No more offseason. The 2017 college football season is finally beginning, with 13 weeks of games before the College Football Playoff and bowl matchups are revealed on Dec. 3.

There's a lot of football to be played before the national champion is crowned on Jan. 8 in Atlanta. What do you need to know before the season kicks off? Sports on Earth gathered all of its preseason analysis and predictions in one place.

* * *

National Predictions

Ranking Every Team, 130 to 1

As the college football season gets set to begin, it's time for the final national ranking of all 130 FBS teams, featuring a reason to watch or be positive about every one of them, from UAB's return to the field to Alabama's push for another national title.

Roll With The Tide: Another Bama Title

While a legitimate case can be made for several teams, there is no better or more logical pick for college football's 2017 national championship than Alabama. After falling just short last year, the Crimson Tide are our pick to bounce back and win it all.

Preseason Projections For All 39 Bowls

There are 39 bowl games scheduled for the 2017 season, and based on our predicted records for every team, we made projections for every matchup, including the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Predicting The Heisman Trophy Race

The Heisman Trophy race is unpredictable most seasons, but entering 2017, it looks like we're going to be treated to a compelling one. Last year's winner, Lamar Jackson, is back, but he could be chasing new frontrunners Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold.

The Will Leitch Experience Podcast: College Football Preview

Sports on Earth college football writer and editor Matt Brown joins Will to preview the 2017 season, conference by conference.

* * *

Conference Previews



The ACC has a couple star QBs returning, but defense will become the story of the conference in 2017. Can Florida State return to the top of the Atlantic? Will Miami finally play for a title? We break down everything to know about the ACC.

Big 12


It's a new era in the Big 12, where the Oklahoma-Texas rivalry features new coaches and the conference is bringing back its title game. While Oklahoma State and Texas hope to challenge their top rival, the Sooners are still the team to beat.

Big Ten


After producing four playoff contenders, the Big Ten has restored its reputation, with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin at least creating excitement at the top of the league. In 2017, a playoff bid could come down to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions.



This is capable of being a big year for the Pac-12, which should have a couple national title contenders, solid depth in the middle and outstanding quarterback play. Can Washington repeat as champion, or is USC ready to return to the top?



Beyond Alabama playing for another national title, 2016 was a down year for the SEC, with nobody else finishing with fewer than four losses. Alabama is still king, but with improved quarterback play, there's hope that the rest of the SEC can bounce back.


There are four major college football independents again this season, with some intriguing storylines: Notre Dame is attempting to bounce back from a disastrous 4-8 season, and Army is aiming for a back-to-back wins over Navy. Here are our picks for all four teams.

American Athletic

The American Athletic Conference isn't a power conference, but it continues to be the strongest Group of Five league, giving it the best chance of landing a New Year's Six bowl bid. South Florida enters 2017 as the favorite, but watch out for Houston and Memphis.

Conference USA

Conference USA offers added intrigue in 2017, with UAB returning to football and Lane Kiffin and Butch Davis joining the league. But while they'll draw attention, the title will come down to the race between entertaining Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky teams.


Last year, Western Michigan and Ohio broke the Northern Illinois-Bowling Green hold on the conference. Now, it's time for Toledo and Miami (Ohio) to emerge.

Mountain West

Group of Five power Boise State has taken a small step back the past few years, and Brett Rypien and the Broncos will be challenged in an unpredictable Mountain West also featuring stellar San Diego State, Wyoming and Colorado State teams capable of winning the league.

Sun Belt

Preseason favorite Appalachian State won't play either of its top two challengers, Troy and Arkansas State, this season. While it's a three-team race, the Mountaineers are clear Sun Belt leaders.

* * *

Player Rankings

Top 130 Players in College Football


It's an annual Sports on Earth tradition: After breaking down the best players by position, we provide a comprehensive ranking of college football's top returning players.

Position Rankings:


Running Backs

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

* * *

Preseason Analysis

Breaking Down The AP Top 25

For the second year in a row, Alabama will open the season ranked No. 1 in the AP's preseason top 25 poll. None of its four national titles under Nick Saban have come in seasons it started No. 1. Let's add historical context to all of this year's top 25 teams. 

Week-By-Week Schedule Guide

To prepare for the impending start of the 2017 college football season, let's run through the entire schedule, week by week, and break down the most important games.

Ultimate Road Trip 2017


It's that time of year ago: quit your job, buy a large vehicle and get ready for the Fourth Annual College Football Road Trip. The goal, as always, is to hit the maximum number of college football games in the 2017 season. Here's your plan.

All-Breakout Team

Breakout college football players can be unpredictable, but we can make educated guesses based on a combination of opportunity, recruiting evaluations, glimpses we saw in 2016 and spring hype. These are our 2017 picks for new stars at every position.

Most Underrated CFB Players

With 130 college football teams and new star players every year, it's impossible for every successful player to get proper recognition. We're here to do a small part in trying to fix that by honoring the most underrated players at every position.

Top 25 Offenses

This offseason, we ranked all the best players individually, and we also ranked the best position units. Here, we expand that analysis to take a look at the top 25 offenses in college football.

Top 25 Defenses

After breaking down college football's top 25 offenses entering 2017, it's time to turn our attention to the top 25 defenses. The top of the list features plenty of teams we've grown accustomed to seeing field elite defenses, led by Alabama and Clemson.

Top 25 Position Units


It's one thing to recruit and develop a handful of great individual players scattered throughout a team. It's another to recruit and develop an entire group of great players at one position. Led by Clemson's D-line, these are college football's top 25 units.

Pressure Builds For New Huskers QB

For 15 years, Nebraska has been trying to recapture past glory, cycling through crises while ultimately treading water. The next great hope comes from an unlikely place: Tulane transfer QB Tanner Lee, who is being put under a lot of pressure to provide answers.

Wolfpack Face Daunting ACC Task

Choosing N.C. State as a sleeper team that could surprise in 2017 would seem to make a lot of sense for a number of reasons, but there's an enormous hurdle: Being stuck in the ACC Atlantic with Florida State, Clemson and Louisville.

Heisman Huskie? It's A Jake Walk

Most of the Pac-12 quarterback buzz this offseason has resided in Los Angeles, home to Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. But after mounting a Heisman campaign much of last year, don't discount Washington's Jake Browning in the 2017 race for college honors.

USC Hype Won't Backfire This Time

After a downturn featuring NCAA sanctions and coaching drama, USC broke out down the stretch last season behind QB Sam Darnold. But Darnold's return isn't the only reason that USC's 2017 national championship hopes should be taken seriously.

How Sooner Is Now? Baker's Test

After back-to-back Big 12 titles and top-five Heisman Trophy finishes, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield made headlines for the wrong reasons, thanks to a February arrest. Off-the-field embarrassment behind him, Mayfield is re-focusing on pursuing the elusive national title dream.

Barkley's Best Is Yet To Come At PSU


Saquon Barkley was already one of the most successful running backs in college football last season, leading Penn State's resurgence. With a more seasoned offensive line ready for a leap forward, Barkley is poised for even bigger things in 2017.

Irish Hope To Wake Up The Echoes

I want to believe in Brian Kelly, and so do others who bleed gold and blue, even after a 4-8 season in 2016. That's why I kept hearing the "Notre Dame Victory March" rattling around my head during his yearly State of Notre Dame Football address.

Herman Builds New Texas Foundation

After a rapid rise up the coaching ladder the past few years, Tom Herman has earned his dream job as head coach at Texas. To break the Longhorns out of a rut, Herman has brought a forward-thinking approach to revitalize Texas football.

The Little Apple Ready to Go Big

It's obvious we're in the 11th hour of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's run as the mayor of The Little Apple and the engineer behind the Manhattan Miracle. But don't be surprised if he slips in one more masterful season.

Kiffin Creates A Last Chance FAU

New coach Lane Kiffin is hardly the only attraction at Florida Atlantic this season, as he has a team with numerous connections to the Netflix documentary series "Last Chance U," meaning that Boca Raton will play host to the show's epilogue this fall.

Rhule School: Baylor's New Offense


For the better part of the last decade, "Baylor" and "offense" were as synonymous as "Alabama" and "dominance." So what does new coach Matt Rhule have planned for the Bears' offense? His plan is both versatile and ambitious.

Riley Makes Strong Impression at OU

A few months ago, nobody thought Lincoln Riley would be representing Oklahoma at Big 12 media days. But the 33-year-old new head coach is making a strong first impression as Bob Stoops' replacement as he tries to maintain OU's high level of success.

Stanford Still Serious Pac-12 Threat

There are two clear-cut favorites in the Pac-12 in Washington and USC, but it would be a mistake to overlook a third team: Based on recent history, there's little reason to believe that Stanford won't be a top contender, too.

Orgeron Embraces Rare Second Chance

Ed Orgeron took the stage at SEC media days as LSU's head coach, 10 years after his final appearance as coach of Ole Miss. How much he's learned in that decade will determine just how long Orgeron continues to return to Hoover each summer.

Bentley Primed For Big Things in SEC

After graduating high school a year early, Jake Bentley was thrown into the South Carolina starting lineup midway through last season to provide a jolt to a young, struggling offense. Despite some growing pains, he did just that, showcasing talent to be excited about.

Auburn Back To Being SEC Wild Card


With a hyped new quarterback coming in after an 8-5 season, Auburn is getting a preseason push as it hopes to make the SEC interesting and challenge Alabama for supremacy in the West. Auburn has faltered in such situations before. Is Jarrett Stidham the answer?

The Most Entertaining CFB Teams

One of the best things about college football is the diversity of the offenses and the different viewing experiences. Are you looking for reliable sources of entertainment? These are the most watchable teams from each conference in 2017.

The Success of Iowa's Ferentz Era

Kirk Ferentz's longevity at Iowa is often a punch line because of his massive contract and the Hawkeyes' old-school style of play, but the criticism and jokes shouldn't obscure the fact that he's taken Iowa to impressive highs in a 19-year tenure that deserves appreciation.

Breakout Team Candidates

The 2016 college football season featured several examples of teams breaking out of recent ruts to achieve breakthroughs, and it's inevitable that the 2017 season will feature similar achievements. These are the teams with the best chance of making a leap forward.

Gators Swamped With Imbalance

Florida's golden eras have come with entertaining, prolific offenses leading the charge. The past few years have been anything but that, as the Gators' defense has been far ahead of the offense -- a divide greater than any other team in college football.

Defense Now Star of Clemson Show

Deshaun Watson is rightfully given the most credit as the face of Clemson's rise to the national championship, but the defense's growth shouldn't be taken for granted. And with Watson gone, that defense ensures that the Tigers won't fall far after their title.

Ranking The Transfer Quarterbacks

While expectations are often unreasonable for transfer quarterbacks, the national leader in passer rating in three of the past six years has in fact been a transfer. Will another one become a star in 2017? The list of possibilities is deep.

Don't Sleep On Miami In ACC Race

Miami went 9-4 last season in Mark Richt's debut as coach, and the Hurricanes may have been better than you remember. While they need to find a new quarterback, they enter the 2017 season with legitimate hopes of a long-awaited breakthrough in the ACC.

Cowboy Up: Allen's Moment Awaits

A year ago, nobody had ever heard of Josh Allen. Now, the Wyoming quarterback is being hyped as the potential No. 1 pick in next year's NFL Draft. As attention grows over the next year, will Allen's game stand up to the newfound scrutiny?