by Pete Medhurst

College football teams around the country kicked off their preseason practices this week. Finally, we can talking about the on field product and not disastrous stories like Penn State or another arrest of a college football player.

This is not a preseason top five, but a look at who I think will be the top five at season’s end.

1. USC – I was actually impressed the way the Trojans performed under Lane Kiffin in a year that had no postseason reward for the team.

If Silas Redd transfers from Penn State, as it seems he will, the Trojans will move to the head of the class. Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee… I mean this team has explosive ability. The question for USC is whether can they move the ball in the BCS Championship game against a defense of the likes they will have not seen all year. For the sake of this argument, we’re talking about a matchup against LSU.

2. LSU – Les Miles’ team will boast an awesome defensive line.

Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery on each end are tough enough. Add Bennie Logan inside and how can anybody do anything against that group?

Add Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid in the secondary and LSU will make life miserable for opponents all season long.

The Tigers have a plethora of running backs and can also play keep away.

Zack Mettenberger will have to make fans forget about the mediocre play of Jarrat Lee and Jordan Jefferson from a year ago. He must not lose games for the Tigers. Their defense is awesome. Alabama will be tough on Nov. 3, but watch out for a trip to Auburn that could be tougher than you might think.

3. Michigan – I am a Brady Hoke supporter, having had the opportunity to see him up close when Navy was playing Ball State. He’s done well quickly at San Diego State and Michigan.

Perhaps I’m going out on a limb, but I think by September Michigan will know if he has what it takes to play in a New Years Day bowl game or the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Open with Alabama on a neutral field in Dallas, host Air Force — no easy task with the offensive of style of Falcons and let down of playing Alabama the previous week — and they play at Notre Dame.

Their key Big Ten game is at home against Michigan State. Will Urban Meyer and OSU play spoiler in the finale? Defensive lineman Craig Roh and linebacker Kenny Demens must step up their level of play also on defense.

4. South Carolina – The Gamecocks have the ability to beat you with ball control and defense.

Are we sure Steve Spurrier is the coach of this team? Marcus Lattimore is a question with a suspect knee and Connor Shaw should actually be better without the cloud of Stephen Garcia looming over his shoulder.

Jadeveon Clowney is a monster and will press for National Defensive Player of the Year honors.

They also have a tough schedule, but if they can survive with only one loss they could be here.

5. Nebraska – The Cornhuskers have the parts in the running game and special teams to be a team that could surprise and bolt past Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten prognostications.

Rex Burkhead is terrific as are Ameer Abdullah and place kicker Brett Maher. Their combination should prove to be the difference between a few wins and losses during the season.

Taylor Martinez will have to win a game somewhere for them. Is he a good enough all around quarterback to do that when Burkhead gets bottled up?

Others under consideration: Oklahoma, Georgia, Michigan State and Oregon.

If Danny O’Brien, the former Maryland quarterback, can rise up against better competition and Montee Ball can carry his share of the load, the Wisconsin Badgers can factor into this conversation as well.

I want to believe Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech have enough to get here, but I’m not sure if those teams won’t come up small in a big moment. All three have tremendous talent at quarterback spots, but whose defense will win a key road game?

Remember 106.7 FM is your home for Virginia Tech football all season long as the Hokies get started September 3 at home against Georgia Tech.

Pete Medhurst is a play-by-plan announcer for the Naval Academy. Follow him on Twitter: @PeteMedhurst


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