One of the big days during the off-season has finally come, and the USA Today Top 25 poll for the upcoming season has been revealed. To gamblers’, much of this is no surprise, so we’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about Florida, Texas and Oklahoma are 1, 2, 3. What is far more intriguing is how the rest of the top group shakes out, and where you can expect these teams to end up after a few weeks or once the weather dips closer to real tailgating temps.
I’m going to start where nobody would think to start: No. 21 Iowa. This team went 9-4 last season, and yes they lose the big running back Shonn Greene, but a slew of upperclassmen will be back, including the QB. The core, minus one big seed, is staying intact. Look for them to build on their rebound year in 2008, and prove to be a force in an always-tough Big 10 conference. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them chug along and slowly climb up to No. 14 or 12 by week 7.
How about No. 18 Utah? Wonder why they dropped so far from last year after their successful run and bowl victory? Two reasons. 1) They were always overrated and this is a natural correction. No, Utah gets no respect, and that’s only moderately unfair. 2) They lost QB Brian Johnson from an already-overrated team. They have a good group of experienced kids returning, and will be out to prove last year wasn’t a fluke, but as a gambler you have to approach them with cautious eyes, and wonder, realistically, if last year was a fluke.
Just missing the cut is Kansas, who finished last year 8-5. I think they’ll be improved this year and finish ahead of Missouri and Nebraska. They get a mention here because by the middle of the season you might see them pop into the top 25, and teams like Brigham Young (No. 25) and Nebraska (No. 23) could slip out rather quickly.
And how about one team already in the top 10 in Virginia Tech. Welcome to the Tyrod Taylor show, or so they hope. This has been one of my pre-season favorites, and I still like them to climb up to the top 5 at some point during the season. If they can get past game 1 against No. 5 Alabama, expect their confidence to surge and snowball from then on. What might hurt them is their schedule after that first game. Tech could very well roll to an undefeated record, but their BSC chances (of a title game) would be hurt by strength of schedule. Not that you should care much about that as a gambler. Take a chance here, bet Virginia Tech in that game against Alabama – just to win. They’ll already be the underdogs and I think it’s set up nicely for an upset.