'Bama exits spring as No. 1 team
|College Football Top 25|
|When colleague Stewart Mandel bequeathed SI.com's Associated Press poll vote and attendant Power Rankings duties to me prior to last season, I couldn't understand why he kept cackling maniacally into the phone.|
I understood after my first set of rankings were published, and Stewart asked -- with just the slightest tinge of mischief in his voice -- if I'd checked my e-mail. Oh, I had. Waves upon waves of missives poured in from every corner of college football fandom, but they all agreed on one fact: I was an idiot.
That was just the warm-up, though. My first way-too-early Top 25 for 2010 was published in January, and two particular fan bases tried their best to make my BlackBerry explode. USC and Arkansas fans simply couldn't believe their teams hadn't made the poll. But I had good reasons for leaving out both.
USC's omission came with the program in a fragile state. When that poll was published, the Trojans had no coach, most of their 2010 recruits were threatening to jump ship and no one knew exactly what kind of dirt the NCAA had on the athletic department. Since then, Lane Kiffin has been hired, the Trojans signed one of the nation's best recruiting classes and Reggie Bush paid off Lloyd Lake, whose lawsuit was the NCAA's only chance to get under-oath testimony from Bush. Now stable, USC looks like a Top 25 team again. Trojans fans still won't appreciate the ranking, but remember, this is the team that got crushed by Stanford and Oregon and closed the regular season with a home loss to Arizona. Baby steps.
As for Arkansas, I had proper reverence for the Razorbacks' offense back in January, but I doubted their defense. The Hogs bring back quarterback Ryan Mallett and eight other starters from an offense that averaged 555.5 yards per game last year. Unfortunately, Arkansas also returns seven starters from a defense that gave up 521.5 yards per game last year. The numbers look worse against SEC opponents. Arkansas gained an average of 383.3 yards and allowed an average of 419.5 yards in conference play. But this spring proved Arkansas has more depth in the secondary and on the line. The Hogs remain thin at linebacker, but the improvement is enough to justify calling Arkansas into the Top 25.
Of course, now Razorbacks fans will complain that their team is ranked too low. They'll have to wait until September for an update. After two warm-ups, the Hogs play at Georgia and then face Alabama in Fayetteville. If they win those two, they'll probably crack the top 10. Until then, Arkansas fans can keep pelting me with angry e-mails.
If you don't feel like e-mailing, though, feel free to express your displeasure on Facebook or Twitter.