By: David Parks
This is the way too early preseason top ten. Chances are I don’t like your team and obviously have them too low. SPOILER: No poll really matters until mid-October (Except this one).
Off we go…
Yes Derrick Henry is gone. Yes they’re likely losing three defensive linemen to the first round along with their middle linebacker. Yes their defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach is leaving. But we’ve seen this script before, and when has it mattered? The Tide are stocked at every position on the field and until the head coach himself leaves, it won’t matter which of his assistants come and go.
2) Florida State
Perhaps no bowl season has flexed recruiting prowess as much as 2015’s has. And aside from Alabama and LSU, virtually no program has recruited as well as FSU has within in the past three years. Dalvin Cook returns, and if Deondre Francois can take the reigns and not make mistakes, FSU has plenty of returning talent on defense and at the skill positions to unseat Clemson in the ACC. The Noles get Clemson in their building this go-round.
No doubt FSU/Clemson is the way too early “Game of the Year.” DeShaun Watson returns and that alone would be reason to put them in the top three. As would returning most of the offense around Watson. The defense is expected to lose several big names (Lawson, Alexander, Goodson, Kearse(?)) but coming into 2015 Clemson was replacing over a half-dozen starters on defense and all they did was finish seventh nationally in yards per game. Venables can coach… Unless OJ Howard is on the opposing team.
4) Ohio State
People will overreact to the mass exodus of talent leaving Columbus when it comes to ranking teams going into next season. Bottom line is Urbs is 50-4 since arriving to the shoe so to expect a sudden dropoff seems questionable at best. He’s recruited at as high a level as anyone has since he got to Ohio State and returns JT Barrett…. This time, without the messy quarterback conundrum. Greg Schiano hasn’t been a defensive coordinator in over a decade but something tells me he’ll be just fine considering the amount of talent at his disposal. Schedule features road trips to Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Hard not to like Michigan after seeing what one year of Jim Harbaugh can do for a program. They’ve got to replace Jake Rudock but other than that virtually everyone returns on offense. The Wolverines also return most of the nation’s fourth ranked defense and replace DJ Durkin with the defensive coordinator of the nation’s top ranked defense last year in Don Brown. Schedule features trips to Michigan State, Iowa and the team down south.
When you have the sport’s best player you’ll always have a chance. The Cardinal must replace Kevin Hogan and his underrated career numbers in addition to their three leading receivers. Stanford got big news when defensive coordinator Lance Anderson decided to stay on rather than pursue head coaching vacancies. The defense returns almost everyone which is good considering the murderous 2016 road schedule (UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona, Oregon and Cal).
I know, I know. We hear it every year. But analytics and Vegas loved the Vols last season. Four losses to Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas came by a combined 17 points. They’re a year older, a year more experienced and bring back almost everyone from this year’s team. It also doesn’t hurt that they just hired one of the best defensive coordinators in America.
8) Ole Miss
Yes they lose the big three (Tunsil, Nkemdiche, Treadwell), but Freeze has done as impressive a job at recruiting as any coach in the nation. Chad Kelly, once the brunt of jokes regarding “swag,” quietly accounted for the second-most total offense in SEC history behind only Billy er… Johnny Football. The new, young talent better grow up quickly as three of the Rebels’ first four games are against Florida State, Georgia and Alabama.
Team is just ridiculously loaded. Speed, size and athleticism everywhere. But yet again, the question will be can they find competent quarterback play from Brandon Harris? They went out and got Dave Aranda from Wisconsin who will improve an already stout D, but was the $1.3 million/year contract to Aranda money well spent?
Cam Cameron is still employed which means inconsistent QB play is almost certainly guaranteed.
Perhaps no team suffered a tougher end to the year than Baylor. Once positioned for a playoff birth, the Bears lost not one, not two, but three quarterbacks to injury down the stretch forcing them to at one-point play running back Johnny Jefferson at QB. Baylor must replace basically all of their offensive and defensive lines as well as Corey Coleman. But Art Briles has shown that in his system basically anyone is replaceable… Except three quarterbacks.
Just missed: Houston, Notre Dame, USC, Louisville
Follow David on Twitter: @_Parksie