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2009 NCAA College Preseason Football Top 25

Preseason Football Top 25 Rankings


An important factor to note before digesting this ranking: Where I’m picking these teams in the poll is NOT where I’m predicting they end up. If you want to see how I think each team’s season will end, please read my conference previews. This ranking is the order which I believe teams would win on a neutral field.

Once the season gets going, I’ll evaluate each team based upon their play on the field. I have no qualms moving a team down if they play poorly in victory, just like I’m not necessarily going to drop a team for losing a tough close game. Everything from schedule strength to margin of victory will be considered. The only factor that really doesn’t come into play is injuries. Everyone gets banged up and championship teams respond well to adversity.

I have split the poll into three groups, the names of which are quite self-explanatory. Teams can easily move between groupings once the games begin. Got it? Good. After all, it is the preseason and we all know this is subject to change starting Thursday. Follow everything with me on Twitter @MattBaxendell all season long and as always, I appreciate your feedback at

If you’ll remember, I put out a post spring football top 25 ranking and as I said at the time, there would be significant changes once the season rolled around. Well, there definitely were. I dropped four teams out of the top 25 and moved a few teams around considerably. My biggest riser was California, who rose nine spots from my spring ranking, followed by Penn State, who jumped up five places. On the flip side, Virginia Tech flew down my rankings and begins the season TEN spots lower than I had originally listed them. No other team fell more than four spots! With that in mind, my top two teams remained the same and my number one team entering 2009 is…………


#1)Florida Gators

Considering that the Gators are the defending National Champion and have 19 returning starters, I’d say this is a near unanimous choice. Florida is number one until someone beats them.

Week 1: Home versus Charleston (D-1AA)


#2)Texas Longhorns

Texas felt that they got screwed last year and are determined to come back in 2009 with a vengeance. With Colt McCoy, a strong supporting cast and a weak non-conference schedule, Texas is a strong bet to get their chance at the Crystal Trophy.

Week 1: Home versus Louisiana-Monroe (D-1AA)


#3)Oklahoma Sooners

Speaking of Texas getting screwed, their archrivals check in right below them. Oklahoma is going to be very good once more this fall and defending Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford is back for another run.

Week 1: In Arlington versus Brigham Young



#4)Oklahoma State Cowboys

Just because they’re in the same division as OU and Texas doesn’t mean that Okie State isn’t in the same league as the two titans of the south on the field. With one of the country’s most explosive offenses, the Cowboys will get their chance to make an early statement when SEC power Georgia comes to town this Saturday.

Week 1: Home versus #8 Georgia


#5)Ohio State Buckeyes

Continuing the trend of elite dual threat quarterbacks, Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor check in at number five. With a strong defense and an improved offensive line, Ohio State appears to be one of the nation’s best teams again.

Week 1: Home versus Navy


#6)California Golden Bears

Shocked that USC isn’t the first entrant from the Pac Ten? Well, Cal has an excellent defense and the best tailback in the country on their side, so they’re a pretty darn good team that many people (myself included) believe will beat the Trojans and earn the Pac Ten title this fall. First up: A revenge game against the Terps.

Week 1: Home versus Maryland


#7)Southern California Trojans

OK, so USC didn’t really fall far behind Cal, huh? This is still a really talented football team but a rash of injuries has really hurt them in camp. On top of that, they’re starting a true freshman quarterback with a lot of early road tests and I’m just not that confident in USC’s ability to win on the road against multiple ranked opponents with a true freshman in charge.

Week 1: Home versus San Jose State


#8)Georgia Bulldogs

That’s right, I have Georgia ahead of every team in the SEC West. Dominating on both sides of the ball along the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs aren’t going to drop off very far this year. New QB Joe Cox finally gets his chance is primed for a big season in his 5 th year in Athens.

Week 1: At #4 Oklahoma State


#9) Penn State Nittany Lions

This team has grown on me. Going into camp, I had some really serious questions about the defending Big Ten champs and wasn’t going to rank them in the top ten. However, they’ve got a great backfield, a solid line and should be really good against the run. Oh, how I lament that they and Alabama pushed back their home and home series until next fall because PSU’s non-conference schedule stinks.

Week 1: Home versus Akron


#10)Alabama Crimson Tide

Speaking of the Tide, they’re in for another big year. They have a great defense but I’ll be really interested to see how their rebuilt O-Line and new QB do against Virginia Tech’s tough defense to open the season. Still, there is a ton of talent in Tuscaloosa.

Week 1: In Atlantaversus #13 Virginia Tech


#11) Ole Miss Rebels

So I didn’t fall into the trendy top 10 pick for the Rebels, though I did pick them to win the SEC West in my conference preview. They do have the SEC West’s best quarterback and a very deep team going for them and I expect that they’ll be a big threat this fall. Oh, and they get Alabama, Arkansas and LSU at home, giving them a big edge in the West race.

Week 1: Sunday at Memphis


#12) Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois is here because of their excellent offense. Juice Williams is in his 4 th year starting and will be distributing the ball to three excellent wideouts, including future 1 st round pick Rejus Benn. He’ll also have an improved running game to balance out the attack. Their defense is a concern but I expect the Illini to take the Big Ten by storm while doing their best Big XII impersonation, a.k.a. outscoring most of their opponents.

Week 1: ‘Arch Rivalry’ In St. Louisversus Missouri


#13) Virginia Tech Hokies

I was so high on the Hokies during the offseason. I saw a dominating defense and a great running game backing up an improved mobile young quarterback. Unfortunately, Tech has lost both of their top two tailbacks and I think that will really hurt them. Then again, if they beat Alabama, I’ll hop right back on the bandwagon and the Hokies are still my ACC favorite.

Week 1: In Atlantaversus #10 Alabama


#14) Louisiana State Tigers

LSU had a down year last fall. For the Tigers, that means a measly eight win season and a bowl victory! With significantly stronger quarterback play and a new defensive mentality, expect a big rebound from the Tigers this fall.

Week 1: At Washington



#15) Miami Hurricanes

Enjoy staying at #15 while it lasts, Miami. Why do I say that? Because the Hurricanes open with the toughest schedule in the entire country. After the opener against FSU, they host Georgia Tech before traveling to Virginia Tech! On top of that, they follow up with a visit from mighty Oklahoma! Yeesh. So, either Miami will fall way down in the rankings or move way up, depending how they emerge from the opening gauntlet.

Week 1:At Florida State


#16) Oregon State Beavers

The perennially underrated Beavers dropped a little bit because QB1a Lyle Moevao is still hurting. However, QB1b Sean Canfield is more than solid and should have a strong year. Expect a great offense in Corvalis this fall and I’m going to be proactive and put the Beavers ahead of where they normally are this time of year so that I don’t have to keep moving them up all year like usual.

Week 1:Home versus Portland State (D-1AA)


#17) North Carolina Tar Heels

UNC was the most glaring omission from my spring top 25. My excuse? I simply forgot about them. Oops. Well, that won’t happen again because the Tar Heels are stacked this year. A year of healthy quarterbacking will go a long way and UNC could win 10 games this fall.

Week 1:Home versus The Citadel (D-1AA)


#18) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The healthy quarterbacking statement applies to the Jackets as well, mostly because Josh Nesbitt is by far their best option running their system. Tech has 18 starters back and is in the 2 nd year under Paul Johnson and might be even better than last year. Is the wishbone back en vogue?

Week 1:Home versus Jacksonville State (D-1AA)


#19) Kansas Jayhawks

My Big XII North pick is probably going to have another season much like last fall. They’ve got all of their offensive weapons back and should field an improved defense. Expect a strong senior year for QB Todd Reesing.

Week 1:Home versus Northern Colorado (D-1AA)


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#20) Michigan State Spartans

I’m proud to say that I think I was the only person in the country to rank Sparty in my preseason top 25 last year. After a 9-4 season marred only by poor quarterback play, expect Michigan State to have an even better year with a competent starter under center. The only question is which stud sophomore will take over the reigns?

Week 1: Home versus Montana State (D-1AA)


#21) Oregon Ducks

I know a lot of people have the Ducks higher. But with a lot of key losses and rebuilding to do along the line, I’m going to be conservative. If they beat Boise State this week in the Broncos’ only tough game of the season, I might move them up five spots out of gratuity for sparing me another season of Boise State killing poor opposition in all but one game and finishing undefeated. Go Ducks!

Week 1: Thursday At Boise State


#22)Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa has a lot of starters back and should be improved at quarterback. Their defense is excellent as well. Unfortunately, their tailback situation is tenuous at best and I can’t rank them any higher in good conscience because of it. Now if Jewel Hampton’s knee miraculously becomes healthy, then I’m a believer in the Hawkeyes.

Week 1: Home versus Northern Iowa (D-1AA)


#23) Pittsburgh Panthers

Pitt finally settled on a quarterback and it is old friend Bill Stull. Uh oh. Without Shady McCoy, the Panthers are going to have to hope that Stull is better than last year. However, Pitt has a really good defense and I have to think that Stull can only get better, right?

Week 1: Home versus Youngstown State (D-1AA)


#24) Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska goes into this fall as a favorite in the Big XII North. Bo Pelini has really put together a strong defense and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Huskers in the Big XII Title Game so long as they find a solid quarterback. Is Big Red back?

Week 1: Home versus Florida Atlantic


#25) West Virginia Mountaineers

Pat White graduating doesn’t mean that WVU is going to fade into obscurity. This is still a good football team! However, their depth is a concern and so is a tough non-conference schedule. WVU needs to stay healthy to stay ranked.

Week 1: Home versus Liberty (D-1AA)



  • Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • Boise State Broncos
  • Colorado Buffaloes
  • Florida State Seminoles
  • Brigham Young Cougars
  • North Carolina State Wolfpack
  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights



Three conferences enter the season with five ranked teams: The SEC, Big XII and Big Ten. Right behind these three sit the Pac Ten and ACC, both of whom boast four teams apiece. Finally, the Big East debuts with two teams. The BCS conferences also occupy seven of my ten teams to keep an eye on outside of the top 25.

If you’re looking at the ten to watch section, you’ll see that’s where I listed favored BCS busters Boise State and BYU. When you’re not in a BCS conference, you have to earn your ranking with me. Notice that Notre Dame is right there with them, so clearly I’m not buying into the hype of a 6-6 team that smoked a poor Hawaii team last year. The good news for all three is that this is in the preseason. Win some big games and you’ll move right on up.



Matt Baxendell is’s football writer. Keep an eye out all fall for his multiple weekly articles discussing everything college football. If you want to get in touch with him, email him at or follow him on Twitter @MattBaxendell



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