Pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting for major league baseball, but they're not the only ones looking to usher winter out the door. Sure, we're still weeks from college football spring practices getting into full swing and months from the actual college football season kickoff. Nevertheless, we still have a pretty good idea of which teams will command our attention this fall.
ESPN's Mark Schlabach published the most recent iteration of his "way-too-early" Top 25, and the ratings are populated by the usual suspects. Some of the perennially overrated teams will elicit guffaws from the skeptics, but there won't be much disagreement at the very top of the preseason polls. Schlabach's top five are the USC Trojans, Alabama Crimson Tide, LSU Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners and Georgia Bulldogs. Each has the ingredients of a potential champion: historical pedigree, roster loaded with talent and strong recent success.
Those five programs still have some question marks, certainly. It seems silly to nitpick potential flaws now for teams that won't see the field for more than six months. But, as we cruise toward spring practice, we can still highlight a few key points of emphasis to prepare for a championship run in 2012.
PFEI: No. 7
F/+ 2011: No. 11
Weighted Recruiting: No. 2
A bowl ban kept USC out of postseason play in 2011, but the Trojans still scored big in December with quarterback Matt Barkley's announcement that he'll return for his senior season. Few teams were playing with as much momentum as USC down the stretch, and a loaded roster with nine returning starters on both sides of the ball has elevated expectations for 2012 to peak levels. What's not to love?