College football

College Football Preview: 30-21

Ed Orgeron's first full year at the helm begins with a familiar question mark. What will LSU get out of its offense in 2017? The good news: Orgeron's hire of Matt Canada as the team's play-caller should pay dividends, and the offense returns one of the nation's best running backs in Derrius Guice. However, in order for the Tigers to challenge Alabama in the SEC West, the passing attack has to take a step forward. Quarterbacks Danny Etling and Brandon Harris will battle for the starting job once again, but the receiving corps suffered a huge blow after Malachi Dupre declared early for the NFL Draft. Standout center Ethan Pocic will be missed in the trenches. LSU's defense limited opponents to 15.8 points per game last fall and is slated to be one of the best in the SEC once again in 2017. Lineman Davon Godchaux, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive backs Jamal Adams and Tre'Davious White leave big shoes to fill for coordinator Dave Aranda. However, rush end/linebacker Arden Key returns, and the Tigers have reeled in plenty of top talent in recent years to fill some of the voids on defense.

#29: Georgia | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Quarterback Jacob Eason threw for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns as a true freshman last year and will only get better with another offseason to work as the No. 1 signal-caller. Running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb form one of the nation's best one-two combinations in the backfield, while Terry Godwin (38 catches) and tight end Isaac Nauta (29) headline the top pass catchers. The line is the biggest concern for coach Kirby Smart to address this offseason. The Bulldogs were loaded with underclassmen on defense and limited opponents to 24 points a game in 2016. This unit should be one of the better defenses in the SEC next fall, especially with the development of lineman Trenton Thompson and linebacker Roquan Smith to anchor the front seven. Safety Dominick Sanders leads the way in the secondary.

Navy's 10 returning starters are the fewest of any team in the West Division. However, coach Ken Niumatalolo will ensure little drop off. Quarterback Zach Abey gained valuable experience late last season and now steps into the full-time role. Abey can lean on a strong backfield tandem of fullback Chris High and running back Darryl Bonner, along with one of the league's top offensive lines. The Midshipmen do have a few holes to fill on defense with just five returning starters.

BYU will turn over their offense to Tanner Mangum. Replacing Tanner Hill, the program's all-time leading rusher won't be easy. Mangum has the experience, as he passed for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns as a freshman and is a classic drop-back passer in the BYU tradition. The running game has a hole to fill with the loss of Jamaal Williams. Squally Canada should get his shot after running for 315 yards in relief of Williams. And expect KJ Hall to see more time as both a runner and receiver. Moroni Laulu-Pututau, who had 27 receptions last season, will be the man at tight end. And Jonah Trinnaman is the top returning receiver, having caught 28 passes as a junior college transfer. On defense, BYU is strongest in the back seven thanks to the return of its top three tacklers, all linebackers. The Cougars will miss safety Kai Nacua, who led the team with six interceptions last season and picked off 14 passes in three years. Dayan Ghanwoloku and Troy Warner, Fred's younger brother, are capable cornerbacks, and Micah Hannemann is a solid safety.

#26: Florida | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Despite a lackluster offense, Florida has managed to win the SEC East in each of coach Jim McElwain's first two seasons in Gainesville. Improving that side of the ball is McElwain's top priority, and the question marks for next fall start at quarterback. Can talented redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks beat out Luke Del Rio for the starting nod? The depth and talent in the receiving corps is improving, with Antonio Callaway (54 catches) and fellow receiver Tyrie Cleveland (21.3 ypc) headlining the options on the outside. Running back Jordan Scarlett (889 yards) emerged as the team's top back in the second half of the season and should push for 1,000 yards with more of a workload in 2017. The line loses tackle David Sharpe but returns largely intact and should improve this offseason. The losses are heavy on defense, and this unit has a new play-caller with Geoff Collins leaving to be the head coach at Temple. New coordinator Randy Shannon must replace both starting cornerbacks (Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson), linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone and standout tackle Caleb Brantley. Another obstacle for McElwain's team to overcome is a tough schedule. Florida plays Michigan in AT&T Stadium to begin the 2017 season, while LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida State visit the Swamp.

#25: Temple | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Owls are the defending back-to-back champs of the division, but this team has a new coach (Geoff Collins) and returns eight overall starters. Quarterback Philip Walker and defensive end Haason Reddick leave big shoes to fill on both sides of the ball. While the losses are heavy, Collins isn't inheriting an empty cupboard. Running back Ryquell Armstead is a rising star, the receiving corps is one of the best in the conference, and the defense has plenty of young talent to prevent much of a drop in production. Behind first-year coach Scott Frost, UCF was one of the nation's most-improved teams last fall.

#24: 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.

#23: South Florida | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Bulls won 18 games over the last two seasons and returns much of that core this fall. Leading the way is senior quarterback Quinton Flowers, who should be a dark horse Heisman contender after accounting for 42 total scores in 2016. Flowers will have a new backfield mate after running back Marlon Mack left for the NFL, but the Bulls have a couple of talented options, including redshirt freshman Elijah Mack and senior D'Ernest Johnson. New coach Charlie Strong should help a defense that surrendered 31.6 points a game last fall. USF returns nine starters on this side of the ball, including standout tackles Deadrin Senat and Bruce Hector, along with linebacker Auggie Sanchez. The Bulls are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and could be favored in all 12 regular season games.

#22: West Virginia | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Coming off a 10-3 record and a No. 18 finish in the Associated Press poll, coach Dana Holgorsen has some much-needed job security. After the regular season ended, Holgorsen inked a five-year extension with the school. Additionally, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson - one of the best assistant coaches in the Big 12 - signed a new three-year deal. The Mountaineers also improved their staff this offseason by hiring former assistant Jake Spavital as offensive coordinator. Even though both sides of the ball suffered a few key losses, West Virginia should be in the mix to be a top 25 team in 2017. Florida transfer Will Grier takes over under center, and the backfield is stocked with options, including Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy. Receiver Shelton Gibson departed early for the NFL, and the line must replace standout center Tyler Orlosky. For the second year in a row, Tony Gibson's defense is facing a significant overhaul. However, this unit will regain the services of safety Dravon Henry-Askew after he missed all of 2016 due to a knee injury. End Noble Nwachukwu and cornerback Rasul Douglas won't be easy to replace.

#21: Penn State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Nittany Lions were a year ahead of schedule in their quest to contend for the Big Ten Championship. Despite a slow start in 2016, Penn State rallied behind quarterback Trace McSorley to win nine out of the final 10 games. McSorley and the offense showed marked improvement under coordinator Joe Moorhead last fall and should take another step forward in 2017. In addition to McSorley and a solid group of receivers, the Nittany Lions also return running back (and Heisman candidate) Saquon Barkley. Center Brian Gaia is the only starter from the Rose Bowl leaving the offensive line. However, this unit is better equipped with depth and overall talent than it had two years ago. The biggest concerns for coach James Franklin's team rest on defense. Ends Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels, linebacker Brandon Bell and safety Malik Golden won't return for 2017. Safety Marcus Allen, linebacker Jason Cabinda and cornerback Grant Haley headline the key returnees for coordinator Brent Pry. Penn State hosts Michigan but has to travel to Ohio State next fall.

2017 Preseason Ranking

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