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College Football's Top 10 Teams on the Rise for 2016

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh

College football’s 2015 season ended in thrilling fashion, as Alabama edged Clemson for the national championship on Jan. 11. Even though the 2015 season just ended, it’s never too early to start thinking about 2016 and examine some of the teams poised to show improvement in the win column. Michigan, Florida State and Tennessee weren’t in the playoff picture last season, but all three could be a factor in 2016. The Wolverines are poised to take another step forward in coach Jim Harbaugh’s second season, the Volunteers are the favorite to win the SEC East, while the gap between Clemson and Florida State in the ACC Atlantic isn’t as wide as some may think.

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With a few months to dissect rosters, opinions can change on teams – perhaps a couple of times in the offseason. Additionally, unexpected roster attrition, late coordinator changes or injuries can all change the outlook on how teams are viewed this offseason.

There’s a long ways to go until the 2016 season officially begins, but here are 10 teams we think are on the rise for next season.

College Football’s Top 10 Teams on the Rise for 2016

Florida State

After a 27-1 mark from 2013-14 and a NFL Draft record with 29 players selected over a three-year span, a small step back in the win column was expected for Florida State in 2015. However, the Seminoles still finished 10-3 – with one of those losses coming on an unlucky blocked field goal return for a touchdown against Georgia Tech – and played in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Houston. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has reloaded and is poised to challenge Clemson for the ACC title and a playoff berth next year. Running back Dalvin Cook leads the way on offense, and the offensive line returns standout left tackle Roderick Johnson. Development at receiver and the quarterback battle are Fisher’s biggest question marks on offense. The defense finished second in the ACC by limiting opponents to 4.68 yards per play in 2015 and returns freshmen standouts Josh Sweat (DE) and Derwin James (safety) and All-America candidate DeMarcus Walker. The schedule also breaks in Florida State’s favor. Clemson, Florida and North Carolina visit Doak Campbell Stadium in 2016.