The Athlon Sports 2015 preseason college football top 25 countdown begins this Wednesday and hearts are already breaking across the nation.
Every season, the Athlon Sports Top 25 starts the national conversation about where teams’ expectations lay heading into camp.
Preseason Top 25 polls miss on teams — both good and bad. But one thing is true, your favorite team needs to be in the preseason top 25 to win a national championship.
No team since Georgia Tech in 1990 has won a national championship after beginning the season unranked. In fact, only two teams since 1990 have even played in a national championship game entering the season unranked: Notre Dame in 2012 and Auburn in 2013 — which needed more than one miraculous finish to get there.
The beauty of the College Football Playoff is that it has cast a wider national title net, but only four teams get in. Below are 10 power conference teams that are guaranteed NOT to be in the College Football Playoff and where they rank in the preseason:
Kansas (No. 103)
The Jayhawks lost 16 of their 22 starters from a year ago and are under new leadership. David Beatty was hired for his ability to recruit and the trail might be the only place Kansas will win in 2015. A winless Big 12 campaign is likely for the lowest-ranked Power 5 team.
Syracuse (No. 85)
Only seven total starters return for the Orange this summer. Scott Shafer’s squad is the lowest-ranked ACC team in the preseason polls and a repeat of last year’s 1-7 ACC record is likely. With LSU and USF in the non-conference, anything more than three wins might be considered a small victory.
Purdue (No. 84)
The Boilermakers showed slight signs of improvement last year in Darrell Hazell’s second season. But his record is 4-20 for a reason and this team lost six straight games to end the season. There are 16 starters back but only a few winnable games on the schedule.
Wake Forest (No. 82)
With 13 starters back and a second-year coach in Dave Clawson, there should be more optimism in Winston-Salem than other towns on this list. That said, Wake Forest wasn’t very competitive a year ago and anything over four wins in ’15 would be a success.
Vanderbilt (No. 79)
The Dores are the most talented team on this list but a nasty schedule and terrible offense make it nearly impossible for Vandy to compete in the SEC. There are 17 starters back so this team should be improved even if it doesn’t translate to wins. Keep in mind, Derek Mason was crushed by Temple and nearly lost to UMass and Old Dominion last year.
Iowa State (No. 74)
Paul Rhoads may never get a fair shake because Iowa State is really tough place to win. With just four starters back on defense, stopping Big 12 offenses will be hard to do this fall. A win over Kansas might be the high-water mark for ISU in league play this fall.
Oregon State (No. 73)
The Beavers have a new coach (who is well respected) and just two starters back on defense and lost the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer. The schedule is downright ridiculous, both in the league and out, and more than one Pac-12 win could be considered a positive.
Colorado (No. 67)
This team is getting better under Mike McIntyre ever so slightly but not enough to take big strides in 2015. Playing 13 games may give this team an outside shot a bowl game but that is still extremely unexpected.
Washington State (No. 66)
Mike Leach’s team took a step back last year and now replaces Connor Halliday under center. The Cougars return 13 starters and their only saving grace is getting to face two other teams (Oregon State, Rutgers) on this list.
Rutgers (No. 65)
Only Virginia (No. 61) is a higher-ranked, “last-place” team in the preseason projections. After a bounce back to a bowl game last season, Kyle Flood’s squad returns just eight starters and faces the toughest schedule in the B1G.