As always I go by power rankings, how good a team is instead of what its schedule says it should be. Once the season starts everyone's rankings get blown to bits anyway, mine included.
Five teams will be released a day, with the finale on Monday. We're going with an Election 2008 theme here.
Hope: That last year's young team took its lumps and has a better grasp on how to win ballgames. Cody Hawkins threw for over 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns last year as a redshirt freshman, numbers that should improve.
Change: A respectable recruiting class including the bruising and speedy consensus top back Darrell Scott. Fourteen starters return, so the "change" if you will is a return of the core of last year's team.
Straight Talk: Maybe I'm crazy but Colorado should be pretty darn good this year. That schedule is tough with West Virginia and Florida State and Texas and Missouri, but everything else is winnable. Their defensive interior should be quite good with senior tackles Brandon Nicolas and George Hypolite back. This is a team that should be able to run the ball, stop the run, and throw the ball and put up points in a program that's used to winning.
Hope: That I don't fall asleep writing about them? Wisconsin is unique in that they've played a certain way for well over a decade now. Their success hinges at some level on how good conference opposition is in any given year. They'll never dominate the Big Ten but they're ready to pounce if the usual favorites aren't playing like a top 10 team.
Change: Quarterback Tyler Donovan graduated. He was solid, but I'm sure they're hoping for something more out of the position. That may not happen this year with Kansas State transfer Allan Evridge.
Straight Talk: There's not much to write about in the Big Ten this year. Illinois loses its best player and many people seem to think they're headed for another trip to the Rose Bowl. In other words, the league is a disappointment once you get past Ohio State. This is a great place for Wisconsin to make a move, although I hunch Michigan will be much better than people anticipate.
Hope: That star back LeSean McCoy stays healthy and carries this team to the top of a weakened but incredibly competitive Big East.
Change: Expectations! That's weird to say about Pitt, but there hasn't been much excitement here since Larry Fitzgerald went to the NFL. This program has a recent enough history of winning to point towards, but could afford a little more talent than they've got right now.
Straight Talk: McCoy can do a lot of damage on his own, but staying in the rankings will involve stealing some wins they didn't get last year (like against Connecticut, Navy and Louisville).
22: Fresno State
Hope:A WAC Championship, coach Pat Hill's first, would be nice. The first win against Boise State since 2005 would be nice as well.
Change: The revolving door at Offensive Coordinator continued. Out went Jim McElwain to Alabama, in came Doug Nussmeier.
Straight Talk: This is a nice little team, with a senior quarterback with NFL prospects, sophomore tailback Ryan Matthews and seven returning starters on a still-young defense.
Hope: A top 10 season is expected with yet another season of Davis/Spiller and a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Cullen Harper. The ACC appears to be horribly average once again while Miami and Florida State slumber, Boston College lost its quarterback and Virginia Tech can't figure out how to run the ball or figure out its quarterback.
Change: Clemson didn't quite collapse late last year, winning five of its last seven and dropping close ones to ranked Boston College and Auburn in the bowl game. Has this manic program finally figured it out?
Straight Talk: ... I don't think they have. They simply deflated a little earlier, by the middle of last year in embarrassing back-to-back defeats to Georgia Tech (13-3) and Virginia Tech (41-23). There's a ton of talent here and a lot of people are excited about frosh defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, but that offensive line is extremely young and the opener against Alabama could end the season before it even begins.