Coaches rank Buckeyes No. 1, ahead of Longhorns
McLean, Va. -- Despite having to replace nine starters on defense, Ohio State on Friday was named the No. 1 team in the USA Today preseason college football poll.
It sits there like a ring on a merry-go-round. Close enough to touch. Or to drop.
"It" is the Sept. 9 game against defending national champion Texas. In Austin. On ABC in prime time. The Buckeyes might have spent the summer telling everyone they weren't going to look ahead, but they would be doing it with crossed fingers and a wink.
Coming off a 10-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame, the Buckeyes received 28 of 63 first-place votes and 1,487 points from Division I-A coaches.
Ohio State has to overhaul its defense with the graduation of several stars, including the entire starting linebacking trio of A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel. But the Buckeyes have talented players waiting in the wings, and they return nearly all of their key players on offense, including quarterback Troy Smith and wide receiver and return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., both Heisman Trophy candidates.
Defending national champion Texas (13-0) is second after receiving 11 first-place votes and 1,378 points. But the Longhorns, who won a championship for the ages with a 41-38 triumph over Southern California in the Rose Bowl, have to replace all-everything quarterback Vince Young, who left after his junior season and was drafted third by the Tennessee Titans.
Notre Dame (9-3) and USC (12-1) are tied for third with 1,348 points apiece. The Fighting Irish are entering their second season under coach Charlie Weis, while the Trojans begin life without quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush, the last two Heisman winners. Notre Dame received nine first-place votes and USC one.
Oklahoma (8-4) is fifth with 1,320 points. The Sooners had the second-most first-place votes -- 13 -- but those doubtlessly came in before the news Wednesday that coach Bob Stoops permanently dismissed starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn from the team for being paid far in excess of hours worked at a local car dealership.
Auburn (9-3), which received the remaining first-place vote, is sixth, while West Virginia (11-1), Florida (9-3), Louisiana State (11-2) and Florida State (8-5) complete the top 10.
Miami (9-3) is 11th, followed by California (8-4), Louisville (9-3), Georgia (10-3), Michigan (7-5), Virginia Tech (11-2), Iowa (7-5), Clemson (8-4), Penn State (11-1) and Oregon (10-2).
TCU (11-1), Nebraska (8-4), Tennessee (5-6), Alabama (10-2) and Texas Tech (9-3) complete the poll.