The College Football season has just ended, but it is never too early to start thinking ahead to next season. There is a lot that still has to happen before teams are fully formed, such as National Signing Day and spring practice, but based on what is known now, here are the teams that will be in the College Football Playoff next season.
- LSU Tigers- LSU had a successful season with plenty of talent left on its roster. In addition to the talent of the players, Head Coach Les Miles was brought back for another season. His leadership will help LSU reach its goals for next season. Running back Leonard Fournette, one of the most talented players in college football, returns after rushing for 2,000 yards in this season. The Tigers may return two to four offensive linemen to block for Fournette, depending on who leaves for the NFL Draft. The returning players will be tasked with protecting quarterback Brandon Harris. Harris showed improvement in his second season and can take pressure off of Fournette with his arm and his legs. Most people believe wide receiver Travin Dural will come back for his senior season to lead the Tiger receiving corps and Malachi Dupre will also be back for his junior season. The defensive line should remain in tact as there are no highly sought after prospects or significant seniors. All of the linebackers are graduating, besides Kendell Beckwith, who has to decide whether he wants to go pro or stay for his senior season. He can bring stability to an otherwise young linebacker core by coming back. The secondary will be good no matter who leaves for the draft. Jalen Mills will have exhausted his eligibility and Tre’Davious White may go pro, although he has made comments leading people to believe he will stay for his last season of eligibility. The Tigers will return defensive backs Kevin Tolliver and Jamal Adams, who are defensive play-makers. With all of the returning players LSU has coming back, they also have the number one recruiting class according to ESPN, which has a chance to get even better after National Signing Day.
2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- Notre Dame lost two games in the 2015 regular season by a combined three points. They had plenty of injuries, which makes their season very impressive. Quarterbacks DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire are back and will most likely have to fight for playing time. Running Back C.J. Prosise has decided to leave for the NFL, but the starting running back Tarean Folston returns after missing the whole season with a torn ACL. Wide receiver Will Fuller decided to come back for his senior season and will have talented receivers around him, with the Irish only losing Amir Carlisle and Chris Brown. Freshman tight end Alize Jones will also be featured more next season. The offensive line will lose Ronnie Stanley, who will be a high draft pick in the 2016 NFL draft, and Nick Martin, but return everyone else for what should be a solid group. On defense Notre Dame loses Sheldon Day and Romeo Okwara from the defensive line, who will be tough to replace, but bring back a lot of experience in Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell. Linebacker Jaylon Smith has made his decision to leave for the NFL. The Irish also lose Joe Schmidt at linebacker, but they have a very talented group who have experience behind them and are more than capable of stepping in. The secondary is going to lose Kevare Russell, Elijah Shumate and Mathias Farley, but return Cole Luke, Max Redfield and Drue Tranquill, who all have significant experience. The Fighting Irish currently have the fourteenth best recruiting class according to ESPN.
3. Oklahoma Sooners- The Sooners return a lot of players from their College Football Playoff team this season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield will return and be a front-runner for the Heisman. Running back Samaje Perine will also be back and has a chance to go down as one of the best running backs in Big 12 history depending on how he finishes his career. They do lose their top wide receiver and some of their offensive linemen, but should have enough with Perine and Mayfield to have a successful offense. The front seven loses end Charles Tapper and Eric Striker, but the rest of the seven should stay in tact. To go along with that the secondary all has eligibility remaining and corner backs Jordan Thomas and Zack Sanchez are extremely talented. Oklahoma has the twenty-seventh best recruiting class in the country according to ESPN.
4. Clemson Tigers- The Clemson Tigers just got to the National Championship Game and can get to a second straight College Football Playoff next season. They lose two starting offensive linemen, but return the most important player, Deshaun Watson. His running back Wayne Gallman, who compliments him very well, is also back for at least one more year. His leading receiver Artavis Scott is also coming back after a successful year and will likely be with Mike Williams at receiver who got injured in the first drive of the season and never returned. The defense’s success relies heavily on who comes back. There are only two seniors leaving, but if more leave for the NFL, it could be detrimental. Defensive end Shaq Lawson has an NFL decision to make and can be the third returning starter on a very good defensive line. The Tigers lose linebacker B.J. Goodson, but return Ben Boulware and Travis Blanks. The secondary could have players leave for the NFL as well, but all of them are very talented and have eligibility remaining, which could make the Clemson defense even better next season. Clemson currently has the tenth best recruiting class according to ESPN.
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