Alabama is the national champ again, and the Crimson Tide won the title with a bunch of freshmen coming off the bunch.
The Tide will keep rolling in 2018 after finishing the 2017 season by beating Georgia to win the College Football Playoff crown. Alabama was voted No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll, becoming the first team since USC in 2004 to be preseason No. 1 and national champ in the same season. And that’s probably where Alabama will start next season, too.
Here’s a look at how the top 10 teams — plus No. 11 Notre Dame — in the final poll are set up for next season and where they might start in the preseason rankings.
There are plenty of players still deciding if they will return for another season or jump to the NFL.
No. 1 Alabama (13-1)
Back: QB Jalen Hurts, OT Jonah Williams, DE Raekwon Davis.
Gone: WR Calvin Ridley-x, S Minkah Fitzpatrick-x, LB Rashaan Evans.
Alabama brings back a two-year starting quarterback who has played in two national-title games, and the backup (Tua Tagovailoa) might be better. The secondary will need a major rebuild.
First test of 2018: vs. Louisville in Orlando, Florida, Week 1.
Outlook for 2018: Probably preseason No. 1 again.
No. 2 Georgia (13-2)
Back: QB Jake Fromm, RB De’Andre Swift, OT Andrew Thomas.
Gone: RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, OLBs Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy.
The Bulldogs are likely to lose a bunch of juniors, like LB Roquan Smith, to the NFL, and could use a year to retrench before Kirby Smart’s excellent recruiting classes develop.
First test of 2018: at South Carolina, Week 2.
Outlook for 2018: Could be closer to No. 10 than
No. 1 depending on early departures.
No. 3 Oklahoma (12-2)
Back: LB Caleb Kelly, RB Rodney Anderson, OT Bobby Evans.
Gone: QB Baker Mayfield, OT -Orlando Brown, TE Mark Andrews.
The Sooners’ season likely will swing on how well Kyler Murray does as Mayfield’s replacement, though the backfield should be loaded.
First test of 2018: vs. Florida Atlantic, Week 1.
Outlook for 2018: Back half of the top 10 because of uncertainty at quarterback.
No. 4 Clemson (12-2)
Back: QB Kelly Bryant, RB Travis Etienne, DT Dexter Lawrence.
Gone: DT Christian Wilkins-x, DE Clelin Ferrell-x, DE Austin Bryant-x.
Three-fourths of that monster defensive line could jump to the NFL early, but 2017 showed Clemson is built to withstand high-level losses.
First test of 2018: at Texas A&M, Week 2.
Outlook for 2018: In contention for preseason
No. 5 Ohio State (12-2)
Back: DE Nick Bosa, RB J.K. -Dobbins, DT Robert Landers.
Gone: QB J.T. Barrett, DE Sam -Hubbard, CB Denzel Ward.
The Buckeyes will replace a lot on ‘D’, but the 2017 recruiting class was loaded, and they should be fine at QB with Dwayne Haskins.
First test of 2018: vs. TCU at Arlington, Texas, Week 3.
Outlook for 2018: Preseason top five, easily.
No. 6 UCF (13-0)
Back: QB McKenzie Milton, RB Adrian Killins, WR Otis Anderson.
Gone: OLB Shaquem Griffin, DE Jamiyus Pittman, LB Chequan Burkett.
Pressure will be on new coach Josh Heupel, who will have the entire offense back.
First test of 2018: at North Carolina, Week 3.
Outlook for 2018: If Scott Frost was back, the Knights would be preseason top 10. Now? Probably around 15.
No. 7 Wisconsin (13-1)
Back: RB Jonathan Taylor, QB Alex Hornibrook, LB T.J. Edwards.
Gone: TE Troy Fumagalli, CB Nick Nelson, OLB Garrett Dooley.
The Badgers bring back almost an entire offense.
First test of 2018: at Iowa, Week 4.
Outlook for 2018: Top five. Certainly not much lower than that.
No. 8 Penn State (11-2)
Back: QB Trace McSorley,
WR Juwan Johnson, DE Shareef Miller.
Gone: RB Saquon Barkley, TE Mike Gesicki,
S Marcus Allen.
The Nittany Lions have been recruiting well under James Franklin. That will be tested in 2018 -because they lose a lot of big-time upperclassmen.
First test of 2018: vs. Appalachian State, Week 1.
Outlook for 2018: Top-20 team, but maybe fourth-best in the Big Ten East.
No. 9 TCU (11-3)
Back: WR KaVontae Turpin, DE Ben Banogu, LB Ty Summers.
Gone: LB Travin Howard, DE Matt Boesen,
QB Kenny Hill.
Under coach Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs tend to do their best work when expectations are low. Might be tough next season.
First test of 2018: vs. Ohio State at Arlington, Texas, Week 3.
Outlook for 2018: Around No. 15 to start.
No. 10 Auburn (10-4)
Back: QB Jarrett Stidham,
DT Dontavious Russell, DE Marlon Davidson.
Gone: RB Kerryon Johnson, OLB Jeff Holland,
CB Carlton Davis.
The Tigers will be retooling around Stidham but have some promising offensive linemen.
First test of 2018: vs. Washington in Atlanta,
Outlook for 2018: Middle of the Top 25 to start.
No. 11 Notre Dame (10-3)
Back: NG Jerry Tillery, CB Julian Love, QB Brandon Wimbush.
Gone: OT Mike McGlinchey,
G Quenton Nelson, WR Equanimeous St. Brown.
The offensive line made the Irish go, and it needs a major rebuild.
First test of 2018: vs. Michigan, Week 1.
Outlook for 2018: Around No. 20.