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SQ 2017 College Football Preseason Top-25 Power Ranking

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Did your favorite team make our list?

The countdown to the college football season is now around 30 days, and fans are getting more and more anxious to see their teams back on the field. As the season draws nearer, now is time to start figuring out where every team ranks. Last season saw Clemson win its second national championship, beating the dominant Alabama Crimson Tide in a thriller.

A couple surprise teams also threw their names into the hat and rose up the rankings last year. Teams like Western Michigan, Colorado, and South Florida all finished in the top-20 by the end of the season. Will we see some more surprise in this year’s rankings? Here are our Top-25 rankings heading into the 2017 season.

25. Virginia Tech


2016 Record: 10-4

2016 Final AP Ranking: 16

Our Thoughts:

“Justin Fuente came in and delivered right away by winning the ACC Coastal Division and appearing in the ACC Championship Game. This year’s team has the chance to get right back to the title with the help of a defense that returns seven starters and allowed just 22.8 points per game last season. Fuente’s offensive genius will be tested once more, as he’ll have to develop a QB to replace Jerod Evans who left for early for the NFL.” - Sean Berger

24. Notre Dame


2016 Record: 4-8

2016 Final AP Ranking: Not Ranked

Our Thoughts:

“Last season’s 4-8 finish was unexpected for this Fighting Irish squad to say the least. However, Brian Kelly went out and hired two great coordinators to fix the problems that plagued this team. Chip Long, who guided the Memphis offense (38.8 ppg) last season, brings a dynamic game plan to the table that should put up a lot of points. Meanwhile, Mike Elko will handle the defense after leading Wake Forest to top-25 finishes in scoring defense, forced turnovers, sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles. With the right coaches in place, this team should bounce back easily.” - Sean Berger

23. Tennessee



2016 Record: 9-4


2016 Final AP Ranking: 22


Our Thoughts:

“In a season where Tennessee was supposed to compete for a championship, Coach Butch Jones crowned his team ‘Champions of Life.’ That’s got to count for something, I guess. Tennessee has some question marks to answer on offense at quarterback and in the backfield with a lack of depth at running back. Be that as it may, the Volunteers have one of the most talented defensive lines in the country, with a unit that produced 100 tackles for loss last season. But with games scheduled at Alabama and Florida, while Georgia and LSU come to Neyland Stadium, Tennessee has its work cut out for it.” - Sean Berger

22. Oregon


2016 Record: 4-8

2016 Final AP Ranking: Not Ranked

Our Thoughts:

“Some might think we’re crazy to have another 4-8 team on our top-25 rankings, but the amount of talent that incoming head coach Willie Taggart is inheriting was more than convincing. There are plenty of weapons on offense, including RB Royce Freeman (945 yards, nine TDs) and WRs Darren Carrington III (606 yards, five TDs). Coach Taggart also managed to snag Jim Leavitt away from Colorado in order to fix the Ducks’ defense. Leavitt saw his Colorado defense finish in the top-five in the PAC-12 in nine categories — his tutelage should help the Oregon defense take a jump forward in 2017.” - Sean Berger

21. Texas


2016 Record: 5-7

2016 Final AP Ranking: Not Ranked

Our Thoughts:

“Charlie Strong cleaned up the program, and now it’s time for Tom Herman to bring it back from the ashes. Herman gave us a taste of what he’s capable of during his time at Houston, leading dynamic offenses and knocking off power-five teams like Oklahoma and Florida State. Moving over to Austin for the big time job, Herman has some interesting clay to mold in the form of sophomore QB Shane Buechele. Buechele threw 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns during his rookie campaign, and should benefit nicely from Herman’s teaching.” - Sean Berger

20. Kansas State


2016 Record: 9-4

2016 Final AP Ranking: Not Ranked

Our Thoughts:

“If it wasn’t for Bill Snyder, no one would probably know where Manhattan, Kansas is or care that it has a football program. Luckily, coach Snyder put Kansas State on the map and has his Wildcats poised to make a dark horse run at the Big 12 title this year. Snyder will use his usual recipe of experience and talent to concoct his offense this season, with dual-threat QB Jesse Ertz as the focal point with WR Byron Pringle and RB Alex Barnes in his supporting cast. However, great defense should be the calling card from this team as it led the conference in scoring defense (22.3 ppg), rushing defense (115 yards per game), total defense (387.7 yards per game), interceptions (16), and forced turnovers (25).” - Sean Berger

19. USF


2016 Record: 11-2

2016 Final AP Ranking: 19

Our Thoughts:

“Charlie Strong tries to revive his coaching career with a Bulls team that has tons of upside. Running back Marlon Mack left for the NFL, but the running back group is still in good hands with D’Ernest Johnson taking over duties. Quinton Flowers returns under center and brings firepower in both the running and passing game.” - Alex Koslow

18. Miami


2016 Record: 9-4

2016 Final AP Ranking: 20

Our Thoughts:

“If Brad Kaaya had not unwisely entered the NFL draft, Miami would be listed even higher. Entering Mark Richt’s second season as head coach, the Hurricanes return their entire front-seven and will have one of the nation’s elite defenses. On offense, Miami has one of, if not the best offensive line and receiving corps, while junior running back Mark Walton is a fringe Heisman contender. The only question mark lies at quarterback, where there is plenty of talent but limited experience. That question mark is what’s separating Miami from being a great team or national championship contender.” - Ryan Neu

17. Louisville


2016 Record: 9-4

2016 Final AP Ranking: 21

Our Thoughts:

“Remember Lamar Jackson? He’s back to defend his Heisman crown. No one has repeated as the Heisman winner since Archie Griffin did it back in 1974-75, so don’t expect Jackson to be the first. Still, with all his talent and another year of experience, it’s not impossible. Either way, he’ll be the key to this Louisville team that is strong, but not quite as strong as the two giants looming above it in the Atlantic division.” - Ryan Neu

16. Georgia


2016 Record: 8-5

2016 Final AP Ranking: Not Ranked

Our Thoughts:

“Ten defensive starters return for Kirby Smart, and should be one of the better groups in the SEC. QB Jacob Eason enters his sophomore year after a promising freshman season, throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns. Nick Chubb and Sony Michell return at running back for the Bulldogs (combined for 1,970 rushing yards last season), and should give this team a big boost to help the passing game take the next level in development.” - Alex Koslow

15. Stanford


2016 Record: 10-3

2016 Final AP Ranking: 12

Our Thoughts:

“David Shaw has done something that no other coach in the history of Stanford football has ever done; have multiple 10-win seasons. It’s not like Shaw has just two of those either; he’s won at least 10 games in five of his six seasons as head coach there. However, it may be difficult to accomplish that feat here in 2017 after losing Christian McCaffrey to the NFL and the questions surrounding the quarterback position. In addition, the Cardinals face tough road contests at Washington State, Utah, and USC this season, while having to face division foes Oregon and Washington at home.” - Sean Berger

14. Florida


2016 Record: 9-4

2016 Final AP Ranking: 14

Our Thoughts:

“Jim McElwain has brought winning back to the Swamp after claiming the SEC East Division both times in his first two seasons. Yet, he has failed to bring the offense back up till now. Once again, the Gators are shrouded in questions at the quarterback position. Malik Zaire’s dual-threat ability might be the temporary fix after transferring in from Notre Dame, but don’t rule out the possibility of seeing Luke Del Rio make another appearance or the talented redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks get a shot. On the plus side, the Gators have great compliments at the skill positions with Jordan Scarlett (889 yards, six TDs) leading the rushing attack and Antonio Callaway (721 yards, 13.35 yards per reception) anchoring the receiving corps. This defense lost a lot in the form of players and coaching, but has still has a lot of talent returning with CeCe Jefferson anchoring the line and DBs Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner leading the secondary.” - Sean Berger

13. Wisconsin


2016 Record: 11-3

2016 Final AP Ranking: 9

Our Thoughts:

“Wisconsin faced a heck of schedule last season, having to face LSU, Michigan, and Ohio State in the regular season, while also going up against Penn State in the Big Ten title game. This season should be considerably easier, having to just travel to Nebraska and face Michigan at home, although a trip to BYU could spice things up early on. Paul Chryst’s Badgers should once again be the favorites to claim the West Division title, but taking the next step and defeating the East champ will be difficult nonetheless. The defense will again be the hallmark of this team, after allowing opponents to score just 15.6 points per game last season.” - Sean Berger

12. LSU


2016 Record: 8-4

2016 Final AP Ranking: 13

Our Thoughts:

“The Ed Orgeron era is underway at LSU as the once-interim head coach takes full control of the team for the 2017 season. Orgeron is still facing tough questions regarding how he’ll fix the offense, especially now that Leonard Fournette will be bulldozing NFL defenses from now on. To address the issue he hired Broyles Award finalist Matt Canada away from Pittsburgh to be his offensive coordinator. Canada takes over an offense that has one of the nation’s top running backs in Derrius Guice and a strong offensive line to open holes for him. However, if QB Danny Etling’s play doesn’t improve, then the Tigers could just turn in another mediocre season.” - Sean Berger

11. Oklahoma State

USA Today Sports


2016 Record: 10-3

2016 Final AP Ranking: 11

Our Thoughts:

“Not only has Mike Gundy brought Oklahoma State back to prominence on a national scale, but he brought back a killer mullet, (although I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing). Either way, Gundy has an offense that should put his team in the running not just for a Big 12 title, but a dark horse shot at reaching the College Football Playoff. QB Mason Rudolph (4,091 yards, 28 TDs) and RB Justice Hill (1,142 yards, six TDs) form one of the top dynamic duos in college football, and are sure to fill up stat sheets once more this season. Facing Texas and West Virginia on the road could throw a wrench in the plans of winning the Big 12, but getting rival Oklahoma at home is huge.” - Sean Berger

10. Auburn


2016 Record: 8-5

2016 Final AP Ranking: 24

Our Thoughts:

“Auburn should be considered the best dark horse to win the SEC this season. Gus Malzahn finally has the playmaker he needs at QB in former Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. Stidham has a big arm that can stretch defenses down the field, but has the ability to get creative with his legs, should he need to use them. He’ll have a two-headed rushing attack in the form of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, who combined to rush for 2,119 yards and 18 TDs last season. Facing Clemson in Week Two will assuredly test this team early, but Auburn’s season won’t be defined until it plays LSU and Alabama.” - Sean Berger

9. Michigan


2016 Record: 10-3

2016 Final AP Ranking: 10

Our Thoughts:

“Jim Harbaugh has certainly worked magic getting Michigan back into the good graces of college football, and he’ll have to continue that magic, as 2017 requires a major rebuilding/reloading effort. Other than QB Wilton Speight and RB Chris Evans, the Wolverines will spend some time having to develop younger players to fill the voids left at the skill positions. In addition, the defense also returns just one starter from last season. Facing Florida in the season opener could be a costly road block early on, but playing the likes of Wisconsin and Penn State on the road might present tougher challenges later in the season.” - Sean Berger

8. Clemson


2016 Record: 14-1

2016 Final AP Ranking: 1

Our Thoughts:

“Replacing Deshaun Watson will be all but impossible, but every other position group for the defending national champs is just as skilled as it was a year ago. If Kelly Bryant can emerge as at least a competent passer this season, there’s a chance the Tigers could steal a spot in the Playoff from Florida State.” - Ryan Neu

7. Washington


2016 Record: 12-2

2016 Final AP Ranking: 4

Our Thoughts: 

“Washington once again should be primed to make another run at the PAC-12 title as well as a spot in the College Football Playoff. QB Jake Browning should be considered early on for the Heisman after putting up 3,430 passing yards and 43 TDs last season, and should have a capable new top target in Dante Pettis (53 receptions, 15.51 yards per reception). Myles Gaskin will be the key to the ground game, taking some of the pressure off of Browning. The Huskies face a relatively favorable schedule with home contests against Oregon and Washington State, while having its toughest road match at Stanford.” - Sean Berger

6. Oklahoma


2016 Record: 11-2

2016 Final AP Ranking: 5

Our Thoughts: 

“It’s the end of an era in Norman, as Bob Stoops will no longer lead the Sooners. In his stead, former offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will take over an Oklahoma program trying to win its third straight Big 12 title. QB Baker Mayfield should help his former OC reach that goal, on top of being an early front-runner for the Heisman. Mayfield will have one of the top offensive lines to protect him, but his other weapons remain a mystery. Both Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon have left, leaving Rodney Anderson and Abdul Adams as the rushing tandem for the Sooners. In addition, Dede Westbrook is also gone, leaving one to wonder who will step up in his spot. A trip to the College Football Playoff likely hinges on a victory against Ohio State early on, along with wins at Kansas State and Oklahoma State.” - Sean Berger

5. Penn State


2016 Record: 11-3

2016 Final AP Ranking: 7

Our Thoughts: 

“Penn State had one of the most exciting seasons in 2016. The Nittany Lions suffered an early defeat to Pitt, but rebounded to upset Ohio State in one of the most thrilling games of the season. James Franklin’s team would go on to win the Big Ten Championship over Wisconsin, but would later fall to USC in the Rose Bowl. This season, Franklin’s team looks to make another run at the Big Ten title and College Football Playoff. There should be no reason why this team can’t do exactly that this season. RB Saquon Barkley (1,496 yards, 18 TDs) is one of the top rushers in all of college football and should get some Heisman attention. Getting Michigan, Nebraska, and Pitt all at home should make for a favorable schedule this season.” - Sean Berger

4. Florida State


2016 Record: 10-3

2016 Final AP Ranking: 8

Our Thoughts: 

“Expect Florida State to reach the Playoff this season. The Seminoles return 15 starters from last season including quarterback Deondre Francois. With a year’s experience under his belt, he should evolve from talented but flawed — which is what he was last year — to near-elite. The rest of the offense isn’t too shabby either, with the most talented skills group in the ACC, and possibly the nation. Oh, and the defense is stacked with talent and experience, too. Expect to see Jimbo Fisher standing on the sideline with a headset during th  national title game.” - Ryan Neu

3. USC


2016 Record: 10-3

2016 Final AP Ranking: 3

Our Thoughts: 

“The Trojans have an advantage that a lot of teams do not: A game-changer at quarterback. Before Sam Darnold arrived on the scene in 2016, USC was struggling and had no identity. But when Darnold was put into the starting job, the Trojans took off. Now they enter 2017 as one of the favorites to win the national championship. The Trojans are also loaded with defensive playmakers, even without versatile defensive back Adoree’ Jackson. It’s been quite a while since USC was in the national championship conversation, but they have the roster that’s more than capable of hoisting the national championship trophy.” - David Street

2. Ohio State


2016 Record: 11-2

2016 Final AP Ranking: 6

Our Thoughts:

“After getting embarrassed by the Clemson Tigers in the National semifinals last year, the Buckeyes have a chip on their shoulders. Quarterback JT Barrett is returning, but he’s going to have his hands full. The top two receivers from last year’s team are gone. However, running back Mike Weber is returning and after rushing for nearly 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns, he’s ready to take his game to another level. The defense did take some major hits when Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley and Raekwon McMillan got drafted. But under Urban Meyer, Ohio State doesn’t rebuild. It reloads … and it should once again be among the top teams in college football.” - David Street

1. Alabama


2016 Record: 14-1

2016 Final AP Ranking: 2

Our Thoughts: 

“Surprise, surprise. The Crimson Tide are No. 1. And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve been a model of consistent success under Nick Saban and they’re returning several key players. The most important player returning is easily Jalen Hurts. The dual-threat QB had a sensational freshman season, fooling defenses with his arm and legs. The scary thing is that he has potential to be even better. With Hurts at QB and a defense that will once again be among the elites, Alabama should find itself in the thick of the playoff race as always.” - David Street

Edited by Joe Sparacio, Amelia Shein.

SQuiz
Prior to the 2017 season, how many 10-win seasons did Stanford coach David Shaw have?
Created 7/26/17
  1. 1
  2. 2
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  4. 5

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