College Football: Early 2017 Top 11-20 College Football Rankings

Last week, I published my College Football Top 10. This week I’m publishing a blog about my 2017 top 11-20 college football rankings. My rankings, no doubt, are going to change once the games start being played on August 26.

Nobody’s rankings ever stay the same. I believe every college football team below has a shot to win their respective divisions and conferences. I just feel that every team below is missing something, or there are big questions, that’s going to prevent them from winning their division and, or, conference.

Check out my early 2017 top 11-20 college football rankings!

D.S.’s 2017 Top 11-20 College Football Rankings

11. Michigan Wolverines

The Michigan Wolverines bring back QB Wilton Speight. Speight, like every quarterback that plays for Jim Harbaugh, has skills. He could be a force in the Big Ten. Or…not.

The problem with Michigan’s offense is that Harbaugh must replace 3 starters along the offensive line. The offensive line didn’t play all that well towards the end of last season. Now, Harbaugh’s got to dig deep and find offensive linemen to protect his experienced quarterback.

The pool of offensive linemen that Harbaugh’s going to choose from has a combined 1 start. That’s just not enough experience along the offensive line for me to put Michigan higher than 11.

Not only must Michigan replace 3 of 5 offensive linemen, the Wolverines must also replace 10 starters on the defense.
Hey, I get it. I think, like so many others, that Jim Harbaugh is a miracle worker. In this case, the Michigan Wolverines finishing at 11 is the miracle.

12. Auburn Tigers

A part of me wants to keep Gus Malzahn’s squad out of my Top 20. Then, I read about Auburn’s defense. The Tigers have a vaunted defensive line. If you’ve ready any of my college football blogs the past couple of months, you know how much I believe in having a strong defensive line.

Kevin Steele is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football. He’s going to get the defensive line, the entire defense to be honest, to play as well as it can. What it means is that Auburn’s D should keep it in most games versus its SEC opponents.
The Tigers are going to break down on offense, though. Gus, because he’s Gus Mahlzan, decided to hire former ASU offensive coordinator Chad Lindsey as his guy. Lindsey loves to go deep. Lindsey spreads the field.

Then, Mahlzan and Lindsey convinced former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham to transfer to Auburn. So, let me get this straight. You’re going to speed up the offense knowing that the best unit on your team is your defense?
Sounds like a disaster.

3. Louisville Cardinals

I had Louisville ranked higher. But, after studying last season’s stats, and watching some game film (I call it YouTube), I concluded that 13 is the highest I can rank Louisville this season.

I think last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is one of the absolute best college quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. Did you notice what I did there? I wrote the word college. Jackson is a great college quarterback. I don’t think his game is anywhere close to where it needs to be to even to sit on the bench as a QB in the NFL.

Is that a problem? Not really. Not for Lamar. He could take this entire season getting NFL ready. Then again, if Lamar isn’t Lamar, meaning he isn’t rushing all over the place and diving into the end zone, Louisville’s not going to be nearly as formidable on offense this season as it was last season.

I don’t blame Jackson if he decides to spend most of his time in the pocket. He must prove that he can be a pocket passer. But, his team will suffer for it if he’s not Tim Tebow electrifying.

That’s the first reason I’m not a big fan of Louisville getting into the Top 10. The other reason I’m not high on Louisville is because of their defense. The experience in the D is in the secondary. That’s already a red flag for me.

What makes me worry even more about Louisville’s secondary is that although it’s experienced, it allowed 29 TD passes last season.

Why is Louisville even in my Top 20? It comes down to Lamar Jackson. I think he’s good enough for Louisville to lose no more than 3 to 4 games. This is true even if Lamar decides to work on his NFL QB skills because the dude is driven.

14. Wisconsin Badgers

The Badgers’ biggest issue is that the offense is much to one-dimensional for Wisconsin to be a Top 10 team. The Badgers have always been known as a great rushing team with a suitable quarterback that can make the necessary throws.
That’s not what the 2017 Wisconsin Badgers are all about. Their starting quarterback, Alex Hornibrook, wouldn’t be a back-up for a Pac 12 team. Hornibrook completed less than 59% of his passes last season. He threw 7 interceptions. Not bad, right? For Hornibrook that’s terrible because he only threw 9 TDs.
The offensive line is going to be great. It always is in Madison. But, without even decent quarterback play from Horninbrook, Wisconsin shouldn’t sneak into the Top 10 this season.

15. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Oklahoma State could make me look like an idiot. The Cowboys are project to be the second-best team in the Big 12 this season. The Cowboys return 7 starters on offense. One of the starters is QB Mason Rudolph.

Rudolph should be one of the top quarterbacks in college football. His primary weapon, WR James Washington, also returns. Expect to hear Rudolph to Washington all season long.

On defense, the Cowboys must replace some players. Then again, the defensive line projects to be a strength. If it is, Oklahoma State could leapfrog into the Top 10 within 1 or 2 weeks after the season starts.

16. Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes were a Top 10 team if QB Brad Kaaya had stayed. Kaaya decided to move on to the NFL. That’s the main reason Miami doesn’t crack my Top 15.

On the plus side, the Hurricanes should boast one of the best defenses not only in the ACC, but also in all of college football. Miami returns every player in its front 7. That’s incredible.

If coach Mark Richt can find a QB1, and if the defense steps up, Miami could be one of the teams to beat in the ACC. Keep an eye on the Hurricanes as the team to possibly upset Florida State and Clemson.

17. Stanford Cardinal

Did the Cardinal lose a lot when RB Christian McCaffrey and DE Solomon Thomas went to the NFL? Sure it did. I still believe Stanford is a team deal with in the tough Pac 12. The Cardinal always plays well because their coach, David Shaw, is one of the top college football coaches in the nation.

This season, Shaw’s squad returns 8 starters on offense. Stanford also returns 8 starters on defense. Don’t be surprised if like Miami and Oklahoma State, Stanford becomes the team to beat in its conference.

18. Kansas State Wildcats

3 teams from the Big 12 finishes off my First College Football Top 20 Rankings. I believe Kansas State deserves to be ranked ahead of both Texas and West Virginia.

K-State’s fortunes start with QB Jesse Ertz. Ertz is a dual-threat quarterback. He rushed for 1,012 yards last season, and also passed for 1,755 yards. Ertz scored 12 rushing TDs, and threw 9 TD passes. Ertz has the goods to be effective versus Big 12 opponents.

K-State’s defense is always tough. The Wildcats pride themselves on playing strong defense. The unit may not be as good in 2017 as it was in 2016 when Jordan Willis became the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, but it should be decent enough for K-State to make a splash.

19. Texas Longhorns

Texas could end up out of the Top 20, or in the Top 10. It depends on how the players adapt to new Longhorn coach Tom Herman. The first thing Herman did was convince the alumni to hire Todd Orlando as his defensive coordinator.

Orlando should get the most out of a defense that has some talent. If Herman can get Texas’s offense up to speed, the Longhorns could surprise big time. Why? Texas returns 4 starters along the offensive line. The offense also returns starting QB Shane Buechele.

It’s all about the learning curve in Austin. If Herman can get his talented players up to speed quickly, Texas could be a major surprise.

20. West Virginia Mountaineers

I’d be higher on the Mountaineers if I thought Florida QB transfer Will Grier was the real deal. I believe that Coach McElwain at Florida creates quarterbacks. I’m not saying Grier has no talent at all. I just think he has a tougher go of it at West Virginia than he did at Florida.

Grier must become a top flight QB for the Mountaineers to succeed in the Big 12. The Big 12 has one sure-fire Top 10 team in Oklahoma. The rest are all on the same level.

What that means is if Oklahoma struggles, West Virginia has just as much of a chance as Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State to win the conference. But, Grier’s got to play well for the Mountaineers to do that.

Will he? I’m not convinced he will.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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