College football preseason 2017 top 25: 10-6

The football season is right around the corner so let’s dive into more rankings. This installment will go over top ten teams that will be vying for a title. For a spot on this list, teams need to have a lot of talent on their rosters.

To look at the previous list of teams, go here.

10. Georgia Bulldogs

College football top 25

Jacob Eason (Photo by 247sports.com)

Kirby Smart had a decent first season as head coach of the Bulldogs and helped them finish 8-5. They won the Liberty Bowl to finish last season, beating TCU 31-23. Smart will have 15 returning starters to work with, which includes 10 on the defensive side of the ball. This season the Bulldogs look to take a step forward and win the SEC East.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are set in the backfield. Jacob Eason will be entering his second season and there are high hopes for his career. He was a highly-touted prospect that threw for 2,430 yards as a freshman. He will have two good running backs in Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel. They will get the bulk of the carries and have amassed almost 6,000 yards on the ground during their time in Athens. Chubb is the lead man and averages 6.4 yards per carry over his career.

The offensive line returns two starters and will be the key to the Georgia attack. There isn’t too much experience returning at the receiver position, but tight end Isaac Nauta is getting a lot of hype. At 6’4″ 246 pounds he provides a good target for Eason, while the receiving unit as a whole needs to step up.

There may not be a weak point on the defense with how much experience they have returning. John Atkins returns in the middle of the defensive line, while Trenton Thompson returns at defensive end. Thompson had five sacks last season. The linebackers might be the most talented unit on the defense. Lorenzo Carter is a good pass rusher from outside linebacker, while Roquan Smith is a good run stopper from his inside linebacker position.

Dominick Sanders is the most talented out of the secondary players and has the most interceptions returning to the team from last year with three. Georgia’s defense was good last year and now must take the step forward to become elite.

Tough non-conference games will be had against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Their games that could give them trouble in conference are Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. Georgia has the talent on their roster to win every game on the schedule. They will likely drop two of the tough games on the schedule and go 10-2 on the season, with a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

9. Clemson Tigers

College football top 25

Christian Wilkins (Photo by si.com)

The Tigers lost a lot from the team that won the National Championship last season, but some respect has to be shown to the fantastic job Dabo Swinney has done recruiting. They do still return 12 starters from last year’s team and will be looking to get back to the College Football Playoff.

Clemson will win a lot of games because of the play of their offensive line, which returns four starters. This includes Mitch Hyatt, who is a 2018 NFL Draft Prospect. The running backs getting carries behind this offensive line will change a lot, but C.J. Fuller looks to be the lead man.

Kelly Bryant has to fill some big shoes that were left by Deshaun Watson. The junior was a good prospect himself out of high school and has all the tools to be successful. If he does end up struggling, Clemson has recruited freshman Hunter Johnson to step in. Deon Cain is a good receiver that now gets his chance to shine without Mike Williams on the team. Hunter Renfroe will continue to do work and make clutch plays from the slot.

The defensive line will be stacked with talent, with Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence returning. All three were highly productive for the team last year, with Ferrell leading them all with six sacks. Kendall Joseph leads the linebackers now after the departure of Ben Boulware, but is pretty accomplished himself with 124 tackles last season.

Van Smith is the leader of the secondary from his safety position and has the most interceptions returning with two. The pass defense will likely take a slight step back, while the run defense will stay about the same.

The schedule is tough and will be tougher with the fact that now Clemson will have a target on their back. They have games that will challenge them in Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. For the most part Clemson should be able to manage these tough games, but will likely drop two or three of them.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

College football top 25

Baker Mayfield (photo by usatoday.com)

Oklahoma’s ranking would’ve been higher had Bob Stoops still been the head coach. Lincoln Reilly takes over now and will have a good team to work with. They went 11-2 last season and beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. With a lot of talent returning, the Sooners will be looking to make the College Football Playoff.

The offense will start with Heisman Trophy Finalist Baker Mayfield. He has had a storied career so far for Oklahoma and will continue to put up big numbers this season. The problem is that he doesn’t have all the weapons he had in previous years. Jeff Badet transferred in from Kentucky and should provide a spark to a receiving core that only returns one starter, Jeffrey Mead.

There is good news for Oklahoma fans: The offensive line returns every starter. Orlando Brown is getting looks from the NFL and is a dominant force. The bad news is that there isn’t much experience returning at running back and Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson will fight for carries.

Defense for the Sooners was average at best in 2016. The secondary gave up a lot of passing yards, but does return some good players. Jordan Thomas is a good college corner, but teams find a way to throw around him and pick up a lot of yardage.

Ogbonnia Okronkwo returns at linebacker and leads the pass rush with nine sacks last season. The Sooners will be inexperienced up front, with no returning starters on the defensive line.

Oklahoma gets to play Ohio State, Texas (neutral), Kansas State and Oklahoma State all away from home. West Virginia travels to Norman to give them plenty to focus on for this year. The Sooners’ offense will be high-powered enough to get them 10 wins this season and a spot in the new Big 12 Championship Game.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys

College football top 25

Mason Rudolph (Photo by ncaa.com)

The Cowboys finished 10-3 last season and blew Colorado out in the Alamo Bowl. Mike Gundy has one of his most talented teams ever. His team is good enough to win the Big 12 and get to the College Football Playoff, but they have a long road a head and a lot of history to overcome.

Mason Rudolph returns at quarterback, after flirting with the idea of going pro. He will put up big numbers while protecting the football, which makes him an elite college quarterback. The good news for him was that his teammate and top target James Washington also chose to return to school. Tyron Johnson, an LSU transfer, will be eligible to play this season and will provide another good target for Rudolph.

Three offensive linemen return, but the unit will be more than capable of protecting Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State found their running back of the future last season in Justice Hill. Hill ran for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman last season. He will be asked to put up similar numbers in 2017.

In terms of scoring defense, Oklahoma State ranked third in the Big 12, but that isn’t saying too much. Essentially they were an average defense. Five starters return including two in the secondary. Ramon Richards and Tre Flowers will be starting again at safety, while new corners are broken in.

Chad Whittener returns to the linebackers and will be asked to step up his production this season after finishing with 71 tackles a year ago. The Cowboys don’t have much returning in the middle of the defensive line, but do have a lot of experience at defensive end. Both starters return as well as Trelund Webber, who comes off the bench to rush the passer. He returns as the team leader in sacks in 2016 with six.

The schedule features games against Pittsburgh, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma State will win at least nine games, but probably finish at 10-2, getting them a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.

6. USC Trojans

College football top 25

Sam Darnold (photo by dailynews.com)

The Trojans went on a magical run to the Rose Bowl last season and beat Penn State in a thriller. Clay Helton did a fine job last year as head coach, but has a new challenge this year. Only 10 starters return, meaning a lot of players will need to step up to help USC win the Pac-12.

Sam Darnold is the potential number one overall pick in the 2018 draft. He still has a lot to prove, but finished the season with 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t start the first few games of last season. Darnold won’t have an elite receiver to throw to this season, unless someone really improves, but Deontay Burnett is the leading returning receiver with 670 yards in 2016.

Ronald Jones II is overlooked because of how well Darnold played last year, but he can flat out run the football. His 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns will be improved upon this season. Just two offensive linemen return this season. If the newcomers don’t step in and do their jobs the whole offense will suffer.

The linebackers return the most experience, with three of four starters returning. Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith are both playmakers. Smith had 83 tackles last season. Only one of three returns on the defensive line, Rasheem Green. Green had six sacks last season and will need to improve production to lead the pass rush.

Iman Marshall returns at corner and will now be asked to shut down the other teams’ best receivers, as Adoree Jackson is now in the NFL. He has a chance to be drafted early, like Jackson was, in the 2018 NFL Draft. Marveil Tell is back at safety and Chris Hawkins will be solid at the other starting safety spot in 2017. The defense was good last year and if they want to get to the College Football Playoff, need to improve this year.

USC has a tough schedule, which includes games against Stanford, Texas, Washington State, Notre Dame and UCLA. While they should have their fair share of struggles, they will have at least 10 wins entering the Pac-12 Championship Game. At that point it may be a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

 

Featured image by usatoday.com.

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: Cornerbacks

Cornerbacks were a hot commodity in the 2017 NFL Draft and the 2018 NFL Draft could offer some more quality players at the position. Here are the top cornerbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft class as of now:

Adonis Alexander, Virginia Tech

Alexander is one of the bigger corners in this class at 6’3″ and 193 pounds. He needs to add some weight to fill out his frame, but offers great length to shut down some of the taller NFL wide receivers.

He has six career interceptions and 13 passes defended in his two seasons in Blacksburg. While his length and cover skills are good, he needs to make sure he runs a good 40 yard dash time at the 2018 NFL Draft Combine to insure that a team will take him with a high pick.

Virginia Tech will play West Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Pitt. Alexander will face a handful of good receivers against Clemson, including Deon Cain.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Minkah Fitzpatrick NFL

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Photo by: seccountry.com)

Alabama always has good secondary players, but Fitzpatrick was able to break into the starting lineup as a freshman and hasn’t left. He is 6’1″ and 203 pounds and should follow other Crimson Tide defensive backs who have been selected in the first round.

In is two seasons at Alabama, Fitzpatrick has eight interceptions and 17 passes defended. He has all of the physical tools to make it at the next level, but does need to work on his positioning and technique before he gets to the next level.

Alabama plays Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. When the Crimson Tide play Texas A&M, Fitzpatrick will have to guard Christian Kirk, one of the best receivers in college football. If he is able to shut down Kirk, Fitzpatrick can prove once again that he can shut down NFL-level receivers.

Iman Marshall, USC

Marshall was a highly sought after recruit and has played across from the great Adoree’ Jackson the last two seasons. He is a good corner in his own right and could end up going first round too with a good season. He has decent size at 6’1″ and 200 pounds.

So far at USC, Marshall has six interceptions and 17 passes defended. Marshall does need to work on his run support and tackling ability, but he can cover, which is the most important thing.

This season USC will face Stanford, Texas, Washington State, Utah, Notre Dame and UCLA. The games against UCLA and Washington State will pit Marshall against some of the best quarterbacks in college football, Josh Rosen and Luke Falk.

Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

McFadden got his first taste of major action in 2016 and showed some great flashes of potential. He has good size standing 6’2″ and 198 pounds, which should help him be one of the first corners selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

He tied for the NCAA lead with eight interceptions in 2016, demonstrating his great ball skills. One of his problems was he totaled only 19 tackles and needs to do better in run support to enhance his draft stock.

The Seminoles will play a lot of big games in 2017 including: Alabama, Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Florida. The games against Clemson and Alabama will give McFadden a chance to go up against Deon Cain and Calvin Ridley, two good receiver prospects.

Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma

Jordan Thomas NFL

Jordan Thomas (Photo by: newsok.com)

When a player seems like he has been around forever, that usually means they have been great. Thomas has tons of experience and will get another full slate of games this season. He is decently big, at 6’0″ and 192 pounds.

Thomas has seven career interceptions and 25 passes defended. He is a physical, cover corner who usually doesn’t have too many balls thrown his way. He did get beat more in 2016 than in 2015, but still had a solid season last year overall.

Oklahoma will play a lot of good offenses this season, which should test Thomas. The Sooners play Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Against Oklahoma State Thomas will have to go up against a great duo in quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington. He will also look to get redemption against Ohio State, who he played badly against in 2016.

Kevin Toliver, LSU

Toliver is another big time recruit that LSU signed to be a part of their great legacy. He has gotten playing time since his freshman year for the Tigers. He had a variety of injuries that held him back last season. At 6’2″ and 193 pounds he has great size and length.

In 18 games played for the Tigers, Toliver has just one interception and six passes defended. Now that he is healthy those numbers will increase drastically. He shows the ability and desire to help in the run game. The biggest key for Toliver is staying healthy long enough to put up good tape in 2017.

LSU plays BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Like other players on this list, his toughest assignments will be against Kirk of Texas A&m and Ridley of Alabama. With a productive season, Toliver can put himself among the top 2018 NFL Draft prospects.

 

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Four Teams That Will Make The College Football Playoff

The college football season has just kicked off, which begins the season long quest for teams to make it to the playoffs that conclude the season. The first two years of the College Football Playoff has produced great results and this year might have more anticipation for the Playoff than any other. Could their be a rematch between some of the teams involved in last year’s playoff? Here are the four teams that will make the College Football Playoff:

1.Clemson Tigers

Deshaun Watson looks to lead Clemson to a second straight College Football Playoff appearance. (Courtesy cbssports.com)

The Tigers finished as the runner-up in college football last season and return a lot of players, which have Clemson fans ready to kick-off the season. Quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for over 4,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and should be more efficient this season, with more talented receivers suiting up this year. Wide Receiver Mike Williams, who missed most of last season with a neck injury, is back and should provide another great receiver for Watson to throw too. The other great receiver is Artavis Scott, who led the Tigers in receiving yards last year. Clemson also returns tight end Jordan Leggett, who will be playing on Sundays soon. Wayne Gallman will man the running back spot, after rushing for over 1,500 yards last season. He is one of the most underrated players in the country because Watson overshadows him. The offense does lose a few offensive lineman, but Clemson recruits enough to fill the void left on the offensive line. Last season the Tigers averaged 38.5 points per game last season and that should increase this season.

Defensively, the Tigers lost a lot from last season. Ben Boulware and Cordrea Tankersley are the players who started last season who will have to lead the team this year. The pass rushers are inexperienced, but Clemson has a knack of producing top-level pass rushers. With the offense being so good this season, the defense just has to be average and timely for the Tigers to win the ACC this season.

Key Games: Oct. 1 Louisville, Oct. 29 at Florida State

2. LSU Tigers

Leonard Fournette is going to have another great season for the Tigers. (Courtesy bleacherreport.com)

LSU has the most talented team from top to bottom in the country. Everyone knows what you are getting from Leonard Fournette, a possible 2,000 yard rusher this season. The offensive line should be great on the interior and solid on the outside, which will be capable of opening up holes for Fournette and pass protecting.The top two receivers from last season in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, who are both long and lengthy, return and can be threats on the outside of the offense. The problem is they don’t have a lot of depth at the position. To help though, Colin Jeter, their tight end, should be able to help over the middle. The x-factor for this team is Brandon Harris at the quarterback position. He has a strong arm, but isn’t very accurate. He needs to complete passes to keep defenses honest and not completely focused on Fournette.

The secondary of the Tigers is the best in the country. Tre’Davious White, Kevin Toliver, Jamal Adams and Rickey Jefferson will make it hard for any offense to throw against them. The defensive line will also be stacked on the interior and the exterior. Their defensive line is huge and should help plug running lanes. Arden Key will rush the passer with his great length and speed from his outside linebacker position. Kendall Beckwith is the leader in the middle and will rack up a lot of tackles. The defense allowed 24.3 points per game last season, but they should be one of the best in the country this season.

Key Games: Oct. 22 Ole Miss, Nov. 5 Alabama

3. Oklahoma Sooners

Baker Mayfield does a little bit of everything for the Sooners. (Courtesy usatoday.com)

The Sooners will make a run to the College Football Playoff, much like last year, thanks to Baker Mayfield. he can throw the ball with accuracy, he completed 68% of his passes last season, and run the ball to keep the defenses on their toes. His partner in the backfield, running back Samaje Perine, will run over people and create a dynamic duo that will create havoc for defenses. The problem for the Sooners is the wide receiving core. Losing Sterling Shepard to the NFL hurts a lot. They really need Dede Westbrook to step up and be the go-to receiver this season without Shepard. The offensive line has a lot of experience returning and should be solid to set up the skill position players for great seasons.

Defense will be the key for the Sooners, much like Clemson. Last season they allowed just 22 points per game, but need to replace a lot of players. The secondary is the most experienced group and Jordan Thomas should be a dynamic player for Oklahoma at corner back. He will be able to shut down most of the Big 12’s best receivers.The rest of the defense will need to step up in some of their close games. If the Sooners have a weakness, it will be stopping the run, which could cost them in a few games.

Key Games: Sep. 3 vs. Houston (NRG Stadium), Sep. 17 vs. Ohio State, Oct. 1 at TCU

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

J.T. Barrett is the unquestioned leader of the Buckeyes this season. (courtesy cbssports.com)

J.T. Barrett returns as the full-time starter and will have a lot of new pieces to fit in with. The good news for Barrett is the two other returning starters on offense are offensive linemen Billy Price and Pat Elflein. The skill position players will need to step up, but the Buckeyes are one of the few university’s that just reload.

The Buckeyes lose a lot on defense this year, but get a player returning on each level of the defense. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis returns after recording eight sacks last year. Sam Hubbard also had experience from the defensive end position, and will need to have an improved season. Raekwon McMillan is the best inside linebacker in the country and should be considered for Big Ten defensive player of the year after the season. Gareon Conley played well last season, but will need to lead an inexperienced secondary that could be the defense’s weak point.

Ohio State can afford to lose to Oklahoma in week three if they sweep the rest of their schedule.

Key Games: Sep. 17 at Oklahoma, Nov. 19 at Michigan State, Nov. 26 vs. Michigan