Ok, when I said I'd have my poll ready Thursday or Friday, I meant Saturday.
Here's my top 25, in all its glory. It's worth nothing that this is obviously a meaningless ranking at this point, and I intend to start over from scratch once the season starts, but these are the teams that I think are the best 25 at this point. I'm sure I'll feel differently tomorrow, and again the next day, but this is the order I've talked myself into tonight:
1. Ohio State - Obvious and biased, of course, but defensible. The offense should be very good, and I think the defense will be better than expected. The defensive line is actually reasonably experienced, and the linebackers feature a guy who played most of the Michigan game and started the Fiesta Bowl, a former Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and Marcus Freeman, who may be the best of the three. The secondary worries me, but by the end of the year, I think Malcolm Jenkins will be very good at the corner and Jamario O'Neal will be an All-Big Ten safety. They have question marks, but so does everyone else, and the uncertainties for Ohio State worry me less than the uncertainties for the other teams.
2. Texas - More like 1A, but as it turns out, 1A is not an actual number, so two will have to do. The only major concern for Texas is quarterback, but it's a big one. Two quarterbacks, a year of college between them, zero college snaps. Not much experience. One or both will turn out to be fine, possibly even great, but at this point in the season, you have to expect the quarterback position to be a liability for the Longhorns. I could be wrong, though, and the great thing is that we'll find out in Week 2.
3. Auburn - I like Kenny Irons, and I think Brandon Cox will be decent or better. The receivers and secondary are cause for concern, but I'm not too worried about it (mostly because I don't really care how Auburn does). There may be less uncertainty about Auburn than there is about OSU and Texas, but I just think that Auburn is less talented than those two, top to bottom.
4. Notre Dame - You're already sick of hearing about Notre Dame, and the season hasn't even started yet, so I'll be brief: The offense will be great, Charlie Weis will be very good (but not half as good as he thinks he is), and the defense will be better. They had a lot of improving to do, though, and I don't know if they'll be good enough to win it all. I'm guessing not quite.
5. USC - They graduated a ton of talent. "USC doesn't rebuild; they reload," you say. Thanks, who are you, Lee Corso? Just about everyone else in the top 10 reloads, too, so the statement is meaningless. Because then we must ask, "Who reloads the best?" and we're right back where we started. Anyway, replacing your starting QB and your top two running backs is no easy task for anyone. On top of that, the defensive backs need a little work. I could see Pete Carroll and his boys going undefeated this year, just to piss me off, but a loss or two seems a bit more likely.
6. West Virginia - I like Pat White, I really like Steve Slaton, and I love the 3-3-5 defense. The receivers are a bit of a concern, but I don't think the offense will ask a whole lot of them. And the gimmick D will offset any problems with experience or quality the secondary may have. West Virginia gets my vote for Most Likely To Go Undefeated, but that doesn't mean they're the best. Just that they play in the Big East.
7. Florida - Chris Leak will be better this year, mostly because Urban Meyer will use him better. The defense will be very good. They could use a running back, though, and a better o-line. They'll be a good team, but with their schedule, you might not know it.
8. Michigan - Yes, I know, Michigan's always in the top ten, and they're always overrated. But I think this is a very talented team, and the coaching changes will make a bigger difference than people are giving them credit before. Plus, everyone's caught on to the whole "Michigan is always overrated at the start of the season" thing, which means it's time for it to change.
9. LSU - There's talent enough here to be ranked higher, but talent doesn't necessarily equal results, and I'm not sold on Les Miles yet. If this was a Nick Saban team, it would probably be top 5, but the only real memory I have of Les is a beating he received in the Alamo Bowl a couple years back. You might remember it.
10. Cal - The token Pac-10 team I fall in love with that ends up disappointing me. Quarterback's a bit of a question mark, but I like what they have just about everywhere else. And we're talking Jeff Tedford, so one of these QB's will go Cinderella on us, being a great college QB before he gets to the NFL and turns back into a dirty, smelly woman (I'm talking about you, Joey Harrington).
11. Iowa - Kirk Ferentz is a very good coach, and Drew Tate is a very good player. I don't think either is quite as good as they're given credit for, though, and neither has exactly proven anything so far. Kirk's done well in the underdog role, now it's time to prove something playing as a favorite. And Drew Tate must prove he isn't, as one of my friends has suggested, the Peyton Manning of college football (unless Peyton Manning is the Peyton Manning of college football).
12. Miami (Florida) - This just feels about right for them. And if Coker doesn't have them here or better by the end of the season, he should probably look for a new job.
13. Clemson - A lot of talent here. If Will Proctor turns out to be good at QB, they might even be a title contender. I just can't see Clemson being that good. So they're here until Tommy Bowden proves he can consistently beat someone other than his dad.
14. Penn State - New QB's are a cause for concern, but Morelli looks to be pretty decent. And people are forgetting about Derrick Williams. The offense looked better without him, but that doesn't mean he won't help this year. The coaching staff knows they don't have to build the offense around him now, which will help both Williams and the offense. The defense will be great, but can the offense keep rolling without Michael Robinson?
Wow, three years ago, did anyone think something resembling that last sentence would ever be written?
15. Georgia - They could easily be better than this, but I'll wait until they settle the QB situation before I pass final judgement.
16. Oklahoma - Can Paul Thompson provide some sort of threat at QB? If he can be anywhere near competent, the team could be top 10. But if he throws like a wide receiver, Adrian Peterson could face the seldom-used 6-5 defense, and it could be a long year for the Sooners.
17. Louisville - Great QB, great RB, great offense, good enough defense to win the Big East. How good does that make them? About 17th is my guess.
18. Nebraska - They could take a big step forward this year, and Bill Callahan could look like a genius. I don't think Callahan's a genius. I don't think they'll take a big step forward.
19. Florida State - Florida State was not a fund team to watch last year, and I tried to avoid it as much as possible. The offense had better improve this year, because the defense got worse.
20. Arizona State - Could be a surprise title contender. The offense should be great, regardless of which QB is running it. But will the defense be any good? My guess is that it won't, thusly, they are ranked 20th.
21. Tennessee - Much like FSU, I tried to avoid watching Tennessee last season. David Cutcliffe should make the offense watchable, and they have the talent to be top-15, but I just can't shake memories of last season's suckitude.
22. Michigan State - Drew Stanton is my favorite non-Buckeye in college football, and Javon Ringer is an underrated back. Sadly, however, they are saddled with a subpar defense and John L. Smith.
23. Alabama - Gotta be honest, I don't know much about 'Bama, I just thought they were a good name to round out the top 25.
24. Oregon - Ditto, but with ugly uniforms.
25. Virginia Tech - Also ditto.