At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. There are two questions this week, one today and one Sunday.
TODAY'S QUESTION: We're well into our Preseason 120 countdown, up to No. 41. Is there any team ranked 50th or worse that you're sure will finish in the top 40 or so? In other words, who ranked worse than 50th has been most disrespected?
Tom Dienhart's answer:
I think No. 51 Washington could surprise and is ranked too low. But No. 53 Southern Miss is dissed the most. The Eagles have a good chance to win a fairly strong C-USA. I know the defense has some issues, especially against the pass. But coach Larry Fedora has new co-coordinators in Dan Disch and David Duggan to tighten the unit. That duo has installed a new 4-2-5 scheme that may work in a league with wide-open offenses. If the coordinators can make this just an average defense, the Eagles have more than enough offense to cover the rest and become a legit contender for the C-USA title.
David Fox's answer:
I picked this team last in its league and I wrote the preview, so I guess I'll own up to the team that has the most right to feel disrespected in our countdown - Connecticut. We picked the Huskies 81st, behind teams such as FIU, Louisiana Tech, Temple and Troy, only a year after UConn went to the Fiesta Bowl. Let me explain some of the rationale: UConn was hardly dominating, finishing in a three-way tie for first in a weaker-than-usual Big East. The Huskies lost to Michigan, lost to Temple, lost to the worst team in the league (Rutgers) and lost 26-0 to Louisville. As for the Big East this season, can Connecticut possibly be that good without Jordan Todman? I still give UConn a shot at a bowl, thanks to a stout offensive line and solid defense. Repeating as the league's BCS representative, though, is unlikely.
Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think Southern Miss at No. 54 and Northern Illinois at No. 57 have a chance to win nine or 10 games apiece. That kind of record is going to get you consideration for the top 25. I also think NIU is going to win the Mid-American Conference. That said, one of the reasons those teams could win nine or 10 games is that each has a relatively easy schedule, especially Southern Miss. Conference USA and the MAC have some real flotsam and jetsam at the bottom of the standings, and Southern Miss and NIU will benefit. I also think California, N.C. State and Georgia Tech have solid chances to outperform our preseason rankings if each gets solid quarterback play from new starters.
Steve Megargee's answer:
I don't think any team outside our top 50 is a sure bet to finish in the top 40, but I think a couple of ACC teams - No. 64 North Carolina State and No. 65 Georgia Tech - could outperform our expectations. I believe Florida State is the clear-cut favorite to win the ACC Atlantic Division, but I think the next four teams in that division are evenly matched. We put Clemson at No. 40, Boston College at No. 41, Maryland at No. 44 and North Carolina State at No. 64. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if North Carolina State is the team that ends up finishing second in the division. The Wolfpack return six starters on offense and eight more on defense from a team that went 9-4 last season. If quarterback Mike Glennon is as good as Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien has been saying, this could be a top-40 team. Georgia Tech went from winning the ACC championship in 2009 to finishing 6-7 last season. I don't think Paul Johnson suddenly became a bad coach. We all know the Yellow Jackets will run the ball well, and I wouldn't be surprised if the defense improves now that they've had a year to adjust to Al Groh's 3-4 scheme.