There are still more than three months until the college football season gets underway, but it’s not too early to take a look at which teams have the best chance of competing for a national championship. A year after winning yet another title, Alabama looks to have the best team in the nation.
Under Nick Saban the Crimson Tide have consistently been in the mix to win a championship since 2008. They’ve averaged 12.25 wins per season for the last eight years, going 4-0 in national championship games during that time. The team lost star running back Derrick Henry to the NFL, as well as quarterback Jake Coker. But Saban has the No.1 recruiting class in the country, and Alabama’s defense should be elite.
Alabama defeated Clemson in the national championship game, and the Tigers appear to have what it takes to make another strong run. Deshaun Watson was the best quarterback in college football last year, and his return means Dabo Swinney’s squad should be in title contention. Defensive end Shaq Lawson was a first-round draft pick, but running back Wayne Gallman will be back and opposing defenses will have trouble stopping Clemson’s dynamic offense.
Michigan didn’t make the College Football Playoff last year, but the Wolverines have the best chance of any team to move past the top two teams of 2015. After making a five-win improvement in Jim Harbaugh’s first year as head coach, the program should be even better in 2016. Michigan is expected to have a top defense, and if they can avoid inexplicable last-second losses like the one they suffered at the hands of Michigan State last year, the Wolverines could find themselves in the four-team postseason.
Traditional powers like Ohio State and Florida State should be ranked near the top of the polls for most of the season, and the Big 12 will be strong again with Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU potentially all being top 10 teams. Leonard Fournette makes LSU a top 25 team almost all by himself, and the SEC has at least five teams that are worthy of being ranked in the top 20.
Below is a look at our early rankings of the top 25 college football teams for the 2016 season.
4) Florida State
7) Ohio State
11) Notre Dame
14) Ole Miss
16) North Carolina
17) Michigan State
23) Oklahoma State
24) Washington State