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Schlabach's Too-Early Top 25: Buckeyes No. 1, But Who's No. 2?

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I know some people loathe preseason rankings but I actually think this is a pretty solid top 25.

Nearly 100,000 fans showed up last month to watch defending national champion Ohio State's spring game.

With three quarterbacks, star tailback Ezekiel Elliott and one of the country's best defensive lines coming back, there's little doubt the Buckeyes deserve to be No. 1 heading into the 2015 season.

But OSU coach Urban Meyer isn't impressed with his team so far.

"We did not improve as a team," Meyer told reporters after the spring game. "That was not a good team out there. We did not improve as a team. Last year, we were so young. I felt like we got better as a team because we weren't very good, but I saw them getting better as a team.

"As a team, that's much worse that what you saw in January, obviously. But we did get individually better."

Meyer's criticism aside, the Buckeyes still look better than everyone else in college football, which is why they remain No. 1 in the 2015 Way-Too-Early Top 25 now that spring has wrapped up. Joining OSU in the coveted top four -- which would assure them a spot in the College Football Playoff -- are TCU, Oregon and Auburn.

Way-Too-Early Top 25

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

In three seasons, Urban Meyer has built Ohio State into the country's hottest program, going 38-3 overall, 24-0 in Big Ten regular-season games and winning the inaugural College Football Playoff. The scariest part: Meyer might only be getting warmed up. With multiple star quarterbacks, the country's best tailback and a menacing defensive line, the Buckeyes are the team to beat in 2015.

2. TCU Horned Frogs

After being left out of the four-team playoff last season, the Horned Frogs should have a sizable chip on their shoulders. Quarterback Trevone Boykinmight be the country's best player, and nine other starters are coming back from an offense that averaged 46.5 points in 2014. TCU has to rebuild its defense, but coach Gary Patterson's teams always seem to get the job done on that side of the ball.

3. Oregon Ducks

How will the Ducks replace departed Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, the school's all-time leading passer with 10,796 passing yards and 136 total touchdowns? Perhaps they'll look to a guy who threw for more than 10,000 yards in three seasons at an FCS school. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams arrives in Eugene this summer, and he'll have plenty of weapons around him in the Ducks' high-flying offense. He'll have to beat out junior Jeff Lockie, however, who went 9-of-9 for 223 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon's spring game on Saturday.

4. Auburn Tigers

If new quarterback Jeremy Johnson is as good as advertised, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's high-octane spread offense should be better than ever. Will Auburn's defense be any better? Malzahn hired former Florida coach Will Muschamp to give his team's defense more teeth, and linemen Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson are good building blocks.

5. USC Trojans

If the Trojans stay healthy in Year 2 under coach Steve Sarkisian, they might have enough talent to challenge Oregon for a Pac-12 title and a spot in the playoffs. Quarterback Cody Kessler is one of the country's more underrated passers, and JuJu Smith and Adoree' Jackson are emerging playmakers. SafetySu'a Cravens leads a talented USC defense that will have to replace All-American defensive end Leonard Williams.

6. Baylor Bears

From RGIII to Bryce Petty, Baylor coach Art Briles plugs quarterbacks into his system better than anyone. Next in line: Seth Russell, who completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 804 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception in 2014. It's more about who will be around him: 1,000-yard receivers KD Cannon and Corey Coleman, 1,200-yard rusher Shock Linwoodand five returning starters on the offensive line, including all-America tackleSpencer Drango.

7. Alabama Crimson Tide

Are we starting to see cracks in Alabama's dynasty? The Crimson Tide lost badly in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the end of each of the past two seasons, including a 42-35 defeat against Ohio State in the semifinals of the 2014 College Football Playoff. Alabama hasn't settled on a starting quarterback -- it figures to be either FSU transfer Jake Coker or redshirt freshman David Cornwell -- and it will have to replace star tailback T.J. Yeldon and receivers Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White.

8. Michigan State Spartans

Talk about consistency: The Spartans have won 11 games or more in four of the past five seasons. Their only two losses in 2014 came against Oregon and Ohio State, which played for the national championship. With quarterbackConnor Cook coming back, MSU might be the second-best team in the Big Ten. Without tailback Jeremy Langford, it's probably not good enough to unseat Ohio State.

9. Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have to get more out of their passing game so they're not completely one-dimensional. Tailback Nick Chubb is going to carry a heavy load after running for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns as a freshman. Georgia's defense improved dramatically under first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in 2014, and linebackers Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Carter might punish opposing quarterbacks this coming season.

10. Clemson Tigers

If quarterback Deshaun Watson comes back strong from a knee injury, the Tigers are going to be really hard to stop, even after former offensive coordinator Chad Morris left to become SMU's head coach. Watson is going to be surrounded by a deep receiver corps, including Artavis Scott and Mike Williams. Clemson's schedule also sets up well, with home games against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and FSU.

11. UCLA Bruins

Maybe the hype about UCLA came a year too soon -- if Bruins coach Jim Mora can find a quarterback to replace departed star Brett Hundley. UCLA's roster included 50 freshmen and sophomores this past season, and playmakers such as Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack are only going to continue to improve. UCLA's schedule in 2015 won't be easy, with road games at Arizona, Stanford, Utah and USC.

12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame was one of the youngest teams in the country in 2014, which should pay some dividends in 2015. Ten starters are coming back on defense and nine on offense, including the entire offensive line. Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly must choose between quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, but whoever wins the job should be effective with the top five rushers and top three receivers coming back.

13. Arizona Wildcats

Arizona was probably a year ahead of schedule after winning the Pac-12 South and reaching the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl with a freshman quarterback and tailback. There's plenty of firepower coming back on offense: Anu Solomonthrew for 3,793 yards with 28 touchdowns, tailback Nick Wilson ran for 1,375 yards with 16 touchdowns and sophomore Cayleb Jones had 73 catches for 1,019 yards with nine scores.

14. Ole Miss Rebels

The Rebels gave us a glimpse of their potential when they won their first seven games in 2014, including an upset of Alabama. Ole Miss' star power is undeniable: defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsiland receiver Laquon Treadwell are among the best players in the country. Do the Rebels have enough depth to survive the rugged SEC West?

15. Florida State Seminoles

Few teams have recruited and reloaded better than Florida State the past few seasons, but coach Jimbo Fisher might be staring at a rebuilding job in 2015. Quarterback Jameis Winston left early for the NFL draft, along with defensive linemen Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards and several other playmakers. Sean Maguire looks to be FSU's new quarterback, and he'll need help from tailbackDalvin Cook and receivers Jesus Wilson and Travis Rudolph.

16. LSU Tigers

LSU might be one piece away from returning to college football's upper echelon. Does Tigers coach Les Miles have a quarterback on his roster that can get the job done? The Tigers started nine freshmen and sophomores against Notre Dame in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, including tailback Leonard Fournette, who was as good as advertised while running for 1,034 yards with 10 touchdowns as a freshman.

17. Wisconsin Badgers

New Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst inherited a pretty talented roster (minus departed tailback Melvin Gordon) and a favorable schedule in 2015. The Badgers open the season against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, which won't be easy, but they don't play Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State during the regular season. Sophomore Corey Clement looks to be Wisconsin's next star tailback, but he'll need more help from the passing game.

18. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Who said coach Paul Johnson's triple-option spread offense had run its course at Georgia Tech? The Yellow Jackets went 11-3 in 2014, upsetting Georgia and then Mississippi State in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas is a tailor-made fit for the offense, passing for 1,719 yards with 18 touchdowns and running for a team-high 1,086 yards with eight scores in 2014. The only problem: Nearly everyone else who touched the ball last season is gone, including the top two receivers and four of the top five running backs.

19. Arizona State Sun Devils

It almost seems like an oxymoron, but well-traveled Todd Graham has brought stability to Arizona State. The Sun Devils won 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1970-73, and they're bringing back nine starters on defense this coming season. Quarterback Mike Bercovici started three games last season, and tailback D.J. Foster is going to be utilized as a slot receiver to help him play in the NFL.

20. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers have been taking baby steps to relevancy under coach Butch Jones, going 12-13 in his first two seasons. Now, it's time for Tennessee's recruiting success and potential to start translating into victories. QuarterbackJoshua Dobbs and tailback Jalen Hurd are nice pieces on offense, and they'll have four returning offensive linemen blocking for them. Tennessee's schedule is also favorable, with only four true road games: at Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri.

21. Arkansas Razorbacks

After losing 13 consecutive SEC games to start the Bret Bielema era (and 17 in a row overall), the Hogs finally turned the corner at the end the 2014 season. With star tailbacks Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins both coming back, along with four starting offensive linemen, the Hogs are going to be a tough out in the SEC West. The Razorbacks will be tested early and often with SEC road games at Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU.

22. Boise State Broncos

Life after former coach Chris Petersen wasn't too bad, as the Broncos went 12-2 and defeated Arizona 38-30 in the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl in coach Bryan Harsin's first season. Even without star tailback Jay Ajayi, the Broncos will again be favored to win the Mountain West and appear in another New Year's Six bowl in 2015. The offensive line is returning intact, along with four other starters on offense and eight on defense.

23. Stanford Cardinal

After slipping to 8-5 in 2014, the Cardinal will be motivated to turn things around this coming season. Stanford coach David Shaw is too good for his team to stay down for long. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is going to be a four-year starter, and tailback Christian McCaffrey is a potential star. The Cardinal has to replace a ton of proven playmakers on defense. Stanford's schedule isn't easy, but at least it plays Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame at home.

24. Missouri Tigers

If we learned anything in the SEC the past two seasons it was to not overlook the Tigers, even with heavy personnel losses. Missouri surprised everyone by winning the SEC East for a second straight season in 2014. To win a third consecutive SEC East title, the Tigers will have to replace star defensive ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray, as well as most of their receivers. The good news: Missouri will play division rivals South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee at home.

25. Louisville Cardinals

After going 9-4 in its first season in the ACC, the Cardinals are looking for a quick fix in Year 2. Coach Bobby Petrino brought in a bunch of transfers to shore up his receiver corps and defense. Former TCU star Devonte Fields could provide a better pass rush, and Georgia transfers Josh Harvey-Clemons andShaq Wiggins should help shore up the secondary. Ja'Quay Williams (Texas A&M) and Jamari Staples (UAB) might help restock a depleted receiver corps.

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  • 2 weeks later...

in a way I am glad Alabama is not 2nd or 3rd or even 4th. I would like to see them fight to get to the top, instead of resting on top.

/// and I think the "crack" happened late in the 2013 Auburn game, leading by 7 and unable to convert a 3rd and 1.

//// Tech probably should NOT be top ten, with all those offensive ball carriers gone. NO excuse not to be 2-0 heading into South Bend. Make it 3-0 there, then we can hope imagine a top ten.

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How exactly is Ezekiel Elliott the best RB in the country? That's a bold statement when there's a freshman who did better than him last year and another freshman who looks every bit as good. I mean he's good but that's a bold statement.

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Well, he had 796 yards and 10.4 YPC against the three best teams they played (B1G Championship, Sugar Bowl, and NCAACG). It's hard to say anybody is the best at any position, but that's a heck of an argument for those who think that he is.

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