C&F should issue his normal disclaimer here: Until around July 15, anything he says about his Top 25 should be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, it's really ridiculous to have a Top 25 list at this point, but if you're a college football addict, well...
Well, admit it, you have one, too.
It's one of those things you do in the middle of a boring meeting as you try to endure the third power point presentation of the day. And its validity is up in the air, because you haven't even really read that much of your favorite preview magazine yet, and you couldn't even tell someone how many returning starters Rutgers has. (And if you can, you're even sicker than C&F.)
So we'll see how long Kansas can hang onto No. 13 (annoying the Mayor to no end, I'm sure), whether Texas really comes in at a lowly No. 19 and how likely I am to look back and wonder why Louisville was ever No. 24. (And I'll only reveal my surprise No. 16 on pain of death. But I will emphatically deny that it is an attempt to pump up the Gamecocks' opening week opponent.)
In any case, this is the time of year to play around, try some new things, move things around a bit to get the Top 25 juuuuuuust right.
If, though, C&f were called on to put together a Top 25, these are the teams he would dub "worthy of consideration" without actually making the list. (All numbers, returning starters, etc. from Phil Steele.)
SOUTH CAROLINA :: Let's go ahead and get the obvious one out of the way. C&F will not rank the Gamecocks preseason again until they give him a reason to do so. Twice bitten (in 2006 and 2007), eternally shy. But... The offensive line should improve, J-Brink will be back, Tyrone Nix is gone, and consider how different 2007 would have looked had the Gamecocks not allowed themselves to be surprised by Vanderbilt and had a flag not been thrown on a certain kick in Knoxville. Or had the Team from the Upstate not converted a 3rd-and-18. If only... The Gamecocks had a quarterback that could get through the spring game with, say, just one interception.
SOUTH FLORIDA :: By the end of last year's 9-4 campaign and 56-21 drubbing at the hands of a hobbled Oregon in the Sun Bowl, it was fair to wonder whether the magical run that carried the Bulls to No. 2 was all a mirage produced by a week conference. But... QB Matt Grothe and remainder of the team's top six rushers return, as does every receiver with more than 30 catches. If only... C&F were filling a little bolder. Even this early, though, he's not.
BOSTON COLLEGE :: QB Matt Ryan isn't the only loss to the Eagles this year. Just 10 starters return -- not bad, but not championship-caliber numbers, either. Top four rushers -- gone. But... The top three returning receivers hauled in 174 catches between them last year. And a weak nonconference schedule helps grease the skids for a possible 4-0 or 5-0 run, with the slate opening this way: Kent State (in Cleveland), Georgia Tech, bye, UCF, Rhode Island, at N.C. State, bye. If only... Anyone on the depth chart had attempted more than four passes last year.
MICHIGAN :: This is going to be a long, long year for the Wolverines. They lose loads of talent on offense. (Three returning starters? Three?) They have to adapt to a completely different offense. And they don't even know what their uniforms will look like. But... There is no DIAAFCSETC team on the schedule, so that's encouraging. There are some winnable games. And it's Michigan. There is a cognitive dissonance that comes with not having the Wolverines in the Top 25. If only... Rich Rodriguez could have taken Pat White to Michigan with him.
NOTRE DAME :: There, I said it. Yes, Notre Dame. This team was pathetic last year. The 3-9 record does not do justice to a team that averaged 75 yards on the ground and 167 through the air. But... Even accounting for their diminished state, the Fighting Irish have nine winnable games on their schedule. (Gotta love being an independent.) In case you're skeptical, they are: San Diego State, at Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford, at North Carolina, at Washington, Pittsburgh, Navy (in Baltimore) and Syracuse. And last year might serve as what our fathers used to call "a character-building experience." If only... The Irish hadn't been so incredibly awful in 2007.