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Way-Too-Early College Football Top 10 for 2017 Season

The arrival and departure of signing day in college football signifies a new chapter. Which now means that spring practices and spring games are also right around the corner. The Clemson Tigers are still polishing their crown as national champions but now they also have a target on their back. Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are one of those schools to knock Clemson off their thrown. However, they will also be ushering in a number of new starters on defense. Things are trending up for USC, while Michigan has a bitter taste in their mouth thanks to the last two games of their season. Without further ado, here is a ranking of the top 10 teams entering the fast approaching 2017 season.

10. Oklahoma Sooners (2016 record: 11-2) – Losing NFL talent such as receiver Dede Westbrook and running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon takes away considerable production. They also lose their best defender in linebacker Jordan Evans. So why are they here at 10? Quarterback Baker Mayfield returns, which is a good start. Protecting him is a solid offensive line and he can hand off to a talented duo at running back in freshman Trey Sermon and JUCO transfer Marcelias Sutton. An early season test at Ohio State and the annual Bedlam Rivalry with Oklahoma State are their two biggest hurdles.

9. Georgia Bulldogs (8-6) – The offense alone places the Bulldogs at this point. The unit returns true sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason and running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb and Michel were instrumental last season as they combined for 2,205 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns. Wide receivers Terry Godwin and Riley Ridley will have expanded roles along with tight end Isaac Nauta. Second-year head coach Kirby Smart also reeled in the third ranked recruiting class in the country and has a defense returning key front seven members in Trenton Thompson, Davin Bellamy, and Lorenzo Carter. The Bulldogs schedule features no Alabama, LSU, or Texas A&M this season. The SEC East is wide open but the Bulldogs have more than enough talent to be the favorites for the division.

8. LSU Tigers (8-4) – Even with star running back Leonard Fournette heading off to the NFL, a dark horse Heisman candidate in Derrius Guice will be the lead back in the stable. Head coach Ed Orgeron is now the man in charge and he has a defense that still has incredible talent in linebacker Arden Key and corners Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver II. A new offensive coordinator in Matt Canada may spark things for the offense, in particular, at the quarterback position.

7. Michigan Wolverines (10-3) – Losses to Ohio State and Florida State to end their season has the Wolverines eyeing redemption this upcoming season. A lot of overhaul on both sides of the ball will occur in Ann Arbor but Michigan still has a plethora of talent. It’s just a matter of key roles being filled by fresh faces. Remember the names of Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones, two playmaking freshmen receivers that will see plenty of playing time early. Defensive tackle Rashan Gary is a rising star on the defensive front. The team will also need another solid season from returning quarterback Wilton Speight.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions (11-3) – The Nittany Lions return one of the best running backs in the country in Saquan Barkley, but the offense also has the services of quarterback Trace McSorley, tight end Mike Gesicki, and receivers Saeed Blacknall and DaeSean Hamilton. Free safety Marcus Allen returns and gives the Nittany Lions a true playmaker on the back end. A key sequence mid-season includes road games against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State will tell a lot about the talented Nittany Lions.

5. Florida State Seminoles (10-3) – Quarterback Deondre Francois will look to have a nice 2016 season and turn it into a possible 2017 campaign that launches the Noles into the ACC Championship. He will have to do it without two-time All-American running back Dalvin Cook. On the defensive side of the ball, safety Derwin James returns after a knee injury wiped away his 2016 season. While edge rusher Josh Sweat and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi will keep the Noles defensive line strong. The Seminoles open the season in Atlanta against Alabama and late season tilts against Clemson and Louisville will shape the ACC Atlantic division winner.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2) – With the amount of talent in Columbus, Ohio State will never “rebuild”. The defense will rework the entire secondary but linebacker Jerome Baker and defensive linemen Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa help stabilize the front seven. Quarterback J.T. Barrett provides the veteran leadership that the offense needs and redshirt sophomore Mike Weber may see a little more of a workload this season. The Buckeyes have plenty of motivation after ending their season with a 31-0 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff.

3. Clemson Tigers (14-1) – An historic 2016 season was capped with a national championship for the Tigers. Entering this season, Clemson has a large target on their back and a number of key starters no longer on campus. A quarterback competition between rising junior Kelly Bryant and true freshman Hunter Johnson will settle the most important position. Receivers Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow provide veteran presences at the position for the young quarterbacks. Defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, and Clelin Ferrell make up arguably the best defensive line in the country. Early season contests against Auburn, Louisville, and Virginia Tech in September means that the champs will be tested frequently.

2. USC Trojans (10-3) – Things are trending upward for the Trojans thanks to a 2016 season which concluded with a Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Quarterback Sam Darnold grabbed the attention of many last season with 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Now, he looks to build off it. He has plenty of weapons around him in running backs Ronald Jones, receiver Deontay Burnett, and tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe. As well as freshmen running back Stephen Carr and receiver Joseph Lewis. The defense will miss corner Adoree Jackson but they still possess another talented cornerback in Iman Marshall. Linebackers Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith are back as juniors and will look to elevate a defense full of young talent.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (14-1) – It’s ironic that the team that lost in the national championship enters 2017 season as the best team in the country. When you have a playmaking dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts, wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. Head coach Nick Saban will have to retool the defense after a number of key starters are off to the NFL. He has a veteran secondary led by corner Minkah Fitzpatrick and safety Ronnie Harrison and a true freshman linebacker in Dylan Moses that will work his way into considerable playing time.

 

 

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Eric Robinson
Atlanta Falcons Beat Writer & College Football Beat Writer
Eric is a Beat Writer for the Atlanta Falcons as well as College Football for RSEN. He also contributes material for SportingDebate.com, BloggingDirty.com, & Football.com. He also enjoys Cheez-Its, Poetry, and causing havoc in the gym. Follow him on Twitter @ERobinsonRSEN

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