Monthly Archives: August 2017

Top 25 for 2017: #1-#5

1. Alabama – True Freshman QB Jalen Hurts was not a great deep ball passer, but ran for almost 1000 yards and nearly led his team to another national championship except for a phenomenal performance by Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. The run game will be nearly unstoppable with the Tide’s stable of backs plus Hurts ability to run. Bama’s D was number 1 in the nation in nearly every category last year, including a whopping 50+ sacks, but the line does need reloading. But this is an area Saban’s extraordinarily talented and deep teams do well, so not many worries there. The schedule isn’t easy, and opens with FSU in Atlanta. The Tide has elevated themselves above the rest of the SEC and the loss in the title game adds extreme motivation to an already elite program.

2. Ohio State – the Buckeyes overcame the upset loss to Penn State to make the playoffs, but laid an egg on the big stage in the 31-0 loss to Clemson. One of the least experienced teams in the nation last season, OSU still went 11-2. The offensive struggles late in the year (including scoring 0 points in the playoff loss to Clemson) led HC Urban Meyer to bring in former Indiana head coach and offensive guru Kevin Wilson. Meyer is 61-6 at Ohio State and gets the two Top 10 opponents on their schedule (OU and Penn State) at home. More explosiveness on offense coupled with what should be a great front wall on defense should get the Buckeyes back to the playoffs, with a more successful performance in the offing.

3. USC – a slow start last year for the Trojans turned into a blockbuster season with a 7 game winning streak and a thrilling win in the Rose Bowl. The key to the turnaround was starting QB Sam Darnold, who threw for over 3000 yards and 31 TDs as a Freshman. USC has recruited well, and is far enough removed from the NCAA sanctions to field one of the most talented teams in the country. Expectations are very high given the finish, but is HC Helton the man to see them fulfilled?

4. Penn State – the Nittany Lions likely would have entered ‘17 on a long winning streak, but ran into the only team hotter than them in the Rose Bowl game vs USC. PSU started slow but came around on both sides of the ball by late in the year, highlighted by the win over Ohio State, followed by dominating wins vs the rest of the schedule. With a Heisman candidate at both QB (Trace McSorley, 3600+ passing yards in ‘16) and at RB (Saquon Barkley – nearly 1500 yards rushing in ‘17) the offense should be a top 3 all time in school history. And 7 starters back on defense should lead to improvement on that side of the ball. Ohio State is the favorite in the Big Ten, but the Lions are legitimate playoff contenders.

5. Florida State – the Noles started slow in 2016 (it doesn’t get much “slower” than trailing 61-10 as FSU did vs Louisville), but wins over their rivals Miami and Florida and a heart-stopping victory over Michigan in the Orange Bowl has Seminole Nation excited about 2017. Fr QB Francois was inconsistent but a tough leader, and he should be better in the 2nd season under HC Fisher. RB Dalvin Cook is a big loss, but the cupboard isn’t bare, including the top incoming Fr RB in the nation, Cam Akers, who’s already enrolled. The defense was terrible to start the season, but gets back all everything S Derwin James, ranked as the best player in the country by ESPN and SI. The challenge is the production hasn’t always matched the talent on defense under DC Charles Kelly and outside of QB Francois the offense is very young… can FSU escape the opener vs Alabama and key conference games against Miami and NC State in the first 4 weeks with no more than 1 loss?

Top 25 for 2017: #6-#10

6. Oklahoma State – Cowboys had a great season, but can only wonder what it could have been if it wasn’t for the controversial loss to Central Michigan early in the year. HC Gundy got an unexpected gift when both the star QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington announced they were returning to Stillwater, ensuring the high powered offense will continue. The bigger questions come on defense especially the ability to contain the rival Sooners offense on the annual bedlam game. The combination of experience and talent on offense and the challenges OU faces with a coaching change, opens the door for the Cowboys to take the Big 12 title.

7. Clemson – it all came together for the Tigers in 2016. They overcome several close calls and an upset loss to Pitt to win the program’s first national title since ‘81. HC Dabo Swinney had his skeptics when he took over for the ousted Tommy Bowden, but he has built the program to an elite level… elite enough to withstand the loss of the generational player in QB Deshaun Watson, plus the other stars on offense in RB Wayne Gallman and WR MIke Williams. But with 7 starters back on defense, the team can give time for a new QB to develop, and maybe in time for hosting FSU November 11. The game with the Seminoles has determined the division and the conference, and 2017 should be no different.

8. Washington – Huskies finally had the breakout season under HC Chris Petersen, and with Heisman candidate QB Browning back, can keep the success going. Browning threw for nearly 3500 yards with an eye popping 43 TDs to just 9 INTs. His top target departs, but the running game has a chance to improve. UW plays another easy OOC schedule and avoids USC from the other division, so a repeat of last season’s PAC 12 North Division championship is very doable.

9. Oklahoma – the Sooners went 9-0 in the Big 12, and defeated an SEC team in the Sugar Bowl. But, two early season non-conference losses kept OU out of the national picture for most of the year. With only 1 tough out of conference game on the schedule (against Ohio State) and Heisman candidate QB Baker Mayfield among 10 starters back on offense, the Sooners would be in the mix for a playoff spot in ‘17. But the stunning retirement of HC Bob Stoops now brings some uncertainty to the program. New HC Lincoln Riley is whip smart and highly regarded. He should maintain continuity, but first year head coaches always have to deal with issues they’ve never faced before. While the transition should go about as smooth as it could, it is still a big step up to become head coach of a major program for the first time.

10. Wisconsin – the Badgers jump-started two main themes of the 2016 regular season, the resurgence of the Big Ten and the struggles of the SEC (outside of Alabama), when UW upset LSU in Lambeau Field in the opener. Even with a very difficult schedule, Wisconsin finished with 10 wins and a top ten ranking. The Badgers return 9 starters to an offense that should improve on ‘16’s ordinary passing numbers, and just needs to hold the fort with 6 starters back on a Top 10 defense. An improved offense, a continued solid defense and no Ohio State or Penn State on the schedule and the Badgers could enter the Big 10 Championship game undefeated with a shot at the playoffs.

Top 25 for 2017: #11-#15

11. Florida – The Gators have two seasons under HC Jim McElwain and have an SEC East championship to show for it in each year. But the limitations of the Gator offense were noticeable in the blowout losses to FSU and Alabama at the end of both seasons. Redshirt Fr Feleipe Franks was in the lead to win the starting job over 2016’s starter Luke Del Rio, coming out of the spring… but now that Florida was the destination of former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire the race has come much more interesting. The Gators return 9 starters on offense and with the talented Zaire and highly recruited and now more vocal and experienced Franks competing, surely the offense can take a big step forward. The schedule isn’t easy, opening with Michigan and closing with FSU, but the Gators don’t play Alabama and after the SEC’s poor handling of the Hurricane Matthew rescheduled game, get LSU at home. Florida has won back to back East titles without consistent QB play and has an opportunity to have their best season yet under McElwain.

12. Auburn – so the big question for offensive guru HC Malzahn is: when are the the Tigers going to get great QB play again? Well it could be in 2017, when former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham makes his debut. Stidham was excellent in his time with the Bears and should have even better talent around him now. The defense finished in the top ten in the country in scoring, a big improvement over recent years. This is the Tigers best chance to make noise in the SEC West and maybe give Alabama a run in the West for the first time since the infamous Kick Six game in 2013.

13. Michigan – a significant rebuilding year for HC Jim Harbaugh with nearly every defensive starter departing Ann Arbor. The starting QB Wilton Speight returns, but the Wolverine passing attack ranked only 85th in the nation in ’17. For all the bluster around Harbaugh, the Wolverines were upset by Iowa, finished 3rd in their own division and went 1-3 to close the season (although each loss was very close). This is a very inexperienced team, but Harbaugh has dramatically improved the talent in just two short years. Michigan will still be in contention in the Big Ten in 2017 but I think the big year comes in 2018.

14. LSU – so the Ed Orgeron era begins as the interim label has been removed for the now permanent head coach. Orgeron did have success at LSU as interim, and also did at USC in the same position, but his record as a head coach is poor. He clearly loves the school, understands the culture and will likely recruit well, but whether he can dramatically improve the QB play remains to be seen. Orgeron did bring in OC Matt Canada from Pitt, but not sure if the talent is there on at the QB position. It is there at the RB position, as Derrius Guice may not make Tiger fans et Leonard Fournette, but he looks almost as good. Still looks to me like the Tiger teams of recent vintage – strong athletic defense and a solid running game but a average passing attack that will put a ceiling on the potential success.

15. Georgia – a rough first year for new HC Kirby Smart, highlighted (or lowlighted) by an uncompetitive loss to Florida and a loss to Vandy. But Smart played more freshman than any other team in the nation and that should pay dividends in ‘17. Fr QB Jacob Eason has another year of experience, but more important than that is both UGAs star RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel decided to return to Athens. Meanwhile, the Dawgs bring back a whopping 10 starters on defense after finishing in the Top 20 in total defense last year. It sure looks like the division will come down to Georgia and Florida – can the Dawgs get past the Gators to take a big leap forward in Smart’s second year?

Top 25 for 2017: #16-#20

16. Kansas State – HC Bill Snyder may be 77 years old, but he has done an unbelievable job with the K-State football program. I’m now a little concerned about Snyder’s health in 2017 as his staff will have to pick up more slack than typical. The Wildcats were 9-4 last year, and have most of their key offensive starters back including an experienced QB in Jesse Ertz and 4 on the o-line. And with 2016 Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year DJ Reed back to anchor the secondary, KSU could make some noise in the Big 12. The mid-season game when Oklahoma comes to the Little Apple could have bearing on the Big 12 title.

17. Louisville- Cards QB Lamar Jackson burst on the scene in 2016, with video game-esq stats in passing and rushing, and won the school’s first Heisman trophy since Johnny Unitas in the 50s. But a funny thing happened on the way to the ACC title and college football playoffs – the defense was unable to stop Clemson in the key conference showdown, then the offense and the o-line in particular collapsed in late season losses to Houston and in the bowl game vs LSU. And now a new season begins with every opponent fully aware of what Jackson can do. I expect Jackson to still be dynamic, but the questions on the o-line and defense linger.

18. USF – The Bulls and the Boise State Broncos will be the favorites from the Group of Five to make a New Year’s Six bowl this season. An unusual coaching change in that USF lost their HC, Willie Taggart, to a power program in Oregon, but gained his replacement also from a power program in Charlie Strong (from Texas). Regardless of the coach, the team is built around QB Quinton Flowers who can hurt you with his legs as well as his arm. The Bulls’ bigger issue is a defense that gave up more than 30 points per game (i.e., scoring 35 on FSU but still losing by 20). Many starters are back, and Strong has a defensive background so there is optimism for an improved D to better compliment the power on O.

19. Stanford – a little hard to rank the Cardinal at his point since their projected starting QB suffered a serious injury in the Sun Bowl, and the question remains if he’ll be ready to play at the beginning of the season. That said, whomever does lead the offense will have a budding star in RB Bryce Love, and both will operate behind a very experienced line, a calling card of HC David Shaw’s offenses. The defense returns 9 starters from a unit that ranked 18th in the nation in scoring, and should be especially strong in the secondary. Christian McCaffrey will not be easy to replace, but Shaw has done an amazing job with this program.

20. Miami – expectations were high in HC Mark Richt’s first year following a long successful stint coaching the Georgia Bulldogs. A four game losing streak in mid-season took the shine off of the Hurricanes season, but a year ending four game winning streak, including a dominant win over West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl, has Canes fans talking about the program’s return to prominence. The challenge will be replacing the record holding QB Brad Kaaya who’s off to the NFL. Miami was #20 in total defense in 2016, and with 8 starters back, could remind fans of the dominant, athletic defenses of their heydey. The Cane’s won’t see Clemson or Louisville from the other division, and in the wide open Coastal Division, Miami has a real shot at their first ever appearance in the ACC Championship Game.

Top 25 for 2017: #21-#25


21. Notre Dame – 2016 was a forgettable year for Irish fans, with the team beginning the season ranked #10 but stumbling to a 4-8 finish. HC Brian Kelly has cleaned house on his staff bringing in a new DC (from Wake Forest) and an OC from Memphis. Both 2016 QBs have either graduated or transferred, but otherwise 15 starters are back. The Irish did have several close losses last season that could fall the other way this year, but a challenging schedule will limit the turn around.

22. Texas – by far the most important “recruit” to Texas was not a player but getting new HC Tom Herman from Houston. Herman was a success from the get-go in his first season with the Cougars, and the Longhorn fans are hoping for some of that magic right away at Texas. It does appear that at least some pieces are in place, including a QB in sophomore Shane Buechele, and a whopping 10 starters back on defense. There always seemed to be more talent under previous HC Charlie Strong than the game day performance showed, but Herman still has his work cut out for him. The schedule is not easy with a non-conference game against USC and a deep conference where each team plays each other.

23. UCLA – the Bruins have not been a reliable pick under Jim Mora and are coming of a dreadful 4-8 campaign in 2016. However the team suffered through a terrible rash of injuries and when QB Josh Rosen went down so did UCLA’s chances. With 9 starters back on offense including a healthy Rosen, I look for a much higher scoring team. A tough schedule though reduces the chances of a really big year.

24. Northwestern – Wisconsin is the big favorite in the Big Ten West, but Northwestern, Nebraska and Iowa will all battle it out for second. The Wildcats feature 15 returning starters, including their starting QB and RB; and have the most favorable schedule – skipping Ohio State and Michigan and OOC schedule includes Duke, Bowling Green and Nevada. If Northwestern can flip some of the close losses from 2016 into close wins in 2017, a top 25 finish is possible.

25. Oregon – The Ducks program took a dramatic dive from the 2014 National Championship game appearance to the 8 loss campaign in 2016, and it cost HC Mark Helfrich his job. In comes Willie Taggart from USF, and he has talent to work with. QB Justin Herbert was solid as a true Fr after taking over the starting job, and should be improved with the extra year of experience. Add in the return of Sr RB Royce Freeman, and the Ducks offense should be very good. The defense struggled last season, but new DC Jim Leavitt did a great job with Colorado’s D the past two years. The Ducks come into the season a much more experienced team than the past two seasons, giving Taggart a great opportunity to get the new era off to a good start.

Top 25 for 2017: first up – the next 10

It’s about that time college football fans, the season is just around the corner! Mrcollegesports presents the forecast Top 25 for 2017 with a special bonus this year – the next 10 teams that just missed making the Top 25.
This week Mrcollegesports will count down the Top 25, starting with the next 10 (#26-#35), then revealing the rest over the next few days, culminating with the top 5 including the playoff teams and the predicted national champion.

Without further ado, the 10 that just missed the Top 25 but could finish in the rankings with just a break here or there…

26. West Virginia – did you ever wonder what happen to former Florida QB Will Grier? He was the QB the last time the Gator offense was good, but after receiving a full year suspension for PEDs, instead of waiting, he transferred out of the Florida program. He landed here at WVU, maybe the least respected 10-2 team in all the power conferences last season, and Grier in HC Dana Holgorsen’s offense gives the Neer’s a fighting chance. Some are saying he’s better than Skyler Howard who Grier is replacing. The problem is, well, everything else. The Mountaineers lose their top 5 tacklers on defense and only return 3 starters on that side of the ball. The Big 12 will be improved and as many as 6 teams will be vying for spots in the top 25.

27. NC State – Will Muschamp, whose South Carolina team opens with the Wolfpack, called States front 4 on defense the best the Gamecocks will face all year. That’s a pretty strong statement given the defensive talent in the SEC plus the season ender against Clemson. But it’s not all over the top coach speak, and with 21 seniors on the roster, including 11 seniors among the returning starters, the Pack are poised for their first true breakout year under HC Dave Dorren. Being in the ACC’s Atlantic Division is a challenge, but the Pack do not see Miami or VA Tech from the Coastal. Don’t be surprised if NCSU finally pulls the upset on one of the big powers in the division.

28. Washington State – the Cougars had a great season in Pac 12 play in 2016, but really hurt their overall record and ranking with some bad non-conference losses to open the year. QB Luke Falk has been spectacular in HC Mike Leach’s air raid offense, and should put up eye-popping numbers again. The big question, as it always is with the air raid teams, is the defense. With 9 starters returning on D, the Cougs just need some improvement to make some noise in the deep Pac 12 North.

29. TCU – A disappointing season for the Frogs ended with a thud, a loss to Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. But a rebound is in store for ‘17 with a whopping 10 starters back on offense (compared to 2 in ‘16) and a defense more like the ones HC Gary Patterson has produced over the years. QB Kenny Hill is back and more mature after an inconsistent 2016, and, literally, his entire corp of receivers return intact. TCU will be a tough out in 2017 and may contend for more than just a top 30 ranking.

30. Boise State – the Broncos have been the model for success in the Group of Five programs for many years now (especially since TCU and Utah joined power conferences), but the Boise program has taken a bit of a step back since HC Chris Petersen left for Washington. Last year included a loss to Wyoming, a team the Broncos used to dominate, and a third consecutive loss to Air Force. Still, with QB Rypien back, the offense should be very good, and the Broncos will compete with USF for the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six Bowls.

31. Tennessee – 2016 was supposed to be the year that the Vols decade long rebuilding finally resulted in an SEC East division title. Late season losses to underdogs South Carolina and Vanderbilt ended what had started as a promising season. UT loses a number of the key players on offense, including QB Joshua Dobbs whose heroics seemed to single handedly win some games. But the news is better on defense where 7 starters return, and injuries last season will result in a deeper pool of experienced players this year. The Vols do still have talent and maybe this program will perform better when they’re under the radar.

32. Virginia Tech – HC Justin Fuente’s debut season replacing the legendary Frank Beamer went about as well as Hokie Nation could ask for, with 10 wins, a strong performance in the ACCCG and a top 20 final ranking. The 2nd year HC now has some rebuilding to do, especially on offense where QB AND leading rusher Jerod Evans surprisingly declared early for the NFL (and was not 1 of the 10 QBs drafted). Long time DC Bud Foster did field a top 20 defensive unit in 2016 and with 7 starters returning, should be the strength of the team. The opener with West Virginia at the Redskins stadium will let the world know where the rebuilding stands right out of the gate.

33. BYU – The cardiac kids from BYU were nothing if not exciting to start last season, with each of their first FIVE games decided by 3 points or less (with a 2-3 record to show for it). The Cougs lose their starting QB Taysom Hill, but return back-up Tanner Mangum, who has played for many years and battled more than one season ending injury. The defense does return 7 starters, but the team overall is less experienced than entering last year. The life as an independent means a widely varying schedule, and 2017 is no different – with opponents ranging from Wisconsin and LSU to UMass and Portland State. First year HC Kalani Sitake had a good debut season replacing Bronco Mendenhall and look for another solid year in Provo in ‘17.

34. Utah – The Utes are typically overlooked when talking about the Pac 12, yet each year HC Kyle Whittingham usually has his team in the Pac 12 South race until the end. That said, wth star RB Joe Williams leaving, this is one of the least experienced Utah teams in recent years. QB Troy Williams is back, but he was not dynamic as a passer. Still, look for HC Kyle Whittingham to plug some holes on D and field another physical team.

35. Texas A&M – If you look up “hot seat” in the dictionary, you’ll now find a picture of Aggie HC Kevin Sumlin, after the A&M A.D. spelled out the expectation for improvement in 2017. The Aggies have now started hot early then collapsed down the stretch for 3 straight years, turning Top 10 rankings in mid-season into unranked 8-5 finishes. The problem now is the Aggies lose their QB and star defensive player, and still face a tough SEC West schedule with the opener at UCLA. They do have an experienced talend defense, but I don’t see that as enough to improve upon their recent 8-5 records.