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TallySaint 08-04-2006 01:20 PM

USA Today 2006 Coaches Poll
Updated 8/4/2006 12:31 PM

With the release of the preseason USA TODAY coaches' poll, USA TODAY's Jack Carey gives you an outlook of the Top 25 teams heading into the season.

1. Ohio State (10-2)

Points: 1,487 (28 first-place votes). Final 2005 rank: 4. Outlook: QB Troy Smith, WR-KR Ted Ginn Jr. and RB Antonio Pittman back for Buckeyes, who look like they have best shot at national title since 2002 champs. DT Quinn Pitcock paces relatively inexperienced but talented defense. Early-season trip to Texas probably will tell a lot. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Northern Illinois (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

2. Texas (13-0)

Points: 1,378 (11). Final 2005 rank: 1. Outlook: With QB Vince Young off to NFL, defending champion Longhorns must get some reasonable production from redshirt freshman Colt McCoy and/or true freshman Jevan Snead to make offense go. RBs Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles are back for ground duty, running behind T Justin Blalock and G Kasey Studdard. SS Michael Griffin and DT Frank Okam among defensive mainstays returning. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. North Texas (FSN, noon ET).

3. (tie) Notre Dame (9-3)

Points: 1,348 (9). Final 2005 rank: 11. Outlook: Expectations will be sky high in coach Charlie Weis' second season. Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija should again be one of best passing threats in nation, and RB Darius Walker should shine on ground. Defense should be better with nine starters, including DB Tom Zbikowski, back. Season finale at USC could be Irish's most important game in years. Opens: Sept. 2 at Georgia Tech (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

3. (tie) Southern California (12-1)

Points: 1,348 (1). Final 2005 rank: 2. Outlook: QB John David Booty, coming off back surgery, looks like he'll finally get his shot at running offense and will have WR Dwayne Jarrett to throw to. RB Chauncey Washington might have to carry load in backfield. A rebuilding year, but it still looks like talent is everywhere. Opens: Sept. 2 at Arkansas (ESPN, 8:45 p.m. ET).

5. Oklahoma (8-4)

Points: 1,320 (13). Final 2005 rank: 22. Outlook: Sooners in turmoil with dismissal this week of QB Rhett Bomar, who started the last 11 games last season. That opens door for the return of Paul Thompson, who started 2005 opener before switching to receiver. Adrian Peterson still one of premier running backs in nation. LB Rufus Alexander leads stingy and experienced defense. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. UAB (TBS, 7 p.m. ET).

6. Auburn (9-3)

Points: 1,206 (1). Final 2005 rank: 14. Outlook: Tigers appear poised to make run at SEC honors and maybe more. QB Brandon Cox has developed into solid leader, and RB Kenny Irons is emerging star running behind Gs Ben Grubbs and Tim Duckworth. LB Will Herring and CB David Irons help lead star-laden defense. Sept. 16 test with LSU could be critical. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Washington State (ESPN2, 7:45 p.m. ET).

7. West Virginia (11-1)

Points: 1,202. Final 2005 rank: 6. Outlook: With QB Pat White returning and RB Steve Slaton back to run behind a line paced by C Dan Mozes, Mountaineers' offense shouldn't miss a beat. LB Kevin McLee and SS Eric Wicks mainstays on defense. Schedule looks friendly, and Big East title and maybe national championship hopes could come down to game Nov. 2 at Louisville. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Marshall.

8. Florida (9-3)

Points: 1,054. Final 2005 rank: 16. Outlook: Jury still out on whether coach Urban Meyer's spread offense can be effective against the kind of powerhouse defenses Gators face in SEC. Running game has to be more consistent, and QB Chris Leak will have highly regarded freshman Tim Tebow right behind him on depth chart. Defense should be solid behind LBs Brandon Siler and Earl Everett. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Southern Mississippi.

9. LSU (11-2)

Points: 1,037. Final 2005 rank: 5. Outlook: Only overtime loss to Tennessee kept Tigers from 11-0 regular season, and QB JaMarcus Russell will be back to throw to WR Dwayne Bowe. Defense could be special behind FS LaRon Landry and LB Ali Highsmith. Trips to Auburn, Florida and Tennessee will be key. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.

10. Florida State (8-5)

Points: 874. Final 2005 rank: 23. Outlook: Last season's record for ACC champ looks like aberration, but Seminoles have 20 losses over last five seasons. QB Drew Weatherford's job will be made easier if Seminoles can run with more efficiency and OL is more consistent. LB Buster Davis paces retooled defense. Opens: Sept. 4 at No. 11 Miami (Fla.) (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

11. Miami (Fla.) (9-3)

Points: 839. Final 2005 rank: 18. Outlook: First two years in ACC haven't been up to Miami standards, and coach Larry Coker shook up staff after last season. QB Kyle Wright will have WR Ryan Moore (suspended for first two games) and TE Greg Olsen to work with. RB Tyrone Moss is suspended for opener, but his rate of recovery from knee injury will be key. FS Brandon Meriweather and SS Kenny Phillips pace talented secondary. Opens: Sept. 4 vs. No. 10 Florida State (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

12. California (8-4)

Points: 798. Final 2005 rank: 25. Outlook: Bears might be ready to ascend to Pac-10 throne, although they won't play Southern California until second-to-last game. Marshawn Lynch one of best RBs in nation. QB Nate Longshore returns after breaking ankle in last year's opener, although Joe Ayoob, Steve Levy and Kyle Reed are in mix at that spot. DT Brandon Mebane paces experienced defense that could develop into top-notch unit. Opens: Sept. 2 at No. 23 Tennessee (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET).

13. Louisville (9-3)

Points: 785. Final 2005 rank: 20. Outlook: QB Brian Brohm says knee is OK (he suffered torn ACL late last season), so the Cardinals should continue to be among nation's highest-scoring teams. Standout RB Michael Bush also returns to this experienced lineup. With loss of star DLs Elvis Dumervil and Montavious Stanley and LB Brandon Johnson, defense will be young in spots, but talent is there. Opens: Sept. 3 vs. Kentucky (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

14. Georgia (10-3)

Points: 784. Final 2005 rank: 10. Outlook: Senior QB Joe Tereshinski might be the present, but freshman Matthew Stafford looks like the future for defending SEC champ. Top-notch group of RBs, led by Thomas Brown, probably will have to carry load for while. DE Quentin Moses one to watch on retooled defense. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Western Kentucky.

15. Michigan (7-5)

Points: 778. Final 2005 rank: not ranked. Outlook: After losing five games by seven or fewer points, coach Lloyd Carr wanted his Wolverines to be leaner and better conditioned for the end of close games. QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart and WR/return man Steve Breaston are back to lead offense, but UM needs more consistency from OL. CB Leon Hall and DE LaMarr Woodley help pace defense. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Vanderbilt (ESPN, noon ET).

16. Virginia Tech (11-2)

Points: 591. Final 2005 rank: 7. Outlook: Once QB emerges to replace departed Marcus Vick, Hokies should be able to take advantage of deep group of WRs that includes David Clowney, Josh Morgan and Eddie Royal. LBs Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi lead solid defense. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Northeastern.

17. Iowa (7-5)

Points: 519. Final 2005 rank: not ranked. Outlook: Eyeing move toward top of Big Ten, Hawkeyes should have little difficulty moving the ball behind QB Drew Tate, emerging RB Albert Young and TE Scott Chandler. Defensive front should be mainstay behind DEs Ken Iwebema and Bryan Mattison. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Montana (ESPNU, noon ET).

18. Clemson (8-4)

Points: 493. Final 2005 rank: 21. Outlook: Every loss Tigers had last year was by four or fewer points or in overtime. Run at ACC title starts with defense that features DE Gaines Adams and LB Anthony Waters. RB James Davis could soon be star, and WR Chansi Stuckey is solid. Senior QB Will Proctor steps into starting role. Early trips to Boston College and Florida State will be telling. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Florida Atlantic (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET).

19. Penn State (11-1)

Points: 406. Final 2005 rank: 3. Outlook: World about to find out how much departed QB Michael Robinson meant to defending Big Ten champ. Highly regarded Anthony Morelli steps in. RB Tony Hunt returns with WRs Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood. LB Paul Posluszny, coming off knee injury, and CB Justin King are back to pace defense. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Akron (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET).

20. Oregon (10-2)

Points: 373. Final 2005 rank: 12. Outlook: Ducks close to BCS at-large status last year, and QBs Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf are back to operate behind veteran OL paced by C Enoka Lucas and T Max Unger. Some questions on defense, where standout T Haloti Ngata figures to be sorely missed. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Stanford (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

21. TCU (11-1)

Points: 270. Final 2005 rank: 9. Outlook: Great first year in Mountain West resulted in league title, and Frogs might have been knocking on door of BCS bowl if they hadn't been upset by SMU in second game. This year, they could get there if retooled OL, paced by T Herb Taylor, can open holes for RB Robert Merrill. Defense should be consistently solid behind Es Chase Ortiz and Tommy Blake, who combined for 16 sacks. Opens: Sept. 3 at Baylor (FSN, 5:30 p.m. ET).

22. Nebraska (8-4)

Points: 261. Final 2005 rank: 24. Outlook: Year 2 of Bill Callahan era much more palatable with three consecutive wins to end year. QB Zac Taylor returns after breaking several school passing records. DEs Adam Carriker and Jay Moore lead experienced front seven. Sept. 16 trip to Southern California looms. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Louisiana Tech (FSN, 3:30 p.m. ET).

23. Tennessee (5-6)

Points: 216. Final 2005 rank: not ranked. Outlook: Little mystery as to why Vols suffered losing season. Offense was held to 21 or fewer points seven times. David Cutcliffe returns to Knoxville as offensive coordinator to try to boost production and confidence of QB Erik Ainge. T Justin Harrell and CB Jonathan Wade could spark defense. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. No. 12 California (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET).

24. Alabama (10-2)

Points: 210. Final 2005 rank: 8. Outlook: With departure of Brodie Croyle, transition to new QB probably will be made easier by return of standout RB Kenneth Darby running behind C Antoine Caldwell. Status of WR Tyrone Prothro (broken leg) will be key. Defense lost several top performers but T Jeremy Clark among returnees. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Hawaii.

25. Texas Tech (9-3)

Points: 198. Final 2005 rank: 19. Outlook: Graham Harrell or Chris Todd figures to be next QB in coach Mike Leach's pass-happy attack, which cracked 50-point mark five times last year, although Red Raiders figure to miss RB Taurean Henderson. LB-DE Keyunta Dawson helps lead defense. Program has proved it has staying power and should again make noise in Big 12. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. Southern Methodist.

shackney 09-11-2006 07:47 PM

RE: USA Today 2006 Coaches Poll
Coaches know best...See, it's not just my opinion! Bucks are the best..again...and again!

shackney 09-13-2006 08:43 AM

RE: USA Today 2006 Coaches Poll

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