Just missed the cut (in alphabetical order)
Mississippi State, NC State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, West Virginia
Healthy Josh Rosen will see improvement in year three.
24. Kansas State
Experienced and consistent across the board, but not uber talented.
Ten returners on defense, and Tom Herman/Tim Beck will be a great asset for the QB Buechele.
22. Virginia Tech
The Hokies linebacking core and a solid offensive line will lead Fuente’s team into year two.
Willie Taggart breathes new life into Eugene, and his offense will be led by outstanding RB Royce Freeman and sophomore QB Justin Herbert, who put up strong numbers after taking over the job mid-way through last year
Quinton Flowers is a severely underrated playmaking QB, and a team that went 11-2 last season returns seven and nine on offense and defense respectively.
Canes could have endured either the loss of Brad Kaaya or replacing their entire secondary, but having both happen keeps them from truly breaking out for another season.
18. Washington State
Luke Falk is the most underrated passer in the nation, and he should have an electric senior season in Mike Leach’s offense.
While I don’t love either Malik Zaire or Feleipe Franks, they will certainly be a step up from the QB play of the last couple seasons. The story for Florida is the inexperience on defense, bringing back only three from a year ago.
Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnofan are tremendously skilled, but the Cards aren’t nearly elite on either side of the ball up front.
Christian McCaffrey led the Cardinal through a few seasons of strong roster turnover, but stability is back with a now veteran linebacking core and offensive line.
Wilton Speight finished strong in 2016, but there is far too much turnover for the Wolverines, with Mike McCray being the sole defensive starter returning.
The Badgers offense has a strong air attack, with QB Alex Hornibrook, TE Troy Fumagali, and WR Jazz Peavy, but they remain a physical team on both sides of the ball up front.
All eleven are back on defense, a unit that could be one of the best in college football. Along with QB Jacob Eason, and RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the Bulldogs are the favorites to win the East.
Tigers will take a step back after losing DeShaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, and Mike Williams.
While a new offense will certainly be an improvement, Danny Etling is a limited passer. LSU will certainly have a fantastic season, one of their best in a while, but it will take a QB to push them into the Playoff.
When healthy, Auburn was a top ten team last season. Most of that squad returns, and they now have a QB in Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. The Tigers will be in position to play for the SEC West crown when they meet Alabama on Thanksgiving weekend.
8. Oklahoma State
Bold Prediction: Mason Rudolph, in his swan song season, will eclipse 5k yards behind an experienced offensive front.
Outside of Baker Mayfield, the offensive headliners are gone, but there is still experience on the O.
Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin were tremendous in 2016, and Dante Pettis should fill the number one receiver role nicely. All roads lead to a Pac-12 title game showdown with the USC Trojans, where the Huskies can earn a chance to get back to the College Football Playoff.
5. Penn State
James Franklin has Penn State back in the top echelon of college football, led by a staggering ten returning starters on offense, including QB Trace McSorley and the best running back in the country in Saquon Barkley.
After a rough start, the Trojans went 9-1 after Sam Darnold was given the keys to the car. He’s my Heisman pick, and is more than capable of leading a young and extremely talented set of weapons to a playoff berth.
3. Florida State
Noles have playoff level talent, all they need is for the offensive line to improve greatly from last season. Derwin James missed most of last year, and he is the type of player that can completely alter opposing offensive game plans when he is on the field.
2. Ohio State
Practically the opposite of their biggest rival, the Buckeyes return most of their roster, including four on the offensive line and virtually all of their offensive production from 2016. A loaded Greg Schiano defense will start only three underclassmen this season, on a unit that could be one of the most athletic in the nation.
It’s a flip for the Tide, as the secondary is the stronger unit on the defense, led by Minkah Fitzpatrick. There is turnover upfront, but Nick Saban has proven time and time again that turnover isn’t a huge problem with the kind of players he reloads with. On the offensive side, it’s scary. Jalen Hurts has greatly improved, with the help of former Patriots OC Brian Daboll, in the one area he struggled with; throwing the ball downfield. Throw in a loaded backfield, two great receivers, and an elite offensive line, and Alabama have to be the title favorites again.