Buckeyes, Sooners lead post-spring Top 25

Is Ohio State the favorite in 2006? Or is it OU or Notre Dame? What about Texas? Ivan Maisel has the answer in his post-spring Top 25.

Originally Published: May 22, 2006
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

Editor's note: This post spring practice top 25 was posted on May 22, 2006.

Can Texas repeat without Vince Young? Will Ohio State find the answers on defense? Is West Virginia really a contender? Are Notre Dame and Oklahoma among the challengers? Spring practices provided some answers to those questions, so it's time to take an early look at the Top 25 for 2006.

TOP 25: POST-SPRING EDITION
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
OK, so only two defensive starters return. When did Jim Tressel not have a defense? And my, oh, my, that offense.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
You've got to be pretty good to go 8-4 while rebuilding. Quarterback Rhett Bomar comes into his own as a sophomore, and junior tailback Adrian Peterson is healthy.
3. West Virginia Mountaineers
If you think the Mountaineers peaked in the Sugar Bowl, then you'll dismiss them. But they've shown what they can do. West Virginia's biggest obstacle is ego expansion.
4. Texas Longhorns
If they had a QB returning from winning a national championship, they'd definitely be No. 1. If they had a QB who had ever taken a snap, maybe.
5. Florida State Seminoles
There's more returning on defense than the loss of seven starters suggests. This is Bobby Bowden's best team since Chris Weinke -- and Mark Richt -- left.
6. USC Trojans
If John David Booty is healthy, move them up. If he can't play, and Mark Sanchez remains suspended, move them down.
7. California Golden Bears
Marshawn Lynch should be in the same Heisman breath as Peterson. The defense is experienced. If Nate Longshore stays healthy …
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
BQ squared. On offense, Brady Quinn is the answer. On defense, the Big Question is stopping the pass. The defense will improve, but not in time to get through every one of the first five games.
9. Auburn Tigers
I like this team. There's a lot of experience on both sides of the ball and a favorable schedule. But the SEC has too much depth to expect a BCS championship game contender.
10. Iowa Hawkeyes
Drew Tate is the best quarterback you're not paying attention to, and the Hawkeyes played better last year than their 7-5 record would indicate.
11. Clemson Tigers
Sophomore tailback James Davis is a star ready to shine. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and his 40 starts are gone, but backup Will Proctor is ready to lead.
12. Florida Gators
Higher than I expected, because there's more coming back than I realized. But Chris Leak looks like a spotted tiger in this offense, and no running back has stepped up.
13. LSU Tigers
Lower than I expected, because both lines have to be rebuilt, and because of road games at Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. There's sure a lot of talent on offense, though.
14. Oregon Ducks
The Ducks have plenty to sink their beaks into: road games at Fresno State, Cal and USC. OU comes to Autzen Stadium, which has replaced Husky Stadium as the toughest venue in the Pac-10.
15. Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Huskers were my dark horse last year, and I was nine games early. Zac Taylor found his stroke late in the season. Nebraska can't let what happens at USC, good or bad, dictate the rest of the season.
16. Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines are my dark horse this season. That's right. This team wasn't all that good last year. But RB Mike Hart is healthy, and I think new coordinator Ron English will fix what ailed the defense.
17. Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals and West Virginia have reversed roles. It's WVU's turn to deal with expectations. I'd rank the Cardinals higher if I knew for sure that quarterback Brian Brohm will have recovered from knee surgery.
18. Miami Hurricanes
Too low? Shoot, this is a leap of faith. To be honest, I expect this to be a transition year into a new offense with a new offensive coaching staff.
19. TCU Horned Frogs
If the Frogs had more than one returning offensive lineman, they would be in the top 10. All the other pieces are there, and early games against Baylor and Texas Tech will provide schedule cred.
20. Boston College Eagles
A good nucleus of experience, led by the offensive line (74 returning starts) and LB Brian Toal on defense. Strange scheduling: Eagles close at Miami, which means they could play the Canes again nine days later in the ACC title game.
21. Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions will fall off from 11-1, but there's still a lot of skill on offense, and there's still Puz to anchor a young defense. Penn State fans need to be patient with quarterback Anthony Morelli.
22. Georgia Bulldogs
The SEC East is as tough as ever, and the Bulldogs have less coming back than the rest of the Top 25. Can Joe Tereshinski III run the offense well enough early enough?
23. UTEP Miners
Quarterback Jordan Palmer has the eye of NFL scouts and the defense returns almost intact (which may be a good thing). Texas Tech comes to El Paso early, which could boost UTEP into a higher ranking. Four road games in five weeks will be rough.
24. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies lost almost as much (12 starters) as Georgia, and Frank Beamer has four new coaches. But with this schedule, the Hokies could be mediocre and go 8-4.
25. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Hold on to your Stetson: The Red Raiders won't have a fifth-year senior at quarterback. Graham Harrell is only a sophomore, but he's got the arm, the brains and a veteran cast around him.

Also receiving consideration: BYU, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Utah and Wisconsin.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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