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Composite Preseason Rankings - 2015
I've compiled the composite college football rankings from five different preseason magazines and two human polls. See the complete list ...

The Top Twenty look like this.

2015 Composite College Preseason Rankings
  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. Alabama
  4. Baylor
  5. Oregon
  6. USC
  7. Auburn
  8. Michigan State
  9. Georgia
  10. Notre Dame
  1. Florida State
  2. LSU
  3. Clemson
  4. UCLA
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Arizona State
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Arkansas
  9. Georgia Tech
  10. Stanford
While starting on my annual composite of the preseason college football rankings, I started with last year's list and found it to be amazingly accurate.

Below are the top ten teams last year as ranked across the preseason football magazines plus the AP and Coaches Polls. The teams' 2014 regular season records are listed. The right-hand column shows the CFP Committee's final regular season Top Ten (Dec. 7) with the preseason rank for teams not in the original top ten.

2014 Composite Preseason Rankings
  1. Florida State (13-0)
  2. Alabama (12-1)
  3. Oklahoma (8-4)
  4. Oregon (12-1)
  5. Ohio State (12-1)
  6. Auburn (8-4)
  7. UCLA (9-3)
  8. Baylor (11-1)
  9. Michigan State (10-2)
  10. South Carolina (6-6)
2014 Regular Season Final CFP Rankings
  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State
  4. Ohio State
  5. Baylor
  6. TCU (#39)
  7. Mississippi State (#36)
  8. Michigan State
  9. Ole Miss (#19)
  10. Arizona (#45)
As you can see, the four teams that made the first College Football Playoff were ranked in the Top Five.
  • The clunker was Oklahoma, which finished out of the Top 25 with an 8-4 record before being wasted by Clemson 40-6 in the Citrus Bowl.
  • Auburn also went 8-4 and then lost its bowl game.
  • South Carolina had the worst record of the top ten, barely qualifying for a bowl game.
  • On the other side of the ledger, TCU was the biggest over-achiever, barely missing a spot in the playoff after ranking #39 in preseason.
  • The two Mississippi teams also surprised the world, with each ranked in the top three in mid-October before falling prey to the carnage of the SEC.

Coming next - this year's composite preseason rankings.

College Football Predictions
With big time college football only a few days away, it's time to start listing my predictions for the coming season.

Don't be surprised if ...

  1. Tennessee wins the East Division of the SEC.

    The Vols won four of their last five games, including the TaxSlayer Bowl over Iowa, after installing Joshua Dobbs at QB. Butch Jones has rekindled enthusiasm in Knoxville in just two years. Georgia is the consensus favorite in the East but have QB problems.

  2. Alabama loses two regular season games for the first time since 2010.

    Both lines are imposing but the secondary was the weak link last year. And Jake Coker is like Anthony Jennings of LSU - if he hasn't shown he's an SEC caliber QB by now and seized the reins of the offense, he may never do so. It was expected that Coker would start last year when he transfer­red from Florida State. Now Saban still hasn't committed to a starter with the first game against Wisconsin five days away. The Tide also lost All­America WR Amari Cooper and RB T. J. Yeldon.

  3. Like last year, no SEC team finishes undefeated in conference play and at least one of the division winners has two conference losses.

    No team stands head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, not even Alabama, which must find a QB for the second straight year.

  4. Florida State repeats as ACC champion.

    With Everett Golson's transfer from Notre Dame, the Seminoles have plugged the hole at QB caused by Jameis Winston's heading to the NFL. The defense will be better than last year. And Dalvin Cook has been rein­stated after being acquitted of assault charges. I'm not looking for FSU to make the CFP again this year, but they should be good enough to win an ACC that has no overwhelming teams.

To be continued ...

College Football Preview: Athlon
Monday, August 31
Another in a series of summaries of preseason college football magazine predic­tions.

The Final Four

  1. Ohio State
  2. Alabama
  3. Baylor
  4. Auburn

Rest of Top Ten

  1. TCU
  2. USC
  3. Michigan State
  4. Oregon
  5. Florida State
  6. Georgia

Rest of Top 25

  1. Ole Miss
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Arizona State
  4. Clemson
  5. LSU
  6. Arkansas
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Georgia Tech
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Mississippi State
  12. Tennessee
  13. UCLA
  14. Stanford
  15. Boise State

"Final Analysis" on #15 LSU
It's pretty simple: LSU needs much better play from the QB position in 2015. Whoever gets the starting nod must improve on an anemic passing attack that failed to throw for more than 150y in seven of eight SEC games. Fournette is a star, but he can't carry an entire offense on those broad shoulders. The defense, led by a top-flight secondary, will be strong - if not elite like LSU defenses of the recent past. The Tigers are talented enough to be a factor in the rugged SEC West - only if the passing offense improves.

National rank of LSU's units:
RB - 10 (4 SEC)
WR - 18 (5 SEC)
O-line - 7 (4 SEC)
D-line - 16 (6 SEC)
LB - 15 (5 SEC)
DB - 1 (1 SEC)

"Final Analysis" on Other SEC teams

  • Auburn
    Some moving parts have to come together for Auburn to once again be a player in the SEC West, but Malzahn's reputation as an offensive mind and Muschamp's prowess on defense mean the Tigers are a safe bet to make some noise. With Johnson at the helm, Auburn should be a dangerous passing team, and the combination of talent at both running back and offensive line, but Malzahn's history of churning out 1,000-yard rushers, means Johnson should have a solid complement. The pressure, then, falls on Muschamp, who doesn't have to hold teams to 10 points or less; if he can get the Tigers around 20-24 points against per game, Auburn should be a contender.
  • Alabama
    Alabama hasn't lost a season-opener since 2001, but a date with Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas, will be a stout test with an uncertain offense. Establishing a No. 1 QB early in August will be crucial for developing chemistry with inexperienced receivers. On defense, the front seven should help Alabama retain its reputation among the nation's most imposing units. But it'll have to plug the leaks in the secondary that created major issues against Auburn and in the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State.
  • Arkansas
    Arkansas should be more dynamic and more efficient with Allen back for his third season as the starter operating in front of a top-flight offensive line. The defense, despite some key losses in the front seven, should once again be strong. To emerge as a legitimate contender in the rough-and-tumble SEC West, the Hogs must find a way to win on the road in league play (something they haven't done since October 2012) and learn how to win close games (they haven't won an SEC game decided by a touchdown or less since October 2011).
  • Ole Miss
    This may be Freeze's last chance to do something big with the vaunted 2013 signing class. Barring the unforeseen, Tunsil, Nkemdiche and Treadwell will likely be gone after this season. Conner may join them.
    There are questions on offense, but Kelly should make a seamless transition [at QB]. Freeze helped the lightly recruited Bo Wallace become a three-year starter and tie Eli Manning with 24 career wins.
    The defensive line is strong, and if the corners play as well as expected, Ole Miss will again be a factor in the SEC West.
  • Georgia
    Once again, Georgia has the talent to make a run at the SEC title and the College Football Playoff. The question is whether the offense can be as good despite the changes, and whether the defense continues to improve. If both happen, the Bulldogs will have a special season. If not, the Bulldogs should still have enough to have a solid season. But that will do little to allay a fan base that has tired of being good, but not great.
  • Tennessee
    Tennessee's dismantling of Iowa in last year's TaxSlayer Bowl guaranteed that excitement in Knoxville would reach a fever pitch by this season's opener. With the suddenly high expectations for the Vols comes pressure for Butch Jones for the first time in his Tennessee career. There's talent at the skill positions, but enough to win the SEC East? Jones probably has another year before fans grow restless, but if the Vols don't win the division, they'll need to at least come very close.
  • Mississippi State
    Mississippi State loses seven starters on offense and eight on defense. That much turnover won't be easy to overcome. The expectations with the fans won't change, though, after they tasted the promised land last year with a No. 1 ranking. Prescott, one of the best players in the SEC, will be able to mask a lot of the holes. How many and how well could decide the Bulldogs' season.

SEC Prediction

West

  1. Alabama
  2. Auburn
  3. Ole Miss
  4. LSU
  5. Arkansas
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Mississippi State

East

  1. Georgia
  2. Tennessee
  3. Florida
  4. Missouri
  5. South Carolina
  6. Kentucky
  7. Vanderbilt

LSU 2nd team All-American: RB Leonard Fournette
LSU 1st team All-SEC: Fournette, DB Jamal Adams
LSU 2nd team All-SEC: DB Tra'Davious White and Jalen Mills, PR White
Bowl prediction for the Tigers: Outback Bowl vs Michigan

A Baseball Playoffs Proposal - and you listen too, NFL!
Sunday, August 30
Unless there's a major shift during the final month of the season, the top three teams in the National League Central Division will be very frustrated.
  • Currently, the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs have the most wins in the entire National League with 84, 79, and 73. (The Cubs are playing Sunday night as this is written. The Dodgers can tie them if they win the final game of the three-game series. The Mets also have 72 victories.)
  • If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Pirates and Cubs would play one game for the wild card spot.
  • Then the winner would play the #1 seed, the division champion Cardinals.
  • So the top two winning teams in the National League would play a five-game series in the NLDS, not the NLCS.

I propose two changes in the playoff setup, one of which is easy to implement but the other more controversial.

  1. The wild card team cannot play its own division winner in the NLDS.
    In other words, the wild card is not automatically the #4 seed. If, like 2013 (when the Pirates and Cards met in the NLDS), the wild card is in the same division as the #1 seed, then pit #1 vs #3 and #2 vs #4. The wild card would still get only games 3 and 4 at home, traveling for the other three.
  2. The other proposal is more controversial but would have an uphill battle to be considered.
    Before the playoffs begin, seed the teams on the basis of wins. If two teams are tied with the same number of wins, the division winner takes the higher seed. If that doesn't break the tie, use head-to-head results. Then the #4 and #5 seeds face each other in the best-of-three playoff. Apply rule #1 if necessary so that two teams from the same division don't meet in the NLDS.

If proposal #2 were applied to the current standings, you'd have this seeding.

  1. Cardinals
  2. Pirates
  3. Cubs
  4. Mets
  5. Dodgers

So the post-season would layout this way.

  • Begin with a best-of-three series between the Mets and Dodgers with the first game in L.A. and the next two in New York since the Mets won the season series with the Bums 4-3.
  • The winner of the three-game series would play the Cardinals in a five-game series, with games 1, 2, and 5 (if needed) in St. Louis.
  • The Pirates and Cubs would play a five-game series.
  • The winners of the two five-game series would meet for the NL pennant.

The same discussion has taken place in the NFL, especially last-year when the NFC South sent a below-.500 team to the playoffs (7-8-1 Carolina).

  • The NFL differs from MLB in that six teams in each conference make the playoffs.
  • The four division winners are seeded #1-4 according to record (with a multi-level set of criteria to break ties).
  • The two wild card teams are seeded #5-6 according to record (again with a series of tiebreakers applied if necessary).
  • The top two seeds receive first round byes.

The counter-proposal, which earned widespread approval in the media last year, was to do what I proposed for baseball above.

  • The four division winners all make the playoffs regardless of records. (Carolina wouldn't have made the playoffs last year if you took the top six winningest teams because 8-8 San Francisco would have taken the Panthers place.)
  • Seed the six teams in order of record (with appropriate tie-breakers at hand if needed).
  • The top two teams (one of which could be a wild card) receive byes the first round.

If this system had been applied last year, the playoffs would have changed as follows.

2014 Playoffs
 
Revised Playoffs

NFC

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Dallas
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. Detroit

AFC

  1. New England
  2. Denver
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Indianapolis
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Baltimore

NFC

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Dallas
  4. Arizona
  5. Detroit
  6. Carolina

AFC

  1. New England
  2. Denver
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Indianapolis
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Baltimore
Notice that the AFC seeding would not have changed under the revised proposal since the four division winners had the four best records.

Commissioner Goodell has pushed for an eight-team playoff for several years, although I haven't heard much about it lately. (Has he abandoned the idea or has he simply stored it away for a more favorable time?)

A Short, Short Story
Thursday, August 27
Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh were born in the same hospital in Akron OH six months apart. So they were destined to meet yearly in the biggest rivalry game in the Big Ten. Here's an excerpt from the ESPN The Magazine football preview issue.

Harbaugh and Meyer met for the first time at an annual Big Ten coaches meeting in February, and they're still learning to become rivals. But dig deeper into the record books and a shared history unfolds along the Ohio-Michigan border - a history that might indicate where this rivalry is headed.
November 1986, days before facing Ohio State, Michigan's senior QB Jim Har­baugh: "We're going to play in the Rose Bowl this year. I guarantee it. We'll beat Ohio State, and we'll be in Pasadena Jan. 1"
"I was sick as a dog," Harbaugh says, remembering that trip 200 miles south to Columbus. "Hundred-and-something
[fever]. Got food poisoning. Just all night throw­ing up. I think I slept an hour."
The next afternoon, ignorant of the opposing QB's sickly feeling, a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes was just happy to be part of the rivalry. It was the first year in col­lege coaching for Urban Meyer, a 22-year-old Ohio kid on the staff of Earle Bruce.
"I was a GA by pay but full-time by responsibility," Meyer recalls. "They were having a good year, but they lost to Minnesota. So all we had to do was win and we go to the Rose Bowl. ... I can't tell you my phone number or address, but I can tell you all the plays."
Especially the one that provided the margin. In the fourth quarter, Harbaugh handed the ball to seldom-used TB Thomas Wilcher. A Detroit product, Wilcher had found greater success in the high hurdles, winning an NCAA championship. But on this day, he didn't need to leap, simply plowing the ball seven yards over the goal line to put the Wolverines up 26-17. They would hold on for a 26-24 victory.

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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