Preview 2016

Post-Spring College Football Ranking Of All 128 Teams

128 Ranking


How good are all the college football teams coming out of spring ball and going into the summer? Welcome to the post-spring ranking of all 128 teams.


Everyone already forgot who won the NCAA Tournament – or at the very least, good luck remembering the name of the championship hero whose name will never be forgotten.

Baseball is just getting started, the NBA and NHL playoffs are finally getting interesting, and the NFL Draft is over – except for Ole Miss. And soon the world is going to start pivoting to college football, mainly because it’s coming close to when the annual magazines are released.

So what does the post-spring ranking of all 128 teams look like? Where does each team stand now that the first wave of practices has passed?

The in-depth previews, breakdowns and predictions for every program are coming over the next several weeks, but in the meantime, here’s a thumbnail sketch and ranking of all 128 teams. This will change as more info comes out, more analysis is done, and more arguments kick in, but consider this a good starting point.

Added in as a frame of reference is where each team finished in the 2015 Season Ranking – based on how good the schedules and seasons actually were – along with the last year’s preseason prediction to see just how close to the pin all the picks were. Also, next to each team in parentheses is its 2015 record.

Less than four months away, based on how good the teams appear to be and NOT where they’re predicted to finish, here we go …

128. Massachusetts (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 121
2015 Preseason Prediction: 4-8

The school is trying to figure out whether or not it actually wants to keep playing football. An independent this season, it has to try finding the scoring punch of a few years ago, but without QB Blake Frohnapfel and a slew of weapons.

127. ULM (2-11)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 122
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-7

New head coach Matt Viator has to somehow jumpstart a woeful offense that couldn’t get the running game going.

126. North Texas (1-11)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 126
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

In comes new Seth Littrell has to jumpstart a miserable passing game while boosting a D that allowed over 500 yards per game.

125. Eastern Michigan (1-11)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 128
2015 Preseason Prediction: 1-11

Oh, Eastern Michigan, will you ever win? The school is discussing whether or not keeping an FBS team is worth it, while on the field, the nation’s worst run defense has to be a whole bunch better

124. Charlotte (2-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 124
2015 Preseason Prediction: 1-11

the 49ers come into the season on a ten game losing streak, but they’re loaded with veterans on both sides of the ball. Ten starters return on defense.

123. New Mexico State (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 114
2015 Preseason Prediction: 2-10

The program has one more year of Sun Belt life before it gets the boot, but it could be a fun team with a high-powered offense to make up for another porous D.

120. Texas State (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 115
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

New head coach Everett Withers is going to run a fast, entertaining offense, but it’s going to take a little while to build things back up. He’s not exactly inheriting a full cupboard.

121. Idaho (4-8)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 106
2015 Preseason Prediction: 1-11

Enjoy it while you can. The Vandals aren’t just getting kicked out of the Sun Belt after this season, they’re getting out of the FBS business altogether. Strangely enough, head coach Paul Petrino might be putting together the best Idaho team in years – the offense is going to explode.

120. Georgia State (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 95
2015 Preseason Prediction: 2-10

Can the Panthers build off the great finish and bowl appearance? The defense should be a wee bit better, but the offense has to replace QB Nick Arbuckle from the nation’s ninth-ranked passing game.

119. Army (2-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 123
2015 Preseason Prediction: 4-8

Will this ever start to work? You know what you’re getting – the ground game will be terrific, and eight starters back on the undersized D should be a bit more effective after a strangely effective year against the run.

118. Ball State (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 107
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

New head coach Mike Neu is back at his alma mater trying to recharge up an offense that sputtered and coughed. The defense might have been miserable, but it gets almost everyone back.

117. Hawaii (3-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 120
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-10

Former star quarterback Nick Rolovich takes over the head coaching gig for a team in desperate need for of an offensive jumpstart. Really, Hawaii? 118th in the nation in passing efficiency? That’ll change under the new staff.

116. Tulane (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 118
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

Willie Fritz comes over from Georgia Southern, bringing with him the devastating triple-option rushing offense that dominated the stat sheet over the last few years. But even with a ton of returning starters, the pieces aren’t quite in place to do what Fritz wants.

115. Miami University (2-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 113
2015 Preseason Prediction: 2-10

The RedHawks have more than enough returning experience to be better, but the offense has to find a scoring punch to go along with a defense that’s been steadily improving over the years.

114. Florida Atlantic (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 97
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

The Owls didn’t get a whole bunch of breaks, mostly because the offense couldn’t score with 20 points or fewer in five of the last seven games. Even so, there’s upside as a Conference USA sleeper with more than enough returning veterans on both sides of the ball.

113. Kent State (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 108
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

This is probably too low if experience turns into production. The Golden Flash offense was miserable – finishing last in the nation averaging 13.1 points per game, but everyone is back.

112. SMU (2-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 117
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

Can the Mustangs finally start to generate more production under Chad Morris? The offense might continue to improve, but the miserable defense that gave up 261 rushing yards has to be rebuilt.

111. UTSA (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 111
2015 Preseason Prediction: 1-11

It’s a new era for Roadrunner football with Frank Wilson coming in from LSU to take over to try to crank up what Larry Coker started. The fan base is there, but they need something to cheer about hoping the woeful offense can start making things go with eight starters returning.

110. Fresno State (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 112
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

The ranking will probably change over the summer once several position situations get settled. It’s redo time on a defense that couldn’t stop anyone’s running game, while the offense has to find something that works after finishing 121st in the nation.

109. Troy (4-8)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 91
2015 Preseason Prediction: 4-8

The program needed an overhaul with head coach Neal Brown came in last season, and while the payoff isn’t going to come quite yet, this is a rising team in the Sun Belt with an improving offense.

108. South Alabama (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 89
2015 Preseason Prediction: 4-8

There’s some rebuilding to do on both sides of the ball, but for a team that somehow found a way to get to five wins – but whiffed on bowl eligibility losing the final three games – it has a good-looking defense returning.

107. UTEP (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 105
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

The Miners welcome back nine starters to an offense that sputtered and coughed scoring 24 points or fewer nine times. Even a little improvement could mean a bowl game.

106. Old Dominion (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 101
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

After gagging away bowl eligibility over the last two games, the Monarchs should be more of a player in the Conference USA race with nine starters returning on each side of the ball.

105. Florida International (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 99
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

Looking for your possible sleeper in the Conference USA world? The Golden Panthers get back everyone on offense after doing a decent job of getting the passing game going. It’ll need a boost after getting outscored 115-7 over the last two games.

104. Akron (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 76
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Last season was the culmination in a massive building job under Terry Bowden – winning the final five games including a bowl victory over Utah State – but now it’s do-over time. The Zips have to replace too much and should tumble a bit.

103. Louisiana-Lafayette (4-8)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 104
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

One of the biggest disappointments in the Group of 5 world last year, the Ragin’ Cajuns have way too much returning talent to not be a player again in the Sun Belt race. To do that, the passing game has to stop screwing up.

102. Buffalo (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 78
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

Lance Leipold is a fantastic head football coach who did a wonderful job last year – up until the Bulls lost their last three games and missed out on a bowl game. The defense should be among the best in the MAC, but the offense needs more playmakers.

101. San Jose State (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 84
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

Okay, this is probably too low – for now. The Spartans found a way to get to a bowl game – and win it – and there’s hope to be even better with nine starters back on offense and eight returning on D, but losing RB Tyler Ervin is a killer.

100. Wyoming (2-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 119
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Okay, Craig Bohl, time to start making Wyoming into North Dakota State already. At the very least, the Cowboys will have one of the Mountain West’s most devastating running games and has more than enough returning talent to start to turn it all around.

99. Rice (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 98
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

The nation’s worst pass efficiency defense that got lit up way too easily at least returns a slew of veterans. The O should be fine, but unless the D gets better after giving up 30 points or more seven times, the Owls aren’t making a splash.

98. UCF (0-12)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 125
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

The biggest disaster/disappointment of 2015 starts over with a rising superstar head coach in Scott Frost. How fast can this all bounce back? With ten starters returning on offense, the Knights could come up with an instant turnaround.

97. Kansas (0-12)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 127
2015 Preseason Prediction: 1-11

The Jayhawks are way overdue to start having a little bit of fun. That can’t happen under head coach David Beaty unless the offense starts to work and the defense isn’t the worst college football again. You can’t win in the Big 12 if you score a total of 108 points in conference play.

96. Tulsa (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 79
2015 Preseason Prediction: 2-10

A nice surprise last season, the Golden Hurricane cranked up the high-powered passing game all the way to a bowl game. With eight starters back on an O that averaged 507 yards per game, look out, American Athletic.

95. Middle Tennessee (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 65
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Last year might have been just the beginning for a Blue Raider team with a fun and exciting offense that should be among the best in Conference USA at winging the ball around the yard. It’ll be one of the league’s fun teams.

94. Arkansas State (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 40
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

This will be a much, much higher rating soon – yeah, the Red Wolves deserve more respect than this. If the Sun Belt star is ever going to take a step back, though, this is going to be it with a do-over happening in the offensive backfield. The defense, though, should be great on the front seven and the team should grow into a player in the conference race again.

93. Colorado State (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 69
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

The Rams have a ton of work to do, especially on defense, but there’s a good base of talent to work with. Can the front line start to come up with a run stop once in a while? The offense has to find a more consistent groove even after losing a few key parts.

92. UNLV (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 98
2015 Preseason Prediction: 1-11

Ready to be one of the breakthrough teams under second-year head coach Tony Sanchez, the Rebels could have a dangerous attack if Nebraska transfer QB Johnny Stanton is the real deal.

91. Louisiana Tech (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 44
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

After a wild and fun year, now comes the massive step back losing QB Jeff Driskel, RB Kenneth Dixon, DT Vernon Butler, and 13 starters overall. The coaching staff is good enough to keep things from sliding into the abyss, but it’s rebuilding time.

90. Nevada (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 81
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

The Wolf Pack closed out the season with a good bowl win thanks to the ground game, and now it should be even stronger with nine starters returning on offense. The D will be a rumor at times, though.

89. Ohio (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 50
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Alright, so this is too low and will change up closer to the season, but for now the defense has a few too many replacements to make while the offense has to be more explosive against the better teams.

88. New Mexico (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 66
2015 Preseason Prediction: 4-8

It was the breakthrough season under Bob Davie, and the rushing offense will be as good as ever. There could be a bit more offense balance, while the defense will improve just enough to be more of a factor in the Mountain West.

87. Utah State (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 88
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

The Aggie defense did what the Aggie defense is supposed to do, but the production didn’t come losing four of the last five games. The D isn’t going to be any better after losing Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell, while the O is undergoing a bit of a personnel overhaul.

86. Iowa State (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 96
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

Can the arrival of Matt Campbell change around the fortunes of the franchise? The former Toledo head coach has experience on defense to work with, but the offense is going to need a little work around RB Mike Warren.

85. Purdue (2-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 110
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

The Boilermakers have the experience, and there’s been more than enough time for Darrell Hazell to start to put the things in place he needs. Can it finally start to translate into production? It had better.

84. Central Michigan (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 58
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

The Chippewas have the passing game to keep pace with just about anyone, and should be as dangerous as anyone in the MAC with QB Cooper Rush able to bomb away, while the defense that finished 16th in the nation gets eight starters back.

83. East Carolina (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 83
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

Coming off a disappointing year, the Pirates have to get better on the offensive front and get the ground game going for an offense that disappeared over the second half of the season.

82. Connecticut (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 77
2015 Preseason Prediction: 2-10

All last year was the same thing – if the Huskies could come up with ANY sort of offense, they’d be fantastic. Ten starters are back this time around to try jumpstarting an O that scored 13 points or fewer in three of the last five games. The defense will be special again.

81. Cincinnati (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 71
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

It seemed like everyone was having fun in the American Athletic last year, and Cincinnati didn’t get an invite. The okay defense should be better, but the nation’s No. 6 offense will take a big step back after losing five starters.

80. Oregon State (2-10)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 116
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

Gary Andersen is too good a head coach for his team to be that bad again. This time around he has a ton of returning experience to rely on with nine starters back to run his spread offense and eight back on D. No Andersen defense will ever be 115th in the nation again.

79. Virginia (4-8)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 87
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

New head coach Bronco Mendenhall is going to be in for a rocky first season. There should be a passing game, and there might be a few excellent players to build the defense around – Quin Blanding is one of the nation’s best defensive backs – but it’s going to be a battle for a while.

78. Georgia Southern (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 42
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

New coaching staff, same production. Tyson Summers is keeping the running game in place, and the results should be tremendous with everyone returning in the backfield. No. 1 in the nation on the ground, and 21st in total defense, expect more of the same.

77. Rutgers (4-8)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 78
2015 Preseason Prediction: 4-8

The Chris Ash era gets going with a decent-looking team with okay upside – except for the division. Rutgers might be better, but it’ll be a tough year in the Big Ten East. Ash’s first job is to improve a secondary that couldn’t slow anyone down.

76. Bowling Green (10-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 18
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Can new head coach Mike Jinks keep the offense going for the defending MAC champion? It’s going to be tough after losing all the skill stars? The D might pick up the slack with seven starters returning.

75. Memphis (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 30
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

Is there life without Paxton Lynch and Justin Fuente? New head coach Mike Norvell has just enough work to do on both sides of the ball to expect a big step back, especially for a defense that died down the stretch.

74. Appalachian State (11-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 31
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

This might be a bit of an insult considering what the program has done since joining the FBS world, and especially considering RB Marcus Cox is back. Even more impressive will be a defense that loses DE Ronald Blair, but returns nine starters.

73. Temple (10-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 33
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

It’s not going to be a fall back into the abyss Temple has always been used to, but without Tyler Matakevich and four stars on the defensive front seven – and with so many starters gone off of both sides – there will be a step back. But the D will still bring it – that’s how good this coaching staff is.

72. WKU (12-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 10
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

The defense returns seven starters and should be a problem early on, and it’s going to be tough losing a QB like Brandon Doughty and some of his key targets, but don’t expect the fun to stop. The coaching staff is too good, and there are still enough weapons to keep the offense rolling.

71. Marshall (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 47
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

The Thundering Herd got the job done on defense last season, and they should be every bit as strong again. Strangely enough for a program known for offense, the production will crank it back up after a rebuilding year.

70. Colorado (4-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 94
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-8

Could this finally be the season the Buffs start to break through in the Pac-12? They have the veterans to boost up the offense with ten starters returning to an attack that was great at times, and died over the final month scoring 14 points or fewer in three of the final four games.

69. Vanderbilt (4-8)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 90
2015 Preseason Prediction: 4-8

Can the offense start to do anything? The defense should once against be fantastic, but the O that averaged 15 points per game is still going to be a work in progress going into the fall even with eight starters back.

68. Illinois (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 82
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

The Lovie Smith era is going to take a while to get off the ground. Can Smith’s square peg defensive style fit? He’s got the veterans do to it, but his offense suffered a brutal blow when star WR Mike Dudek suffered yet another knee injury.

67. Duke (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 64
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

Every year it’s so easy to assume Duke will struggle because it’s Duke, but David Cutcliffe continues to do a great job. The offense should continue to be effective, while the defense welcomes back eight starters. The big key out of spring are the special teams that still has to replace both kickers.

66. Wake Forest (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 102
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

All the Demon Deacons need is more offense after finishing 113th in the nation, scoring 24 points or fewer in every game but the opener against Elon. With nine starters back, expect things to finally start to turn around for a team that’ll start to be a thorn in the ACC’s side.

65. Syracuse (4-8)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 85
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

Bowling Green’s Dino Babers was a fantastic get for a program that’s way overdue to start producing at a much higher level. Does he have the talent to work with? He’ll have the veterans with 18 starters back – the defense should be better. It has to be.

64. Southern Miss (9-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 49
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

USM should be Conference USA’s big star with QB Nick Mullens leading phenomenal offense. WR Michael Thomas is gone, but the attack that averaged 40 points per game should still be dominant. With eight starters back on the other side, the D should hold serve just enough for the O to do its thing.

63. Indiana (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 72
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

The Hoosier offense has figured out how to reload, but it’s going to take way too much to get over the loss of QB Nate Sudfeld and RB Jordan Howard. Defense has always been a problem, but this could be the best yet in the Kevin Wilson era with eight starters returning.

62. Northern Illinois (8-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 73
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

And now comes the return to prominence. It was a good team that found a way to get it done last year before injuries took their toll. This time around, the pieces are back in place with the offense about to gear it back up to a MAC championship level.

61. Navy (11-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 15
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

The machine rolls on. There’s no Keenan Reynolds to run the attack, but the coaching staff is still going strong and the system always works with the new pieces plugged in. But even so, losing ten offensive starters is a problem.

60. Toledo (10-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 22
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

Expect the fun to keep on rolling with Jason Candle taking over the head coaching reigns, and with a terrific team returning starting with the 1-2 rushing punch of Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson in the backfield. The problem? The D is starting over, but the offense should pick up the slack.

59. Maryland (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 92
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

Call last year a step back to possibly take a leap forward getting a strong coaching prospect in D.J. Durkin taking over. It’s going to take at least a year to build things back up, but the passing game should be more efficient – it can’t be any worse.

58. Kentucky (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 87
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

Enough is enough. Kentucky has flirted with bowl eligibility for the last few years, and now with ten starters returning on offense and with just enough talent back across the board, it’s time to make a bigger splash in the Mark Stoops era.

57. Boston College (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 103
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Can Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles kickstart the nation’s 125th best offense? He should be able to bring a little more to mix while the nation’s No. 1 defense should be every bit as tremendous. Put it this way – if BC could’ve scored just 15 points in every game last year, it would’ve finished 6-6. If it had scored 21 in every game, it would’ve been 9-3.

56. Air Force (8-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 59
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

If you liked Air Force’s run to the Mountain West title game last year, get ready for more fun with nine starters returning to a defense that did a terrific job – up until Jared Goff went off in the bowl game. Expect another fantastic year.

55. BYU (9-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 43
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

This should be a far better team than the record will be thanks to a brutal schedule. New head coach Kalani Sitake gets back an interesting quarterback situation with Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill ready to roll, and there’s more good talent to work with. Again, though, the slate will be the killer.

54. California (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 46
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

You don’t get better by losing the No. 1 pick in the draft, but the coaching staff knows how to crank up the offense – it’s all going to keep on working even without Jared Goff. The D might have been an issue, but nine starters return.

53. Western Michigan (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 32
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

It’s a real deal team that’s about to become a really big thing. QB Zach Terrell is about to crank up a killer offense with the experience, depth and talent to hang with just about anyone in college football. Throw in seven starters coming back on defense, and head coach P.J. Fleck still around, and this should be the best team in the MAC.

52. Kansas State (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 74
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

You never quite know exactly if it’s all going to work or not, but with eight starters returning on defense, and with the offense being the Kansas State offense and doing what it does, there should be a bit of a bounceback. The O was as bad as It could be, and the Wildcats still got to six wins. Now it’ll be better.

51. Northwestern (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 20
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

After a shocking season, now comes the reality check. The Wildcats are still going to be tough, and they’re still going to be okay, but they’re still missing the firepower. You know the defense will bring the effort, but it’s not going to finish 13th in the nation again.

50. Arizona State (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 61
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

This could be a rough one. The pass defense was the worst in college football, and now it loses three starters and some of the key parts up front. The offense cranked things up, but now it’s without QB Mike Bercovici, OG Christian Westerman, WR D.J. Foster, and seven starters. ASU will be okay, but forget about winning an improved Pac-12 South.

49. South Florida (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 57
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

The Bulls came through with their breakthrough season under Willie Taggart thanks to an efficient, effective offense, no mistakes, and a nasty run defense. Expect more of the same for a program more than ready to challenge for a conference title.

48. South Carolina (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 93
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

Start with having a head coach who won’t quit on his team once adversity hits, and here comes the rebound. Will Muschamp inherits nine returning starters on an underachieving defense that’s about to be night-and-day better. This could be the East’s dangerous X factor team – the expectations aren’t there this year, but the toughness will be.

47. Arizona (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 56
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

The offense will be the Rich Rodriguez offense with plenty of pop and firepower, but will the consistency be there? The defense was a disaster and won’t be a rock this time around, either – it’s a RichRod team, after all – but the nine returning starters on O will make up for it.

46. Minnesota (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 62
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

Expect the continuity and the consistency to be there this season with Tracy Claeys now firmly entrenched as the head coach. And expect the running game to start to start working again like it’s supposed to, and expect QB Mitch Leidner to win a few games on his own. This will turn into the team no one wants to deal with.

45. Georgia Tech (3-9)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 88
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

Last year was an aberration. The Yellow Jackets are loaded with veterans on both sides of the ball with the O about to dominate again with nine starters back. It needs to after failing to crank out more than 28 points in nine of their last ten games.

44. Texas Tech (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 67
2015 Preseason Prediction: 5-7

It’s time for Texas Tech to start doing more than just look nice and put up some decent numbers – this should be the breakthrough year under Kliff Kingsbury. Yeah, six starters are gone off the offense – whatever, the passing game will rock. Every game will still be a shootout, but the Red Raiders will be on the right side of more of them this season.

43. NC State (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 75
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

The Wolfpack haven’t been able to get things cranked up under Dave Doeren, but he’s had time to build up the depth and put the pieces together. QB Jacoby Brissett is done, but if the O line can step up, and the secondary isn’t a problem, look out, ACC.

42. Virginia Tech (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 60
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

New head coach Justin Fuente is about to infuse a better, more effective offense with eight returning starters about to improve the Hokie attack. The defense is going to be an issue, especially up front, but watch out – there’s enough talent there for Fuente to do something special right away.

41. Pitt (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 41
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Pat Narduzzi is too good a defensive coach to let the loss of five starters on that side of the ball to be too much of a problem. Run the ball behind a veteran O line, rely on an effective passing game, and crank up the defensive production after a year to get everything set – it’ll all start to work even better.

40. West Virginia (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 54
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-5

This should be one fun team. The offense that rolled over the second half of last season will be more dangerous. Defense is always optional in the Big 12, and that’s going to be the problem with a dicey secondary. Get ready for the Mountaineers to get into shootout after shootout – and be on the right side of most of them.

39. Mississippi State (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 24
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Can Dan Mullen piece things back together after losing Dak Prescott? Yeah, because just about everything else is there on both sides of the ball to be more than just competitive. Dak was the one who made it all go, though, and the offense needs to find more explosion and needs to unearth more playmakers.

38. Washington State (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 45
2015 Preseason Prediction: 3-9

It all finally worked under Mike Leach. With Luke Falk leading the way, the offense blew up as Wazzu busted through turning into a power in the Pac-12 North. The defense might have to replace five starters, but the high-powered passing game will still dominate.

37. Missouri (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 80
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

The Tigers had to go through a weird season considering the off-the-field school controversy along with head coach Gary Pinkel’s issues and retirement. New head man Barry Odom first has to improve the nation’s second-worst scoring offense, but the defense that finished sixth gets back eight starters – it’ll be outstanding again.

36. North Carolina (11-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 13
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

After the near-dream season that almost ended up with an ACC title and a possible trip to the playoff, can the Tar Heels keep it all going without QB Marquise Williams? More than enough is back on both sides of the ball to do it all again – as long as Mitch Trubisky can hold his own as the new starting quarterback.

35. Utah (9-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 21
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

The Utes have to decide on a quarterback, and losing RB Devontae Booker hurts – even after being without him late last year – but all the other parts are there offensively. This won’t be the team of last year, but it’s not going away – it’ll be deep in the hunt for the Pac-12 South title.

34. Texas (5-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 70
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

Really and truly, this is going to be the year when Texas finally starts to work under Charlie Strong. The running game will be phenomenal, and the quarterback situation will figure itself out. The D might need some retooling and tinkering after finishing 106th overall, but Strong has his guys in place now.

33. Penn State (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 68
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

Just be very, very careful ignoring this team with everyone else paying attention to Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. Even with Christian Hackenberg gone from the offense, and Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel done from the defensive front, look out. James Franklin is building something strong.

32. Auburn (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 53
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

Look at it this way – Auburn had about as bad a season offensively as it could possibly have in its worst nightmare, and it still won seven games. The O is going to be better – it just will – and now the defense won’t have to carry things. Throw in a little bit of desperation, and Auburn should be dangerous.

31. Texas A&M (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 48
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

After all the drama and all the craziness of last year, this is a good, talented, different sort of team coming back. The receiving corps is devastating, Trevor Knight is a veteran quarterback with something to prove, and the young defense has a superstar in DE Myles Garrett to work around.

30. Washington (7-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 39
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

The Huskies had to undergo a massive overhaul last year defensively, and they were still okay – finishing 13th in the nation in points allowed, while the offense exploded over the final three games. This year, just about everyone is back for the team Chris Petersen should be able to make rock. Call this the sleeper no one will be talking about in the Pac-12 North race.

29. Boise State (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 35
2015 Preseason Prediction: 11-1

Try to separate the schedule from the team itself, at least early on. The record has the potential to be phenomenal – 13-0 with a Mountain West title is on the table – but the Broncos need some help, especially on the defensive front after losing all four starters. The offense should bludgeon everyone until the D comes around – and it will come around.

28. San Diego State (11-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 17
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

The 2015 Mountain West championship season set the stage for what’s coming next. The Aztec defense that finished fifth in the nation and was such a rock gets back eight starters, while RB Donnel Pumphrey returns to an offense that will do just enough not to get in the way of the D.

27. TCU (11-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 11
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

Yeah, this is way too disrespectful to one of the best coaches in college football and his ability to adapt, adjust and reload – but TCU needs help. The quarterback situation won’t be settled until fall, and that’s just a part of the puzzle – eight starters are gone on the high-octane offense. The defense will pull the Horned Frogs into the top 25 soon enough.

26. Arkansas (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 26
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

There’s no question this will be a top 25 team once a few of the kinks are worked out in the fall camp. The running game will work – it’s a Bret Bielema coached team – but the loss of QB Brandon Allen will hurt. The offense has just enough retooling to do to be just okay, but the defense might turn into an absolute killer with almost all the top tacklers returning.

25. Iowa (12-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 12
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

C.J. Beathard now has to take the next step up and become a star quarterback with just enough gone off the offense to be annoying. The defense caught a massive break when all-star CB Desmond King chose to return for one more year, and there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off, if any, with seven starters back.

24. Nebraska (6-7)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 55
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

Losing key stars on the defensive front hurts, and the secondary that got roasted needs to be better, but there’s enough talent returning in the back seven to expect some semblance of improvement, while QB Tommy Armstrong should lead a more consistent offense with the potential to get the ground game moving better.

23. Stanford (12-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 5
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

Christian McCaffrey is the obvious star to work around, but losing four starters on the O line will hurt, and not having efficient QB Kevin Hogan as the steadying hand is a problem. The program reloads at this point, but even Stanford will take a step back having to replace seven starters on defense.

22. Miami (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 52
2015 Preseason Prediction: 6-6

Go ahead and buy into the Mark Richt factor. All new coaching staffs say the new team has to be tougher and more focused, but that really does appear to be the case with the Hurricanes. The renewed energy is a big deal for a team that just wasn’t all that bad – 58-0 Clemson disaster aside.

21. Florida (10-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 36
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

Will there finally be more of an offense? Luke Del Rio appears to have steadied the quarterbacking concern this spring, and now the Gators actually have a kicker to rely on, but there’s still a long way to go to be explosive offensively. Fortunately, the defense will be championship-good, even with all the key losses in the secondary.

20. Houston (13-1)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 6
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

Greg Ward Jr. is a great place to start at quarterback, but he doesn’t have to do it alone with just about everyone returning to a tremendous offense. The secondary has to undergo an overhaul, but the front seven is going to be a killer. As the season goes on, the Cougars won’t just have to get it done with the O.

19. USC (8-6)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 28
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

The quarterback situation is going to be the focus with Max Browne and Sam Darnold battling it out, but there’s no real wrong answer considering the loaded receiving corps will make either one look great. The offense will be better, stronger, and more consistent, and it might have to be – hello, opener vs. Alabama – considering the defensive front seven welcomes in five new starters.

18. Oklahoma State (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 19
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

The Cowboys were a year ahead of schedule, and they had a favorable schedule, but it didn’t matter late in the year closing out with three straight losses. This time around the pieces are all in place to be an even bigger player in the Big 12 title chase. Can the offense be even better after finishing seventh in passing and 14th in scoring? Yup.

17. Oregon (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 29
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

The Ducks might have ended last season with a crashing thud, but it’s not like anything is going to change. They’re still going to be fast, they’re still going to be dangerous, and they’re still going to be a matchup problem. But this year, they’re not going to have the preseason hype or attention. Even so, Mark Helfrich has a deep and talented team good enough to sneak back into the playoff chase.

16. UCLA (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 34
2015 Preseason Prediction: 11-1

Is this the year when UCLA finally plays up to its potential and starts to overachieve a little bit? It would be a welcome change after stumbling so hard the last two years. Injuries are an easy excuse – and a real one – but the team needs to be more consistent. The problems of last year should now be a positive with more experience and depth.

15. Wisconsin (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 38
2015 Preseason Prediction: 11-1

Last year the Badgers had a great record with a weak schedule, but this year they’ll be lucky to hit the ten-win mark again with a killer slate. However, the team should be better with far better rushing production and more scoring pop. The nation’s best scoring defense loses three starters in the secondary and defensive coordinator Dave Adanda, but it should be fine.

14. Michigan State (12-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 4
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

The Spartans are still going to be very, very good, even if Michigan is the hot team in the Big Ten East and Ohio State is quickly reloading. But can they start to play even better and sharper? If spring ball was any indication, absolutely. The fundamentals of the program are strong – they’re going to play great defense, run the ball well, and once again be as well coached as any team in college football.

13. Baylor (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 9
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

The quarterback injuries killed the team over the second half of the season, but the running game exploded over North Carolina – consider that the blueprint for what’s coming next. The nation’s top offense will run the ball as effectively as ever once the line gets a fall camp to work – it gets forgotten that the Bears finished second in the nation on the ground – but can this finally be the year they get into the playoff? They’ll be right there in the mix again.

12. Ole Miss (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 12
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

Everything can all blow up in a hurry if Laremy Tunsil’s comments turn out to matter at all, but assuming everything turns out okay and it’s business as usual for the Rebels, they should be terrific again. Able to quickly reload at several key spots, this will once again be a dangerous team in the West with another brick wall of a defense to go along with Chad Kelly leading a balanced and effective O.

11. Louisville (8-5)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 51
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

This is it. This is when it all kicks in for Bobby Petrino as he takes the Louisville program to a whole other level. Winning six of the last seven games showed just how close the Cardinals are to being fantastic, and this year is when it all happens – at least if all works according to plan. The nation’s 18th-ranked run defense will be better, and the offense should be far more consistent.

10. Michigan (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 23
2015 Preseason Prediction: 8-4

Is it all really about to come together in Year Two? Has Jim Harbaugh been able to take the legendary program and put it all together into a national title superpower again this quickly? Not quite yet. There are still way too many holes to fill on both sides of the ball, and this year’s great recruiting class still needs a while to kick in. Give it just a little while longer.

9. Notre Dame (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 16
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

The Irish might have ended the great season with a disappointing final two games, but they also showed how they really could rise up and be in the national title hunt through any on-field adversity. This year’s team has some work to do to get back to that level after losing NFL first round caliber talents OT Ronnie Stanley, WR Will Fuller, and LB Jaylon Smith – even if he didn’t go in the first round. Fortunately, Brian Kelly has the depth in place to ease the transition.

8. Georgia (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 37
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

Kirby Smart was brought in to do one thing – take the program to another level. Mark Richt was phenomenal, but he didn’t bring a national title and wasn’t able to crank up the SEC championships lately. However, he left Smart with a stocked cupboard with enough there to win the mediocre SEC East.

7. Florida State (10-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 25
2015 Preseason Prediction: 10-2

2015 was the year off. The Seminoles took a wee step back off its playoff-level perch, but this year was when everything was expected to go back to the new normal. Jimbo Fisher has created a recruiting monster, and while losing CB Jalen Ramsey and a few other good parts will sting – including PK Roberto Aguayo – the 2016 Seminoles are loaded with starting experience, depth, and next-level talent ready to crank it all back up.

6. Oklahoma (11-2)

2015 Final Season Ranking:
2015 Preseason Prediction:

The offensive system worked. Bob Stoops changed up styles just enough to make the attack more explosive and more dangerous in a league that demands an explosive, dangerous attack, and now it’s time to go to another level. The next tweak? Be a bit more physical on both sides of the ball, to go along with Baker Mayfield and the fun he’ll bring, and it should be another run to the Big 12 title.

5. Ohio State (12-1)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 7
2015 Preseason Prediction: 11-1

Urban Meyer might have been humble-brag joking about how hard it’ll be to replace all the lost players going so high in a historic draft, but it’s true. Even for Ohio State it’s not going to be all that easy. But with Greg Schiano taking over the defense, and a slightly quicker offense that’ll take advantage of everything J.T. Barrett can do so well, there’s not going to be a massive drop in production. Remember, even with all the stars the Buckeyes had in 2015, they sputtered and struggled way too much.

4. Alabama (14-1)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 1
2015 Preseason Prediction: 11-1

Consider this a ranking out of pure respect. Ohio State might have lost more top-shelf NFL talent, but Alabama wasn’t all that far behind over the three days of the NFL Draft. Even for the Crimson Tide, it’s a problem losing eight defensive starters – depending on the alignment and the day – and losing a Heisman-winning running back doesn’t help. But it’s Alabama, and the defense is going to be the Alabama defense again. The offense might be the concern for a while, but as long as it’s not screwing up, everything will be fine – eventually. Will it mean another trip to the SEC championship? Check back with the QB problem is settled.

3. Tennessee (9-4)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 27
2015 Preseason Prediction: 7-5

It’s time for Tennessee to stop all the playing around and actually start to win something. Butch Jones has had long enough to put all his recruits in place to make this all go, and after coming painfully close to doing big things last season with four tough losses, it’s time to be on the right side of those. There’s still work to be done this fall, but if the offense really can start to create more big plays, look out.

2. Clemson (14-1)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 2
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

Remember, for all the amazing things Clemson did in the national title game, and considering how terrific it was in the Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma, it was also a bit too inconsistent during the season. It didn’t prove costly when inferior, average teams like Louisville, Syracuse, South Carolina and North Carolina make things too close, but the Tigers needed to fight just to get into a position to win the ACC championship.

This time around, they appear to be on even more of a mission. They played this spring with a strong sense of purpose, and with Deshaun Watson as the catalyst to go along with several key parts of last year’s puzzle, this year’s team should be better and sharper.

1. LSU (9-3)

2015 Final Season Ranking: 14
2015 Preseason Prediction: 9-3

You know how everyone was gushing over all the Ohio State players being taken throughout the 2015 NFL Draft? Next year it’s going to be LSU that keeps the pros stocked with fresh bodies, especially in the first round. The 2016 Tigers really are that good.

It might be hard to see considering how flaky they were last season, but this year they’re so deep, so talented, and so solid now that Les Miles survived his brush with coaching death that it should all come together in what should be a dream season.