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Predicting the AP Top 10

College football expert Phil Steele always does an incredibly thorough and comprehensive job each season with his preview book, predictions and returning starters lists.

He also takes a run at predicting how The Associated Press preseason Top 10 will look when it comes out in August. Steele has done a great job of this -- in each of the past four years, he has correctly predicted nine of the 10 teams in the preseason poll. While doing this all in January.

So what does his prediction for the 2012 preseason AP Top 10 look like? Steele just released his prediction, and he has one Big East school in the Top 10 -- West Virginia at No. 10. But that pick is subject to change.

Steele writes:

The Mountaineers get the nod here due to a dominating 70-33 Orange bowl win over Clemson. This year WVU returns 14 starters including QB Geno Smith who should be more comfortable in his 2nd-year of Dana Holgorsen’s offense. The asterisk is put on them because at the time of this projection it is not sure whether the Mountaineers will play in the Big East or the Big 12 for 2012. If they remain in the Big East they will be the clear-cut favorites with an easier schedule but if they are joining the Big 12 for 2012, their schedule will be tougher and I would project South Carolina for the #10 spot.

As as friendly reminder, Steele does his own rankings. These are not them, only his prediction for how the AP poll will shake out.

As for West Virginia, I think it is all but a slam dunk for the Mountaineers to be ranked in the top 15 no matter their conference home. That Orange Bowl performance opened up a world of possibilities.