2015 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

College-Football-MapA year ago I was so excited about the inaugural four team college football playoff. That enthusiasm was eventually mitigated just a bit. Though, at the end of the day, I admit that the teams selected were deserving, the process itself was severely flawed. It has become clear that the Division 1 FBS level of college football needs to be further subdivided into two tiers, each with its own championship. As it stands now, only half of the FBS teams have a realistic path to the playoff. At any rate, that is a debate for another time. For now let’s just be happy that football is back and there will finally be something worthwhile to vegg out for on the weekend.





1 Ohio State
Last Season: 14-1
Key Games: 11/21 vs. Michigan St., 11/28 at Michigan, 12/5 Big Ten Championship Game
I was WAY wrong in my assessment of the Buckeyes last pre-season. I, like many others, assumed that losing their starting QB was a death blow. Ohio_State_BuckeyesNow…a year later…they return three starting caliber QBs. It looks like Braxton Miller might move to receiver, JT Barrett will be the starter, & Cardale Jones will be forced to be patient and probably delay his NFL aspirations another year. Or not. Who knows?? I’m not at all worried about suspensions for the first game against Virginia Tech, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t get to 10-0 pretty easily before a tough two games to end the regular season.


2 Southern Cal
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 9/19 vs. Stanford, 9/26 at Arizona St., 10/17 at Notre Dame, 11/7 vs. Arizona, 11/21 at Oregon, 11/28 vs. UCLAUSC_Trojans2
The Trojans are still recovering from NCAA sanctions and may have some depth issues that make this prediction a bit of a reach. However, they return practically their entire starting roster on both offense & defense, including senior QB Cody Kessler. The schedule is brutal, so we’ll have a good indication by the beginning of October whether or not this team is for real, but even then November is absolutely vicious. It’s going to be feast or famine with Southern Cal in 2015, and I’ll walk away a fool or a king.


3 Notre Dame
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 10/3 at Clemson, 10/17 vs. USC, 11/28 at Stanford
Count me among those that feel The Irish need to eventually be not-so-gently persuaded to join a conference. They’re kind of playing footsie with the NotreDame1ACC, but aren’t all in by any means. On the other hand, until they are forced I understand why they aren’t making the move of their own volition. Why should they?? Being independent certainly isn’t hurting their schedule or national title hopes. They should blow right thru most opponents, although 2 of the 3 key games listed above are on the road. It would seem almost impossible for both Notre Dame & USC to make the playoff after one defeats (and presumably eliminates) the other on October 17. That’s going to be a huge game.


4 Alabama
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/3 at Georgia, 10/17 at Texas A&M, 11/7 vs. LSU, 11/28 at Auburn
The inaugural playoff proved that SEC teams aren’t just going to enjoy a cakewalk to the Final Four. After having seen the process and how everything AlabamaCrimsonTide2played out I now understand that any conference…including the SEC…getting two teams into the playoff is almost impossible. That being said, the SEC champion will undoubtedly be in the mix and there’s no reason not to think the Crimson Tide won’t be right in the thick of the battle. I don’t expect the season opener…a neutral site game against Wisconsin at the Palace in Dallas…to be a problem, and I don’t think the two Mississippi teams will be serious threats this year. 3 of the 4 key games I’ve noted are on the road, which may pose a bit of a challenge.


5 Michigan State
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/12 at Oregon, 10/17 at Michigan, 11/7 at Nebraska, 11/21 at Ohio St.
It seems like the Spartans are forever playing the bridesmaid role…always good, but never quite good enough. Until they are able to jump over the Michigan_State_SpartansOhio St. obstacle that will continue to be the case.


6 Baylor
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/14 vs. Oklahoma, 11/27 at TCU
Big 12 fans aren’t going to like this, but the fact is that until the league expands and adds a championship game the likelihood of the conference’s top baylorteam being left out of the playoff remains high. The Bears’ non-conference slate of SMU, Lamar, & Rice is completely prosaic & unimpressive, which will hurt their playoff chances even if they go undefeated. The conference itself, while fun to watch, doesn’t get the level of respect given to the SEC, Big Ten, or Pac 12, and that is probably going to remain the case as long as Oklahoma & Texas aren’t dominant programs.


Last Season: 12-1
Key Games: 11/21 at Oklahoma, 11/27 vs. Baylor
Remember what I said about Baylor?? Ditto, although I should point out that the non-conference opener at Minnesota is respectable. All one needs to TCU Cool Logoknow about how the Big 12 is viewed by those that matter is that the Baylor-TCU game on November 27th…a de facto conference championship game…is being played on a Friday night. Sure it is Black Friday and people should theoretically be home vegging out in front of the TV after a long day of shopping, but important college football games are NOT played on Fridays.


8 Florida State
Last Season: 13-1
Key Games: 10/24 at Georgia Tech, 11/7 at Clemson
As much as I dislike Jameis Winston I have to admit he was a winning college QB that oftentimes carried his team to victories they otherwise wouldn’t FloridaStateSeminoles1have gotten. But now he is gone, off to wreak havoc in the NFL (whether it’ll be on the field or off is to be determined). Obviously Florida St. is the kind of team that reloads quickly and doesn’t suffer all that much from such personnel losses, but I’d be surprised if they were in the national title mix again. They’ll do well in their conference because the ACC is always relatively weak, but it won’t be enough to get back to the Final Four. I just have this feeling that they’ll stumble unexpectedly atleast once.


Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/19 vs. Auburn, 11/7 at Alabama, 11/28 at Texas A&M
Every game is a tough one in the SEC, and every team has the potential to be a top flight national contender if they perform well in that conference. lsu_logo-95472014 was a bit of a down year for the Bayou Bengals, but my vibes are telling me this will be a bounce back season. They’ll need to win one or two big games…probably atleast one on the road.


10 Georgia
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/3 vs. Alabama, 10/10 at Tennessee, 11/14 at Auburn, 11/28 at Georgia Tech
I’m really hesitant to put three SEC teams in the Top 10, but I will for two reasons. First of all, if any conference can pull it off it’s the SEC. Secondly, I georgiasuppose I’m hedging my bets just a bit. RB Todd Gurley has moved on to the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, but one must remember that he didn’t play all that much last year due to a suspension and then a season ending knee injury. Freshman tailback Nick Chubb was thrown into the mix out of necessity and rushed for over 1500 yards, including a 200+ yard game against Arkansas and a 266 yard effort in the Belk Bowl. The bigger loss may be WR Chris Conley…now with the Kansas City Chiefs…who accounted for over 1300 receiving yards and a dozen touchdowns in 2014. Anyway, when a team has a stud like Chubb the game plan is pretty simple…ride that horse all the way to the finish line. It’s not complicated.


11 Oregon
Last Season: 13-2
Key Games: 9/12 at Michigan St., 10/29 at Arizona St., 11/14 at Stanford, 11/21 vs. USC
First of all, the Pac 12 has suddenly become a brutally competitive conference. Secondly, a team usually doesn’t replace a Heisman winning signal Oregon-Duckscaller like Marcus Mariota without a hiccup or two. It’s not that I think the Ducks won’t be good…I just don’t think they’ll be in the playoff discussion. They have a huge game against Southern Cal in Eugene near the end of the season, but before they get to that point they will have to win a couple of battles on the road.


12 Clemson
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/3 vs. Notre Dame, 11/7 vs. Florida St.
I’m not quite ready to choose Clemson over Florida St. in the ACC…but there are some rumblings amongst the masses. A non-conference (kind of) clemsonclash against The Fighting Irish in South Bend will be a good indicator of where the Tigers stand, and then they have the Seminoles at home. An upset in that game could catapult Clemson into the Top 10.


13 Oklahoma
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/12 at Tennessee, 11/14 at Baylor, 11/21 vs. TCU
After reeling off four consecutive 10+ win seasons 2014 was a bit of a down year for the Sooners. I expect them to rebound slightly this season. A lot oklahomadepends on the outcome of a quarterback battle between incumbent Trevor Knight and a transfer from Texas Tech that is apparently impressing a lot of people. They’ll need to upset either Baylor or TCU to climb this far in the rankings.


14 Arizona
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: 9/26 vs. UCLA, 11/7 at USC
To those who may be curious…yes, I still detest Rich Fraudriguez, but I’ll be darned if he doesn’t have a pretty entertaining ball club in Tucson. Last ArizonaWildcatsyear they upset Oregon with a late 4th quarter touchdown, defeated Utah with a last second field goal, & were a failed 2 point conversion away from tying USC. RB Nick Wilson rushed for nearly 1300 yards in his freshman season and should be even better this year, while the defense is led by junior linebacker Scooby Wright (one of the best names in college football). I expect to be up into the wee hours of the morning on several Saturday nights this fall watching the Wildcats, and I think they’re going to win most of those games.


15 Texas A&M
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/5 vs. Arizona St., 10/17 vs. Alabama, 11/7 vs. Auburn, 11/25 at LSU
I will never understand exactly why the Aggies joined the SEC. I mean yeah, I get the money & the prestige, but the fact is they are an afterthought aggiesclawing for every ounce of respect & attention. If they would have remained in the Big 12 not only would that conference be deeper but A&M would be amongst the best teams and have a clearer path to the national championship. Nevertheless, they are still a solid team that has a few very big games at home. Opening the season against legitimate competition like Arizona St. is admirable. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not it is a wise idea.


Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/26 at Arizona, 10/15 at Stanford, 11/28 at USC
Quarterback Brett Hundley is gone, off to the Green Bay Packers to do Aaron Rodgers’ laundry and test his food for poison like people did for kings in ucla_bruins2The Dark Ages. It is for that reason that I don’t think the Bruins will get to double digit victories in 2015. Some of their biggest games are on the road, so that’ll be tough as well. However, I don’t think 8 or 9 wins and a Top 20 finish are impossible.


17 Northern Illinois
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/19 at Ohio St., 9/26 at Boston College
The talking heads tend to focus on the “Power 5” conferences and the competition to get into the four team playoff, and I will grant that those are the huskiesstorylines the uninformed masses likely prefer. However, there are ten conferences and the champions of those “other” 5 oftentimes sneak into the rankings and occasionally surprise people with big wins in bowl games. The Huskies have been in that mix on more than one occasion, and until someone comes along and takes the crown they have to be the favorites in the MAC. Two out-of-conference games will define Northern Illinois’ season. I don’t expect them to beat Ohio St., but if they can keep it respectable…say within two TDs…it’ll be an important moral victory. The following week they’ll need to go into Chestnut Hill and defeat the Eagles.


18 Boise State
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 9/4 vs. Washington, 9/12 at BYU, 11/20 vs. Air Force
Yep, they’re still here. The Broncos have settled into a comfort zone. They beat up on an inferior conference, rack up a bunch of wins, seem to have a boise-state-logospot in the lower end of the Top 25 reserved for them, & occasionally upset the apple cart with a win against a theoretically better opponent in a big bowl game. That formula won’t get them into the playoff discussion, but maybe…for now…they are happy where they are until the next round of conference upheaval.


19 Memphis
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/24 vs. Cincinnati, 10/17 vs. Ole Miss
The old Big East morphed into the American Athletic Conference a few years ago, but the AAC is about as similar to the Big East as McDonald’s is to memphishealthy food. Yet somebody’s got to win it, and the Tigers are my pick. It should be noted that the AAC has expanded with the addition of Navy and will have a conference title game for the first time in 2015. That’s cool, although I’m not sure that there is any conceivable matchup that’ll draw much interest. I’m predicting a Memphis-East Carolina championship game, with Memphis going on to compete in something yawn inducing like the St. Petersburg Bowl.


20 Fresno State
Last Season: 6-8
Key Games: 9/12 at Ole Miss, 10/24 at Air Force, 11/21 at BYU
I’ve always enjoyed watching Fresno’s ball games. They play an entertaining, up tempo, high scoring brand of football and have been sporadically fresnosuccessful over the years. The question is always how many points will their defense give up since many of their opponents tend to have similarly high powered offenses. I think this will be an “up” year for the Bulldogs, although to be successful they’ll need to win some tough games on the road, and to finish in the rankings will almost have to make it to the Mountain West title game.


21 Air Force
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 9/19 at Michigan St., 10/24 vs. Fresno St., 11/20 at Boise St.
Okay okay…I’m hedging my bets again. There’s probably no way that three Mountain West teams finish in the Top 25, even if it’s the latter portion. AirForceFalcons4Having said that, winning 8 or 9 games and upsetting one of the above mentioned key opponents would provide a tremendous boost to the Falcons’ chances. It’s not hard to prepare for their offensive attack…opponents know they’re going to run, run, run. But opponents still seem to have a difficult time stopping what they know is coming, as the Air Force rushing attack ranked 7th nationally in 2014 and they won ten games.


22 Georgia Tech
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/19 at Notre Dame, 10/10 at Clemson, 10/24 vs. Florida St., 11/28 vs. Georgia
Someone has to get beaten by Florida St. in the ACC championship, and I’m predicting it’ll be the Yellowjackets…again. A September battle in Southgatechlogocos-3 Bend looms large and could be the crucial point of the season. Tech is probably going to have to score a couple of huge upsets to sneak into the rankings, and I think they can do it.


23 Wisconsin
Last Season: 11/3
Key Games: 9/5 vs. Alabama, 10/10 at Nebraska
Replacing an All-World RB like Melvin Gordon is nearly impossible, but Wisconsin has had its fair share of really good tailbacks so WisconsinBadgersit could happen. However, I do think we’ll see a decline in production. When one looks at the Badgers’ schedule it becomes clear that a Top 25 ranking would be quite the accomplishment. The season opener against Alabama is a neutral site game in Dallas, but after that Wisconsin could conceivably reel off 9 or 10 wins. An October battle in Lincoln, NE will decide who gets throttled by Ohio St. in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) title game.


24 Texas
Last Season: 6-7
Key Games: 9/5 at Notre Dame, 10/3 at TCU, 10/10 vs. Oklahoma, 12/5 at Baylor
The Longhorns haven’t had double digit wins since 2009. Will this be the season they get back their mojo?? Maybe…maybe not. I do think they will texasvastly improve over 2014’s losing record. Head coach Charlie Strong is entering his second year at the helm and I think he’ll get Texas back to its winning ways eventually, although more mediocrity will have the spoiled fanbase calling for his head, so who knows if he’ll be given a fair shake. The easy way to solve the problem is to win 8 or 9 games this year and atleast be in the Big 12 (which has ten teams) title conversation.


25 Michigan
Last Season: 5-7
Key Games: 10/17 vs. Michigan St., 11/28 vs. Ohio St.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I think new Wolverines’ head coach Jim Harbaugh will begin rebuilding the program with a solid inaugural season in michigan-wolverines-fan-gearthe captain’s chair. I believe they’ll be legitimate Big Ten & national championship contenders within three years. For now though, an 8 win season, getting back to a bowl game, & ending the season ranked for the first time in a few years will thrill the folks in Ann Arbor.

8 thoughts on “2015 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

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