It seems like forever ago since Cardale Jones and the Ohio State Buckeyes beat Marcus Mariota’s Oregon to the national championship.
But the new college football season is just over two weeks away – and we’re in the mood.
Here are our NCAA power rankings for the new campaign:
By Kevin Edwards – Lead Football Writer – @keddie44
1. Ohio State
Loaded at quarterback, Ohio State looks poised to repeat as national champions. Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Cardale Jones highlight a very deep Buckeye squad full of future NFL talent. The starting QB position is up in the air still, but reports indicate that J.T. Barrett is the favorite to win the job. With a dynamic passing and running game paired with a stout defense, Ohio State is the deservingly heavy favorite to hoist the trophy this January.
Led by Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin, TCU was one of the main surprises of last year, turning a 4-8 record from 2013 into a 12-1 record in their 2014 campaign. TCU’s final two games of the season in Norman and Waco should prove to be the Horned Frogs’ most difficult two-game stretch of the season, and should play a large factor in determining if they make the playoffs this season. If the offense can match their resounding success from last year, TCU will be hard to keep out of the playoffs.
After losing Blake Sims and T.J. Yeldon to the draft, many questions remain regarding Alabama’s skill players. The defensive line of Alabama is loaded with future NFL talent, and should be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. Another strong recruiting class for Saban provide reason to believe that Alabama will once again return to the College Football Playoff. If the starting quarterback and the running back Derrick Henry perform reasonably well, the Crimson Tide will once again be in the playoffs.
4. Michigan State
Connor Cook is returning to East Lansing for his senior season to take the helm for the Spartans’ offense that is looking to build upon the momentum of their Cotton Bowl victory last year. A November 21st match-up with Ohio State looms large on Michigan State’s schedule, and will go a long way in determining if the Spartans can sneak into the playoffs. Even though they lost a lot of depth in their secondary, the defense still remains a force to be reckoned with. If Cook can live up to the pre-season expectations surrounding him, you can expect the Spartans to have a compelling case to be in the playoffs.
Under the leadership of Cody Kessler and Steve Sarkisian, the Trojans enter 2015 with high hopes for their team. The departure of Leonard Williams leaves a large gap on the Trojans’ D-Line, but the ending of the NCAA sanctions placed against the Trojans should provide USC with an added boost. If the Trojans can successfully navigate the maze of Pac-12 challengers without multiple blemishes, they are a definite playoff contender. This is a big “if” however, as contenders such as Oregon, UCLA, and Stanford among others will be very difficult to beat.
Baylor returns 18 starters from their explosive squad last year, but one key starter who is not returning is quarterback Bryce Petty. Seth Russell will look to fill Petty’s shoes and lead the high octane Baylor offense. While their defense remains relatively weak, the offensive production of the Bears largely covers up the defense’s many faults. If Seth Russell can roughly match Petty’s output, the Bears will once again have a solid case to be in the playoffs.
Jeremy Johnson will take over at QB for the Tigers, and is receiving high praise from multiple reporters already for his performance during training camp. Will Muschamp will be faced with the task to improve a defense that struggled mightily last season. The 2014 Tigers’ defense finished the season in the SEC’s bottom five in points and rush and pass yards allowed per game. For as many questions as the Tigers have on defense and with their unproven QB, they still have a great shot to be right in the thick of the playoff hunt this season.
Deshaun Watson is one of the most proven quarterbacks of all the top 10 teams, but his ACL tear remains a concern. Clemson will look to continue their defensive dominance from last season, but will have difficulty in doing so as a result of their defensive line losing a lot of starters from last year. If Watson returns back to his normal form and remains healthy, Clemson has a legitimate shot of winning the ACC and sneaking into the playoffs.