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BTD’s Way-Too-Early College Football Top 25

The Crimson Tide return to the throne to kick-off the 2017 season.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Top 25

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama will have their overhaul as usual, yet a huge piece of the puzzle returns from last season’s National Finalist team in big-time playmaker Jalen Hurts. It’ll be more of the same for Nick Saban down in Tuscaloosa, as his team expects to enter next season as the perennial favorites once again.

2. Florida State Seminoles

Jimbo Fisher loses talent across his offense but he returns quarterback Deondre Francois and a host of defensive starters. The key for Florida State will be finding new stars without Dalvin Cook on offense and DeMarcus Walker on defense. The ‘Noles also meet with the Crimson Tide at the Georgia Dome in Week One.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

J.T. Barrett’s return wasn’t a make or break deal for the Buckeyes, showing how deep this team is stocked around him. Urban Meyer hasn’t lost more than two games in a season since his arrival in Columbus and he returns almost 34 of his starters on both sides of the ball.

4. Oklahoma Sooners

Baker Mayfield is back in the fold, ready to end his career on a high note. Running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine are both heading to the NFL but a full offensive line returning is key. An early season trip to Ohio State will prove this team’s worth.

5. Penn State Nittany Lions

If Penn State can figure things out defensively, where they take strong hits on the defensive line, the Nittany Lions can be this year’s Washington. The combo of Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley make Penn State an elite offensive team.

6. USC Trojans

The biggest detriment for the Trojans may be the departing faces on their offensive line, where they’ll need serious improvement to protect rising star Sam Darnold. Adoree’ Jackson’s NFL decision is crucial as well.

7. Washington Huskies

Washington is the “step up” team for 2017, meaning if a wide variety of new pieces can fill increased roles, Chris Petersen’s squad has a solid chance. Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are also as formidable of a duo as there is in the country. It doesn’t hurt that the Huskies draw a favorable schedule too, with no regular season match-up with USC.

8. Wisconsin Badgers

With the steady grind of a “ground and pound” offense, Wisconsin will not stray from the formula that brought them to a Big Ten title game in Paul Chryst’s second season in Madison. To help the cause, the Badgers avoid Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State on their Big Ten slate.

9. Georgia Bulldogs

Kirby Smart’s first season in Athens had it’s highs and lows but overall, it was a chaotic swirl on a program on the rise. Bringing back a full defense and a bevy of talented offensive players, starting with Nick Chubb and Jacob Eason, makes the Bulldogs an intriguing team to watch.

10. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The defensive concerns for this roster are warranted, with Jordan Sterns, Devante Averette and Vincent Taylor all leaving Stillwater but the offensive potential of this team is electric, even by Oklahoma State standards. Navigating a tricky Big 12 could be their downfall.

11. Clemson Tigers

Culture will need to prevail for the Tigers, who lose talent by the bunches and still are considered a contender in the ACC. Who comes after Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams and Ben Boulware is the question now.

12. LSU Tigers

It’s hard not to give LSU the benefit of the doubt with the heavy amount of changes that new head coach Ed Orgeron has made across the board. The Tigers will have a new up-tempo style under Matt Canada, a new quarterback in Danny Etling and a new focus without Leonard Fournette on campus.

13. Auburn Tigers

After watching the circus show that was Auburn’s 2016 season, it’s scary to think that the Tigers are a few plays away from making the Iron Bowl relevant again. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s insertion needs to kick-start a failing Auburn offense.

14. Boise State Broncos

It looks like Bryan Harsin will return for his fourth season at his alma mater, where he’s pieced together a 31-9 record over the past three years. Quarterback Brett Rypien will be the glue that holds his group together.

15. Michigan Wolverines

Jabrill Peppers. De’Veon Smith. Jake Butt. Amara Darboh. Taco Charlton. Jourdan Lewis. The losses go on and on for Michigan but if Jim Harbaugh keeps form, Big Blue could be alright. The Wolverines need to totally revamp both sides of the ball.

16. Louisville Cardinals

For a team that needs to find more help for Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, losing their starting tailback, tight end and top-two receivers is a step backwards. However, Jackson’s presence alone gives the Cardinals some instant credibility.

17. South Florida Bulls

Charlie Strong steps in to take over for Willie Taggart (Oregon), where the former Texas program director inherits a talented depth chart. The Bulls return nine defensive starters, as well as one of the top talents in the AAC in quarterback Quinton Flowers.

18. Stanford Cardinal

Another steady giant on the West Coast, even with the colossal departures from this Cardinal roster, David Shaw is expected to keep things sailing in the right direction. Christian McCaffrey may be gone but the Cardinal could be a better defensive team than they were a season ago.

19. TCU Horned Frogs

Gary Patterson knows how to awake sleeping giants and that’s just what he may have in Fort Worth this season. TCU brings almost a whole offense back but how they rework their defensive line will be crucial.

20. Kansas State Wildcats

If the ageless Bill Synder can figure out a defense that loses almost half their starters, the Wildcats should have a fighting chance in the Big 12. A litany of returning offensive talents, including quarterback Jesse Ertz, may have to help carry the load early on.

21. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

With no immediate replacement known just yet for Brad Kaaya, some uncertainty in the backfield leaves questions across the board for Miami. Mark Richt will have to build off his year one success and steal a road win at Florida State, Pittsburgh or North Carolina.

22. Texas Longhorns

A breath of fresh air under new head coach Tom Herman could be enough to made a talented Longhorns roster play to their potential, at least on the defensive side of the ball, where they return 10 starters. Offensively, fixes need to be made but there’s no man better for the job than Herman.

23. Washington State Cougars

Pending they avoid another FCS upset, the Cougars are in prime position again to be the Pac-12 dark-horse. Mike Leach and company will have to topple Boise State in an early September meeting in Pullman and navigate road trips to Washington, Utah and Oregon as well. Although, sixteen returning starters should help their cause.

24. Virginia Tech Hokies

Justin Fuente has found a steady balance in style of play that’ll work in the ACC and now it’s his turn to build culture and depth in year two in Blacksburg. Reshuffling on the Hokies offensive and defensive lines could be their achilles heel.

25. Navy Midshipmen

Despite his name being a regular on the rumor mill circuit, it looks like Ken Niumatalolo will return to Navy for his tenth season, where he’s built the service academy into a mainstay program. The names change at Navy but the results don’t seem to, as the Midshipmen have lost just one AAC game in each of their first two seasons in the conference.

Next Three

BYU Cougars

Kalani Sitake’s debut season in Provo was a wild ride that concluded with four losses by a combined 8 points. All season long, it felt like the Cougars were on the verge of that monumental breakthrough. Taysom Hill passes the quarterback torch to Tanner Magnum but the rest of the BYU show should stay steady.

Florida Gators

There’s belief that Florida will solve their scoring woes in 2017, with almost their whole offense back from an SEC East Championship team. It’s now the Gators defense that could be the issue, after a huge depletion of proven talent. Jim McElwain will be in for one of his biggest coaching tests yet.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Pitt’s non-conference slate won’t help their record much, with a road trip to Penn State and a showdown with Oklahoma State in the cards, but it could help this Panthers team prepare for the grind of the ACC. Avoiding Clemson, Florida State and Louisville in conference play won’t hurt either.