Alabama, USC, Penn State lead Way-Too-Early College Football Top 25

2:17 | College Football
A way-too-early look at the 2017 college football landscape
Monday January 9th, 2017

We're less than a day removed from watching Clemson celebrate the national championship inside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., but it's not too soon to look ahead to 2017. A lot will change between now and the start of next season: Recruits will bolster depth charts and shake up competitions at certain positions, and transfers will change teams hoping to log significant playing time right away. Still, we have a pretty good sense of which programs should be in the running for the College Football Playoff, as well as which programs look more likely to fall short of bowl eligibility and finish near the bottom of their respective leagues. We'll put out another ranking of teams after spring practice wraps up and then adjust those rankings before Week 1, but for now, here's how we think the nation's top squads stack up:

College Football
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1Alabama Crimson Tide
2USC Trojans


3Penn State Nittany Lions

Three years into a full allotment of scholarships, the Nittany Lions will be deeper and better.

4Florida State Seminoles

Quarterback Deondre Francois grew up this year, and the return of safety Derwin James from injury will solidify the defense. 


Even with Deshaun Watson leaving, Clemson is now built to compete year-in and year-out.


Quarterback Baker Mayfield could lead the Sooners to three Big 12 titles in three seasons.


The Huskies have a lot to replace in the secondary, but Chris Petersen is just getting started.

11wisconsin badgers



Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is back, and that’s all you need to know. 

14auburn tigers

Quarterback transfer Jarrett Stidham, formerly of Baylor, is immediately eligible and he’ll get help on the ground from the Tigers’ running back duo of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.

16Tennessee Volunteers

Fans in Knoxville are running out of patience with Butch Jones, but maybe a new offensive coordinator makes the difference for the Vols.

17Stanford Cardinal

Four starters on the offensive line are back in 2017 for coach David Shaw, who has maintained one of the most consistent programs in the country the last five years. The off-season status of quarterback Keller Chryst, who injured his right knee in the Sun Bowl, is unknown.

18Texas longhorns

First-year coach Tom Herman was gifted plenty of talent on both sides of the ball— most notably quarterback Shane Buechele and linebacker Malik Jefferson — though the Longhorns will miss running back D’Onta Foreman. 


It’ll be a battle in spring ball amongst quarterbacks, with Luke Del Rio feeling pressure from two redshirt freshmen, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. The Gators have a lot to replace defensively, but have won back-to-back SEC East titles.


Don’t doubt the wizardry of Bill Snyder. The Wildcats return quarterback Jesse Ertz, running back Alex Barnes and four offensive linemen, plus 2016 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year D.J. Reed, a cornerback who broke up 16 passes in his first season on campus.

Oregon DUCKS

First-year coach Willie Taggart’s most impressive recruiting win so far came when he convinced running back Royce Freeman to return to school. He’ll get to run behind an experienced line (four of Oregon’s starting offensive linemen were redshirt freshmen in 2016) and play with a sophomore quarterback, Justin Herbert, who had a terrific freshman season. 


Replacing quarterback Brad Kaaya is priority No. 1 in Coral Gables, but an experienced defense can help the Hurricanes, who won five in a row to end the 2016 season.

ucla bruins

Is this the season the Bruins finally live up to the hype? A healthy Josh Rosen (shoulder surgery midway through 2016) will be key to challenging USC for the Pac-12 South title. 


First-year coach Charlie Strong pairs with dynamic quarterback Quinton Flowers, a darkhorse Heisman candidate, to lead the early Group of Five favorite. 

Also considered: Washington State, Boise State, TCU, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame

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