By Kenny Howell
So, I have been quiet for quite some time. Been taking time to raise my first child, but it's college football season, so she'll have to wait. Not really, obviously, but here we go.
I did this last year, and I determined the National Championship would be Alabama and Texas, so this is obviously a fool proof system that will never steer you wrong. I had Florida State No. 7 and Auburn No. 18, (to be fair, not many people even had them in the top 25) so...nailed it.
I look at the computer rankings at the end of last season, recruiting for the last four years and how many starters each team has coming back. My rankings are really based off potential more than anything, which I think is really all you can go on at this point. I like to be a little crazy with it at this point because that is the way College Football is. I saw a lot of people talking about how Alabama and Stanford would be the National Championship last year, some even mentioned Louisville. So nobody really knows at this point. So here we go. Trying to do the impossible.
1. Florida State - It's still Florida State's to lose. They return 14 starters from a really talented team that included a Heisman trophy winner in Jameis Winston. It will be hard to repeat, but they have the talent to do it.
2. Alabama - Alabama has had the top recruiting class the last four years, so it is obvious that they are loaded. They just need to find a quarterback, have the new defensive starters settle in as smoothly as they have in the past, and stop the high tempo offenses. Having the best running back group in the country will help slow down opposing teams by keeping them off the field.
3. Auburn - People are sleeping on Auburn, but they still have Guz Malzahn at the helm and have recruited pretty well the last few years. They won the SEC last year, and could do it again this year.
4. Stanford - Stanford is still trying to make the next leap into a National Championship caliber team, and I think they will at least get into the playoffs this year, so they might get that chance.
5. Ohio State - Even without Braxton Miller, this team has a lot of talent. And Urban Meyer has been pretty successful along the way. Plus, the schedule is way easy.
6. LSU - LSU is loaded with talent as always, and I think it will be enough to get them back in the elite category this season.
7. Oregon - Marcus Mariota is back for another year, and he should keep the engine running on the Ducks high powered attack. They still have that roadblock of Stanford each year who seems to have them solved enough to get a chance to win.
8. South Carolina - The Gamecocks have been consistently good the last few season, just some hiccups hold them back. I think they will win the SEC East, but the power of the West side will be too much for a SEC title.
9. UCLA - The Bruins have been on the rise the last few years, and they have the talent stocked to compete with the big boys of the Pac-12. I still think they are a small step behind.
10. Clemson - Clemson was pretty humbled last year by Florida State, plus they lost Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins. But Dabo Swinney has a good thing going, and I still think they will be a legit team.
11. Oklahoma - People have jumped on the OU bandwagon this year because of their great performance in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. But this is a team that got beat by a not very good Texas team and got throttled by Baylor. They struggled much of the year, but were able to come out on the winning side. They are still good, but let's not anoint them yet.
12. USC - Another Pac-12 team in the rankings, as they conference is probably on par with the SEC now. Steve Sarkisian takes over this year and should get the most out of a pretty talented roster.
13. Georgia - The Bulldogs had their entire team seemingly injured last year, and didn't have the season they expected. But they are back and healthy and going to ride Todd Gurley to a pretty good year.
14. Michigan State - Michigan State rose to the top last season after winning the Big 10 and a Rose Bowl victory. But they aren't going to surprise anyone anymore. And does their success work against them a bit. Still should be in the hunt for another Big 10 title.
15. Missouri - Missouri surprised everyone and came away with a SEC East title last year, and a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State. They only return 10 starters, and haven't been stellar in recruiting, but Gary Pinkel seems to know what he is doing.
16. Florida - After a miserable season last year, which was also marred by a ton of injuries, the Gators are ready to get back on top. They are still loaded with talent and should be able to compete if everyone stays healthy.
17. Texas A&M - No Johnny Football or Mike Evans, but Kevin Sumlin is still an excellent coach. They have recruited well the last few years and should still be able to stay relevant.
18. Notre Dame - Everett Golson returns after a year away, and should bring some fight back to the Fighting Irish. Schedule is pretty tough as usual for the Golden Domers.
19. Texas - Can Charlie Strong get the Longhorns back where they need to be? Not totally yet, but he will fix the defense, and he has a lot to work with.
20. Arizona State - Yet another Pac-12 team. The Sun Devils are probably not going to be competing for a conference title, but they will make some noise and probably knock someone else out of it.
21. Baylor - The Bears just return eight starters from a 11-2 last year, one which got humbled twice down the stretch by Oklahoma State and Central Florida in the bowl game. Offense is still going to be clicking at times and get them wins.
22. Michigan - The Wolverines under performed last year, but they have recruited well, it just needs to gel.
23. Central Florida - UCF obviously lost the terrific Blake Bortles, but they return 15 starters from a team that won a BCS game.
24. Miami - The Hurricanes are still trying to recover from the scandals of the past few years, but have recruited well enough to be competitive in the ACC.
25. Washington - Washington lost their coach, but probably got a slight upgrade as Chris Peterson left his position at Boise State to take over the Huskies. Only four returning starters on offense will slow them a bit.