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CFC Early Poll 2017

Last year, I had Clemson as my number one team going into the season and I don’t believe any other polls did. Look at me, look at me

I believe the words ‘nanny nanny boo boo’ are appropriate here.

1. Alabama: Come on, the media had the Alabama dynasty dying two years ago and I picked them to win that season and they did and then they finished runner up to Clemson last season. If that’s dying then hand me a noose, or a bottle of pills. There’s too much blood with a gun.

Alabama is far from dead and they will prove it again next season. Sure, they lost a lot of talent up front, but they have bodies already in place. Jalen Hurts is a Quarterback with a year’s experience under his belt and a ton of talent around him. Don’t sweat losing Cam Robinson at Left Tackle, Jonah Williams is even better and that is amazing. Plus, he’s a good kid.

The reason I am picking Alabama is that they tend to come back after seasons of losing out and winning the next year, under Saban, anyway.

2. Florida State: The ACC went 9-3 in bowl games last year, better than any other conference and they have beaten the SEC in heads up games for the past couple of years. They won 2 out of the last 4 national championships and Florida State probably gives them the best chance of making it 3 out of 5. Florida State takes on Alabama in the first game of the year in the brand new Georgia Dome in Atlanta and we will find out more about each in that game.

Deondre Francois is back after starting as a redshirt freshman. The Seminole Offensive Line had

some early issues last season, but they have some talent up front and they have a great Offensive Line coach in Rick Trickett. He’s one of the best. The Seminoles did lose Dalvin Cook, but Jacques Patrick is really good and true freshman Cam Akers might the next big star in college football.

The defense lost Demarcus Walker, but the Defensive Line should still be one of the strong spots on the team. Safety Derwin James just might be the best player in the country.

If Florida State happens to beat Alabama, look for them to win it all.

3. USC: Sam Darnold made all of the difference with the Trojans last season. Cool as a cucumber, Darnold is a talent and raises the Trojans to another level. USC has some losses in the Offensive Line and at Wide Receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, plus on the defensive side in Cornerback Adoree Jackson. But, they do return 1,000 yard rusher in Ronald Jones II and some other talent like Acc’Cedric Ware. Deontay Burnett, Steven Mitchell Jr and other young Wide Receivers return. The defense could be better than last season with the return of Cam Smith, Porter Gustin, Rasheem Green, and others. With Darnold leading the team at Quarterback with his poker face, this team should be hard to beat. Darnold should also be the leading candidate of the 2017 Heisman.

4. Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost to Penn State last season on a blocked kick or they would have won the B1G title. A rematch in the championship game with Wisconsin would have been boring, any way. Ohio State has become something of a NFL factory with several with eligibility left declaring for the draft and they will go really early. With new Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson coming over from his head coaching job at Indiana and the return of 4th year starter JT Barrett at Quarterback, plus 1,000 yard rusher Mike Weber and a host of Offensive Linemen, the Buckeyes should have a much better offense in 2017. The Defensive Line returns a lot of talent. The Linebackers and Defensive Backs lost some players to the NFL, but the talent is in place. The Buckeyes could be a force in 2017 especially if everything lines up correctly.

5. Clemson: The defending national champion’s biggest issue for 2017 is replacing the great Deshaun Watson. They have quite a few candidates, but no matter who they pick, he will at least be something of a drop-off from Watson. Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, Jordan Leggett and Wayne Gallman are also gone, but the Tigers are in a position now where they can replace most people. Defensively, they lost their heart and soul at Linebacker, but they do return a lot of other top players. Clemson vs

Florida State should be for the ACC championship this season.

6. Michigan: The Wolverines lost a lot of seniors, but the recruiting has been excellent and there is plenty of talent. Wilton Speight returns at Quarterback, but he may be pushed by redshirt freshman Brandon Peters who could be a future star. Watch out for Wide Receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black and Tight End Zach Gentry. The Offensive Line lost 4 out of 5, but they have some great young talent. Defensively, Rashan Gary is a beast up front and beware of sidekick Chase Winovich. Mo Hurst, Bryan Mone and true freshman Aubrey Solomon. Linebacker Devin Bush is a probable super star. The secondary will be young, but they will be better by the pass rush up front. Harbaugh needs to beat Urban Meyer to become truly legit.

7. Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield returning makes up for the losses of Running Backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon and Wide Receiver Dede Westbrook.  The Offensive Line will be one of the best in the country in 2017. They travel to Columbus early in the season which will see if they are a contender. The Sooners have some good young talent on defense in Neville Gallimore, Caleb Kelly and Jordan Parker. The Sooners could be an outside contender if they can beat Ohio State early on.

8. LSU: Losing Leonard Fournette is not that big of a deal since the Tigers have  Derrius Guice who might be every bit as good. LSU has had Quarterback problems, but Purdue transfer Danny Etling came along to save the day. The Tigers not have Guice, but they have plenty of Offensive Linemen returning. They did lose top receivers Malachi Dupre and Tavin Dural, but when has LSU not had good receivers. On the defensive side, the Tigers return Defensive Linemen Christian LaCoutre returns after missing last season and Arden Key is also back. The Tigers have a lot of losses on defense, but like Wide Receiver they always have talent.

9. Penn State: Saquon Barkley could be the best Running Back in the nation and Trace McSorley at Quarterback and maybe the best Tight End with Mike Gesicki. The Offensive Line came a long way last season and most are back for another go at it. Watch out for Kevin Givens in the Defensive Line. He is a beast that could be unblock able. Top tackler Marcus Allen returns and so does young Linebacker Cam Brown. Coach James Franklin had more than his share of doubters, but after last season they have been converted.

10. Auburn: Acquiring the talented Jarrett Stidham at Quarterback could make all the difference with the Tigers. Running Backs Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin all return. The Tigers have plenty of speed and talent at Wide Receiver. The Offensive Line lost some key members, Braden Smith is about as good as anyone out there. After going through several Defensive Coordinators, the defense now has some stability with Kevin Steele. Auburn had a couple of big losses on defense, but they return a lot and they should be improved.

11. Miami: The Hurricanes have the recruiting machine rolling along under Mark Richt. If the Hurricanes have a Quarterback step up such as Malik Rosier, Jack Allison or Evan Shirreffs they

could be good offensively. Running Back Mark Walton is back and Wide Receiver Ahmmon Richards was sensational as a true freshman. The defense is looking like the Hurricanes of old with a great Defensive Line and front 7 in general. The Canes could still be a year away.

12. Oklahoma State: Quarterback Mason Rudolph is one of the best in the country and he has a connection with special receiver James Washington. Plus, there is receiver Jalen McCleskey. Justice Hill was one of the top freshmen Running Backs in the country last season with over 1,300 yards rushing. The defense had some big losses, but they should be able to outscore opponents early.

13. Florida: If the Gators can keep either Luke Del Rio healthy, or Feleipe Franks can handle the job they could have a good team. Franks is definitely the man for the future, but don’t underestimate Del Rio when healthy. The Gators should have a strong running game with Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson returning. Antonio Calloway at Wide Receiver is big time. On defense, the Gators will more than likely always be stout. The defense lost some stars, but they have a lot of good young talent.

14. Washington: Pac 12 champion Huskies lost a lot of their defense, but retain Quarterback Jake Browning and most of their Offensive Line. Wide Receiver John Ross was a huge, huge loss. They have some good young talent returning, but none of them are as fast and dangerous as Ross. 1,300 yard rusher Myles Gaskin returns. Petersen has a nice program going now, but losing Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Elijah Qualls cuts deeply. The Huskies should be competitive.

15. Wisconsin: The Badgers’ football machine that Barry Alvarez built keeps rolling on. Alex Hornibrook was a redshirt freshman last season and played like it at times. They need some improvement here, but the Badgers will always be about running the ball. Losing Corey Clement is big, but they have Bradrick Shaw and Taiwan Deal returning. Jazz Peavy is good at Wide Receiver and Tight End Troy Fumagalli is one of the nation’s best. Defensively, the Badgers lost TJ Watt and Vince Biegel but they return most everybody else. Could be a tough Badger team as always.

16. Georgia: Kirby Smart had a fantastic recruiting class which should pay off, but it might be next season. The SEC East is not very strong outside of Florida and the Bulldogs have as good a chance as anyone to challenge the Gators. Quarterback Jacob Eason still has a ways to go, but they return top Running Backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. They might have Offensive Line issues and the defense might lose one of nation’s top Defensive Tackles Trenton Thompson. But, otherwise, they could have a strong defense in 2017. Georgia fans have to be impressed with Smart’s first recruiting class if not the first year record and Eason’s performance.

17. Virginia Tech: If Jerod Evans was returning, the Hokies might be a top 10 team. As it is, they are starting from scratch at Quarterback. They also lost Bucky Hodges and Isaiah Ford. As long as Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster is around the Hokies will be competitive defensively and I have all the faith in the world in new coach Justin Fuente. The defense is led by the Edmund brothers, Tremaine and Terrell. Fuente still has a little work to do to build his own program, but they are clearly on the right path.

18. Louisville: The Cardinals return Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and they were as good as anyone early in the 2016 season. However, they faltered late and Jackson showed no leadership ability as the Cardinals bickered among themselves on the sidelines. After getting off to a 9-1 start, the Cardinals lost their last 3 games and finished 9-4. They lost many of Jackson’s favorite targets and many defensive players, but they return Lamar Jackson.

19. Northwestern: Returning Quarterback Clayton Thorson and Running Back Justin Jackson gives the Wildcats a great chance to be a really good team in 2017. I really think the Wildcats have a shot at

winning the weak B1G West with Wisconsin and Nebraska probably their biggest competition. In spite of losing tough Middle Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr, the defense could be even better in 2017. The Wildcats are a team to watch in 2017.

20. Houston: Cougar coach Tom Herman left to take the Texas job and was replaced by Major Applewhite. It’s long been said that Applewhite is a really smart guy and likely to be a top head coach some day and some day is here. The Cougars lost Quarterback Greg Ward, but Kyle Postma has been a quality back up the past two seasons and he even saved them a couple of years ago leading them from behind against Memphis. Defensive Tackle Ed Oliver is one of the top players in the country.

21. Colorado: The Buffaloes shocked everyone by winning the Pac 12 South in 2016. I don’t believe it was a fluke, however, the Pac 12 South was really weak last season until the USC Trojans came on strong. The Buffaloes did lose long term Quarterback starter Sefo Liufau, but Steven Montez filled in nicely when needed last year up until the Washington game. But, Montez has now had a year under his belt and experience is worth something. Running Back Phillip Lindsay ran for over 1,200 yards a year ago and most of the Offensive Line returns. The Buffaloes have one of the strongest Wide Receiver groups in the country in Big Play Shay Fields, Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo, Jay McIntyre, and watch out for beast Kabion Ento.

The defense had some huge losses, but the program is rolling along now.

22. Stanford: Losing Christian McCaffrey is huge, but Bryce Love is super fast and ran for nearly 800 yards a year ago as a back up. Quarterback could continue being an issue, but watch out for redshirt freshman KJ Costello and incoming freshman Davis Mills. The Offensive Line should not be an issue and they signed 2 of the best Offensive Tackles in the history of recruiting in Foster Sarrell and Walker Little and they could challenge for early playing time. The defense also lost it’s best player in Solomon Thomas, but under David Shaw the defense will probably be really salty again this

season. The Nerd Nation lives on.

23. North Carolina State: The Wolfpack finished strongly last season beating rival North Carolina and then crushing Vanderbilt. They return a lot of experience including Quarterback Ryan Finley and Jaylen Samuels. Defensive End Bradley Chubb is one of the nation’s best and the Wolfpack should have knocked Clemson out of the playoffs if they had had a decent kicker. I have a good feeling that the Pack will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017.

24. Tennessee: There’s talent at Tennessee, but it’s been a ship without a sail. Losing 3 year starter Joshua Dobbs can’t be fun. The Quarterback competition should come down to Quinten Dormandy and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano. John Kelly should be the man at Running Back. Somehow, the Vols always seem to find a way to lose with losses to Texas A#M, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. They did finish up 9-4 last year, but the expectations were so much higher for this team.

25. Nebraska: Mike Riley led the Huskers to a surprising 9-4 season, but the schedule was pretty weak, honestly. Tommy Armstrong is gone at Quarterback, but most people think that’s a good thing. Tanner Lee is probably taking his place after transferring from Tulane. Stanley Morgan Jr at Wide Receiver is the next big thing. The Huskers thought they would move to the B1G and dominate and that hasn’t happened. Still waiting on that, but Mike Riley has done better than my expectations, at least. Scott Frost is the next Husker coach and he will be that dominating leader that revives the Husker program to past glories. You heard it here first.

Others: 

Pittsburgh

Texas

North Carolina

South Carolina

Utah

Arkansas

Kansas State

West Virginia

Iowa

Notre Dame

UCLA

Kentucky

Ole Miss

Miss State

Texas A#M