Commentary

Twenty teams with best title shot

Originally Published: August 16, 2010
By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com

You have already seen our power rankings.

But who are the 20 teams with the best actual shot at playing for a national title? We broke down the rosters and the schedule and came up with this list.

Remember, this is not a top-20 list. Rather, it is a list of teams and their chances of playing for a national championship. Does this mean Iowa and Oregon are going to meet in the BCS title game? Nope. It just means their roads might be easier than others.

[+] EnlargeRicky Stanzi
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireA favorable schedule and 14 starters returning should bode well for Ricky Stanzi and Co.

1. Iowa The nonconference schedule is manageable, with the toughie being a road game at Arizona. The Hawkeyes get Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State at home. With 14 starters returning, that is quite a nice trifecta.

2. Oregon The nonconference schedule features one difficult road game -- at Tennessee, which figures to be down this year. The Ducks get Stanford and Washington at home but go to USC, California and Oregon State. If they can keep humming with a new quarterback, this road might not be so daunting.

3. Ohio State Though the Buckeyes have Terrelle Pryor and 15 other starters returning, the schedule is going to make their run to the title harder. They host Miami and have Big Ten games at Wisconsin and at Iowa.

4. Alabama The Tide are the best team in the country until somebody knocks them off. That could very well happen with a rebuilt defense and this schedule: road games at Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU and home games with Florida and Auburn.

5. Oklahoma Landry Jones should emerge as a star in the Big 12. Though the nonconference schedule looks daunting with games against Florida State, Air Force and Cincinnati, the Sooners will be favored in all of them. The toughest road game could be at Texas A&M. Even still, a defense missing six starters is going to have to grow up in a hurry.

6. Nebraska The Cornhuskers are in need of an offense, but as long as that stout defense shows up, they should have a shot at the national championship. There are some tough games (at Washington and Texas A&M), but the schedule works in their favor, especially the Oct. 16 game against Texas in Lincoln.

7. Boise State The Broncos have a shot, but how realistic is it? First, they have to win all their games. Then they have to hope going undefeated gets them into the No. 1 or No. 2 spot, which has never happened the previous times they won all their games.

8. TCU See No. 7. Though TCU's nonconference schedule is not as tough as Boise State's, the conference schedule is harder.

9. Florida The Gators have a relatively smooth schedule, with the toughie being at Alabama. The SEC East is expected to be down, and they should still be able to beat the Seminoles. But with an unproven quarterback and a rebuilt defense, an accommodating schedule might not even be enough.

10. Wisconsin The Badgers have 16 starters returning and an easy nonconference schedule. They get Ohio State at home, and Penn State isn't on the schedule. The toughest road game is at Iowa on Oct. 23. But the knock on the Badgers has been their inability to win the big games against ranked teams in Big Ten play.

[+] EnlargeJohn Clay
David Stluka/Icon SMIJohn Clay and Wisconsin have a favorable nonconference schedule and Ohio State at home in 2010.

11. Texas The Longhorns return five starters on offense from a team that played for the national championship last season. Garrett Gilbert came on strong in the second half against Alabama in the national championship game last season, but he is going to be playing behind an offensive line with three new starters and in an offense which is missing Jordan Shipley. The run game must be solved, too. The game at Nebraska will be a doozy.

12. Auburn Watch out for the Tigers. If their defense shows any signs of improvement, they could give Alabama a run. The schedule features the toughest game on the road, at Alabama, but they were a few minutes away from beating the Tide last season. LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, Clemson and South Carolina are all home games.

13. Virginia Tech The Hokies have that big game against Boise State to start the season, and the ACC schedule is not too friendly (at Boston College, North Carolina and Miami). The defense also has major questions to answer.

14. Miami The nonconference schedule is brutal once again, with games at Ohio State and Pittsburgh. But the Hurricanes do get Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech at home. Tough ACC road games at Clemson and Georgia Tech might negate those.

15. Boston College The Eagles have a schedule that plays into their favor, along with 14 returning starters. They get Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Clemson at home. They also get the benefit of being in the weaker Atlantic Division.

16. Arkansas The Razorbacks are going to need more than Ryan Mallett to win games. The defense also must improve in a hurry. The schedule features Alabama and LSU at home, but it also has tough road games at Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina and a neutral site game against Texas A&M.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Yates
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIT.J. Yates and North Carolina get an early test against LSU in the season opener.

17. North Carolina Tough nonconference games for a Heels team that needs T.J. Yates to step up and lead the offense. The season opens against LSU in Atlanta, and there also is a tough game at Rutgers. They play Miami and Florida State on the road, but at least Virginia Tech is at home Nov. 13.

18. Pittsburgh The Panthers have Dion Lewis back, but their schedule is not so easy. They open the season at Utah and also have Miami at home. Other tough road games include Notre Dame, Connecticut and Cincinnati. They would probably have to go undefeated to have a title shot.

19. Oregon State The Pac-10 is as even as it has been in a long time. The Beavers are carrying the torch for BCS schools everywhere as they play TCU and Boise State this year. They get USC and Oregon at home and Washington and Stanford on the road. The schedule is not easy, but every game is winnable, especially with 15 starters returning.

20. West Virginia The Mountaineers return 16 starters, including the fierce Noel Devine. The schedule is pretty manageable. If they can win the two toughest road games, at LSU and Pittsburgh, maybe the Mountaineers can creep into the national title conversation.

Andrea Adelson is a national college football blogger for ESPN.com. She can be reached at andrea.adelson@gmail.com.