The 2017 college football season finally arrives, and the landscape of the new season looks remarkably similar to the landscape of the old season.
Alabama looks really strong once again and takes the number one spot. Meanwhile, the three other 2016 Playoff teams (Ohio State, Clemson, and Washington) all look competitive once again. Programs such as USC, Florida State, Auburn, and Michigan all looked really good at times last season and could bounce back in a big way in 2017.
Receiving Consideration: Houston, Troy, Stanford, Utah, Kansas State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, and TCU.
25. South Carolina—Hardly anyone is talking about Will Muschamp’s team, but QB Jake Bentley looked good in what should have been his senior year of HS. The Gamecocks have playmakers on defense and could be relevant in SEC East.
24. North Carolina—The Tar Heels avoid both Clemson and Florida State. A pair of SEC transfers QB Brandon Harris and RB Stanton Truitt could shine in their new home.
23. Washington State—QB Luke Falk and the prolific Cougar offense returns in a down year for the PAC 12.
22. South Florida (1-0)—Charlie Strong managed a solid landing spot and will be aided by dynamic QB Quinton Flowers. The Bulls could make some noise this season.
21. Texas A&M—In a make-or-break season for Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies still boast a talented roster. WR Christian Kirk is an elite playmaker.
20. Oregon—It will be interesting to see if Willie Taggert can return Oregon to a place of prominence in the PAC 12. If they take a step this year, RB Royce Freeman will play a big role.
19. West Virginia—The Big 12 is wide open, and QB Will Grier is a perfect fit for this offense. The Mountaineers will put up some serious points.
18. LSU—After winning “Most Underwhelming Hire” when it stuck with Ed Orgeron, the Bayou Bengals don’t appear in contention for the SEC West title. RB Derrius Guice and DE Arden Key are some of the best players in the country, though.
17. Miami—Can Mark Richt rebuild this program to its former glory? Doubt it. But, this team is on a path back to being consistently good, and this offense should put up points.
16. Oklahoma State—I never know what to make of Oklahoma State, a team that has generated plenty of buzz in the Gundy years but always seem to lose a game or two they shouldn’t. QB Mason Rudolph should lead a potent O.
15. Wisconsin—The Badgers will miss the “Watt Era,” but Paul Chryst is a solid coach coaching a program that has defined “solid.”
14. Louisville—Bobby Petrino is an elite football mind, and he has the most dynamic player in college football to work with. Louisville should be a tough team to beat once again.
13. Oklahoma—Lincoln Riley’s transition to HC may not be as smooth as many people think. QB Baker Mayfield is good, but can the dynamic combo of Mixon-Perine be replaced?
12. Florida—If Jim McElwain can resolve the QB battle, the Gators have the talent to compete in the SEC East. OT Martez Ivey and DL Cece Jefferson could be 2018 Rd1 draft picks.
11. Texas—I may be way off here, but I think Tom Herman may be due for one of those big first-year-coach bumps. A weak Big 12 could allow the Longhorns to be a serious contender to win the conference. LB Malik Jefferson is one of nation’s best.
10. Georgia—I’m not sold on Kirby Smart as a head coach, but QB Jacob Eason should take a big leap. Moreover, there are talented playmakers on O and elite disruptors on D. There’s no excuse for the Dawgs not to vie for SEC East crown.
9. Washington—The Huskies and QB Jake Browning won’t surprise anyone this year, and they lost key standouts to the NFL. Still, Chris Petersen will have this team ready to play.
8. Penn State—The Big Ten East is neck and neck with the SEC West for most relevant division in college football. Return of QB Trace McSorley and RB Saquon Barkley make this team a real contender.
7. Michigan—Sometimes belief in a coach carries more weight than belief in the team. The Wolverines are young and talented with elite players like former #1 recruit Rashan Gary. Jim Harbaugh, however, is what gives me confidence that they will be a factor.
6. Clemson—An opportunity to repeat could take a hit should the Tigers fall against Auburn, but this team, led by arguably the nation’s top DL, could win that game and make some real noise. Elite playmakers on O will ease QB transition.
5. Auburn—Transfer QB Jarrett Stidham has made this team a trendy pick, and I’m buying. Since his inaugural season at Auburn, Gus Malzahn has proven little as a head coach, but this team is far more talented than that team he took to the title game.
4. Florida State—The top of these rankings prove on thing: recruiting matters. The Seminoles, like the others, are loaded with talent. QB Deondre Francois looked really good at times in ‘16, and the RB combo of Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick is punishing.
3. USC—After being on every “hot seat” list at the beginning of last season, Clay Helton may have the Trojans positioned as the most likely team to make the Playoff given a relatively weak schedule. QB Sam Darnold is a legitimate Heisman contender.
2. Ohio State—QB JT Barrett forgot how to throw the football at the end of last season, and there were significant losses on defense and at playmaking positions. However, Urban Meyer has also built a powerhouse program with a “next man up” mantra.
1. Alabama—The Tide lost a lot from last year’s runner-up finish, but Nick Saban has recruited so well that his team will stay in their traditional spot for now. QB Jalen Hurts made a late run for the Heisman last year and could be a factor in that race from the start in 2017.