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.