As we now lift an eye towards the 2015 season, the questions start to pour in. Can the Buckeyes do it again? Is the SEC now in a downward spiral? Can Jim Harbaugh breathe life back into a once-proud and storied Michigan program? How does Oregon survive without Marcus Mariota?
And what’s going to happen in a wide-open Big 12?
Well I may not be able to answer all of those questions; I can let you know which teams are the best as we head into a new season. Will Ohio St stay on top of the rankings? Is there a team in there that nobody is thinking about? Is Alabama done as the cream of the SEC crop?
Well read on my friend and find out who is the top dog.
10) Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats will be led by redshirt sophomore Anu Solomon at QB, who in 2014 was a revelation and has been even better thus far in 2015. With Nick Wilson in the backfield, and Scooby Wright’s return at linebacker, the Wildcats position themselves to be a player in the Pac-12. Especially with one more season to learn Rich Rod’s scheme and if once touted receiver DaVonte Neal can make a smooth transition to Cornerback.
9) Florida State Seminoles
After two great seasons with Jameis Winston at the helm, it would be foolish to expect them to repeat that success with the former Heisman Trophy and BCS title winner now in Tampa Bay. Do they have a handful of shiny new toys, including safety Derwin James and electrifying receiver George Campbell, who blew past two defenders en route to a 65-yard touchdown in the spring game?
Yes they do. Are they ready to make a run at yet another national title with Notre Dame graduate transfer Everett Golson under center? Not this season, but give them another year and another stellar recruiting class, and who knows.
8) Oregon Ducks
Speaking of teams that lost their starting quarterback, the Oregon Ducks find themselves in that position too. Without 2014 Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Marcus Mariota under center, Oregon will not be as feared this season. But Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams Jr is ready to take on that challenge, and getting to face his old team in the opener should only build his confidence.
He will have plenty of weapons around him, including Bralon Addison, Charles Nelson and Royce Freeman, who ran for over 1,300 yards last season. The Ducks will still be a great team, but with the Pac-12 being on the rise, it may be a tougher year in Eugene that they are used to.
7) UCLA Bruins
The last of the Pac-12 troika to make our Top 10 is also going to have to deal with replacing a star QB in Brett Hundley. But former UCLA great QB Rick Neuheisel’s son Jerry and true freshman Josh Rosen should battle to replace Hundley and leave UCLA in great hands. Then when you realize that two-way stud Myles Jack, the entire O-Line and running back Paul Perkins are all returning, things in Westwood could be looking up and who knows, maybe even a shot at the football version of the “Final Four”.
6) Alabama Crimson Tide
Oh how the mighty have fallen. To see Alabama all the way down at number 6 would be an insult to some. But things aren’t as rosy in Tuscaloosa as they were just a couple of years back. The offense will be without Blake Sims and Amari Cooper and on defense a secondary that has more questions than a Poli Sci final. But to ever discount a Nick Saban team is to do it at your own peril.
5) Michigan State Spartans
If it weren’t for defending national champion Ohio State, Sparty would be the talk of the Big-10 this season. That’s what makes their trip to Columbus this year so important for both teams. QB Connor Cook returns to lead an offense that outscored opponents 45-17 in their wins last season.
Defensively, this team boasts the return of Shilique Calhoun and Darian Hicks. Add in converted fullback Lawrence Thomas, who as a defensive end spent the entire spring steamrolling offensive linemen, and this is a team in East Lansing that short of a miracle win at the Horseshoe could end up with just one loss.
4) Baylor Bears
Yes, Bryce Petty is now in the NFL, but Art Briles is still running things in Waco and that means the Bears offense should be prolific. Seth Russell has to fill the big shoes of Petty, but should without a doubt keep the Briles offense humming at break-neck speed. Defensively, they may have their shortcomings but nothing that the offense there should not be able to overcome.
3) Auburn Tigers
Out of the shadow of hated rival Alabama, the Auburn Tigers will be the cream of the SEC crop this season. A loaded offense behind QB Jeremy Johnson that has a ton of weapons with him, including Roc Thomas, Duke Williams and Ricardo Louis. But the biggest reason for optimism at Auburn is a revamped D under new coordinator Will Muschamp. With two monsters on the d-Line and a secondary that could rival any in the country, Auburn may see its greatest success since a guy named Cam Newton was under center.
2) TCU Horned Frogs
Many people think I am crazy for saying this, especially with a schedule that includes trips to Norman, Stillwater and Manhattan, but TCU may be the best team in the country not named Ohio State. They return stud QB Trevone Boykin, who was under center when they gave Ole Miss a butt-kicking for the ages in the Peach Bowl.
It is not only Boykin, but a total of 10 starters from last year’s one-loss team return. The defense, TCU’s calling card, has lost several key contributors, but Gary Peterson has dealt with that before, and this is one team that even the Buckeyes need to be wary of.
1.)Ohio State Buckeyes
Finally we get to number one, and the most obvious choice of the bunch, Ohio St. Even Las Vegas thinks the Buckeyes are the best in the nation by setting the over/under for wins for this team at 11 ½. Which means they either go undefeated in the regular season, or the under takes it. 15 starters from last year’s national championship return for the Buckeyes, and a very favorable schedule with only really a home game against Sparty that they have to worry about.
This scary thought about them is, that they have only gotten better on offense with former Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Braxton Miller switching to halfback/wide receiver in a Percy Harvin-like role and more cohesive as a unit with another set of spring practice under the belt. Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes back on top of the world, with very little chance of falling off.
So there you have it … The Top 10 of College Football as we head into the season. I know that there are several teams missing from this list, Notre Dame (over-rated), USC (Young) and Georgia (still have to figure out how to replace Todd Gurley) and several teams on this list that will prove me wrong.
But I think when it is all said and done and we are in the first week of December, you will see all four names in the Championship right here on this list.