College football

College Football Preview: 20-11

#20: Michigan | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Even though coach Jim Harbaugh's team has a few significant personnel losses to address, this team should still factor into the mix to win the Big Ten East in 2017. Quarterback Wilton Speight is back after a solid first season under center, but the supporting cast features a few question marks. Can the Wolverines generate a better push (and overall play) from the offensive line? And who will step up to replace Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh and tight end Jake Butt in the receiving corps? With De'Veon Smith expiring his eligibility, Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac and redshirt freshman Kareem Walker headline a deep group of options in the backfield. The defense limited opponents to just 4.2 yards per play but also faces a significant loss of talent at each level. The front seven must replace linebacker Jabrill Peppers and linemen Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley and Ryan Glasgow. The secondary loses four key seniors, including lockdown cover corner Jourdan Lewis. While the personnel losses are significant, Harbaugh reeled in the No. 5 signing class last year and is on pace for another top-five group in 2017.

For the first time under coach Kyle Whittingham, Utah has finished in the Associated Press top 25 for the three consecutive seasons. While the Utes have some key personnel losses to address, this team could be the top challenger to USC in the South Division. New coordinator Troy Taylor is one of the Pac-12's top offseason assistant hires and should help quarterbacks Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley take a step forward in their development. Joe Williams will be missed at running back, but Zack Moss (4.5 ypc) showed promise in limited action. The Utes lose four starters up front, including standout left tackle Garett Bolles and guard Isaac Asiata. As usual in Salt Lake City, expect Utah's defense to be among the best in the Pac-12. End Kylie Fitts returns from injury, while Lowell Lotulelei is back to anchor the interior. The emergence of safety Chase Hansen eases the loss of safety Marcus Williams to the NFL. Utah's schedule features a tough crossover against Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Stanford. Additionally, the Utes hit the road to take on USC and rival BYU.

#18: Toledo | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Rockets are led by senior quarterback Logan Woodside, one of the league's top receiving corps and seven starters on defense. Even though Toledo has to play at Ohio on Nov. 8, the defacto West Division title game takes place in the Glass Bowl on Nov. 24. Look for coach Jason Candle to guide the Rockets to their first appearance in the MAC title game since 2004.

#17: Air Force | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Falcons have won 28 games over the last three seasons and face a huge rebuilding effort in 2017. Coach Troy Calhoun returns just one starter on defense, and the offense must replace standout receiver Jalen Robinette. Quarterback Arion Worthman is a rising star and could emerge as one of the league's top signal-callers by the end of 2017. With running back Tim McVey and three starters up front returning, the ground game should still rank among the nation's best. Air Force is one of the Mountain West's most reliable programs under Calhoun, but 2017 has the look of a rebuilding year with significant losses on both sides of the ball.

#16: Southern Cal | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The emergence of quarterback Sam Darnold quickly transformed USC's 2016 season and outlook for 2017. Darnold was inserted into the starting lineup after the 1-2 start and guided the Trojans to 9-1 record over the final 10 games. With a full offseason to work as the starter and develop under coach Clay Helton and coordinator Tee Martin, Darnold should be one of college football's top quarterbacks and a frontrunner to win the Heisman next fall. Darnold's supporting cast will feature a couple of new faces. Top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster left early for the NFL, and the offensive line loses three key starters - Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama. Running back Ronald Jones (1,082 yards) is another emerging star. The defense entered the 2016 season with a handful of question marks but held opponents to 24.2 points a game. This unit doesn't lose a ton for 2017. However, the losses were significant. Tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, linebacker Michael Hutchings, cornerback Adoree' Jackson and safety Leon McQuay leave big shoes to fill this spring.

#15: Houston | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Despite coach Tom Herman leaving for Texas, Houston is still equipped to win the league title. Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen is eligible at quarterback, and tackle Ed Oliver is among the nation's best defensive players. Assuming new coach Major Applewhite has a smooth transition into the full-time job, a schedule that features home games against Memphis and Navy could be the difference in a tight division.

#14: Oklahoma State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Cowboys have won at least 10 games in three out of the last four seasons. Coach Mike Gundy seems to have a team capable of contending for the Big 12 title, especially after quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington turned down the NFL one more season in Stillwater. Washington will be joined by LSU transfer Tyron Johnson, Marcell Ateman and Jalen McCleskey at receiver, while running back Justice Hill returns after a 1,000-yard season as a freshman. Two starters on the offensive line must be replaced, including All-Big 12 left tackle Victor Salako. The defense ranked seventh in the Big 12 in 2016 by limiting opponents to 5.93 yards per play. Can this unit improve on that total after losing tackle Vincent Taylor early to the NFL and linebackers Jordan Burton and Devante Averette, cornerback Ashton Lampkin and safety Jordan Sterns to graduation? Road trips to Texas and West Virginia won't be easy, but Oklahoma State hosts Oklahoma and Kansas State next season.

#13: Washington | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Huskies are the reigning Pac-12 champions and should have a good shot at a repeat trip to the CFB Playoff in 2017. Quarterback Jake Browning threw for 3,430 yards and 43 scores last season and returns to lead the way for Washington's title hopes next fall. Browning could miss time during spring ball due to shoulder surgery but is expected to be at full strength by the opener. Running back Myles Gaskin and receiver Dante Pettis headline the skill talent returning to Seattle, but there's no question the offense will miss big-play receiver John Ross. The offensive line should be a strength with the return of left tackle Trey Adams. Washington has led the Pac-12 in scoring defense in back-to-back years, but coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has a few holes to fill after the early departures of tackle Elijah Qualls, cornerback Sidney Jones and safety Budda Baker to the NFL. However, the cupboard isn't empty. Lineman Vita Vea is a rising star, linebacker Azeem Victor returns from injury, and safety Taylor Rapp will help ease the personnel losses in the secondary.

#12: Appalachian State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Appalachian State has collected 20 victories in its first three seasons as a member of the Sun Belt and is showing no signs of slowing down heading into 2017. The Mountaineers easily lead the league in returning production and QB Taylor Lamb will be the vorite the conference player of the year. Add in the fact that the Mountaineers avoid both Troy and Arkansas State and it's hard to envision Appalachian State losing a conference game. The Mountaineers punished opponents for 250.9 rushing yards per game last fall, and the one-two punch of Jalin Moore and Terrance Upshaw is among the best in the Group of 5 ranks. Coach Scott Satterfield's defense led the Sun Belt by limiting opponents to 17.8 points per game last season. This unit will be strong once again, as Appalachian State features the league's top linebacker and secondary groups for 2017.

#11: San Diego State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
San Diego State is in great shape to repeat. Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington should form an effective one-two punch on the ground. Quarterback Christian Chapman was steady in his first full year as the starter and should take a step forward in 2017. But the Aztecs don't have a deep collection of receivers, and the offensive line features four new starters. Even if the offense regresses on the stat sheet, the defense should remain one of the league's best with six returning starters. However, replacing standout cornerback Damontae Kazee, linebacker Calvin Munson and linemen Alex Barrett and Kyle Kelley won't be easy.

2017 Preseason Ranking

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