No sur­prise at top: Alabama, ev­ery­body else

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - WALLY HALL

It is that time of the year to look into the crys­tal ball, throw in some stats, trends and tra­di­tions and make a pre­dic­tion of how the fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son poll will look in De­cem­ber.

1. ALABAMA — Who else? The Crim­son Tide need a lit­tle help at line­backer and de­fen­sive end, but there never seems to be a short­age of those in Nick Sa­ban’s World.

2. FLORIDA STATE — The of­fen­sive line will be ex­posed a lit­tle in the open­ing game against the Tide, but this is a ta­lented bunch and will run the ta­ble af­ter the loss and get a shot at pay­back.

3. USC — The Tro­jans may be in La- La land, but they fi­nally have re­built the foun­da­tion. Solid and sta­ble.

4. OHIO STATE — The Buck­eyes were em­bar­rassed by Clem­son in the play­offs and aren’t quite as good this sea­son. May be a year away from top spot.

5. WASH­ING­TON — Will give Tro­jans a run for their money in the Pac-12, but will have to score a lot of points. Losses in the sec­ondary will hurt.

6. CLEM­SON — De­fense will be solid, but too many of­fen­sive losses, es­pe­cially

quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son, to re­peat. Tigers need a split in their two big­gest tests — Florida State and Louisville.

7. PENN STATE — Nit­tany Lions have 10 of­fen­sive starters back, which coun­ter­bal­ances some key de­fen­sive losses.

8. OK­LA­HOMA STATE — The Cow­boys will be great on of­fense and may be just good enough on de­fense to hold op­po­nents to 30 points or fewer.

9. AUBURN — Tigers face some of­fen­sive is­sues af­ter a try­ing sea­son on de­fense, but Gus Malzahn is great at mak­ing of­fenses score.

10. LSU — Ed Org­eron un­der­stands the need for speed and that he needs to keep his paws off the play call­ing. The Tigers are a lit­tle young but ta­lented.

11. FLORIDA — Ques­tions re­main on de­fense and of­fense, but Jim McEl­wain has found an­swers for two years.

12. WIS­CON­SIN — Ta­lented and deep in trenches. De­fense should be great, of­fense very good.

13. TEXAS — Al­most as ta­lented and deep in the trenches as Wis­con­sin. Tom Her­man wins with Char­lie

Strong’s play­ers and the hon­ey­moon be­gins.

14. LOUISVILLE — Of­fense is never a con­cern when Bobby Petrino is the head coach, and the sec­ondary is strong. Car­di­nals could be spe­cial if the de­fen­sive line gets it to­gether.

15. MICHI­GAN — Jim Har­baugh will need to be a ma­gi­cian af­ter los­ing 10 starters on de­fense and seven on of­fense.

16. STAN­FORD — Re­ally stingy de­fen­sively with a chance to be good on of­fense. Will miss Chris­tian Mc­Caf­frey early.

17. OK­LA­HOMA — For­mer Coach Bob Stoops kept the de­fense run­ning; new head coach Lin­coln Riley, the for­mer of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, has to worry about that.

18. NOTRE DAME — Brian Kelly’s ten­ure rides on the de­vel­op­ment of a quar­ter­back.

19. ORE­GON — New coach Wil­lie Tag­gart un­der­stands you can’t outscore ev­ery­one, that you have to play some de­fense.

20. GE­OR­GIA — Most are pick­ing the Bull­dogs to win the SEC East. In this space Kirby Smart still has some­thing to prove, and he could with all the re­turn­ing tal­ent.

21. KANSAS STATE — Head Coach Bill Sny­der is fight­ing throat can­cer, but the tough old goat won’t give

up and his teams al­ways re­flect his men­tal and phys­i­cal tough­ness.

22. MI­AMI — Mark Richt is safe again; he’s got a strong de­fense com­ing back and most of his of­fen­sive line.

23. VIR­GINIA TECH — The Hok­ies’ lineback­ers and D- backs are tough, as Arkansas wit­nessed in the Belk Bowl, and they are back.

24. WEST VIR­GINIA — Will Grier, 5-0 at Florida in 2015 be­fore PED sus­pen­sion, is set to quar­ter­back a very po­tent of­fense.

25. NORTH CAROLINA STATE — The ACC is tough, but Wolf­pack ap­pear poised to make a state­ment.

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