big Ten title was a three-way tie with Indiana and Purdue in 1967.


17. The Tigers were a big disappointment last season. Lower expectations, combined with a senior-laden team, might help them arrive a year later than expected. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Ronnie Brown form one of the top running-back duos in the nation. Quarterback Jason Campbell (10 touchdown passes, eight interceptions) needs to be more productive. The defense has to replace five starters in the front seven.


18. Iowa is 21-5 the last two years, but the defense will have to carry the offense early while the Hawkeyes break in sophomore quarterback Drew Tate. The defense features one of the best linebacker corps around with Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway. The three teams that defeated the Hawkeyes last season — Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue — all play at Iowa City.


19. The Boilermakers will look more like the team from Joe Tiller’s earlier years at Purdue, relying on quarterback Kyle Orton’s passing. Purdue, which lost eight defensive starters, has a good schedule to contend for the conference championship because Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State come to West Lafayette. The question is how fast can defensive coordinator Brock Spack rebuild the defense?


20. The Wildcats were the laughingstock of college football, winning once in a 38-game stretch in the 1980s. Since Coach Bill Snyder took over, they are 127-55-1 in 15 years. The new quarterback is expected to be sophomore Dylan Meier, replacing Ell Roberson. Darren Sproles, a 5-foot-7 running back, is a game-breaker who finished fifth in the Heisman voting last season.


21. A major change in philosophy with former Oakland Raiders Coach Bill Callahan bringing the West Coast offense to replace decades of the option in Lincoln. Projected quarterback Joe Dailey, a sophomore, attempted 15 passes in the first quarter of the spring game. The Cornhuskers went months without throwing 15 passes under Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich, didn’t they?


22. Here’s a non-BCS team — from underrated Conference USA — that has a legitimate chance for a perfect season. The Tigers don’t play Texas Christian, and they get Louisville and Southern Mississippi at home. The Tigers have one of the more aggressive defensive philosophies around, and they return running back DeAngelo Williams (from a late-season knee injury) and quarterback Danny Wimprine.


23. Former Bowling Green Coach Urban Meyer has a team that is also capable of an unbeaten season. Quarterback Alex Smith, a nephew of Michigan State Coach John L. Smith, was intercepted only three times in 266 passes. Meyer turned the 5-6 team that he had inherited into a 10-2 Mountain West champion last season. The Utes quickly became a high-scoring spread offense, and the defense posted shutouts in the final two games.


24. The addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference makes it tough on the Terrapins, who have won at least 10 games in each of Coach Ralph Friedgen’s three years. They have 13 starters to replace between the offense and defense. More than likely, the Terps will take a small step back this season while setting up another nice run next year.


25. The entire offensive and defensive lines return, making the Cavaliers a threat if 5-foot-10 junior Marques Hagans becomes a reliable passer as quarterback Matt Schaub’s replacement. Tailbacks Wali Lundy (power) and Alvin Pearman (speed) are a good complement to each other, although Lundy has been injury-prone.