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College Football Rankings: Early Look at 2018 Preseason Top 25

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass during the second half against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As we witnessed in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs will be loaded with talent for years to come.

Alabama's 2018 prospects got even better after freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led a second-half comeback to down the Bulldogs in overtime at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Even though the Crimson Tide are expected to lose a wealth of talent to the NFL, they should reload and be atop the college football pantheon again in 2018.

Georgia will be seen as one of Alabama's challengers for the national title, with usual suspects Clemson, Ohio State and others vying to end the Crimson Tide's reign as well.

                 

2018 Early Preseason Top 25

1. Alabama

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2. Clemson

3. Georgia

4. Ohio State

5. Wisconsin

6. Miami (FL)

7. Oklahoma

8. Auburn

9. Penn State

10. Notre Dame

11. Washington

12. Stanford

13. Virginia Tech

14. LSU

15. Michigan State

16. USC

17. Florida State

18. Michigan

19. West Virginia

20. Boise State

21. Texas

22. West Virginia

23. South Carolina

24. Oregon

25. NC State

               

Perennial Powers Should Be Near Top Again

If you're looking for a new team to take over the top of the college football pedestal, 2018 isn't your year.

Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Miami (FL) and Oklahoma are all expected to be back near the top of the sport next season.

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs throws a pass during the second quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Some of the faces will change, as Alabama and Georgia will lose plenty of top names on defense, while Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett will not be under center anymore for Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively.

But the college football factories in the south and midwest will reload with the goal of winning a national championship in reach.

The top two players in the sport next fall could be Tagovailoa and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who are expected to improve during the offseason, which is a scary thought for each one of their 2018 opponents to ponder.

After reigniting the fanbase in 2017, the Miami Hurricanes are expected to continue their progression under head coach Mark Richt. With "The U" adding more prized prospects, the Hurricanes could once again challenge Clemson in the ACC.

When the 2018 regular season concludes, the order of the College Football Playoff seeds may not replicate the group from 2017, but don't be surprised if there are familiar faces in the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl.

             

Michigan Could Finally Be a Threatening Title Contender Under Harbaugh

An argument can be made that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is under the most pressure of any coach in the nation entering 2018.

The 54-year-old going into his fourth season in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has a 28-11 record with the Wolverines, but he's been unable to get them over the hump and they regressed to 8-5 in 2017.

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 18: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin won 24-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of Michigan's biggest issues on offense could be solved with the entrance of quarterback Shea Patterson, who is transferring from Ole Miss.

If Patterson or Brandon Peters can execute Harbaugh's offense to perfection in big games, the Wolverines defense should be able to clean up opponents and turn Harbaugh's crew into a contender for the College Football Playoff.

But since there are questions surrounding the Michigan offense until it proves us wrong, the Wolverines only come in at No. 18.

The Wolverines have plenty of opportunities to prove the doubters wrong with road trips to Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State in 2018. If they go 3-0 or 2-1 in those games and beat Penn State at home, the Wolverines will reside in the Top 10 for most of the season.

               

USC May Face Biggest Rebuilding Challenge in 2018

The USC Trojans are losing four vital parts of their program with quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Ronald Jones II, wide receiver Deontay Burnett and linebacker Uchenna Nwosu all off to the NFL.

Replacing Darnold will be one of the more difficult tasks in all of college football. Matt Fink and Jack Sears will compete for the starting quarterback job in the spring, but the Trojans' best player at the position could enter campus in the fall. J.T. Daniels, who reclassified to the class of 2018 in December, will experience some growing pains, but he could have the most upside of any freshman in the nation. 

Just getting back to the Pac-12 Championship may be a struggle for head coach Clay Helton and Co. since they face difficult road trips to Stanford, Utah and UCLA in Pac-12 play.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 29: Head coach Clay Helton and Austin Applebee #89 of the USC Trojans look toward the field in the first half of the 82nd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between USC and Ohio State at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2017 in Arlington, T
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

A three-game stretch in September that features trips to Stanford, Texas and Arizona could determine how much of an impact, if at all, the Trojans will have on the College Football Playoff picture.

Even if they work through their schedule relatively unscathed, a November 25 clash with rival Notre Dame, who should improve again this season, could cause trouble for the young Trojans.

               

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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