Sadly, the college football season came to a close last night with one of the most dramatic national championship games in recent memory. And with the release of its light years too soon 2017 college football rankings, next season has already begun for CBS Sports.
Their top five leaves room for plenty of debate.
There’s certainly no surprise here. The Tide return its leader, All-SEC quarterback Jalen Hurts, and that’s a massive building block. He’ll be surrounded by a stable of four and five star talent in the backfield with Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, the nation’s top running back recruit for the Class of 2017 in Najee Harris, and four-star running back commit Brian Robinson. And despite some key losses on the defensive side, you can rest assured that Nick Saban will simply restock the cupboard for another run at the title.
2. Ohio State
Urban Meyer will have his main man J.T. Barrett back at the controls so you can expect everything else on the offensive side to fall right in line. That blowout loss to Clemson in the semifinals should also serve as the Buckeyes key motivator.
3. Florida State
Dalvin Cook is off to the NFL, but recruiting is one of Jimbo Fisher’s strong suits and as we all know, he’s not afraid to plug in true freshman at key positions. So the Noles shouldn’t miss a beat. Especially when you throw in a wiser and likely stronger Deondre Francois at quarterback.
It all starts and ends with the return of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Both standout running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perrine, and Heisman Trophy finalist wideout Dede Westbrook, are all departing for the NFL, but OU has always attracted elite talent at the skill positions. That said, look for a whole new crop in 2017.
The Trojans will lose some serious elite talent to the next level in wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and possibly cornerback/kick returner Adoree Jackson. But this is a program that’s got talent, and speed, to burn. The return of quarterback Sam Darnold, who just started finding his game in the latter half of the 2016 season, also holds a ton of promise.
Two schools that deserve a mention are USF at 10 and Lousiville at 16.
10. South Florida
The Bulls are certainly a surprise with a preseason top 10 ranking. New head coach Charlie Strong might have something to do with such high billing. But there’s also dual threat quarterback Quinton Flowers, who could be a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender to start the season.
16. Louisville Cardinals
The surprise here is the Cardinals coming in so low. They return the most dynamic player in college football in Lamar Jackson so look for this rank to change for the better as we get closer to the season.
Where’s Clemson? Since the National Champions could loss their top three weapons on offense —QB Deshaun Watson has announced he’s leaving for the NFL, and running back Wayne Gallman and receiver Mike Williams could follow suit — CBS has them ranked at No. 13.