The VegasInsider.com College Football Top 25 is produced by veteran sports betting columnist and handicapper Brian Edwards.
The Alabama dynasty during Nick Saban’s tenure shows no signs of slowing down. In other words, there’s no need to justify the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 preseason ranking these days.
I have three Big Ten teams in my top five with Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin at No. 2, 4 and 5, respectively. The Buckeyes will have two weeks to prepare for their revenge game against PSU at The ‘Shoe, while the Nittany Lions have to take on Michigan (albeit at home) before going to Columbus. I’m not high on Wisconsin’s QB play, but the offense will be improved and the defense will be one of the nation’s best.
Washington broke out in Chris Petersen’s third season at the school, and the Huskies will remain a major contender on the former Boise State coach’s watch. They bring back star players like quarterback Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin and WR Dante Pettis.
The best move of Dabo Swinney’s coaching career was plucking defensive coordinator Brent Venables away from Oklahoma after Geno Smith and West Virginia put 70 up on the Tigers in Miami six years ago. I have Clemson at No. 6 based on its defense. If five-star freshman QB Hunter Johnson provides stability at the position, the Tigers will be in the playoff hunt. However, that’s a big question mark at this point.
Florida State is No. 7 and has an emerging star in QB Deondre Francois. The defense returns nine starters and gets All-American candidate Derwin James back. The Seminoles have a pair of tough November road games at Clemson and at Florida.
Oklahoma, Auburn and Michigan round out the Top 10 in that order. OU lost three offensive stars, but Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield is back in the mix. Gus Malzahn welcomes former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham to the fold and he should give AU’s offense a monster boost. Michigan lost a lot of talent, but Jim Harbaugh will have his team in contention.
The 11-15 spots are occupied by three SEC schools and a pair of Pac-12 teams. Southern California and Stanford are at No. 11 and No. 15, respectively. The Trojans have one of the country’s premier QBs in Sam Darnold and one of the league’s top RBs in Ronald Jones. The Cardinal might deserve to be higher, but there’s uncertainty about when injured QB Keller Chryst will be back from the knee injury sustained in a 25-23 Sun Bowl win over North Carolina.
Florida, LSU and Georgia are ranked 12-14 in that order. The Gators appear to have more offensive playmakers than they’ve had in many years. The question is whether UF can finally get quality QB play for the first time since 2009.
Speaking of QB issues, LSU still has them and the Tigers lost their two best wideouts. But Ed Oregeron has a stellar offensive line that will open holes for Derrius Guice, who is a darkhorse Heisman candidate. Georgia has an elite QB in Jacob Eason and returns all 11 defensive starters. With that said, I’m not sold on Kirby Smart as a head coach and there’s lots of inexperience at the WR position.
Oklahoma State has a dynamic offensive trio consisting of QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill and WR James Washington. The defense could be an issue for our No. 16 team, though. Miami, Fl., Louisville and Virginia Tech represent the ACC in the 17-19 spots, while Washington State is No. 20. Mike Leach’s QB Luke Falk is poised for another monster campaign.
Kansas State, Tennessee, South Florida, BYU and South Carolina round out the Top 25. The Gamecocks? Yes, indeed. I’m bullish on their win total ‘over’ 5.5 and think an 8-4 record is a distinct possibility. Finally, Will Muschamp has a QB in Jake Bentley.
USF and BYU have sleeper Heisman candidates in QB Quinton Flowers and QB Tanner Mangum. Remember, the Cougars went 9-4 last year with their defeats coming by eight combined points.