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January 21, 2009

Rivals.com's pre-spring top 25 for 2009

The 2008 season ended less than two weeks ago, but here is a pre-spring top 25 for the 2009 season, with the early entrants considered.

Rivals.com preseason top 25
1. Florida
The buzz: Quarterback Tim Tebow's return and the return of the entire defensive two-deep means the Gators will head into the season at the top of the polls.
2. Texas
The buzz: Quarterback Colt McCoy will be at the controls of what should be a powerful offense. And the Longhorns should have the best defense in the Big 12, too.
3. Oklahoma
The buzz: Quarterback Sam Bradford, TE Jermaine Gresham, OT Trent Williams and DT Gerald McCoy return, which is good news for coach Bob Stoops. But the Sooners must replace four starters on the offensive line.
4. USC
The buzz: Mark Sanchez's departure causes at least a little bit of concern about the offense. But the defense should be mighty stout again.
5. LSU
The buzz: Brandon LaFell's decision to stay in school is a boost for the offense, and a revamped defensive coaching staff should get better results. The line, especially, must play better.
6. Virginia Tech
The buzz: The Hokies look to be the class of the ACC. As usual, the defense will lead the way. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor must become a better passer.
7. Ohio State
The buzz: The early loss of tailback Chris Wells hurts, and the back seven on defense must be rebuilt. The good news is that quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be going into his second season as the starter.
8. Alabama
The buzz: The Tide need to find a new quarterback and have some work to do on the offensive line. But the defense will be strong again, and there will be better depth across the board.
9. Boise State
The buzz: The Broncos have a legit chance to go unbeaten if they can win at home against Oregon in September. Quarterback Kellen Moore should post big numbers.
10. Oklahoma State
The buzz: The offense will be fine behind quarterback Zac Robinson, tailback Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant. The defense needs work, though, and it's up to new coordinator Bill Young to make that unit a lot better.
11. Georgia Tech
The buzz: It'll be the second year for the Yellow Jackets in coach Paul Johnson's offense, which could mean big numbers. Rebuilding the front four is the No. 1 priority on defense.
12. Ole Miss
The buzz: Quarterback Jevan Snead heads what should be a potent offense. The defense was underrated nationally, and most of the key guys return. If defensive end Greg Hardy can stay healthy and out of the doghouse, he could have a monster senior season.
13. California
The buzz: The Golden Bears could have some issues at linebacker. But tailback Jahvid Best has a legitimate chance to lead the nation in rushing, and the passing attack should be improved as well.
14. Florida State
The buzz: After a few seasons as the weak link, the offensive line actually could be a team strength. Quarterback Christian Ponder needs to improve as a passer, and some playmakers must emerge on defense.
15. Penn State
The buzz: The Nittany Lions will have to rebuild their offensive and defensive lines, their secondary and their receiving corps. At least quarterback Daryll Clark and tailback Evan Royster return, and linebacker Sean Lee is expected back from an injury that cost him the 2008 season.
16. Kansas
The buzz: The Jayhawks look as if they will be the best team in the Big 12 North. Quarterback Todd Reesing and wide receiver Desmond Briscoe should form a potent passing duo. The defense will be fine if three new starting linebackers emerge.
17. Oregon
The buzz: The Ducks lose their best linemen on both sides of the ball and the secondary needs some work. But the offense should again provide a lot of points.
18. Georgia
The buzz: The Bulldogs lost three key players early quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno and cornerback Asher Allen. Still, this is a program with a lot of talent, and the three defections mean the Bulldogs might actually be under the radar a bit this fall.
19. Iowa
The buzz: Star running back Shonn Greene is gone, but the Hawkeyes still will be a run-oriented team, thanks to a solid line. The defense should be fine.
20. TCU
The buzz: The Horned Frogs need to replace more than half of their starting defense, but it has gotten to the point where coordinator Dick Bumpas can plug in a new guy and not worry that much. The offense needs to be a bit more dynamic.
21. USF
The buzz: With Pitt losing star running back LeSean McCoy to the NFL, the Bulls should go into the season as the preseason favorite in the Big East. Quarterback Matt Grothe must develop some consistency; it would help his cause if a feature back emerges.
22. Utah
The buzz: The Utes lost two key defenders to the draft end Paul Kruger and cornerback Sean Smith. Quarterback Brian Johnson and both coordinators are gone, too. Still, the defense will be a strength and the running game should be strong. But to expect another undefeated season is asking way too much.
23. Notre Dame
The buzz: The schedule isn't that taxing, the passing attack should be quite good and the defense has the makings of a solid unit. There's no doubt that Charlie Weis will be coaching for his job.
24. Oregon State
The buzz: The Beavers annually seem to be underrated. But with the return of the Rodgers brothers, the offense has two big-time playmakers. The defense should be fine.
25. North Carolina
The buzz: The Tar Heels made a big jump this past season in their second year under coach Butch Davis. Expect more improvement in 2009, when the Heels should contend for the ACC title.

Others considered (in alphabetical order): Arkansas, BYU, Colorado, Houston, Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska, NC State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas Tech, West Virginia

Rivals.com staffers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee contributed to this report.

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