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Crystal Ball Run Preseason Top 10: Next 5

Here at Crystal Ball Run we’ve provided an early look at our preseason Top 10 for the 2012 season.

And the writers here gave you an outstanding look at:

10. West Virginia

9. Ohio State

8. Arkansas

7. Florida State

6. Oklahoma

5. Georgia

4. Oregon

3. LSU

2. Alabama

1. USC

But we know you’re wondering who missed the cut. Well, here’s a quick look at the next five.

11. South Carolina

The Gamecocks should be as good or better than last year when Steve Spurrier guided them to 11 victories. Once again, South Carolina will be led by an athletic and pounding defense that includes Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney.

New defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward does have one glaring issue and that’s finding enough talent and depth in the backfield.

It’s also refreshing for Carolina to enter the season with a clear-cut starter at quarterback in Connor Shaw. The offense will be helped if Marcus Lattimore returns to full strength and leads the running game again.

The Gamecocks travel to LSU and Florida in back-to-back weeks, but if they win the games they should, South Carolina could be back in the SEC Championship Game for the second time in three seasons.

Best-case scenario: SEC Championship, BCS Bowl, 12-2

Worst-case scenario: Third-place in SEC East, 9-4

12. Michigan

The Wolverines have the talent and experience to be even better than last year’s 11-2 campaign that included a 23-20 victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

A big reason to believe in Michigan is that the defense is for real under Greg Mattison. However, the defense must replace some serious talent on the defensive line.

The offense should be explosive with Denard Robinson back for his final season at quarterback. He’s not a great passer, but he’s good enough. What makes him special is his ability to break open a game with one run.

Robinson needs to stay healthy and not turn over the ball.

Michigan will be tested this season, though. The Wolverines open with defending champ Alabama and must go on the road to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State.

Best-case scenario: Big Ten Championship, BCS Bowl, 13-1

Worst-case scenario: Third-place in Big Ten (Leaders), 8-5

13. Florida

Florida should improve on last year’s 7-6 campaign that concluded with a win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.

Will Muschamp learned quickly that Urban Meyer didn’t leave very much experienced talent in Gainesville. But now the talent has experience and it’s time to start producing.

The Gators still need to settle on a quarterback and the offense struggled to score last year and it’s hard to see where the points will come from this season.

On a positive note, Florida’s defense is loaded and it might be able to shut down even the best opponents.

Best-case scenario: Second-place in SEC East, 10-3

Worst-case scenario: Third-place in SEC East, 8-5

14. Wisconsin

It was a bit of a shock when Heisman-candidate Montee Ball decided to return for his senior season, especially considering the talent loss experienced at Wisconsin over the past few seasons.

But with his return and the potential for Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien to take over at quarterback, the Badgers are back in the thick of the Big Ten race. Expectations may be a bit unrealistic for O’Brien as he will likely be compared to what Russell Wilson did last season.

Wisconsin’s defense will be led by the linebacking corps of Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, but don’t overlook the value of Devin Smith returning for his senior year at corner after missing last season with an injury.

Bret Bielema will surely work some magic again in Madison, and the schedule could work to Wisconsin’s advantage as the Badgers don’t play Michigan and the toughest road game is at Nebraska.

Best-case scenario: Big Ten Championship, BCS Championship, 14-0

Worst-case scenario: Third-place in Big Ten (Legends), 10-3

15. Texas

Texas has gone 13-12 over the past two seasons so it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Longhorns struggle to six to eight wins in 2012.

But Mack Brown has recruited way too much talent for this proud program to remain irrelevant for much longer.

The defense is headed by defensive end Alex Okafor and an outstanding secondary.

Now Texas must find a true leader under center if the Longhorns are really going to make it back to the top of the Big 12 … much less the nation. Right now, it looks like David Ash is the guy at quarterback.

Best-case scenario: Second-place in Big 12, BCS Bowl game 11-2

Worst-case scenario: Fourth-place in Big Ten (Leaders), 7-6

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