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The Spun’s 2018 College Football Preseason Top 25

Tua Tagovailoa running with the football

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scrambles with the football against the Georgia Bulldogs during the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 26-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The 2018 college football season will be here sooner than you think. We're already in the middle of June.

Training camps will start in August, and pretty soon it will be Labor Day Weekend, when most of college football opens up. We can't wait.

This time of the offseason is perfect for rankings. You'll be seeing a slew of top 25 rankings, conference rankings and watch lists for player awards.

Today, we’re unveiling our preseason Top 25.

Keep in mind, there are always training camp injuries, position battles or late transfers that could affect a team’s standing. We feel pretty good about what we've got right now though.

Here is The Spun’s 2018 College Football Preseason Top 25:

Get Started: No. 25-16 >>>

25. Florida State

The Seminoles were looked at as potential national title contenders last year. They ended up having a Murphy's Law type of season--everything that could have gone wrong did. Now, they have a new head coach in Willie Taggart, and the buzz is back around the program. There's still plenty of talent here. A lot will depend on who wins the quarterback job (Deondre Francois or James Blackman) and what kind of start the team gets off to. That season opener on Labor Day against Virginia Tech is huge, especially because FSU must travel to Notre Dame, Louisville, NC State and Miami.

24. South Carolina

Will Muschamp's Gamecocks were a pleasant surprise last season, winning nine games and beating Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Now, they'll look for a repeat performance. No one in the SEC East should seriously challenge Georgia this fall, but South Carolina looks like the second-best team in the division. It all starts with quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 2,555 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year. He still has dynamic Deebo Samuel at his disposal at wide receiver. On defense, the Gamecocks have talent but they need it to step up. South Carolina will not have to wait long to challenge itself--the Gamecocks host Georgia in Week 2 (Sept. 8), and Williams-Brice Stadium will be rocking.

23. FAU

Lane Kiffin has made football fun at FAU. The Owls won 11 games for the first time in school history, and throttled Akron 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl. Kiffin's social media antics and jokes have kept the program in the headlines during the offseason, but this team can play. Running back Devin Singletary put up video game numbers (1,918 yards, 32 touchdowns) as he won the Conference USA Player of the Year Award in 2017. Leading receiver Willie Wright (56 receptions, 957 yards and six touchdowns) also returns, as does tight end Harrison Bryant. Who will play QB? Will it be Florida State transfer De’Andre Johnson or Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison? Speaking of Oklahoma, the Owls open up in Norman on Sept. 1 in what should be a really intriguing matchup.

22. Texas A&M

The biggest new coaching hire was Texas A&M poaching Jimbo Fisher from Florida State for a cool $75 million. Now the fun starts for Fisher, as he's expected to take the Aggies to the next level. Does any team have a more challenging month of September than A&M? The Aggies host Clemson in Week 2, go to Alabama in Week 4 and have to take on Arkansas in Week 5. There are weapons on offense in College Station, including running back Trayveon Williams and wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon. Either Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond will handle the quarterbacking duties. On defense, it will be up to new coordinator Mike Elko to rejuvenate a unit that struggled last season. Elko turned around Notre Dame in 2017, his lone season in South Bend though, so there is hope.

21. USC

Sam Darnold is gone, and USC is starting over at quarterback. Will it be last year's backup Matt Fink or incoming five-star freshman J.T. Daniels? The Trojans also have to replace leading rusher Ronald Jones and top receiver Deontay Burnett. Luckily, strong recruiting means USC has players that can potentially step in and excel at those spots. On defense, linebackers Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith should lead the way. The Trojans have a brutal three-week stretch in September featuring road trips to Stanford and Texas and a home game against Washington State. After that, the schedule softens up considerably.

20. Boise State

Boise State has been the most consistent non-Power 5 program for some time, and that trend should continue in 2018. Quarterback Brett Rypien (9,873 career yards, 60 touchdowns, 22 interceptions) is back to lead the offense one last time. Running back Alexander Mattison, who topped 1,000 yards last year, is back, but Boise State must replace star receiver Cedric Wilson. On defense, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is gone, but safety Kekoa Newahine (108 tackles) and defensive end Curtis Weaver (11 sacks) are back. If the Broncos get to 10 wins in 2018, it will be their 17th season with double-digit wins in the last 20. That's pretty damn good.

19. Virginia Tech

The Hokies are 19-8 in two seasons under Justin Fuente, and won the Coastal Division in 2016. Virginia Tech survived a scare involving quarterback Josh Jackson, who was declared in good academic standing after his eligibility was in question. Jackson threw for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 324 yards and six scores in 2017. On defense, the Hokies must replace a lot of talent, including the Edmunds brothers and defensive tackle Tim Settle, who were drafted by the NFL. Virginia Tech has a very favorable schedule, outside of its season opener at Florida State. Notre Dame, Miami and Boston College all have to come to Lane Stadium. It wouldn't stun us if this team overtakes Miami again in the Coastal.

18. West Virginia

The Mountaineers are one of the more fun teams in our rankings. They are gonna throw it a lot, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Will Grier (3,490 passing yards, 34 touchdowns in 2017). Gary Jennings led WVU with 1,096 receiving yards last fall, and he's back for more. Fellow wide receiver David Sills V added 980 yards of his own and a whopping 18 touchdowns. Kennedy McKoy (596 yards, seven touchdowns) is the leading candidate to replace 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford. The Mountaineers' biggest concerns are on the defensive side of the ball and with scheduling. They finish the year like this: at Texas, home against TCU, at Oklahoma State and home against Oklahoma. Ouch.

17. Texas

It is Year Two of the Tom Herman Era. Step one, which was returning to a bowl game, has been accomplished. Now the Longhorns must look to make some noise in the Big 12. We'll see if Shane Buechele or Sam Ehlinger takes the reins at quarterback. If neither steps up, Texas is in trouble. Whichever QB wins the job will have top receivers Collin Johnson and Lil' Jordan Humphrey at their disposal. The Longhorns have a deep pool of running backs to choose from as well. On defense, Texas has to replace stars like Malik Jefferson, Poona Ford and DeShon Elliott, but Todd Orlando is still running things, and the unit is talented, particularly in the back seven. Call it a hunch, but we think Texas takes a major step forward in 2018.

16. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are one of the most intriguing teams for this fall. New head coach Joe Moorhead is regarded as an offensive innovator, and he certainly has tools to work with. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is back after a brutal injury in the Egg Bowl, and the Bulldogs return four offensive line starters and 1,000-yard rusher Aeris Williams. Montez Sweat (10.5 sacks) and Mark McLaurin (79 tackles and six interceptions) are back to anchor the defense. Mississippi State hosts Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M this season but has to go on the road to LSU and Alabama, as well as to Ole Miss in the season finale.

Next: No. 15-6 >>>

15. Michigan

Year Four of the Jim Harbaugh Era and it is time for the Wolverines to put up or shut up. Michigan has yet to crack into the top two in the Big Ten East under Harbaugh. They have the talent to do so this year but a brutal schedule doesn't help. Michigan opens up at Notre Dame, travels to Michigan State and Ohio State and plays Wisconsin and Penn State at home. A 10-2 record with that slate would be a great season, but 8-4 is possible as well. We know the Wolverines have talent on defense, and running backs Karan Higdon and Chris Evans should be able to carry the load on offense. A lot will depend on how well Shea Patterson plays at quarterback. Also, it is imperative that Michigan win its opener at Notre Dame on Sept. 1 to set the tone early.

14. Notre Dame

Speaking of the Fighting Irish, they're next on this list. Notre Dame bounced back from 2016's 4-8 disaster with a 10-win season in 2017, but November losses to Miami (Fla.) and Stanford still sting. The strength of this Notre Dame team should be on defense. Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery should be one of the best in the nation at his position, and the linebacking corps of Te'Von Coney, Drue Tranquill and Asmar Bilal should be productive. The secondary is stronger and deeper than in recent years. There are more question marks on offense, where the team must replace two top-10 NFL Draft picks on the offensive line, as well as its top rusher and receiver from last year. The biggest question: can quarterback Brandon Wimbush be more consistent and accurate this year?

13. TCU

Of all the teams in the Big 12 capable of snapping Oklahoma's stretch of dominance, TCU is probably the most likely to do it. The Horned Frogs will host Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this year, though they do have to travel to Texas and West Virginia and face Ohio State in Arlington, Tex. Shawn Robinson will be replacing Kenny Hill at quarterback, but keep an eye on prized recruit Justin Rogers. Jalen Reagor led the Horned Frogs with 576 receiving yards and eight touchdowns a year ago, and now he's back. Darius Anderson and Sewu Olonilua (15 combined rushing touchdowns) return in the backfield. Ben Banogu (8.5 sacks) is back on the defensive line and Ty Summers (64 tackles) should lead the linebackers.

12. Stanford

The Cardinal are as consistent as it gets in college football. They run the ball, play sound defense and win double-digit games almost every year. Last year, Stanford went 9-5 but the potential for more is there this fall. Running back Bryce Love (2,118 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns) is the Heisman favorite, and K.J. Costello looks like a keeper at quarterback. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (nine TDs) lead the receiving corps. Stanford hosts USC in Week 2, and the Cardinal also travels to Oregon and Notre Dame in September. If they survive their early tests, a Nov. 3 trip to Washington could wind up deciding the Pac-12 North.

11. Miami (Fla.)

The U was back in 2017, and Mark Richt has expectations running high in South Florida. Malik Rosier returns at quarterback, and as long as wide receiver Ahmmon Richards is healthy, he is an All-America candidate. On defense, a rugged linebacking corps led by Shaq Quarterman (83 tackles), Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud and an underrated defensive line should help the unit get back to the form it had during its 10-0 start. Miami plays LSU in its season opener in the AdvoCare Classic in Arlington, Texas. After that, the schedule is manageable, and if the Hurricanes can survive a home game against Florida State and late-season trips to Boston College and Virginia Tech, another ACC Coastal title is in the cards.

10. Penn State

Penn State was a pair of heartbreaking road losses to Ohio State and Michigan State away from potentially making the College Football Playoff next year. The Nittany Lions lose do-it-all running back Saquon Barkley, wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton and tight end Mike Gesicki, but star quarterback Trace McSorley returns. The senior gunslinger is probably the best quarterback in college football. The Nittany Lions should have their Sept. 29 date with Ohio State circled. The winner of that game will be the early leader in the Big Ten East. After that, Penn State must play Wisconsin and Michigan State at home and Michigan on the road. This team can definitely win the Big Ten.

9. Michigan State

It's also about the returning talent for Michigan State. Mark Dantonio's team bring back a whopping 19 starters from last year's surprising 10-3 squad. Quarterback Brian Lewerke is one of the most underrated players in the country, and running back L.J. Scott will look to lead the Spartans in rushing for a third-straight year. Michigan State will have a solid offensive line and a trio of quality pass catchers in Felton Davis, Cody White and Darrell Stewart. Michigan State had a top-10 defense in 2017, and that shouldn't change with nine starters coming back. The Spartans have to play at Penn State, but get Ohio State and Michigan at home in crucial Big Ten games.

8. Auburn

There might not have been a bigger what-if team in college football last year than Auburn. The Tigers beat Georgia and took down rival Alabama in the regular season. All they had to do to reach the College Football Playoff was beat Georgia again in the SEC Championship Game, but they fell short and had to watch the Bulldogs lose to Alabama in the national title game. This year, the Tigers will rely on quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. He'll be throwing to Ryan Davis (84-815-5) and Darius Slayton (29-643-5). Derrick Brown, Dontavius Russell and Marlon Davidson make up a daunting defensive line, and the Tigers are solid at linebacker. If Alabama doesn't win the SEC West, it'll be because Auburn did.

 7. Oklahoma

The Baker Mayfield Era is over in Norman, and the Sooners got some good news when his replacement Kyler Murray announced he would be playing football this fall despite being picked in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft. Running back Rodney Anderson (1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns) should take some of the pressure off Murray when OU has the ball. Defense has not been OU's calling card recently but that side of the ball might need to be better than usual this season as the Sooners break in a new QB. If Murray steps in and plays well, the transition won't be a bumpy one at all. FAU, UCLA and Iowa State will test OU early, and road trips to TCU and West Virginia will make certain that they'll have to earn a fourth-straight Big 12 title.

6. Wisconsin

The Badgers are a steady force in the Big Ten and nationally, but the College Football Playoff has been just beyond reach. Wisconsin has lost the last two years in the Big Ten Championship Game, and without another program to challenge them in the Big Ten West, they should be back there again this season. Sensational sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor might win the Heisman if he can somehow top his 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman. The offensive line returns all five starters, and if quarterback Alex Hornibrook can build off his Orange Bowl performance, the offense could be explosive. The Badgers' defense will be unproven this fall, and must be ready to a Big Ten slate that includes Penn State and Michigan in crossover matchups.