Dooley's Top 25 college football rankings
Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 12:03 p.m.
Do you know how you can tell college football teams have finally finished up their spring practices? You see the first love bug.
That means the most crucial part of every team's college football season is upon us — the time of the year where players work on conditioning, timing and avoiding incarceration.
We know what most teams are going to look like, but the one caveat is the potential for arrests, suspensions and off-season torn ACLs while trying to jump from the balcony to the diving board to the pool.
You won't get the new College Football Playoff Committee's first poll until late October, but you get mine today:
Here's why — The Tigers still have the momentum offensively from the second half of the season when they were virtually unstoppable. They have their quarterback returning with a better understanding of coach Gus Malzahn's offense and four returning linemen. They have three outstanding and speedy receivers. And the defense returns seven starters. I know, I didn't know Auburn had a defense either. The one roadblock could be a schedule that sends them on the road to Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.
2. MICHIGAN STATE.
The Spartans will have to replace some defensive talent — especially cornerback Darqueze Dennard — but they'll still be salty on that side of the ball. The offense should be better with Connor Cook finding himself as a passer and the schedule is manageable. Watch out for Sparty.
3. FLORIDA STATE.
Certainly, this is a team loaded with talent and probably will return the Heisman Trophy winner if Jameis Winston can stay out of trouble for the next few months. I just believe that it's tough to repeat with all of the distractions that come with the target, but expect FSU to be in the playoff.
Don't put too much stock in what the Sooners did in their bowl win over Alabama. That was then, this is now. But this is a loaded team led by Trevor Knight, who will be a Heisman candidate. The schedule sets up nicely for a team that will be picked to win the Big 12.
Pardon me if I'm not completely buying in to a quarterback who has never played one college football game. I know Jacob Coker is supposed to be special, but check back after he's played one game. I also wonder about the mentality of this team after the way it ended last season.
The Ducks will score and score a lot and might be good enough to sneak into the playoff. Marcus Mariota has to stay healthy.
7. OHIO STATE.
If the Buckeyes are better defensively, they could be in the mix at the end of the season, especially if Braxton Miller has a Heisman-like season.
The bad news is that Bucky Badger opens with a tough one against LSU. The good news is the conference schedule couldn't be much softer.
If Leonard Fournette lives up to the hype, the Tigers will be powerful again, but the schedule is brutal.
The Cardinal lost a lot of talent to the NFL, but David Shaw will just plug in new players and be in contention for the Pac-12 title.
There's a lot to like about the Bruins, especially the fact they get USC, Stanford and Oregon at home.
12. SOUTH CAROLINA.
No Connor Shaw. No Jadeveon Clowney. But the Head Ball Coach is still calling plays and the Gamecocks aren't going away.
Hutson Mason inherits the quarterback role and the games he played in place of Aaron Murray have to help. So will the addition of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
14. TEXAS TECH.
You have to think the Red Raiders learned from the fade at the end of last season, but it's back-loaded again with Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor as three of the last four.
Say what you want about Bobby Petrino, but the man can coach and the cupboard is hardly bare.
Bryce Petty will run another explosive offense that should be good enough to be in the Big 12 mix.
Lane Kiffin left some talented players behind for Steve Sarkisian, but I wonder about the defense.
You don't replace Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, but coach Dabo Swinney has recruited well.
19. NOTRE DAME.
Without Everett Golson, the Irish were pretty ordinary. With him, they could be exceptional.
Despite a brutal schedule, the Gators showed in the spring they have some firepower on offense. Maybe.
So much will depend on whether or not quarterback Tommy Armstrong can be effective throwing the ball, but eight starters return on defense.
22. TEXAS A&M.
Coach Kevin Sumlin has a lot of young talent and a soft non-conference schedule.
23. ARIZONA STATE.
A lot of polls will have the Sun Devils higher. I have to see it.
Coach Gary Pinkel will have a lot of good players to replace, but Maty Mauk is a big-time quarterback.
25. NORTH CAROLINA.
If the Tar Heels can get by Clemson early, they have a chance for a special season.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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