2017 Pre-Pre-Preseason Top Ten Rankings First Look
Which ten teams are the ones on the radar for the next College Football Playoff? It’s the 2017 college football top ten first look rankings and guess.
The 2016 college football season is so 2016. Welcome to the first guess and the first look – and will obviously change several times and several ways – but these ten teams look like they’ll at least be deep in the hunt for the College Football Playoff.
And no, it’s never too early.
A perennial disappointment over the last several years under Les Miles – relatively speaking – and now the pressure is on Ed Orgeron to make LSU even more of a player in the SEC and national championship chases. Unlike last year’s team, the 2017 version loses several key parts early to the NFL – Leonard Fournette, S Jamal Adams, and DT Davon Godchaux will be missed – along with several key seniors on both sides. However, Derrius Guice is a great-looking back to work the offense around, Christian LaCouture returns to potentially star in the defensive front, and Arden Key leads a killer pass rush.
If you enjoyed the 2016 version, you’ll have a blast with the 2017 edition – it’ll be more of the same. Corey Clement is gone from the backfield along with third-down star Dare Ogbunowale, but the combination of Bradrick Shaw and Taiwan Deal should keep the ground game going behind a terrific line. Do the Badgers have a wide receiver? No, but they didn’t have one last year either, and QB Alex Hornibrook was fine – at least when he had his turn. The defense will once again be a killer, even with T.J. Watt leaving early and Vince Biegel also gone from the linebacking corps. The front three will be among the Big Ten’s best.
What have we learned about the Tigers? They always reload in a hurry, only this year, for the first time in a very, very long while, they won’t have to worry about a defensive line that should be the best in college football – or close to it. The defensive back seven takes a hit, but reloading shouldn’t be too much of an issue – years of great recruiting classes have the pieces in place. Yeah, there’s no replacing Deshaun Watson, and not having Mike Williams or tight end Jordan Leggett around won’t help the passing game. There are backs to replace Wayne Gallman, and the O line will be outstanding, but overall there are too many losses – even for Clemson – to be much higher than this.
It’s all about the offensive line. There’s no excuse whatsoever for the offense to be so mediocre with Jacob Eason with a year under his belt, and with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to hand off to. But that line – it returns just two starters, and it has to be a whole lot better. Meanwhile, the defense isn’t going to skip a beat with just about everyone back to what should be a killer. Dawgs, win the East – you’re this year’s Tennessee.
9,519 apologies for this, but it fits – slow your roll. Yeah, Sam Darnold is a big-time talent, and good recruiting classes should fill in the blanks, but the receiving corps needs help and the O line losses two NFL tackles and blasting guard Damien Mama. However, the offense will be fine, and the defense should be fantastic. This will be the preseason star, but the Pac-12 isn’t going to be so awful again. The expectations, though, will be through the roof. Trojan Nation will be expecting more now – just winning the Rose Bowl won’t cut it.
5. Penn State
This is when the real bounceback was supposed to happen – if it was going to happen – and not last year. It’s taken a while to start building the depth back up, and now it’s coming together under James Franklin. But the pieces are already in place among the starters. The offense showed what it could do with a real line to work behind, Trace McSorley might be the most fun bomber in the Big Ten, and Saquon Barkley might be the best player in the conference. Forget about the defensive meltdown in Pasadena; this veteran group will be a rock with almost everyone back.
4. Florida State
It’s been Clemson’s ACC for the last two seasons, and now it’s time for the Noles to take it back. The 2016 version should’ve been a whole lot better, but injuries were a major problem and they ran into a Louisville powerhouse offense early on. This time around, there really aren’t any excuses. Dalvin Cook might be done, but QB Deondre Francois is a budding superstar working behind what should be one of the ACC’s better lines. The defense was experienced and strong going into last year, and now it gets all-everything safety Derwin James back to help the cause. There’s talent, athleticism, and next-level skill to burn.
Baker is back. After Mayfield’s scintillating bowl performance against Auburn, he put himself deep into the preseason Heisman equation – again. He won’t have Dede Westbrook to throw to, and he won’t get to hand off to Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, but the offensive line should be the Big 12’s best, and the defense will be even better. After two straight Big 12 championships, this is the team to get back to the College Football Playoff if Mayfield is Mayfield again.
2. Ohio State
Remember, 2016 was the rebuilding year. Once again, the Buckeyes lose their share of NFL talents, but it’s nothing like the mass exodus at the end of last season – and this year’s team turned out to be better. Getting QB J.T. Barrett back is a bigger deal than it seems – he had a better year than you’re giving him credit for – and Mike Weber has proven he can be the new star running back. Now Weber needs more work, and the downfield passing game has to emerge during the offseason practices.
It’s the other side of the ball that’ll dominate throughout the season, especially up front with the return of Tyquan Lewis on one side and Sam Hubbard on the other. The losses in the back seven hurt – S Malik Hooker, CB Gareon Conley and LB Raekwon McMillan are special – but it’s Ohio State. There’s more where they came from.
Again, much like Ohio State, 2016 was supposed to be the reboot for the Crimson Tide after losing a Heisman-winning running back in Derrick Henry, a national champion quarterback in Jake Coker, and a slew of superstar defensive talents. That didn’t matter. So why would you assume that another offseason of lost production and key players will make a lick of difference?
And that’s the key to the Nick Saban program – depth. The drop-off from the ones to the twos is almost nothing at most of the spot, with the ability to come up with a terrific rotation that gets everyone who’s any good involved. Going into 2017 – unlike 2016 – Alabama has its backfield set, and for the first time in forever, the quarterback situation will be settled from the start.
The defensive front seven will get gutted, but where have you heard that before? Really, you think the D will take a step back in any way in a bit of a rebuilding year? The offense will take care of the rest with what might turn out to be – with a little bit of time – one of the best lines in the Saban era.