It is college football time. That is always an interesting time that signals the beginning of the Fall. This year the games begin on August 26 and will run til the National Championship in late January. Here are Tom’s Top 25 picks and a few words about each. We start from the bottom to the top.
The Panthers added USC quarterback transfer Max Browne to coach Pat Narduzzi’s squad. This team beat Clemson and Penn State last year.
24- Kansas State
Head Coach Bill Snyder will continue to coach while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He returns four offensive linemen and quarterback Jesse Ertz. Good news for Wildcats is that both West Virginia and Oklahoma will be at home on the schedule.
Charlie Strong is gone and Tom Herman is in as head coach. Collin Johnson was terrific in the Spring game a wide receiver and that will make things easier for sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele.
22- West Virginia
Will Grier to David Stills will be the line repeated over and over as the Mountaineers score. Virginia Tech will be a difficult test to start the season.
21- Washington State
Coach Mike Leach was happy when his quarterback, Luke Falk, decided to return for another season for the Cougars. Their nemesis will be Boise State and USC.
20- South Florida
New Head Coach Charlie Strong will be motivated after his departure from Texas. Quinton Flowers will be a strong quarterback for the Bulls.
Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs will be battle for the quarterback spot in Mark Richt’s Hurricane squad. This is a great place to recruit and they took advantage of it on the defensive side of the ball.
This may be another I have too high as coach Butch Jones has a lot to replace starting with the quarterback position. He will count on Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano who will continue to sort that out at fall camp.
Lamar Jackson returns as quarterback and he may be the most prolific passer this season. He will need to latch onto a favorite receiver for the Cardinals to score. The defense is a bit in flux. I may have them too high but believe in Jackson.
Head Coach Jim McElwain will start Feleipe Franks as the quarterback and will count on his new defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon, to prepare the Gators to be more aggressive on defense. This team has won back-to-back SEC championships. The Gators open with Michigan.
15- Oklahoma State
The Cowboys are putting all of their eggs into the Mason Rudolph and James Washington connection on the field. The defense has to find a way to allow less than 26 points per game as they did last year.
The most pressing job for coach David Shaw has is to find a suitable replacement for Christian McCaffrey. He will find it in either Ryan Burns or Keller Chryst as they battle for the starting quarterback spot. The running back position finds a solid core with Bryce Love, Trevor Speights, Dorian Maddox and Cameron Scarlett laying claim to the offense.
Coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator can find optimism as Jarrett Stidham transferred from Baylor and will be the next Tigers quarterback. To enhance that, running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson will shoulder much of the load. This team lacks a top receiver.
Coach Ed Orgeron will need to find some offense and he will have Derrius Guice who is a Heisman candidate and a strong, powerful running back to lean on. The quarterback position is a bit suspect with Danny Etling trying to learn from new offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Head Coach Paul Chryst has taken the Badgers helm for two seasons and has a 21-6 record in that time. He will have competition at running back among Bradrick Shaw, Chris James and Taiwan Deal along with Alex Hornibrook leading the team.
Head Coach Kirby Smart enter his second season as Bulldogs coach and has some good problems to contend with. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are both healthy and have returned to the classroom and football field for another season. Jacob Eason is poised to lead the offense but is being pushed by Jake Fromm.
Jim Harbaugh may be one of the most interesting coaches in college football. The third year Wolverines coach has to find some offense and will turn to whomever wins the quarterback battle between Wilton Speight and Brandon Peters. The defense will likely still be good with Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst dominating the defensive line.
The defense lost several key ingredients to the NFL but coach Chris Petersen will turn to Dante Pettis to help the defense and Jake Browning to run the offensive side of the game.
7- Penn State
Coach James Franklin is hearing the excitement in Happy Valley and quietly is trying to temper the expectations. The great news is they have two Heisman Trophy contenders in quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley.
Dabo Swinney has two replacements to choose from after losing Deshaun Watson. The defense is load with Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence up front. This is another very good squad.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has a new coach to learn from and a few new offensive players to lean on this season. The start is with UTEP but they are circling the Ohio State game on September 9 because they were defeating easily by the Buckeyes in Norman.
4- Florida State
The Seminoles are smiling as freshman Cam Akers was fantastic in the Spring game with over 100 yards. Quarterback Deondre Francois will have several tools at his disposal to help the offense to thrive. They open up in Atlanta facing top ranked Alabama.
3- Ohio State
Coach Urban Meyer hired Kevin Wilson as his new offensive coordinator and he will have plenty to work with in J.T. Barrett and star running back Demario McCall and receiver Johnnie Dixon.
Sam Darnold is the consensus leader for the Heisman Trophy and the likely top pick in the NFL Draft. The Trojans must be healthy to maintain this spot.
Head Coach Nick Saban is used to being the pre-season top team in the country and rightfully so. But does he have the horses on defense to make this team win it all? There are few worries about the Jalen Hurts-Brian Daboll combo on offense that will go a long way to a championship.
That’s my Top 25 for the 2017 season. Many things can happen as teams gel faster and other teams have issues throughout the year. My first teams out on this list were Virginia Tech, Oregon and TCU.