Ohio State shocked the world by winning the inaugural College Football Playoff in January. The Buckeyes, loaded with perhaps the best collection of talent in recent memory, won't sneak up on anyone this year.
Urban Meyer's bunch opens the 2015 season as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25, receiving all 61 of the possible first-place votes. The Buckeyes are 97 points ahead of No. 2 TCU, which will look to compete for a championship after controversially missing out on the CFP a year ago. Alabama, Baylor and Michigan State round out the Top Five.
Jon Solomon of CBS Sports noted Ohio State is the first unanimous No. 1 in the preseason AP poll.
Here is the full AP poll:
|Preseason AP Poll|
The Buckeyes' biggest problem this season may be sorting out how to find playing time for all their talent. The most obvious issue is at quarterback. Braxton Miller's switch to receiver helped but still leaves Meyer with two potential Heisman candidates in J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.
Barrett, who took over for an injured Miller last season, led Ohio State to an 11-1 start and was on the fringe of Heisman contention before suffering an ankle injury. Jones subsequently stepped in and pushed the Buckeyes to the national championship with a big-play dimension through the air that was not as apparent with Barrett at the helm.
Choosing between the two will mark perhaps the biggest decision of the 2015 college football season. Barrett is closer to the Meyer prototype, a decent passer who truly excels when he gets to use his feet. Jones is the NFL prototype, a 6'5" behemoth.
"I made an error when I spoke in the spring that it can't be a gut instinct," Meyer told reporters. "It's got to be both—how they performed last year, how they performed in the summer. Then we're going to chart everything throughout training camp, an accumulation of all the information. Then I will make the decision."
Florida State, which finds itself at No. 10, has its own quarterback dilemma to figure out. The departure of Jameis Winston has left Sean Maguire and former Notre Dame standout Everett Golson to compete for the starting gig.
"We'll know when we know. I'm not putting a timetable on it," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said of making a decision, per Bob Ferrante of 247Sports.
Aside from TCU and Michigan State, which have Trevone Boykin and Connor Cook locked in under center, respectively, there aren't many top-flight teams without some uncertainty at the position. Alabama's Jake Coker is a senior who has thrown all of 100 collegiate passes and is no lock to win the starting job despite entering camp with a leg up on the competition. Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett are each getting their chance to audition, and Coker's had intermittent injury issues during camp.
Morris or Coker is widely expected to win the job, and as John Talty of AL.com wrote, Coker's little bit of experience may be the deciding factor:
Coker entered the fall as the prohibitive favorite to win the job after losing out last year to Sims but has faced stiff competition from Morris and Bateman. Coker is the only quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass at the collegiate level, but he hasn't been able to wrest control of the position at any point during his time in Tuscaloosa. Saban's review of Saturday's performance indicated that hasn't changed.
Bryce Petty's departure at Baylor has opened a window for Seth Russell, whose career highlight is throwing five touchdowns against FCS opponent Northwestern State last season. Russell has 11 touchdowns against four interceptions in his career thus far, but he'll have quite the shoes to fill with Petty and Robert Griffin III lingering in the minds of Bears fans.
The same goes for whoever wins Oregon's quarterback battle, as Marcus Mariota was perhaps the best player in program history. Junior Jeff Lockie and senior transfer Vernon Adams are embroiled in a contest without an obvious front-runner. Adams came on board after three years of stardom at Eastern Washington, while Lockie has patiently waited for his shot while Mariota kept the program in title contention.
With so much uncertainty at the sport's most important position, odds are the preseason top five will look nothing like the initial College Football Playoff rankings. But preseason polls aren't designed to predict the national championship race; they're there to give fans an early look at what to expect in the weeks ahead.
The teams that wind up sticking around at the top will be the ones whose coaches made the correct decision under center.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.