Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Under Pressure

We noticed the following chart and subsequent commentary from Investment Research Dynamics.

What are we to make of the information presented?

Market manipulation.

And no, there has never been such a sustained absence of volatility historically.

The FED wants to insure any volatility remains in check, for if the beta became uncontrollable, things could unwind in high velocity.

Although we have no documentation, it appears certain the FED is buying and selling stocks when the deem necessary to stop any downdrafts from gaining traction.

This cannot continue, as the market will take control of itself sooner rather than later.

We have great respect for the thinkers over at Investment Research Dynamics, particularity their spot on analysis of the capital markets, although we do part company politically on occasion.

IRD nails it again, and it is warning you should heed.

The U.S. collapse will happen either now or later. For the latter outcome, at some point the Fed will need to print 10’s of trillions of dollars to prevent that horizontal line on the graph above from turning into a downward-pointing near-vertical line. Of course, please review the history of Germany circa 1923 to see how the money printing alternative worked out…

Who Knew

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

2016 Florida State Seminoles Preview


RB Dalvin Cook
Florida State never really found their grove offensively in 2015. Oh sure, it looked good with Dalvin Cook running loose from hash mark to the concession stand, but the quarterback position never emerged past game manager and the receiving core, until very late in the season, failed to produce efforts to open up the field. At signal caller, the experiment with Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson left him guarded, and Sean Maguire did his best to jump start the unit. Cook was brilliant, but even with his impressive stats, which had him in the Heisman hunt, he was hampered by a nagging hamstring and was rarely 100%. More is available for the offensive unit.  All five starters on the line return, although some have, for various reasons, gave way to more talented players. Roderick Johnson, an All America selection at left tackle. Kareem Are mans the next door guard spot, with Alex Eberle back at center. Wilson Bell is a right guard, with newcomer Rick Leonard, a defense tackle convert, at right tackle. Leonard and Johnson, both over 6'7", give the Seminoles long arms to hold off defenders. Brock Ruble, Ryan Hoefeld and Derrick Kelly are the top backups coming in to the season and Anthony Boselli and Baveon Johnson are freshman who have impressed coaches. TE Ryan Izzo is a star in the making, and Marvin Sanders has pleased coaches, making tight end a strong spot for the 'Noles. An uptick in performance is expected from the receiving core.  Travis Rudolph finally got going after midseason, and he could challenge for conference honors. Jesus Wilson starts opposite Rudolph with Kermit Whitfield and newcomer Nyquan Murray interchangeable at the third spot. JaVonn Harrison is set to emerge, and more is expected from Ermon Lane, who has had some moments. George Campbell is capable of earning some time and Keith Gavin has impressed. Auden Tate is a tall target reminiscent of Kelvin Benjamin and could factor in heavily. Davante Phillips is also a youngster to keep an eye on. The core is very deep, but is looking for someone, perhaps Rudolph, to become among the south's elite. Speaking of elite, look no further than RB Dalvin Cook, who will should earn All America honors while making a Heisman run. Cook possesses breakaway speed, but also makes would be tacklers look frozen around the line of scrimmage. And Cook also possesses strong pass catching skills.  If healthy, he may be the most dangerous player in the nation. Jacques Patrick, somewhat of a bruiser with good speed, backs up Cook. Freddie Stevenson and Jonathan Vickers will be your fullbacks, both of which are dangerous out of the backfield. Most assumed Sean Maguire would be the starting quarterback, but redshirt freshman Deondre Fancois had been most impressive during the spring when Maguire sat due to an ankle injury suffered in the Peach Bowl. Although it was publicly a race, it seemed Francois was leading in fall camp when Maguire again suffered a foot injury. With Maguire expected out a month, the Seminoles made Francois the starter.  Francois has never played a down, so he must continue to earn his time, but Fisher and the players rave about his skills. Maguire has heeled much faster than expected and will be available game one, but it is Francois job to lose. The Seminoles need a game breaker, not a game manager, at the position if a playoff berth is in order. Provided Francois is efficient in running the offense, and can execute all the throws while utilizing his legs, Cook can propel this unit to 40 points per game.


 DE Demarcus Walker
Officially, only six starters return for the Seminoles on the stop side, but make no mistake, this unit can be a dominant group.SR DE Demarucs Walker returned after recording 10.5 sacks in '15, and Walker could vie for All American honors. Walker's power is flexed by his speed counter part, SO DE Josh Sweat, who looks explode on the scene. Derrick Nnadi is All ACC, and DeMarcus Christmas both return at DT, giving the Seminoles an experienced and powerful front. Keith Bryant, Brian Burns and Jacob Pugh back up the end position, but depth inside is an issue, with Freddie Jones first in. Often injured Matthew Thomas appears ready to go at weakside linebacker. Thomas has serious skills, and if he remains healthy could become nationally known. Ro'Derrick Hoskins is outstanding and a key cog for the unit. Quality depth here is a concern. The secondary is an embarrassment of riches. The unit is led by SO safety Derwin James, a headhunter with top quality ball skills. James is an All American player. Fellow safety Nate Andrews is very good, and has a nose for the football. Trey Marshall, injured last year, returns to man the STAR spot, but has ran at strong safety much of fall camp with Marcus Lewis running at STAR.  Along with Andrews, these players are interchangeable, each stellar. FR Levonta Taylor will compete at STAR also. Marquez White has developed into an All ACC corner, and he will be flanked by Tarvarus McFadden, with Marcus Lewis and Malique Jackson backing. The unit is ultra talented, but must mesh together, not overrun plays and become the dominant  attacking unit opposing offenses will fear.


Kicker Roberto Aguayo has gone to the NFL, but his brother Ricky has won the placekicking job, with Logan Tyler set to punt.  Kermit Whitfield averaged almost 27 yards per kickoff returner last year, and figures to have help from Tarvarus McFadden and Jesus Wilson. Wilson appears set to handle punt returns, which was poor last year. Freshman Lavonta Taylor and Nyquan Murray will look to spark the unit and more than double last season's horrendous 4.3 yards per return.


The Seminoles are hungry again, and will welcome most ACC division challenger Clemson and arch rival Florida to DOAK, which has had a summer makeover with new seating in the east end zone and a tremendous new scoreboard. There is a strong influx of new talent, and several youngsters are ready to take the next steps within the program.  Jimbo Fisher has excelled in creating an atmosphere of excellence, and has the young men fully engaged in the process of not only becoming a champion on the field, but off it as well.
The program is really in a good spot at this time.


S Derwin James
Like his predecessor Jalen Ramsey, S Derwin James is as close to a consensus All America player in the defensive backfield as you can find. Both OT Roderick Johnson and DE Demarcus Walker could both be All American selections.
Dalvin Cook is a first team All American and Heisman contender. Possible All ACC honors candidates are Derrick Nnadi, DE Josh Sweat, WR Travis Rudolph, LB Matthew Thomas, S Nate Andrews, S Trey Marshall, CB Marquez White, OG Kareem Are and LB Roderick Hoskins.


S Lavonta Taylor is big time, and looks to have earned a chance to play, both on special teams and at nickel back. Taylor does not lack confidence. Brian Burns has really  impressed the coaches at DE. Of course, kicker Ricky Aguayo and punter Logan Tyler will play vital roles. DE Janarius Robinson may get time, as will WR Keith Gavin. RB Amir Rasul should get kickoff return opportunities.


Florida State is not a perfect team heading into the season. There is inexperience at quarterback, and depth on the defensive line and at linebacker are concerning. Another area which improvement is necessary is found in the receiving core. However, with 10 offensive starters returning, inclusive of consensus All Americans at running back and tackle, the offense should be very strong.  Honors candidates Derwin James and Demarcus Walker headline a very sound defense which possess perhaps the nations best secondary. However, when analyzing the main contenders for the national championship, the Seminoles look as strong as anyone, and perhaps have the hunger combining youth with veteran leadership to get better every week and take home the title. The Seminoles face a very talented Ole Miss in Orlando to kick the season off, but a trip to take on perhaps the best Louisville of all time, a team looking for that signature win, could spell trouble. Should FSU get by that one, and the subsequent trip to Tampa to face a much improved South Florida, a home date against North Carolina followed by a trip to face rival Miami appear the only legitimate stumbling blocks for FSU other than the colossal tilt in Tallahassee with Clemson. That will be the game for the ACC, no doubt. Of course, the Gators are always dangerous, but they are a few years away from thinking of beating FSU on the road. Without a proven signal caller, it seems FSU will drop on along the way somewhere. Florida State could win them all, but we think maybe they lose at Louisville, beat Clemson and win a divisional tiebreaker, win the ACC and make the playoff. From there, given we think FSU gets much stronger as the season goes on, we would make them the favorite to win the national championship. 14-1.


The Media Push

There You Have It

Sunday, August 28, 2016

2016 Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview


QB Tommy Amrstrong
While the offense had it's moments, the unit failed to live up to expectations in 2015.  The unit slept-walked through the first 30 minutes of the Miami game only to engage in a furious comeback which fell short in OT. There was the debacle at Illinois, where Nebraska tried unsuccessfully to unleash an aerial assault is a swirling wind and throughout the year the inability to establish an identity, which should but did not center itself on running the football. Late in the year, particularly in the bowl victory over UCLA, Nebraska did appear find a balance which extenuates the positives of the unit. Most of the unit returns in 2016, led by quarterback Tommie Armstrong. A electric and confident player, Armstrong has skills which can make the Husker offense lethal to opposing stop troops. Armstrong has a very strong arm, and has made excellent use of his legs when necessary, running for 400 yards and throwing for 3030 yards. While Armstrong threw 22 touchdowns, he also threw 16 interceptions, none more disheartening than one that gave away the game in overtime at Miami.  For Nebraska to reach the next level, Armstrong, and for that matter the entire team, must do a better job of protecting the football.  For Armstrong, he has the best receiving core Nebraska has ever had. It starts with Jordan Westerkamp, with 918 yards receiving and 9TD's. Stanley Morgan was exceptional as a freshman, and big things appear in store for him. Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore are proven quality pass catchers. De'Mornay Pierson-El, a gifted fleet of foot receiver, has been lost to injury, but is returning. If 100% healthy, Pierson-El is a game breaker and could help Nebraska in many ways. Sophomore Bryan Reimers has been turning heads in fall camp. TE Cethan Carter (24c) has had trouble remaining on the field, but Carter could be a big weapon for the 'Huskers, one they would benefit from targeting. Sam Cotton is also back. There does not appear to be an All America caliber back Husker nation is used to, but there are a handful of back which possess differing skill sets which will allow Nebraska to expand the field offensively. Terrel Newby, who ran for 562 and 5.2 a carry in '15, has skills, and will lead things off. Devine Ozigbo, a true freshman in '15, played very well in the bowl and is perhaps the most complete back. Mikhale Wilbon shows flashed, and the coaching staff just loves what they see in freshman Tre Bryant.  Sophomore tackle Nick Gates is the leader of the lime, and could capture conference honors. Dylan Utter will be at center, backed by Micheal Decker. Jerald Foster was set a one guard, but has been lost for the year due to a knee, so four star Jalin Barnett will man that spot with Corey Whitaker ready and freshman Boe Wilson fighting for a chance. Sophomore Tanner Farmer is at right guard with junior David Knevel at right tackle. This is a very young group, and potential area of concern, particularly with Foster out. However, the only negative about these youngsters is their lack of experience. As time goes by, this unit will emerge into a team strength. There is no reason this team cannot average 30 points per game, but we should expect more. DPE could be the wildcard, as if he is 100% back, he is a dynamic player ready for house call at any touch.  Nebraska would also be better served to establish the run before throwing the ball downfield left and right.


S Nate Gerry
Nebraska was awful on defense last year, particularly against the pass, giving up 28ppg. The unit had talent, so it must have been scheme issues, which would appear easily solved, but it was not until very late in the season any progress was notable. Hell, Purdue, without Drew Brees, lit Nebraska up for 55 points. I don't have to tell you that is totally unacceptable. The secondary was torched, but late in the season the 'Huskers appeared to settle in on pair of corners, Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones. I like these two players, and think this pair of juniors could challenge for conference honors. Boaz Joseph and Eric Lee are backups, and freshman Lamar Jackson will get time, and so potentially will freshman Dicaprio Bootle. Nate Gerry did not play well early in '15, and then got booted from three games for targeting.  Gerry is a good player at safety, and provided he can stay on the field, he will also challenge for honors. Aaron Williams and Kieron Williams are battling at the other safety spot, and both are very solid. Antonio Reed is looking to get on the field, and he has an impressive skill set. The linebacking core was very green a year ago, with injuries taking a toll.  Josh Banderas is back for his senior campaign inside, and he is an honors candidate with Chris Weber backing. Michael Rose-Ivey has had health issues but if ready to go is a strong player and locker room leader with Marcus Newby backing. Dedrick Young had to play as a true freshman last year and performed very well. He will man the weakside backer spot, with Mohammed Barry backing. All six of these players are very capable, and give this unit strength and depth. Add to the mix Luke Gifford, who makes plays, and Tryin Ferguson, who is looking for a spot, and you add more to the mix. Up front, Nebraska performed horribly last fall. Kevin Maurice is returning to start at DT, and he is better than most think.  Mick Stoltenberg, a former DE coming off a knee, has jumped in at tackle and impressed coached. The backups will be the Davis brothers, Khalil and Carlos. Quality depth is concerning. The 'Husker had trouble rushing the passer a a year ago. Freedom Akinmoladum (4.5sacks), a former tight end, showed flashes at DE, but was hurt. He has immense talent and could evolve into a terror out there. Ross Dzuris is opposite. AJ Natter, also often injured, is a backup as is Sedrick King, both of whom have little experience. Alex Davis and Daishon Neal are youngsters looking to emerge. Even talented secondary units cannot hold up long without a pass rush, so quick development here is required.


The presence of DeMornay Pierson-El in the return game is major. DPE returns played significant roles in three big games for the 'Huskers in '14 (Mich. State, Iowa and USC).  If healthy, DPE can transform games, helping the Big Red get sizable advantages in hidden yardage.The sure handed Westerkamp will remain an option along with Stanley Morgan. Drew Brown is solid as the kicker, but the 'Huskers were devastated by the tragic loss of P Sam Foltz to a car accident. Foltz was certain to challenge for conference and perhaps national honors, and his presence on the team on and off the field will be felt. F Caleb Lightbourn will take over.


Nebraska was among the most snake bit teams last year in recent memory. There was a Hail Mary loss, three last minute losses and close late home loss. The secondary was getting torched. Riley, who has working to win over a divided team after the Pelini firing, ran out of motivational talks. But the team persevered and grew to close out the season.  From those growing pains comes experience, and this team continues to learn and work harder day by day to get better. Odd favor the ball bouncing the Big Red's way in 2016. The offense should improve in their turnovers, and the defense should improve against the past and in giving up big plays on the back end. That alone could mean two additional wins. Gaining an identity on offense, which would include being able to run the ball, not when you want to, but when you need to, will be helpful. The UCLA bowl win gives glimpse of what can be, and it is hoped the staff looked long and hard at the tape. Only a game at Ohio State might appear too much for the Big Red, but while Ohio State will get better and better as the year goes on, the Buckeyes only return six starters.


OT Nick Gates
Foltz was the top honors candidate on the team, which says something. Jordan Westerkamp, Nate Gerry and Nick Gates figure to be All B1G. Drew Brown has a chance as well. Pierson-El does as well if he can pick up where he left off, which remains to be seen. Tommie Armstrong has a chance for All B1G if he elevates his game and takes Nebraska Indianapolis.


Recruiting has picked up under Mike Riley and the 2016 class has some real gems. CB Lamar Jackson is among those who will play this fall. On offense, the coaches love running back Tre Byant. Caleb Lightbourn has been pressed into action at punter. S JoJo Dorman and G Boe Wilson also figure to play. T John Rairdon and CB Dicaprio Bootle may as well. WR JD Spielman and DB Tony Butler are close, but look to be redshirt candidates, not due to ability, but due to depth currently at their respective positions.


Nebraska could perform very well in 2016, but there are areas of the field where they cannot suffer an injuries. Injuries hit the Huskers hard in 2015. The offense should score plenty, and the defense, particularly the back seven, should be very much improved. The areas of concern are a young offensive line and a young and thin defensive front.  Akinmoladum needs to have a big year at DE, as does Stoltenberg at DT opposite Maurice.  Somebody else needs to step up as a pass rusher. The schedule is not overbearing. Oregon comes to Lincoln week 3, and although it appears the Ducks are not quite what they used to be, this is a name team and an opportunity to get a big win. I think the Big Red will get it, but either way, the outcome could set the tone for the season. But a trip the following week to Northwestern could be trouble. Nebraska goes on the road back to back to Wisconsin and Ohio State. Both games could be won, but you have to figure the 'Huskers drop one of these two. Nebraska closes at Iowa, but that is a toss up as well. We say Nebraska wins the B1G West at 10-2, but loses the B1G Championship Game in Indianapolis. Nebraska should be better in 2017, so we think they win the bowl as a stepping stone for 2017. So 11-3.


Two of our Favorite Truth Tellers Engage

Two of our favorite truth tellers engage, as Dinesh D'Souza and Sonnie Johnson discuss who the real racists are, their long history and the myth of them being the friend of minorities.

History has been changed, and few seem able to recall or are even aware that the Klu Klux Klan was simply a militant wing of the Democratic Party. In many ways, Black Lives Matter is somewhat similar to the KKK; created by the Democrats to disrupt and tile the black community.

Dinesh D'Souza, who chronicles much of this in his movie, joins Sonnie Johnson, a huge admirer of Booker T. Washington and an exceptional advocate for peace and fellowship for all people while aiming to advance the black community.

Take a listen to this very telling discussion.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Color & Pageantry College Football Preseason Top 25

The College Football Playoff was a major success last season, and the Alabama victory over Clemson in the National Championship game was one for the ages.  It is extremely difficult to win back to back titles, as veteran Florida State and Ohio State teams have found out the last two seasons. That is why, even with the unprecedented run of success the Crimson Tide have been on, although their defense is dominant, without a proven quarterback we cannot visualize them repeating.  Clemson looks very strong, particularly on offense behind our offensive Player of the Year in Deshaun Watson, the Tigers travel to Tallahassee, where a Seminole team returns 10 offensive starters and dominant players at every level of the defense. Tennessee and Washington are rising fast, so keep an eye on those teams, and Michigan, for a dark-horse playoff team 

After being the most successful of all the major prognostications in 2013 in the accuracy of the Preseason Top 25, we have fallen short the last two seasons. We really missed with Auburn last fall. We can't wait for kickoff, and with that we proudly present The Color & Pageantry Preseason Top 25


1. Florida State

Florida State disappointed in 2015.  The Seminoles welcomed in Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson to take over at quarterback, but while he was certainly adequate. Golson seemed governed attempting to negate his previous propensity to turn the ball over.  The effort was successful, but nothing was really happening in the passing game. A debacle at Georgia Tech led the 'Noles to switch to Sean Maguire, who has been on the verge of being the man ever since backing up Jameis Winston.  Maguire did well, but then broke an ankle in the Peach Bowl, a game getting away from FSU prior to his injury. Maguire appeared to be the guy in '16, but he found himself in a battle with redshirt freshman Deondre Francois.  In fall camp, Maguire has hurt his foot again and after surgery will be out about a month. That means the talented Francois, who the coaches have raved about, will lead the Seminoles into battle in 2016. The good news for Francois is that all ten other offensive starters return. The list includes All America running back Dalvin Cook, a very special player who excels in all facets of the game and is a threat for a house call with every touch.  All American OT Roderick Johnson leads a deep and experienced line. Keep an eye on Rick Leonard, a converted DT who looks to win a spot opposite Johnson. The receiving core has not been stellar, but showed signs late in '15 of reaching a new gear.  Travis Rudolph and Kermit Whitfield are the main men, along with the dependable Jesus Wilson. Ryan Izzo is back at tight end.  Defensive for the Seminoles, it starts with sophomore All America safety Derwin James, who is NFL ready right now. Excellent safeties Nate Andrews and Trey Marshall, who is back from injury, return.  Marquez White owns a corner spot,  with Tavarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis battling for boundary side. The linebacking core will have Roderick Hoskins and Matthew Thomas. Thomas has not been healthy but is a top talent if he can hold up. Depth is not particularly strong here, so the hope is Thomas to stay healthy.  DE DeMarcus Walker shunned the NFL, and this is big for FSU. Walker recorded 10.5 sacks in '15. Former five star Josh Sweat, who really played well down the stretch in '15, is opposite Walker. Inside, Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas are very solid, with Nnadi seeking conference honors. Ricky Aguayo takes over for his record breaking brother at placekicker, and while Logan Tyler is ready to punt, the 'Noles are looking for more. Whitfield is an Olympic style sprinter as a kickoff returner, but FSU is looking to raise the punt return game, which Jesus Wilson handled a year ago. The offense will be very potent, and with stars at each level of the defense, the Seminoles look the part of a potential national champion.  However, the schedule is not easy.  FSU opens in Orlando (almost a home game) against Ole Miss. FSU should get by that one, but in week three a trip to Louisville could spell doom,  as perhaps the most talented Cardinal team ever is licking their chops at the opportunity. Following that, FSU travels to Tampa to play USF, and while this is a game FSU should win (almost another home game), USF is much better than folks think and could make their season. If FSU clears this, they may be good to go.  North Carolina comes to Tallahassee, death for opposing teams, with a trip to Miami to follow. That is a rival game and anything can happen, but Miami does not have the total package like FSU does. Clemson has demonstrated the are at an equal level to FSU, but the game this year is in Tallahassee. NC. State and Florida are other teams that have bitten FSU in the past. Florida State could drop the game at Louisville and still win the conference and gain a playoff berth, but we see them sneaking by before they begin dominating as they enter the playoff to play for the national championship.

2. Alabama

What can you say about the run Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have been on over the last decade?  Their success certainly is a level rarely if ever seen pot World War II.  Last season, with some defensive holes and a newer signal caller, Bama responded from another loss to Ole Miss to make the College Football Playoff, where the smashed Michigan State and held off a furious Clemson rally to win yet another national title.  Wow! What now? Most preseason annuals have Alabama number one once again, and how can you blame them? Well, lets take a look. Offensively, Alabama will once again be breaking in a new quarterback, under the tutelage of Lane Kiffin. Cooper Bateman looks the heir apparent, although some see Blake Barnett or even Josh Hurts making noise. Gone is Derrick Henry, but much heralded Bo Scarborough steps in, but he has been injury prone, so maybe we see more of Damien Harris. As a true freshman, Calvin Ridley was remarkable, and he figures to have an All America season no matter what is going on.  Throw him the ball. Robert Foster is back as well. OJ Howard, the brilliant tight end that buried Clemson, is back as well. OT Cam Robinson was all set for an All America season on his way to the NFL, but he got in some off the field trouble in the off season.  He won't sit long if at all, and that is important as the line is not as strong as seasons past. Ross Pierschbacher and Alphonse Taylor are back as well. All America DE Jonathan Allen leads Alabama up front defensively. DaShaun Hand and Dalvin Thomlinson also return inside, making Bama most formidable. All America inside linebacker Rueben Foster is back, as is Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams on the outside. The front seven for BAMA is the nation's best. Sophomore corners Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick (11 PBU) return as does All America safety Eddie Jackson.  The unit is full of five star talent and All Americans, and it will take a seasoned and prolific offense to move the chains on this stout and salty unit. Honors candidate JK Scott returns to punt while Adam Griffith is back place kicking. Damien Harris seems poised to return kicks.  BAMA will be the nation's top defense heading in, but there are some holes on offense.  BAMA faces USC in Arlington to kickoff the season. USC has talent and speed, but they would have to hit on all cylinders to upend BAMA.  The Tide seem to have issues with Ole Miss, who have a very seasoned quarterback and a boatload of talent themselves. BAMA could fall here, again.  BAMA goes to Arkansas, who is tough in the trenches and then to Tennessee, who is a very experienced and talented team looking for a signature win. The Vols almost got it against Alabama a year ago.  BAMA goes to LSU, who many think is ready to re-assert themselves among the national elite.  Auburn is a home contest. Seemingly, only four potential stumbles exists, with three major SEC road games. We think Alabama will fall in one of these games, which may or may not eliminate them from the SEC title.  Beyond that, even though we are talking Alabama, it remains extremely difficult to repeat as national champion. If anyone can do it, it is the Crimson Tide.

3. Clemson

For many a moon, the college football world labeled Clemson too mentally soft to become a member of the nation's elite, but for those following closely, it was readily observable that Dabo Swinney was assembling the pieces to give Clemson the chance to make the leap.  The Tigers were indeed prowling and set the tone for 2015 by blasting Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl to close out 2014. Clemson got the big wins in 2015, defeating Notre Dame and Florida State in home contests before winning the ACC title, defeating OU in the CFB Playoff and giving Alabama everything they could handle and then some in the National Championship game, falling to the Tide due to some incredible play making. Make no mistake, Clemson has taken the next step and is no longer deemed a contender who falters along the way. The Tigers are not going anywhere, and they have to be considered among the few favorites for the national title in 2016. For the Tigers, it starts at quarterback, where consensus All American Deshaun Watson is well on his way to owning the Tigers record book at the position. Watson  is a gifted dual threat signal caller, running for 1105 yards and passing for 4104 yards with 35 touchdowns.  Those are some stellar stats, and Watson is only going to get better.  Wayne Gallman, who quietly ran for 1527 yards, returns at running back. Artavis Scott, Clemson's leading aerial target, by far, in 2015, is back. Mike Williams, a potential All ACC pick, also returns after being out almost all of '15 due to a neck injury due to goal post in the '15 opener. Hunter Renfrow, Ray Ray McDonald and Deon Cain help Clemson field perhaps the strongest receiving core in the country. Three stellar lineman return. Jay Guilermo is back at center, as is Tyrone Crowder at guard. but is Micah Hyatt, who excelled as a freshman in '15 at left tackle, that has coached beaming. Jordan Leggett will contend for national honors at tight end.  Suffice to say, Clemson will field perhaps the most prolific offense in the nation. On the stop side, DT Carlos Watkins lead the way, an all conference honors candidate. Christian Wilkins got time last year, and big things are expected from freshman DT Dexter Lawrence.  LB Ben Boulware is an All America candidate on the weakside, with Kendal Joseph having the coaches eye inside. Cordrea Tankesly (5INT's) returns at a corner spot, but he is the only returning starter in the secondary, which did not perform all that well last fall. Clemson is decent at placekicker but seeks improvement in the punt game. Artavis Scott should handle the returns. Clemson opens at Auburn, and although certainly a dangerous game, it is doubtful Auburn outscore Clemson. Games at Georgia Tech are always tricky and home game against talented Louisville follows the Atlanta trip. Even so, we Clemson 7-0 before a tip to Tallahassee to face Florida State. Clemson certainly has the offense to get that done, but do they have the defense to win that biggie on the road. We'll bet against it. From there, the Tigers run the table and finish 11-1, only to take out their frustration on a bowl opponent to finish 12-1.

4. Tennessee

Just like last year, when it failed to materialize, a sign of things to come appear to have taken place in the Outback Bowl where Tennessee opened up a can on Northwestern. With several highly ranked recruiting classes under Butch Jones, the Volunteer faithful have been expecting a return to prominence. In an early season tilt to measure the Volunteers ascension, Tennessee outplayed Oklahoma for much of the game, but fell. Same thing at Florida two weeks later, where Tennessee lost a big lead and lost at the buzzer. It seemed all the momentum heading into the season was lost, and UT fell at home to Arkansas nest game out. The Vols then beat Georgia, and played Alabama very tough, winning their final six games inclusive of the bowl game. The time is now.  Tennessee returns 19 starters. Offensively, it all starts with Josh Dobbs, a talented signal caller who very well may be all conference. Dobbs is a great leader, but has areas in which he can improve. Dobbs completed just under 60 percent of his throws, with 15 TD's and 5 INT's. SO Preston Williams, Josh Smith and Josh Malone are Dobbs principal targets, but improvement at the WR position would help. Marquez North, if he is healthy, may emerge. Don't sleep on TE Ethan Wolf, who hauled in 23 balls in '15. RB Jalen Hurd, at 240 pounds, is a bruising back, with former Alabama transfer Alvin Kamera is very versatile and will get plenty of playing time. Up front, four of five starters return. Guard Jashon Robertson is the leader of the group, which opened plenty of holes, with only three teams holding the Vols under 4 yards per carry. The defensive unit may be really nasty. All American DE Derek Barnett, who had 10 sacks getting double frequently, returns up front, but although there is some experience along the line, there is room for improvement.  Top JUCO player Jonathan Kongbo may found a home. The linebacking core is stout. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is one of the nations top linebackers, patrolling the weak side. Darrin Kirkland, who starred as a frosh in '15, may raise his game becoming a special player. CB Cameron Sutton is an NFL player at corner, and he will be flanked by Emanuel Mosley (10PBU) or Justin Martin.  Todd Kelly (3INT) is back at free safety, with Malik Foreman at nickel and Evan Berry at SS. Rashaun Golden will see time at safety as well.  This unit is very seasoned and among the nations best. Once again, Cam Sutton and Evan Berry return to form perhaps the nations top return game in punt and kickoff returns respectively. Tennessee returns punter Trevor Daniel (45.7) and kicker Aaron Medley, who could improve on 21-31 FGA., Last year, we wrote Tennessee was likely a year away, but that they could challenge for the SEC East. This year, Tennessee, a very experienced team, is the favorite to win the East.  The schedule sets up nicely. The Vols play a real cool non-conference game versus Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway (won't that be fun), but while Va. Tech is always tough, they have a new coach and should not have the firepower to hang with Tennessee. Florida comes to town, and this looks like a time to serve notice game. Tennessee then goes to Georgia, but the Dawgs, while tough, have a new coach and signal caller. A trip to A&M could be tricky ahead of a visit from mighty Alabama. South Carolina and Missouri look down, and emerging Kentucky is no match for Tennessee, who really should get rolling as the year moves on.  Make no mistake, Tennessee could run the table. The stretch with UGA, A&M and Bama will tell the tale. It looks probable the Vols drop one, but it won't derail them as they represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship game for a potential rematch with Alabama. Don't forget Tennessee hung very tough with Bama in '15, so don't think they cannot get it done. Tennessee is very much on the upswing, and without question, a dark horse national champion contender.

5. Oklahoma

It seems as though every year we think Oklahoma will mount a serious challenge for the national championship, and last year was no exception. OU made the playoff, where they got dumped again by Clemson, but a loss at Dallas to Texas, who really got on the Sooners, left a bitter taste to the season. Oklahoma has a chance again this fall, but do they have the entire package to get in the playoff and win it?  It begins for OU at quarterback, where the talented Baker Mayfield is back. Mayfield was in contention for the Heisman in '15, and why not, having threw for 3700 yards while firing 36 touchdowns against only 7 interceptions.  That stat line will win you some ball games. The Sooners also return Samaje Perine, who is among the nations top runners. Perine ran for 1349 yards with 16 scores while averaging 6 yards a tote.  Joe Mixon, if he can stay on the field, is a five star who could emerge. Three offensive lineman return, led by tackle Orlando Brown. Both guards will be new, but this is not an area of concern for the Sooners.  DeDe Westbrook, who had 45 catches and 4 scores, returns; however, proven commodities at receiver are not there. Mark Andrews figures to have a prominent role as tight end (20c in'15). Expect Geno Lewis, a Penn State transfer, to start at WR. The secondary is a strength for OU, led by corner Jordan Thomas, an honors candidate who has some off field stuff to clean up after an off season arrest. Steven Parker is All Big XII at safety, and free safety Ahmad Thomas is back to roam. Jordan Evans, an All Big XII, choice, is the lone returning linebacker, a position where it will be hard to replace the emotional leadership of Eric Striker. DE Charles Walker anchors the defensive front, with DT Matt Rohmar and Matt Dimon inside. Austin Seibert, who won the kicking and punting job as a frosh, performed very well and returns to make OU most solid here. OU will look for a return man. There is talent here, particularly in the offensive backfield and the secondary, but OU also has plenty of holes. OU kicks off against Houston in a game in Houston at NRG Stadium. Houston is quite for real, so OU better be clicking on offense to get this done, which is not a formality.  OU has stumbled in situations like this in the past.  Ohio State comes to Norman week three, and while the Buckeye are most talented and will be a bear by seasons end, this looks like a Sooner win. After a week off, a trip to TCU, a team OU barely beat at home a year ago, could be problematic, particularly with the Sooners eyeing payback in the Red River Shootout against Texas the following week. OU host Baylor and Oklahoma State. The Sooners could win them all, but we think they drop one or two, maybe one outside the conference and one within the conference, which even with a potential loss, we think the Sooners win. 

6. Louisiana State

After running out to a 7-0 mark, a much anticipated contest at Alabama left LSU beaten and battered. The Tigers got beat twice, getting stomped by rival Arkansas the following week. Then came a trouncing at Ole Miss, and the calls for the head of Les Miles grew deafening, as hard as that is to imagine. By beating Texas A&M, Miles was able to save his job, but the aftermath left a bunch of division between the Tiger power brokers. It seems unlikely Miles will remain for the long term, given the hurt feelings, but winning would solve much of the problem, and with 17 starters returning, the Tigers appear ready to do just that. Eight starters return on offense, but the questions remain at quarterback, the spot seemingly holding LSU back. Junior Brandon Harris returns, but much improvement is needed for LSU to take the next step. Harris did throw for 2165 yards, but only 13 scores against 6 interceptions. Add to that, the passing game was more open than it usually would be with All American running back Leonard Fournette commanding the attention of opposing stop troops. On most cases, they were quite unsuccessful, as Fournette ran for 1953 yards and 22 scores. Fournette is a favorite for the Heisman Trophy to be sure. For Harris, both receivers return, Malachi Dupree and Travin Dural, who both have big play potential. Center Ethan Pocic is an All America candidate at center, with guard William Clapp and tackle Teuhema Maea potential All SEC players. If Harris can raise his game, the LSU offense could be very, very strong.  The Tigers are licking their chops on defense. However, fall camp thus far has been tough on the unit, with injuries to two starters. NT Christian LaCouture is out for '16 with an injury and outside backer Corey Thompson will be out for the first few games. Tackle David Godchaux will pick up the slack inside, while DE Lewis Neal is ready to rock at DE. On the inside, Kendell Beckwith is All SEC at a minimum, with Arden Key roaming the outside.  The Tigers are among the nations best in the secondary. CB Tre'Davious White and SS Jamal Adams are both All America players. Kevin Tolliver at corner and Ricky Adams at free safety also return, and both have All SEC potential. The specialist will be new. LSU kicker Trent Dominique surprisingly transferred out. New kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in a car accident mid-summer that killed Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, but he should be good to go. Derrius Grice looks to handle kickoffs, with Tre'Davious White handling punts. LSU opens again in a neutral site game against Wisconsin, who cannot handle the Tigers.  Descending Miss. State comes to Baton Rouge followed by a trip to Auburn, which may be tricky.  LSU goes to Florida, but historically plays well there. Alabama then comes calling, and it will seem to hinge on this game. Arkansas is next, and the Hogs always scrap with the Tigers.  This is a very talented football team, which needs their quarterback to step up play to return to the national elite. We will go with much closer, but not quite there. 11-1 for the Bayou Bengals.

7. Ohio State

Ohio State has been on quite some roll under Urban Meyer, winning a breathtaking amount of games and winning a national championship while smashing most in the B1G.  The Buckeyes were rolling along last season until they dropped one at home to Michigan State. The Buckeyes went on to wallop an emerging Michigan and handily defeated a strong Notre Dame team in the Fiesta Bowl.  Under Meyer, not only has OSU been doing plenty of winning, they have also been hauling in top notch recruiting classes, and given the amount of experience lost, it will come in very handy in 2016. One place the Buckeyes are fine is at quarterback, where after some indecision, the team belongs to JT Barrett. Without question, Barrett is an exceptional talent, finishing fifth in the Heisman poll two seasons ago and a solid All B1G preseason pick this season.  Sadly, only two other offensive starters return, led by guard Pat Eflin, another honors candidate. Center Billy Price is also back. Mike Weber looks to be the guy at running back, particularly with Bri'onte Dunn having been dismissed, while Noah Brown is the top target outside. There will be a lot of youth on this side of the ball, but we did mention those high ranked recruiting classes did we not. Defensively, only three starters return, but among those three is All America linebacker Rakweon McMillian, who led OSU in stops with 119 as a sophomore. Tyquan Lewis is at one end spot up front, flanked by Sam Hubbard, both quality players to be sure. The interior is green. Dane Booker and Chris Worley will flank McMillian. Gareon Conley is back at one corner spot, with Marshawn Lattimore at the other.  Coaches are high on safety Erick Ward.  Bunch of youngsters; very, very talented youngsters. Ohio State will visit Oklahoma in week three, and this team appears much to young to pull off that one. Trouble in the B1G may come from games at Wisconsin, home to Nebraska (the Bucks will likely be favored in both) and at Michigan State before facing Michigan, who is acting ready for war. Although we anticipate Ohio State will be getting better every week, maybe they drop one of these.  However, even with all the personnel losses, this team could go 11-1 and find themselves in the B1G title game. 10-2 seems more reasonable for this young and talented Buckeye team, but the earlier you get them the better, because by seasons end, we will see glimpses of a veteran team expected back in 2017.

8. Washington

Washington has been battling under Chris Peterson since he took over two seasons ago.  Last season, in a 7-6 campaign, several underclassmen were required to step into crucial roles for the Huskies.  At times, the hill looked steep as it did where the Huskies failed to roar at Stanford.  On another occasion, it really clicked, as it did in a 49-3 blasting of Arizona. At any rate, playing all the youngsters has a long term benefit, and the Huskies appear primed to arrive on the scene in '16 with sharp teeth. For starters, the Huskies welcome back quarterback Jake Browning, who as a true freshman in '15 was at times spectacular, threw for almost 3000 yards.  Browning is poised to step up his game after a year under his belt. Myles Gaskin, another true freshman in '15, ran for 1300 yards and is a PAC XII honors candidate for 2016.  Gaskin, who figures to benefit from improved line play, could really make waves. Dante Pettis, who hauled in 30 catches last fall, returns at wideout but he big news is that Junior speedster John Ross, who was sidelined in '15 with a knee, returns as well. Brandon Lenius, who had 26 grabs, and TE Darren Daniels (19c) are also back, given the Huskies experience at the position. Although the statistics from the skill people suggest otherwise, Washington had issues up front in 2015. But that presented opportunities for learning, and with three returning starters back, Peterson expects big improvement from the group. Center Coleman Shelton is the leader of the group, but left tackle Trey Adams looks like a Sunday guy. Washington was surprising stout on the stop side in '15, housing the top defense in the conference allowing only 20.00 points per game within the conference schedule. Nose tackle Elijah Qualls plugs up the middle, allowing  DE Joe Mathis to apply pressure. Azeem Victor is All PAC XII inside with Keishawn Bierria flanking the weakside.  The secondary is very strong, led by All America candidate Bubba Baker at strong safety.  Corners Kevin King and Sydney Jones, who combined for seven interception, also return, while FS Jo Jo McIntosh grabbed 38 stops and a pick in reserve last fall.  The kicking game is sound while the return game, led by Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher. Figure John Ross in as well. Coaches around the conference know Washington is for real, so the Huskies will not sneak up on anyone.  They are strong on both sides of the ball, and will be a tough out for just about anyone. The Huskies welcome Stanford and follow with a trip to Oregon in early to mid October, but while both of those contests are winnable games for the Huskies, do they possess the mentality to get it done. A trip to physical Utah will be tough.  A mid November home game against USC could be large, and a dangerous Arizona State team comes in the following week.  Washington goes to play improving Wazzu, but they have had their way with them recently. Is Washington ready to take the next step? If so, it may be more of a long jump.  The Huskies are capable of running the table, but even with all the talent, we just cannot see them mentally prepared for such a monumental swing. For 2016, we think 10-2 would be about right. There are not a lot of seniors on this squad, so look out in 2017.

9. Michigan

Under Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines are climbing the ladder back to national prominence. Many think they are there. In 2015, at times it was hard to measure the progress. Michigan barely hung on to win at Indiana and got smashed in Ann Arbor by the Buckeyes. But Michigan did shut out three opponents in a row, including sound BYU and Northwestern teams, and bombed Florida in the Citrus Bowl.  One thing we note is that Harbaugh is going to demand Michigan be a physical football team, similar to the teams he coached while at Stanford.  With eight offensive starters back, Michigan will aim to punish opposing defenses.  OT Erik Magnuson and OG Kyle Kalis headline a very experienced line which returns four. Jake Butt returns at tight end for what looks like an All American season. Jehu Chesson (9TDs) is the top target among the receivers along with Amara Darboh, who led Michigan in catches,  while De'Von Smith is the man at running back. Michigan will break in a new signal caller, expected to be John Korn, who transferred in after some success at Houston.  Harbaugh will make that work, so we don't see a major issue there. The versatile Jabrill Peppers will also spark the offense. Defensively, six starters are returning. The strength is in the secondary, behind corner Jourdan Lewis (20PBU) and the aforementioned Jabrill Peppers. Peppers at 208lbs is a safety, but Michigan will move him on most occasion to a linebacker spot to benefit from his speed and athleticism. Delano Hill also returns at safety. Chris Warmley (8TFL) returns at end and Ryan Glasgow at the nose. Rashan Gary, certainly among the most dominant five star high school defensive players we have seen in recent years but the only interior player who appears ready to contribute significantly immediately.  Gary can flat move at 300lbs. Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon shore up the linebacking core. Lewis and Peppers form a very dangerous return game, but Kenny Allen, expected to punt and placekick, will be green. Penn State and Wisconsin, neither of whom appear to be able to handle the Wolverines, come to Ann Arbor. Michigan should be 7-0 before going to East Lansing, but we think they can take that game as Sparty takes a small step back in '16. Michigan goes to Iowa City, which may be more difficult than we think, before traveling to Columbus. We don't see Michigan losing one they shouldn't, but we do think they drop one of these last two tough games.  So, we see Michigan 11-1, but on the outside looking in on the B1G Championship game.

10. Houston

The Houston Cougars roared upon the scene in 2015, winning the AAC and defeating powerful Florida State convincingly in the Peach Bowl. Under new coach Tom Herman, the Cougars finished 13-1 ranked eighth in the nation. Many teams came calling for the services of Herman, but h inked to stay with Houston, with a potential invite to join the Big XII perhaps looming. At least with Herman at the helm, Houston does not appear to be a one year wonder. Houston will be the AAC favorite again in 2016, and seems poised to park in the top ten. Quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., one of only two quarterbacks to throw for over 2000 yards and run for over 1000 yards (the other is Deshuan Watson of Clemson), returns to lead what should be a potent offense. The Cougars know what they are doing and their offensive philosophy allows for a wide open attack. Ward is a real difference maker. Chance Allen and Steven Dunbar are quality receivers, Isaiah Johnson is special and the Cougars welcome Oklahoma State transfer RaShaad Samples. Duke Catalon, a Texas transfer, steps in at running back. Center Will Noble is the only returning lineman, but given the fast paced attack Houston runs, that won't be as much of an issue as it might for another team. JUCO OT Na'ty Rogers will claim a tackle spot. While Houston is turning heads offensively, their cat quick defensive unit is pretty stout as well. BJ Simpson returns up front, flanked by Cameron Malveaux (9QBH) and potentially top recruit Ed Oliver. Outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and All AAC Steven Taylor (10S) return, with Matthew Adams inside. Brandon Wilson returns at field corner, but the remainder of the secondary will be newcomers. The Cougars are sound in the kicking game, with Wilson excelling in the return game. For Houston, the secondary will have to be ready from the get go as the Cougars are presented with a golden opportunity as they face Oklahoma in a neutral site opener. With an inexperienced secondary, the task may be too tall, but with Ward, the Cougars have a chance. Houston does travel to Cincinnati and Memphis, but they win both of those and the ACC, finishing 12-1. The Cougars are not a joke, and should they take out OU, they could be playoff bound. 

11. Louisville

Don't sleep on the Cards, as things could be very exciting in Louisville this season.  Bobby Petrino has been working hard since he arrived back in town and has a team capable of really shaking things up in the ACC. Much of the optimism begins with quarterback Lamar Jackson, a shifty sophomore who dazzled opponents down the stretch in 2015. Jackson is a dual threat, rushing for 11TD with a 5.9 average and tossing 12 TD's through the air. Both guards need to be replaced, but both tackles, including emerging Geron Christian, and center Tobijah Hughley return. James Quick leads a deep receiving core, with Jamari Staples equally as dangerous as Quick and Ja'Quay Savage and Jalin Smith are very dangerous as well . Jackson seemed to like finding tight end Cole Hikutini, and we expect him to collect some big throws with the hash marks. Nine starters return, and you know Petrino knows how to engage the scoreboard, so we anticipate Louisville will be hard to slow down.  Considering the returning talent, Louisville may really be stout on the stop side. Eight starters return defensively, with star talent at every level. D'Angelo Brown returns at nose tackle, but he will be flanked by a new pair of ends at a position which will need to avoid injury. Devonte Fields, who was an All America player at TCU before finding his way to Louisville.  Fields is a sack specialist from his OLD spot, and the NFL is without question his future. Keith Kelsey, an All ACC candidate at a minimum, is back at inside linebacker to pug the middle and counterpart Stacy Thomas has great potential. All the members of the secondary return, led by safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. Trumaine Washington and Shaq Wiggins return a corner, and Chucky Williams mans the free safety spot.  Outside of the ends up front, and Fields can help, this unit has the potential to be nasty. But, while Louisville, after an 0-3 start losing to a who's who of opponents (Auburn, Houston and Clemson) won 9 of their next 10 (losing at FSU) and seven in row including dumping Texas A&M in the Music City bowl, they gave up a lot of points during the run. We anticipate significant improvement from both units in 2016.  Traveon Samuel will be counted on to return kicks, but the specialist positions are inexperienced. It may not matter much.  Louisville can have a special season. The Cards welcome Florida State week three, and are placing a lot of chips on pulling the upset. The Seminoles are very strong, so the Cards need to be careful to not let the season slip away if they fall short. A trip to Clemson is two weeks later. From there, a trip to high flying Houston could be a tall order. Louisville should win the rest if they stay strong mentally, and if they beat FSU could gain the confidence to win all three of these contest.  We think they lose all three, but make no mistake this is fine football team that nobody wants to see in the bowl game.  11-3 for the Cards, including a bowl victory and top fifteen finish.

12. North Carolina

For a few years, we had been projecting North Carolina, somewhat of a sleeping giant in the college football world, to have a breakout season. We capitulated in 2016, and boom, after giving away the opener at South Carolina, the 'Heels rolled off 11 in a row, including blasting Miami in Chapel Hill and winning at Va. Tech. North Carolina played well in the ACC Championship game, losing to powerful Clemson.  UNC fell to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but their 11-3 season has set the stage for the Tar Heels to become an annual player in the ACC Coastal, if not the country. Can North Carolina do it again in 2016? Yes they can. The key to their success in 2016 will center behind center. Mitch Trubinsky is the man at quarterback who seems to fit nicely with the attack Fedora is implementing offensively.  Trubinsky will operate behind a veteran line, led by guard Caleb Peterson. Tackle Jon Heck and center Lucas Crowley, All ACC hopefuls, and tackle Bentley Spain aslo return, forming one of the best lines in the south. Running back TJ Logan provides some nice skills, but Elijah Hood is an emerging star at tailback.  Hood has is elusive and has great speed, able to house call at any time. The receiving core is very talented and deep.  Bug Howard, Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer, one of the country's top kick returners, are the starters but backup Austin Proehl and TE Brando Fritts are proven as well. This unit will be among the nations best and will place heavy pressure on opposing stop troops. Gene Chizik is making big strides for Carolina on defense, and although Baylor ran for 2 miles against the 'Heels in bowl, improvement is expected again in 2016.  The unit is led by the secondary and a pair of corners, Des Lawrence and MJ Stewart that are All ACC candidates as is safety Donnie Miles, who led UNC in stops in '15. Three return up front, led by ends Mikey Bart and Dajaun Dreenon. Cayson Collins and Andre Smith are among those stepping into linebacking spots, which were left bare after 2015. Transfer JB Copeland will be looked upon for help. The Heels were not stout up front in'15, and with a green linebacking core, this is an area of concern. UNC is sound at placekicker but will have a new punter.  Switzer is among the nations best in the return game. Without Nick Chubb, UNC should be able to handle Georgia by outscoring them in a neutral site opener. The Heels should handle tests by improving Illinois on the road and Pitt before playing at Florida State, which looks too daunting. The following week, Va. Tech comes calling, but they are not what they used to be but a trip to Miami, slated to be improved, will be a stern test. Georgia Tech is always tricky, and the finale with NC State is a rival game. UNC misses Clemson. If they beat Georgia, and handle Miami on the road, they will be a one loss team once again, perhaps even with two losses, facing the Clemson-FSU winner in the ACC Championship game. Odds favor it.

13. Southern Cal

The USC Trojans had the go through the painful ordeal of parting ways with Steve Sarkasian, but appear to have made a smart move in retaining Clay Helton as head coach after he took over when Sark was removed.  The players loved it, but you never make a hire based solely upon that. Helton is not a big name guy either, the type of guy you would expect at SC. But, Helton can coach, and that is what matters most.  Gone is quarterback Cody Kessler, who guided the Trojans in fine fashion over the past two seasons, and the spot is up for grabs.  Most expect Max Browne to win the position, although he has hardly played a down. Browne is 6'5'' and is a pro style signal caller, and former high level recruit who had been waiting his chance. Sam Darnold, more of a dual threat at quarterback, played very well in the spring and is going to have his head right in the mix. We shall see how fall camp goes.  Ten other starters return. Two potential All America players lead this unit.  Zach Banner is dynamite at OT and the leader of the offensive line.  JuJu Smith Schuster is a dynamic player at wide receiver leading a deep group.  Both of these guys are Sunday players.  Chad Wheeler and Toa Lobendahm join Banner up front.  Adoree Jackson, the All America corner, exhibits his skills on offense making 27 catches with two touchdowns in '15.  Jackson has lethal speed. Two other starters return, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell, who combined for 65 catches and 7 TD's.  Justin Davis and Ronald Jones are both back at running back. Both almost ran for 100 yards, with Jones leading the way with 6.5 yards per touch. With any mind of adequate quarterback play, this unit will be very productive. The secondary is the strength of the defensive unit, led by corners Iman Marshall and the aforementioned Jackson.  What a pair! FS Chris Hawkins returns, and coached have an eye on a promising player in Marvell Tell at SS. DE Osa Masina and DT Raysheem Green form a formidable duo  up front, and there is depth at the position. Cameron Smith, second in stops for the Trojans in '15, returns at inside linebacker but his counterparts, led by Olajuwon Tucker, will be new. The specialist will be new, but the return game is most dangerous with Adoree Jackson on the loose. Just do not kick to him. It will bring back a lot of memories, as the Trojans face defending National Champion Alabama in Arlington to start the season.  Even with an experienced team, that is a very tall order with a new quarterback who has taken only a handful of live actions snaps.  Adoree Jackson will be large is USC is somehow able to pull this off, but we doubt it. Before catching their breath, the Trojans visit Stanford and Utah back to back. A brutal four game stretch to close the season out, Oregon, at Washington, at UCLA and home to Notre Dame, is most challenging.  Even with the inexperience at quarterback, we like the Trojans.  But this schedule looks like 3 losses no matter how you chop it up. The Trojans can beat anybody, but it is going to be a rough road. 10-3.

14. Ole Miss

There have been the highly rated recruiting classes over the last half decade that have brought Ole Miss to the cusp of the elite in the Southeastern Conference, and the Rebel faithful are ready for that to become a reality. On the positive side, Ole Miss has elevated their talent level to be annual contenders for the SEC Championship. Don't laugh, they own consecutive wins over Alabama. However, on the negative side, there are NCAA inquiries and off the field activities that can mentally challenge a team from the coaching staff down to the scout team, and Ole Miss, who with all the big victories, appears a bit lacking in that department anyhow as they have not been able to put together a complete season. Only five starters return on each side of the football, but the talent level is high. It begins on offense with Chad Kelly, the Clemson transfer who returns for his senior campaign after throwing for over 4000 yards and 31 TD's. Kelly is All SEC at a minimum, but did toss 13 INT's in '15. Gone is the massive Laremy Tunsil at tackle, and only starter Sean Rawlings at center returns up front. Jordan Sims and Robert Conyers have experience, but it is five star recruit Greg Little, expected to start day one at tackle, that has coaches beaming. Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins, who both posted similar statistics in '15, look to be sharing the load at running back. Demore'ea Stringfellow is a emerging star at receiver, provided he keeps his head above some off field issues. Quincy Adeboyejo (36c) also returns along with Markell Pack (31c).  Evan Engram is an All America player at tight end, and it is he that could be a dangerous weapon for Ole Miss. Defensive end Marquis Hayes, who recorded 10 sacks and 6.5 TFL in '15, leads the Rebels up front defensively, with DJ Jones at the nose.  Fidel Brown also returns at DE, but inside, the players will be new, and a drop off from the outstanding Robert Nkemdichie, who is NFL bound. DeMarquis Gates appears set to handle and OLB spot, with Oregon State (leading '15 tackler) transfer Rommel Mageo taking the inside spot. At nickel will be Tony Conner, an outstanding player who has been beset with injuries throughout his career. If Conner is completely healthy and can get through the season, this will be huge for the Rebels as he at 100% is an All SEC player. Corners Tony Webster (3INT's) and Kendarius Webster (1PBU) return, but both safety positions house new starters. Both specialist return for the Rebels, which gives the staff peace of mind. The return game could use a shot in the arm, which is puzzling given the speed Ole Miss possesses. Ole Miss opens in Orlando against a very talented Florida State team. This game seems to tough for Ole Miss, but it does present quite an opportunity that will require a doozy from Chad Kelly to get accomplished. Alabama comes to Oxford week three; could the Rebels take out the Tide again? Odds favor two quick losses, but the Rebels could get one.  Georgia then arrives in Oxford, but unless Nick Chubb is healthy and rolling, the Dawgs do not appear to have enough to get it done. A three game stretch at Arkansas and LSU and then home to Auburn is tough and mentally taxing. A road trip to the enigma known as Texas A&M and a homer against rival Mississippi State make out a rough schedule. It would appear there are three losses here. Maybe Ole Miss wins one they shouldn't, but they could also lose they shouldn't.  The Rebels will try to ride Kelly to the promise land, but there just appear to be too many holes elsewhere to consider Ole Miss a favorite to win the west. That being said, unless the NCAA tackles them, they are not going anywhere and with approximately seven senior starters will be challenging again in 2017.

15. Notre Dame

It is year seven for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, and quite frankly, most Irish faithful had hoped Notre Dame would be closer to the nation's elite than they appear to be.  Under Kelly, there is no question the Irish have elevated considerably the talent level across the board, but outside of the appearance in the 2012 National Championship, where they were outclassed, more has been expected. Over the past two seasons, Notre Dame has rivaled just about nobody in terms of suffering significant injuries to key personnel. But that can pay dividends at a later date, and this year may be an example. The 2015 Irish team had lofty expectations, but this team returns only nine total starters. One area where they experienced is at quarterback. Malik Zaire had played well, but got hurt and gave way to DeShone Kizer, who seemed to outplay Zaire.  Those two will battle it out (Coach Kelly was quoted as saying somebody is going to be unhappy, and he loves them both.  Look for Kizer to win it. Tarean Folston looks like the man  at running back, coming back from injury. Josh Adams ran for 835 in Folston's absence, so the Irish have depth at the position. Tackle Mike McGlinchy returns up front as does left guard Quentin Nelson, both honors candidates, but the Irish are green here. Torri Hunter, Jr. (son of the former MLB star) looks to assume a spot at wideout, having made 28 catches last year. Corey Robinson, son of The Admiral, gave up the game, so Alize Jones, a talented prospect, is the next man up. CJ Sanders and the promising Equanimeous ST. Brown will get time to be sure. This unit is inexperienced and it will be interesting to see how stellar quarterback play, if the Irish can get it, will lead the unit. Five starters return on the stop side. Issac Rochell at DE is the lone returner up front and the top returning tackler.  Jarron Jones and Jerry Tillery will plug the inside. Nyles Morgan will be the man in the middle with James Ownualu flanking him. Max Redfield is a tough customer at safety, while Cole Luke is back at a corner spot. Drue Tranquill, Nick Watkins  and Shaun Crawford will be in the mix. Boy, the Irish lost a lot of talent on this side of the ball, and it seems it will be difficult to match the output of last years unit. However, that is a unit which did give up a lot of real estate. The kicking game is good, and CJ Sanders is a strong return guy, taking both a punt and kickoff return to the house in '15.  Many project the Irish a top ten team, but we do not see it as too many holes lacking experience are visible.  One plus is the schedule, which is not overbearing. The Irish open with Texas, who has a massive chip on their shoulder and would love to arrive in '16 by taking out Notre Dame. Be careful, as Texas is better than most think. The Irish welcome Michigan State, but the Spartans have holes a plenty also. A trip to NC State may be dangerous, but the Irish should get by that only to welcome in Stanford. That will be the game which makes or breaks the Irish. Miami comes in, and the Hurricanes are improved. The Irish close hosting Virginia Tech, always a tough team, and a trip to USC, who is very good. Notre Dame loses three games among these contests, perhaps winning one they shouldn't and dropping one as favorites.  Notre Dame is on good footing, but for 2016, there is too much inexperience to overcome. 9-3

16. Stanford

In our eyes, Stanford has the perfect blueprint to put together a powerful college football program.  David Shaw keeps the Cardinal on top with the installation of a physical and mental edge, and a system which allows the team to grow.  Last year, Stanford looked lost in a opening loss at Northwestern, and did not perform well in winning the home opener against visiting Central Florida, who finished '15 winless. One thing the Cardinal had last year they do not have this season is an experienced signal caller.  Gone is Kevin Hogan, who collected some 30 starts over his career. Keller Chryst looks to be the guy, but Ryan Burns is making his presence felt, and neither have any measureable experience. The offensive line is usually a team strength out on the farm, but only one returning starter is back, and that is Johnny Capers, who is an honors candidate at guard. Casey Tucker at tackle has some starts behind him, and given the history, Stanford should be ok at a minimum up front.  Michael Rector is the top returning wideout, having hauled in 7 TD's in '15.  Rector, who may be All PAC XII, will lead the way for some youngsters to arrive, most notably Francis Owusu, who had 13 catches last fall. Dalton Schultz had 10 catches in '15 as TE. But offensively, it will all evolve around the brilliant Christian McCaffrey, who is a Heisman favorite. McCaffery led the team in catches from the backfield, and is a threat for a house call anytime he touches the ball.  He is not shy running between the tackle, and is explosive around the end. No doubt, even with a suspect line, McCaffrey is the man, and will lead Stanford far all by himself.  The Cardinal are not particularly experienced on the stop side either. Solomon Thomas is All PAC XII at DE (10.5 TFL).  Harrison Phillips returns from injury to help the interior line. Kevin Palma is back at inside linebacker with Peter Kalambayi on the outside. Alijay Holder returns at corner, and Zach Hoffpauir is back at safety after a stint on the diamond.  Dallas Lloyd returns at strong safety.  Both specialists return, and McCaffrey is lethal in the return game.  Outside of superstar McCaffrey, there is little meaningful experience, but there is a boatload of talent.  Stanford opens hosting Kansas State, who although very well coached, is not who they once were. But then again, the Cardinal were woeful in losing the opener in '15. Then off a bye, USC comes to The Farm and then the Cardinal visit Westwood the following week.  Not much time to grow into a stellar team, particularly at quarterback and on the lines of scrimmage.  After those two games, Stanford faces an emerging Washington before going to Wazzu, promised to be a tough trip. Then a trip to Notre Dame. Boy howdy, this is no hill for a climber. A trip to Arizona and a late trip Oregon also dot the brutality of this schedule.  We see Stanford as a top ten team, but with this schedule, even with McCaffrey, to get away with only three losses would be quite some accomplishment.  Stanford has done it before.

17. Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State ran out to a 10-0 record last year, just as the schedule set up.  Then came the big dogs in the Big XII, and the Pokes lost to both Baylor and OU in games not particularly close. But Oklahoma State will once again be positioned to challenge for the conference title. Ten starters return on offense, the unit should be quite potent.  Mason Rudolph remains the OSU signal caller, throwing for 3770 yards a year ago.  The receiving core is strong, led by James Washington, who along with WR Marcell Ateman and top tight end Blake Jarwin, give the Pokes plenty of weaponry.  Chris Carson returns at running back, and OSU welcomes legacy transfer Barry Sanders Jr, from Stanford. The line returns all starters, but the line underachieved in '15.  Significant improvement is expected, and with the arrival of JUCO OT Larry Williams, Victor Salako and Michael Wilson will form a nucleus to work from. Oklahoma State has some nice pieces defensively, but at times in '15, they were unable to get stops. Vincent Taylor is potential All Big XII at tackle. Chad Whitener and Jordan Burton are a top pair of linebackers.  Ashton Lampkin has great potential at corner and safety Jordan Stearns, the teams top tackler, are ready to rock. Both the kicking and return games are very solid. The schedule is not brutal.  Pittsburgh comes in to Stillwater week three prior to Okie State traveling to Baylor. Pitt is better than most think, and this game will be interesting.  Texas and West Virginia come to Stillwater, while the Pokes must go to TCU and OU.  Four losses would be about the worst case scenario, but we think 10-2 is more reasonable.

18. Iowa

It seemed the fire was quite hot for Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who by most accounts had underachieved in Iowa City. But in 2015, the Hawkeyes had a historic run, going undefeated in the regular season before falling against Michigan State in the B1G Championship Game. The Hawkeyes went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1985, but they got blasted by Stanford.  Will Iowa capitalize on the banner season, or will they take their customary step back after appearing to take the next step to greatness?  We have all been fooled by the Hawkeyes in the past, so who knows. Although Iowa won quite a few close ones last year, odds seem to favor they will remain in the hunt for the B1G title and cement their spot as a top Top 25 team. Only five starters return offensively, but that is somewhat misleading as QB CJ Beathard returns after a stellar '15 campaign where he complemented a powerful run game by tossing 17 TD's.  Three of the big uglies return, led by center Sean Welsh. Leading receiver Matt Vandeberg is back after hauling in 65 catches. George Kittle returns at tight end, a very important position historically for Iowa. LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley are an impressive pair of runners who will help Iowa pound opposing stop troops. Eight starters return on defense, led by All America corner Desmond King. Greg Mabin, who is no slouch at boundary corner, and safety Miles Taylor both return to give Iowa a strong secondary.  Linebacker Josey Jewell, who led the Hawks in stops in '15, returns at middle linebacker, with Ben Neimann on the outside (4SKS). Jaleel Johnson (4 SKS) at DE leads a strong front with Nathan Bazata inside to plug things up.  This is a strong unit, but at times, the Hawkeyes did surrender some points. Desmond King will handle the returns, but both specialists must be replaced. Boy Howdy does the schedule set up nicely, Before hosting an improved Northwestern, the Hawkeyes should be 4-0. We will project a win there and move the Hawks to 7-0 before hosting Wisconsin, who may not be up to this type of road win. At 8-0, here comes the season. A trip to Penn State, who needs big wins, precedes a home date with Michigan with rising Illinois sandwiched between before the finale versus Nebraska. Iowa will fall at least once in those final four. The Nebraska game will settle the west, and it favor Iowa with the game in Iowa City.  It is hard to believe in Iowa, but if ever the year to do so, it would be 2016. We will go 10-2.

19. Michigan State

Michigan State won the B1G in 2015 after they defeated Ohio State and then Iowa in the B1G Championship game. Only a one point loss late at Nebraska stopped the Spartans from an undefeated regular season.  Then, reality sunk in as they were sandblasted by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl Semifinal. In 2016, the Spartans will attempt to remain among the national elite. Offensively, the losses are numerous. Gone is quarterback Conner Cook who led MSU to 34 wins in his career. Tyler O'Conner will take over, as he did when directing a victory at Ohio State when Cook was injured. LJ Scott is the man at running back, and big things are expected. Scott ran for 700 yards and 11TD's in '15.Felton Davis and RJ Shelton III will step up at receiver, with the loss of Aaron Burbridge and McGarrett Kings looming large. True frosh Donnie Corley turned heads in the spring. Michigan State has a long history of being strong up front, but only two starters return, led by All B1G guard Brian Allen. Josiah Price will be very effective at tight end. While Scott can emerge and O'Conner can be decent, the potency of the Spartans offensively is expected to retract. Riley Bullough is back at inside linebacker as is Ed Davis on the outside, forming a strong linebacking core.  Malik McDowell is a dominating presence up front and the Spartans hope DE Demetrius Cooper can step up.  The secondary is very strong, led by free safety Demetrious Cox.  Strong safety Montae Nicholson also returns and Vayante Copeland is an honors candidate at corner, teaming with Darian Hicks. Both specialists return hoping to improve on consistency. RJ Shelton will handle the return game. Michigan State has a week two contest at Notre Dame, which gives the offense little time to get on track. The following week, Wisconsin comes to East Lansing. The Spartans get both Michigan and Ohio State at home, but do not look strong enough to win either of those contests.  But for a team seemingly rebuilding, at least offensively, the schedule is manageable.  Even so, we think 9-3 for the Spartans would ideal to place in the clubhouse.

20. Texas Christian

Texas Christian was thought by many to be a bona fide national title contender in 2015, but the season went off the rails for a variety of reasons.  There is quite a bit of talent on hand for 2016, but much of it is inexperienced. Only three starters return offensively, but that is somewhat deceiving.  Kenny Hill, who started his career at Texas A&M, takes over at quarterback for the Frogs. Kevonte Turpin, who had 45 catches in '15, headlines the receiving core. Deante Gray, who starred in '14, is back after injury as is Ty Slanina, and incoming JUCO help (most notably Taj Williams) is arriving as well. Tackle Joseph Noteboom will anchor the offensive line, but experience here is thin. Aviante Collins has potential at tackle. Kyle Hicks is at running back, as is KaVontae Turpin. Eight starters are back on defense, which should be a very stingy unit. Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry and ends Josh Carraway, ALL Big XII a year ago,  and James McFarland form a talented group up front for the Frogs. Travin Howard, the Frogs leading tackler in '15, spearheads the linebacking unit with Montrel Wilson and Ty Summers. SS Denzel Johnson leads a talented secondary. WS Nick Orr is also back, and corners Jeff Gladney and Ranthony Texada are honors candidates. Both specialists are new, but Turpin has a handle on the return game. Offensively, TCU hopes Hill excels and the meat of the offensive line matures quickly.  On the stop side, the Frogs are fast and aggressive. An early tilt at home against Arkansas is tricky.  OU comes in with October, and a trip to Baylor no longer looks as imposing. Okie State comes to Carter Stadium, but the Frogs do visit an improving Texas. The offense looks too young for TCU to really challenge nationally, so we like 9-3 for 2016.

21. Nebraska

It was a humbling season for Nebraska in 2015, the first year for Coach Mike Riley after the firing of Bo Pelini, who had won at least 9 games in each of his seasons at the helm. It was a change that needed to be made.  After a seemingly uneventful transition, things went bad quick as in the opener at Lincoln, BYU threw a Hail Mary pass to beat the Cornhuskers on the last play of the game.  Nebraska would later fall in overtime on the road at Miami after a huge comeback. Then, after winning the entire game, the 'Huskers fell on the last play at Illinois. Followed by a home loss to Wisconsin, final with a Badger FG as time expired. A loss to Northwestern placed the bowl eligibility of Nebraska into question. An inexplicable loss at Purdue was a low point, but in a testament to the team, the Big Red bounced back and took out Michigan State in Lincoln. Nebraska lost to undefeated Iowa to close the season but got a bowl bid, which leads us to 2016. It is often not a good idea to base a seasons forecast on the results of the prior seasons bowl game, but for Nebraska, their defeating of UCLA 36-29 is significant, proving those close losses did not adequately indicate the character of the team. The memory of the win adds focus to 2016, and the Cornhuskers are expected to be much improved.  It begins at quarterback, where Tommy Armstrong returns. Armstrong has been erratic throughout his career, and tossed 16 interceptions a year ago (two critical ones against Miami and Iowa).  But when Armstrong is good, he is very good. Another year under Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf is certain to help Armstrong elevate his game. Armstrong has a lively arm, and any measurable improvement in his completion percentage will certainly pay big dividends, and it is important to note that Armstrong can win games with his legs. The 'Husker running attack will be by committee.  Terrell Newby is the veteran, but Devine Ozigbo showed flashes as a freshman and Mikale Wilbon is ready to go. The receiving core is outstanding and the best in the conference.  Jordan Westerkamp (65 catches) is the best player you never heard of, Stanley Morgan Jr. is an emerging star and Alonzo Moore and Brando Reilly have NFL potential. DeMornay Pierson El, who blew out a knee in 2015, if 100 percent healthy, is a superstar waiting to explode. The line is inexperienced, but has solid candidates and may be overall improved from a year ago.  T Nick Gates is the main man, and an honors candidate. Nebraska is depleted up front on defense.  Kevin Maurice steps in at tackle, and is a very good player. Freedom Akimoladum showed promise at DE, but folks are needed to step up. The linebacking core, which played under fire in 2015, is now a team strength.  Jason Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey are the leaders, with Marcus Newby, Dedrick Young and Chris Weber ready.  The secondary, a problem most of the year in '15, will now bring back two solid corners in Chris Davis and Joshua Kalu.  Nate Gerry is a honors candidate at safety, if the referees refrain from tossing him out of the game for blasting people (3 times in '15). Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams and Antonio Reed are backups. Sam Foltz is a top notch punter, and Drew Brown is on his way to becoming a potential ALL  B1G kicker.  Pierson El, if healthy, will have opponents in fear returning kicks. The Cornhuskers have wholes, most notably on both lines, but they do have a sprinkling of emerging talent that gives them a chance to grow into a good football team setting up for a bigger 2017. Oregon comes to Lincoln week 3, and getting that game would allow Nebraska to believe, and serve notice to future opponents. A trip to play a good Northwestern team the following week could negate the enthusiasm quickly, but that is where you depend on your quarterback with over 30 starts. The 'Huskers then go to Wisconsin, who will not be as good as recent seasons, for a game that will need to be won to capture the west.  Next up is at Ohio State, which appears to much for the young 'Huskers, but who knows. Nebraska should be firing on all six shooters when they close the year at Iowa.  Nebraska can, and should win the west. Always. The team has great potential, and '17 will be interesting, but they will stumble a few times with the deficiencies they have. We project Nebraska to finish 10-3.


On July 23, 2016, Nebraska punter Sam Foltz was killed in a car accident while attending a kicking and punting camp in Wisconsin for high school specialists.  Foltz, who was a wonderful young man who lead by example and inspired others with his work ethic and good nature, was loved by everyone he came into contact with.  His loss will heavily impact Nebraska on (Foltz was projected All B1G) and off the field.

22. Baylor

The Baylor Bears have been on quite a run the last several seasons under Art Briles, that is for sure.  With only nine starters back, it appeared Baylor may not be quite as good in '16 as in recent years, but still a team capable of winning the Big XII.  Then, the unthinkable.  Due to what was considered an inappropriate response by not only the football program, but the University as a whole, several folks were relieved of their duties, including head football coach Art Briles.  The decision to release Briles, which sadly was the correct decision, has set off a domino effect of negativity. Many players have left the program, and a top ranked recruiting class has been left in shambles with a series of de-commits. When last we saw Baylor, they were running roughshod over North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl, showcasing a lethal amount of speed.  But Baylor has generally been a throwing team, and while that would figure to remain the case, we are not sure what philosophy specifically new coach Jim Grobe will employ.  Seth Russell is back at quarterback, and he is proven and could challenge for all conference honors. Shock Linwood is back at running back, and he is special, and so is Johnny Jefferson, who torched UNC for 299. Only two starters return up front, but one is All Big XII center Kyle Fuller. KD Carson is an outstanding receiver, but outside of him experience is thin. There are certainly pieces which give Baylor a chance to be potent, but there are also holes to be reckoned with and potential variances to the line of attack. The secondary is experienced, with safeties Orion Stewart and  Chance Waz teaming with Travon Blanchard , the Bears leading returning tackler. Ryan Reid returns at corner. Taylor Young is the only front seven player returning. Jeremy Faulk is going to plug up the middle from his nose spot and KJ Miller has great potential on the edge. Baylor will be decent in the return game, but will seek improvement with their specialists.  The schedule is once again not particularly challenging. Baylor hosts Oklahoma State in week four, really a must win.  The Bears travel to Texas, who is chomping at the bit to reestablish themselves, then return home to face TCU. The following week finds Baylor in Norman to face the Sooners, and after K-State visits the Bears close out on the road at Texas Tech and West Virginia.  The Bears remain as dangerous as ever, but there does not appear to be enough overall talent and experience to allow them to challenge nationally.  In addition, it is difficult to assess the mindset of the team, with the program seemingly in collapse.  Looks like about three losses for the Bears.

24. UCLA

UCLA was left with a bad taste in their mouth in 2015. The Bruins were considered a top ten team heading in, and for the first part of season looked the part, with a big win at Arizona after sneaking by BYU. Then, the Bruins got clocked at home by Arizona State, and then bombed at Stanford. Down the stretch, upstart Wazzu hung a loss on UCLA, and after beating a very sound Utah team, got blasted by crosstown rival USC.  To add insult, UCLA got ran over by 5-7 Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl. Top recruit Josh Rosen played very well as a true freshman at quarterback, and he will lead the team offensively in 2016 with only three other starters returning. One of those three is All PAC 12 tackle Connor McDermott. His nest door neighbor, Kenny Lacy is also back. The running game will be a tandem of Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks, who  showed flashes last fall. Kenny Walker and Darren Andrews are the top pass catchers returning, but all eyes will be on Ishmael Adams III, who jumped over from DB.  The unit has potential behind Rosen, but experience is quite thin.  The defense could be outstanding.  Up front, everybody is back, if you count DE Eddie Vanderdoes, who got hurt last season.  He was an all PAC candidate, an if healthy, will be once again. In his absence, Takkarist McKinley emerged at DE and is back to flank Vanderboes, with Deon Hollins rushing the edge. Eli Ankou plugs the middle. LB Jayon Brown led UCLA is stops in 2015, while Kenny Young had 4.5 TFL. Both are back, ready for bear. SS Jaleel Wadood leads the experienced secondary, with FS Randall Goforth back as well.  Marcus Rios (7PBU) is back at one corner, with Fabian Moreau, who was out in '15, perhaps returning. Moreau is a great talent, and his return would certainly be, well, in this political year, huge! UCLA may be stout on defense, but we are in the pass happy PAC 12 and we wonder how long the D can hold up while the offense, which looks to have too many holes, plays catch up.  An opener against Texas A&M, who seems a bit of an enigma these days, will  present a big opportunity to get a win over an SEC opponent and build some confidence. But, after UNLV, it gets tough quickly once again. BYU may be on the verge of descending, but not in week two, so that game in Provo will not be easy. Then Stanford comes to town, and we will find out just how good UCLA can be defensively. Arizona is not easy, and although many think the Sun Devils are descending, a trip to Tempe will not be easy. Nor will a trip to play Washington State, a sleeper pick to be dangerous in the conference. Utah then comes to LA, and so does USC late before the Bruins play at Cal.  This is a very tough schedule, particular for a team needing time to grow offensively.  Rosen is as advertised, and can flat sling it, but he cannot do it alone.  If UCLA wins vs. A&M, we could see then at 10-2 on the top end, but it appears an 8-4 season is more reasonable.

25. Oregon

Oregon has been as strong as anyone in the country over the last half decade, playing in two national title games. When Chip Kelly left new coach Mark Helfrich had the Ducks flying behind Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. A string of ten win seasons went by the way side last fall, in large measure due to issues defensively. The Ducks did not stop anybody, and gave up at least 20 points in every game. Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke has been brought in to shore up the Oregon stop side. Only four starters return over there, so it may not get better quickly. Aarion Springs (12PBU) returns at corner with Tyree Robinson at safety along with Reggie Daniels (10PBU) .  Henry Mondreaux will man an end spot, and Oregon hopes DT Canton Kaumatute, a former five star recruit, will make plays. AJ Hotchkins will lead a very inexperienced linebacking core.  This unit has issues, and may be shaky for the much of the season.  Dakota Prukop will take over at quarterback after transferring in from Montana State. Oregon has Royce Freeman back at tailback, and Freeman is worthy of Heisman consideration. Oregon houses plenty of weaponry for a quarterback. Charles Nelson and Darren Carrington are a stellar pair of wideouts, with Pharaoh Brown and Evan Baylis at tight end. New WR Dillon Mitchell will get some playing time as well. Tyrell Cosby will anchor a tackle position, with a bunch of young players ready to step up along the line, most notably center Jake Hanson. Both specialist return and Oregon is strong in the return game. Oregon lost the Alamo Bowl to TCU after leading 31-0 at halftime!  You wonder if that will have an affect on a young team as they enter 2016.  It is fair to say that Oregon will not be a national title challenger this fall as they have been for so many seasons. The Ducks travel to Nebraska week three, and that is an important game for both teams.  We thin the Ducks fall here, and will likely drop one of back to back games at Wazzu and hosting Washington. After tricky games with Cal and Arizona State,  a three game stretch at USC, home to Stanford and at Utah will be difficult. Pencil perhaps two losses there.  The Duck defensive unit looks too inexperienced and while there are skill people everywhere, the line looks mediocre. 2016 has the look of an 8-4 campaign for Oregon; and as shocking as it sounds, the heat might get turned on Helfrich if folks are unable to visualize improvement in 2017.


-Mark Richt has 9 back on offense, including star quarterback Brad Kaya; could win 10

-A salty defense, particularly in secondary; need QB to rise up and skill people to reach next level

---Experienced offense with RB James Conner and Narduzzi has an athletic D led by S Jordan Whitehead.

Washington State
-Wazzu won 9 a year ago, return QB Luke Falk and much of their skill people; 6 back on D

-Longhorns are made great strides in 2015, but while they remain young, they appears poised for breakthrough.

POTENTIAL BREAKTHROUGHS:  San Diego State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Penn State, Auburn, Utah, South Florida, Northwestern, Arizona, Wisconsin, Arizona State and Georgia Tech.

ASCENDING: Michigan, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, Washington State, South Florida

DESCENDING: Oregon, Georgia, Baylor, Missouri, Wisconsin,  Arizona State, South Carolina

COACHING HOT SEAT:  Darrell Hazell, Purdue; Gus Malzan, Auburn and Dave Doeren, NC State.

2015 Preseason All America Team

Offensive Player of the Year
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson


WR         Calvin Ridley, Alabama
WR         JuJu Smith Schuster, Southern Cal
WR         Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
WR         Gabe Marks, Washington State
TE           Jake Butt, Michigan
OT          Cam Robinson, Alabama
OL          Zac Bannon, USC
OL          Dan Feeney, Indiana
OL          Pat Eflin, Ohio State
OL          Ethan Pocic, LSU
OL          Dave Volz, Wisconsin
OT          Roderick Johnson, Florida State
QB          Deshaun Watson, Clemson
RB           Dalvin Cook, Florida State
RB           Leonard Fournette, LSU
RB           Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
RB           Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

Defensive Player of the Year
Myles Garrett, DE,Texas A&M
Photo/USA Today


DE          Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
DL          Malik McDowell, Michigan State
DT          Charles Watkins, Clemson
DL          Jonathan Allen, Alabama
DE          DeMarcus Walker, Florida State
DE          Derek Barnett, Tennessee
OLB       Davonte Fields, Louisville
ILB         Raekwon McMillian, Ohio State
ILB         Anthony Walker, Northwestern
ILB         Rueben Foster, Alabama
OLB       Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
CB          Desmond King, Iowa
DB          Adoree' Jackson, Southern Cal
DB          Jourdan Kewis, Michigan
S             Derwin James, Florida State
DB          Jamal Adams, LSU
CB          Jalen Tabor, Florida


K           Jake Elliott, Memphis
P            JK Scott, Alabama
KR         Adorre' Jackson, Southern Cal
AP         Christian McCaffrey, Stanford


ONC       Jacob Eason, Georgia
DNC       Dexter Lawrence, Clemson