Athlon Sports has its top 25 out. Remember when people really paid attention to preseason magazines? Anyhow, FSU's schedule is pretty tough, playing five ranked teams.
2. Florida State: After winning 10 games in a rebuilding season, FSU is poised to challenge for the title. Most of the roster returns intact, but the Seminoles have to find a QB and replace cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalvin Cook is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.
4. Clemson: Even though the Tigers suffered heavy losses on defense, quarterback Deshaun Watson and the nation’s top receiving corps is more than enough to keep Clemson in the hunt for the national title.
10. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze must replace three first-round picks, but the Rebels have recruited well enough to prevent a huge drop off. Chad Kelly is the SEC’s top signal-caller and there’s no shortage of options at receiver.
19. Louisville: The Cardinals finished the 2015 season by winning six of their final seven games. Bobby Petrino’s team should build on that momentum in 2016 with 16 returning starters and the emergence of dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.
21. Florida: The defense is still among the best in the SEC, but Florida has to find some answers on offense after averaging 12.6 points over the final six games of 2015. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback.
22. North Carolina: New quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a rising star, and the supporting cast is among the best in the ACC. The defense showed some improvement under new coordinator Gene Chizik last year but has to get tougher against the run. -
Bruce Feldman of Fox also released his top-25.
1. Clemson: Last year the Tigers, led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, gave Alabama all it could handle in the national title game. It marked Dabo Swinney's program taking the next step in its rise to super-power status, and with the fantastic junior Watson back for another season, I think the Tigers have the stuff to win it all this year. The offense, which now has a more seasoned line, returns a rugged running game led by tackle-breaking tailback Wayne Gallman and will be even more explosive with the return of All-American candidate Mike Williams -- a 6-4, 220-pound receiver with superb range -- to go with Artavis Scott, who caught 93 passes in 2015.
The defense does have a lot of holes, most notably losing star DEs Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson, but I think Clemson will be more than fine up front with the emergence of budding star Christian Wilkins, a freakish 310-pounder to go with Carlos Watkins. And, in 340-pound former five-star DT Dexter Lawrence, the Tigers have another big body who coaches are convinced will be special. The secondary is more of a concern, but with Watson and the Tigers' offensive firepower I think Clemson can overcome it.
The schedule is bookended by a pair of SEC opponents -- at Auburn for the opener and then against arch-rival South Carolina -- but I don't expect either to be a top-25 team this year. The Tigers get Louisville at home, where Clemson has a 16-game home winning streak entering 2016, the second longest active streak in the nation. The toughest test will be against a talented, fast FSU team on the road on Oct. 29, but Watson torched the Noles' D last year for over 100 yards rushing and almost 300 passing -- and last year he was actually even sharper on the road than he was in home games.
4. Florida State: The Noles have all 11 starters back on offense. That doesn't include redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois, who many close to the program think will overtake Sean Maguire. Running back Dalvin Cook should be in the Heisman mix, and the receivers are dangerous. DeMarcus Walker (11 sacks in 2015) leads a good D-line, and defensive back Derwin James is in line to make a run at All-American honors after a big freshman debut.
The Noles schedule is pretty rough. They have two talented SEC opponents in their non-conference (Ole Miss in Orlando early and Florida in Tallahassee). They also face three teams led by excellent quarterbacks, visiting Louisville and Lamar Jackson and Miami and Brad Kaaya and hosting Clemson and Deshaun Watson. They also play a good UNC squad at home.
12. Louisville: The Cardinals have 18 starters back -- more than anyone in the ACC and tied for most in the country. Lamar Jackson, a sophomore dual-threat QB, is an intriguing talent for Bobby Petrino to groom. There's a lot of speed around him. Jamari Staples, a Freaky 6-4 wideout, heads an underrated collection of skill guys. The D has speed too and is strong up the middle with defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown, linebacker Keith Kelsey and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. They get the Seminoles in Louisville in mid-September and then visit Marshall before a big trip to Clemson on Oct. 1.
18. Ole Miss: The Rebels only have eight starters back -- four on each side of the ball. They do return quarterback Chad Kelly, who looked superb in the last four games of the year in what proved to be an impressive debut season in the SEC. Kelly has athletic receivers even despite losing Laquon Treadwell. He will need a new left tackle, but five-star offensive tackle recruit Greg Little has been touted as one of the most polished offensive linemen to come into college in quite some time. The Rebels open with a rough trip to Orlando to face Florida State. They get Bama and Georgia in Oxford back-to-back and then in October have consecutive trips to Arkansas and LSU and later visit College Station.
24. North Carolina: Mitch Trubisky -- who was sharp (85 percent completion rate, 6-0 TD-INT) in the limited action he saw in 2015 -- takes over and has a strong cast around him. Running back Elijah Hood quietly ran for almost 1,500 yards last season and he should be a force again. Gene Chizik's defense made some strides in 2015, but it still has to get better. The Tar Heels don't have to face Clemson, but do have to visit Florida State and face Georgia in the opener.
Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports has a really interesting look at the future of college football. Will this happen? Probably not, at least not by the time it's projected. I also think 24 teams is too few. Andy Staples' plan seems smarter to me. Our game is changing.
I agree with David Teel that something will happen between the ACC and ESPN, but I'm not sure what that is.
FSU does not play Notre Dame, but Bill Connelly's projection is rosy.
Still, the home-road splits and a conservative No. 11 projection suggest this will be another season of heartburn and close games. Five Notre Dame contests are projected to finish with a one-possession margin.
There isn't a sure loss on the schedule. In fact, there's only one game in which Notre Dame has a worse than 59 percent chance of winning. But operating in close games will be critical. That means finding go-to receivers for the quarterback in times of need, continued quality from Yoon, and a defense that improves up front despite turnover and holds steady in the back despite freshmen on the two-deep.
All of the "ifs" are realistic, and while the defense still has plenty to prove, I'm not going to doubt Kelly after last year. If I had a poll vote -- and thank goodness I don't -- I would seriously consider Notre Dame in the preseason top five.
Notre Dame recruits extremely well and is well coached. Hard to argue with.
Andrea Adelson has Louisville as a sleeper playoff contender. I'm fine with this. Sleeper denotes one of the non-favorites, so Louisville fits.
Florida State and Clemson are givens. North Carolina won't merit serious discussion with two FCS teams on its schedule. That brings us to Louisville, a team with high expectations after an impressive bowl win over Texas A&M. The Cards return all their best players, including dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson and hybrid end/linebacker Devonte Fields, the former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Their schedule is a bear; they play preseason Top 25 Florida State, Clemson and Houston. If they can find a way to sneak past all three and make it to the ACC championship game undefeated, their strength of schedule should be enough to put them in the playoff discussion. It should also be noted that Louisville lost to Clemson by a combined nine points the past two seasons and hung with Florida State early in both games. Florida State and Clemson are still the best in the Atlantic, but Louisville cannot be completely discounted. -- Andrea Adelson
Tuesday Trivia: Who are the only teams to make a NY6/Playoff or BCS Bowl each of the last four seasons?— Bud Elliott (@TomahawkNation) May 17, 2016
Answer at the bottom of this article.
This is the No. 1 defensive tackle in the country, Marvin Wilson, tweeting a .gif of Chief Osceola.
Tim Brewster was tweeting after visiting FSU RB commit James Cook and Miami OL commit Navaughn Donaldson at Miami Central. Miami's staff took exception to it. Good times.
These dudes feeling the Noles hard.......They decide to play together.....Wow!!!— Tim Brewster (@TimBrewster) May 16, 2016
@Coach_Baez Lmao!!! I ll be in my backyard tomorrow! It's a NoleNation!— Tim Brewster (@TimBrewster) May 17, 2016
Miami has not defeated FSU in Miami since 2004.
FSU RB target Khalan Laborn is delaying his commitment. FSU, VT, UNC and Auburn are all contenders.
Postponing commitment date for now.— 4KayEra™ (@Khalan2012) May 17, 2016
The Washington Redskins cut Reggie Northrup.
Trivia answer: Alabama and FSU.