Make no mistake about it, Alabama enters the 2016 college football season head and shoulders above the rest.
Yes, Clemson and Florida State are awfully talented. No you can’t count out teams coached by Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. And, of course, the Big 12 and PAC 12 can push forward surprise teams.
However, the defending national champions boast a roster that is arguably better top to bottom than the 2015 iteration. That said, college football is known for its surprises so this will almost certainly look completely different at the end of the season.
Here are our 2016 preseason rankings:
25. San Diego St.—A stellar defense and elite running back have the Aztecs eyeing a bid for an undefeated season.
24. Oregon—This is a Ducks squad that has taken a step back, but they will compete in the PAC 12.
23. Louisville—Lamar Jackson will put up massive numbers for the Cardinals.
22. Texas—Charlie Strong finally will show some progress for the Horns.
21. Washington—There is a jumble at the top of the PAC 12, and the Huskies can compete.
20. Florida—Jim McElwain is an offensive coach, but it’s the D that has elite talent.
19. UCLA— Josh Rosen might be the best pure passing QB in the country.
18. Tennessee—There’s a lot of talent on the roster, but I’m not sure I can buy on the hype.
17. Michigan State—The Spartans are always ready to play.
16. UNC—Elijah Hood is one of the nation’s best kept secrets.
15. Ole Miss—They lost three first rounders. But Chad Kelly remains.
14. Georgia—The opener against UNC will be tough, but the Dawgs can make a run.
13. Virginia Tech—This is my surprise team with Coach Justin Fuente and new QB Jerod Evans making a big splash.
12. Notre Dame—The talent is there for a Playoff run.
11. Stanford—When Christian McCaffrey is on your team, you can never be counted out.
10. USC—Expect the Trojans to lose to Alabama, but, while this won’t be confused with one of the great Carroll teams, this roster is talented enough to close strong on an incredibly tough four games to end the season and be in the Playoff discussion.
9. Ohio State—Urban doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. Still, too many questions remain to rank the Buckeyes higher.
8. Michigan—This team is built to play Harbaugh football, and I expect big things.
7. Houston—If Greg Ward and company can pull off early season upset, you can pencil the Cougars in for the Playoff.
6. TCU—A rebirth for Kenny Hill could make this team scary good.
5. LSU—Leonard Fournette is the best player in CFB, but Brandon Harris is the key.
4. Oklahoma—An incredibly stellar backfield has this team primed for the Playoff.
3. Clemson—Deshaun Watson is back… enough said.
2. Florida State—Loaded roster featuring Heisman contender Dalvin Cook
1. Alabama—Better than last year’s team, Nick Saban’s crew has more weapons on offense and more elite pass rushers than ever before.