Amway Top 25 College Football Poll 2015: Season Predictions, Championship Odds

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystJuly 30, 2015

Amway Top 25 College Football Poll 2015: Season Predictions, Championship Odds

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    Ohio State HC Urban Meyer
    Ohio State HC Urban MeyerJoe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

    We're exactly five weeks away from the return of college football, and the preseason reached a major milestone Thursday with the release of the first Amway Coaches Poll.

    While the poll, which is released by USA Today, doesn't have any effect in the selection process for the College Football Playoff, it's still a good barometer of what other preseason rankings will look like as we inch closer to the start of the season.

    (Plus, the poll's No. 1 team at the end of the four-team playoff will receive the iconic crystal football trophy that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is holding in the above photo.)

    The poll is voted on by 64 FBS coaches, and all but two of them picked defending national champion Ohio State to open the season as the No. 1 team in the country. TCU and Alabama each grabbed a single first-place vote.

    Take a look at the entire top 25 in the following slides, along with the teams' predicted regular-season records and their current national championship odds from Odds Shark.

25. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Tennessee DE Derek Barnett and LB Curt Maggitt
    Tennessee DE Derek Barnett and LB Curt MaggittWade Payne/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 9-3

    Championship odds: 66-1

    The preseason hype train at Tennessee has barreled into the Amway poll, where the Volunteers hold down the final spot after their 7-6 campaign in 2014.

    Tennessee has 18 starters back from last year's team and looks prepared to make a big breakthrough after two years of progress and recruiting excellence from head coach Butch Jones. Junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs is fully in charge of an offense that has exciting weapons such as Jalen Hurd, Pig Howard and Marquez North. On defense, the Volunteers are a little on the younger side, but they have established talent in sophomore lineman Derek Barnett and senior linebacker Curt Maggitt.

    The Volunteers' schedule has a major home game against Oklahoma in Week 2 and back-to-back home games against Arkansas and Georgia. They get an off week before a visit to Alabama. If they survive that stretch with their SEC title hopes intact, the Vols could pull off the big season fans have been waiting for in Knoxville.

24. Boise State Broncos

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    Boise State HC Bryan Harsin
    Boise State HC Bryan HarsinCasey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Predicted record: 11-1

    Championship odds: 150-1

    Boise State returns 17 starters from a 12-2 team that knocked off Arizona at the Fiesta Bowl last season. The familiar sight of the Broncos sporting an undefeated record late in the season could return in 2015 if Bryan Harsin's team fills in some gaps in the backfield.

    The new starting quarterback and running back at Boise will be boosted by nine other returning starters, including the receiving tandem of Thomas Sperbeck and Shane Williams-Rhodes. Defensively, Boise State has talent and depth in every unit, and the team held its last three Mountain West opponents to under 20 points last year.

    If Boise State can take down Washington at home and BYU on the road to open the season, it should be smooth sailing toward a potential unbeaten season. But even with one loss, expect this experienced Boise State team to be back in the big bowls by season's end.

23. Missouri Tigers

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    Missouri QB Maty Mauk and HC Gary Pinkel
    Missouri QB Maty Mauk and HC Gary PinkelJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Predicted record: 8-4

    Championship odds: 100-1

    After back-to-back SEC East titles, Gary Pinkel's Missouri Tigers have proven they are more than capable of ruining predictions and achieving more than what was expected.

    Missouri returns junior quarterback Maty Mauk and four senior starters along the offensive line. New starters at the skill positions will go a long way in determining what kind of Mauk the fans in Missouri will see this fall. On defense, the Tigers must rebound from the loss of top defensive linemen Shane Ray, Markus Golden and now Harold Brantley, who will miss the season with injuries sustained during a car accident.

    Good thing for Mizzou is that its schedule sets up well for a strong start. The Tigers could easily be 6-0 heading into a road game against Georgia in mid-October. The back half of the slate also features Mississippi State, BYU, Tennessee and Arkansas, so the challenges will ramp up for the defending division champs.

22. Arizona Wildcats

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    Arizona QB Anu Solomon
    Arizona QB Anu SolomonRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 8-4

    Championship odds: 100-1

    The defending Pac-12 South champions head into the 2015 season behind three different teams in their own division. But head coach Rich Rodriguez and several of the Wildcats' stars have a great opportunity to prove the doubters wrong once again this season.

    On offense, Arizona returns its leading passer, rusher and receiver combo from last season. Anu Solomon, Nick Wilson, Cayleb Jones and Samajie Grant could put up even bigger numbers this year in Rodriguez's offense if the thin offensive line holds up. Defensively, all-world linebacker Scooby Wright III returns to lead a squad that needs improvement against the pass.

    The Wildcats open the Pac-12 schedule with a home game against UCLA and a road game against Stanford—ones that could put a premature end to their conference hopes. Arizona also travels to USC and Arizona State toward the end of the season. This team will have to battle through a lot in order to defend its title.

21. Stanford Cardinal

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    Stanford HC David Shaw and QB Kevin Hogan
    Stanford HC David Shaw and QB Kevin HoganMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 9-3

    Championship odds: 40-1

    Stanford slipped to an 8-5 record last season after four straight years of double-digit wins, but David Shaw's team could make that 2014 mark an anomaly with what it has this season.

    Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan had a strong end to last season and has eight returning starters around him this season, including four of his top five targets in the passing game. On defense, the nation's No. 3 team in yards allowed per game must replace seven starters, but it still has potential to be a strength throughout the 2015 season.

    Outside of the game against USC, Stanford has its toughest games of the schedule at home this season, including matchups against Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame. If Hogan can reignite the offense and the new starters can carry on the tradition of great defense, the Cardinal could knock the Ducks off the top spot in the Pac-12 North.

20. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Arkansas HC Bret Bielema
    Arkansas HC Bret BielemaDanny Johnston/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 8-4

    Championship odds: 50-1

    Bret Bielema's long-awaited breakthrough at Arkansas came late last season, when the Razorbacks shut out LSU and Ole Miss—two ranked teams—in back-to-back weeks. Now the Hogs want to keep that momentum going into a disruptive campaign out in the SEC West.

    Arkansas returns nine starters on its ground-and-pound offense, which features senior quarterback Brandon Allen, running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins and an offensive line that graced the cover of the team's media guide. The defense could be an issue, though, as most of 2014's tough front seven is no longer on campus.

    The Razorbacks have a murderous road schedule this season with back-to-back trips to Tennessee and Alabama before the same sequence against Ole Miss and LSU later in the year. Texas A&M, Auburn and Missouri will also head to Fayetteville this season to round out the SEC slate.

19. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine
    Oklahoma RB Samaje PerineSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 9-3

    Championship odds: 28-1

    Oklahoma took a long, hard fall last season. Just take a look at last season's Amway preseason poll, which had the Sooners as the No. 3 team in the land. But Oklahoma stumbled to an 8-5 record, leading to some wholesale coaching changes by head coach Bob Stoops.

    New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley still has to work out a murky quarterback situation in Norman, but he does inherit record-holding running back Samaje Perine, senior receiver Sterling Shepard and plenty of talented depth at the skill positions. On defense, Oklahoma will try to rebound with the veteran talents of defensive end Charles Tapper, linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Zack Sanchez.

    The Sooners will receive a big test in Week 2 when they travel to play Tennessee. Like the rest of the top schools in the Big 12, Oklahoma will go through a grinding November, which includes road games at Baylor and Oklahoma State with a home contest against TCU sandwiched between the two.

18. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
    Wisconsin RB Corey ClementMike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 75-1

    Transitioning to another new coaching regime should be no problem for Wisconsin, which is coming off of an 11-3 season that finished with a Big Ten West title and an Outback Bowl victory.

    Melvin Gordon is gone after a nearly record-breaking season in Madison, but the run-first Badger offense will be in good hands with junior Corey Clement, who ran for nearly 1,000 yards as Gordon's backup last season. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda stayed through the change to Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, where he has most of his starters back from the nation's No. 4 total defense.

    After a neutral-site contest against defending champion Alabama, the schedule sets up extremely well for a big-time Wisconsin run. The Badgers avoid playing Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State in their cross-divisional games this season. Wisconsin should be the Big Ten West champion once again.

17. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas
    Georgia Tech QB Justin ThomasWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 8-4

    Championship odds: 100-1

    Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets are hard to read this season as they come off of a remarkable 11-3 campaign that featured an ACC Coastal title, a win over rival Georgia and an Orange Bowl victory over Mississippi State.

    Georgia Tech is picked to repeat as the division champion this year despite losing the top four running backs and the top four receivers from Johnson's highly successful option attack. But star quarterback Justin Thomas is back to lead this plug-and-play offense, and the Yellow Jackets have eight starters coming back from a defense that struggled due to a lack of experience in 2014.

    Tech's schedule has a major Week 3 matchup at Notre Dame, which will be the first real test of the season. Georgia Tech must also visit Clemson this season and has home games against Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia. A few losses could still net them a spot in the ACC title game, but another 11-win season will be a tall order for the Yellow Jackets.

16. Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Arizona State HC Todd Graham
    Arizona State HC Todd GrahamMatt York/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 9-3

    Championship odds: 66-1

    Todd Graham's Sun Devils have won 10 games in back-to-back seasons, and they're out to prove their worth as serious contenders in the Pac-12 South this fall.

    Mike Bercovici takes over at quarterback for an Arizona State team that has a potential star in running back Demario Richard but must replace the production of standout receiver Jaelen Strong. Arizona State will most likely be led by its defense in 2015 as the unit returns nine starters—a far cry from the two it had entering 2014.

    Arizona State's schedule starts off with a bang when it faces Texas A&M, which is just outside the Top 25, in Houston. The Sun Devils will face USC and UCLA in back-to-back weeks. A Thursday night showdown against Oregon should make or break their title hopes, and then they'll shoot for revenge against Arizona Nov. 21.

15. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Ole Miss HC Hugh Freeze
    Ole Miss HC Hugh FreezeRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 9-3

    Championship odds: 40-1

    Ole Miss' historic 2014 season may have ended with four losses in its final six games, but don't count the Rebels out as a major contender in the wide-open SEC West.

    The surgical but turnover-prone Bo Wallace is now gone in Oxford, and the new starting quarterback will play behind a veteran offensive line and next to star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who is returning from a heartbreaking leg injury in a late loss to Auburn. The "Land Sharks" led the nation in scoring defense last season and still have several stars back for 2015, including defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and defensive back Tony Conner.

    Ole Miss must travel to a revenge-minded Alabama in Week 3, and the real meat of its schedule comes at the end. The Rebels will finish their regular season with a challenging streak of Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State. If this team plays to its potential, it could be playing for the SEC title in December.

14. UCLA Bruins

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    UCLA RB Paul Perkins
    UCLA RB Paul PerkinsSoobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 40-1

    UCLA has loads of experience coming back from a team that received plenty of preseason buzz about making the first playoff but finished with a 10-3 record.

    The Bruins return every starter on offense except for one—quarterback Brett Hundley. Now 5-star true freshman Josh Rosen is expected to step in and lead an offense that has junior running back Paul Perkins, the Pac-12's leading rusher from a season ago, and five of Hundley's top receiving targets from 2014. Defensively, the Bruins return star linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes and their entire starting secondary.

    UCLA has back-to-back contests against the two Arizona schools that will really test its staying power as a contender. A midseason road game against Stanford will be a challenge as well, and then there is the in-city rivalry clash with USC in which the Bruins can nail down their fourth straight victory in the series.

13. LSU Tigers

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    LSU HC Les Miles
    LSU HC Les MilesWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Predicted record: 9-3

    Championship odds: 25-1

    LSU's spot on this year's preseason coaches poll might come as a bit of surprise after how the Tigers finished the 2014 season. Les Miles' team went 8-5 thanks to underwhelming quarterback play and a pair of bad performances on the road against SEC West foes Auburn and Arkansas.

    The Tigers will look to lean on star sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who could have a shot at the Heisman Trophy this season. The defense lost veteran coordinator John Chavis to Texas A&M but still boasts plenty of star power, including breakout linebacker Kendell Beckwith and the defensive back pairing of Tre'Davious White and Jalen Mills.

    The quarterback situation between Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings is especially concerning for LSU. The signal-callers must show some serious signs of improvement, or else this talent-rich LSU team will underwhelm again in 2015.

12. Clemson Tigers

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    Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
    Clemson QB Deshaun WatsonTyler Smith/Getty Images

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 22-1

    Clemson was a defense-first team last season as it led the nation in fewest yards allowed per game while its offense struggled with injuries. Now the roles seem to be reversed, as the Tigers are picked to win the ACC this year by the league's media.

    Sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson was incredible when healthy last season and boasted one of the nation's best efficiency ratings in limited action. If he avoids injury again this fall, he could have a monster year with the likes of Artavis Scott and Mike Williams lining up at receiver for Clemson. On defense, Clemson returns just two starters from that No. 1 unit but has plenty of young talent ready to step up.

    The Tigers are fortunate to have their biggest games of the season all at home—Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Florida State. Clemson has the opportunity to knock Florida State off its perch in the ACC and compete for a playoff spot if the young defense can keep teams behind Watson and the offense's pace.

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire
    Notre Dame QB Malik ZaireJoe Raymond/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 18-1

    After an 8-5 season with Everett Golson manning the quarterback spot, Notre Dame has moved on to a new era with sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire, who led the Irish to a bowl win against LSU. Zaire will lead a team with plenty of experience and, as always, high expectations in South Bend.

    Zaire will be surrounded by five of the top six Irish receivers from last season and a line that returns three starters. Defensively, Notre Dame returns a massive 10 starters, including tackle machine Jaylon Smith at linebacker.

    Notre Dame's 2015 schedule is front-loaded with games against Georgia Tech, Clemson and USC all before Halloween. If the Irish can stay healthy and improve with all of that experience, they're set up to make some real playoff noise toward the end of the season.

10. USC Trojans

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    USC QB Cody Kessler and HC Steve Sarkisian
    USC QB Cody Kessler and HC Steve SarkisianHarry How/Getty Images

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 16-1

    Steve Sarkisian led USC to a 9-4 season in his first year in charge, and now he looks to break his reputation of being an underachiever with what is now a deep and talented Trojans squad.

    Senior quarterback Cody Kessler, one of the nation's most efficient passers from a year ago, is the star of the show in Los Angeles this season, and he'll play behind an offensive line that has six players with starting experience. Su'a Cravens, now at linebacker, highlights a defense looking to bounce back from an underwhelming 2014 campaign that finished at No. 118 nationally in passing yards allowed per game. Also keep an eye on potential three-way star Adoree' Jackson, now in his sophomore season.

    USC has a treacherous schedule standing in the way of a potential title campaign, though, with road games at Arizona State, Notre Dame and Oregon. The Trojans also have the season finale against UCLA, which has beaten them three years running.

9. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Georgia RB Nick Chubb
    Georgia RB Nick ChubbDavid Stephenson/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 25-1

    After falling short of an SEC East crown each of the last two seasons, Georgia has its sights set on a return to the Georgia Dome for the conference title game and a potential playoff push.

    Georgia will be led once again by its star-studded backfield, and no star is brighter than Nick Chubb, who averaged a dazzling 7.1 yards per carry as a true freshman last season. The Bulldogs will also look to improve defensively in the second season under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who has a standout group of outside linebackers to work with in 2015.

    The Bulldogs face a tough test the first week of October when Alabama comes to Athens, and they will follow that up with a road game against Tennessee and a home matchup against two-time East champion Missouri. Georgia also has to battle through the season-ending trio of Auburn, a sneaky-good Georgia Southern team and rival Georgia Tech.

8. Florida State Seminoles

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    Florida State HC Jimbo Fisher
    Florida State HC Jimbo FisherMelina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 20-1

    Florida State's incredible 29-game win streak came to an end in demoralizing fashion last season, when Oregon dismantled the Seminoles 59-20 in the Rose Bowl. Now Jimbo Fisher's team must play the unfamiliar role of not being the preseason favorite in its own conference this season.

    But the Seminoles still have a roster filled with blue-chip talent, and they picked up former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson on a transfer in the offseason. The defense returns star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and leading tackler Reggie Northrup.

    The Florida State offense has potential stars, but the lack of experience on the offensive line and the suspension of leading rusher Dalvin Cook are causes for concern. Will Florida State cash in on the potential of all of those star-studded recruiting classes, or will Fisher's squad fall out of title contention in 2015?

7. Auburn Tigers

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    Auburn HC Gus Malzahn and QB Jeremy Johnson
    Auburn HC Gus Malzahn and QB Jeremy JohnsonDave Martin/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 9-1

    The buzz is back on the Plains this season, even after a disappointing 8-5 season and the loss of several offensive stars. Armed with new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Gus Malzahn's Tigers are getting some serious national championship love from Las Vegas.

    New starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, and Auburn returns star wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams for a surprising senior season. On defense, Muschamp inherits a core of veteran senior starters and picks up a few instant-impact freshmen, including defensive end Byron Cowart.

    Still, Auburn returns only 12 starters and faces another tough slate of tests in the SEC. The Tigers get the annual games against Georgia and Alabama at home this season but travel to a trio of Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M.

6. Michigan State Spartans

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    Michigan State QB Connor Cook, HC Mark Dantonio and WR R.J. Shelton
    Michigan State QB Connor Cook, HC Mark Dantonio and WR R.J. SheltonAssociated Press

    Predicted record: 11-1

    Championship odds: 25-1

    Mark Dantonio's Michigan State teams have won 11 games in four of their last five seasons, and the Spartans are strong candidates to do it again this year. Sparty returns a lot of experienced talent, including quarterback Connor Cook, defensive end Shilique Calhoun and safety RJ Williamson.

    "The senior class talent is such that Michigan State is a legitimate national championship contender," Mike Griffith of wrote. "The team looks to have more talent than any Spartans' squad dating back to the 1966 national champions."

    Michigan State won't have an easy road to a potential playoff berth, though. Sparty hosts Oregon in Week 2 and must face Big Ten foes Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State all on the road. Still, if the seniors can lead the way as some newcomers fill in the gaps, Michigan State will be in line for another big postseason.

5. Oregon Ducks

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    Oregon RB/WR Byron Marshall
    Oregon RB/WR Byron MarshallOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 20-1

    Oregon fell short of a national championship last season and now will look to defend its title in a crowded Pac-12 without the talents of Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

    The Ducks still return a massive amount of talent from their speed-based offense, including the top five receivers from a season ago. Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall and Dwayne Stanford will be welcome targets for the winner of the battle to replace Mariota—either Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams or backup Jeff Lockie.

    Oregon's defense also returns some stars and will look to build on last season's performance. An early road trip to Michigan State will play a huge role in determining the Ducks' playoff chances. Later in the season, the predicted Pac-12 North winners host USC after traveling to both Arizona State and Stanford.

4. Baylor Bears

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    Baylor HC Art Briles
    Baylor HC Art BrilesJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Predicted record: 11-1

    Championship odds: 20-1

    Baylor has claimed at least a share of the Big 12 title each of the last two seasons, and now Art Briles' experienced squad is focused on getting into the national championship picture after being left out in 2014.

    The Bears' dynamite offense led the nation in points and yards per game in 2013 and 2014, and it has a good chance to do that again with new quarterback Seth Russell, whom Briles told Matt Hayes of Sporting News was ready to "get the keys to the Ferrari." Baylor is also set to have one of its best seasons on the other side of the ball thanks to a stacked front seven that includes household name Shawn Oakman.

    Briles and Co. should rip through a notoriously easy nonconference schedule and a favorable start to the Big 12 slate this year. Baylor then hits a five-pack of games at the end of the season—Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas—that will determine if its ready to deliver on the preseason hype.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Alabama RB Derrick Henry and S Geno Smith
    Alabama RB Derrick Henry and S Geno SmithMarvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    Predicted record: 10-2

    Championship odds: 15-2

    Alabama fell short of its ultimate goal—playing for a national championship—each of the last two seasons, but head coach Nick Saban still has a true threat for the title on his hands in Tuscaloosa.

    The quarterback battle is once again the focal point at Alabama, but Lane Kiffin's rejuvenated offense will be able to rely on the one-two running back punch of the bruising Derrick Henry and the lightning-fast Kenyan Drake. Defense will be the strength, of course, as Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart return potential All-American candidates A'Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen and Reggie Ragland.

    The Tide's schedule is one of its toughest in the Saban era. Alabama opens the season with a neutral-site game against Wisconsin and has a rough October stretch—at Georgia, versus Arkansas, at Texas A&M and versus Tennessee in four straight weeks. Throw in the usual November battles against LSU and Auburn, and Alabama has a grueling journey toward a repeat of the SEC title and another playoff spot.

2. TCU Horned Frogs

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    TCU QB Trevone Boykin
    TCU QB Trevone BoykinTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 11-1

    Championship odds: 10-1

    After going 4-8 in 2013, head coach Gary Patterson went in a new direction on offense last season, and co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham brought new life to the program. TCU finished the season 12-1 with a blowout victory over Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, and now it opens the 2015 season as a legitimate title contender.

    Cumbie and Meacham's uptempo spread offense is led by quarterback Trevone Boykin, who excelled last season for the Horned Frogs and is the preseason favorite in Vegas to win the Heisman, according to Odds Shark. TCU returns five of its top six receivers and four starting offensive linemen from a squad that ranked fifth nationally in yards per game. In Patterson's patented 4-2-5 defense, TCU must replace the likes of star Paul Dawson but returns veterans such as James McFarland, Davion Pierson and Derrick Kindred.

    Following a Thursday night opener against Minnesota, TCU should cruise until the month of November, when it must face Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor in the span of four weeks. How Boykin and the Horned Frogs handle that tough stretch will determine if they grab the playoff spot they felt they deserved in 2014.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Cardale Jones
    Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Cardale JonesDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    Predicted record: 12-0

    Championship odds: 3-1

    As expected, Ohio State will open the season as the No. 1 team in the country in the Amway Coaches Poll after last season's 14-1 run to the first national championship in the College Football Playoff era. Perhaps the only surprise with Ohio State's ranking is that two of the 64 voting coaches didn't give the Buckeyes a first-place nod.

    Urban Meyer's Buckeyes return most of their starters from last year's championship squad and have several potential Heisman candidates on offense—quarterback Cardale Jones, quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back Ezekiel Elliott, plus the added weapon of former signal-caller Braxton Miller at wide receiver. Ohio State's championship-caliber defense is led by star defensive end Joey Bosa and top linebackers Joshua Perry and Darron Lee.

    The defending champions' schedule sets up well for an undefeated run. If they can avenge last season's lone loss to Virginia Tech in this season's opener without several key starters, their next major challenges won't come until the end of the season. Ohio State hosts fellow title contender Michigan State before traveling to face hated rival Michigan.

    Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.