It’s never too early to start talking about football season, I don’t care what anyone says. However, I do think anytime before week five is too early to rank teams in college football. Preseason rankings are never right, and we love to make fun of people who get things wrong. So I thought – hey, why not do preseason rankings of my own so people can make fun of me?
Going into this season, it seems to be a two horse race between Ohio State and TCU. Both teams had stellar ends to last season and looked like the top two teams in the country. Both return many players and are looking like the top two seeds in the playoff. The question then becomes – who will be #3 and #4?
Top 25 – Post-Spring Training
1. Ohio State – Big Ten Champion
I have never been more impressed and proven wrong than when I saw Ohio State play Alabama in the playoffs last year. With the Buckeyes losing to Virginia Tech, I wasn’t that impressed with what they had to offer. Their Big Ten title game performance against Wisconsin was impressive, but I still wasn’t ready to say they were a championship caliber team, especially with Cardale Jones at the helm in only his second start. The entire team impressive, but the player that impressed me the most was Ezekiel Elliott. He was flat out amazing in both playoff games. Running for 230 yards against the Tide’s defense was outstanding. Then to turn around a week later in the championship game to run for even more, he was definitely the MVP of the entire playoffs. I look for him to be in the Heisman discussion this year, no doubt.
They return 16 total starters, including four offensive lineman. Not to mention that number doesn’t include the two other QB’s that return making a three headed monster. Most fans hold their breath every time their team’s QB gets tackled or hit hard, but OSU can just keep replenishing.
2. TCU – Big 12 Champion
TCU returns even more starters this year than Ohio State including ten on offense. Not to mention early Heisman favorite Trevone Boykin at quarterback. The Horned Frogs put on a show last year against Ole Miss, the same Rebel team that beat Alabama. TCU missing the playoffs last year is all the motivation they will need to run the table and grab a spot this season.
I don’t think the Big 12 will have to worry about their totally flawed championship system this season because TCU can easily run the table. The Big 12 doesn’t have any really hard competition outside of perhaps Baylor, and their only major non-conference game is Minnesota. You’ll notice Baylor has been moved to the end of the season so it can be a de facto championship game this year instead of being mid-season like last year.
3. Auburn – SEC Champion
I made the comments on air, online, and everywhere in 2012 that Jeremy Johnson and Roc Thomas were going to lead Auburn to a national title. I’m sticking with my guns here and I’ll say that leads them to at least the playoff. I said those comments while watching Johnson at Carver-Montgomery and Thomas at Oxford. They were amazing athletes then, and they still are. They will have to fit into this system, but they both have valuable experience behind Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne. The one weakness on offense will be replacing All-American center Reese Dismukes.
Auburn’s defense last season was abysmal, despite having pretty good talent on that side of the ball. Now with Will Muschamp back at the defensive coordinator position (where he should have been all along…I’m looking at you too Gene Chizik), I expect the defense to play back up to the SEC level it should.
4. Oregon – Pac 12 Champion
I’m still not 100% convinced that Vernon Adams is the answer for replacing Marcus Mariota. Yes, Adams had an amazing career on the red turf at Eastern Washington, but that was FCS, and this is big boy football. Luckily for him, he has plenty of weapons returning to help him out. On defense, the Ducks have never been stellar, but do return a decent number of players as well on that side of the ball.
Obviously the QB position is the main reason people have dropped Alabama. An inexperienced QB is going to have to lead one of the most storied programs around, and do it without weapons that Blake Sims had such as Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, TJ Yeldon, Jalston Fowler, and a super shaky offensive line. The defense loses Landon Collins along with it’s top linebackers, but returns a lot of players with experience. The big issue will be the secondary, which wasn’t great last year, and despite returning some talent, still needs some help. Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey were two studs that landed on the team with a lot of speed a couple of years ago. Now it’s time for them to step up and make their presence known.
It’s a tough choice between USC and Oregon for the Pac-12 champion. Cody Kessler leads a large group of players who are coming back this season, but they have to stay healthy. Steve Sarkisian did a decent job going 9-4 in his first season with the Trojans and cleaning up from Lane Kiffin’s mess. If the Trojans stay healthy all season, then the last two weeks will be must-see football as they face Oregon and UCLA back to back in the final two weeks. If they can get over Stanford and Arizona State early, they will have a good chance at making a run for the playoffs.
7. Michigan State
Michigan State is one of those teams that is always so close, but can never quite reach the pinnacle. Their only two losses last year were to the two teams playing in the national championship in Oregon and Ohio State. Unfortunately for them, Ohio State is back and better than ever this year. The Spartans do return Connor Cook, but they lose running back Jeremy Langford on offense. The defense is always great for Sparty and this season looks to be the same. Unfortunately for them, they get Oregon again this year and have to travel to Ohio State.
Georgia is a hard team to put in the top ten. It’s not that they don’t have the talent to be there, it’s just that they play in the SEC, always have Auburn on their schedule, and usually lose a game or two they aren’t supposed to. To make matters worse, they get Alabama on the rotation this season (although it is in Athens). Nick Chubb was a breakout star last season after having to step in for Todd Gurley. While I think Boykin will ultimately walk away with the Heisman, my vote in the preseason would go to Chubb.
The Dawgs are definitely my pick in the SEC East, but they could have two losses from Alabama and Auburn that could keep them out of the SEC title game. Missouri’s schedule is very favorable to send them to Atlanta again. The biggest question with them will be the QB position to replace Huston Mason. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of Mason’s, so if a QB can at least direct traffic and hand the ball to Chubb, they can make waves.
9. Clemson – ACC Champion
The ACC doesn’t look great again this year, and it will most likely come down to Clemson, Georgia Tech, and FSU again. We’ve heard nothing but great things about Deshaun Watson’s recovery and how he’s going to be better than ever this season. If that’s the case, Clemson can definitely win the ACC. Regardless of the fact that Everett Golson is at FSU now (more on that in a minute), Clemson has a favorable schedule with Georgia Tech and FSU at home (not to mention Notre Dame at home). They could make a push for a spot in the playoff if another team slips (or if the SEC beats itself up), but I look for them to be the lone champion out.
10. Florida State
Everett Golson is not going to save Florida State. Several playmakers have left, not just Jameis Winston. I am not sure what the hype is around Golson anyway. The one good season Notre Dame had with him at the helm was entirely because of it’s defense. In eight of it’s games in 2012, Notre Dame scored 22 or less points, yet in those eight games, they went 7-1 (their lone loss being in the title game against Alabama). Last season the Irish didn’t beat anyone worth anything until taking out LSU in the Music City Bowl, and even that was mostly Malik Zaire. Everett Golson wasn’t even good enough to start the whole season last year (and even shared time with Tommy Rees in 2012).
All of that is to say – why should we treat Florida State like they are all of the sudden way better with Golson at the helm? He brings a little bit of experience, but that experience isn’t all that great. They can compete and be a top ten team, but only because they are in the ACC and their only tests are Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville.
13. Ole Miss
15. Georgia Tech
16. Arizona State
17. Notre Dame
20. Boise State
24. Boise State
2015 College Football Playoff
#1 Ohio State vs. #4 Oregon
#2 TCU vs. #3 Auburn
#1 Ohio State vs. #2 TCU