Time to hate: I’ve spent a lot of time and effort randomly trhrowing darts at a copy of Phil Steele and have divined these ironclad, can’t miss, bet the mortgage preseason Top 25 teams. Here’s our preseason blog poll and a couple of observations:
|Alabama Crimson Tide
|Ohio State Buckeyes
|Florida State Seminoles
|Oklahoma State Cowboys
|Penn State Nittany Lions
|West Virginia Mountaineers
|Washington State Cougars
|Virginia Tech Hokies
|Boise State Broncos
|Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
|TCU Horned Frogs
|Texas A&M Aggies
- Jimmies and Joes: Alabama and Ohio State remain the two most talented, complete teams in the nation, and they add to that the two best coaches in the nation. The parallels are frightening, even down to the stud Freshman QB looking to get snaps over an all-Conference veteran, a young talented LB corps, new offensive coordinators completely rethinking how to score, and serviceable special teams with question marks. Still, in the conference slog of October and November, when health is at a premium, having blue-chippers to back up your blue-chippers, is a commodity of which few can boast. Urban and Nick should finally get that 2014 rematch.
- To be the king, kill the king: Clemson gets a talent bump and the championship benefit of the doubt. I don’t think this team will be back in the playoffs, but another 10-win regular season seems about right. The offense will be lethal but the Tigers have lost simply too much in the last two draft classes to expect a third appearance in the playoffs. Like OSU last season, the Tigers are primed for a nice run...but next year.
- Don’t sleep: There are a few deep, veteran teams who came up just short last season: Wisconsin, Stanford and Oklahoma State fit the bill here. Paul Chryst is building something nice in Madison. The Badgers, not the Lions or Wolverines, are the real challengers to the Buckeyes in the Big 10. Bedlam should be for the B12 -- assuming the Sooners and Pokes can dodge an improved Texas, WVU’s defense, and a sneaky-good Kansas State team who’ve finally answered some question on offense. The TREEEES won’t be sneaky good on either side of the ball: the passing game is much improved and this is a tremendous veteran team that just needs to find some answers consistently running the ball and replacing a star on each side of the ball. I think Coach Shaw can do that.
- Prove it: Michigan, LSU have deep rebuilds in store. Florida has a lot of losses on defense, even as the offense finally looks to improve. Add to that a bevy of suspensions for the Gators and here ya’ go. This trio could each compete for their division or go 8-4. No result falling anywhere in between would be a surprise.
- If only the defense would improve: Boise State has the most balanced team in the G5, though high-powered USF is waiting in the wings for the G5 crown. Memphis can win a wild AAC this season if the defense can improve even slightly. Washington’s defense was decimated by the NFL, even as the core of an All-Pac 12 offense return. Like Memphis and Boise, that offense should probably be enough to carry them far.
- I hate your offensive line: Florida State has scads of talent everywhere except the guys to protect Francois and open holes for Cam Akers. I don’t trust Lamar Jackson to throw a pass in a meaningful game and the Louisville offensive line is terrible.
- Not tough enough: With my apologies to “Hardcore History’s” Dan Carlin, but it is hard to quantify toughness. For whatever reason, some teams just don’t hit as hard as they are capable, don’t “want” whatever “it” is enough, or they allow themselves to lose the small physical battles that all lead to a loss. I very much question the toughness of a Penn State team that lost three of four of its substantive games away from Happy Valley. The offense is so much fun to watch, but I’m not buying the James Franklin hype here...or the secondary. So too does a solid West Virginia team always come up short. The defense will again be better than most in the Big 12 and the passing game will improve. But, you suspect this team will find a way to lose one or two it shouldn’t.
One player means so much: You’d like the playoff fortunes of Oklahoma, Stanford, Miami, and USC a lot better if each returned that one special player. But, losing Adoree Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, Brad Kaaya and
POSJoe Mixon will simply be too much. I love all of these teams to surprise this season in one form or fashion, but losing that One Guy will derail Special Seasons and make them merely Very Good Seasons.
- Heartbroken in the conference title games: Poor Wisconsin and USC are going to be disconsolate when the New Year rolls around.
- Call it a hunch: Auburn’s defense is going to miss that defensive line which made a decent secondary look better than it was; that’s assuming that Stidham can take advantage of a deep offensive line, a good RB rotation. There are no difference-makers on the outside either. In the good hunch category, there’s no way Gary Patterson fields two disappointing teams in a row. Keep an eye on the Iowa Hawkeyes too, who finally started putting it together down the stretch. This could be a quiet 10-game winner.
- Changing of the guard: The ACC is probably going to see the most upheaval in the orthodoxy. I think the Miami Hurricanes are poised to be the quietest 10-win team no one is talking about and a legitimate challenger in the ACC. Mark Richt didn’t forget how to recruit or coach. So too add a Georgia Tech team coming off a quiet 9-win campaign. You have two teams with excellent returning offenses and excellent second-year coaches in the Pitt Panthers and Virginia Tech. Syracuse may even flirt with bowl eligibility under Dino Babers. For that matter add a quasi-ACC team in Notre Dame that can’t help but be healthier and be more fundamentally sound on defense. This will probably be the most competitive conference in the nation this season. The middle class is so deep that I suspect we don’t see an ACC winner at all this year in the playoffs: Even the oligarchs are staring down the barrel of two-loss records.
- G5 Conference Winners: Memphis Tigers - AAC, Boise State Broncos - MWC, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers - C-USA, Troy Trojans, Toledo Rockets - MAC
- P5 Conference Winners: ACC: Florida State Seminoles, Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes, Big 12 - Oklahoma State Cowboys, SEC - Alabama Crimson Tide, Pac 12 - Washington Huskies
- Playoffs: Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Washington
- 2017 National Champion: In another nip-and-tuck shootout for the ages, the Buckeyes find themselves punting at their own 35 as the fourth quarter winds down. Following an exciting 41-yard return by Henry Ruggs III to the OSU 33 yard-line, senior punter J.K. Scott is called out for the game-winning field goal attempt. Scott, ever the cool customer, drills it from 50 yards, we all have a heart attack, and the Tide takes its 17th national title, 41-38.
Will Alabama win its 17th national title this season?
This poll is closed