The 2017 college football season is just around the corner, and it’s time to honor the best of the best for the upcoming year. The 2017 season features plenty of big names returning to the gridiron, including a standout group of quarterbacks.
It was not a great debut for Illinois head coach Lovie Smith, as the Fighting Illini saw their win total drop from five in 2015 to just two while the offense and defense both took steps backwards. To add to the challenge facing Smith, he has a total of eight starters returning so this will be a young and inexperienced team.
Ranking all 130 college football teams is no easy task, but with the first Saturday of action on Aug. 26 approaching quickly, it’s never too early to see how every FBS program stacks up for 2017. At the top, Alabama leads the way as Athlon’s projected national champion. The Crimson Tide lost to Clemson on the final play of last year’s title game, and even though both sides of the ball have a few holes to fill, coach Nick Saban’s program is still the team to beat. Ohio State is a close No.
The Big Ten had a top-heavy 2016 season, as four teams finished inside of the top 10, Ohio State earned a CFB Playoff spot, and Penn State fell just short of reaching the top four after defeating Wisconsin in the conference title game. Fast forward to 2017 and not much has changed with the depth at the top of the league.
College football’s 2017 season starts on Aug. 26 and concludes with the national championship on Jan. 8 in Atlanta. The season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to project and rank college football's top 25 teams.
Predictions for any FBS conference and all 130 college football teams are an inexact science. Some teams are just a bigger mystery than others or a hard program to get a read on for the upcoming year. Coaching changes, transfers, players returning from injury, scheme tweaks or just overall depth chart concerns make any preseason prediction difficult for a number of teams.
The Big Ten features four teams - Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State - inside of Athlon’s top 25 for 2017. These four teams return a good chunk of talent this year, with 14 Buckeyes earning a spot on Athlon’s All-Big Ten team, and the Nittany Lions and Badgers each garnering 12 selections.
College football’s best collection of head coaches resides in the Big Ten. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer boasts three national championships in his career and takes the top spot in Athlon’s rankings. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Penn State’s James Franklin and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald round out an impressive top five.
Returning starter data in college football preseason charts or magazine pages isn’t an exact science. The numbers and data can vary among different websites, magazines or other resources. However, even if there’s some disagreement on the numbers, the data is an interesting early look at how teams are shaping up for the upcoming season.