Nothing wrong with starting the defending champs No. 1, despite their personnel losses, as we know they consistently boast as talented a roster as you will find. The better question is: Can the Tide stay there? Alabama is tasked with a road schedule that includes dates with preseason No. 5 LSU, No. 9 Tennessee and No. 11 Ole Miss - not to mention a sneaky tough trip to Arkansas and a matchup with Southern Cal to open the season.
The runner-up Tigers start where they finished 2015, and presumably with a burning desire to finish the job they came painfully close to completing a season ago. There are once again numerous losses on the defensive side of the ball, but Clemson has the best player in the nation at the helm and as good a shot as anybody in the country to make the College Football Playoff.
Hopes are once again high in Norman with the Sooners returning plenty of talent in the backfield, and Oklahoma is widely considered the favorite in the Big 12. I have my doubts, especially after watching Clemson physically dismantle this team in back-to-back postseason matchups. The Sooners may even be able to run through their conference and make the Playoff again, but can you trust them at all in the final four? Don't sleep on that season opener against Houston - Oh, and Ohio State comes to town in Week 3...
4. Florida State
It's a certainty now that the Noles will put their faith in redshirt-freshman quarterback Deondre Francois as their starter against Ole Miss on Labor Day. So, will he be another Jameis Winston, or will we see a performance more typical of a freshman on the big stage? Would something in between be enough to knock off a top-15 Ole Miss team with one of the best quarterbacks in the country? Dalvin Cook can cure a lot of ills, but will Florida State be good enough on the opening weekend to start the season 1-0?
The Tigers are a sexy pick to end Alabama's stranglehold on the SEC West, and Leonard Fournette should once again be a Heisman contender. At some point, as LSU learned last season, you have to be able to win a game passing. There's talent at receiver, but can LSU trust quarterback Brandon Harris to make that happen?
6. Ohio State
The Buckeyes' roster was raided by the NFL Draft, but the Buckeyes are still likely the class of the Big Ten with J.T. Barrett now the unquestioned starter. With Michigan State figuring to take a step back, and Michigan with questions at quarterback and having to travel to The Horseshoe, I think Ohio State makes it out of the Big Ten ... East?
There's no doubt the Wolverines are on the way up under Jim Harbaugh, but the hype seems a bit much to me entering this season. Of course, Michigan plays its first five games of the season at home and could easily be 7-0 by the time it squares off with Michigan State without having played much of anybody. In other words, get well acquainted with the Michigan hype because it could be sky-high midseason, whether deserved or not.
Stanford loses eight-year letterman Kevin Hogan at quarterback but returns the nation's most dynamic all-purpose threat in Heisman runner-up Christian McCaffrey. This year's Pac 12 champion is anybody's guess, but it's fair to assume the Cardinal will be in the mix.
Rocky Top let several big games slip from their grasp in 2015 — the season it was supposed to turn the corner back toward prominence. Plenty of seasoned talent returns from that team, and Tennessee finds itself in the preseason top 10 and perhaps the favorite to win the SEC East. Can the Vols live up to their promise this time around?
10. Notre Dame
The saying goes, "If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback." But Notre Dame really has two quarterbacks. That old adage still rings true, though, in that trying to bounce back and forth between signal callers is not typically a recipe for success. Will Brian Kelly play with fire in that fashion, or will he settle on either veteran Malik Zaire (coming off injury) or DeShone Kizer (his replacement last season)? The answer to that question could go a long way in determining how the Irish navigate their season.
11. Ole Miss
The Rebels lose plenty of talent from last season, but SWAG returns with some solid weaponry and is poised for a big season. We will see if Ole Miss has enough to elevate itself from SEC West also-ran and put itself in the Playoff discussion. They'll learn a lot about their team when they open the season with a de facto road game against Florida State.
12. Michigan State
Sparty's late push a season ago was enough to get them into the Playoff and a sacrificial lamb role against eventual national champion Alabama. We have Ohio State to thank for that, but I digress. It seems to be popular opinion that Michigan State will take a step back this year, but you can never count out Mark Dantonio's squad.
Clemson fans likely remember new TCU quarterback Kenny "Trill" Hill fondly as the man who led a Texas A&M thrashing of South Carolina to open the 2014 season and sent the Gamecocks into their current tailspin. Hill flamed out in College Station but has resurfaced with the Horned Frogs and will look to lead Gary Patterson's always gritty team back to the cusp of Playoff contention. The defense was riddled with injuries a season, but a home date with overrated Oklahoma could give them an early leg up on the season's Big 12 crown.
The Pac 12 should be a cluster this season, but give me the Huskies as my preseason pick for conference champion. They boast perhaps the nation's best sophomore backfield duo with quarterback Jake Browning and stud running back Myles Gaskin and are perhaps primed for a program resurgence under Chris Petersen. Could they potentially contend for a Playoff spot, or will there be too much carnage in the Pac 12 for a team to emerge with less than two losses?
Houston had a breakout season last year under Tom Herman, and the guru is back with a long-term contract in tow and an experienced quarterback to lead his dynamic offense. They get an early chance to inject themselves into fringe Playoff conversation again this season when they take on Oklahoma in Week 1.
The Bruins enter the season likely as co-favorites with the crosstown Trojans in the Pac 12 South, and that division could easily come down to a late-season showdown between the two. Quarterback Josh Rosen was thrown into the fire last year as a true freshman but should be better for it this season.
For all those frustrated with Iowa's undefeated run through the regular season last year at the expense of perhaps the easiest major conference schedule ever conceived, sorry, but we may be in for Act II. Michigan is by far the toughest opponent on that schedule, and the Hawkeyes get them at home.
New head coach? Unsettled quarterback situation? Perhaps a less than 100% Nick Chubb? That's a lot of question marks entering a season, not to mention going into a tough opener against a top-25 opponent in North Carolina. I think the Heels may have more answers right now.
Getting some love, but probably still a bit underrated. The ACC Atlantic's perennial No. 3 team will look to prove it is more than that this season behind up-and-coming dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Trojans are likely on the outside looking in as far as the Playoff is concerned, but they could change that perception quickly by springing an upset of No. 1 Alabama on the opening weekend.
21. Oklahoma State
People forget the Cowboys started the 2015 season 10-0 before crashing back down to earth in losing their final three games, including 28+-point losses to archrival Oklahoma and in their bowl game in against Ole Miss. Quarterback Mason Rudolph should put up stupid numbers in Mike Gundy's pass-happy offense this season.
22. North Carolina
The Tar Heels had a great season a year ago, and don't expect them to go anywhere. Mitch Trubisky is a more than capable replacement under center, while running backs Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan and receivers Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer give him plenty of firepower to work with. The defense made strides last year, but can it take North Carolina to the next level?
There's no doubt that Baylor's program is a cesspool, but as far as the football field is concerned, this ranking seems pretty low for a team that returns plenty of talent. It's fair to wonder what exactly the Bears will be under Jim Grobe, but they have the potential to climb much higher in the poll.
It's crazy to think that Oregon could play for a national championship in 2014 and barely squeak into the preseason top 25 just two seasons later, but here we are. Was last year's substandard campaign an anomaly, or a sign of the direction of the program under Mark Helfrich? This season could tell us a lot, but the Ducks have an opening to return to prominence in a wide-open Pac 12.
Both quarterbacks that played last season are gone, so it's tough to know what to expect from the Gators on that side of the ball. Tennessee is the decided favorite in the SEC East, but Florida has owned the Vols and will at least have a say-so in that side of the league.