Beginning tomorrow the Southern Football Report will begin to count down our Top 25 teams in the country. The number one team on our poll will be unveiled on the morning of the first college football game Thursday, September 3rd. Here are four teams that almost made our Top 25:
Cincinnati Bearcats – In 2014, the Bearcats lost their conference opener but won their final seven regular season games by an average margin of 20 points. They do return journeyman quarterback Gunner Kiel who had an excellent year despite missing some time due to nagging injuries. The Bearcats return their top rusher, top passer and top five receiving targets but will have to replace two 100+ tacklers on defense. Cincinnati will have to travel to Memphis, Houston & East Carolina this season which will be a tall task given that those three teams combined for a 26-13 record last season.
Michigan Wolverines – The big news in Ann Arbor is the arrival of the savior coach Jim Harbaugh but not too far behind that will be the quarterback competition. There are quarterbacks from all walks of the college football life involved: walk-ons, freshman, transfers & seniors. They do return four of five offensive linemen from last season so whoever wins the job will have decent protection. Senior linebacker Joe Bolden will anchor a stingy defense that actually improved from 2013 to 2014 but will need to improve even more if they plan on contending with Ohio State, Michigan State & Penn State for the Big Ten East crown.
Minnesota Golden Gophers – Head coach Jerry Kill has done an incredible job turning the Gophers from one of the laughing stocks of the Big Ten to a back-to-back eight win team, something no one thought possible in the Twin Cities. With wins over Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska in 2014, Minnesota was right in the thick of the Big Ten West division race and belonged there after narrow losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin late in the year. The Gophers need to replace some key skill players on offense but expect the defense to be even better than their top 25 defense from a year ago.
Tennessee Volunteers – The boys from Rocky Top are one of the most picked dark horse teams in college football heading into the 2015 season and rightfully so. They finished the 2014 regular season 3-2 and both losses were narrow to ranked opponents. The Vols return 18 starters from a 7-6 team who really gave every team they played fits. They may not win the SEC East in 2015 but I’ve got a strange suspicion that they will keep someone from winning the division. We’ll know where they stand when the Sooners visit Neyland Stadium in week 2.
Stay logged on to Sowegalive for more from our Southern Football Report Top 25 countdown beginning Friday July 31st when we unveil the 25th ranked team on our poll.