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Preseason Top 25

1. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

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Coach:

Nick Saban (146-54-1) sixth year at school.



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Returning starters:

Offense 7, defense 4.



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Top players:

OT Barrett Jones, OT D.J. Fluker, QB A.J. McCarron, RB Eddie Lacy.



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Voids to fill:

RB Trent Richardson, C William Vlachos, LB Dont’a Hightower, CB Dre Kirkpatrick.



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Key tests:

Sept. 1 vs. Michigan at Arlington, Texas, Sept. 15 at Arkansas, Nov. 3 at LSU.



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Outlook:

Alabama begins the season aiming to repeat as national champion for the first time since 1979. Coach Nick Saban has the talent and depth to do it, but early tests on the schedule, including a season opener against Michigan (Sept.1) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will test his defense.



2. SOUTHERN CAL TROJANS

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Coach:

Lane Kiffin (25-13) third year at school.



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Returning starters:

Offense 8, defense 6.



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Top players:

QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods, WR Marqise Lee, DE Wes Horton.



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Voids to fill:

DE Nick Perry, OT Matt Kalil.



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Key tests:

Sept. 15 at Stanford, Nov. 3 vs. Oregon.



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Outlook:

Quarterback Matt Barkley returned for his senior season to win a national championship. A relatively light schedule combined with plenty of offensive firepower should propel the Trojans to the national title game.



3. LSU TIGERS

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Coach:

Les Miles (103-39) eighth year at school.



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Returning starters:

Offense 6, defense 5.



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Top players:

DL Sam Montgomery, OT Alex Hurst, TB Spencer Ware, P Brad Wing.



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Voids to fill:

OL T-Bob Herbert, CB Tyrann Mathieu, DT Michael Brockers, CB Morris Claiborne.



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Key tests:

Oct. 13 vs. South Carolina, Nov. 3 vs. Alabama.



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Outlook:

The loss of Tyrann Mathieu was a blow to the Tigers’ defense, but a soft schedule to begin the season will give LSU’s defense time to regroup. All eyes will be on quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the highly touted transfer from Georgia. If Mettenberger can successfully stretch the field, the revenge-minded Tigers might have enough to get past Alabama.



4. OKLAHOMA SOONERS

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Coach:

Bob Stoops (139-34) 14th year at school.



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Returning starters:

Offense 5, defense 8.



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Top players:

QB Landry Jones, C Gabe Ikard, WR Kenny Stills, CB Demontre Hurst.



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Voids to fill:

WR Ryan Broyles, DE Frank Alexander, WLB Travis Lewis, DE Ronnell Lewis.



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Key tests:

Oct.13 vs. Texas, Nov.13 at West Virginia.



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Outlook:

Coach Bob Stoops rehired brother Mike Stoops to stabilize the Sooners’ defense. On the other side of the ball, quarterback Landry Jones will attempt to manage the pressure built from last year’s late-season slide.



5. GEORGIA BULLDOGS

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Coach:

Mark Richt (106-38) 12th year at school.



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Returning starters:

Offense 5, defense 10.



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Top players:

QB Aaron Murray, C David Andrews, CB/WR Malcolm Mitchell, LB Jarvis Jones.



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Voids to fill:

K Blair Walsh, TE Orson Charles.



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Key tests:

Oct.6 at South Carolina, Nov.10 at Auburn.



Outlook: The Bulldogs return all but one starter to a defense that was ranked third in the country last season. Quarterback Aaron Murray is now a seasoned veteran in the SEC.

6. S. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

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Coach:

Steve Spurrier (197–75–2) eighth year at school.



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Returning starters:

Offense 6, defense 5.



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Top players:

RB Marcus Lattimore, DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Devin Taylor, DeVonte Holloman.



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Voids to fill:

WR Alshon Jeffery, QB Stephen Garcia.



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Outlook:

They’re calling it “New Carolina.” That’s the attitude of the Gamecocks after last year’s record-setting season. South Carolina finished with 11 wins, a school record, but it has the pieces in place to accomplish even more this season — even, perhaps, the unthinkable.



7. OREGON DUCKS

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Coach:

Chip Kelly (34-6) fourth year at school.



Returning starters: Offense 4, defense 7.

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Top players:

RB Kenjon Barner, WR De’Anthony Thomas, DE Dion Jordan.



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Voids to fill:

RB LaMichael James, QB Darron Thomas, TE David Paulson.



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Key tests:

Oct.6 vs. Washington, Nov.3 at USC.



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Outlook:

The Ducks’ spread-option offense shouldn’t miss a beat with speedy redshirt sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett taking over for Darron Thomas. A talented group of linebackers might be the key to Oregon holding off USC and winning its fourth straight conference title.



8. WISCONSIN BADGERS

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Coach:

Bret Bielema (60-19) seventh year at school.



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Returning starters:

Offense 5, defense 6.



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Top players:

RB Montee Bell, RB James White, LB Mike Taylor, DE David Gilbert.



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Voids to fill:

QB Russell Wilson, DE Louis Nzegwu.



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Key Tests:

Sept. 29 at Nebraska, Nov.17 at Ohio State.



Outlook: The Badgers are deep at running back but replace one quarterback transfer with another. Turnover among assistant coaches (12 in the past three years) is bound to take a toll at some point.

9. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

Coach: Jimbo Fisher (19-8) third year at school.

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Returning starters:

Offense 7, defense 8



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Top players:

QB EJ Manuel RB Chris Thompson, DE Brandon Jenkins, DE Bjoern Werner.



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Voids to fill:

CB Greg Reid, LB Nigel Bradham.



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Key tests:

Sept.22 vs. Clemson, Nov.8 at Virginia Tech.



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Outlook:

The Noles’ offensive line was a sieve last season. It allowed 41 sacks. Protecting quarterback EJ Manuel will be the key to FSU either playing to its potential against a light schedule or falling short of expectations.



10. W. VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Coach: Dana Holgorsen (10-3) second year at school.

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Returning starters:

Offense 8, defense 7.



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Top players:

QB Geno Smith, WR Tavon Austin, SS Darwin Cook, RB Dustin Garrison.



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Voids to fill:

WR Tyler Urban, WR Devon Brown.



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Key tests:

Oct.6 at Texas, Nov.10 at Oklahoma State.



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Outlook:

The Mountaineers have the right man to lead them into the Big 12. Quarterback Gino Smith of Miramar is one of the best passers in the country and can more than keep up with the Landry Jones’ of the world. West Virginia’s defense, on the other hand, might have an adjustment period to the new conference.



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