The 2017 College Football season is fast approaching, and there are those sweet feelings of hope, excitement and anticipation. The four teams which have won the last six national championships are all in the mix again. Who will be the top challengers to the two key figures in college football in the 21st century, those two guys that have won so big, so consistently, who currently reside Tuscaloosa and Columbus.
1. Alabama – In eight of the last nine regular seasons, Alabama has gone either 11-1 or 12-0, and the remarkable recruiting of Nick Saban has allowed the Crimson Tide to reload like no other program. Look at the other coaching situations in the SEC West, who is going to supplant them in Atlanta.
2. Florida State – Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles rolling. As sweet as the 2013 national title was, an 8-0 record against Miami and the Gators the last four years is a great source of pride. If Cam Akers can step in for Dalvin Cook, they are the second best playoff bet.
3. Ohio State – Since 2003, Urban Meyer and Saban have combined to coach four programs to eight national championships. He has predictably done a tremendous job in Columbus, and Meyer has the walloping Clemson put on the Scarlet and Gray in the playoffs as motivation.
4. Clemson – The Tigers must replace the greatest player in school history, but Dabo Swinney has done an outstanding job recruiting, and Clemson figures to again be right there in the ACC. He and the Tigers beat Meyer and the Buckeyes and Saban and the Tide for the title. Impressive.
5. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys and Texas are the two schools happiest with the retirement of Bob Stoops. There is a guaranteed rematch in the Big XII Championship Game, and the ‘Pokes are a good bet to make it.
6. Wisconsin – The Badgers certainly got the lucky draw on their side of the Big Ten. The schedule is favorable, and Wisconsin is the best bet to make the league title game against the Buckeyes, Penn State, Michigan or Sparty. They seem to finally have the right coach after Barry Alvarez with Paul Chryst.
7. Southern Cal – Clay Helton, after a couple of interim stints, got the head job and the Trojans started 1-3. Well, USC won out and then took a thrilling Rose Bowl over Penn State. They are the consensus favorite of the west, but the schedule is tough, and they have a target on their chest.
8. Oklahoma – The retirement of Bob Stoops was the most stunning news of the summer. His record is one of the most impressive in college football – highlighted by complete domination of the Big XII. Lincoln Riley inherits a talented team, and once again the offense has terrific promise.
9. Washington – Chris Petersen is one of the best in the business. He did a magnificent job at Boise State and now has Washington back amongst the elite out West. USC is the chic pick in the PAC-12, but Jake Browning is back, and Petersen is a proven winner.
10. Florida – The Gators have been to the last two SEC Championship Games, but lost eight games. The record is in tune with Florida football history, save the remarkable Steve Spurrier 1990s and Meyer’s brief but stellar tenure. Malik Zaire transfers in at QB. The Gators haven’t had an all-star behind center since Tim Tebow.
11. Stanford – It should be a good battle in the PAC-12 North with Stanford and the Huskies at the top of the heap. Though he has had some serious clock management issues in big games, David Shaw has done an outstanding job on the Farm. Their physical, tough style is a hard matchup for most of the league.
12. Auburn – Jarrett Stidham is the quarterback that the Tigers are pinning their hopes on. Like the rest of the SEC last season, Auburn had a record typical for the middle of the pack. They went from 7-2 to losses to Georgia, Alabama and in the Sugar Bowl to Oklahoma, finishing 8-5.
13. UCLA – Jim Mora Jr., Josh Rosen, and the Bruins have had big expectations, and this is a put-up year in Westwood and the Rose Bowl. Another loss to Southern Cal wouldn’t sit well. Rosen is a strong talent. The Bruins need that opener with Texas A&M.
14. Texas – Tom Herman inherits a talented team. Charley Strong and Texas just wasn’t a successful marriage. But with Stoops1 retirement and what the ‘Horns have at QB, Herman could have a quick ascension to the top of the Big XII.
15. Georgia – Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs bring in a tremendously talented recruiting class. Combine that with the return of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at TB and the Georgia faithful are bullish on both the future and 2017. The schedule is very difficult, starting with a visit from Appalachian State.
Recent Articles by Jeff Dantzler