By Andy Staples
January 12, 2010
NCAA Football Power Rankings
21 Houston Cougars
Quarterback Case Keenum brings back most of his offensive weapons, so strap in for an all-out assault on every major passing record. If the Cougars can block more consistently, they can win Conference USA, but a game at UCLA and a visit from improved Mississippi State could keep them from busting the BCS. Mark your calendars for Nov. 20 for the ultimate clash of styles when Houston faces Navy at Robertson Stadium.
22 Georgia Bulldogs
Assuming the Bulldogs eventually hire a defensive coordinator, they have the talent to compete for a title in the wide-open SEC East. Georgia brings back everyone on offense except quarterback Joe Cox. Junior Logan Gray will compete with redshirt freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger for the right to throw to A.J. Green and hand off to Caleb King and Waushan Ealey. The competition should make the Dawgs better overall. The defense lost linebacker Rennie Curran and safety Reshad Jones early to the NFL, but Georgia has recruited well and should find adequate replacements.
23 LSU Tigers
Losing offensive tackle Ciron Black and guard Lyle Hitt is huge. Ditto for tailback Charles Scott, linebacker Harry Coleman and safety Chad Jones. But LSU is one of the few programs that can bounce back from losses like that. Remember, the Tigers still have quarterback Jordan Jefferson, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and Patrick Peterson, who might be the nation's best corner.
24 Brigham Young Cougars
Quarterback Max Hall and tight end Dennis Pitta are gone, so this season will test the quality of coach Bronco Mendenhall's recruiting. Has he brought in players who can help BYU win double-digit games again? The player to watch is freshman early enrollee Jake Heaps, who will compete with sophomore Riley Nelson and recently returned missionary James Lark during spring practice for the right to replace Hall.
25 Utah Utes
Quarterback Jordan Wynn, only a true freshman, looked stunned when he was interviewed following the Utes' Poinsettia Bowl win over Cal. Get used to it, Jordan. Coach Kyle Whittingham has built a fantastic program, and the Utes are going to be in the national spotlight every year.

Next five: USC, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida State, Navy.

Andy Staples' Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

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