The early projections are in from the major sports outlets, and once again Alabama is poised to be the early favorite. There are deep losses on defense to be sure, but the offense returns 9 (arguably 10) of the starters from 2015 that averaged 40 points per game. An offseason to learn Sark’s wrinkles to the offense, and another year of maturation by and competition against Jalen Hurts, can only help.
Also in the mix are other teams who went through a trial-by-fire owing to youth or inexperience — Florida State, Southern Cal, and Ohio State. All have recruited at a high level; all have a young dynamic quarterback that needs some work (although FSU’s Francois was a redshirt Freshman, and generally played like a someone with two years in the system.) The Buckeyes, like Alabama, are expected to sign a once-in-a-generation class in two weeks, and USC will again have a top-10 crop of talent; one that should be bolstered by a hot second-half of the season and a thrilling Rose Bowl win in its backyard.
Meanwhile, Clemson, Washington, Michigan and LSU are predicted to take major steps backwards, and that would seem true given the near-total rebuilds required at some of these schools. Michigan, for instance, loses an unreal 18 senior starters. LSU loses its secondary, nearly its entire receiving corps, a star running back, and has key losses in the front seven. And, Clemson...Clemson is akin to 2014 Alabama: deep losses to a transcendent offense will have the Tigers searching for answers. Clemson loses its entire skills set, from the backfield to the outside and slot, all the way down to its tight end. There will be no best-of-three rubber match this year, is what I’m saying, and especially not in an ACC where Va. Tech, Miami and FSU should all be improved.
These are premature projections, to be sure. There are always NSD freshmen and early enrollees to account for, spring and fall practice performances (paging Blake Barnett,) last minute transfers and injuries, coaching defections, summer arrests, and a host of other factors beyond the ken of we mere mortals in January.
But, here is the graphic showing how the Early Top 25 shakes out:
Who’s your team to beat and why?
What teams can best afford defections, graduation, and NFL losses?
Who’s set up for a fall?
It’s Friday, let’s talk football