College Football Sneak Peek 2015-2016
The Four to Beat
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Despite some serious adversity throughout the 2014-2015 season, the Buckeyes managed to shock the nation and win Urban Meyer's third national championship. In 2015, they will have the nation's top roster, led with a scary amount of offensive playmakers. Junior Ezekiel Elliott will once more carry the load on the ground, while junior Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshal and a strong offensive line will give the Big Ten absolute fits. But, perhaps the scariest thing is their quarterback position, which includes three players who could realistically be on Heisman watch lists. Former two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller is set to return from shoulder surgery, while redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett is returning from a broken ankle after setting records in Miller's absence. And, then there is Cardale Jones, who stiff armed the NFL to return for his junior season, after leading the Buckeyes to a title. Miller's name has been tossed around in transfer rumors and he could possibly change positions but even if he does, the Buckeyes will be stacked at the position. Defensive end Joey Bosa will be absolutely dominant next year and the secondary will be very experienced. After being a dark horse for much of the year, Ohio State will be expected to dominate this year. If the Big Ten struggles the way it did for much of 2014, that should happen.
2. TCU Horned Frogs
Behind the powerful arm of Trevone Boykin, the Horned Frogs won 12 games in 2014 (up from four the year prior) and were notoriously snubbed from the Playoff. Boykin will return, and in his second year in the Horned Frogs' new offense, he could put up insane numbers. Aaron Green has the chance to be a breakout candidate at running back along with steady vet B.J. Catalon, and deep threat Kolby Listenbee returns to lead the receiver corps. Defensively, a number of contributors return to lead a unit that was extremely underrated in 2014. While those things should be important perhaps the scariest thing about TCU is the motivation factor. This team will feel hungry to prove themselves as a worthy Playoff team, much like they were motivated when they thrashed Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl. That should absolutely scare the Big 12 and the rest of the nation.
3. Baylor Bears
TCU certainly won't run away with the Big 12, not if Art Briles and Baylor have something to say about it. Even with the departure of gunslinger Bryce Petty at quarterback, Baylor could be even better, as the offense is still stocked with playmakers. Leading receiver K.D. Cannon, talented junior backs Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson, along with tackle Spencer Drango lead an offense that could be even better this next season. The defense could be the best in school history, with the return of massive end Shawn Oakman, who flirted with the NFL, and sophomore linebacker Taylor Young, who had a field day in the Cotton Bowl, recording 15 tackles. Seth Russell, who is set to take over for Petty, should be fine as he played tremendous when Petty struggled with injuries early last season.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide
Another long list of impact players leaving from Tuscaloosca. And yet, Alabama is expected to be among the nation's best, even without big names like Amari Cooper and Landon Collins. Derrick Henry finally has the complete reigns to the backfield with the departure of T.J. Yeldon and he could put up huge numbers if he stays healthy. The defense should be absolutely stout, with the return of versatile defensive linemen A'Shawn Robinson along a number of blue-chippers ready to step into bigger roles, like defensive back Tony Brown and hard-hitting Rueben Foster. Former Florida State transfer Jacob Coker should take over the quarterback position full time (although a year later than expected) and guide the offense. Plus, punter J.K. Scott is an absolute stud and his big leg will certainly help in close SEC contests.
Others in the Hunt
Michigan State Spartans: Quarterback Connor Cook returns for his senior season, hoping to guide a Spartans team that should be a major challenge to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten East. Although back Jeremy Langford is gone, receiver Tony Lippett has emerged as a dangerous deep threat and the defense will once more be dominant, led by senior Shilique Calhoun.
Georgia Bulldogs: It may be crazy to think right now, but Nick Chubb could end up being better than Todd Gurley, if he manages to stay healthy, something Gurley couldn't. The sophomore will have the chance to be dominant this season, and Mark Richt will have a number of impact defenders back, including pass rushing Leonard Floyd at linebacker.
USC Trojans: With Oregon and Stanford in a rebuild, USC may once more take the reigns of the Pac-12. Cody Kessler put up huge numbers in Steve Sarkisian's offense a year ago, and he returns along with the versatile Adoree' Jackson. The defense should also be decent, even with the absence of linemen Leonard Williams.
Clemson Tigers: Give him all the credit, Dabo Swinney has built a winner at Clemson. Even with Chad Morris, the offensive coordinator, ditching to SMU, the Tigers could be the class of the ACC this next year. If he stays healthy Deshaun Watson could absolutely breakout at quarterback as a sophomore and back Wayne Gallman could emerge as an absolute workhorse.
Dark Horse Teams to Watch
UNC Tar Heels
Penn State Nittany Lions
California Golden Bears
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Laqoun Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon