by Fred Perdue
The 2016 Season didn’t disappoint with Clemson finally getting its long-awaited revenge against Alabama. A new season is now upon us and it will be here before you know it. 2017 will pose different challenge for every university, whether it be coaching changes or just reloading a new cast of characters. Let’s take a look into the crystal ball and see what could be in store for us in 2017.
- Alabama (2016 record: 14-1)
The fire has been lit after being upset in the national title game. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are the best in the nation at reloading after losing a ton of talent. Jalen Hurts returns, marking the first time in 4 years that the Tide have some continuity at the position. Former Washington and USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian gets a full offseason with his young quarterback and a top recruiting class doesn’t hurt either. The Tide open 2017 against Florida State in Atlanta which should tell us a lot.
- Florida State (2016 record: 10-3)
With defending champion Clemson losing a ton of talent the Noles are poised to be back on top in the ACC Atlantic. Losing defensive lineman Demarcus Walker will hurt a pass rush that was really good, but dynamic Safety Derwin James returns after being sidelined for the majority of the 2016 season. Quarterback Deandre Francois looks to improve on a sensational 2016 season. Dalvin Cook decided to go pro so the Noles will have to find a new running back, and fast. Alabama is looming in the opener.
- Ohio State (2016 record: 11-2)
The Buckeyes suffered one of the worse losses in school history to eventual champion Clemson. Urban Meyer will be on a mission to prove his Buckeyes are better in 2017. Ohio State loses a ton of talent, including CB Gareon Conley, RB Curtis Samuel, WR Noah Brown, S Malik Hooker, LB, Raekwon McMillan. Quarterback J.T. Barrett does return for his senior year. If Urban Meyer can find him some more weapons in a not so stacked Big Ten, another playoff appearance could be in the future. The Buckeyes open the season with Big Ten opponent Indiana.
4. Southern California (2016 record: 10-3)
The hype is already swelling after USC finished the 2016 season strong with a Rose Bowl win and momentum heading into spring ball and summer workouts. Head Coach Clay Helton seems like the right hire and Sam Darnold was the right choice at quarterback. Losing a bevy of NFL hopefuls may slow the process but the Trojans seem to finally be back. An Early season matchup against Texas in L.A. will tell us a lot early.
- Clemson (2016 record: 14-1)
Clemson finally did what no other team could do, defeat Alabama and become National Champions in the process. Dabo Swinney and his Tigers recruit at such a high level that the losses of QB Deshaun Watson, WR Mike Williams, WR Artavis Scott, C Jay Guillermo, TE Jordan Leggett, RB Wayne Gallman, DT Carlos Watkins, LB Ben Boulware, SS Jadar Johnson, CB Cordrea Tankersley won’t sting as much as many think, but expect a slight step back as the Tigers reload.
6. Oklahoma (2016 record: 11-2)
Every year we place Oklahoma on a pedestal just to be let down again. NOT SO FAST. The Sooners are losing three major cogs on offense in Heisman WR Dede Westbrook, RB Joe Mixon, RB Samaje Perine. While they do return Quarterback Baker Mayfield the Sooners desperately need to improve on defense to give themselves another chance at a Big 12 Title and Playoff berth. The Sooners get early season road tests at Ohio State and Baylor to help their resume.
7. Washington (2016 record: 12-2)
The Huskies showed they are ready to contend with their appearance in the Peach Bowl vs Alabama. Despite losing major pieces like WR John Ross, S Budda Baker, CB Kevin King and CB Sidney Jones, the Huskies could be better in 2017. With Oregon and Cal going through coaching changes in the Pac-12 North the Huskies are primed and ready for another playoff push under Coach Chris Petersen.
- Penn State (2016 record: 11-3)
Penn State has rebounded well after sanctions left them for dead. Quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s decision to return in 2017 is huge for the Nittany Lion. 2017 presents the challenge of visiting Columbus for a showdown against Ohio State, where Penn State has had minimal success. Good to see the Nittany Lions back in primetime nonetheless.
- Michigan (2016 record: 10-3)
Jim Harbaugh in year three won’t have any more Brady Hoke hold overs. Harbaugh has been a relentless, elite recruiter, which will help after a senior laden team moves on to the next level. Talent isn’t the problem in Ann Arbor, it’s finishing strong for the Wolverines. The next chapter of the Harbaugh era starts in Jerry World vs SEC power Florida and ends with the Buckeyes at home. Can the Wolverines secure a Big Ten Title for the first time since 2004? We shall see.
- Oklahoma State (2016 record: 10-3)
Oklahoma St has been one of the most consistent teams in the country in the past decade under Mike Gundy, winning 10 games five of the last seven seasons. Quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington return to an already potent offense that hosts TCU, Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma in Bedlam.
- LSU (2016 record: 8-4)
It will be odd not seeing the Mad Hatter pacing the sidelines in Death Valley, but Ed Orgeron validated why he should be the head coach in Baton Rouge. Leonard Fournette is gone but Derrius Guice steps right in and has been stepping in, in relief for the past two seasons. Expect big numbers from the ground game but if the quarterback position can’t be solved and the offense can’t open up a bit more, the Tigers may have a long season ahead.
- Wisconsin (2016 record: 11-3)
Another consistent year for the Badgers under Paul Chryst. Nothing here to see. The Badgers are in the mix for the 3rd spot in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Michigan and battling with Penn State.
- Virginia Tech (2016 record: 10-4)
Justin Fuente hit the ground running in what was supposed to be a rebuild in Blacksburg. Not only did he win a division title but is building in recruiting. The Hokies look to be heading in the right direction.
- Auburn (2016 record: 8-5)
The ultimate Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team. Week to week you didn’t know what you would get. The Tigers should have a healthy competition going forward at the Quarterback position with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham joining the mix. The defense will be solid as well.
- Stanford (2016 record: 10-3)
The Cardinal have to replace do it all running back Christian McCaffrey and find weapons for an undetermined quarterback. Two big tasks that Coach David Shaw should have sorted out very soon. The Cardinal will be physical on both lines of scrimmage and post another 10-win season while competing in a very weak Pac 12 North.
- Boise State (2016 record: 10-3)
Quarterback Brett Rypien leads the top-ranked team from the Group of Five Schools. Expect another high-octane offense leading to another 10-win season.
- Georgia (2016 record: 8-5)
The development of rising Sophomore Quarterback Jacob Eason will be critical. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return, which should help tremendously. Anything less than this could incite a riot in Athens in year two under Kirby Smart.
- Tennessee (2016 record: 9-4)
Replacing one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history in Joshua Dobbs won’t be easy. The SEC East looks to be up for grabs and the HOT SEAT is hotter than ever for Butch Davis.
- Louisville (2016 record: 9-4)
Lamar Jackson returns for what looks like his final year after a prolific year ending with a Heisman Trophy but a blowout loss to LSU. Expect Jackson to pick up where he left off as he looks to impress NFL scouts. The Cards are still behind FSU but slightly ahead of Clemson in the ACC Atlantic.
- South Florida (2016 record: 11-2)
Charlie Strong returns home to the Sunshine State and with a fertile recruiting ground, a dynamic quarterback in Quintin Flowers at the controls, and a fan base clamoring for another great season, the Bulls are primed to go after an AAC title.
- Utah (2016 record: 9-4)
It’s safe to say the Utes are now a national contender. Another good season including wins over USC and a solid ranking to start the season only adds more fuel to an already hot team. SAFE BET.
- Florida (2016 record: 9-4)
The offense has been the issue and will continue to be the issue if a signal caller can’t be found. Jim McElwain and Co. better turn things around on the offensive side. For now, their defense will still lock teams down. The Gators have to travel to Jerry World for a showdown against Big Ten Power Michigan to open the season.
- West Virginia (2016 record: 10-3)
A new quarterback, new pieces in the defensive backfield, and yet you can still expect the Mountaineers to compete for a Big 12 Crown. Expect another big year for Dana Holgersen and company.
- Texas (2016 record: 5-7)
New head coach, young sophomore quarterback, and an explosive offense, albeit inconsistent at times. The defense needs an overhaul. The Longhorns have some hype behind them. They may not be far off either. We will find out how good the Longhorns are very early with a trip to the L.A. Coliseum to face USC on Sept 16th.
- UCLA (2016 record: 4-8)
Another strong year in recruiting, Josh Rosen returns from injuries for his Junior season and yet something says don’t trust UCLA under Jim Mora. The verdict is still out. To be continued.
Fred Perdue, for War Room Sports