By Thomas Jeffrey
College football is less than 80 days away. For fans that means anticipation for where their teams will be ranked come week one. Let’s take a look at where your team should be…
- Alabama Crimson Tide- What else is new? The Tide will start off defending their national championship as the number one team in the country. Despite losing some key players to the NFL, the Tide will still be as talented as ever, especially if Tua Tagovailoa gets the nod to start.
- Clemson Tigers- The Tigers may be the most stacked team in the country, even more than Alabama, considering that they lost barely anyone. Evidence of Clemson’s lack of departures comes in the form of its defensive line, which is set to be the best in the country. With studs like Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell returning to anchor the unit, it is difficult to deny that claim. Perhaps the only reason they are not number one is because Alabama is the defending champion. Nonetheless, expect Clemson to have another successful season.
- Georgia Bulldogs- The Dawgs lost a lot of players to the NFL, including program greats like Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. However, Jake Fromm is returning after a successful true freshman season and he should be more comfortable with the offense and the level of play. Also, Georgia just reeled in the nation’s number one recruiting class, so talent is not an issue.
- Ohio State Buckeyes- Ohio State also lost some great players to the NFL. But the Buckeyes do return possibly the nation’s best defensive player in Nick Bosa, and also their entire receiving corps. The only aspect preventing them from being in the top three is the uncertainty at quarterback. Although Dwayne Haskins performed under pressure against Michigan, who knows what he will do this season.
- Oklahoma Sooners- The Sooners did just part ways with arguably one of the greatest college football players ever in Baker Mayfield, but Kyler Murray is a highly touted player and should be a suitable replacement for Mayfield. Also, Oklahoma returns three great skill players in running back Rodney Anderson, and wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and CeeDee Lamb. It is hard to believe that Lincoln Riley will have trouble on offense with talent like that.
- Washington Huskies- With veterans like Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin returning, the Huskies are in a great spot to have another successful season and perhaps return to the College Football Playoff.
- West Virginia Mountaineers- Will Grier was having a great season for West Virginia before dislocating his finger. Now he is looking to pick up right where he left off, along with star receivers Gary Jennings Jr. and David Sills. With all that firepower returning the Mountaineers rival Oklahoma for the best offense in the Big 12.
- Michigan State Spartans- Nobody expected the Spartans to win ten games in 2017 after an abysmal 3-9 2016 season. But they did just that and are now returning the majority of their team. Brian Lewerke is growing into an elite dual-threat quarterback and L.J. Scott is poised to have a big year after a somewhat mediocre season. With a backfield like that, the Spartans could be a very dangerous team.
- Penn State Nittany Lions- Perhaps no one in the country lost more players to the NFL than Penn State. And not to mention, Penn State lost arguably its greatest player in program history in Saquon Barkley. But Trace McSorley does return to Happy Valley, and he has shown that he is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. The Nittany Lions are in good hands with McSorley.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish- A very similar narrative to Michigan State, Notre Dame bounced back after an embarrassing season. Now there are big expectations in South Bend, but the Irish have the ability to live up to those expectations, assuming that they get their quarterback situation figured out.
- Wisconsin Badgers- Wisconsin is forming into a consistent power that could almost be penciled in every year as the winner of the Big Ten West. If not for losing the majority of their defense, the Badgers would certainly be in the top ten.
- Michigan Wolverines- There’s no doubt that the Wolverines will be better after a disappointing 8-5 campaign, especially with the addition of Shea Patterson at quarterback. However, they are going to have prove it first before moving higher up the ranks.
- Miami Hurricanes- Many believed that the U was back this season before the Canes lost three straight games to finish out the season. Most of that team is back which is why Miami managed to crack the top 15. But the mediocre play at quarterback is what is holding them back from the top 10.
- Stanford Cardinal- Stanford returns Heisman runner-up Bryce Love at running back. That’s enough to put them in the top 15.
- TCU Horned Frogs- TCU, the Big 12 runner up, is going to have to replace quarterback Kenny Hill, which will be a challenge. However, Gary Patterson returns a defense that could be the best that he has had in years.
- UCF Golden Knights- The self-proclaimed national champions are back and are led by their stud quarterback McKenzie Milton. After beating Auburn and going undefeated last season, the Knights proved that they were legit. However, UCF will not be led by Scott Frost, as he decided to return home and coach at Nebraska.
- Auburn Tigers- Auburn was able to defeat two number one teams last season, but their lack of hardware caused their season to be viewed as a failure. They lose star running back Kerryon Johnson, but they return quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who is one of college football’s best quarterbacks.
- USC Trojans- USC is going to have to recover from the loss of star quarterback Sam Darnold, as well as running back Ronald Jones II. Luckily, the Trojans signed highly touted quarterback prospect J.T. Daniels, and many expect him to win the starting job. However, it may take some time for him to adjust to the college level. After all, he should be a senior in high school.
- Oregon Ducks- The Ducks are looking like a sleeper in the PAC 12 this year. They did just lose head coach Willie Taggart to Florida State, but they return quarterback Justin Herbert, who is expected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft.
- Virginia Tech Hokies- The Hokies always seem to be a solid team in the ACC. Not much is going to change this year, especially since Josh Jackson is returning at quarterback. However, Jackson may face a suspension due to an academic issue. If Jackson is unable to play, the Hokies will have a tough time replacing him.
- Texas Longhorns- Tom Herman is doing an outstanding job recruiting for the Longhorns. Texas has the third best recruiting class in the country, and returns two suitable quarterbacks in Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, they did lose two star defensive players to the NFL in safety Deshon Elliott and linebacker Malik Jefferson.
- LSU Tigers- The Tigers have been struggling at quarterback for some time now. They may have finally gotten their guy in Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow.
- Texas A&M Aggies- The Jimbo Fisher era at A&M is set to be a good one. Fisher is an elite recruiter and may finally be able to get the Aggies over the hump. However, the Aggies are going to have to deal with average quarterback play this year, whether in the form of Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond.
- South Carolina Gamecocks- South Carolina returns nearly everybody from last season. Not to mention, their last season was pretty successful and it ended with an Outback Bowl win over Michigan.
- Mississippi State- The bulldogs are returning a great quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald. But the loss of head coach Dan Mullen is a big hit. Luckily for the Bulldogs they hired Joe Moorhead who had great success as offensive coordinator at Penn State.