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April 11, 2011

College Football Report - Evaluating the Early Top 2011 College Football Teams:

A lot of things have to fall into place to bring home a National Championship in college football. The schedule needs to be challenging, yet winnable. Coaches need to have the team prepared and ready. More often than not, an experienced, veteran team is the best team, and it never hurts to have an experienced quarterback or a game breaker who can take over a game, as well.
Last season, Auburn may have been the exception. The Tigers had a schedule that was challenging, yes, but one that looked near impossible to go perfect through, and they didn’t have an experienced coach or what looked to be an X-factor. Let’s be honest here though, they did have Cam Newton.
For the most part, though, and throughout the sports past, there have been five reasons for a team to have high hopes of a National Championship in the near future.
Below are five teams who seem to have the goods above all else to bring in a title in 2011. Each team is marked with their strengths and weaknesses and graded in five key areas: Experienced Team - At least six starters returning on each side of the ball. Coaching - Experienced and winning coach to lead. Winnable Schedule - Have a schedule with January in its sights. Quarterback - A veteran and proven quarterback to lead. X-FactorHave someone capable of taking over the game.
*On a 1-to-5 scale, 5 = Best
Strength: The strength of the Sooners 2011 team has to be the numerous stars the team returns. Quarterback Landry Jones returns for one final year after passing for over 4,700 yards and 38 scores last season. Senior wideout Ryan Broyles, who led the nation with 131 catches last season, leads a talented receiving core along with sophomore Kenny Stills. The defense has its share of talent as well, led by senior linebacker Travis Lewis.
Weakness: The Sooners need to find a running back capable of carrying the workload. Longtime tailback DeMarco Murray has moved on, leaving the cupboards bare. The team’s returning leading rusher is sophomore Roy Finch, who rushed for 398 yards and two scores last season. He’ll get competition from backfield mates Jermie Calhoun, Brennan Clay and Jonathan Miller, but it appears Finch’s job to lose.
In The Way: Sept. 17 at Florida State, Oct. 10 - Texas, Nov. 5 - Texas A&M, Nov. 26 at Oklahoma State
Strength: Could this finally be the year the LSU offense outshines its dominating defenses? If the talent load the Tigers have at their expense on offense finally plays to their potential, it appears so. Receivers Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle return outside for the Tigers, with as much speed and talent as any receiving duo in the nation. Shepard could be a dangerous weapon for opposing teams to cover in 2011. Sophomore running back Spencer Ware looks to be a breakout candidate next season, evident of his 102 rushing yards against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Now, all they need is for quarterback Jordan Jefferson to play to his potential.
Weakness: The defense should be good again, not as great as last season, though. The Tigers lose a key player at each area of the defense, including defensive tackle Drake Nevis, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and defensive back Patrick Peterson. The players stepping in won’t be experienced, but like anyone whose played defense for the Tigers over the last decade, they’re talented and athletic.
In The Way: Sept. 3 - Oregon, Sept. 15 at Mississippi State, Sept. 24 at West Virginia, Oct. 8 - Florida, Oct. 22 - Auburn, Nov. 5 at Alabama,
Texas A&M
Strength: Now that the Aggies have found a capable quarterback to lead them in senior Ryan Tannehill, the offense has taken the next step towards being one of the best in college football. Tannehill led the Aggies to a 6-1 finish in 2010 and now has the reins all to himself. Wideout Jeff Fuller has been a star in college football for three years, but may be ready to take the next step in 2011. The backfield is loaded with Christine Michael returning from injury and last year’s 1,000 yard rusher, Cyrus Gray.
Weakness: The Aggies return more starters than any team on the list, not leaving a whole lot of holes to fill in. Outside linebacker Von Miller’s presence will be hard to replace on defense, but the Aggies have always had a pass rusher step up at the Joker position. The biggest question may be whether or not A&M can stay consistent throughout. In years past, the Aggies have crumbled under high expectations. They’ll need to prove 2011 is different.
In The Way: Sept. 9 - Oklahoma State, Oct. 10 - Arkansas, Nov. 5 at Oklahoma, Nov. 24 - Texas
Strength: Last year’s Ducks offense was dominating. The 2011 Ducks offense should be no different. Led by running back LaMichael James, who led the nation with 1,731 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, the Ducks should continue to put up huge numbers come fall, especially with the added presence of freshmen De'Anthony Thomas to the backfield. Quarterback Darron Thomas passed for over 2,800 yards and 30 touchdowns last season and also returns. Wideouts Lavasier Tuinei and Josh Huff look poised to become the leading pass catching targets in 2011.
Weakness: Led by corner Cliff Harris, the secondary should be the defenses strength, but the Ducks have major holes in the front seven. The defense loses a number of talented seniors, including All-Conference linebacker Casey Matthews. The defensive line loses three starters, including leading sack man Kenny Rowe, while the entire linebacking corps will need to be replaced.
In The Way: Sept. 3 – LSU, Sept. 24 at Arizona, Nov. 5 at Washington, Nov. 12 at Stanford, Nov. 19 - USC
Strength: The Crimson Tide's defense next season should be downright scary. The offense has led the team in recent years, but next season belongs to the defense. They lose just one starter on the defensive side of the ball in defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, but there will be more than 10 familiar faces still around. Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw lead a ferocious linebacking corps, while the secondary should be one of the best in the nation. Safeties Mark Barron and Robert Lester are both early All-American candidates.
Weakness: It may be easy to say the losses of Heisman winner Mark Ingram and All-SEC wideout Julio Jones hurt the team the most, but it will be the loss of quarterback Greg McElroy that leaves the team with the biggest question. The Tide need either A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims to step up early to lead the team to its potential. The offense still remains relatively stacked; the only question is at quarterback.
In The Way: Sept. 10 at Penn State, Sept. 24 - Arkansas, Oct. 1 at Florida, Nov. 5 - LSU, Nov. 12 at Mississippi State, Nov. 26 at Auburn

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