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NDT Poll | Preseason CFB Rankings

JAN 09 CFP National Championship - Clemson v Alabama
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

NDT Poll | Preseason CFB Rankings

Welcome to the launch of the NDT Scouting College Football Rankings!

Each of the seven members of the NDT staff (Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino, Roger Dixon, Scott Bischoff, Jon Ledyard, Erik Turner and Jonah Tuls) submitted their individual top-15 rankings that factored into the composite list. Every week during the season, the staff will take part in the same exercise to create a weekly set of rankings. Be sure to check back regularly to see how our staff stacks up the best teams in college football.

What do you think? Who are we too high or too low on? Be heard in the comments section!

*Average rank in parenthesis

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1.0)
Yes, the Tide lost a considerable amount of talent to the NFL but they do every year. Head coach Nick Saban is college football’s best recruiter and he can always lean on an infusion of talent to step in. Quarterback Jalen Hurts should take a step forward in year two while the defense is loaded with NFL caliber players on all three levels. All seven staff members agree that Alabama is the best team in college football entering the season. – Joe Marino

2. Southern Cal Trojans (3.14)
Sam Darnold returns to lead the Trojans through a favorable schedule. Two of their tougher tests come at home, against Stanford and Texas weeks 2 and 3. If Darnold plays to his potential, the Trojans are sitting pretty for a huge QB showdown with Josh Rosen to close the regular season. – Kyle Crabbs

3. Florida State Seminoles (3.42)
This is supposed to be the year for Florida State, and they certainly have the talent to make that expectation become a reality. Deondre Francois was fearless in the face of pressure last season, and should have plenty of exciting targets in the form of Auden Tate, Nyqwan Murray and tight ends Ryan Izzo and Marvin Saunders. The Seminoles are even more stacked on the defensive side of the ball, from Derrick Nnadi and Josh Sweat up front, to Matt Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins at linebacker, and first round hopefuls Tarvarus McFadden and Derwin James in the secondary. The spotlight will be on the offensive line, which was a mess last season and still could see a handful of redshirt freshmen or true sophomores in the starting lineup. That will group will need to be better, especially in pass protection, or Francois won’t last long enough to lead the Seminoles to the college football playoffs. – Jon Ledyard

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (3.86)
It’s pretty simple, do the Buckeyes have enough passing offense to hold up their end of the bargain? JT Barrett enters his final season as the starter and he will be playing in a new offense under Kevin Wilson. Wilson came over from the Indiana Hoosiers and he has the tall task of getting the most out Barrett’s arm, the very same reason that the Buckeyes moved on from their prior coordinator. Their defense lost some talented players, especially in the secondary but the Buckeyes defensive line is super deep and is led by Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard. The defensive line talent and depth should create enough pressure for the young secondary to make plays while getting their feet wet. – Erik Turner

5. Penn State Nittany Lions (5.29)
The Nittany Lions offense is a very dangerous and is led by quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gisecki. This offense will have to lead the way but the schedule in the Big-10 East forces Penn State to take on Michigan and Ohio State, and those are tough matchups. Again, this team is very dependent on their ability to score points, and one has to ask, who steps up on defense to make plays and take a bit of pressure off of the offense? Safety Marcus Allen is still here and he’ll lead the defense, but they’re going to need others to step into big-time roles, especially up front on defense. – Scott Bischoff

6. Clemson Tigers (7.14)
Who plays Quarterback with the departure of Deshaun Watson? Either Kelly Bryant or Hunter Johnson will take the reigns but no matter what they’ll have the luxury of having experienced options on the boundary with names like Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and Hunter Renfrow returning. The Tigers sport one of the most physically dominating defensive lines in college football as well; with as many as three potential first round selections in the starting line-up (Ferrell, Wilkins and Lawrence). – Kyle Crabbs

7. Oklahoma Sooners (8.00)
With Bob Stoops stepping down, can Lincoln Riley and Baker Mayfield lead the Sooners back to glory? With all-conference seniors on defense in Jordan Thomas and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, as well as a top-flight offensive tackle prospect in Orlando Brown, Oklahoma is still one of the most talented programs in the country. If they can withstand challenges from Ohio State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State in the regular season, they have a good chance of making the playoffs. – Jonah Tuls

8. LSU Tigers (9.43)
With new offensive coordinator Matt Canada coming over from Pittsburgh, Tigers fans should be plenty excited. I expect QB Danny Etling to start and to be effective in Canada’s dizzying, yet highly effective scheme. The offense will require Etling to protect the ball and make smart decisions. One guy that will make his job easier is running back Derrius Guice. Guice is poised for a tremendous season on the ground and through the air and is already being mentioned in Heisman talk. On defense, it starts with Edge defender Arden Key. The defender has first round ability stamped on his forehead but did not practice at all during spring due to “personal reasons”. Key led the Tigers defense with 12 sacks and is looking to solidify himself as a top five pick. His availability come the start of the season is crucial. – Erik Turner

9. Georgia Bulldogs (10.43)
The media has voted Georgia as the most likely to win the SEC East. To do that they will invoke a 2-headed monster running game with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who both returned for their senior seasons. Relying on the running game will take the pressure from former 5-star QB Jacob Eason but after starting 12 games last season, Eason should be ready to lead the team appropriately when his opportunity comes. Head coach Kirby Smart gained a lot of his defensive prowess from coaching with Nick Saban so look for Georgia’s defense to be more settled into their complicated defensive system in their second year. – Roger Dixon

10. Louisville Cardinals (11.00)
The Cardinals have Lamar Jackson and not much else returning on the offensive side of the ball. Jackson’s dynamic skills as both a runner and passer will make a lot of things happen; but a stiff test in Week 3 against Clemson means we won’t have to wait long to find out about his supporting cast. – Kyle Crabbs

11. Michigan Wolverines (11.00)
Michigan lost a lot of players last year but like most power programs, they recruit well enough to quickly replenish the talent. The Michigan defense will start and end with their defensive line which has potential draft stud Maurice Hurst and former 5-star recruit Rashan Gary. They lost a ton of talent on offense as well including all three starting WRs. It will be up to veteran QB Wilton Speight to bring the young but talented offensive skill players along throughout the season. Michigan’s talent is built to compete each game and with Harbaugh at the helm, they could squeeze out a few close games to catapult their season. – Roger Dixon

12. Washington Huskies (11.86)
The Huskies offense returns quarterback Jake Browning, running back Myles Gaskin and 2015 standout receiver Dante Pettis, and that’s a formidable trio. The offense will test just about any defense in the country and should keep Washington in the mix all year. On defense, the Huskies return a few dominant defensive tackles in Vita Vea and Greg Gaines and almost all their linebackers, but the big questions come in relation to who emerges in coverage to replace cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Kevin King along with Safety Budda Baker? The defense will be dominant versus the run, but how the Huskies respond versus the pass will dictate the outcome of their season. – Scott Bischoff

13. Oklahoma State Cowboys (12.00)
One game I’m looking forward to seeing in person this year is when the Cowboys visit Morgantown in October. Few teams in the Big XII play defense like the Mountaineers; so it should be a good test for QB Mason Rudolph and company. The Cowboys’ early schedule is fairly soft and it’s recently been announced that Pittsburgh Safety Jordan Whitehead has been suspended for the Week 3 showdown. The Cowboys play explosive offense and the Rudolph/James Washington pairing will be one of the best in the country. This team will score points at will on a lot of teams. – Kyle Crabbs

14. Wisconsin Badgers (13.43)
The Badgers have certainly experienced some turnover from last year, but Michael Deiter leads a massive offensive line into 2017, a strength the team has typically built around. Wisconsin must replace their top two rushers in Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, as most of the load looks to fall on the shoulders of three-star redshirt sophomore Bradrick Shaw. Wide receiver Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli both return after finishing 1-2 on the team in all major receiving categories last season, but they’ll need quarterback Alex Hornibrook to be a lot better in his redshirt sophomore year than he was in 2016. Given the question marks on offense, if the Badgers are to come close to replicating last season’s success, their defense, led by linebackers Jack Cichy and T.J. Edwards, must be dominant once again. – Jon Ledyard

15. Auburn Tigers (13.43)
With the loss of two NFL draft picks on the defensive line in Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson, the Auburn Tigers are going to need their offense to carry the load this upcoming season. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham will make his debut under center, and with the talented duo of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, this offense could be explosive and unpredictable. Other wild cards include highly talented defenders in Byron Cowart and Carlton Davis. If either are able to live up to their potential, they could be All-American candidates. The Tigers may not be a proven product, but the unknown is what makes them a potential sleeper pick in the SEC West. – Jonah Tuls

Others receiving votes: Miami FL (14.57), UCLA (15.00), Florida (15.00), Stanford (15.57), Texas (15.71) and West Virginia (15.71).

Joe Marino

Marino began his career as the Assistant Editor for USA Today Digital Properties Draft Sites Network in 2011. A member of the FWAA, Marino writes about the NFL, College Football and NFL Draft for FanRag Sports.

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