College football is right around the corner, and, barring some sort of freak accident, like, say, being blinded by a supernatural cosmic occurrence, it shouldn’t be hard for you to find a good team to watch this season.
Steve Addazio isn't here for your #SolarEclipse2017 science. "I'm gonna look at it and I'm not wearing glasses. See if I'm blind tomorrow."— Riley Overend (@RileyHeights) August 21, 2017
For the second time in as many years, the Alabama Crimson Tide will open the college football season as the AP poll’s top-ranked program in the country.
That part isn’t surprising. Since Nick Saban started as head coach in Tuscaloosa, Bama has won four national titles and finished as a runner-up once, last season against Clemson. For the Tide—who have claimed the top recruiting class in the country every offseason since 2011, per 247Sports—being projected as the best team in the country is expected. Saban’s army is a gridiron hydra. When one superstar leaves, two blue chips take his place.
Though Alabama is the lone SEC team in the top 10, five other members appear in the preseason rankings—the most of any conference. The SEC is followed by the ACC and Big 12, each with five teams in the top 25, and the PAC 12 and Big 10, both of which have four ranked squads. The University of South Florida was the only Group of Five team to make the cut.
Clemson, the reigning national champion, opens the season ranked fifth, behind Ohio State, Florida State (#TALKINBOUTTHENOLES), and last season’s Rose Bowl champ, USC. In truth, the Tigers are probably overrated. Defending a national title is hard. Defending a national title without a quarterback who accounted for 50 touchdowns is nearly impossible. Clemson’s defense will still be dominant, but without Deshaun Watson, it’s hard to think they’ll find their way out of the ACC Atlantic division.
The Big Ten has the most teams in the top 10, with Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all in single digits, and Michigan on the outside looking in at no. 11. While Ohio State and Penn State look like legitimate playoff contenders with bona fide stars under center in J.T. Barrett and Trace McSorley, Wisconsin and Michigan are more likely to finish 8-4 than they are to play in Atlanta at season’s end.
More importantly, if not most importantly, Texas is back (in the top 25). For the first time since 2013, the preseason poll is tinged with burnt orange. Tom Herman’s first Longhorns squad will open the season at no. 23, and expectations will surely be sky high. If Texas can pull off expected wins against Maryland and San Jose State, it’ll likely enter its Week 3 matchup against USC ranked in the top 15. Despite wishful thinking, the mountain of “Is Texas Back?” think pieces will grow so large they’ll block out the sun. Don’t worry if you missed the first one. The second total eclipse of 2017 is coming.