KimmyGold’s Way Too Early College Football Top 25

Back in May, my dear friend, Antwan Staley, asked me to make a “Way too early college football top 25 list.”  So, I accepted the challenge.  Knowing full well some things have changed and some players may have moved on, here is my original prediction for the way I thought the 2017 college season should begin.

  1. Alabama-Alabama returns a good amount of starters, including its, sophomore quarterback, Jalen Hurts.  With the number one recruiting class in the country and what seems like a never-ending bench, Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide start my list at number 1.
  2. Ohio State-With such an extremely young team, last year, and almost every starter returning; Ohio state will be a force this year.  They had a fantastic season in 2016 as they finished 11-2 and played in the Fiesta Bowl before losing to eventual national champion Clemson.  This year brings all the same faces with an extra year of experience.
  3. Florida State-Rightfully the Seminoles start near the top with a pretty full line up of returning starters and a great finish to their season, last year (10-3).  They also have second year, sophomore quarterback, Deondre Francois, returning.  If this team can make the necessary adjustments to their offensive line, other teams may be hard pressed to get a win out of Florida State this year.
  4. USC- After a 1-3 start to begin the 2016 season, the Trojans won their last nine games to finish the year.  With many returning players, including quarterback Sam Darnold, based on last years’ performance and bowl game, USC is likely to be a tough competitor this year.
  5. Oklahoma-Quarterback Baker Mayfield is coming back, so is most of the team.  The end.  Just kidding, that might have been the end until earlier in the month, when coach Bob Stoops retired and gave offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley a chance to lead the Sooners.  This will be an adjustment and we will see if he can man the ship as well as his predecessor.  (This list was written before that occurred)
  6. Clemson-As the defending national champions, typically I would rank the Tigers higher, however, they lost a good amount of their offense, including their Heisman trophy candidate, quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Having to rebuild their offense leaves them still in my top ten, but down at number six.
  7. Penn State-Penn State was a surprise last year as they won the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2008.  But with 18 of their starters coming back, and their obvious ability to work as a strong unit, this team is going to be one to beat.
  8. Wisconsin-With a tough schedule ahead, the Badgers look to return to the Big Ten Championship Game for the second straight season.  With 15 returning starters, and guys like Chris Orr returning from his injury, it should be within their reach.
  9. Washington-Looking to mimic their performance from last year, Washington has a good shot to do so.  With quarterback Jake Browning back for his junior season, they will still need to replace some key contributors, after losing them to the draft.  However, with the talent on their coaching staff and a solid quarterback to workout around, Washington could have what it takes to make its way back into the top four.
  10. Oklahoma State-With some good play makers already in place with this team, the Cowboys are setting their sites on winning the Big 12.  With a solid list of returners, including quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington, this is not far fetched.
  11. LSU-With new coach, Ed Orgeron, at the helm (for his first full season), LSU looks to have a great season.  After four games, Orgeron became the interim coach and did an excellent job of pulling his team together.  The Tigers have the talent, it’s going to be about putting the right players in the right places and playing together as a team.
  12. Georgia-With Kirby Smart in his second year with the bulldogs, it looks to be a standout season.  With almost their entire defense returning, the focus will need to be on the offense.  They look to take the SEC east title this year from Florida, and it seems there is reasonable possibility to do so.
  13. Stanford-As a consistent team in general, this is no surprise.  However, with their quarterback suffering an injury in their bowl game last year, it remains to be seen if he will be able to return or if they will need to figure out a replacement.  While that is up in the air, they have to replace running back Christian McCaffrey.  McCaffrey played several positions, so with his departure, there is more than just one hole to fill.
  14. Auburn-With what seems like almost their entire starting line up coming back, not to mention Jarrett Stidham sliding over from Baylor, as quarterback, the Tigers are looking to give Alabama a run for their money in the SEC.  They look to be consistent, considering almost all these guys have gotten the chance to play together for a full year already.
  15. Miami-With Mark Richt in his second year as head coach in Miami, we’ve seen good things brewing.  However, with the loss of their quarterback, Brad Kaaya, it will be interesting to see who claims the starting job.  Their defense, on the other hand, looks to be well rounded, based on the statistics from last year and eight returning starters.
  16. Michigan-With only five returning starters on the entire team, Michigan has a lot of rebuilding to do.  Their 2016 season was impressive, but with so much new talent, there is the question of whether they can essentially build a new team.
  17. Kansas State-Kansas State always stands out in the Big 12.  With 16 returning starters, from a team that won nine games last year, they are looking to repeat that and more.
  18. Louisville-With the return of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, I wish I could rank this team higher; but after watching their collapse at the end of the season last year, I am not sure this team can get itself back together to have another all star beginning like they did last year.  The bench seems a little shallow, which does not leave much room for injuries.
  19. South Florida-Trying to be the fourth football power house in Florida, South Florida makes this list at number 19.  With Charlie Strong (formerly from Texas) coming in to take over a solid team, this year should be a good one for the Bulls.  With plenty of returning starters, including quarterback Quinton Flowers, they are ready to put their team up to the test.
  20. Florida-With having one of the best defenses in the country last year, to cover up their lack of talent on offense, the Gators will have an uphill battle this year.  They only have five defensive starters returning and even with nine offensive players, their offense needed work to begin with.  Without fixing their offense or rebuilding their defense, Florida may just fall off this list quickly, after their season opener to Michigan.
  21. Pittburgh-With Pittsburgh bringing back the majority of its starters, they might be able to handle some business in the ACC Coastal.  They had some close calls last year, but they also were the only team to beat otherwise undefeated Clemson.  If they can figure out what they did that game to win, they can do well this year.  The talent is there, but they will need to replace quarterback Nate Pterman.
  22. Texas-With Tom Herman (formerly at Houston) as new head coach for the Longhorns, this could be what they need for a turnaround.  The have returning sophomore, quarterback Shane Buechele who stood out last year, even as a true freshman.  With a year of conditioning under Buechele’s belt and the experience of Tom Herman, this team may be able to get back to the glory days.
  23. Washington State-With quarterback Luke Faulk returning and most of their defense, it is possible they will do well this year.  They will need to rebuild their offense and they play a tough opponent in USC very early on.  Only time will tell whether this team will have what it takes to stay on this list.
  24. Virginia Tech-With many of their offensive players returning, they still need to fill some key roles in the receiver and tight end positions.  There is also a battle going on in the quarterback position.  Virginia Tech is looking to have a repeat or better of their 10-win season.
  25. Tennessee-Tennessee is a wild card for me.  They had several very close games last year, all decided by missed field goal attempts.  It doesn’t look like they have brought on a new kicker, so they may be able to shake some things up if their kicker got a lot of practice in the off season.  They will also need to figure out a new quarterback and running back situation, with the departure of Joshua Dobbins and Alvin Kamara.

So, here we have it, KimmyGold’s “Way too early college football top 25 list”.  As the season approaches, it is very exciting to see how these teams, as well as many others will take shape.  August 26, we’re off to the races.

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