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Ohio State will start the 2015 college football season where it ended the 2014 campaign, on top.
The Buckeyes will be loaded with talent next season and will be favored to repeat as national champs. It only stands to reason that they are on top of the XN Sports 2015 Top 25 College Football Preview Poll.
Urban Meyer has transformed the Buckeyes into one of the country’s most dominant teams. Ohio State has size, speed, power, and now confidence after a season that saw it improve week in and week out and win the national title with its third string quarterback.
The quarterback story in Columbus bears watching but most times those things work themselves out and whoever is under center for the Buckeyes will likely be a Heisman candidate and will be in control of the best team in the nation.
Here’s a way early look at the 2015 college football season and how the top 25 stacks up.
1. Ohio State – The Buckeyes went 14-1 and won the inaugural College Football playoff and may be even better in 2015. A trio of quarterbacks, Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, and Cardale Jones, who would start just about anywhere in the country, are back and the defense will be led by pass-rushing terror Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee, and safety Vonn Bell. Expect coach Urban Meyer to lock up one of the nation’s best recruiting classes as well and it all adds up to the very real possibility that the Buckeyes might win the first TWO college football playoffs.
2. TCU – Aside from Baylor, there won’t be a team more motivated for the 2015 season than the Horned Frogs. TCU improved to 12-1 after going 4-8 in 2013 and was on the cusp of a spot in the playoff but a loss to Baylor and the Big 12’s inability to declare “one true champion” cost the Horned Frogs (and the Bears) a chance to play for the national title. TCU destroyed Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl and has 16 starters returning, including 10 on offense. Quarterback Trevone Boykin headlines the returners after throwing for 3,901 yards with 33 touchdowns and rushing for 707 yards and eight touchdowns.
3. Baylor – The Bears are losing quarterback Bryce Petty but have 17 starters coming back from a team that nearly made the first college football playoff. Ten starters return on defense and quarterback Seth Russell looked good when he played when Petty was hurt and he will have weapons at his disposal in running back Shock Linwood and receivers Corey Coleman, KD Cannon and Jay Lee.
4. Auburn – Jeremy Johnson steps in at quarterback and with offensive wizard Gus Malzahn guiding him, the Tigers offense should be fine. The biggest change will be on defense as former Florida coach Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator. If Muschamp can get more out of a talented but underachieving group, Auburn can once again compete for the SEC crown.
5. Florida State – Jameis Winston is gone and from a talent standpoint he will be tough to replace but all of the distractions that came along with him will be gone too and the new quarterback, Sean Maguire, led the Seminoles past Clemson last season while Winston was suspended. Running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane will help take the pressure off of Maguire while the defense looks to reload.
6. Michigan State – The Spartans will return 12 starters, led by quarterback Connor Cook, who was one of the nation’s top starters last fall with 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns against five interceptions.
7. Oregon – The Ducks have won at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons and while replacing Heisman winning QB Marcus Mariota will be tough, the new quarterback will have Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner returning in the backfield.
8. USC – QB Cody Kessler returns to run the Trojans’ offense and this is the year the scholarship issues are over. It’s time for USC to contend in the Pac-12 South and if it does it has a chance to be in the playoff hunt.
9. Ole Miss – The Rebels were one of the surprise success stories of 2014 and should be good again in 2015. QB Bo Wallace needs to be replaced but the defense would be even stronger than it was last season when it beat Boise State, Alabama and Mississippi State, which combined for 34 wins.
10. UCLA – Coach Jim Mora has 18 starters coming back and the only real question for the Bruins is how successfully will they be in replacing quarterback Brett Hundley.
11. Alabama – Nick Saban will have a bit of a rebuilding job on his hands for 2015 with QB Blake Sims, WR Amari Cooper, and RB T.J. Yeldon highlighting the losses on offense. The Crimson Tide will also miss safety Landon Collins.
12. Georgia – The Bulldogs return RB Nick Chubb and will once again be one of the favorites in the SEC East.
13. Arizona State – Mike Bercovici looked plenty ready to take over at QB for Taylor Kelly in limited duty in 2014 and the Sun Devils have just about everybody back on defense as they look to dethrone Oregon in the Pac-12.
14. Notre Dame – Once the Irish decide between Malik Zaire or Everett Golson at quarterback they will head into 2015 with high expectations and a defense that returns almost intact and a year more experienced.
15. Arizona – QB Anu Solomon and LB Scooby Wright make the Wildcats’ offense and defense go respectively and both are back for Rich Rodriguez after winning the Pac-12 South and defeating Oregon in Eugene in 2014.
16. LSU – If LSU didn’t have such big question marks at the QB spot it would be ranked much higher with RB Leonard Fournette, WRs Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupree, and DT Davon Godchaux all back after standout freshman seasons.
17. Stanford – The Cardinal ruined UCLA’s playoff hopes as part of a season-ending three-game win streak that also included a bowl win over Maryland. QB Kevin Hogan is returning as a fifth-year senior and should add a number of wins to his 24-8 record as Stanford’s starter.
18. Georgia Tech – The Yellowjackets won 11 games and handled Mississippi State decisively in the Orange Bowl and have QB Justin Thomas back to run its option offense and terrorize the rest of the ACC.
19. Texas A&M – Offense isn’t the problem for the Aggies. Kyle Allen will be fine at quarterback and will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. The questions are on defense but they could be answered by new defensive coordinator John Chavis, who spent the last six seasons at LSU. Chavis will have his work cut out for him after the Aggies ranked 103rd in the country in defense last season.
20. Missouri – Missouri has won the SEC East the last two years and has also racked up double-digit win seasons in that span. Add that success to the return of QB Maty Mauk and there is no reason to think the Tigers won’t be a factor in the SEC again in 2015.
21. Arkansas – The Razorbacks were one of the hottest and most improved teams in the country by the end of the season and they return a number of starters that will be eager to build on that success. Arkansas beat Texas in the Texas Bowl to end the season and also snapped a 17-game SEC losing streak.
22. Clemson – The Clemson defense was a strength in 2014 but seven starters are gone to graduation. There will be some growing pains on defense, especially in the early going but if quarterback Deshaun Watson can come back from injury the offense should be able to pick up the slack.
23. North Carolina State – 2015 will be coach Dave Doeren’s third season with the Wolfpack and he has them on an upward trajectory. QB Jacoby Brissett will be back for his senior season and he will have RB Shadrach Thornton to hand off to.
24. Mississippi State – Dak Prescott is back after throwing for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns and adding 986 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing. The Bulldogs won’t sneak up on anyone this season.
25. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys will return 16 starters from this year’s 7-6 team that won the Cactus Bowl over Washington.
Keep an eye on: Texas, Tennessee, Boise State, Utah, Louisville, Minnesota
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