Enough of the 2017 college football season already. Which ten teams look the strongest for next season … in early January.
The recruiting world isn’t done, we’re still waiting to find out who’s leaving early for the NFL, and spring ball is still a long, long way away. So understanding that there will be about 983 changes between now and the start of next season, he’s the first guess on who the top ten teams of 2018 are going to be.
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10. Penn State
Saquon Barkley might be gone, along with top receiver DaeSean Hamilton, but most of the decent targets are back for QB Trace McSorley. The key to the O, though, is a veteran line that’ll give everyone time to work.
The other side of the ball is going to be the early problem, especially in the secondary. Overall, six of the top eight tacklers have to be replaced.
Jarrett Stidham is back. Start from there, and everything else looks just fine. Kam Martin is the new star running back with everyone else gone, but the O should revolve around Sitdham and the great group of receivers. Will they all get time? The line needs a lot of help this spring.
There were only three senior starters on the defensive side, but a few early defections to the NFL will mean an early step back. However, there’s a terrific young group of talents about to get more work.
8. Michigan State
Go ahead and set the expectations at a Big Ten Championship level.
The Spartans have a rising star in Brian Lewerke at quarterback throwing to a loaded group of receivers. The top seven pass catchers are back, along with top rusher L.J. Scott to work behind a great-looking veteran line.
The defense that got its groove back will be amazing in the secondary and should have five starters returning in the front seven.
It’s all just getting started. The quarterback battle this offseason will be the story, but everything else on the offense should be fine. The receiving corps loses the top targets, but the corps has been building for a while. Overall, the offense will be better.
If the linebacking corps isn’t the best in college football, it’ll be close. Chad Thomas was the only senior defensive starter. Getting back star safety Jaquan Johnson sets the tone for another Turnover Chain year for the secondary, and the pass rush will keep on rolling up front.
6. Ohio State
Just assume that the quarterback situation will be more than fine despite the loss of J.T. Barrett – it’ll be an interesting fight for the gig. The running backs are great and there isn’t a senior among the top six pass catchers, but the line might need a little while.
The pass rush will still be there despite some key losses, and even with a few early defections, the secondary will be great. DE Sam Hubbard and CB Denzel Ward are gone, but this is still a loaded D full of experience.
The Tigers will keep reloading. The defensive front will be amazing again around Dexter Lawrence on the inside, but the other amazing parts up front are almost certainly off to the NFL. Even for Dabo Swinney, it’s going to take some work to build up the defense again – he’s done it before.
Kelly Bryant is now the veteran starting quarterback who should make the passing game stronger, but the ground attack will take over early on. Almost all of the top rushing producers are back, along with enough receiving talent to go downfield more.
Mr. Mayfield is gone, but Kyler Murray will add a different element to the attack. He’ll combine with Rodney Anderson for a devastating ground game, but the air show won’t be bad, either. TE Mark Andrews is gone early, but all the other top receivers are returning.
Just enough key defensive parts are gone to be annoying, but OU did just fine last year without a killer D. The offense will more than make up for the issues.
There might have been some question about how good the 2017 Badgers really were considering their schedule.
This year, the team will absolutely be the real deal with QB Alex Hornibrook, RB Jonathan Taylor, and the young receivers leading a more effective attack. There wasn’t a senior among the starting five up front.
The defense has to replace six starters, but LB T.J. Edwards is returning to lead another great-looking linebacking corps. The secondary needs the most work, but the run D will be a rock again.
2017 wasn’t the culmination of anything. This is going to be a long, good run under Kirby Smart, starting next year with Jake Fromm returning as a veteran sophomore to lead a potentially more dangerous passing attack. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel might be gone, but the running backs will be fabulous .
The linebacking corps has to undergo an overhaul, but the secondary will be fine and more than enough tacklers are back to build off of.
Even with all the likely losses and changes, the offense should be even better.
There’s more than enough talent waiting in the wings at running back and receiver, and there’s a good quarterback situation with Tua Tagovailoa a potentially better option than Jalen Hurts.
The lines are stocked with top prospects ready to produce, the linebacking corps will be a rock, and the secondary should eventually be fine. It’s Alabama – a wholesale change of starting defensive backs won’t be a problem.