Now that the college football season is ready to really kick into high gear, it seems like the perfect time for Tiebreaker.com’s first preseason Top 5 poll.
No. 1 – Alabama
There is no legitimate reason to believe the Crimson Tide won’t defend its national championship. And Nick Saban is, and always will be, the reason. How can you argue with a coach whose program has lost only six regular-season games in seven seasons and has five national titles in nine.
When your biggest decision is what star to play at quarterback, the odds for success seem great. And Saban gets to pick between Jalen Hurts, who led the Tide to the national championship game, and Tua Tagovailoa, whose heroics won it.
Look at what Saban pulled off last season. Alabama was clobbered by Auburn in its regular-season finale. So that meant it couldn’t compete for the SEC Championship, which is always one its primary goals. Then they were almost eliminated from the College Football Playoff party, but Wisconsin couldn’t beat Ohio State.
If you want to get down it, all the Crimson Tide needs to do is prop up their defensive line and find guys to replace Ronnie Harrison and Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary. But they are bringing back just 11 starters and have had to replace both coordinators.
No. 2 – Georgia
There are many who believe Georgia should have won last year’s national championship. The team was that good. Kirby Smart is that good a coach. But it didn’t happen.
What the Bulldogs need to do, however, is replace three of the best players in America last season, running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb and linebacker Roquan Smith.
In Jake Fromm, Georgia has an experienced quarterback capable of great things. It’s expected that his receivers will be dynamic and his offensive line skilled and deep enough to keep him out of trouble.
The first indication of how good the Bulldogs may be comes in Week 2 at South Carolina.
No. 3 – Clemson
You know that a program has arrived when the alumni complain about a 12-2 because the season ended with a pounding from the eventual national champion in the FCS semifinals.
It seems like everyone wants to forget Dabo Sweeney is 40-4 over the last three seasons, has engineered seven straight 10-win seasons and has played in three consecutive playoffs with, oh yes, a national championship.
The biggest question in the offseason seemed to be who would be their quarterback in 2017. Kelly Bryant was no Deshaun Watson, but he was fine, especially when he was on the run. But the Tigers recruited a great talent in Trevor Lawrence and his progression bears watching, especially as it concerns the passing game, Lawrence has a big arm.
Clemson has a number of good receivers, junior Diondre Overton perhaps the best. And Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne will behind a deep offensive line. But what will distinguish Clemson is its defense, led by linemen Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell.
No. 4 – Wisconsin
Most of the attention here will be on a player few knew anything about last season. Jonathan Taylor, a true freshman, was the ignition switch of the Badgers’ offense, gaining 1,977 yards – the most ever by a freshman in FBS history. He was sixth in the Heisman voting and a finalist for the Doak Walker Award.
But, as The Athletic points out, the 14 FBS freshmen whose rushed for at least 1,500 averaged 611 less as sophomores. Only Herschel Walker, LaMichael James and Ronnie Hillman avoided the jinx.
Taylor will run behind an offensive line with all five starters returning. Alex Hornibrrok is back for his third year at quarterback.
The defense has some growing to do, which should be accomplished in the first three weeks prior to its game at Iowa. That will be the first of a challenging road schedule that will also include Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan and Penn State.
No. 5 – Ohio State
Everyone knows by now that the Buckeyes will be without Coach Urban Meyer for the first three games due to his suspension. But those games don’t promise to be very challenging, unless you think TCU will have another good team.
Regardless, the Ryan Day experiment begins Saturday in Columbus against Oregon State. Last year, Ohio State (11-2) won the Big Ten and finished No. 5.
As always, the Buckeyes have a lot of talent on offense, led by quarterback Dwayne Haskins and his big arm. Then again, the decision about who would start at QB wasn’t really a decision once transfer Joe Burrow left for LSU.
Nick Bosa is a stud on the defensive line. His brother, Joey, was a two-time All-American for the Buckeyes. Nick, a junior, is a preseason 2018 All-American and already has 13 ½ sacks and 23 tackles for a loss in his career.