College Football Power Rankings: Florida State, Alabama jockey for No. 1 post-spring
Now that spring practice is over, let's take a look at the top 25 teams in college football
Sorry, but someone besides Clemson finally got to Alabama.
The NFL Draft, for one, claimed a record number of Crimson Tide players (see below). The coaching carousel cannot be ignored either as seven coaches have left Nick Saban's staff in the last two seasons. The new Alabama offensive coordinator will be Saban's sixth in 11 years.
It all adds up to a new No. 1 coming out of the spring. Before you reach for your keyboard, Crimson Tide fans, we offer this disclaimer: The games still have to be played, and they don't award national championships in the spring.
|1||Florida State||Despite the loss of Dalvin Cook, the Noles have enough depth to make up for the backfield production. Cam Akers, anyone? Deondre Francois should make the natural progression in his second season becoming the ACC's best quarterback. The defense is aching for the return of safety/leader Derwin James. This is the Noles turn in the annual battle with Clemson in what has become the nation's best conference.||2||6-7|
|2||Alabama||The Tide have lost a staggering 41 players to the draft since 2013. Rebuild is not in the Saban vocabulary. That means there is little reason to doubt Bama can't "rebound" after losing a school-record tying 10 draftees last week (most since 1945). The Tide were a second away last year. Does a new OC (Brian Daboll) mean a new Jalen Hurts?||1||11-2|
|3||Ohio State||New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was the best name on the board after the Doughnut in the Desert vs. Clemson. Wilson has always been one of the best play callers in ball. J.T. Barrett will benefit huge in his last season.||1||13-1|
|4||USC||The first instinct is to tamp down the USC hype, but this time it seems real -- and it's about time. It's been eight years since the Trojans won the league. Another miss this year would be the longest drought ever between the Trojans winning at least a share of a conference title. Unless Lamar Jackson goes historic, Sam Darnold is the Heisman favorite going in. The defense and receiving corps will need some work but fun fact -- no Washington on the schedule.||1||8-5|
|5||Penn State||No one involved got enough credit for winning the Big Ten. The playoff letdown probably had something to do with it. According to this ranking, the Nits will be left out again. But what can't be denied is the program has turned around under James Franklin. Saquon Barkley will chase a Heisman. Trace McSorley will win hearts and souls. Penn State will compete for another Big Ten title.||1||11-2|
|6||Washington||Chris Petersen is very bad news for everyone around him. That would be Oregon, Washington State and Stanford in the Pac-12 North. Dare I say, Peterson has it going at a Don James level again in Montlake? Jake Browning returns after a late-season slump cost the Huskies. The secondary has to be retooled after a magnificent draft took three of its starters.||1||8-5|
|7||Clemson||The quarterback situation remains up in the air. That's reason enough to make Florida State the ACC favorite. The Tigers were the first non-Alabama team to play for back-to-back national championships since Ohio State. They'll take a step back this year, though not a big one. The defense will sustain them, maybe even lead the way to an FSU win, but this isn't a playoff team or ACC champion.||6||14-1|
|8||Stanford||Death, taxes and Stanford winning at least 10 games. Book it because the Cardinal have won at least that many six of the last seven years. Quarterback Keller Chryst rested a surgically repaired knee in the spring. Meanwhile, fifth-year senior Ryan Burns and redshirt freshman KJ Costello split reps. Watch for Bryce Love, who carved out 783 rushing yards playing with some guy named McCaffrey.||3||4-8|
|9||Oklahoma||It's a coin flip in the Big 12. Sooners or Cowboys. Bob Stoops has replace his top two tailbacks and retool the receivers, but OU always seems to have plenty of both. Oklahoma has the nation's longest active winning streak (10 games) and Baker Mayfield. That's reason enough to consider it Big 12 champs (again) and a possible playoff team.||5||12-2|
|10||Auburn||We'll assume Gus Malzahn was trying to make a statement allowing Jarrett Stidham to throw it all over the lot in the spring game (267 yards). This is the best the Tigers have been at the position since Nick Marshall. Kamryn Pettway -- college football's leading returning rusher -- makes it a 1-2 punch with Kerryon Johnson in the backfield.||8||9-4|
|11||Oklahoma State||If the Pokes are just average on defense, they can win the Big 12. The offense might be the best in the game with James Washington, Justice Hill and gunslinger Mason Rudolph. Mike Gundy has won at least 10 games in five of the last seven years. Get ready for more double digits. OU comes to Stillwater. What's not to like?||3||8-5|
|12||South Florida||You want to know why Charlie Strong took all of 19 days off before jumping back into his next job? The Bulls are loaded, starting with quarterback Quinton Flowers. They begin the season as the odds-on favorite to grab the CFP's Group of Five golden ticket in a New Year's Six bowl.||2||4-8|
|13||Michigan||Jim Harbaugh won the draft (No. 1 with 11 picks!). Jim Harbaugh charmed Italy. Jim Harbaugh caused the NCAA to rewrite its rules. Is it too much to ask for a Big Ten title in 2017? Probably. Wilton Speight must progress significantly as a passer. The running game has to get better. Jabrill Peppers and 10 other draftees are gone. It will be interesting to see how a third straight season of double-digit wins would be viewed without a Big Ten title.||5||9-4|
|14||Louisville||I still haven't figured out what Bobby Petrino was trying to prove by having Lamar Jackson throw 32 times in the spring game. We get it, Bobby! He's really, really good. The defending Heisman Trophy winner could actually be guiding a better team in 2017.||2||8-5|
|15||Wisconsin||The running game will be great because it always is. Paul Chryst goes into the fall with the usual depth at tailback. It's just a question of whether Bradrick Shaw (four carries in the spring game), Pitt transfer Chris James or Taiwan Deal are the man. More likely, they'll share. At age 34, two years removed from the NFL as a player and in his second year as an on-field coach, Jim Leonhard becomes the defensive coordinator.||3||10-4|
|16||LSU||How can you not root for Ed Orgeron? A Louisiana native son from humble roots who built himself back up as head-coaching material. This looks a lot like the team that got Les Miles fired. Example: quarterback issues. But tailback Derrius Guice and a usual athletic defense will put the Tigers in the mix.||7||15-0|
|17||Kansas State||Bill Snyder has returned from throat cancer no less determined than he was before the diagnosis. His Wildcats should be picked no lower than third in the Big 12. A program that (probably) has never had a five-star just plays harder than everybody else. Quarterback Jesse Ertz is the biggest weapon at the position since Collin Klein.||--||8-5|
|18||Georgia||The Dawgs are going on Year 13 without an SEC title. No one should be thinking that streak will end in 2017, but the program is trending up in Kirby Smart's second year. Georgia should be favored to win the SEC East. Jacob Eason must get better in his second year at starter. (A 60 percent completion rate would nice for starters.) Either way, he'll lean on a ground game benefitting from the return of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.||3||12-2|
|19||Boise State||The Broncos will have to outscore people to break through against the three-time defending Mountain West champs San Diego State. It can happen. (The teams haven't met since 2014.) Although the top four tacklers (and six of the top seven) are gone, Brett Rypien threw for almost 3,700 yards last season.||--||12-2|
|20||Tennessee||Butch Jones isn't going anywhere, not with a $16 million buyout and not after consecutive nine-win seasons. And especially not have starting a churn of NFL prospects. Hopes may have dimmed after the loss of Josh Dobbs and Derek Barnett, but amazingly, 16 starters return. Consider the Vols the dark horse in the SEC East.||2||8-5|
|21||Florida||Until someone actually does it, the Gators are the team to beat in the SEC East. It starts with quarterback play where redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks should be an improvement. What amounted to an NFL secondary was picked apart by the NFL Draft. If Jim McElwain can find a QB to go with his playmakers, the Gators will be the chief challenger to Alabama. Not this year, though.||NR||11-2|
|22||Texas||Strip away the flashy graphics, the national championship ring and a constant embracing of the grind, Tom Herman is a quarterbacks coach at his base. Not 100 percent satisfied with Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger, Herman sniffed around for free agent Malik Zaire. At this time, Zaire is still considering the Horns as a grad transfer. They should be a bowl team but how much better than that is the question.||2||8-5|
|23||Oregon||It wasn't the offense that sagged in Mark Helfrich's final season. His defense got run out of the building on several occasions. Considering the Ducks' worst season in 25 years (4-8), it's hard to rank these guys. But Willie Taggart has brought lots of energy. That includes an immediate defensive upgrade at tackle with Clemson transfer Scott Pagano. There is much to be done. Oregon didn't have a player drafted for the first time since 1985.||2||12-2|
|24||West Virginia||Quarterback Skyler Howard as a try-hard guy who led a 10-win team and third place in the Big 12. The Mountaineers get an upgrade with Florida transfer Will Grier. This will be a typical Big 12 squad. Dana Holgorsen's crew will be able to sling it around and score plenty. The issue will be stopping the other team.||1||5-7|
|25||Miami (FL)||Sorry to do this to you again, Canes fan, but think slow and steady. That's Mark Richt's track right now. Nine starters return on defense including a rock-solid front seven. The spring revealed no definitive replacement for quarterback Brad Kaaya. There was no spring game due to Hard Rock Stadium renovations and precious few spring practices were open to the public. It's All About The (Who Are) U?||1||6-7|
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