Last Word On Sports College Football Preseason Top 25

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11: The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy is seen on the field before the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Last Word on Sports College Football Preseason Top 25 is here. Preseason polls represent the culmination of the off-season and the beginning of each football season. That’s no different at LWOS. Our writers have been busy following scandals and suspensions, injuries and transfers, practices and scrimmages since the clock ticked triple-zero in Tempe. Now, they provide their insight and analysis and lay out the starting point for the 2016 college football season.

Last Word on Sports College Football Preseason Top 25

As one would expect, the preseason Top 25 looks very similar to the way we finished 2015. Three of the four College Football Playoffs (Alabama, Oklahoma, and Clemson) teams return in the Top 5 of our poll. None of those three teams return less than half of their starters. Only Michigan State goes from the CFP to the outside looking in (#13) for our preseason survey. Joining last year’s top finishers in the Top 10 are Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, Stanford, Notre Dame, and Tennessee.

Clearly our voters believe Michigan and Ohio State will challenge Michigan State’s reign as the Big Ten Champion. Florida State is also expected to challenge Clemson in the ACC. And dare we question Nick Saban‘s ability to win the SEC? This year, there are two possible challengers in our preseason poll in LSU and Tennessee. No such challenge is anticipated in the Big 12, as no other Big 12 team appears in our poll until TCU at #17. Oklahoma’s biggest tests are expected to be out-of-conference, with Houston and Ohio State in the first three weeks of the season.

Houston, trying to be the first serious G5 contender for the CFPs, comes in at #11 and is followed by four teams with lots of questions after successful 2015 seasons: Mississippi, Michigan State, USC, and Washington to round out the Top 15.  The bottom half of the poll starts with UCLA, TCU, Louisville, Iowa and Oklahoma State from spots 15 through 20. Three of those teams are coming off disappointing bowl losses to end their 2015 season, including two in Group of Six Bowls.

Baylor, Georgia, Oregon, North Carolina, and Florida round out our preseason Top 25.

LastWordOnSports.com College Football Top 25

Team

Points

Comments

1.

Alabama-Thumbnail-1

ALABAMA (9)

393

Alabama is the defending National Champions and Nick Saban has shown an incredible ability to reload year after year after year. If they can find consistent play at QB, they’ll contend yet again. –Mike Loveall

2.

Clemson_University_Tiger_Paw_logo.svg

CLEMSON (3)

381

After losing a thrilling National Championship game to Alabama, Dabo Swinney will definitely have his team fired up for another title run. It will be interesting to see what the Tigers do on the defensive side of the ball after losing key players to the NFL Draft, but with Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson in the backfield, the Tigers remain a key player in the College Playoff picture. –Justin Gordon

3.

Oklahoma_Sooners_logo.svg

OKLAHOMA (1)

368

Baker Mayfield and the Sooners are slated to make the College Football Playoff once again, but will the pressure get to the Sooners as it has in years past? –Connor Ferguson

4.

FSU_text_logo.svg

FLORIDA STATE (1)

338

Florida State brings back one of the most explosive running backs in the nation in Dalvin Cook. The big question is whether redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois can recapture the magic Jameis Winston had in 2013. –Jonathan Bailey

5.

2013_Ohio_State_Buckeyes_logo.svg

OHIO STATE

329

After one of the most impressive draft classes in College Football history, Ohio State will be starting fresh. While there is no doubt that the Buckeyes will be a top team, they will have a lot of work to do if they want to reach the College Football Playoffs. –Rob Gritzer

6.

Michigan_Wolverines_Logo.svg

MICHIGAN

312

In their second year under coach Jim Harbaugh the Wolverines look to build on last year’s success. With plenty of returning senior leaders and a big playmaker in Jabrill Peppers, they can make a run to the college football playoffs. –Scott Brouillard

7.

Louisiana_State_University_(block_logo).svg

LSU

294

The Tigers have the experience on both sides of the ball returning this season, including Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre. As quarterback Brandon Harrs has improved over the spring, the Mad Hatter seeks to improve on the pass game and take the SEC West this season.  –Lauren Beasley

8.

Stanford_plain_block_-S-_logo.svg

STANFORD

278

Can either Keller Chryst or Ryan Burns replace the winningest QB in Stanford’s long football history? The answer to that question will determine the Cardinal’s fate in 2016. David Shaw has proven himself to be an elite coach, and Stanford will attempt to defend its conference title and make a run for the CFP, despite a very difficult road schedule in 2016. – Donald King

9.

NotreDameFightingIrish.svg

NOTRE DAME

258

Notre Dame was hit hard by injuries and graduation last year, but DeShone Kizer and half of the defense are back this year. The Irish were 4 points from being undefeated during the regular season last year. –Yesh Ginsburg

10.

UT_Volunteers_logo.svg

TENNESSEE

248

This is the year for Butch Jones & Company in Knoxville. The talent is there; can the Vols close the deal and return to Atlanta? –Mike Loveall

11.

2000px-Houston_Cougars_Logo_(1999-2012).svg

HOUSTON

234

Is this the year that a Group of 5 team makes a serious run at the CFP? If Houston can pull the upset against Oklahoma in Week 1, there’s no reason why Houston and Greg Ward shouldn’t finish 13-0. –Yesh Ginsburg

12. (t)

Ole_Miss_rebels_Logo.svg

MISSISSIPPI

194

The Rebels return arguably the best quarterback in the SEC and the defense should be a strong unit again. Can Hugh Freeze finally find the consistency to put Ole Miss in the race for a playoff spot at the end of the season? –Matthew Atkinson

12. (t)

Michigan-State-logo-block-s.svg

MICHIGAN STATE

194

The defending Big Ten champions have to replace a lot of key personnel, including the most prolific quarterback in program history Connor Cook. Expect Tyler O’Connor to take the reins in Cook’s place and tenth year head coach Mark Dantonio to implement more of a ground and pound scheme on offense. This could be running back LJ Scott’s year to break out. –Johh Bava

14.

Interlocking_USC_Logo.svg

USC

155

Clay Helton removes the interim tag as head coach and guides a USC team that has a lot of experience — except at quarterback. Look for the Trojans to start the season with a power ground game behind a huge offensive line. –Tony Siracusa

15.

imgres

TCU

145

 The quarterback battle between Foster Sawyer and transfer Kenny Hill dominates TCU’s early season headlines as the Horned Frogs enter the post-Trevone Boykin era. Game-breaker KaVontae Turpin will likely have an expanded role in TCU’s offense this year, in addition to his responsibilities on special teams. –Brendan Dzwierzynski

16.

University_of_Washington_Block_W_logo.svg

WASHINGTON

144

QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin return to make UDub’s offense potent in 2016. Chris Petersen’s team also returns 7 starters from the PAC-12’s leading scoring and total defense in 2015. The Huskies will contend for the PAC-12 North title. – Donald King

17.

UCLA_athletics_text_logo.svg

UCLA

129

The Bruins flat lined at the end of last season and Jim Mora has acknowledged that another 8-5 record will be unacceptable. UCLA has one of the better QB arms in the country in Josh Rosen and plenty of skill position experience, but still looking for a solid offensive line. –Tony Siracusa

18.

louisville-cardinals-logo

LOUISVILLE

115

In a conference dominated by Clemson and Florida State, Louisville is bringing back 17 starters and gets FSU at home. A late season showdown with Houston might be a Group of Six bowl play-in game. –Al Prezisoi

19.

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IOWA

109

The Hawkeyes are coming off the schools first undefeated season. They return a great Quarterback in CJ Beathard and one of the nation’s top DB’s in Desmond King. Look for Iowa to be good once again. –Connor Ferguson

20.

University_of_North_Carolina_Tarheels_Interlocking_NC_logo.svg

NORTH CAROLINA

89

The defending Coastal champions will look to replicate a surprising 2015 season. They’ll have to do without Marquise Williams and traveling to FSU and Miami. –Al Prezisoi

21.

Osu_ath_brand

OKLAHOMA STATE

85

After splitting time with JW Walsh in recent years, Mason Rudolph is now Oklahoma State’s undisputed starting quarterback. The Cowboys look to improve upon their second-place finish in the Big 12 in 2015, a year in which they started 10-0 before losing their last three games. –Brendan Dzwierzynski

22.

 UGA_logo.svg

GEORGIA

80

Georgia alum Kirby Smart was hired to bring the Bulldogs SEC Championships. The biggest question marks for Georgia are on the offensive side of the ball. Can the quarterback and offensive line play improve? If not, it could be another disappointing season for the Georgia faithful. –Tommy Tabler

23.

OregonDucks.svg

OREGON

72

Behind stars, Charles Nelson and Royce Freeman the Oregon Ducks will continue to be a national power. Their biggest question marks will be both their offensive and defensive lines. If they can get solid play out of those guys, look for the ducks to crack the top 10 rapidly. –Scott Brouillard

24.

Baylor_University_Athletics_(logo).svg

BAYLOR

65

After a tumultuous off-season and the dismissal of coach Art Briles, the situation at Baylor is uncertain. Baylor does get back some key offensive talent in QB Seth Russell, RB Shock Linwood and WR K.D. Cannon, but they have questions almost everywhere else and because of that, it is hard to see them returning to the same great form of recent years. –Sean Garmer

25.

 Florida_Gators_logo.svg

FLORIDA

41

New head coach Jim McElwain made impressive strides in the SEC East in 2015, renewing the confidence in the Swamp. With key players being replaced throughout the team, the defensive play should remain solid. On the offense, transfer quarterback Luke Del Rio impressed at the Spring Game. –Lauren Beasley
Also receiving votes: Miami (36), Pittsburgh (22), Auburn (19), Boise State (17), Utah (15), Nebraska (14), Wisconsin (12), Texas A&M (10), Texas (9), BYU (7), Washington State (6), Western Kentucky (5), Arkansas (2), Appalachian State (2)

 

Here’s where it begins. The LWOS College Football Preseason Top 25 is set and that means the offseason is over and college football is upon us. Will it wind up this way? Likely not. Injuries, weather, clock mismanagement, bad bounces will all affect the hierarchy of college football. More importantly, emotion and chance will wreak havoc with the championship dreams of all but a few fan bases. But that’s what makes college football so special — the emotion, the pageantry, and the pure excitement of each and every game.

It’s here. Enjoy.

Final 2015 LWOS rankings are here.

About the poll: Sixteen Last Word on Sports writers submit ballots and points are awarded on a inverse-scale (a first place vote receives 25 points, a 25th-place vote receives 1 point).

 

Main Photo:

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