Florida State Still On Top in FanIQ Post-Spring Top 25
Having the chance to evaluate the way premier teams and their refurbished rosters performed this spring presents us with a better idea of how everyone stands heading into the next few months of the remaining offseason.
Given what has transpired over the last few weeks, here is my post-spring Top 25 – you’ll notice some tweaking from the prior rankings:
1. Florida State Seminoles
No change here. 14 starters return – seven on both sides of the ball – to a team that molly-whopped its way through ACC competition en route to an impressive win over Auburn in the final BCS National Championship, and Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston looked like he was in midseason form during the Seminoles’ spring game, despite missing all of spring practice to pitch on the baseball team.
2. Auburn Tigers
Gus Malzahn was clearly attempting to get the best out of Nick Marshall’s passing abilities this spring, focusing on improving the senior’s weaknesses and making an offense that scored 39.5 points per game last season. There will be no stopping this offense if Marshall becomes fluent with the passing game and enters the multi-dimensional stage of his collegiate career.
3. Oregon Ducks
Marcus Mariota looked 100 percent healthy this spring, which should be a huge relief to Oregon fans considering he played with injuries and struggled (by Mariota standards) during the final few games of the 2013 season. He moved the ball down the field with ease in limited action and got some explosive plays by the many weapons around him. What this says about the defense – mainly the front seven – is another story, however, but we can’t read too far into this just yet.
4. Michigan State Spartans
Rose Bowl MVP Connor Cook continued his momentum as one of the rising quarterbacks in the NCAA this spring, showing that he has full grasp on an offense that should battle Ohio State for best in the Big Ten Conference. But the same question that arose once the season ended is still relevant today; can Michigan State get half the production from seven new starters on a defense that was absolutely dominant?
5. Alabama Crimson Tide
I guarantee you that Alabama won’t stay at No. 5 for long – either it will jump a few spots (possibility even to the top ranking) or it will slightly fall. Incoming Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker needs to take over the position and be the type efficient player A.J. McCarron was during his sophomore season, when he was only asked to move the chains, limit mistakes, rely on a powerful running game and defense, and not lose games. If he can beat out Blake Sims – and Nick Saban really needs him to beat out Blake Sims – then the Crimson Tide should be in excellent shape for a College Football Playoff run.
6. UCLA Bruins
With Brett Hundley back under center and a defense that flat out makes plays taking the field, Jim Mora’s UCLA Bruins are set up to take the Pac-12 South Division and make a run at Oregon for the entire conference. There could be some depth issues down the road, but as long as they stay healthy at key positions, the Bruins should have no issues winning at least 10 games.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes
Alabama center transfer Chad Lindsay brings a sense of closure for a shuffling offensive line with no identity, and means a ton in terms of comfort for senior Braxton Miller. Yes, the offense will be dynamic, and yes, the defensive line will be ferocious. But can former Arkansas defensive coordinator reshape a lacking secondary that killed Ohio State over and over again in 2013? The spring game showed life, but more physicality will be needed to keep the Buckeyes out of more unwanted shootouts this fall.
8. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma drops six spots to No. 8 in just a matter of six weeks for one reason: Trevor Knight. Knight will be the difference between a 12-win regular season and third place in the Big 12. There’s no doubt that if he can consistently bring it like he did against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners will easily be national title contenders. But if he continues struggles with consistency and gets off to a slow start, then Baylor and Kansas State will take advantage.
9. Baylor Bears
In 2013, the depth of the Baylor defense caught most off guard. But now, with seven starters gone, Art Briles will truly be tested. How has the front seven progressed? Will there be enough bodies to rotate on the defensive line and sustain a pass rush on opposing Big 12 quarterbacks? We know the offense will be just as good if not better with sure-fire Heisman candidate Bryce Petty slinging the pigskin, but the rest remains uncertain.
10. LSU Tigers
Anthony Jennings’ poor performance in the Outback Bowl and dreadful appearance in LSU’s spring game has given true freshman Brandon Harris the leg up in a quarterback battle that will surely enter late August. The emergence of a starter and the development of underclassmen that are stepping into major roles will be pivotal if the Tigers want to be relevant in the SEC West.
11. USC Trojans
12. Ole Miss Rebels
13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
14. Georgia Bulldogs
15. Kansas State Wildcats
16. Arizona State Sun Devils
17. Iowa Hawkeyes
18. Louisville Cardinals
19. Michigan Wolverines
20. Missouri Tigers
21. Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes
22. ECU Pirates
23. BYU Cougars
24. Navy Midshipmen
25. North Carolina Tar Heels
Other teams to watch: TCU, Clemson, Texas Tech, Utah State, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Florida, Minnesota, Duke.
What do you think about these post-spring rankings? Hit me up on Twitter!