2010 college football preview

The Post's preseason top 25

1. AlabamaLinebacker Dont'a Hightower must ensure the Tide's defense (one returning starter) doesn't falter.
2. Ohio StateThe Buckeyes' national title hopes rely on the consistency of junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
3. Boise StateTwenty starters (10 offense, 10 defense) return to a team that went 14-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl last season.
4. FloridaTo say that junior quarterback John Brantley has large shoes to fill might be the college football understatement of the decade.
5. TexasSpeaking of filling shoes, all sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert has to do is follow the NCAA's all-time winningest signal caller. No pressure, kid.
6. Texas ChristianFor once, it might be the Horned Frogs' offense, led by senior quarterback Andy Dalton, that draws headlines.
7. OklahomaThe Sooners will try to rebound from dropping five games in a season for the first time since 1999.
8. NebraskaDefensive tackle Jared Crick (9.5 sacks in '09) and a stingy Cornhuskers defense aim to return to the Big 12 title game.
9. IowaIf the Hawkeyes are going to contain opposing offenses - particularly the one from Columbus - senior defensive end Adrian Clayborn (11.5 sacks in '09) must have another stellar season.
10. Virginia TechCan Hokies' standout rushing attack carry a defense that returns only three starters?
11. OregonSophomore tailback LaMichael James looks to build off a Pac-10 record-setting (1,546 rushing yards by a freshman) 2009 season.
12. WisconsinThe Badgers return 10 starters to an offense that led the Big Ten in scoring (31.8 points per game) last season.
13. Miami (Fla.)Junior quarterback Jacory Harris must be more consistent (24 touchdowns, 17 interceptions in '09) if the Hurricanes are to contend for an ACC title.
14. Southern CalWith no postseason berth to play for, the Trojans will aim to do what first-year Coach Lane Kiffin does best - be a thorn in the sides of whoever crosses their path.
15. PittsburghDiminutive sophomore running back Dion Lewis (5 feet 8, 195 pounds) will look to build off last season, when he tallied 1,799 rushing yards.
16. Georgia TechWithout dynamic tailback Jonathan Dwyer in the backfield, there will be more pressure on senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt.
17. ArkansasThe Razorbacks might possess the best quarterback in the SEC in junior Ryan Mallett, but his production won't mean much if the defense doesn't improve.
18. North CarolinaLed by junior defensive end Robert Quinn - who told Sports Illustrated his goal was to amass 27 sacks - UNC will possess one of the stingiest defenses in the country.
19. Penn StateWith a new quarterback in place, the Nittany Lions' offensive focal points will be senior tailback Evan Royster and an unsettled line.
20. Florida StateIf he can remain healthy for the full season, senior quarterback Christian Ponder could thrust himself into the Heisman Trophy race.
21. Louisiana StateCoach Les Miles needs a defense that contains only four senior starters to grow up quickly. His job might depend on it.
22. AuburnA strong performance by a senior-laden offensive line will be necessary as quarterback Cameron Newton and tailback Onterio McCalebb grow accustomed to their starting roles.
23. GeorgiaA Bulldogs defense that allowed more points per game than all but two SEC teams in 2009 is transitioning to a 3-4 alignment.
24. Oregon StateIf one Rodgers brother isn't hurting opponents on the ground (Jacquizz rushed for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns in '09), the other likely is doing damage through the air (James caught 91 passes for 1,034 yards last season).
25. West VirginiaAfter tallying 1,465 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season on a bum left ankle, imagine what running back Noel Devine can do if he stays healthy this year.

Eric Prisbell / The Washington Post

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