Ranking all 130 college football teams for 2018 is no easy task, but it's never too early to think about the upcoming season. Alabama and Clemson have met for three consecutive years in the College Football Playoff and a fourth matchup seems to be in order this fall.
Head coaches usually get the lion’s share of the credit when things go well (and the blame when they don’t), but coordinators are often the brains of the operation, charged with directing the team’s strategy on a play-to-play basis and reacting instantaneously to what the other team is doing. Athlon Sports gathered 15 of the nation’s best offensive and defensive play-callers and picked their sizable football brains on topics ranging from the nuts and bolts of their jobs to college football’s big-picture issues.
The Heisman Trophy is awarded to college football’s most outstanding player but every preseason list is, let’s face it, not much more than a popularity contest with some of biggest names in the sport. That’s in part because we’re looking at recent eye-popping production, which means the Heisman discussion inevitably centers on guys like Stanford running back Bryce Love and Arizona QB Khalil Tate or rising stars like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor.
Some of college football's top defensive backs from 2017 left for the NFL, but this position is still stocked with talent for the upcoming season. Washington's defense has ranked among the best in college football in each of the last three years, and coach Chris Petersen's group takes the top spot in Athlon's defensive backfield rankings for 2018. Cornerback Byron Murphy and safety Taylor Rapp are preseason All-America selections by Athlon Sports and will be the anchors for this unit. Michigan isn't far behind at No. 2, while Florida checks in at No. 3.
Under Nick Saban’s watch, it’s no secret Alabama has developed its share of standout linebackers. Despite losing a couple of key players at this position from last season’s group, the Crimson Tide take the top spot in Athlon’s linebacker unit rankings for 2018.
The defensive line is arguably the deepest position in college football for the 2018 season. As expected, thanks to Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell passing on the NFL, Clemson takes the top spot in the defensive line unit rankings.
The offensive line is often the most overlooked position for any college football team. While the linemen in the trenches don’t get enough credit, they are often the most important piece to a successful offense.
The wide receiver position experienced a significant amount of turnover following the 2017 college football season. Big-time playmakers like James Washington, Anthony Miller and Calvin Ridley departed for the NFL, leaving a host of names to step up into the spotlight for 2018.
With the 2018 season less than a month away, it's time to hand out preseason hardware and honor the best college football running back units for the upcoming year. While every college football team would prefer to have an established, superstar No.