It was a nice treat to have a highly anticipated “Week Zero” opener between Miami and Florida to get the season underway. The first two weeks of the season feature some dandy matchups. The Big Ten East should be a great race, and the college football landscape is littered with quarterbacks who have moved through the transfer portal.
1. Clemson – The defending national champions are riding high, returning a lot of firepower with as easy a schedule as possible for a program of this caliber. The rest of the ACC looks weak heading into the season, setting up the Tigers for another playoff run.
2. Alabama – Nick Saban will once again have a tremendously talented deep team. What Alabama has done in recruiting is incredible. The non-conference slate is embarrassing, especially considering the Tide’s enormous success under Saban.
3. Oklahoma – Lincoln Riley has led the Sooners to the playoff in each of the last two years, with a transfer Heisman quarterback at the helm. Now comes the third transfer act behind center. OU is atop the Big XII mountain until someone can knock them off.
4. Georgia – Kirby Smart heads into his fourth season at the helm of his alma mater with a team that has the talent and depth to make a run at the playoffs. The schedule, especially in November is brutal, but Georgia has the stuff to be in position again.
5. Ohio State – The whistle has been passed to Ryan Day and he has a typically strong Buckeyes squad. The Big Ten East is extremely strong, and the Buckeyes have been riding a good luck streak of winning one-point games.
6. LSU – The second week of the season, the Bayou Bengals head to Texas in a game with major playoff implications. Ed Orgeron has assembled another talented Tigers squad. LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn are the top challengers to Alabama in the SEC West.
7. Central Florida – Undefeated in 2017, and perfect until a Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU last season, the Golden Knights are THE mid-major power now. Another undefeated season, which would include a win over Stanford could get UCF in the playoff this time.
8. Michigan – This is a huge year for the Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh has built Michigan back up into one of the Big Ten’s top programs, but they haven’t been able to get over the hump against Ohio State. Well, Urban Meyer is gone, and now is the time.
9. Washington – The PAC-12 North figures to be a great race this season, and Chris Petersen has another outstanding team in Seattle. Close losses kept Washington out of the playoff a year ago. The Huskies have Jacob Eason at quarterback.
10. Auburn – The opener with Oregon in Dallas is hypercritical. If Auburn can beat the Ducks, then the Tigers will be in position to deal with a rugged SEC schedule. Auburn has an outstanding line of scrimmage, with freshman legacy Bo Nix the QB.
11. Texas – Tom Herman has the Longhorn faithful excited. Wins over Oklahoma in Dallas and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl have ramped up expectations. LSU comes to Austin on September 7 with a mega showdown.
12. Texas A&M – Speaking of mega showdowns in week two, the Aggies go to Clemson. Last year, A&M lost a squeaker to the eventual champs. The schedule is brutally tough, but the Aggies are explosive, highlighted by receiver Kendrick Rogers.
13. Notre Dame – It was a perfect regular season against what turned out to be a soft schedule for the Irish, but they were blown away by Clemson in the Cotton Bowl. A date with the Dogs in Athens on September 21 is a big show.
14. Utah – The favorites in the PAC-12 South, Utah returns a great deal of talent and is filling the void while Southern Cal tries to find its way. Kyle Whittingham has done an excellent job in Salt Lake City and this should be one of his best teams.
15. Missouri – The schedule sets up beautifully for Missouri, which welcomes in Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant to take over for Drew Lock at quarterback. The Tigers have flexed their muscles the last two seasons against both Florida and Tennessee.
16. Oregon – That opener with Auburn could set the tone for the Ducks and open the door for the PAC-12. Justin Herbert’s return and a boost in recruiting from Mario Cristobal have the Ducks hopes running high.
17. Florida – The Gators squeaked out a 24-20 Week Zero win over Miami in Orlando and are now off this week. The Florida defensive front is very talented and made the difference against the Hurricanes.
18. Army – The Black Knights of the Hudson had their greatest season since Pete Dawkins won the Heisman for the 8-0-1 powerhouse of 1958. An 11-2 mark featured an OT loss to Oklahoma. Army goes to Michigan in Week Two, and there is a lot of talent returning.
19. Michigan State – Under Mark Dantonio’s watch, the Spartans have been consistent contenders in the Big Ten East. They’ve also shown the ability to bounce back after so-so seasons. That makes them a good bet this year.
20. Stanford – David Shaw has another strong team on The Farm, but the schedule is rugged. A trip to UCF sandwiched between a trip to Southern Cal and visit from Oregon puts the Cardinal on full tilt early in the season.
21. Mississippi State – The Maroon Bulldogs lost three first round defensive draft picks to the NFL, but still should be a factor in the SEC West. The schedule, while tough, sets up nicely for MSU. The Maroons catch Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama in good spots.
22. Minnesota – Coming off an impressive bowl win in Detroit, the Golden Gophers bring back a lot of talent and catch a break in the schedule. There’s no Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State. They could find their way to Indianapolis.
23. Oklahoma State – One of the most unusual teams in the country last year, the Cowboys beat Texas and lost a one-pointer to Oklahoma. They also lost to Texas Tech, Iowa State, K-State and Baylor.
24. Boise State – The Broncos will have a new quarterback and running back, but have most everything else back. Boise State opens against Florida State in what promises to be a hot and muggy Jacksonville.
25. Miami – It was a tough loss for the Hurricanes to Florida in Orlando. The offensive line has some major issues, but the ‘Canes have play-makers and a talented defense. Even though they lost, the Hurricanes are the favorites now on their side of the ACC.