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.