FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Across SEC Country on Monday you will find our way-too-early predictions for the 2018 college football Top 25. This is the official one for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks are not terribly close to being a Top 25 team in 2018. New coach Chad Morris may have Arkansas trending in that direction, and a favorable schedule may help the Hogs look better than actually they will be, but sustained success at Arkansas has not exactly been, well, sustained.
In the SEC West alone the Razorbacks have a bear in front of them. An improving SEC East isn’t helpful for cross-divisional games, either. Still, Arkansas can win six games next season and play itself back into bowl season.
This is my preseason Top 25 for next season:
25. Florida Atlantic
21. Penn State
19. West Virginia
17. N.C. State
16. Boise State
14. Virginia Tech
13. Mississippi State
12. Notre Dame
Bryce Love may or may not be back. Remains to be seen. Even if he doesn’t return, Stanford had six players with double figures in catches in 2017, and they lose one. K.J. Costello is back to throw it to them. The front seven loses practically everyone, but the secondary loses no one. This high might be a stretch without Love, but with him? Nope.
Auburn lost more to the NFL than others, but Jarrett Stidham’s return gives the Tigers a proven, legitimate quarterback. Gus Malzahn’s offense has proven to be effective, too, when it has a capable QB. The defense returns enough to make it good again in 2018.
8. Ohio State
Sure, Ohio State has to find a new quarterback. But the entire backfield is back and so is every single wide receiver. The Buckeyes also lose only three full-time defensive starters. More than any other team, I think this one I have too low.
I’m a Jake Browning fan. If he and Myles Gaskin both return in 2018, no team has a better one-two QB-RB punch than the Huskies.
6. Michigan State
Michigan State does not have the top-end talent Ohio State does … except at quarterback. The Spartans also return more, including on defense. A lot hinges on quarterback Brian Lewerke taking the next step, but signs point to him being able to do it.
Perhaps the defending national champion? If so, how can they not be top 5 the next season? Heck, even if Georgia loses Monday night to Alabama, the Bulldogs are still loaded. The Bulldogs are always top 15 or thereabouts. Maybe now, under Kirby Smart, they’re perpetually in the top 5.
Might look at it and say, “Ha. OU loses Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner. No way are the Sooners as good next year.” The counter argument is Kyler Murray. Yes, he’s a step down from Mayfield, but who isn’t a step down from a Heisman winner? Murray is a good, maybe great, talent and the Sooners have plenty elsewhere in a “down” Big 12 in 2018.
Mark Richt may have been the exact tonic Coral Gables, Fla., needed. He has the Hurricanes back among the nation’s elite. No reason to think it won’t last. For those who miss the late 1980s and early ’90s, here you go.
Five players ran for more than 200 yards in 2017. All five of them are back. Nine players caught 10 or more passes. All nine of them are back. Twenty-seven players had double-digit tackles. All but two of them return. No team is more talented in 2018, depth-wise.
A given for me. As long as Nick Saban is coaching, Alabama will be the preseason favorite in my book.
2. South Carolina
3. Mississippi State
5. Texas A&M
7. Ole Miss
The SEC predictions are completely subject to change.