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College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott

Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are glamour positions in college football. While offensive linemen and defensive players are just as important to winning a title, it’s no secret the skill players and quarterbacks grab the attention and headlines. With that in mind, Athlon has ranked the top 25 triplets in college football for the 2015 season.

How did we compile the rankings? Ranking the trios by conference is the first step, and we used a formula by assigning points to the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers ranked within each league. It’s important to weigh talent, production against Power 5 opponents, overall balance among the three players and projection for the 2015 season.

By Conference: ACC|Big 12|Big Ten|Pac-12|SEC

College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015

1. Ohio State

QB: Cardale Jones 

RB: Ezekiel Elliott 

WR: Michael Thomas 

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Regardless of who starts under center for coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best trios. Jones is penciled in as the starter at quarterback after guiding Ohio State to a 3-0 record and a national championship in his short tenure under center. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 696 yards over the final three games of last year, and Thomas led all Ohio State receivers with 54 catches in 2014.

Related: Urban Meyer Ranks No. 1 Among Big Ten Coaches for 2015

2. Auburn

QB: Jeremy Johnson 

RB: Jovon Robinson 

WR: Duke Williams 

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Gus Malzahn’s offense has averaged over 30 points per game in back-to-back seasons in SEC contests. The 2015 version of Auburn’s offense will be just as explosive, as quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a rising star, and there’s no shortage of skill talent, including All-America candidate at receiver Duke Williams.

Related: Auburn's Gus Malzahn Ranks as the SEC's No. 2 Coach in 2015

3. Baylor

QB: Seth Russell

RB: Shock Linwood 

WR: Corey Coleman 

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Baylor has averaged over 40 points a game in four consecutive seasons. Good luck stopping the Bears in 2015. Even with quarterback Bryce Petty expiring his eligibility, Baylor is loaded with offensive talent. Russell has played well in limited action, and coach Art Briles has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks. Shock Linwood rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 scores last season, while the receiving corps is the nation’s best, headlined by Corey Coleman and KD Cannon.

Related: Baylor's Art Briles is the No. 1 Coach in the Big 12

4. TCU

QB: Trevone Boykin 

RB: Aaron Green 

WR: Josh Doctson 

TCU’s offense showed major improvement under co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie in 2014. After averaging only 25.1 points per game in 2013, the Horned Frogs increased that total to 46.5 last season. Boykin also emerged as one of the nation’s most improved quarterbacks and opens 2015 as one of the favorites to win the Heisman. TCU has a solid crop of playmakers in place, including Aaron Green (7.2 ypc in 2014) and Doctson (11 TD catches).

Related: TCU's Trevone Boykin is the No. 1 QB in the Big 12

5. Clemson

QB: Deshaun Watson 

RB: Wayne Gallman 

WR: Artavis Scott 

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Chad Morris will be missed as Clemson’s play-caller, but the Tigers should still have one of the ACC’s top offenses. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the nation’s rising stars and will be at full strength from a torn ACL by this fall. Scott and Gallman showed promise as freshmen last season and depth is plentiful at running back and receiver.

Related: No. 14 Clemson Tigers 2015 Preview and Prediction

6. Arizona

QB: Anu Solomon 
RB: Nick Wilson 
WR: Cayleb Jones 

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Arizona averaged 33.4 points per game in Pac-12 contests last season, and coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense could be even better in 2015. Quarterback Anu Solomon is returning to full strength after suffering from an ankle injury late in 2014. Wilson and Jones are among the Pac-12’s top playmakers.

7. Oregon

QB: Vernon Adams
RB: Royce Freeman 
WR: Byron Marshall

Marcus Mariota will be missed, but the Ducks offense should still remain among the Pac-12’s best. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams replaces Mariota at quarterback, and Oregon’s running back and wide receiving corps are among the best in college football.

Related: Oregon Football Turns the Page from "Emotional" Ending

8. USC

QB: Cody Kessler 
RB: Justin Davis 
WR: JuJu Smith 

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The only thing holding USC back from ranking No. 1 on among Pac-12 schools on this list is the committee approach at running back. Will someone step up as the go-to back in 2015? Cody Kessler ranks as the Pac-12’s best quarterback, and JuJu Smith should have a huge year as the Trojans’ top receiver.

Related: USC's Cody Kessler is the Pac-12's No. 1 QB for 2015

9. WKU

QB: Brandon Doughty

RB: Leon Allen

WR: Jared Dangerfield

With a loaded group of skill players and prolific senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, the Hilltoppers are the early favorites to win Conference USA. Doughty threw for 49 touchdowns last season and 4,830 yards, while Allen rushed for 1,542 yards on 272 attempts. Dangerfield led the team with 11 receiving scores and caught 69 passes.

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10. California

QB: Jared Goff 
RB: Daniel Lasco 
WR: Kenny Lawler 

The Golden Bears ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 (conference-only games) by averaging 37.6 points per contest last year. Don’t be surprised if that number climbs even higher in 2015, as coach Sonny Dykes has a loaded receiver corps, one of the nation’s rising stars at quarterback in Jared Goff, along with an underrated running back in Daniel Lasco.

11. BYU

QB: Taysom Hill

RB: Jamaal Williams

WR: Mitch Mathews

BYU’s trio of Hill-Williams-Mathews could be ranked higher, but health is a question mark with two players. Hill missed the last eight games of 2014 due to a leg injury, while Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in November. Mathews led the team with 73 catches for 922 yards last season.

12. Pittsburgh

QB: Chad Voytik 

RB: James Conner 

WR: Tyler Boyd 

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Pat Narduzzi is known for his defensive acumen, but the first-year coach inherits some of the ACC’s top offensive talent. James Conner (RB) and Tyler Boyd (WR) are two of the nation’s top playmakers at their respective positions. Quarterback Chad Voytik played better in the second half of 2014 by tossing only one interception in his final six games.

Related: Pittsburgh's James Conner Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 RB

13. Florida State

QB: Everett Golson 

RB: Dalvin Cook 

WR: Travis Rudolph 

Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the nation’s best quarterback coaches. Sean Maguire started one game last season (Clemson) and finished 2014 with 339 passing yards on 25 completions. However, Everett Golson is transferring to Florida State and is considered by many to be the favorite to take the first snap of 2015. Cook averaged 141.3 rushing yards over the final three games of 2014, while Rudolph caught 38 passes as a true freshman.

Related: Florida State's Jimbo Fisher Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 Coach

14. Tennessee

QB: Joshua Dobbs 

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RB: Jalen Hurd 

WR: Marquez North 

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Tennessee is on its way back into SEC East title contention under third-year coach Butch Jones. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs shined in the second half of 2014, and the junior will be surrounded by a young and talented group of skill players. Hurd leads the way in the Volunteers’ backfield, but junior college recruit (and former Alabama running back) Alvin Kamara is a player to watch in 2015. Receiver Marquez North was limited by injuries last season.

Related: Tennessee Ranks No. 22 in the 2015 College Football Top 25

15. Mississippi State

QB: Dak Prescott 

RB: Ashton Shumpert 

WR: De’Runnya Wilson 

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Mississippi State returns the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback in senior Dak Prescott. While running back Josh Robinson will be missed, there’s talent in place with Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams battling for carries. Wilson averaged 15.3 yards per catch in SEC games last year.

Related: Mississippi State Ranks No. 21 in the 2015 College Football Top 25

16. Notre Dame

QB: Malik Zaire

RB: Tarean Folston

WR: Will Fuller

With Everett Golson transferring to Florida State, this is clearly Zaire’s team. The promising sophomore is a good fit for coach Brian Kelly’s offense but has only 35 career pass attempts. Folston rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns last year and will be pushed for time by Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise. Will Fuller (1,094 yards) should be in the mix for All-America honors at receiver in 2015. Zaire’s performance will determine how high this trio rises. 

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17. Penn State

QB: Christian Hackenberg 

RB: Akeel Lynch

WR: DaeSean Hamilton

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Ranking Penn State at No. 2 among Big Ten triplets largely depends on how far the offensive line develops during the offseason. The Nittany Lions struggled up front in 2014 and prevented the offense from taking off in coach James Franklin’s first year. Improvement is expected up front, which should allow quarterback Christian Hackenberg to rebound after an up and down 2014 campaign. Akeel Lynch rushed for at least 75 yards in three out of his last four outings, while Hamilton – only a sophomore – is among the Big Ten’s top receivers.

Related: QB Christian Hackenberg Ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten QB Ranks for 2015

18. Oklahoma

QB: Baker Mayfield

RB: Samaje Perine 

WR:Sterling Shepard

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Yes, the Sooners have a new scheme and coordinator (Lincoln Riley), but the offense is still going to rely heavily on one of the nation’s top backfields. Samaje Perine rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a true freshman in 2014, and he will have plenty of help from Joe Mixon and Alex Ross. Having a healthy Sterling Shepard at receiver should make a difference for new quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Related: Oklahoma Ranks No. 17 in Athlon's 2015 CFB Top 25

19. UCLA

QB: Josh Rosen 
RB: Paul Perkins 
WR: Jordan Payton 

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Uncertainty remains at quarterback with the departure of Brett Hundley, but true freshman Josh Rosen is one of the top recruits in the 2015 signing class. Running back Paul Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,575 rushing yards last season, and receiver Jordan Payton averaged 14.3 yards per reception in conference games.

20. Arizona State

QB: Mike Bercovici 
RB: Demario Richard 
WR: D.J. Foster 

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The Sun Devils have a balanced trio and could easily climb this list by the end of 2015. Bercovici has played well in limited action, and Richard is set to have a breakout year as Arizona State’s No. 1 running back. D.J. Foster will slide from running back to receiver to replace the production lost by Jaelen Strong.

Related: Arizona State's Todd Graham Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 1 Coach for 2015

21. Western Michigan

QB: Zach Terrell

RB: Jarvion Franklin

WR: Corey Davis

This trio anchored one of the nation’s most improved teams in 2014. Franklin rushed for 1,551 yards and 24 scores as a true freshman, and Davis was one of the nation’s top big-play threats at receiver by averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Terrell threw for 26 touchdowns and completed 67.9 percent of his throws in his first full year as Western Michigan’s starter.

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22. Texas Tech

QB: Patrick Mahomes

RB: DeAndre Washington

WR: Jakeem Grant

Offense is always a strength for Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders are loaded with talent for 2015. Patrick Mahomes is likely to start over Davis Webb, and the sophomore should improve off a solid stat line as a freshman (1,547 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs). DeAndre Washington was the first 1,000-yard rusher in Lubbock since 1998. Jakeem Grant led the team in receptions and receiving yards last year.

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23. Arkansas

QB: Brandon Allen

RB: Jonathan Williams

WR: Keon Hatcher

The Razorbacks improved their scoring average by 11.2 points per game from 2013 to 2014. Expect this unit to take another step forward under new coordinator Dan Enos, as Arkansas returns an experienced quarterback in Brandon Allen and the nation’s top running back duo in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.

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24. Bowling Green

QB: Matt Johnson

RB: Travis Greene

WR: Roger Lewis

Second-year coach Dino Babers wants to install a “Falcon Fast” offense in Bowling Green, and the Falcons averaged 30 points per game in 2014 despite losing quarterback Matt Johnson to an injury in Week 1. Johnson is back in 2015, and the offense is loaded with proven playmakers at running back and receiver. Greene rushed for 949 yards in 2014, while Lewis ranked third among MAC receivers with 1,093 yards.

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25. Cincinnati

QB: Gunner Kiel

RB: Mike Boone

WR: Mekale McKay

Kiel battled injuries last season but still threw for 3,254 yards and 31 scores in his first year as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. The Notre Dame transfer will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal at receiver, and the backfield is set with Mike Boone (650 yards as a freshman), along with Hosey Williams returning from injury. 

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Just Missing the Top 25: Georgia, Texas A&M, Miami, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, NC State, Boise State, Utah State, Toledo, Arkansas State, Appalachian State