We're officially on the brink of college football when the first Pre-Season Coaches' Poll comes out, which it did this past week. Dare you to tell me that the torture of waiting to open presents on Christmas morning was worse than this. It's time to cut the turf, paint the fields (& the faces) and load up the SUV with the grill, the tongs, and the charcoal. And more than that, its high time we start arguing with each other about what's really going to happen in 2017-2018. "Overrated, Underrated, or Correctly rated" is the game... you wanna play?
1. ALABAMA - Underrated: You're like, "Huh? Underrated? Is there a position higher than #1 that I don't know about?" Jalen Hurts is a year better, the 2-deep is reloaded thanks to another Saban-ized recruiting class, and the Tide is buoyed by a chip on its shoulder from the Clemson loss in the National Title game. Bama could have.. and I say should have, picked up more than 49 of the 65 first place votes.
2. OHIO STATE - Overrated: ...but only slightly. A young secondary might make the Buckeyes susceptible to a team with a rocket-armed quarterback. That is, if QBs get any time to throw against a swarming pass rush. JT Barrett isn't a Heisman-type thrower, but he has enough size and speed in his skill guys to be the productive game manager Urban Meyer needs. Keep in mind - OSU gets Oklahoma, Penn State, and Michigan State in Columbus.
3. FLORIDA STATE - Underrated: Put that porous (at times) 2016 Seminole defense out of your mind. What a difference a year makes. Nothing remotely like the 63-20 debacle at Louisville will happen this season. Safety Derwin James might see himself in New York come Heisman Saturday and there's little drop off with the other starting 10 on that side of the ball. You'll see increased poise from already savvy redshirst sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois. Not only will FSU rack up double-digit wins for the seventh straight season, but you can expect to see them in the College Football Playoff in January.
4. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA - Correctly Rated: I only say this (as opposed to underrated) because the Trojans need to show us an entire season of sustained excellence for me to be convinced they're all the way "back." That said, show me a college quarterback since Andrew Luck who can thread it into deep seams the way Heisman Trophy favorite Sam Darnold can. Yes, he's as good or better than advertised. A well-protected Darnold will find a wealth of talent around him whether he throws it or hands it off. And USC's defense is closer to being stacked in the 2-deep than at any time since the Pete Carroll days. The Trojans get Stanford at home and avoid Washington in the regular season.
5. CLEMSON - Overrated: Losing DeShawn Watson and five other starters on offense doesn't add up to a playoff team. But the way Dabo Sweeney and staff recruit, top 10 is appropriate. The Tigers could win 10 games and be the 3rd best team in the ACC. But, this is Florida State's year to reclaim conference bragging rights.
6. PENN STATE - Underrated: Truth... There is Penn State football at the highest level post Joe Paterno. James Franklin is proving it. The offense that put 49 points on USC in that Rose Bowl epic has 10 of its 11 starters back in the huddle this season. No Nittany Lions quarterback has ever thrown for 3,614 yards before Trace McSorley did it last year. With T-Mac's arm and Saquon Barkley's inate ability to chew up yards on the ground, Penn State should claim 2nd in the Big Ten.
7. WASHINGTON - Underrated: What the Huskies did last season wasn't supposed to be realistic until this year. Another run at a spot in the final four might come down to a potential matchup with USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Jake Browning is just the type of quarterback Coach Chris Petersen loves.. and he's back again, a year wiser. And while you might not like U-Dub's easy schedule, they won't mind it providing a pathway to 11 (possibly 12) wins this season.
8. OKLAHOMA - Correctly Rated: If you'd have asked me at the end of last season, I might have made OU an early contender for the upcoming year's Playoff. But, it's been a rough offseason in Soonerville. Heisman Finalist (QB) Baker Mayfield got arrested for public drunkenness and Bob Stoops abruptly retired midsummer shoving Lincoln Riley into the catbird seat. Riley's had a fun first few months, losing top Wide Receiver Nick Basquine for the season to injury and having to kick incoming 4-star quarterback Chris Robinson off the squad. ...Doesn't exactly make the Sooners top heavy with positive mojo heading into September.
9. MICHIGAN - Overrated: Guys that make noise get attention (see Lavar Ball). That's Jim Harbaugh. It's enough attention to get the Wolverines into the Preseason Top 10. It's not enough to keep them there for long. Let's be clear - Harbaugh can coach. But when only five of 22 starters return from last year to a team that plays Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, another 10-win campaign is too far-fetched.
10: WISCONSIN - Underrated: How Bucky Badger is ranked below the maize and blue, I'll never know. Experience at quarterback (Alex Hornibrook), a monster defense, and a schedule void of the Buckeyes gives me the sneaking suspicion that Wisky could again pull off 11 wins... and perhaps even appear in a New Year's Day bowl game.
Team that SHOULD be in the Top 10: OKLAHOMA STATE: Heisman Trophy contending quarterback Mason Rudolph is back in the saddle of one of the nation's offensive juggernauts. The Pokes will have reason to smile at more than just Coach Mike Gundys mullet all Fall.
TJ's Top 10 Re-Rank:
1. Alabama 2. Florida State 3. Ohio State 4. USC 5. Penn State 6. Washington 7. Oklahoma State 8. Oklahoma 9. Wisconsin 10. Clemson