Greeson: LSU, USC, Tide head early top 12 for '12

Greeson: LSU, USC, Tide head early top 12 for '12

January 10th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Fans cheer inside the Superdome during the first half of the BCS National Championship college football game Alabama and LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans.

Fans cheer inside the Superdome during the first...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

The college football season ended hours ago. So it's a perfect time to look at an entirely too early preseason poll for the 2012 season. (And before you roll your eyes, know that my preseason poll at this time last year had Alabama No. 1 and LSU No. 3.)

Here is one view of the top 12 for 2012, and remember the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Sunday. That could really alter a team's positioning. Baylor, for instance, could be quite high if Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III returns but much lower if he declares for the draft:

  1. LSU. The Tigers will feature the best defense in the country. The Tigers started seven sophomores on defense Monday night.

  2. Southern California. Lane Kiffin will have the nation's top quarterback in Matt Barkley, and the Trojans will be out of NCAA timeout.

  3. Alabama. No team could be hit harder by early defections than the Tide, who likely will lose at least three underclassmen to the NFL draft. Of course, they had three first-round picks leave early before the 2011 season, and that hardly slowed them.

  4. Florida State. Defensively, the Seminoles will be stout.

  5. Oklahoma. Quarterback Landry Jones will be back for what feels like his 17th season with the Sooners. And he'll have a lot of talent around him.

  6. Oregon. Leading rusher LaMichael James is headed to Sundays, but hiccup-quick De'Anthony Thomas will be more than a suitable replacement.

  7. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are humming under Mike Gundy, and a defense with eight starters back will keep them among the nation's best next fall.

  8. Georgia. Aaron Murray is a blessing, but the Georgia defense is the real reason for excitement.

  9. Michigan. Loaded with experience, Denard Robinson and the Wolverines could run the table in an unstable Big Ten.

  10. Arkansas. Tyler Wilson will get a lot of preseason Heisman buzz, but if running back Knile Davis returns, Wilson may not even be the best offseason player in Fayetteville.

  11. South Carolina. A record-setting season could be a springboard for a team that managed a program-best 11 wins despite losing its best player -- running back Marcus Lattimore, who will be back this fall.

  12. Clemson: Replacing some key pieces along the defensive line will be the biggest hurdle, but quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins are big time.