It’s impossible to predict what happens in College Football season, but it’s always worth giving it a shot. The new playoff system means no more BCS rankings, and maybe even more significance in public perception for the AP Poll and its top 25.
So right now, in our way too early preseason rankings, who’ll be the teams to make it into the four-team playoff? Hard to say, because it depends on the politiciking, but it’ll be foolish to deny how good Florida State and Alabama look going into next season, but it would be wise not to forget about Oregon, Auburn and Oklahoma as well.
1. Florida State Seminoles – The Seminoles, the national champions, are returning the Heisman winner, Jameis Winston. Want more? Most of their offense is returning. They have the voters love while playing in an easier conference. However, the road might be a bit tougher, including an opening game against Oklahoma State in Dallas, playing Notre Dame at home and Louisville, new to the ACC, on the road. Replacing some of their leaving defenders is going to be a problem.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide – The Tide are losing their quarterback A.J. McCarron, but they’re returning eight starters on defense and offense, including four starting offensive linemen. They have only four true road games next season, playing Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn at home in SEC play.
3. Oregon Ducks – A second season for Mark Helfrich, who gets nine starters from his offense coming back, including quarterback Marcus Mariota. The defense is losing six starters, but Oregon have plenty of talent coming in. They do have a tough home game against Michigan State to start the season, but they’re also avoiding playing against USC and Arizona State in the conference play.
4. Auburn Tigers – The offense is bringing back 10 starters, including quarterback Nick Marshall and stud running back Tre Mason. They’re losing only one offensive lineman, but five starters on defense, including Chris Davis and Cody Parkey. Their road schedule isn’t going to be easy – Kansas State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.
5. Stanford Cardinal – The Cardinal might lose four offensive linemen, but their recruiting for those positions has been the best in the nation. They’re also bringing back 7 starters at least on defense, but their big problem is the schedule, which includes road games against Arizona State, Washington, Oregon and UCLA.
6. Oklahoma Sooners – The Sooners are losing some offensive talent, but the emergence of Trevor Knight and a second season for Mike Stoops as the OC brings plenty of hope, while the defense brings back nine starters. Playing Baylor and Oklahoma State at home is also going to help.
7. Michigan State Spartans – The Spartans do start the season on the road at Oregon and are losing three offensive linemen and five starters on defense, but they’re keeping their DC Pat Narduzzi, and most of their tough games – Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, will be played at home. Not playing Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota or Northwestern is going to be nice as well.
8. UCLA Bruins – Brett Hundely is returning, Jim Mora is staying and UCLA are bringing back eight starters on offense and probably seven on defense. They’ll be playing Texas in Arlington, but also against Oregon, Stanford and USC at home in conference play.
9. LSU Tigers – New quarterback for the Tigers, but Anthony Jennings might be much better than Mettenberger. Four offensive linemen are coming back, but there’s going to be another mass exodus on defense for Les Miles to handle. The Tigers open the season against Wisconsin in Houston, but then play their next four games at home. They’ll play SEC road games at Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
10. Ohio State Buckeyes – Urban Meyer has to replace four offensive linemen, which means that even though Braxton Miller is returning, things won’t be so easy. The Buckeyes might bring back seven starters on defense. Their nonconference games don’t seem to be very difficult – Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and Navy, while their tough road games include Michigan State and Penn State.
The rest of the top 25:
11. Georgia Bulldogs
12. USC Trojans
13. Baylor Bears
14. South Carolina
15. Wisconsin Badgers
16. North Carolina Tar Heels
17. Texas A&M Aggies
18. Washington Huskies
19. Clemson Tigers
20. Ole Miss Rebels
21. Arizona State Sun Devils
22. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
23. Iowa Hawkeyes
24. UCF Knights
25. Florida Gators