Clemson will finish as 2016’s No. 1 after beating Alabama in a National Championship instant classic.
Whew, thankfully that’s settled. Now we can immediately move along to the next season! With transfer season, National Signing Day, coaching hires, NFL Draft declarations, offseason attrition, spring ball developments, fall ball developments, an offseason of analysis, and various other surprises still to go, here’s how things stand as we enter the offseason, based on a poll around SB Nation’s network of college football writers.
The No. 1 is probably not a surprise (despite the Championship upset), based on Nick Saban’s unbelievable run that could include a seventh straight No. 1 recruiting class and an offseason for QB Jalen Hurts and OC Steve Sarkisian to gel.
Right behind is Ohio State, the only team with a real shot at topping Bama on Signing Day. Though the Buckeyes got blasted out of the Playoff by Clemson, 2016 was a rebuilding year for OSU, and Urban Meyer’s already making moves to shore up the coaching staff.
Clemson falls a lot, with QB Deshaun Watson likely headed to the pros, but should be considered an ACC contender until proved otherwise. The following rankings mean Clemson would rank behind the two teams it beat in the Playoff and another, FSU, it beat in the regular season this year. That’s how legendary of a player Watson is, though.
Here’s our stupendously early top 25:
- Ohio State
- Florida State
- Penn State
- Oklahoma State
- West Virginia
- Virginia Tech
- Kansas State
- Washington State
Also receiving votes: Texas A&M, Boise State, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, Iowa, Houston, Nebraska, TCU, Western Michigan, Utah, NC State, Navy, Notre Dame, Pitt, Northwestern, Middle Tennessee, and Indiana
The two teams that played in a classic Rose Bowl are both in the top five, as is a young FSU team that gets Bama in Atlanta to open the season. Rematch in the same city in the Championship?
Louisville brings back Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson, and the conference should continue to enjoy its improved reputation.
Bama’s competition in the SEC looks to be either a somewhat comparably talented team in the SEC West (since nobody is totally comparable to Bama) or Georgia, which brings back a ton, including star RB Nick Chubb and rising sophomore QB Jacon Eason, plus a potential top-five recruiting class.
Oklahoma looks like the clear favorite in the Big 12 again, bringing back most of its Sugar Bowl champion roster, including potential Heisman favorite QB Baker Mayfield.
Charlie Strong’s new team and old team both make the list, with Tom Herman inheriting a talented roster at Texas and Strong doing the same at USF. The Bulls also have a very navigable schedule and look like the favorite not only in the American, but also for the mid-major New Year’s bowl bid.