Cleat Geeks

2015 College Football: Scarlet & Maize Preseason Top 25

With the start of the College Football season just months away, we take a look at the Top 25 teams entering the 2015 season. Do you agree?

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes

To begin with the obvious, the reigning National Champions lose very little from a season ago and regain their top signal caller in Braxton Miller. If the Buckeyes are to repeat, they must get through the mental aspect of the season and not defeat themselves.

Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliot will look to lead the charge while Urban Meyer has a decision to make regarding the starting quarterback (Miller, Barrett, Jones) position.

The defense was young in 2014 and will be scary good with the return of All-American DE Joey Bosa and Second-Team All-Big Ten (Media) LB Joshua Perry leading the group. Rising stars in LB Darron Lee and CB Eli Apple will contribute heavily as well making this one of the best units in the country.

#2 TCU Horned Frogs

A season ago, TCU was on the precipice of becoming one of the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff (CFP). However, controversy struck after being ranked 3rd – and above Florida State – a week prior to the final tally.

TCU ultimately fell to 6th – even after a dominating performance against Iowa State in their season finale – with their lone blemish coming to the 5th-ranked Baylor Bears by a three point margin.

Senior QB Trevor Boykin returns for his senior season after throwing for 3900 yards and 33 touchdowns. This year, a three point loss to Baylor will not cost them the postseason, but the lack of Conference Championship still lingers for the CFP committee.

#3 USC Trojans

The Trojans are getting extremely hyped up this off-season even with their 9-4 overall record from 2014. It’s not so much about what they did last year, but what they have returning that has them in the top 5 to begin the season. In the oft-described ‘defense-less’ Pac-12 Conference, look for USC to put up astronomical offensive numbers and get back to national prominance.

The main reason for their ascent in the pre-season polls is due to QB Cody Kessler returning from a 2014 campaign that netted 3,826 passing yards with 39 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. Granted, he had WR Nelson Agholor (104 receptions, 1,313 yards, 12 touchdowns) on the receiving end, but look for JuJu Smith to become the go to receiver after being very productive as a freshman (54 receptions, 724 yards, 5 touchdowns).

#4 Alabama Crimson Tide

The perennial powerhouse of the past decade will not be going anywhere in 2015 despite the key losses of WR Amari Cooper, S Landon Collins, RB TJ Yeldon, FB Jalston Fowler, OG Arie Kouandjio, OT Austin Shepherd, and OLB Xzavier Dickson to the NFL Draft. Also, going undrafted, were starting QB Blake Sims and starting ILB Trey DePriest.

However, at Alabama, they reload year-in-and-year-out. Since 2012 (2015’s senior class), Nick Saban has pulled in the 2nd, 4th, 1st, and 2nd-best recruiting classes. The talent remains in Tuscaloosa and it is highly likely we will be watching them in the CFP by seasons end.

RB Derrick Henry enters his junior campaign after finishing 2014 just 10 yards shy of the 1,000 yard mark. He also was able to post 11 rushing touchdowns, along with 5 receptions and 2 receiving touchdowns. As for the quarterback, Saban has yet to name the starter, but it looks to be a race between senior Jake Coker and former 5-star prospect (now, redshirt freshman) David Cornwell.

#5 Michigan State Spartans

I may be slightly biased towards the Big Ten Conference, but I do not believe I am stretching by placing Michigan State as the 5th-best team in the country. Over the past several seasons, HC Mark Dantonio has the Spartans becoming a nationally recognized team and is even recruiting with the best of them.

In 2015, Connor Cook will be leaned upon to take this program where it has never been. A preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, Cook must eclipse his totals from a season ago to get this program onto the committees brackets. Two games worth noting: 9/12 vs. Oregon and 11/21 at Ohio State – win these games and manage the games that should be won and they will crack the top 4.

A major question mark that comes into 2015, is how the Spartan ‘D’ will react to the departure of former DC Pat Narduzzi. Narduzzi was making a name for himself as one of the top defensive minds in the game and the Pittsburgh Panthers pounced on the opportunity by naming him their head coach. Will co-Defensive Coordinators Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel continue the dominance?

#6 Baylor Bears

We all chuckled a bit (or even more) with the complete meltdown of HC Art Briles after being the first team left out of the CFP. The case was certainly legitimized though with their atrocious non-conference slate and lack of Conference Championship, however, 11 wins, including one over TCU, is still nothing to sniff at.

2015 will be a different season, but once again, the Bears do not do themselves any favors with their non-conference schedule: 9/4 at SMU, 9/12 vs Lamar, 9/26 vs Rice. And again, the lack of a BigXII Conference Championship will hinder their chances heading towards the 2015 playoff as well.

The high flying offense will surely break records again this coming season, but after besting TCU in 2014, I believe it to go differently this year. The one loss will likely see them having deja vu, but we can only hope for another Briles meltdown.

#7 Auburn Tigers

The 2014 season was a bit of a disappointment for fans in Auburn, AL as they finished 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with four of their five losses coming to ranked opponents. Included in those, was a loss to their bitter rival Alabama after leading by as many as 12 points in the third quarter.

Now, in 2015, the Tigers must replace former Heisman hopeful QB Nick Marshall with a fairly unproven signal caller in Jeremy Johnson. Johnson, who started the season opener in 2014 (Marshall suspension), attempted just 37 passes last season for 436 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Even though the Tigers lose out on nearly 50.0% of their offense with the departures of QB Nick Marshall, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, and WR Sammie Coates, the offensive mastermind that is Gus Malzahn will have this team clicking on all cylinders once the season begins.

#8 Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks made it to the National Championship Game for the second time in five seasons, falling just short to the Ohio State Buckeyes behind the superb season from QB Marcus Mariotta. Mariotta, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and now with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, must be replaced by a relatively ‘green’ player looking to live up to the Oregon expectations.

That man looks to be former 3-star QB Jeff Lockie (Junior), who did make a ‘deer-in-headlights’ appearance in the CFP National Championship, but has shown in the Spring he has become a bit more efficient. Whether Lockie can become the quarterback to lead the Ducks to a Championship is unknown, however, the odds are not in his favor for the 2015 season.

With games at Michigan State, at Stanford, and at home against USC, two of these game will be dropped and two losses will not get a team into the CFP. Is the ‘Golden Age’ coming to an end in Eugene? No, but Oregon wants that elusive title and Mariotta was there closest chance at getting it.

#9 UCLA Bruins

The third team from the Pac-12 makes its way into the top 10 in the form of Jim Mora’s UCLA Bruins. After years of mediocrity, Mora has resurrected the Bruins into a threat once again. Over the past three seasons, UCLA has enjoyed a 9-win season and two 10-win seasons. On top of that, they have gone 2-1 in bowl games and finished 2014 as the 10th-ranked team in the country.

Last season, the Bruins scored wins over ranked opponents Arizona State, Arizona, USC, and Kansas State, while also beating Texas at home and Washington on the road. Their three losses coming to Utah, Oregon, and Stanford.

In 2015, look for more of the same from the resurging Bruins as they look to best their 10-win season from last year. However, if they are able to get through a tough schedule that includes Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State, Utah, and USC on the road they could very well be looking to make an appearance in the CFP, except I do not believe they will get through their schedule unscathed.

#10 Florida State Seminoles

Now two years removed from their National Championship, the Seminoles are coming off a perfect regular season that had many pundits clamoring for them to be left out of last seasons CFP. Jameis Winston’s clutch play saved the season time-and-time again, but now that he’s with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the clutch play of the quarterback rests in the hands of Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson.

Following Oregon’s drubbing of Florida State in the National Semifinals, it was thought Sean Maguire was the likely heir to the quarterback position. Maguire had replaced Winston (suspension) early on in the season against Clemson and led the Seminoles to a 23-17 overtime victory. Maquire was effective completing 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown.

In 2015, the Seminoles will not have Winston’s late-game heroics to lean on and must rely on the talented, yet streaky Golson. Golson led Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship a few seasons ago, but has struggled against the top defenses around the country. The Seminoles believe they have struck gold with Golson (which they did), but a Championship in 2015 is out of the question.

Rounding out the Top 25:

#11 Georgia Bulldogs

#12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

#13 Clemson Tigers

#14 Arizona Wildcats

#15 LSU Tigers

#16 Arizona State Sun Devils

#17 Mississippi Rebels

#18 Boise State Broncos

#19 Wisconsin Badgers

#20 Stanford Cardinal

#21 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

#22 Missouri Tigers

#23 Mississippi State Bulldogs

#24 Oklahoma Sooners

#25 Louisville Cardinals

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