The 2015 College Football Coaches Poll is now out and that means one thing…absolutely nothing. Preseason polls mean nothing on who will be champion, but it is fun to debate and talk about the upcoming season. Who is ranked too high? Who is too low? What about the outsiders looking in? These are my opinions so feel free to criticize if you want. Let’s dive in and take a look.
I’m not picking on the SEC. I get that the Bayou Bengals are always supremely talented. But, this is a team with terrible quarterback play and no clear end to that in sight. Neither Brandon Harris nor Anthony Jennings separated themselves this spring. The LSU passing attack failed to top 150 yards in seven out of eight SEC games last year. The LSU offense as a whole was 13th in the conference in scoring. Leonard Fournette is an animal coming out of the backfield, but he can’t do it alone. The secondary is really strong but the defense only recorded 19 sacks as a unit last season. New coordinator Kevin Steele has his work cut out for him trying to follow in longtime defensive coordinator John Chavis’s footsteps. Once again, LSU is supremely talented, but I would have had them in the 18-25 range.
The Sooners finished last season 8-5, and they are installing a new offense. New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley left the spring with four potential quarterbacks, but no one distinguished himself from the others. Jordan Phillips going pro leaves a huge hole on the defensive line. Last year, the secondary conceded a ton of big plays with 24 passes going for 30 or more yards. Samaje Perine is a workhorse in the backfield and Sterling Shepard is a reliable target on the outside. That being said, with questions at quarterback and on defense, I would have the Sooners in the 23-25 range.
There is a lot to like in Knoxville and I believe the Volunteers could have a big year. Josh Dobbs is a superstar in the making. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara should be a great 1-2 punch at running back. Marquez North is healthy again at wide out. Both Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt are back. The duo combined for 21 sacks last season. I have the Vols here for one reason and one reason only: it took a bowl win against Iowa to get this exact same team over the .500 mark. I’m all on the Rocky Top bandwagon but I think, given last year’s record, that this team should be just outside the top 25.
#16 Arizona State
Todd Graham has turned the Sun Devils into a force out west. Arizona State has won 20 games over the past 2 seasons. There is a lot to like in Tempe. Usually the loss of a starting quarterback is a bad thing for offenses. Not so fast my friend. Enter Mike Bercovici who has shown flashes of brilliance in relief appearances. Demario Richards, Kalen Ballage and Gump Hayes are a nice trio at running back. D.J. Foster and UCLA transfer Devin Lucien should be reliable targets at wide receiver. The back seven of the defense should be as good as any in the country. Three returning starters in the secondary and five experienced linebackers in the rotation should make the Sun Devil defense a devil to deal with (see what I did there?). I like Arizona State a lot and after a 10-3 season would have had them in the 10-13 range.
#17 Georgia Tech
The Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech lose three running backs from last year’s team. Normally that would cripple a program, but not the Paul Johnson option attack and this is why. Justin Thomas. Thomas is the best option quarterback Johnson has ever had and is a true playmaker under center. Four offensive linemen are back as well. The defense wasn’t great last year, but should be better this season. The Jackets won 11 games last season in spite of their defense. If Ted Roof can get even a slight improvement on the defensive side of the ball, there’s no reason the Yellow Jackets can’t win 10+ games again. I like the Jackets in the 12-15 range.
I know the Razorbacks finished last season 7-6. But, they won four out of their last six and were one of the hottest teams in the country at year’s end. Brandon Allen is back under center along with the two-headed monster of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins in the backfield. Four starters return along the offensive line as well as Keon Hatcher at wideout. The defense loses stars Trey Flowers and Darius Philon, but has players with experience ready to step in. I think Arkansas is a dark horse to win the SEC West and deserve to be ranked higher, probably somewhere in the 15-18 range for me.
The Bulldogs were ranked #1 in the country at one point last season. They must replace a lot on both sides of the ball, but they should be in the top 25 for one reason: Dak Prescott. Prescott is a stud and has his favorite target De’Runnya Wilson back also. New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz should help improve the Bulldog defense with his attacking style. Prescott alone should have StarkVegas ranked. I have them in the 18-20 range.
There is a lot to like in Blacksburg. Bud Foster returns what should be one of the better defenses in all of college football. Kendall Fuller at cornerback is a stud. Frank Beamer coaches special teams better than anyone in the country. The question is on offense, but there are plenty of weapons. Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips are playmakers on the outside. Guess who beat the defending nation champs last season? That’s right the Virginia Tech Hokies. I have them in the 20-22 range.
The Pokes just did squeak into postseason play, but they did so behind the arm of now starting quarterback Mason Rudolph. Rudolph led the Cowboys to a surprise win over Bedlam rival Oklahoma. The offense returns its top nine (yes nine) receivers. Emmanuel Ogbah, and his 11 sacks, returns on defense. The linebacking corps is three-deep and Kevin Peterson returns what should be a solid secondary. Rudolph could be in for a big year. I have Oklahoma State in the 22-25 range.
The start of football season is in sight. The release of the Coaches Poll just starts the debate of who is the best team in the land and who will make the College Football Playoff. Honestly these kinds of rankings don’t mean anything to the playoff committee, but it gets people ready for the first of September. And that friends, is always a good thing.