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2015 NCAA College Football Top 25 Preview

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Fearless Rick's 2015 NCAA Preseason Top 25

Rick Gagliano | August 14, 2015


Buckeyes logo1. Ohio State - With a third string quarterback at the helm, the Buckeyes won the national championship behind inexperienced Cardale Jones, who was in for J. T. Barrett, who, in turn, was replacing Braxton Miller.

The incredible run saw Jones and Ohio State take down Wisconsin by an incredible 59-0, considering it was Jones' first start and the game was the Big Ten championship. Following that victory and plenty of practice time, the Buckeyes conquered Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, advancing to the nationals championship game where they upset 13-1 Oregon, 42-20.

Turning the page to 2015, the Buckeyes find themselves still atop the college football universe, returning 15 starters (eight on offense; seven on defense) and a coach who doesn't know the word quit, Urban Meyer.

While Miller missed out on playing his senior year, the Buckeyes have two talented quarterbacks in Jones and Barrett, either of whom could start on just about any other team in the country. The line remains mostly intact, with four starters coming back and Ohio State, as usual, has a bevy of talented wideouts and backs just waiting to get on the gridiron.

Defensively, the Buckeyes were above average in 2014, allowing 21.2 ppg, good for #23 in the nation. With only three spots open, the Ohio State defense of 2015 may be one of the top two or three when all is said and done.

It won't be a fluke if Ohio State gets back to the national championship and even if they win it. Coach Meyer has a record of unsurpassed success stemming from his days at Utah and then Florida, where he won championships in 2006 and 2008.

Horned Frogs logo2. TCU - Knocking on the door for years, TCU has finally come of age, emerging as the logical choice to capture the Big 12 title this year after a 12-1 campaign last season, their only loss a 61-58 defeat at Baylor that amazingly kept them out of the national championship playoffs.

The Horned Frogs made their displeasure known at the expense of #9 Ole Miss, whom they mercilessly hammered in the Peach Bowl, to the tune of a 42-3 old-fashioned beating.

Having nine starters returning on offense is a red flag to the rest of college football, for a team that finished second in the nation in scoring - to Baylor - at 46.5 points per game.

The Frogs only have five returnees on defense, but most of them are linebackers and TCU has become known as the Penn State of the South" the way they churn out quality tacklers each season.

The team finished last season ranked #16 in scoring defense, allowing 20.3 points per game, and the recruiting class and rotation is solid. It's taken a decade for this program to reach the promised land, so this could be the year they finallyy get a shot at a national championship.

Auburn Tigers logo3. Auburn - After going 8-5 in 2014 and ending with a 34031 OT loss to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl, the Tigers are reloading with a solid recruiting class and a need to replace 10 starters, including QB Nick Marshall, and most of their receiving corps, though the retain three offensive linemen, the heart of their run-gun attack.

Jeremy Johnson, who will likely be the heir to Marshall, saw limited time in 2014, but hit on 75% of his passes and tossed for three TDs. If he lives up to his promise, he may be the SEC player of the year, a la Cam Newton a few years back.

On defense, only three positions need replacing, and they're spread out to one lineman, one linbacker and one DB, so the unit looks pretty solid, despite troubles last season when they gave up 26.1 points per game.

The Tigers have to contend with a wickedly tough SEC schedule, especially the close-out game with Alabama, which will be played the final weekend in November but is a home game for the Tigers.

It may look like a stretch that Auburn could finish this high, but from a talent perspective, they're one of the best-looking teams in the country and should prove a tough beat each and every week.

Michigan St. Spartans logo4. Michigan State - Last season, after the Spartans lost to Ohio State, 49-37, and thus were eliminated from the Big Ten championship game, they still finished with a flourish, winning their final three games to go 7-1 in the conference and then squeaked past Baylor in the Cotton Bowl, 42-41.

The challenges are great for the Spartans this season, as they return 13 starters from last year, six on offense and seven on defense, though they will need to fill a hole at running back after Jeremy Langford and his 1522 yards rushing headed to the NFL. Nick Hill, who carried the ball 107 times for 622 yards, should fill in well.

QB Connor Cook returns and his play from last season (24 TDs, 8 INTs) quieted most of his vocal critics, so, the Spartans may be even better offensively than last season, when they put up a surprising 43 points per game, good for 7th nationally.

The defense fell off a little from their amazing 2013 season, but still finished at #12 in scoring defense, allowing 19.9 points per contest.

One of the few knocks against Michigan State is that it will be difficult to get past the Buckeyes, playing in the Big Ten East along with the reigning national champions.

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Baylor Bears logo5. Baylor - While the Bears return an astounding 17 starters from a year ago, they will be without one notable player, QB Bryce Petty, who, over the course of two seasons as the starter, threw for over 800 yards, 61 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

That level of play will be hard to replicate, whether it is Seth Russell or true freshman Jarrett Stidham, but the QB will have a plethora of talented receivers helping him out.

In 2014, Baylor lost only to West Virginia, 41-27, midseason and many felt they were jobbed by the system, keeping them out of the national championship playoffs, despite an 11-1 record. The idea that they were snubbed by the selectors because the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game left them up against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, where they suffered a heart-breaking 42-41 loss.

Baylor has enough talent on offense to cruise the the Big 12 virtually unscathed, but, a late-season (November 27) meeting at TCU could be their undoing, as would a loss prior to that game. Their chances are very good at making the final four and beyond.

Clemson Tigers logo6. Clemson - Another 10-3 team from a year ago, the Clemson Tigers may have even surprised themselves with a successful season after seeing Taj Boyd and Sammy Watkins head to the NFL, the slack being taken up by an aggressive defense that finished seventh nationally at 17.6 points per game allowed.

Unfortunately, the Tigers have a need to replace seven starters from that solid defensive unit, but they keep seven starters from an offense that had its moments in 2014, averaging 30.8 ppg.

The losses last season were to Georgia, Florida State and Georgia Tech, but the Tigers rebounded from the loss to the Yellow Jackets with a shutout (28-0) over Georgia State, a 35-17 romp over rival South Carolina and a 40-6 pounding of Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

This is a team that could conceivably capture the ACC title, and beyond that, may qualify for a spot in the national championship final four.

Georgia Bulldogs logo7. Georgia - Coming off a 10-3 season, the Georgia Bulldogs appear poised for a run at the SEC title and perhaps beyond if QB Brice Ramsey is up to the task and Nick Chubb carries the ball (1547 yards) like he did in 2014.

The Bulldog offensive line returns nearly intact, a huge plus, but all four of the defensive front will be new. It shouldn't be much of a concern, as the Georgia defense was 25th in the country, allowing 21.3 points per game.

Even with Todd Gurley moving to the NFL, he didn't play but part of one game in 2014, so he doesn't need replacing on an offense which generated 41.3 ppg in 2014, 8th in the nation.

Finishing 2014 with a 37-14 bruising of Louisville, the Bulldogs were 10-3, the losses coming against South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia Tech and all three could be dismissed as flukey. The Bulldogs can make a run at the SEC title and maybe a shot at a national championship if everything falls into place.

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Crimson Tide logo8. Alabama - Having to replace seven starters on offense and four on defense puts the onus on the Crimson Tide to repeat as champions of the SEC.

Even though 'Bama went through the season with a 12-1 mark (7-1 in the SEC), they were taken to task in close wins over Arkansas (14-13), LSU (20-13, OT) and Mississippi State (25-20). The Tide held their own in the National Championship semi-final against the Buckeyes, finally succumbing, 42-35.

Alabama will be successful in 2015, but success is largely measured in terms of national championships and even getting to the big finale will be a tough test for the Crimson Tide because, although the defense was #4 in points allowed ((16.6 per game), QB Jake Coker has much to learn about running the offense.

UCLA Bruins logo9. UCLA - The Bruins have been on the cusp of greatness for the past three seasons, and, with 18 starters coming back for another season (most in the PAC-12), this could be the year UCLA breaks through and competes at a national championship level.

What stands in the way of the Bruins are two things: 1) the impression left by Oregon, that the conference is not ready for the big time spotlight, and, 2) how well Jerry Neuheisel fills the shoes of QB Brent Hundley, who graduated and is the only starter missing from last year's team.

Neuheisel will face challenges, but he may get some help from a defense that was not statistically impressive, but made plays in critical situations.

UCLA was 10-3, including a 40-35 victory over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. Notably, the Bruns do not meet Oregon during the 2015 regular season.

Fighting Irish logo10. Notre Dame - Other than Appalachian State (a lock to capture the Sun Belt), no other division 1 team has more returning starters than the Fighting Irish, with an impressive total of 19 making the trip back to South Bend.

The Irish get all but one player back on a defense that fell well short of expectations in 2014, allowing an average of 29.3 points per game, ranked 85th nationally. The experience factor should come into play and see a good deal of improvement in this department.

Offensively, Notre Dame was solid last year, putting 32.8 points up against opponents, but the big question mark is how well Malik Zaire will guide the offense, with the defection of Everett Golson to Florida State.

Still, despite last season's late meltdown - losing five of their last six before recovering for a 31-28 win over LSU in the Music City Bowl - the Irish have a fighting chance of making amends and finishing in the Top 10.

Click here for teams 11-25.

Copyright 2015, 2016, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.



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