Without further ado, here is our top 25 college football rankings heading into the season. There is some insight, some guessing, some snarkiness (just for the Cap’n) but most of all just having some fun. Plus, we let you vote for who gets to be #25. Peter Griffin, any thoughts?
1. ALABAMA – In the past five years at Alabama, head coach Nick Saban has compiled a ridiculous 61-7 record. That’s a win percentage of 89.7% or let’s just call it 90%. That’s just insane. The man is a machine and that machine has several offensive stars returning in QB A.J. McCarron, RB T.J. Yeldon and WR Amari Cooper. The defense will be stout as usual.
2. OHIO STATE – Head coach Urban Meyer is the reason the Buckeyes get the nod over Stanford. In 11 years of coaching, Meyer has coached five teams that have one or zero losses in an entire season. Also, Meyer did very well in his second season at Utah (12-0) and at Florida (13-1, National Champs). Having a Heisman Trophy candidate in QB Braxton Miller and a manageable schedule doesn’t hurt either.
3. STANFORD -Last season’s fifth ranked run defense returns eight starters and David Shaw has an offensive line that’s nasty. Throw in sophomore QB Kevin Hogan (5-0 as a starter) and you have a recipe for a possible national championship game.
4. OREGON – Have you seen the new amenities in Oregon’s football facility? That will no doubt help recruiting. Chip Kelly left for the NFL and that is no problem for Oregon who last year was an overtime loss to Stanford away from playing for the National Championship. The Duck offense will once again be running their offense at a break neck pace (FBS best 89 touchdowns last season) and they have the core of that offense coming back. Look out!
5. TEXAS A&M *(Johnny Football or The Money Badger) – This ranking….and quite frankly the Aggies National Championship hopes ride on whether the NCAA investigates or suspends Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for allegedly taking money for autographs. The Aggies have a tremendous opportunity with a favorable schedule (Alabama at home, road games at Ole Miss and LSU come after bye weeks) to make a National Championship appearance.
6. GEORGIA – Aaron Murray and company were five yards away of making me look like a genius (I had Georgia in the National Championship game last year). Oh well, they bring back the core of an offense that will light up the scoreboard. However, the Bulldogs lost a ton of defensive talent to the NFL and a brutal early schedule (8/31 at Clemson, 9/7 vs South Carolina, 9/28 vs LSU) will tell us if this Georgia team is a contender.
7. SOUTH CAROLINA -The man, the hit, the play. Jadeveon Clowney would have been the first pick in this year’s NFL draft if he were eligible and he will lead Steve Spurrier’s best team since he has been head coach in Columbia. South Carolina has a great chance to make a trip to Atlanta in December but they have to take care of business in Athens (at Georgia) and at home vs Florida.
8. FLORIDA -Will Muschamp may have a better team this season, but may not have a better record. Weird to say but Florida’s schedule is brutal. With away games at an improving Miami Hurricanes, LSU, South Carolina and the neutral site game vs Georgia the Gator offense better pick up its play. The Gator defense should be solid once again.
9. CLEMSON -Senior QB and Heisman candidate Tajh Boyd (3896 yards, 36 TD’s) leads an offense that will look to build upon sick numbers from 2012 (500 plus yards and 41 points per game). Dabo Swinney banned his players from using Twitter this season and with good reason, this team has a chance to be special. They start and end the season with SEC East teams (8/31 vs Georgia, 11/30 @ South Carolina) and need to win one of those games. There may be over 100 points scored in the opening game vs Georgia, that’s how good both offenses are.
10. LOUISVILLE -Heisman Trophy candidate QB Teddy Bridgewater leads a talented offense and nine starters return to a defense that caused havoc (apologies to Shaka Smart and VCU) vs Florida in the Sugar Bowl. A very favorable schedule should get Louisville back to a BCS game.
11. LSU -The trickiest team to rank by far this year, I’ve seen the Tigers in the top 10 and have seen them closer to 20. Les Miles is a great head coach and it’s tough to go against the Mad Hatter but LSU lost 11 underclassmen to the NFL draft. Miles will depend on new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and senior QB Zach Mettenberger to lead the Tiger offense. This team is always a contender for the SEC West title.
12. TEXAS – Mack Brown has no excuses this year. 19 starters return from last season’s 9-4 squad and it seems the offense is taking a page from the Oregon playbook by going fast pace. The defense struggled at times last season, but this unit has a boost in confidence with 10 sacks in their bowl game victory vs Oregon State.
13. NOTRE DAME -Last year I simply refused to put Notre Dame in my preseason top 25 and it wasn’t until week five that I included them in the rankings. Look, the stigma was that the media always built the Irish to “be back” and they weren’t until Brian Kelly’s third year as head coach. Let’s see how year four goes.
14. MICHIGAN -Left tackle Taylor Lewan passed on NFL riches to play his senior year and protect QB Devin Gardner. The Michigan offense will be better with freshman running back Derrick Green (highly recruited) and senior Wide Receiver Jeremy Gallon should be a breakout player. Brady Hoke’s defense should be solid in his third year as head coach.
15. FLORIDA STATE -Jimbo Fisher recruits very well in Tallahassee and this year’s team should be solid. The offensive line returns four starters to protect a new starting QB (either Jameis Winston or Jacob Coker) and have a pair of running backs that are dynamite (James Wilder Jr. & Devonta Freeman). The defense lost a pair of linemen to the NFL but the Noles should be fine and live up to the squad that ranked sixth in points allowed last season (14.7). The game at Clemson (October 19th) should decide who represents the Atlantic division in the ACC Championship game.
16. OKLAHOMA STATE – Mike “I’m a man, I’m 40” Gundy. The man can flat out coach. The Cowboys will be a contender in the Big 12 conference.
17. NEBRASKA – Taylor Martinez returns but their schedule in November is brutal. 11/2 vs Northwestern, 11/9 @ Michigan, 11/16 vs Michigan State, 11/23 @ Penn State, 11/30 vs Iowa. Oh and a non-conference home game vs UCLA on September 14th. Only time will tell for the Cornhuskers.
18. Ole Miss -Sleeper Alert, Sleeper Alert! This team could finish as high as 2nd in the SEC West but no worse than 4th. The past two recruiting classes have been outstanding and this team will be sneaky good.
19. TCU – Nine defensive starters return from the 16th ranked defense last season and the offense have six starters back. The game vs LSU in Cowboys Stadium will tell us just how good this team may be.
20. UCLA – Jim Mora, Jr > Lane Kiffin
21. OKLAHOMA -You mean to tell me a Bob Stoops coached team is not ranked in the top 10 to begin a season? With a tough early season schedule the Sooners need a starting QB to emerge, the defense to gel and their running backs to shine. Otherwise, this could be a difficult season in Norman (well, at least by Bob Stoops standard).
22. ARIZONA STATE -Been hearing a lot of good things about this Rich Rodriguez coached team.
23. NORTHWESTERN – They could challenge Stanford and Notre Dame for the smartest football team in the top 25.
24. NORTHERN ILLINOIS – The Huskies went to a BCS bowl game last year, but lost their head coach. Shouldn’t be a problem though since they return 16 starters including QB Jordan Lynch. This team could win the MAC for the third year in a row.
25. Boise State/Wisconsin/Vanderbilt/Michigan St./Baylor/Oregon St.