By Andy Staples
January 12, 2010

I've always considered local TV weatherman the easiest job in the news media. Most of the time, the forecast is completely wrong, but everyone still loves the weatherman because he's so jolly. You'd think a drenched viewer would get mad at the guy who said it would be sunny on a day when it rained, but no one ever does.

Just for today, consider me your sports weatherman. I'm bound to be wrong, because predicting the performance of teams almost nine months from opening kickoff is about as easy as predicting whether it will rain on the Horseshoe when Ohio State opens the season against Marshall.

Somewhere on this list is an Ole Miss or an Oklahoma State, two teams I completely overrated last season. Somewhere lower -- or completely off the list -- is an Iowa, a team I completely underrated last season. As much as I wish these teams would play their way through the 2010 season and finish in this precise order, I know that won't happen.

Which brings me to this question: If Boise State lays an egg in September, would you hate me less if I ranked teams while wearing a bad toupee and pointing at a computer-generated map? Because, like the local TV weatherman, I can be jolly while I get it wrong.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 Alabama Crimson Tide
It's no coincidence that after linebacker Rolando McClain announced his decision to skip his senior year and enter the draft, rising junior Donta' Hightower was brought before the media. That baton pass should go smoothly, and if you watched the BCS title game, you already know rising junior Marcell Dareus can take over a game. On the other side of the ball, the Crimson Tide only return a national-title winning quarterback (Greg McElroy), a Heisman Trophy-winning tailback (Mark Ingram) and the back a lot of people think is better than the Heisman winner (Trent Richardson).
2 Boise St. Broncos
It's time to stop doubting the Broncos. I ripped on their schedule plenty last season, but all they do when they get on the big stage is win. It's easy to say they wouldn't go undefeated in a better conference, but when Boise State has played teams from better conferences in the past few years, the Broncos have won. So to all the teams that think Boise State shouldn't be ranked this high, you have one way to prove it: beat the Broncos.
3 Ohio St. Buckeyes
Now that the Buckeyes have cast the BCS bowl gorilla from their backs, it's time to work on Ohio State's personal King Kong -- the BCS title game. The Buckeyes have the talent. They have experience at key positions. Their only problem? The 2010 Big Ten will be deeper than it's been in years.
4 Texas Longhorns
Rising sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert offered a glimpse of how good he can be in the BCS title game. The Longhorns' defense loses end Sergio Kindle, but this is Texas. Kindle's exit only means rising sophomore Alex Okafor has a chance to become a household name.
5 Iowa Hawkeyes
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn said he would be back next season, but that was before he owned Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. If he can fend off agents the way he fends off blockers, he'll be the anchor of a stacked team playing a schedule that brings Penn State and Ohio State to Iowa City.
6 Oregon Ducks
Aside from standout tight end Ed Dickson, Oregon returns all offensive starters from a group that scored 36 points per game in 2009. Yikes. Nine starters return from a defense that should improve this season. Double yikes. Expect to hear more quacking in Pasadena -- unless the Ducks fly to Glendale, Ariz.
7 TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs lose defensive end Jerry Hughes, but almost everyone else returns. Utah will be better and BYU should continue to play at a high level, so it's going to be tough for TCU to go undefeated for a second consecutive season.
8 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets lost B-back Jonathan Dwyer, safety Morgan Burnett and defensive end Derrick Morgan to the NFL. That's OK. The ACC still can't figure out the triple option, and if coach Paul Johnson hires a capable defensive coordinator, Georgia Tech will be even tougher to beat.
9 Virginia Tech Hokies
Replacing offensive linemen Sergio Render and Ed Wang will be tough, but the Hokies always seem to have someone in the pipeline. Besides, linemen should be thrilled to block for backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, who returns from a 2009 knee injury. On defense, the Hokies lost some talent, but they kept defensive coordinator Bud Foster despite a lucrative offer from Georgia.
10 Wisconsin Badgers
With a massive, intact-from-2009 line bulldozing a path for backs John Clay and Montee Ball, the Badgers should have little trouble controlling the clock. That has to make coach Bret Bielema smile.
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