Every College Football Power-5 Conference Team Ranked

64. Kansas Jayhawks


Last year’s record: 1-11
Most important returning player: RB Khalil Herbert

Under the leadership of coach David Beaty, the Jayhawks have gone 3-33 over the past three seasons. There is not much to like about this year’s squad either. Kansas’ best player is Joe Dineen Jr., a linebacker who led the Big 12 in tackles last season. DT Daniel Wise is a preseason All-Big 12 selection, but beyond those two players, the cupboard is bare. Herbert is the Jayhawks’ best offensive player when healthy — Herbert posted a 291-yard rushing game against West Virginia — but injuries have been a problem. Kansas’ only win over a FBS team during Beaty’s tenure came against Texas in 2016. Lawrence natives should prepare for another rough season.

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63. Illinois Fighting Illini


Last year’s record: 2-10
Most important returning player: RB Mike Epstein

Lovie Smith’s return to coaching has not been pretty. Illinois is a combined 5-19 the past two seasons. These numbers provide little hope for both this upcoming season and Smith’s future. The Fighting Illini have an incredibly young roster, led by sophomores Bobby Roundtree and Bennett Williams. If the Illini have any hope of putting together a decent season, they must find a quarterback. Sophomore Cam Thomas was the only scholarship QB with the team in the spring (though three freshmen have since joined). Before suffering a season-ending injury last year, Epstein provided a spark from the running back position. This will be a pivotal year for Smith, as the Illini are pegged to finish last in the conference yet again.

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62. Oregon State Beavers


Last year’s record: 1-11
Most important returning player: QB Jake Luton

Oregon State was atrocious a season ago. The Beavers surrendered 516 points in 2017, the fourth worst mark in Division 1. Jonathan Smith is the new man in charge in Corvallis, replacing Gary Anderson. OSU will rely on quarterback Jake Luton to lead an offense that scored a Pac-12 low 248 points a season ago. The defense returns eight starters from last year, but if the Beavers hope to make any noise in the North, the unit must put forth a greater effort. OSU has an opportunity to gain some respect nationally as they open the season in Columbus against the Buckeyes, but year one will be a rebuilding year for Smith and the Beavers.

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61. Rutgers Scarlet Knights


Last year’s record: 4-8
Most important returning player: LB Deonte Roberts

After a rough introduction to the Big Ten in 2016, Rutgers showed signs of improvement last year. The offense was abysmal — 13.8 points per game in Big Ten play — but the defense began to show promise. Led by Roberts, the Scarlet Knights defense will be relied upon to carry the team this season. Rutgers’ back seven is the strength of its team. Roberts finished the year with 104 tackles, while Trevor Morris finished with a team-leading 118. Freshman Artur Sitowski could be the answer at quarterback for head coach Chris Ash. Rutgers seems to be on the upswing, but the process may take at least another season.

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60. Syracuse Orange


Last year’s record: 4-8
Most important returning player: QB Eric Dungey

The Orange have improved under coach Dino Babers, but they still may be a year away from true contention. After upsetting Clemson last season, Syracuse’s defense collapsed — allowing 162 points in their final three games. Any hopes for a bowl appearance comes down to two factors for the Orange. First, the health of their QB. Dungey, when healthy, is one of the better signal-callers in the conference. Secondly, the defense must improve on its abysmal ending and become a consistent group. The offensive line is experienced, and will be the key to the attack. While the defense struggled as a unit, nose tackle Chris Slayton is one of the best lineman in the ACC. Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson should provide a spark off the edge. Expectations are understandably low entering the season. If Babers can lead the Orange to a bowl game the campaign will be considered a success.

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59. Virginia Cavaliers


Last year’s record: 6-7
Most important returning player: RB Olamide Zaccheaus

Coach Bronco Mendenhall was able to lead the Cavaliers to a surprising bowl game appearance last season, but it will be a challenge to reach the same stage this year. Replacing Kurt Benkert at quarterback will be former Arizona State QB Bryce Perkins. Perkins should fit the offensive scheme better than Benkert, but it may take time to adjust to the system. Zaccheaus is an explosive player, who alongside Joe Reed should provide necessary firepower for the Cavaliers. Defensively, there is a decent amount of turnover. Three of the top linemen from last season are no longer on campus, while safety Quin Blanding and linebacker Micah Kiser are gone as well. It will be tough for Virginia to reach six wins this season, but fans should be optimistic for the future.

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58. Arkansas Razorbacks


Last year’s record: 4-8
Most important returning player: LB De’Jon Harris

Things are not looking good for the Razorbacks. Chad Morris enters his first season in Fayetteville with a team in transition. Ushering in a new era via an up-tempo offense will be a drastic departure from Bret Bielema’s old-school approach. Ty Storey and Cole Kelley are vying to be the starting quarterback. The Hogs’ offensive line is experienced, yet disappointing, and must improve if the Razorbacks hope to have success. Defensively, Arkansas will rely on Randy Ramsey, Gabe Richardson, and McTelvin Agim to create pressure on the quarterback. MLB De’Jon Harris returns to man the middle of the field — Harris notched 115 tackles last season — while the secondary returns three starters. An unproven offense and below-average defense will likely derail the Hogs season early on. The rest of the SEC West is far too talented for the Razorbacks to compete this season.

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57. Vanderbilt Commodores


Last year’s record: 5-7
Most important returning player: QB Kyle Shurmur

Coach Derek Mason will have a tough time leading Vanderbilt to more than five wins this season. Vandy’s best quarterback since Jay Cutler, Shurmur, returns for his second full season as the starter. Unfortunately, the Commodores must replace star tailback Ralph Webb and three of their top receivers. Illinois transfer Ke’Shawn Vaughn is in line to replace Webb, while Kalija Lipscomb will take over as the top receiver. The offensive line will be the strength of this unit, as the line returns five starters. Linebacker Charles White leads a defense that was absolutely mauled in conference play a season ago. The best player on the Commodores defense resides in the secondary. Cornerback Joejuan Williams joins Vandy as one of the top recruits in school history. Vandy avoids all the heavyweights in the West, but they will be hard pressed to find a way towards the top of the East.

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56. Baylor Bears


Last year’s record: 1-11
Most important returning player: QB Charlie Brewer

Baylor are far removed from the glory days of Robert Griffin III. After the Art Briles fiasco left the program reeling, the Bears are hopeful for a dramatic improvement over their one-win season. Brewer performed well at the end of last season. All-Big 12 receiver Denzel Mims and Jalen Hurd — a heralded transfer from Tennessee — should provide Brewer with two dynamic weapons. Defensively is where the Bears might struggle. They have a weak secondary, and injuries to their linebacker corp have left the unit haggard. Any passable contribution from the defense might be enough for Baylor to approach bowl eligibility, but the Bears face a steep climb.

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55. North Carolina Tar Heels


Last year’s record: 3-9
Most important returning player: WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams

The Tar Heels are coming off their worst season in a decade. Following a disappointing 3-win season, North Carolina must regain their form offensively if they have any hope of a bowl-caliber year. Usually a strength under coach Larry Fedora, the offense sputtered in 2017, scoring less than 20 PPG in ACC games. The starting quarterback is yet to be determined, with Chazz Surratt and Nathan Elliott vying for the job. Ratliff-Williams is far and away the most exciting player for the Tar Heels. A suspect offensive line will make life difficult for running backs Jordon Brown and Michael Carter, but both backs have shown promise. On the other side of the ball, UNC’s run defense has been atrocious for a while now — finishing last in the ACC the last five seasons. UNC should improve upon its three wins from a season ago, but the Tar Heels would be lucky to push for a .500 record this year.

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54. Maryland Terrapins


Last year’s record: 4-8
Most important returning player: DE Jesse Aniebonam

A season-opening win at #23 Texas last season had Maryland fans giddy for the rest of the season. The Terps went to Ohio State with a 3-1 record, and subsequently got trounced by a score of 62-14. Coach Durkin will have his top two quarterbacks, Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome, back in action for the opening week. Matt Canada will bring a new look to the offense this year, as the Terps will play with more an emphasis on snaps under center as opposed to their usual shotgun scheme. The defense will be boosted by incoming transfers Byron Cowart and Marcus Lewis, as well as returning stud Jesse Aniebonam. The Terps may be a few years away from competing for a Big Ten title, but they should enjoy a better season this year.

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53. Indiana Hoosiers


Last year’s record: 5-7
Most important returning player: DL Nile Sykes

Indiana may have had a losing record in 2017, but the Hoosiers easily could have flipped a few of their losses. Four of their seven losses came by eight points or fewer, including an overtime loss against Michigan. Offensively, Morgan Ellison is a promising back. The starting quarterback is still up for debate, as Peyton Ramsey and Arizona transfer Brandon Dawkins are fighting for the starting role. Indiana’s strength is their defense. The Hoosiers defense was sixth-best in the Big Ten last season in total yards allowed (while only surrendering 25.3 points per game). Linebacker Tegray Scales and lineman Jacob Robinson lead the way for the Hoosiers. The squad will be reliant upon Nile Sykes to supply a much-needed pass rush on the edge. The top of the conference is still far ahead of the Hoosiers, but head coach Tom Allen is making a difference in Bloomington.

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52. Minnesota Golden Gophers


Last year’s record: 5-7
Most important returning player: RB Rodney Smith

P.J. Fleck is trying to turn Minnesota into Western Michigan, going as far as ingraining his “Row the Boat” culture into the program and team uniform. Any hopes for a quick turnaround starts with Minnesota’s quarterback play. The Gophers threw for a measly seven touchdowns in Big Ten play a season ago, and head into 2018 without a trusty starter. Smith stands out as the purest playmaker, needing only 1,260 all-purpose yards to break the school record. The Gophers were rather stout defensively a season ago, finishing 36th nationally in points per game (22.8), and 11th against the pass (174.5 yards). DE Carter Coughlin and LB Thomas Barber are two of the best players on Minnesota’s roster. If Fleck can conjure a viable passing attack out of his quarterbacks, Minnesota may be on to something sooner rather than later.

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51. Arizona State Sun Devils


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: WR N’Keal Harry

ASU stunned (and confused) football fans when they hired Herm Edwards to be its new head coach. Edwards hasn’t coached since 2008, making his inaugural season with the Sun Devils one of the more interesting storylines of the season. ASU’s hopes reside with star receiver N’Keal Harry and quarterback Manny Wilkins. Harry is arguably the best wide-out in college football and Wilkins is a dynamic QB, giving ASU one of the best QB-WR combos in the nation. The offensive line will have to do a better job protecting Wilkins — allowed 41 sacks in 2017 — if the Sun Devils want to have a successful season. The Sun Devils have the potential to be a seven or eight win team, but their floor is also very low.

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50. Tennessee Volunteers


Last year’s record: 4-8
Most important returning player: DL Shy Tuttle

After one of the more bizarre coaching searches you’ll ever see, Tennessee settled on Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt’s opening act in Knoxville will be a rough one. Keller Chryst, a Stanford graduate transfer, will likely be the Vols starting quarterback. Ty Chandler is an explosive player who should see the most carries out of the backfield. Tennessee’s sub-par defense will likely test Pruitt’s patience in Year One. Nose tackles Shy Tuttle and Alexis Johnson will have to play better if the Vols want to improve against the run. To make matters worse, the Vols have one of the tougher schedules in football. The Vols open the season against West Virginia, host two cupcakes (East Tennessee State and UTEP), and then have to go through a daunting five-game gauntlet — vs. Florida, @ Georgia, @ Auburn, vs. Alabama, @ South Carolina. Good luck.

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49. Ole Miss Rebels


Last year’s record: 6-6
Most important returning player: WR A.J. Brown

It’s hard to get too excited about a team that is bowl ineligible to begin the season, but Ole Miss has some players worth watching. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Brown is an absolute stud, projected to be a high first-round draft pick. D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge give the Rebels, quite possibly, the best receiving corp in the country. Ole Miss has a veteran offensive line, led by future pro Greg Little. As explosive as the offense can be, the defense could be an absolute dumpster fire. It all starts up front (the Rebels allowed 270.5 rushing yards per game in the SEC) where linebackers Detric Bing-Dukes and Willie Hibbler will be tasked with solidifying the defense. In a season where their win/loss record doesn’t matter, the Rebels will be a dangerous, upset-minded team playing with nothing to lose.

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48. Colorado Buffaloes


Last year’s record: 5-7
Most important returning player: QB Steven Montez

The Buffaloes were one of college football’s darlings two seasons ago, surprising everyone by winning 10 games and reaching the Pac-12 Championship. Last season, Colorado fell back down to Earth. Montez will be crucial to Colorado’s hopes in the South this season, especially with the departure of Phillip Lindsey leaving a hole at running back. The Buffs return six defensive starters to a unit that surrendered over six yards per play last year. The Pac-12 did Colorado a favor this year as they avoid playing both Stanford and Oregon. Expect Mike MacIntyre’s squad to finish the season with six or seven wins.

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47. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets


Last year’s record: 5-6
Most important returning player: QB TaQuon Marshall

One of the truly unique programs in America, Georgia Tech will once again rely on its option-based flexbone offense to lead the way. Marshall was potent as a rusher last season — six 100-yard rushing games — but will need to improve as a passer for the Yellow Jackets to thrive. KirVonte Benson will be a big part of the offense, as he excels in short-yardage situations. DE Anree Saint-Amour and OLB Victor Alexander stand to benefit the most from Tech’s defensive changes — new Defensive Coordinator Nate Woody plans to implement a 3-4 front — giving the Yellow Jackets a more attack-minded defense. Tech doesn’t have an easy schedule, but this experienced group should return to the postseason.

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46. Duke Blue Devils


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: QB Daniel Jones

Duke is coming off a bizarre 2017 campaign. After starting 4-0, the Blue Devils lost six in a row, only to finish the season with three straight victoiries. Jones, one of the best QB’s in the ACC, returns and should lead an improved offense. T.J. Rahming remains Jones’ top weapon, coming off a 65-catch, 795-yard season. The Blue Devils will be stout on defense once again. Linebacker Joe Giles-Harris is immensely talented. Paired with LB Ben Humphreys, Duke has one of the best linebacker corps in the nation. All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert will lead a secondary that will be breaking-in three new starters. If the Blue Devils offense can avoid another lull — 12.2 PPG during their six-game losing streak — Duke may be a dangerous team in the ACC.

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45. Kentucky Wildcats


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: RB Benny Snell Jr.

Kentucky has shown promising signs the past few years, but enters 2018 with one glaring weakness: The Wildcats do not have a quarterback on their roster who has taken a D-1 snap. Fortunately, stud running back Benny Snell Jr. should provide a ton of production for the offense (Snell rushed for 1,333 yards in 2017). Snell will be running behind a veteran offensive line that returns four starters. The strength of this Kentucky team, however, is their defense. Led by OLB Josh Allen and safety Mike Edwards, the Wildcats return eight starters. Edwards leads all SEC defensive backs in tackles the last two seasons, and will be key to the Wildcats defense. Playing in the weaker division, Kentucky has a chance to make some noise in the SEC. The key will be finding a competent quarterback — which if they do, the Cats should go bowling.

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44. Washington State Cougars


Last year’s record: 9-4
Most important returning player: S Jalen Thompson

It has been a rough offseason in Pullman. The tragic loss of Tyler Hilinski will weigh on the Cougars for a long time to come, and could potentially derail their season in the interim. Minshew, a grad transfer from East Carolina, will be the Cougars’ quarterback to start the year. Replacing defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will also be a tall task for Wazzu, as Grinch turned the Cougars defense into a good outfit over the past few seasons. Washington State has the talent to remain formidable, but it is likely they will take a small step back in 2018.

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43. Purdue Boilermakers


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: LB Markus Bailey

Jeff Brohm is making Purdue fans very optimistic about their future prospects. The Boilermakers are coming off their most promising season since 2003, and look like a team capable of making a big jump over the next few seasons. The offense will likely carry the team this season, as a big chunk of their defensive unit have departed the program. Both of their top QB options — Elijah Sindelar and David Blough — are returning from devastating injuries. The offense will be paced by a good group of running backs led by Markell Jones and Tario Fuller. Replacing the missing pieces on defense will be a tall task. This aspect may result in Purdue taking a slight step back this year before climbing up the standings in the coming years.

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42. Texas Tech Red Raiders


Last year’s record: 6-7
Most important returning player: LB Dakota Allen

Texas Tech enters the 2018 season with coach Kliff Kingsbury on the hot seat once again. Known for their high-powered offense, the Red Raiders will rely on their defense this season. Led by ‘Last Chance U’ star Dakota Allen, the Tech defense should be a formidable unit. Joining Allen on the preseason All-Big 12 team are defensive backs Jah’Shawn Johnson and Justus Parker. While the offensive line returns all five starters, WR T.J. Vasher is the only returning starter from the skill positions. The Red Raiders defense should be good enough to win a few games, but Tech must find a back capable of gaining tough yards in order to keep the offense on the field. Another 6-7 win season appears likely.

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41. Nebraska Cornhuskers


Last year’s record: 4-8
Most important returning player: WR Stanley Morgan

Lincoln is charged up and ready to return to the spotlight thanks to Scott Frost’s return. After leading UCF to an undefeated season, Frost has returned home to turn around a downtrodden Nebraska program. Two freshmen, Tristan Gebbia and Adrian Martinez, are the front-runners to start at quarterback. Luckily, two of the Cornhuskers best players are wide-outs Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman. The Huskers defense was atrocious last season, and must turn it around if they hope to avoid another losing season. Nebraska hasn’t won the Big Ten since 1999. The Cornhuskers likely won’t be conference contenders this season. However with Frost back in town, things are looking up for Big Red.

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40. California Golden Bears


Last year’s record: 5-7
Most important returning player: QB Ross Bowers

Justin Wilcox and company may have only won five games last year, but the Golden Bears probably deserved more — they lost three games by three or fewer points. Bowers returns after throwing for more than 3,000 yards and he will have good support in the backfield. Patrick Laird broke out with 1,127 yards in 2017, providing Cal with a capable runner and hope for a potent attack. Their schedule, while still tough, is easier than last year’s. Returning 18 starters will help a young Cal team, as will another season under the watch of Wilcox. Cal may still be a few years away from challenging for the North, but they should be an improved group this year.

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39. Pittsburgh Panthers


Last year’s record: 5-7
Most important returning player: QB Kenny Pickett

After knocking off No. 2 Miami to end their 2017 season, Pitt hopes to carry over the momentum and become nationally relevant in 2018. Pickett has been touted as the future at quarterback, while running backs Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison look to provide a dynamic threat out of the backfield. Alex Bookser, an honorable mention All-ACC tackle, will be the centerpiece of the offensive line. Seven starters return on defense, headlined by nose tackle Shane Roy and edge rusher Dewayne Hendrix. Oluwaseun Idowu returns at linebacker aside Saleem Brightwell and Elijah Zeise — Idowu led the team with 94 tackles and 5.0 sacks a season ago. If Pitt knocks off Penn State in Week 2, there is a chance the Panthers can start the season 6-0. Pitt has been good for a big win the past few years, but consistency will be key in order to have a successful season.

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38. Kansas State Wildcats


Last year’s record: 8-5
Most important returning player: RB Alex Barnes

It seems as if Bill Snyder’s Wildcats are consistently overlooked. Every year, or so it seems, the Wildcats enter the season as underrated. There are a few things you can count on with Snyder-led teams. They will be physical (some would say dirty), tough to beat, and consistent. Running back Alex Barnes will reap the benefits of running behind a veteran offensive line. The quarterback position is unsettled, with Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson both capable of leading the team. Defensively, the Wildcats must replace their two leading tacklers from last year. The secondary is the only group that doesn’t face an overhaul, resulting in an experimental season defensively. K-State should never be counted out, but this doesn’t appear to be one of Snyder’s stronger teams.

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37. Wake Forest Demon Deacons


Last year’s record: 8-5
Most important returning player: WR Greg Dortch

Wake Forest is a better team than many people may realize. The Demon Deacons will be without their starting quarterback, Kendall Hinton, for the first three contests, but Tulane and Towson shouldn’t pose too many problems. Matt Colburn flashed at running back last season and should be Wake’s workhorse on the ground this year. Dortch returns as one of the ACC’s best receivers. Cam Serigne is a legitimate tight end who will help spread the field for the Demon Deacons. While the offensive line is one of the league’s best, the defense is a bit of a question mark. Wake loses two defensive ends, two starting linebackers, and safety Jessie Bates (who turned pro earlier than expected). There are holes to fill on both sides of the ball, especially defensively, but Wake is a promising team. An 8-win season is reasonable, and anything short of a bowl appearance would be disappointing.

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36. Louisville Cardinals


Last year’s record: 8-5
Most important returning player: QB Jawon Pass

With Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, coach Bobby Petrino must find a way to replace his top passer and runner. Jawon Pass has been pegged as the Cardinals new signal-caller, and he will have a great group of receivers to help ease his acclamation period. Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Seth Dawkins lead the way for Louisville, with Smith being the group’s top receiver. The running backs are a bit of a mystery, due to Jackson limiting their attempts over the past few seasons. In hopes of turning around an atrocious defense, Louisville welcomes its third defensive coordinator in as many years. Linebacker Dorian Etheridge may be the best returning player, but there is a ton of work left to do. Opening the season against Alabama almost guarantees a bad start to 2018, but the Cardinals should finish right around eight wins again.

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35. Iowa State Cyclones


Last year’s record: 8-5
Most important returning player: DL Ray Lima

Iowa State is one of the more intriguing teams in the conference this season. After taking down both TCU and Oklahoma last year, fans in Ames are understandably optimistic for the Cyclones campaign. Quarterback Kyle Kempt returns for one last chance at taking down the Big 12’s best, and he will have plenty of help in the backfield. David Montgomery is a game-breaking back — led the country in broken tackles — who will alleviate pressure for Kempt and help fuel the Cyclone attack. State’s defense ranked second in the conference last season, allowing 20.9 points per game. Most of the unit returns, led by nose tackle Ray Lima. The Cyclones’ defensive line will once again be the strength of the defense. Iowa State has the potential to shock America this year.

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34. Florida Gators


Last year’s record: 4-7
Most important returning player: LB David Reese

The Gators are the team I believe is most likely to flop in 2018. Dan Mullen entering The Swamp has Gator fans excited for the upcoming season, and some pundits placing Florida firmly in their top-25. Unquestionably, the Gators have the talent to win. However, the Gators still do not have a quarterback capable of leading the way. Feleipe Franks or Emory Jones will be tasked with leading the attack, but neither have proven much. Running backs Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine are promising, but are similarly unproven. Florida’s defense took a step back a season ago, but they have some nice players. Linebacker David Reese led the way with 102 tackles last season, cornerbacks Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson combine for one of the better CB units, and DT Tedarrell Slaton has the chance to be special. While the Gators have a high upside, the lack of consistency at quarterback can potentially doom the team once again. The Gators should go bowling, but we should pump the breaks on their chances to win the SEC East.

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33. Iowa Hawkeyes


Last year’s record: 8-5
Most important returning player: QB Nate Stanley

In Kirk Ferentz’s 19 seasons with the Hawkeyes, Iowa has finished under .500 four times — including his first two years on the job. It is a safe bet, nearly every year, that Iowa will be a competent team. Iowa’s best rusher from a year ago, Akrum Wadley, is gone. Their three starting linebackers from last year, including All-American Josey Jewell, have left the program. Duly, All-American cornerback Josh Jackson is currently plying his trade in the NFL. Nate Stanley provides a steady hand at quarterback. This will be crucial when facing teams like Wisconsin and Penn State. Iowa has the potential to have a very good record considering it avoids Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State on its schedule. Without question, the Hawkeyes could challenge for the Big Ten West crown.

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32. Texas A&M Aggies


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: RB Trayveon Williams

In the years following Johnny Manziel’s tenure with the Aggies, A&M have floundered. Jimbo Fisher’s decision to leave Florida State and join A&M has exhilarated fans. While there is talent on the roster, namely running back Trayveon Williams, Jimbo is without a surefire option at quarterback. Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond appear to be the top candidates, but the offense will run through Williams. Finding a No. 1 receiver to replace Christian Kirk will also be a problem. The receivers and offensive line have some potential, but nobody has separated themselves from the pack. Defensive end Landis Durham — 10.5 sacks a year ago — returns as the Aggies premier edge rusher. The linebacker corp seems to be in good hands with Tyrel Dodson and Derrick Tucker manning the middle of the field. The Aggies’ secondary must improve if they want to contend with the top of the West, but Jimbo’s team seems to be at least a year away.

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31. Missouri Tigers


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: QB Drew Lock

Missouri is led by one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, Drew Lock, one who is garnering hype as a potential first-round pick. Wide-out Emanuel Hall will be Lock’s top receiving threat, a year after averaging 24.8 yards per catch and hauling in eight touchdowns. Albert Okwuegbunam has the ability to be one of the best tight ends in the SEC. Damarea Crockett and Larry Roundtree III can combine to be one of the best running back duos in the nation, buoyed by an above-average offensive line. Known as “D-Line Zou”, Missouri features a potent defensive front led by tackle Terry Beckner Jr. and Texas transfer Jordan Elliott. Terez Hall, Cale Garrett and Brandon Lee combine for a great linebacker corp. Mizzou will be a dangerous team, and could potentially finish second behind Georgia in the East.

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30. Arizona Wildcats


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: QB Khalil Tate

The last time Kevin Sumlin had a quarterback this electrifying, he (Johnny Manziel) won the Heisman Trophy. Tate enters the 2018 season as one of the most exciting players in the nation. Tate accounted for over 3,000 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns last season, including a ridiculous 1,411 yards on the ground. Arizona has 17 returning starters, nine of which are on the Wildcats’ defense. Arizona will be a trendy pick to win a lot of contests in the Pac-12, and with Tate leading the charge, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Zona push for eight or nine wins. Nine wins and a potential Pac-12 South title could go a long way in helping Tate’s Heisman case as well.

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29. UCLA Bruins


Last year’s record: 6-7
Most important returning player: TE Caleb Wilson

Usually when a program loses a talent like Josh Rosen, there can be a sense of doom surrounding the program — that is not the case with the 2018 Bruins. Chip Kelly choosing UCLA over Florida has re-energized the fan base and made people across the country take notice of the Bruins. TE Caleb Wilson should become a national name under Kelly. Wilson was one of the best offensive players in the country last year before an injury ended his season. The Bruins have one of the toughest schedules in the country this year, including road games against Oklahoma and Oregon. It may take a season or two for Kelly’s program to take off, but an eight-win season would be a tremendous result for Kelly’s Bruins.

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28. NC State Wolfpack


Last year’s record: 9-4
Most important returning player: QB Ryan Finley

Despite losing the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Bradley Chubb, NC State should be very hopeful heading into the new season. Led by Finley, the Wolfpack’s offense has the chance to be deadly. Finley will be able to utilize one of the best receiving corps in the nation, led by Kelvin Harmon, Steph Louis, and Jakobi Meyers. A healthy Reggie Gallaspy could potentially break 1,000 yards on the ground behind a line that returns three starters. Including Chubb, State must replace eight defensive starters. It will be a tall task to remain one of the better run-stopping units, but the talent is in place — look for Darian Roseboro and Shug Frazier to be impact players. NC State has the offense to hang with anyone, and will likely need boatloads of points if they’d like to finish the season in a similar position as last year.

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27. LSU Tigers


Last year’s record: 9-4
Most important returning player: DB Greedy Williams

Like Florida, LSU is a team that has a low floor and somewhat high ceiling. The Tigers will rely on their defense, much like they have for the past decade. Cornerback Greedy Williams and linebacker Devin White are bonafide stars. The defensive line should be stout with the additions of Breiden Fehoko (Texas Tech transfer) and Tyler Shelvin (returns after academic problems), joining Ed Alexander and Rashard Lawrence. Minus Williams, the rest of the secondary is a big question mark for the Tigers, and could prove to be a season-long problem. Offensively, LSU could be in trouble. They do not return a running back who rushed for a touchdown last season, the quarterback competition is ongoing — Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow appears to be the favorite — and they will rely on Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles to be their lead receiver. Their schedule is tough, facing Miami in the opener followed by a road game at Auburn, and home games versus Mississippi State, Alabama, and Georgia. If LSU doesn’t post another 8-9 win season, coach Ed Orgeron may be shown the door.

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26. Oklahoma State Cowboys


Last year’s record: 10-3
Most important returning player: RB Justice Hill

With QB Mason Rudolph now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Gundy must find a quarterback capable enough to support the rest of the Cowboys’ dynamic offense. Led by RB Justice Hill, the Pokes should still feature a potent attack. Jalen McCleskey has the capability of becoming the next big-time receiver in Stillwater. Marcus Keyes is an All-Big 12 guard, steadying an above-average offensive line. Defense has never been a staple under Gundy, but a scheme change this offseason should pay dividends. If the Pokes can find a good replacement for Rudolph, another 10-win season may be in the cards.

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25. Boston College Eagles


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: RB AJ Dillon

Boston College fans have a lot to be excited about. Dillon is a force at running back, and is getting early hype as a Heisman candidate. Running behind one of the best, and most experienced, lines in college football certainly helps the uber-talented back. Tight end Tommy Sweeney returns as the Eagles leading receiver, and wide-outs Kobay White and Jeff Smith should provide the BC quarterback with two additional weapons. Between Anthony Brown and EJ Perry, head coach Steve Addazio must decide which quarterback gives the team a better chance to win. The Eagles front seven will be a strength. Zach Allen returns after recording 100 tackles and 6 sacks a season ago. LB Connor Strachan returns after missing all of 2017, a true boon for the Eagles. Lukas Denis leads an above-average secondary. Quarterback play and a brutal stretch — vs. Miami, @ Virginia Tech, vs. Clemson, @ Florida State — may prevent the Eagles from having a great record, but this team has the potential to be very good.

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24. Northwestern Wildcats


Last year’s record: 10-3
Most important returning player: LB Paddy Fisher

Pat Fitzgerald has done a tremendous job turning around the Northwestern program. The Wildcats have averaged nine wins in each of the past three seasons, and are coming off a great 10-win campaign. Clayton Thorson returning for another season gives the Wildcats the most experienced quarterback in the conference. Replacing star running back Justin Jackson will be difficult, but Jeremy Larkin should provide the Cats with a respectable option. Northwestern’s defense should be very good this year, led by Joe Gaziano, Paddy Fisher, Nate Hall, and Montre Hartage. Avoiding Ohio State and Penn State gives Northwestern a shot at a 10-win season for a second year in a row.

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23. Texas Longhorns


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: WR Collin Johnson

Texas boosters are hoping for a huge jump in Tom Herman’s second season. After arriving in Austin with tons of hype, Herman led the Longhorns to a decent season in his debut. UT should once again have a punishing defense, even after losing four standout players. Texas’ front seven is absolutely loaded, and the Longhorns have added three national top-100 players to their defensive backfield through recruiting. Offensively, WR Collin Johnson will star. The No. 1 running back recruit in the state of Texas, Keaontay Ingram, will challenge Cal transfer Tre Watson and Daniel Young for snaps. Texas needs a quarterback to emerge amongst the pack. The Longhorns’ season hinges on a nasty four-game stretch — vs. USC, vs. TCU, @ Kansas State, vs. Oklahoma. There is potential to lose all four games, but the upside of winning the majority of those matchups is huge.

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22. South Carolina Gamecocks


Last year’s record: 9-4
Most important returning player: WR Deebo Samuel

Will Muschamp seems to be more comfortable with the Gamecocks than he ever did at Florida. South Carolina has improved under Muschamp’s leadership and seems to be on a path to more success. Jake Bentley has done well as the starting quarterback, and should take another step forward this year. Wide-out Deebo Samuel amassed six touchdowns in only three games in 2017, a number which should rise being Bentley’s first target. The Gamecocks’ defense is a solid unit, although one bereft of proven stars. Linebacker T.J. Brunson and DT Javon Kinlaw stand out as the two most promising defenders. Depth could be an issue at all levels of the defense. Rashad Fenton and Keisean Nixon, South Carolina’s starting corners, both need big seasons if the Gamecocks want to compete in the East. South Carolina gets there chance at glory when they host Georgia in Week 2. A win against the No. 2 Bulldogs would go a long way in furthering their national perception.

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21. Utah Utes


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: QB Tyler Huntley

This Utah team has the potential to win the South for the first time since joining the Pac-12. Kyle Whittingham’s Utes are one of the most experienced teams in the conference and are led by a dynamic QB-RB combination in Huntley and Zack Moss. Utah has a daunting schedule in 2018, but with three teams in the South under new leadership, the division is theirs for the taking. Utah’s floor is relatively high, as I don’t see the Utes finishing any worse than 7-5.

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20. West Virginia Mountaineers


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: QB Will Grier

The Will Grier hype-train is reaching maximum speed. Blessed with one of the best receiving corps in the nation, a healthy Grier is being pegged as a legitimate Heisman candidate. Before a finger injury ended his season, Grier was in the top three nationally in both passing touchdowns and passing yards. Gary Jennings, who led the Big 12 in receptions, returns in tandem with David Sills V, a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Yodny Cajuste’s decision to return to Morgantown is a huge boon for the Mountaineers offensive line. While the offense is poised to explode, the defense is a major concern. WVU lost two linebackers to ACL injuries in spring ball, and they must replace both starting corners from last season. If the defense can provide any type of support, West Virginia may find itself in the top-15.

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19. Virginia Tech Hokies


Last year’s record: 9-4
Most important returning player: QB Josh Jackson

After an offseason that all of Blacksburg would like to forget, the Hokies are poised to contend in the ACC. Josh Jackson returns at quarterback and looks to improve on his inconsistent play to end last season. An experienced offensive line that brings back three starters should help an unproven stable of running backs. Steven Peoples, an absolute tank at 5-foot-9, 221 pounds, will share carries with Deshawn McClease and Jalen Holston. A defense that allowed a measly 14.8 PPG last year must retool after losing three players (Tre and Terrell Edmunds, Tim Settle) to the NFL. Head coach Justin Fuente has a very young team, but one that is talented. The Hokies avoid Clemson in the regular season and host two of the three toughest games on their schedule (Notre Dame and Miami). Tech should challenge the Canes for the Coastal Division crown.

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18. Florida State Seminoles


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: RB Cam Akers

Outside of Clemson and Miami, nobody has the talent to match Florida State in the ACC. New head coach Willie Taggart inherits a team that vastly underachieved a season ago. After suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Seminoles opener, QB Deondre Francois should be ready for this year’s opening tilt with Virginia Tech. Akers will star at running back for the Seminoles, with Jacques Patrick also capable of gaining good yards on the ground. The offensive line has been suspect over the past two years (68 sacks allowed) and will need to step up. The defensive line will be a strong point for FSU — look for Demarcus Christmas, Marvin Wilson, Brian Burns, and Joshua Kaindoh to lead the way. In addition to the departures of Derwin James and Tavarus McFadden from the secondary, the Seminoles must replace all three starting linebackers. FSU may be a year or two away from being national contenders, but they have the talent to compete with the top of the ACC.

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17. Mississippi State Bulldogs


Last year’s record: 9-4
Most important returning player: QB Nick Fitzgerald

A trendy pick as a CFB Playoff dark horse, the Mississippi State Bulldogs will be a very dangerous team under new head coach Joe Moorhead. Dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald may be the best QB in the SEC. Fitzgerald has been more effective as a runner, but playing in Moorhead’s offense should improve his passing game. Fitzgerald will rely on three talented, inexperienced, wide-outs — Stephen Guidry, Devonta Jason, and Malik Health. Aeris Williams is a talented running back who will enjoy working behind a line that returns four starters. The Bulldogs return many of their starters from a defense that ranked No. 10 nationally in total yards allowed last season. Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons are a terror on the defensive line. The Bulldogs also bring back their two leading tacklers from a year ago, hard-hitting safeties Mark McLaurin and Johnathan Abram. Erroll Thompson is a rising star at linebacker. Road trips to Kansas State, Alabama, and LSU aren’t easy, but the Bulldogs seem well-equipped to stand up to any task.

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16. Michigan State Spartans


Last year’s record: 10-3
Most important returning player: RB L.J. Scott

Mark Dantonio’s Spartans are always a tough team to knock off, and that will be no different this season. The Spartans have won at least 10 games in six of the past eight campaigns. Quarterback Brian Lewerke is an important piece for Sparty, but running back L.J. Scott will be expected to power the offense. Michigan State returns all but four starters from last seasons squad, and should once again have one of the nations best defenses. State’s secondary may be the best in the country, supporting a rushing defense that ranked second nationally a season ago. Michigan State is joined by Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan in a loaded East, but it would be foolish to count out the Spartans.

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15. TCU Horned Frogs


Last year’s record: 11-3
Most important returning player: WR/Returner KaVontae Turpin

Gary Patterson has another dangerous team in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs have the best front seven in the Big 12, and one of the best in the nation. Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Banogu, is a terror coming off the edge. The addition of All-MAC linebacker Jawuan Johnson adds depth to the unit, while Ross Blacklock is a future star at defensive tackle. Offensively, wide receiver KaVontae Turpin is one of the most explosive players in the country. QB Shawn Robinson has tons of potential and will look to take his game to the next level. Three 4-star receivers and three 4-star running backs provide great depth for the offense. The biggest weakness for TCU might be their offensive line, as Cordel Iwuagwu is the lone starter remaining from last year. If the Horned Frogs can solidify their offensive line, this team has the potential to win the Big 12.

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14. USC Trojans


Last year’s record: 11-3
Most important returning player: OL Toa Lobendahn

Just like their crosstown rivals, USC is faced with replacing its superstar quarterback from last year. With Sam Darnold now playing for the New York Jets, look for freshman J.T. Daniels to seize the starting role. RB Stephen Carr is an elusive back who has the potential to be the next great SC back. USC’s defense has the capability to be one of the best in the conference, but the team’s success will likely come down to quarterback play. Toa Lobendahn will be instrumental in solidifying the offensive line for the Trojans. USC is lucky to avoid both Washington and Oregon in the regular season, giving SC the easiest path to the Pac-12 South crown.

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13. Oregon Ducks


Last year’s record: 7-6
Most important returning player: QB Justin Herbert

Everything is lining up for Oregon to have a great season. Star quarterback Justin Herbert is set to return to the lineup after missing the last half of 2017. The Ducks have one of the easier schedules in the conference, avoiding USC and playing Stanford, Washington, and UCLA at home. With a healthy Herbert last year, the Ducks averaged 52.1 points per game. Herbert will be a trendy Heisman pick if the Ducks start the year strong — three cupcakes precede a showdown with Stanford in Week 4. Herbert will have plenty of help on offense, so the Ducks’ success will ultimately come down to their defense. If the defense continues to improve under Jim Leavitt, Oregon has the ability to challenge Stanford and Washington for Pac-12 supremacy.

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12. Penn State Nittany Lions


Last year’s record: 11-2
Most important returning player: QB Trace McSorley

Replicating the production of Saquon Barkley is nearly impossible, though that is not the only problem the Nittany Lions are facing heading into 2018. The Penn State defense has to replace eight starters from last years team. James Franklin’s squad is incredibly talented and has athletes at every level. McSorley will get a ton of Heisman love if he performs up to his standards, and he’ll have to be incredible for Penn State to survive their Big Ten gauntlet. Ohio State and Michigan State travel to Happy Valley back-to-back weeks. The Nittany Lions also have a very tough three-game stretch later on in the year (vs. Iowa, at Michigan, vs. Wisconsin). These contests could make-or-break their season.

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11. Michigan Wolverines


Last year’s record: 8-5
Most important returning player: DL Rashan Gary

The one thing everyone says has been holding back Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan teams since his arrival? The lack of a quarterback. This is where Shea Patterson comes in. The former 5-star recruit transferred to Ann Arbor after starting his career at Ole Miss. Patterson’s instant eligibility immediately makes Michigan a contender in the Big Ten — and perhaps nationally as well. The Michigan defense is elite. Rashan Gary is a standout on the the defensive line. Devin Bush — an All-American inside linebacker — is flanked by a potential All-American in Khaleke Hudson. To top it off, Lavert Hill and David Long make up one of the best secondaries in the nation. The pressure is on Michigan and Harbaugh this season.

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10. Auburn Tigers


Last year’s record: 10-4
Most important returning player: QB Jarrett Stidham

If Auburn doesn’t have it hard enough having to go through Alabama and LSU every year, the Tigers open the season against No. 6 Washington. Stidham is a good enough quarterback to lead Auburn through the SEC and potentially challenge for the conference, but it is yet to be seen if the offensive line can keep the gunslinger upright. Auburn has had a bevy of good running backs for about a decade, and that should continue this year. Kam Martin is poised to become the lead back after averaging 6.1 yards per carry last season. Ryan Davis, the Tigers top receiving threat, returns after setting a school record with 84 receptions in 2017. After Clemson, Auburn might have the best defensive line in the nation. Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, and Dontavius Russell are the headliners on a stacked line. Linebackers Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams, the top tacklers in 2017, are back to hold down the middle of the field. As talented as they are, Auburn will have a tough time reaching the playoffs. A schedule this hard — Washington (neutral site), vs. LSU, @ Mississippi State, @ Georgia, @ Alabama — will be nearly impossible to get through without two or more losses.

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9. Stanford Cardinal


Last year’s record: 9-5
Most important returning player: RB Bryce Love

The two biggest hurdles for Stanford this season will be the Washington Huskies and their unbalanced schedule. Love’s decision to return to The Farm is huge for the Cardinal. Love will be in the mix for the Heisman Trophy should Stanford have a successful season. K.J. Costello has the potential to be Stanford’s best quarterback since Andrew Luck. He gives the Cardinal the added dimension of being able to throw the ball downfield. Four of the five losses Stanford suffered last season were by three points or fewer. Road games against Oregon, Notre Dame, Washington and UCLA will be challenging. However, this team possesses the talent to win 10+ games in 2018.

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8. Miami Hurricanes


Last year’s record: 10-3
Most important returning player: RB Travis Homer

The swagger is back at Miami. Mark Richt has done a wonderful job turning the Hurricanes back into a player on the national scene. Malik Rosier is back at quarterback. If he can limit his turnovers, Miami has a good chance at the conference crown. Rosier will be surrounded by plenty of weapons at both wide-out and running back. Wideout Ahmmon Richards returns following knee surgery, while Homer leads a terrific group of running backs. The offensive line is a work in progress, and the Canes playoff chances might ultimately come down to how well their protection holds up. The U’s defense is loaded. The ACC’s best linebacker corp — Zach McCloud, Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney — lead an aggressive, physical defense. The Canes’ defensive front has the chance to be dominant thanks to ends Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin. Miami opens the season against LSU, and if the Canes come away with a victory, the path looks clear to a showdown with Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

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7. Wisconsin Badgers


Last year’s record: 13-1
Most important returning player: RB Jonathan Taylor

Wisconsin isn’t a flashy team by any stretch of the imagination, but they may have one of the two best running backs in the country. Jonathan Taylor is an absolute animal. Taylor finished third in rushing yards behind Rashaad Penny (now with the Seahawks) and Bryce Love (Stanford’s electric back). Quarterback Alex Hornibrook also returns to Madison in hopes of avenging their loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. Overall, this might be the best Badgers offense since Russell Wilson was on campus. Defensively, the Badgers must replace eight starters (though the only group of major concern may be the secondary). For the first time during the Paul Chryst era, the Badgers offense must carry the team to reach their ultimate goal.

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6. Oklahoma Sooners


Last year’s record: 12-2
Most important returning player: RB Rodney Anderson

The Sooners will have to rebound from losing their Heisman winning quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The man for the job, Kyler Murray, was recently drafted by the Oakland A’s in the first round of the MLB Draft. Murray is a tremendous athlete and should plug into the Sooner offense nicely. Star tailback Rodney Anderson will likely be a workhorse this season, and wide-out Marquise Brown will work well as Murray’s top option. Anderson and Murray will benefit greatly from playing behind a very solid line. The defense was iffy last season, especially against the pass, and this year might be more of the same. Kenneth Murray will look to follow up his Freshman All-American season with another gem. Look out for freshman “Bookie” Brendan Radley-Hiles, the Calabasas/IMG Academy product can be a game-changer at corner. Even without Mayfield, Oklahoma is the Big 12 favorite, and a potential College Football Playoff contender.

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5. Ohio State Buckeyes


Last year’s record: 12-2
Most important returning player: DL Nick Bosa

The Buckeyes are the only team from the Big Ten to win a National Championship this century. Even after losing seven players to the NFL, Urban Meyer’s team is absolutely loaded. Dwayne Haskins appears to be the replacement at quarterback for former star J.T. Barrett. J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber combine to make up one of the best backfields around. The Buckeyes return their top seven receivers from a year ago. As such, Haskins should have plenty of weapons to play with. Nick Bosa leads a defense that accumulated 114 tackles for loss last season. Ohio State can play with anybody, and should be the class of the Big Ten yet again.
 
*As of August 1, Urban Meyer has been placed on administrative leave. Ohio State is investigating Courtney Smith’s domestic violence claims against her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant football coach Zach Smith.
 
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4. Washington Huskies


Last year’s record: 10-3
Most important returning player: RB Myles Gaskin

Ever since Chris Petersen made the jump from Boise to Seattle, the Huskies have been on the fast-track to the top of college football. Two seasons removed from an appearance in the College Football Playoff, Washington is primed for another shot at the final quartet. Gaskin returns as one of the best running backs in the Pac-12. Former Heisman hopeful Jake Browning is back for another crack at glory. The Huskies have one of the best defensive backfields in the nation, and should once again have the best unit in the conference. The one hole in Washington’s attack may be the lack of a deep threat. If the Huskies can get past Auburn in their Week 1 tilt, UW could see itself running the table all the way to the College Football Playoff.

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3. Georgia Bulldogs


Last year’s record: 13-2
Most important returning player: QB Jake Fromm

Georgia exceeded expectations in 2017, coming extremely close to knocking off Alabama in the National Championship. The Bulldogs enter the new season ranked No. 4, and will not sneak up on anybody this year. QB Jake Fromm returns as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. If Fromm regresses, Justin Fields, a five-star recruit, waits in the wings. D’Andre Swift will be tasked with replacing running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Terry Godwin provide good options at receiver. Defensively, there is a lot of turnover. The entire linebacker corp, including Roquan Smith, is gone. The Bulldogs welcome back shut-down cornerback Deandre Baker, safety J.R. Reed, and talented linemen Tyler Clark and Jonathan Ledbetter. Trips to South Carolina, Missouri, and LSU, as well as a showdown with Auburn, are looming. Georgia has the ability to reach the playoff for a second year in a row.

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2. Clemson Tigers


Last year’s record: 12-2
Most important returning player: DL Dexter Lawrence

To be frank, the ACC is Clemson and then everybody else. The Tigers are absolutely loaded. The biggest question facing the No. 2 team in the nation is whether Trevor Lawrence, the nation’s No. 1 ranked high school prospect, will usurp Kelly Bryant as the starting quarterback. Hunter Renfrow returns for his senior year, and Diondre Overton and Tee Higgins have the ability to star at wide-out. If the Tigers want to keep the ball on the ground, Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne are explosive. If the offensive talent isn’t scary enough, Clemson has the best defensive line in college football. Christian Wilkins is a beast, DE Clelin Ferrell could be a top-10 pick in next year’s draft, DT Dexter Lawrence seems poised to join Ferrell in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft, and Austin Bryant, seen as the fourth best lineman on the team, is probably a top-30 player nationally. Simply put, expect to see Clemson in the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year.

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1. Alabama Crimson Tide


Last year’s record: 13-1
Most important returning player: QB Tua Tagovailoa

Was it ever going to be anyone else? Alabama is college football’s Goliath. Winners of five National Championships since 2009, the Tide enter the 2018 season as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. The biggest question heading into the season remains — who will start at quarterback? Jalen Hurts did well to carry Bama to the Championship, but Tua Tagovailoa stole the show and proved himself to be the better quarterback. Four offensive linemen and both tight ends return. Running back Damien Harris returns at the top rusher, and will be joined by talented backs Najee Harris, Josh Jacobs, and Brian Robinson. With Calvin Ridley now in the NFL, wide-outs will have to step forward and claim the leading role. Bama’s secondary will be entirely new, as their top two corners and safeties have moved on. Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs will be vital to the defense as they try to fill the hole left by Da’Ron Payne. The linebacker corp should be strong, but lacks the normal depth in the middle. Bama has an incredibly favorable schedule, and should once again be favored to reach the CFB Playoff.

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