Ranking the Power 5 Conferences Headed into the 2017 College Football Season
5) Pac 12
The Pac 12 is very top heavy like last year. USC looks to be a national title contender with QB Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones on offense and a defense which looks to be improved. Washington lost a lot of talent off, of last years college playoff team, but return starting QB, Jake Browning. Stanford is always a threat with Head Coach David Shaw at the helm. Washington State could surprise behind QB Luke Falk and head coach Mike Leach. Colorado and Utah were both strong teams last year, but both teams lost a lot to graduation and it remains to be seen if they can fill in the gaps left by graduation. UCLA will return with a healthy Josh Rosen at QB, so they will be a team to keep an eye on.
The ACC was deeper than most people thought they would be at the start of last season and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again this year. But looking at it right now, you have two legit contenders in Florida State, who returns a lot from last year’s team, and last year’s national champion Clemson. The only problem at Clemson is actually a big problem: can they replace Deshaun Watson? I would never doubt Dabo Swinney though so don’t be surprised if they are there at the end. Louisville returns Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and Miami (Fla) should have a very good defense. I just do not think this conference is as deep as it was last year.
3) Big 12
The Big 12 is ready for a breakout season much like the Big Ten had last year. Oklahoma still has QB and Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield, a multitude of weapons on offense and a defense that looks much improved. Oklahoma State has a big-time QB also and will have their most explosive offense since 2011, when they were National Title contenders. Texas has a talented new Coach in Tom Herman and West Virginia, Kansas State, and TCU are all well-coached, talented teams. So the Big 12 actually has 5 teams that could win 10 games during next season.
2) Southeastern Conference
The SEC doesn’t seem to have as many top level teams as the conferences ranked ahead of them this year, but they still have Alabama. Bama will be towards the top all year with a great coach in Nick Saban, plus Jalen Hurts. LSU could be intriguing if they can find a QB to go with running back Derrius Guice. Auburn is in a good position to challenge their arch rival with former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham on campus and both top running backs back.
Jacob Eason has an NFL-caliber arm, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel return at running back and the 2017 signing class could be one of the best in Georgia history. Florida will have to replace a lot of last year’s defense, and Tennessee could challenge. My surprise team to watch could be Kentucky as they improved during the season and look ready to possibly make a move.
1) Big Ten Conference
After years of floundering, the Big Ten returned with a vengeance last season, and they actually look stronger this year. Ohio State, as always, will be the favorite led by Urban Meyer. The question is can J.T. Barrett improve enough to put them over the top? The addition of former Indiana University Head Coach Kevin Wilson should help Barrett’s development in a big way. Penn State returns their QB McSorley and maybe the best running back in the nation in Saquan Barkley, so they will be in the mix again.
Michigan will have to replace 17 starters that graduated last year, but with Jim Harbaugh at the helm, I wouldn’t worry too much about the Wolverines. Wisconsin, as always, will be a contender, and as always the question is if they get could enough QB play to make it into the playoffs. The most intriguing team may be Nebraska, who is quickly looking like they will return to their former glory. P.J. Fleck will make things exciting for sure in Minnesota. The Big Ten’s only drawback is a massive talent gap between the top half of the league and the bottom half.