2017 Prespring College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 130
The 2017 prespring college football rankings, taking a first look at all the 130 teams before spring football kicks into high gear.
2017 CFN Prespring College Football Rankings
It’s not exactly like spring training in baseball, but it’s a nice break in the long offseason. It’s spring football, and it’s going to dominate the college football landscape over the next several weeks.
This will change in the summer and going into the season, but for right now, how do all 130 teams stack up going into the spring session? He we go with the perspiring ranking from 130 to No. 1.
130. UAB Blazers
Back in the college football world again, the program has been working feverishly over the last year to get everything back into place. It might take a little while, but there aren’t any expectations and there’s no questioning the new excitement.
– UAB Prespring Analysis
129. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Welcome to the FBS world, new guy. The Chanticleers were fantastic last year at the lower level going 10-2, and now they step up with a veteran team.
– Coastal Carolina Prespring Analysis
128. Massachusetts Minutemen
The Minutemen are loaded with veterans, getting back ten defensive starters, but will it matter? There’s a long way to go to become more competitive than they were late in the year.
– Massachusetts Prespring Analysis
127. New Mexico State Aggies
Where’s New Mexico State football going next year? That’s next year. For now, before it gets booted out of the Sun Belt, the offense should be dangerous and explosive. But it’s New Mexico State – you know what the defense is going to do.
– New Mexico State Prespring Analysis
126. Texas State Bobcats
The Bobcats were miserable last season, but they’re loaded with veterans and should have a better, stronger offense. There’s a dangerous new quarterback transfer, the rest of the skill players are dangerous, and the defense … the defense can’t be any worse.
– Texas State Prespring Analysis
125. ULM Warhawks
The Warhawks had to go through a rebuilding season, and it showed. All the young players should be better and more productive, but the team needs difference makers – and a D that can generate more meaningful stops.
– ULM Prespring Analysis
124. Kent State Golden Flashes
Will Kent State ever have an offense? The defense has to undergo too much of an overhaul after melting down late in the season, while the O needs to find playmakers this spring.
– Kent State Prespring Analysis
123. UTEP Miners
Okay, so the the Miners will probably be better than this, but the offense has to come up with way too many improved parts, while the team as a whole has to show just a wee bit of positive consistency.
– UTEP Prespring Analysis
122. San Jose State Spartans
It’s a new era with a new coach, but the run defense has a long, long way to go under new head coach Brent Brennan, and the passing game needs to be more dangerous.
– San Jose State Prespring Analysis
121. Buffalo Bulls
There are way too many good parts to continue to be so bad. The program has been pushing and pointing towards this season in several ways, but too many main skill players need to be replaced.
– Buffalo Prespring Analysis
120. Fresno State Bulldogs
New head coach Jeff Tedford should instantly improve a situation that’s been puzzlingly miserable. Give it a year before the Bulldogs take a big step up and start to get the right pieces there for the coaching staff, but at least they’ll be better.
– Fresno State Prespring Analysis
119. FIU Golden Panthers
Just how good can Butch Davis be right away with this group? He welcomes in a veteran group of skill players, but he’s not a miracle worker. FIU will be better, but the rest of Conference USA isn’t shaking quite yet.
– FIU Prespring Analysis
118. Georgia Southern Eagles
It’s overhaul time. The Eagles lose almost all of their rushing stars, and they’ll have to find the right parts to help out an attack that’s undergoing an overhaul. One of the nation’s most dangerous rushing programs will now start throwing it a little bit, too.
– Georgia Southern Prespring Analysis
117. Charlotte 49ers
The 49ers don’t have to undergo a total rebuild, but the defensive line loses all the key parts as the program still tries to keep building things up and looks to create more of an identity.
– Charlotte Prespring Analysis
116. Tulane Green Wave
Head coach Willie Fritz doesn’t have the parts in place to crank up the running game like he might want to, but the bigger problem could be a defense that has to find more and better difference-makers.
– Tulane Prespring Analysis
115. Georgia State Panthers
There’s a new head coach (Shawn Elliott) and a new home (the Atlanta Braves’ old park), and there might be a bit of a change for the offense, too. Enough experience comes back to potentially make the Panthers one of the Sun Belt’s more dangerous X factors.
– Georgia State Prespring Analysis
114. Idaho Vandals
There’s no way the Vandals can really go 9-4 again, right? There are a lot of missing parts from last year’s shocking team, but before the program moves on to the FCS world, it should be dangerous.
– Idaho Prespring Analysis
113. Rice Owls
Shockingly awful last season, this time around the Owls need to use their experience to start playing more like they did late in the year, when they started to come up with a wee bit of positive production. Don’t expect a miraculous turnaround, but they’ll be better.
– Rice Prespring Analysis
112. Akron Zips
This is probably too low considering what head coach Terry Bowden has been able to do in a rough situation, while also taking into account how good the offense – especially the running game – will probably be.
– Akron Prespring Analysis
111. Florida Atlantic Owls
Is Lane Kiffin really that interesting? Is he really that good? He’ll put Florida Atlantic in the national spotlight, and he’s got just enough experience to play around with to expect a decent season. The offense had better rock considering the talent in place.
– Florida Atlantic Prespring Analysis
110. Ball State Cardinals
It’s possible to make a big jump up in a hurry in the MAC, and head coach Mike Neu has the running game in place to be a problem for the rest of the league. Now the Cardinal defense has to someday come up with a stop against a decent passing team.
– Ball State Prespring Analysis
109. North Texas Mean Green
Seth Littrell got the Mean Green to a bowl game, but it was a wee bit of an aberration. The Mean Green are loaded in the offensive backfield, but the defense has to be far better against the run. The overall production has to be stronger against the good teams.
– North Texas Prespring Analysis
108. UTSA Roadrunners
Okay, yeah, this is way too low, but UTSA has to prove that last season was for real. There’s so much experience returning and so many positives in place under head coach Frank Wilson to expect anything less than another bowl season. So why so down in the rankings? Do it again.
– UTSA Prespring Analysis
107. SMU Mustangs
The production has to start coming on the defensive side, but things are looking up under head coach Chad Morris. There needs to be a pass rush, and the run D has to be more productive. However, the offense and passing game should make up for most of the problems.
– SMU Prespring Analysis
106. Bowling Green Falcons
No, the Falcons won’t be back to their 2015 MAC Championship levels, and they’re not going to be as awful as the 2016 version. But with an overhaul needing to be done on the offensive line, all the experience everywhere else might not matter.
– Bowling Green Prespring Analysis
105. Central Michigan Chippewas
This could be a really, really, really good team – if a quarterback as good as Cooper Rush shows up. After the Chippewas fell off the map over the second half of last season, there’s plenty of work to do even with just about everyone coming back – except for the quarterback.
– Central Michigan Prespring Analysis
104. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
Where’s the running game? It wasn’t miserable last season, but it needs to be back up to Ragin’ Cajun snuff. There are too many skill positions holes to expect a Sun Belt title run, but the defense could make up for a whole slew of issues.
– Louisiana-Lafayette Prespring Analysis
103. Miami University RedHawks
All of a sudden, Miami University showed it could be entertaining, relevant, and … explosive? Okay, sort of, but with QB Gus Ragland looking like a special star to build around, and with a great supporting cast, the offense should be the most productive in a long, long time.
– Miami University Prespring Analysis
102. Northern Illinois Huskies
There can’t and won’t be so many issues at quarterback again – one of them has to stay healthy – and the running game should finally be back up to NIU snuff. Really, what’s the problem for the MAC powerhouse? There are just too many holes on both sides of the ball.
– Northern Illinois Prespring Analysis
101. UNLV Rebels
UNLV is overdue to start making some noise. Tony Sanchez is a strong head coach who’s slowing building up the program, but the defense that wasn’t a rock to begin with has a gutted back seven. Fortunately for the Rebels, the offense should start to blow up.
– UNLV Prespring Analysis
100. Eastern Michigan Eagles
Eastern Michigan became one of 2016’s biggest surprises, and there’s just enough talent coming back to not fall back down into the doldrums. Most of the top producers are back on defense, and the offensive playmakers are back on offense. So what’s the problem? The lines are just okay, and it’s Eastern Michigan. Was it all for real?
– Eastern Michigan Prespring Analysis
99. Connecticut Huskies
Is it possible for Randy Edsall to bring back the program back to the time when it was more of a factor? Awful last year, the Huskies didn’t have their normal defense to make up for the miserable offense, but most of the top tacklers are back on a young team that has plenty of promise.
– Connecticut Prespring Analysis
98. South Alabama Jaguars
Totally flaky, the Jaguars were good enough to shock San Diego State and Mississippi State, but weird enough to lose too many key Sun Belt games. The defense loses way too many strong parts of the puzzle, while the offense might not have quite enough firepower. However, if the O can find some pop, this should be a good enough team to hang around in the Sun Belt chase.
– South Alabama Prespring Analysis
97. Marshall Thundering Herd
After last season’s utter disaster, the Thundering Herd should have a far better ground attack with good options in the backfield working behind a veteran line. One of the biggest Group of Five schools to watch this spring, the position battles matter. The lack of experienced receivers are going to be a problem early, but there’s no way Marshall can be that bad again.
– Marshall Prespring Analysis
96. Utah State Aggies
It was a down year for the Aggies overall, with the offense losing its identity and the defense not up to the normal snuff. Most of the top offensive players are back around QB Kent Myers, while the culture is too good to be that bad defensively again despite the loss of a few key players up front.
– Utah State Aggies Prespring Analysis
95. East Carolina Pirates
This was supposed to be a far, far better team last season, and it had a few interesting positives with Zay Jones coming up with 158 catches and the passing attack showing some life, But now he’s gone, along with most of the other top targets, but the line should be among the best in the American Athletic Conference and the defense should be a wee bit stronger.
– East Carolina Prespring Analysis
94. Cincinnati Bearcats
Luke Fickell gets going with a decent base of players to work around. He’ll have the defense going right out of the gate, but the offense needs to find some power and balance to go along with what should be a great passing game. Last year was supposed to be the season when the Bearcats were going to rock, but now there’s a bit of a rebuilding job to do.
– Cincinnati Prespring Analysis
93. Nevada Wolf Pack
This might be the proverbial Team No One Will Want To Face. It might not be very good early on under new head coach Jay Norvell, but it’ll be very, very entertaining. The old Pistol offense is gone, and in comes the throw early, throw often attack that’ll wing it around the yard a million times a game. Even so, the ground game should work, too. However, the D has a long, long way to go.
– Nevada Prespring Analysis
92. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
This might be too low for a team that could and should be deep in the Conference USA title hunt if QB Nick Mullens can be replaced. Ito Smith might be the best running back you haven’t seen, and a few of the top defenders are gone, but there’s enough talent returning to hope for an improvement after a flaky 2016.
– Southern Miss Prespring Analysis
91. Old Dominion Monarchs
Don’t sleep on Old Dominion just because you don’t really know the name. The Monarchs beat the bad teams, lost to the great ones, and came up with a fantastic season, but now they have to find a good quarterback to replace David Washington, and the schedule should be tougher. RB Ray Lawry and the ground game, though, will be dominant at times.
– Old Dominion Prespring Analysis
90. Arkansas State Red Wolves
The perennial Sun Belt power should be even more dangerous offensively, with former Oklahoma QB Justice Hansen looking to take another step forward around a good group of running backs. However, the defense gets gutted in a few key areas after a fantastic second half of last year. It’s all about the defensive front – if that comes together, the Red Wolves will be back in the conference title chase.
– Arkansas State Prespring Analysis
89. Ohio Bobcats
It’s Ohio, so it’s going to be one of the favorites to win the MAC East, and do it with a decent enough offense to get by and an occasionally rock-solid defense. The linebacking corps and the back seven will be among the league’s best, but is there any offensive pop? It’s going to be tough to make a few big strides forward – the program won’t be this year’s Western Michigan.
– Ohio Prespring Analysis
88. Army Black Knights
The Black Knights finally had their breakthrough year, and now they should be even better – at least that’s the plan. This is the year everything was supposed to come together, but Army happened to be a year early. The backfield is loaded with veteran backs – be shocked if this isn’t the nation’s leading rushing attack. However, some heart-and-soul types are gone from a shockingly-good D.
– Army Prespring Analysis
87. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
The passing game will be amazing again with a healthy Brent Stockstill back at the helm, leading a team that’ll bomb its way out of problems. However, the defense might give it up as fast as the offense can get it, having to replace key starters up front and almost all of the top pass rushing production. At the very least, Blue Raider games are going to be a blast.
– Middle Tennessee Prespring Analysis
86. Troy Trojans
One of the biggest surprises among the Group of Five world last season, Troy came up with a special season under head coach Neal Brown thanks to an unstoppable offense. QB Brandon Silvers is back almost with most of the main stars, but they’ll have to keep the production going to make up for a rocky defense. Even so, consider it a major disappointment if the Trojans don’t take the Sun Belt.
– Troy Prespring Analysis
85. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Nick Rolovich came up with a fantastic first season, finishing up with an explosive bowl win that made Hawaii look like Hawaii again. It’s an experienced team that should be tighter, more dangerous offensively, and just a wee bit better defensively. It’s still going to take a little while to get back to being a player in the Mountain West title chase, but at least the Rainbow Warriors will be a factor again.
– Hawaii Prespring Analysis
84. New Mexico Lobos
If Army doesn’t lead the nation in rushing, it’ll be New Mexico, with QB Lamar Jordan leading another tough, dangerous attack. However, the defense loses way too many major producers to do more after winning nine games. Almost all of the top tacklers are gone, and while head coach Bob Davie knows defense, coming up with a tough D hasn’t been a given in Albuquerque.
– New Mexico Prespring Analysis
83. Appalachian State Mountaineers
Troy and Arkansas State should be right there in the mix for the Sun Belt title, but Appalachian State should be the lead dog in the pack. Forget about taking a massive step forward and getting into the New Year’s Six hunt, but the Mountaineers have a tremendous offensive backfield for a good enough attack to make up for some key defensive losses.
– Appalachian State Prespring Analysis
82. Western Michigan Broncos
It’ll be another good year, but it’s not going to be that again. The defense is going to be the difference this year to make up for the irreplaceable losses on offense, while Tim Lester has to prove he can be a decent replacement for P.J. Fleck. The Broncos could and should still be the favorites to win the MAC title, but they’re not going to challenge for the New Year’s Six.
– Western Michigan Prespring Analysis
81. Temple Owls
Geoff Collins is going to be a really, really good head coach, but it’s going to take him a while to get Temple back into the American Athletic title hunt. Way too many top starters are gone off the fantastic defense, with the pass rush having to all but start over. Throw in the departure of most of the key offensive stars, and this will be a step-back season.
– Temple Prespring Analysis
80. Kansas Jayhawks
It’s do-or-die time under head coach David Beaty – it’s time for Kansas to show a sign of life again. Washington State transfer QB Peyton Bender has to make the offense do something, anything – and he will. The defense should be the best in years. While that might not be saying a whole lot, and the talent level is still a question across the board, at leas the Jayhawks are full of veterans.
– Kansas Prespring Analysis
79. Air Force Falcons
Air Force always seems to make up for major losses with more guys who fit the system, but this year might test the process. The offense will be fine – you know what it’s going to do running the ball – but losing ten defensive starters hurts no matter who you are. It’ll be another bowl-bound team, but forget about challenging for the Mountain West title.
– Air Force Prespring Analysis
78. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
The high-powered offense loses way too many key parts – Keevan Lucas and Josh Atkinson were big-time producers for the receiving corps – and QB Dane Evans is gone, but the ground game will be solid and the line will be fantastic. The defense will be along for the ride, and it’ll be a rebuilding job overall, but the Golden Hurricane will bomb their way to wins.
– Tulsa Prespring Analysis
77. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
The loss of Jeff Brohm doesn’t help, but WKU has become a factory for promising head coaches – Bobby Petrino, Willie Taggart, Brohm – and now it’s up to Mike Sanford to keep it all rolling. The offense might lose almost all the stars from the high-powered attack, but QB Mike White is back and the production will be good enough. This will still be one of the best teams in Conference USA, even if it takes a lot of reworking.
– WKU Prespring Analysis
76. Illinois Fighting Illini
The second year under Lovie Smith needs to show a positive direction. The offense could quietly step up and be far more dangerous if spring ball settles the skill spots, while there’s no way, no how the defense will be as mediocre considering the coaching staff that’s in place. The D line needs help, but Lovie should be ready to do far more with what’s coming back.
– Illinois Prespring Analysis
75. UCF Knights
Scott Frost did a great job of bringing the program back among the living, but he’s going to have even more work to do in Year Two. Seven starters have to be replaced on a defense that came up with a strong year, but almost everyone who matters is back on offense. However, the attack has to be far more dangerous, and that’s where Frost’s skills are supposed to kick in.
– UCF Prespring Analysis
74. Navy Midshipmen
There’s the assumption at this point that Navy simply reloads. The program knows how to crank up running games, and it knows how to get the right defensive parts in place to work around what it does, but the D line all but starts over, and almost all of the top rushers have to be replaced on O. It might be a rebuilding year, but that doesn’t mean Navy will be out of the American Athletic title hunt.
– Navy Prespring Analysis
73. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The needle is pointing up for the Scarlet Knights, even if it’ll take a while to be better in a loaded Big Ten East. Chris Ash had a rough first season at the helm, but he’s getting back a whole slew of good talents with the Janarion Grant and the receiving corps strong, the running back situation solid, and the line looking better. Even so, it’s still going to be a climb to make a bigger dent.
– Rutgers Prespring Analysis
72. Virginia Cavaliers
Can Bronco Mendenhall do more in his second year in Charlottesville? Can Missouri transfer QB Marvin Zanders do something to get the offense and the team going? If so – of if any of the quarterback options step up – the defense should be able to do its part. Almost all of the big tacklers return, and Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding returning in the back seven is big.
– Virginia Prespring Analysis
71. Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils will always be relatively limited, but QB Daniel Jones and the passing game should be stronger and more dangerous with all the experience coming back. If the defense can reload the secondary, it should be a positive after a down year. Forget about challenging for anything big, but the Blue Devils should be good enough go bowling.
– Duke Prespring Analysis
70. Toledo Rockets
Is Toledo ready to become this year’s Western Michigan? Not really, considering the offense won’t be quite as good, but the Rockets should be the star of the MAC. The passing game will bomb away with QB Logan Woodside back, but the running game will need all spring to improve. Defense isn’t optional at Toledo, but it’ll be good enough.
– Toledo Prespring Analysis
69. California Golden Bears
The Pac-12 North should be terrific, and Cal could turn into an interesting X factor under new head coach Justin Wilcox. The offense won’t wing it around like it did under Sonny Dykes, but it’ll still be dangerous – but with more of a ground attack to help the cause. The goal will be to finally come up with a defense that can tackle, but that’s going to take a little while.
– California Prespring Analysis
68. Oregon State Beavers
Gary Andersen is too good a head coach for Oregon State to continue to be so bad. The spread attack ground game should be excellent at times, but there needs to be more of a passing game to keep up with the rest of the Pac-12 North. The D should be better, but can it hold its own against Washington, Oregon, Washington State and the rest of the Pac-12?
– Oregon State Prespring Analysis
67. San Diego State Aztecs
There’s no Donnel Pumphrey to run the ball anymore, and most of the key offensive linemen are done, but don’t expect the two-time defending Mountain West champ to take a massive step back. The Aztecs will continue to win on defense and with a grinding, efficient offense, but this spring is vital to rebuilding a few areas. Last year was about tweaking, this offseason session will be used to fill the holes.
– San Diego State Prespring Analysis
66. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Skip Holtz needs to work his magic to keep the passing game rolling again without the superstar producers at receiver and without Ryan Higgins at quarterback. Fortunately, the defense should be able to crank up the pass rush to help overcome the step-back concerns on offense – but don’t expect too much of a drop-off. However, the secondary has to be far, far better.
– Louisiana Tech Prespring Analysis
65. Wyoming Cowboys
Welcome to the Josh Allen show. It’ll be a season-long scouting analysis to see if the Wyoming quarterback can be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and along the way, he should be able to make the Cowboys even better after the program’s breakthrough season. The defense will be the best in the Craig Bohl era.
– Wyoming Prespring Analysis
64. Iowa State Cyclones
Just how quickly can Matt Campbell make the Cyclones more dangerous in the Big 12 chase? The running game should be fantastic, the quarterback rotation something to prepare for, and Allen Lazard and the top targets are back. The defense needs enough reworking this spring to hope to find the right pieces around a good base.
– Iowa State Prespring Analysis
63. Boston College Eagles
The Eagles managed to start winning ACC games again, got to a bowl game, and showed signs of life under Steve Addazio. Now he brings back a team loaded with experience, with nine starters returning on offense and what should be another great year from the D. With Harold Landry returning to work the pass rush around, now BC will be more than just a speedbump on the ACC slate.
– Boston College Prespring Analysis
62. Memphis Tigers
Memphis might be that team that becomes a national big thing with a few key early wins – it’s possible to be this year’s Houston if the Tigers can beat UCLA. QB Riley Ferguson leads a dangerous attack that gets back almost all of the other key skill players. The D is an issue, but the O should be able to make up for it by outbombing most teams.
– Memphis Prespring Analysis
61. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Last year’s run to a bowl game was a shocker, but this year’s team should be legitimately dangerous once the defense comes around. The offense isn’t going to explode but almost everyone returns, getting back ten starters including almost all of the key backups. It’ll take a while before the defense is close to being as good as last year, but there are good pieces to work around.
– Wake Forest Prespring Analysis
60. Arizona Wildcats
After a total disaster of a season in terms of injuries, the Wildcats can’t help but be better after so many issues finding live bodies. This time around, the ground game should be back to Rich Rodriguez snuff with a great group of speedsters working behind a veteran line. There’s no way the defense can be much worse, but as long as the O works, it should be a better year.
– Arizona Prespring Analysis
59. Texas Tech Red Raiders
It’s boom-or-bust for Kliff Kingsbury to start producing and making the Red Raiders better at this whole college football thing. Even without Patrick Mahomes, the offense will keep on rolling as normal with a loading receiving corps to keep things fun. There still won’t be too many meaningful defensive stops, but it’s Texas Tech – it’ll be on the right side of several shootouts.
– Texas Tech Prespring Analysis
58. Purdue Boilermakers
The program got a big, big break getting Jeff Brohm and his offense from Western Kentucky, but can he make it all work early on for the Boilermakers? David Blough is a good-looking quarterback, but does he have the targets to work with? Can the defense take all of its experience and turn it into 60-minute production, after hitting a wall way too often last year? At the very least, Purdue will be interesting.
– Purdue Prespring Analysis
57. Colorado State Rams
Get ready for the Rams to be a whole lot of fun. Just okay in the Mountain West chase over the last few years, now CSU has the talent and experience to blow up with QB Nick Stevens, RB Dalyn Dawkins, and WR Michael Gallup a devastating trio to work around. Now, this isn’t going to be a rock of a defense, but who cares when the offense is cranking out 500 yards per game?
– Colorado State Rams Prespring Analysis
56. BYU Cougars
The Cougars came up with a big year considering how tough the schedule appeared to be before the season, but just how good are they now? The defense should be a killer at times with the secondary solid and the linebacking corps outstanding. Tanner Magnum has the quarterbacking gig all to himself now, but he doesn’t have Jamaal Williams to hand off to.
– BYU Prespring Analysis
55. Maryland Terrapins
Give it another year or two before this all starts to really, really work under D.J. Durkin. The Terps came up with a loaded recruiting class, and the hope is for Kasim Hill to come through and be the star quarterback to build around, while the running game should be stellar. The defense will do its part with a ton of talent returning, but now it has to be better.
– Maryland Prespring Analysis
54. Indiana Hoosiers
Even without Kevin Wilson manning the helm, Indiana should turn out to be excellent under Tom Allen if the receiving corps can be figured out this spring and a running back can replace Devine Redding. For a program that’s not used to cranking out great defenses, this one should be excellent – at least by IU standards – with nine starters back.
– Indiana Prespring Analysis
53. Vanderbilt Commodores
It’s Vanderbilt, so even without Zach Cunningham owning the linebacking corps and Adam Butler owning the middle of the line, the defense will be outstanding. It’s Vanderbilt, so the offense won’t rip anyone apart on a regular basis, but it showed late last year that it could rise up and get hot. At the very least, the O is experienced.
– Vanderbilt Prespring Analysis
52. Pitt Panthers
Will there be any pass defense this time around? Considering head coach Pat Narduzzi is know for his Ds, it’s not right that last year’s team couldn’t stop anyone who could throw a forward pass. This year, the defense is undergoing an overhaul, but the offense should do its part by continuing to bomb away. USC transfer Max Browne could be the new answer at quarterback to go with an outstanding receiving corps.
– Pitt Prespring Analysis
51. Houston Cougars
Tom Herman is gone, and so is QB Greg Ward and a slew of key parts from the team that had so many good moments, but not quite enough of them. Enter Major Applewhite, who needs to show this spring that he can keep all the fun going despite struggling in the bowl loss to San Diego State. Most of the stars are done on D, but new QB Kyle Allen – yeah the Texas A&M recruit – and the running backs should make everything just fine.
– Houston Prespring Analysis
50. Baylor Bears
The athletic department and school are still involved in a mess – Kim Mulkey not helping the cause – and now it’s up to Matt Rhule to try overcoming all the issues he’s been handed and get Baylor back to being really good in football again. That’s hardly the main focus on a national scale, but on the field, there’s hope for an improvement with a great-looking O line paving the way for a potentially devastating ground attack.
– Baylor Prespring Analysis
49. Kentucky Wildcats
Finally, Kentucky got over the hump under Mark Stoops and got to a bowl game. But this year’s team should be far better considering all the important starters coming back. There might not be the same pop from the ground game, but QB Stephen Johnson is a keeper for an O that should be explosive in other ways. Be shocked if the defense isn’t the best UK has had in years.
– Kentucky Prespring Analysis
48. Boise State Broncos
Last year’s team was the one with the experience and talent, and it was supposed to be the one that got back to a New Year’s Six bowl, but it didn’t happen. This version isn’t as good, but it could finish with a better result – a Mountain West championship. The holes to fill are massive, but QB Brett Rypien should lead another good passing game.
– Boise State Prespring Analysis
47. Utah Utes
The system always seems to work under head coach Kyle Whittingham, and that has to be the hope this time around with an offensive line that has to all but start over, while losing RB Joe Williams hurts. It’s a rebuilding season on the offensive side, but the defense should keep the Utes alive in most Pac-12 battles with almost all the top tacklers back.
– Utah Prespring Analysis
46. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Head coach Dan Mullen got a nice contract extension, arch-rival Ole Miss is getting its butt kicked by life, and Das Prescott is the hottest NFL quarterback this side of Tom Brady. These are heady times for Mississippi State football in several ways, but not necessarily on the field in Starkville. Nick Fitzgerald is an outstanding QB, and the team will be fine, but both lines have plenty of holes to fill.
– Mississippi State Prespring Analysis
45. South Carolina Gamecocks
Can Will Muschamp start to get more production in Year Two? He did a great job of turning the ship around for a program that hit the skids after Steve Spurrier quit on it, and now the offense should be more dangerous, QB Jake Bentley is a budding star, and the defense should be up to Muschamp snuff, even if the pass rush isn’t.
– South Carolina Prespring Analysis
44. Syracuse Orange
Is it time for Syracuse to get the O going like it’s supposed to under Dino Babers? There wasn’t any defense last year, but at least this version is full of experience – all 11 starters are back. The offense might be devastating with QB Eric Dungey leading a group that should hang around with just about everyone in the ACC. Get ready for plenty of shootouts.
– Syracuse Prespring Analysis
43. West Virginia Mountaineers
2016 was the year. That was when West Virginia was supposed to make a massive splash in the Big 12, and it did, finishing third in the league pecking order. The offense welcomes former Florida QB Will Grier, but seven starters are done on the offensive side, while the defensive departures are an even bigger problem. It’s going to be a fun spring with several important position battles.
– West Virginia Prespring Analysis
42. Arizona State Sun Devils
After crashing and burning over the second half of last season – after rolling through the first part – there’s hope for an improved running game and a more consistent passing attack. There should be a fun quarterback battle this spring with Alabama transfer Blake Barnett challenging Manny Wilkins, while the defense that was such a disaster can’t help but be stronger with plenty of experience back.
– Arizona State Prespring Analysis
41. Colorado Buffaloes
Colorado isn’t going to sneak up on anyone this time around. It’ll have to hope for the offense to be even better, and it could be considering all the talent back in the receiving corps to go along with RB Phillip Lindsay. The O will have to carry a D that loses just about everyone, with almost all the top tacklers and all the starters done. Unlike last year, the Buffs should be in more shootouts.
– Colorado Prespring Analysis
40. Missouri Tigers
There’s no way a defensive-minded head coach in Barry Odom can have another awful D, can he? The offensive side might be sneaky-good, with QB Drew Lock leading a strong group of veterans with ten starters back, but it’s the defense that has to be far, far better – with a far, far better pass rush – to make any sort of push in the SEC East.
– Missouri Prespring Analysis
39. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota should put the ugly end to last season in the rearview mirror, with P.J. Fleck bringing his youthful exuberance and boat-rowing energy. The suspensions from the controversy that led to the regime change probably won’t matter too much on the field – some of the key players were cleared and are back. The running game will be great, the defense feisty, and Fleck will make this a program worthy of national attention.
– Minnesota Prespring Analysis
38. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
You know what you’re getting. Georgia Tech will run the ball as well as anyone in the country, with the option about to kick it into a higher gear with almost all of the top running backs returning. The quarterback situation needs to be settled in a hurry this spring, and the defense has to find plenty of new starting parts, especially up front.
– Georgia Tech Prespring Analysis
37. Kansas State Wildcats
Forget about the stats – they weren’t that great, considering all the good Big 12 offenses Kansas State faced – this was a great defense. The linebacking corps will need the most work this spring, but the offense will do its part by owning the time of possession with an even more physical ground attack. The most important storyline is the health of head coach Bill Snyder, who’s battling throat cancer, but is expected to be okay.
– Kansas State Prespring Analysis
36. South Florida Bulls
This should be interesting. Charlie Strong takes over a great team put together by Willie Taggart, and now the pressure is on to keep all the success rolling. Strong can’t be blamed if the defense doesn’t rock – it wasn’t any good last season – but at least there’s plenty of experience returning. QB Quinton Flowers will make up for the loss of RB Marlon Mack – the running game will be fantastic again.
– South Florida Prespring Analysis
35. Northwestern Wildcats
Could this be the best team yet under Pat Fitzgerald? It might not be all that far off, with Clayton Thorson growing into a big-time quarterback for an offense that’s suddenly explosive and fun – this won’t be your little-engine-that-could Cat attack. RB Justin Jackson is special, the lines should be great, and nine starters are back on each side of the ball.
– Northwestern Prespring Analysis
34. Washington State Cougars
The Cougars seem really, really close to doing big things under Mike Leach, but they haven’t been able to get over the hump and take the Pac-12 North. This year’s team might not have enough to do it, either, but the return of QB Luke Falk ensures the offense will continue to be explosive, while the defense should be the best yet under Leach – and that’s coming off a solid 2016 – with almost all of the top tacklers back.
– Washington State Prespring Analysis
33. Iowa Hawkeyes
Big coaching changes on Kirk Ferentz’s staff should make a bit of a difference for an offense that couldn’t find a passing game and now has to replace some all-star starters on defense. Even so, this should be one of the Big Ten’s toughest Ds, the ground game should be grinding and occasionally explosive, and if there’s more coming from the air show, the Hawkeyes could be dangerous.
– Iowa Prespring Analysis
32. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies should be amazing under Justin Fuente – eventually. The shocking early departure of QB Jerod Evans might set the offense back a bit if the passing game can’t find an equally dangerous playmaker. Welcome to the big story in spring ball. This year, the defense should take center stage early on if the line can come up with a good rotation. The back seven can hang with anyone in the ACC.
– Virginia Tech Prespring Analysis
31. Michigan State Spartans
Okay, ha ha – the joke’s over. Michigan State has too many good parts to be that bad again, especially for a ground attack that could be deadly – if the coaching staff puts more on an emphasis on pounding the ball. More playmakers have to emerge on a defense that has to find it’s mojo again, the passing attack can’t be as ineffective, and overall, the team needs something positive to happen right away.
– Michigan State Prespring Analysis
30. North Carolina Tar Heels
You don’t get better by losing a quarterback as good as Mitch Trubisky, and the offense won’t be as strong – losing RB Elijah Hood doesn’t help, either. It’s going to take a great spring to come up with the right starting 22, with the emphasis on finding guys who can make the O go. Defense will never be a dominant factor in Chapel Hill, but there’s hope for this to be one of the best in a few years.
– North Carolina Prespring Analysis
29. Arkansas Razorbacks
Can the Hogs start grinding out the ground game again like they’re supposed to under Bret Bielema? It’s too tempting to throw the ball when it’s done as effectively as the offense has over the last few seasons, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to work under this coaching staff. Controlling the clock is a must considering the D will need a while to be strong again up front.
– Arkansas Prespring Analysis
28. UCLA Bruins
Is this the year UCLA starts to get more physical? It didn’t happen last year, and the team went into the tank once injuries kicked in. QB Josh Rosen is healthy again, and he needs to be considering the defense will undergo a bit of a personnel overhaul. There’s work to do all across the D, but it’s the line that’ll be the big concern this spring.
– UCLA Prespring Analysis
27. NC State Wolfpack
Keep an eye out for what might be one of the ACC’s dangerous sleepers. The defensive front will be as good and as effective as any in the ACC, but the offense has to replace RB Matthew Dayes. The Pack has to hope for more consistency and explosion from the rest of the attack, but D should do its part to pull of a few big upsets.
– NC State Prespring Analysis
26. Ole Miss Rebels
Hmmmmm, is there anything interesting happening at Ole Miss lately? This ranking could quickly change and fall way, way down depending on how all the fun shakes out. Will the team be fired up to play with no bowl to go to? Will Hugh Freeze still be the head man a few months from now? For now, this could be a dangerous team with an us-against-the-world attitude, and a whole lot of speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball.
– Ole Miss Prespring Analysis
25. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Don’t be too discouraged after last year’s disaster. The 2016 Irish were far better than that, but they never could find a positive groove. This year’s version should be devastating on the offensive front, while the passing game might be better than expected after losing DeShone Kizer to the NFL. There could be an instant turnaround with a little bit of luck early on – there’s too much talent to not be far, far better.
– Notre Dame Prespring Analysis
24. Nebraska Cornhuskers
There might not be enough talent to be the Nebraska most Big Red fans might want it to be, but it’ll be a major factor in the Big Ten West race. There are way too many holes on both sides of the ball, but if the passing attack is okay early on, and a good quarterback emerges from the pack this spring, everything else might just fall into place.
– Nebraska Prespring Analysis
23. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies always seem to disappoint, even after starting out hot like they did last year, but they’re always interesting. This year’s team has to find a slew of good receivers this spring to work around Christian Kirk, and a quarterback has to emerge from the pack. Will it be the steady Jake Hubenak, or star recruit Kellen Mond? Can the defense be as dangerous without Myles Garrett? There’s a lot to like, even with all the concerns.
– Texas A&M Prespring Analysis
22. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Very, very dangerous, they’ll have the offense to be as explosive and as exciting as anyone in the country. QB Mason Rudolph should quickly climb up the NFL Draft charts, while James Washington might just be the nation’s best receiver in a fantastic pack of veteran targets. OSU will play a little defense, too, but expect more 38-34 firefights than defensive slugfests – with the Cowboys on the right side of most of them.
– Oklahoma State Prespring Analysis
21. TCU Horned Frogs
After a strongly miserable and inconsistent season, watch out for a return to the previous form that made TCU such a big factor in the Big 12 and College Football Playoff chases. There’s no way, no how a Gary Patterson defense will be that mediocre again, while Kenny Hill needs to be a more careful, consistent quarterback to go along with all he’s able to bring. With a big-time receiving corps, the numbers will be back up to 2015 snuff.
– TCU Prespring Analysis
20. Texas Longhorns
Okay, Tom Herman – have fun. This is the season the program was building towards under Charlie Strong, but now it’ll be up to the new guy to try doing something with all the impressive parts in place. First and foremost, the defense has to start tackling again. There are way too many veterans to not start coming up with more big stops. On the other side, the offense should revolve more around QB Shane Buechele.
– Texas Prespring Analysis
19. Louisville Cardinals
Lamar Jackson is still the star of stars, but now he needs better blocking to keep him in one piece. This spring, he’ll need to find a few new targets to work with, too, after losing most of his big playmakers. The defense should be better and more physical, led by a secondary that should be among the best in the ACC. Consistency will be the concern throughout the year, but when the machine is rolling again, look out.
– Louisville Prespring Analysis
18. Michigan Wolverines
There’s too much talent and skill in the coaching staff and from the last few recruiting classes to not be a factor again in the Big Ten title chase – to a point. The Wolverines lose almost everyone that matters on defense, and have some gaping holes to fill on offense. Depending on the alignment, all 11 starters are done on D, while the offensive side is all but starting over in the receiving corps.
– Michigan Prespring Analysis
17. Georgia Bulldogs
There’s still a bit of a prove-it factor for Kirby Smart’s great-looking team. His recruiting classes have been stellar, and he and the Dawgs got lucky when RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel chose to return for another year, but now the wins have to come in the close fights. Jacob Eason is a franchise passer, but he needs the line to do its job as it breaks in some new key starters this spring. The D has no excuse not to be among the SEC East’s best.
– Georgia Prespring Analysis
16. Auburn Tigers
If the Tigers can stay healthy – a big problem late last year – and if they can find a few key replacements on the defensive front, the SEC West title isn’t out of the question. Getting Baylor QB transfer Jarrett Stidham should stop the revolving door under center, while Kamryn Pettway has the upside to be a Heisman-caliber back behind a great-looking line. If the pass rush shows up, there aren’t many holes to fill this spring.
– Auburn Prespring Analysis
15. Miami Hurricanes
Overrated? The Miami brand name isn’t what it was, but Mark Richt fought through the growing pains in his first year, throwing several underclassmen to the wolves, and now the payoff should be massive. The defense that lived behind the line gets back nine starters including a potentially devastating linebacking corps that should be among the best in the country over the next few seasons. It’ll be a fight for the quarterback gig, but the Canes should be able to run the ball well.
– Miami Prespring Analysis
14. Tennessee Volunteers
It might be easy to dismiss the Vols after they failed to come through with an SEC title in a disappointing season, but there’s still a boatload of talent to work with. Replacing QB Joshua Dobbs is Job One this spring, but a the star power has to emerge at other offensive spots, too. Fortunately, the defense could be the best in the Butch Jones era with almost all the top tacklers back.
– Tennessee Prespring Analysis
13. LSU Tigers
After failing to live up the the talent level or the preseason hype last year, the 2017 Tigers might just surprise and be what the 2016 version was supposed to be. Leonard Fournette is gone, and there might be some giant talent losses on the defensive side, but the ground game should be brutally effective, and the speed and talent are there for the D to potentially be outstanding. It’s not a stretch to say LSU might be the SEC team in need of the biggest spring session.
– LSU Prespring Analysis
12. Oregon Ducks
Oregon never tackled anyone last season, but the offense showed at times that it’s not all that far away from being up to its unstoppable self. New head coach Willie Taggart’s USF team didn’t play any D last year, either, but he’s walking into a great situation with ten starters returning on that side of the ball. With RB Royce Freeman putting off the NFL for another year, and Justin Herbert emerging as a special quarterback, the Ducks should be back in the Pac-12 title chase.
– Oregon Prespring Analysis
11. Florida Gators
It’s still not going to be all Fun ‘n’ Gun, but the two-time defending SEC East champ should be more than good enough to push for three SEC Championship trips in a row. The spotlight will be on the quarterback situation this spring, but the defense needs new elite stars to emerge, too. After having the luxury of an NFL secondary over the last two seasons, there should be a step back on D – but not a massive one.
– Florida Prespring Analysis
10. Penn State Nittany Lions
Everyone will be expecting the world after the way last year finished up – at least until the final few minutes of the Rose Bowl – but the defending Big Ten champs are supposed to show it was all for real. The offensive backfield is fantastic, with QB Trace McSorley and RB Saquon Barkley as exciting as any tandem in the country, while almost all the top receivers are back – expect the offense to work for full games this time around. If the pass rush can emerge this spring, the defense should be even better.
– Penn State Prespring Analysis
9. Stanford Cardinal
There isn’t the star power without Christian McCaffrey around, but the offense might be even more balanced and effective – but it’ll take a little bit. The quarterback situation has to be sound from the start – not a given considering Keller Chryst’s knee injury suffered late last year – and the superstar recruits on the line might need to be a part of the fun right away. Spring ball really, really matters for the position battles, but just assume David Shaw can figure this one out.
– Stanford Prespring Analysis
8. Wisconsin Badgers
Will there be a downfield passing game? That might be the only thing that’s missing from another you-know-what-you’re-getting Badger team. There are just enough key losses to be annoying – you don’t get better losing RB Corey Clement, OT Ryan Ramczyk and LB T.J. Watt – but the running game will be great, the defense will once again be a rock against the run, and the machine will keep on rolling.
– Wisconsin Prespring Analysis
7. USC Trojans
Don’t dismiss the idea that USC might be ridiculously overhyped and overrated based on the greatness of QB Sam Darnold, but the potential and expectations are there to win the Pac-12 title and be in the College Football Playoff mix. The defense might be stronger than the Darnold-led offense – at least early on – with most of the top tacklers and pass rushers back. On the other side, No. 14 will make everyone around him better.
– USC Prespring Analysis
6. Clemson Tigers
Never assume Clemson will take any sort of step back just because it has to replace several key players at several key positions – Dabo Swinney has reloaded the D line over the last few years without a problem. But Deshaun Watson was special – duh – and WR Mike Williams, RB Wayne Gallman, and TE Jordan Leggett were hardly just along for the ride. The defending national champs should take a step back, but that might mean two losses instead of one.
– Clemson Prespring Analysis
5. Washington Huskies
Last year might have been just the beginning of a juggernaut in Seattle. Jake Browning is back to bomb away for what should be another devastatingly efficient passing game, while the defense will once again be a feisty killer once the new guys for the secondary emerge this spring. This is a physical, tough team that should be able to pound the ball at will behind a veteran line, and be a rock again on the other side with one of the nation’s top run defenses.
– Washington Prespring Analysis
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Of course, all the drama and controversy around QB Baker Mayfield could change things up in a hurry, but backup Kyler Murray could step in and produce big things, too. New running backs have to emerge, but the offense has become a machine at this point that always seems to find productive parts. The defense that was optional at times throughout last season should be stronger, but OU is about the O. Expect more of the same.
– Oklahoma Prespring Analysis
3. Florida State Seminoles
If last year’s team lost the national spotlight to Clemson and the Lamar Jackson-led Louisville Cardinals, this is the year FSU should take it back. As long as the offensive line can keep QB Deondre Francois in one piece, everything should be alright for an attack that’ll hang up 40 on the board on a regular basis. The secondary welcomes back Derwin James and Nate Andrews from injury, and should be helped by one of the nation’s most effective pass rushes.
– Florida State Prespring Analysis
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
As always, Ohio State loses a boatload of future NFL starters, but it’s not as bad as the losses after last year, and things turned out okay. It’ll take some time to come up with more stars for the secondary, and the offense needs a few more elite receivers to help out J.T. Barrett, but years of special recruiting classes should take care of that. The defensive line might be the best in the country, and the offense should put up massive numbers again.
– Ohio State Prespring Analysis
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Really? This might be getting boring, but Nick Saban keeps putting together top recruiting classes, and they keep coming through year after year to overcome the big talent departures to the NFL. The drain overall is nothing like what happened after the 2015 season, but the front seven will need the spring to find the right mix. Fortunately for Bama, the offensive backfield is loaded, the running game will be unstoppable, the defense will probably lead the nation again – and Deshaun Watson is off to the NFL.
– Alabama Prespring Analysis