2016 College Football Chatter
Projecting college football's top 25 teams for 2016
Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports 10:05 p.m. EST January 12, 2016
On Monday night in Glendale, Ariz., Clemson and Alabama met to decide college football's national championship. With both teams set to reload during the offseason, there’s reason to believe the Tigers and Crimson Tide will do it again next year.
Clemson and Alabama top the USA TODAY Sports early top 25 for the 2016 season. The Tigers will return quarterback Deshaun Watson, an early Heisman Trophy favorite, along with the majority of an offense that ranked among the best in program history.
In what has become a familiar refrain, Alabama has more than enough talent and depth to weather a number of personnel losses on both sides of the ball.
Rounding out the top five are Michigan, which is ready to take an enormous leap forward in Jim Harbaugh’s second season; Baylor, thanks in large part to the return of quarterback Seth Russell from injury; and Florida State, with the Seminoles poised to rebound from a somewhat underwhelming 2015 season and challenge for the College Football Playoff.
1. Clemson (2015 record: 14-1)
The Tigers have a few holes to fill on defense, especially with several would-be senior starters contemplating the NFL draft. There remains enough in place for Clemson to defend its Atlantic Coast Conference title and complete another unbeaten regular season.
2. Alabama (2015 record: 14-1)
Another year, another push for the national title. Alabama will reload across the board, with the only concerns over another competition at quarterback and the change at defensive coordinator from Kirby Smart to Jeremy Pruitt.
3. Michigan (2015 record: 10-3)
Surprised? Don’t be. There’s no reason to think Michigan won’t be capable of making this climb in the follow-up to Harbaugh’s successful debut. Another season in his unique system will yield an even stronger, deeper, tougher and more physical team, and one that will be right in the mix for the national championship.
4. Baylor (2015 record: 10-3)
A spot in the Playoff is just a matter of time for Baylor, which might lose some important pieces on both the offensive and defensive line — led by Spencer Drango and Shawn Oakman — yet will again house the nation’s most dynamic offense. In a crowded top of the Big 12 Conference, the Bears seem the safest bet.
5. Florida State (2015 record: 10-3)
The only great concern for the Seminoles is quarterback play, especially with likely starter Sean Maguire set to miss spring drills following surgery on his injured ankle. With so many other positions loaded with skill and experience, FSU needs a healthy and consistent Maguire to reach its full potential.
6. Ohio State (2015 record: 12-1)
The Buckeyes’ superb recruiting efforts will come in handy for a team set for fairly substantial changes on both sides of the ball. With no unit totally immune from an overhaul, Ohio State will lean on quarterback J.T. Barrett, right guard Pat Elflein, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and defensive end Sam Hubbard to help blend new contributors into the starting lineup.
7. Notre Dame (2015 record: 10-3)
A potential quarterback competition will make headlines, but what makes Notre Dame a legitimate title contender is a roster brimming with athleticism. This was on display during this past season, even if the Irish were stymied by injuries. A healthy team could play with any opponent in the country.
Notre Dame may rely heavily on Josh Adams at running
8. Oklahoma (2015 record: 11-2)
This year’s leap back into the title mix should carry into 2016, though Oklahoma will undergo a period of transition on the defensive side of the ball. The Sooners will be even more potent on offense, however, meaning a slight decline on defense should be offset by an uptick in scoring production.
9. Stanford (2015 record: 12-2)
The defense will be improved. Rising junior Christian McCaffrey is coming off one of the greatest seasons by a running back in recent history. In all, the Cardinal have the makings of a Playoff contender. But there’s an issue: Stanford is going to have a hard time replacing quarterback Kevin Hogan.
10. LSU (2015 record: 9-3)
Does LSU have a quarterback? If so, the Tigers may be the best team in college football. Yet that’s an annual concern, and one reason why even Leonard Fournette-led LSU may fall short of a Southeastern Conference title and spot in the Playoff
11. Houston (2015 record: 13-1)
The top-ranked team among the Group of Five conferences has ample reason for confidence, from the number of returning starters on both sides of the ball through the return of second-year coach Tom Herman, who declined overtures from power programs to make another try at an undefeated season.
12. Tennessee (2015 record: 9-4)
Butch Jones has steadily built the Volunteers into SEC contenders. Whether Tennessee can win more than the league’s East Division may depend on the continued growth of a younger core that still defines the roster. It stands to reason that a move into double-digit wins would mark the next step forward for this program.
13. Michigan State (2015 record: 12-2)
It would be a little surprising to see Michigan State match this season’s Big Ten Conference championship, though it’s never wise to doubt Mark Dantonio and the Spartans. On paper, there’s enough returning talent to remain in the mix for a Playoff berth but too many departed pieces to be considered a leading contender.
14. TCU (2015 record: 11-2)
Like Michigan State, the Horned Frogs must replace a valuable senior quarterback. The team’s offensive system breeds confidence, not to mention elite quarterback play, and Gary Patterson puts forth top-notch defenses on an annual basis. TCU’s combination of scheme and underrated personnel make it a dark-horse option for the Playoff.
15. Oregon (2015 record: 9-4)
Will Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop give Oregon a Vernon Adams-like boost as a one-year quarterback rental? If so, the Ducks — who also will have new coordinators on offense and defense — may very well be the best team in the Pac-12. If not, Oregon will remain a pesky contender for the Rose Bowl but little more.
16. Florida (2015 record: 10-4)
The defense will take a step back after losing a number of key starters, including an all-conference cornerback, to the NFL draft. The hope for Florida is increased effectiveness on offense, and there’s reason to believe the Gators will be more explosive in all phases — and in the passing game in particular — with added experience in Jim McElwain’s system.
17. Boise State (2015 record: 9-4)
It would be unwise to count out Boise State in the race for an Playoff’s access-bowl bid, especially with a burgeoning star at quarterback in sophomore Brett Rypien. His growth under center gives the Broncos immense cause for confidence.
18. UCLA (2015 record: 8-5)
Among prototypical pocket-passing quarterbacks, there may be none better than sophomore-to-be Josh Rosen. But Rosen alone isn’t reason to pick UCLA to be more than the best team in the Pac-12 South Division, particularly when given the Bruins’ tendency to come out flat against elite competition under Jim Mora and his staff.
19. Iowa (2015 record: 12-2)
Another unbeaten regular season is too much to ask, but the Hawkeyes will maintain last year’s clip behind quarterback C.J. Beathard, a strong offensive line and a sturdy defense led by All-America cornerback Desmond King. The schedule does get slightly more difficult, unfortunately, with crossover matchups with Penn State and Michigan from the Big Ten East Division.
20. Oklahoma State (2015 record: 10-3)
The lack of a consistent running game is the Cowboys’ largest issue, and perhaps the only overwhelming concern for a team destined for a top-four finish in the Big 12. Can the offense find increased balance? Doing so would go a long way toward moving Oklahoma State up the league’s pecking order.
21. Miami (Fla.) (2015 record: 8-5)
The arrival of Mark Richt inspires hope that Miami will play up to its potential. That was an issue under Richt’s predecessor, Al Golden, but look for the former Georgia coach to find immediate success at his alma mater. It helps to have a quarterback, Brad Kaaya, who rivals Deshaun Watson for the title of the ACC’s best.
22. Mississippi (2015 record: 10-3)
This might be low for a team coming off back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl appearances, but remember: Ole Miss must replace left tackle Laremy Tunsil, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. The Rebels won’t fall of the map by any means, but expecting another season with 10 wins overlooks those losses at three crucial positions.
23. Louisville (2015 record: 8-5)
The ACC Atlantic Division has two clear leaders in Clemson and Florida State, so Louisville should continue to be overlooked nationally. But the Cardinals will be a quiet contender for double-digit wins, thanks in no small part to the projected growth of rising sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
24. Washington (2015 record: 7-6)
This might be one year ahead of schedule for the Huskies, who have compiled an elite crop of underclassmen as the foundation for a conference championship. Those same youngsters — such as quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin — may be ready for prime time, however. If so, Washington is a team to watch.
25. Southern California (2015 record: 8-6)
The talent is there, as always, even if USC must settle on a starting quarterback to replace Cody Kessler. The issue is the schedule, which includes games against Alabama, Stanford, Utah, Oregon, Washington, UCLA and Notre Dame. Eight wins would merit a national ranking, but anything less than a solid weekly effort could spell trouble for the Trojans.
Why is UCLA getting so much love?
@Jiggyfly this is your chance to start fresh and not be a genital wort.
Last edited by skidadl; 01-15-2016 at 12:51 AM.
Rosen is pretty good.
Originally Posted by skidadl
The ranking even points out that Mora comes up small against ranked teams.
Originally Posted by boozeman
You are just pissed Texas Tech isn't ranked. ~ack~
Originally Posted by skidadl
They don't deserve to be ranked.
Originally Posted by boozeman
You wanta debate about it? I got nothin going on right now.
Originally Posted by skidadl
You can't muffle us.