Breaking Down All 25 Teams’ Rankings on College Football’s Top List
Who landed where, why they landed there, and should they have?
It needs no introduction, people. It’s the most wonderful time of the year; it’s the hap-happiest season of all. College football is back, and you know what that means! Aging Caucasian coaches learning how to dab in the locker room after a big victory (see: Dabo Swinney); student-athletes getting into all kinds of trouble (see: too many instances to name); and grown-ups screaming at 18-year-olds to beat the crap out of each other (see: your neighbor Jerry on Saturday afternoon). In all seriousness, this really is the best time of year. There is something so unifying and ineffably thrilling about collegiate football.
The AP top 25 poll is out, and since I am the authority on all things college football (I’m definitely not) and I have been dubbed queen of all-anything regarding NCAA athletics (I definitely haven’t) — although I have spent a considerable amount of my life working in/becoming well-versed in the world of college football — here are my initial reactions to each team’s ranking:
25. Florida: With a starting quarterback — Luke Del Rio —who couldn’t win the job as head signal caller at even Oregon State last year (ouch), it’s hard to believe the Gators are worthy of a top 25 spot. Still, it’s Florida and the Gators undoubtedly have talented players, so let’s see where Jim McElwain takes them this year.
24. Oregon: A lot of people aren’t sure what to think of the Ducks this year. They lost some key playmakers, but gained an experienced defensive coordinator in Brady Hoke — if you recall, their defense has been especially weak up to this point. With a transfer QB from Montana State, and Mark Helfrich in charge, I think people will be surprised at how well Oregon does this year.
23. Baylor: This is a team I don’t even want to get into because of its offseason incidents. These guys are no doubt on my list (not a good list to be on) and they get a big eye roll from me. New coach Jim Grobe and the Bears will have to prove they aren’t affected by the controversies surrounding them.
22. UNC: The Tar Heels are equipped with a commanding offense, and Gene Chizik working with the defense to continue their growth. Coming off an 11-win season, tbh, this team is underrated. ’Tis true however, that the ACC isn’t the strongest conference, and therefore the strength of schedule isn’t great.
21. Oklahoma State: Eighteen starters returning = sixth most experienced team in the county. Another potentially underrated team to watchoutfo! Their strength of schedule isn’t great, so the Cowboys will have to win the big ones against the likes of TCU, Oklahoma, and Baylor to get some real love from the powers that be to see some postseason play.
20. USC: The Trojans are coming off of a weird season. Clay Helton will coach his first full season with the storied program without Cody Kessler, Su’a Cravens and fam. We know USC can be successful any given year, because we have seen it so many times. Keep an eye out for playmakers Adoree’ Jackson and Iman Marshall in the secondary. The Trojans travel to Dallas to take on Alabama for the first game of the season — not an easy feat!
19. Louisville: Not sure the Cardinals are deserving of 19 after a lackluster year, but if Louisville plays some of its ACC foe well — I’m looking at you, Clemson, FSU — the Cards should get some major love from the football gods.
18. Georgia: Quarterback position is up for grabs, but Nick Chubb returns. I expected a better ranking simply because it’s Georgia and the SEC bias is rly rill, but I think 18 is a good spot for the Bulldogs.
17. Iowa: The Hawkeyes ended their season by taking a serious beating from Pac-12 champ Stanford in the Rose Bowl. They still have a good number of returners, and with the news of what they are paying their strength coach coming out, we can expect them to be in incredibly good shape.
16. UCLA: For the past few years, UCLA has had huge expectations coming into the season. This year at 16, those expectations are still high, and I’m not sold on them. But when a quarterback (Josh Rosen) is nicknamed “The Rosen One” you better assume this team is gonna ball out, son.
15. Houston: Let’s say what everyone is thinking: How in G-o-d’s name can a team in the AAC come in at 15? Answer: QB Greg Ward Jr. The Cougars have a great QB, decent wideouts, and their defensive stats are actually pretty legit. Still, strength of schedule is huge and although they have a really tough non-conference schedule, they aren’t in a Power 5 conference. It will be interesting to see how this team stacks up against the big boys this season.
14. Washington: Coach Chris Petersen has a strong reputation as a winner. He killed it at Boise State, and every year at Washington we have only seen some really good progression. The Huskies’ defense is potentially one of the best in the nation. They return eight of nine defensive linemen, but their secondary is out of this world. Remember these names: Buddha Baker, Sidney Jones, Kevin King. Still, all of this isn’t enough for some people. Washington won only seven games last year, a lil tidbit that begs the question “wwwhhhhhaaaaattttt?” to their number 14 ranking.
13. TCU: The Horned Frogs ended the season with a legendary comeback against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. They also have transfer Kenny Hill (of Texas A&M fame) under center now, so there is that. They are primed for a pretty decent season, IMHO.
12. Michigan State: While he is one of the most terrifying coaches in college football, Mark Dantonio has proven to be a very competent coach. MSU finished last season at 12–2, beating the likes of Oregon, Michigan, and Ohio State. That’s big-time stuff.
11. Ole Miss: Some of the Way-Too-Early predictions say quarterback Chad Kelly is a Heisman contender. Their offense will remain the up-tempo spread that Kelly truly flourishes in, while the defense welcomes back Marquis Haynes. Haynes is the kind of player that can make a QB soil himself, notching 17.5 sacks in the last two years.
10. Notre Dame: The Irish’s season is very up in the air. They lost some big names defensively, in an already shaky defense. Watch for Nyles Morgan to be a standout. Ultimately, their schedule is moderately difficult as they have to face USC, Stanford and Michigan State — those games will be key for Our Lady.
9. Tennessee: The Vols have one of the most gifted running back duos in the nation in Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. The two RBs combined for 19 TDs and almost 2,000 yards. These two provide the 1–2 punch that could knock you into next Tuesdee (my grandpa’s pronunciation of Tuesday)!
8. Stanford: Christian McCaffrey is one of the best all-purpose players in the country. Some say the WildCaff (still don’t get the nickname, never will) was robbed of the Heisman last year; I am a part of that “some.” Analysts admit they hadn’t even watched him play last year (east coast bias + time differences = unfair outcomes in college football) which just makes no sense! Anyways, I digress. He is the single most important factor in this team’s success. His quickness and football IQ give Stanford’s offense the edge it needs against nearly any opponent.
7. Michigan: Oh boy, could we talk about Michigan forever! Jim Harbaugh is one of the most interesting men in college football, and has proven himself one helluva coach. This team is a definite contender for a bid to the 2016 Nattie (or at least the CFP). Not only do they have a not-so-secret-weapon in Jabrill Peppers, who is insane on both sides of the ball (look for him as a Wildcat running back and/or quarterback), but they also boast the fifth best recruiting class in college football this past year. I mean it when I say I could talk forever about them. But, I have self-control…I can stop whenever I want to…
6. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are replacing 16 starters (12 of those were NFL draft picks — 12 — I can barely even count that high!). I’m sure they aren’t worried, because Urban Meyer typically has a way of getting ish done. However, as we have seen in our countdown, they are no longer the talk of the town in the Big 10; things are pretty uncertain for them, aside from the return of J.T. Barrett. All in all, Ohio State has the size, speed, coaching, etc., so I am confident they won’t disappoint, but they won’t dominate the Big 10 the way they have recently.
(Top 5 Top 5—thank you, Drizzy, for never allowing us to say “Top 5” just once, ever again)
5: LSU: Leonard Fournette is the Christian McCaffrey of LSU. By that I mean the team is based around him; he is absolutely crucial. Leonard Fournette is pure brute strength, size and speed. He is unparalleled at what he does, and if he can emulate what he did at the beginning of the 2015–2016 season, he will be in contention for the Heisman. If Fournette has an all-time season, so do the Tigers.
4: Florida State: Last season Florida State went 10–3, and the Seminoles were one of the least experienced teams in the NCAA. Their question marks at quarterback are overshadowed by the talent their Heisman hopeful running back brings to the table — enter Dalvin Cook. Not only is Cook enough to scare the bejesus out of their opponents week in and week out, they also have one of the most feared defenses in the country.
3: Oklahoma: Tim Riggins is the most footballinest name you’ve ever heard, right? That is until Baker Mayfield came along. His name is Baker Mayfield! That is so down home football, you couldn’t even make that up. More importantly, though, the guy is a star — and I DON’T mean in the sense that he is a huge ball of gas with planets orbiting around him. I mean that he is another Heisman hopeful, who is in control of his team’s success. Basically, the Sooners go as far as Baker Mayfield takes them. With plenty of experience and proven leadership skills, this team should have no problem being the standout in the Big 12.
2. Clemson: Offensively, Clemson is a force to be reckoned with. QB Deshaun Watson is returning, and WR Mike Williams is back. Pair those two with an outstanding offensive line, and you have a very high-scoring offense. The defense is a little bit of a question mark as they will have to replace eight starters (yikes), but as long as they defeat Florida State their season should be smooth sailing.
1. Alabama: Well well well, what do we have here? As the reigning champs — Alabama deserves number one. Still, we have a lot of questions regarding the quarterback position, and who will take over for Derrick Henry as the team’s leader? Nick Saban obviously knows how to recognize and reel in talent. The crazy thing about a program like Alabama is that we don’t feel like we absolutely need these questions answered before we assume they are going to be the best again.
There you have it, people! Excited yet? Go shotgun a cold one and smash the can on your head in celebration because college football is HERE.