During a slow offseason, hype reigns supreme. From touted prospects to anticipation over returners, college football fans can’t get enough talk.
But while every team is excited about a clean slate in 2016, some programs are leading the national conversation more than others. These could be teams expected to contend, or teams expected to surprise.
Here are two teams from each Power 5 conference that are getting the most publicity.
Alabama: It should come as no surprise that the Crimson Tide are the most talked about program in the conference and nation. This could be true every year. Alabama lost several star players from its national championship team, but the Crimson Tide have recruited better than any team in the nation. As long as Nick Saban is the coach in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Bama will continue to be among the best teams in the nation.
Tennessee: The Volunteers have been young for a few years, but this is the year everything is expected to come together. Senior QB Joshua Dobbs has posted a 13-5 record as a starting quarterback. With several other offensive pieces in the rotation and n aggressive new defensive coordinator, Tennessee is the favorite to win the SEC East in 2016.
Michigan: The era Jim Harbaugh era has gotten off to a rip-roaring start, and summer has done nothing to slow down the hype train. Harbaugh is traversing the country with his satellite camp circus, keeping himself in the headlines. Perhaps more important, the talent on the field is starting to accumulate, as Michigan put together a top-5 recruiting class in 2016.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes return just six starters, but the talent is still flowing in Columbus, Ohio. QB J.T Barrett wrested the starting job from Cardale Jones and excelled. The Buckeyes continue to lead the Big Ten discussion, even though this should be an especially difficult season. If the pieces can come together in conference play, a title isn’t out of reach.
Oklahoma: The Sooners lost a couple of key defensive players from their Big 12 championship squad, but QB Baker Mayfield ensures that Oklahoma will once again be competitive for the College Football Playoff. Mayfield has created so much attention for himself that the Big 12 changed its transfer rules to allow the former walk-on to regain a year of eligibility that he lost. Between Big 12 title and expansion talk, the Sooners won’t be out of the news anytime soon.
Texas: Even when it is down, the Big 12 runs through the Texas Longhorns. Texas went 5-7 last season, but the Longhorns made strides on both sides of the ball. The talk of the town has been new Texas offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. The former Tulsa coordinator runs the Art Briles style of offense, which should at minimum make Texas more entertaining on the field.
Stanford: Not only was Stanford’s 12-2 finish impressive, it was vindication for head coach David Shaw. Some criticized Shaw, saying he has only won with the players left after Jim Harbaugh’s administration. Shaw set that argument on fire, winning 12 of the last 13 games and five games against ranked opponents. RB Christian McCaffrey should contend for the Heisman Trophy once again. Stanford isn’t going anywhere.
Washington: With the amount of talent on the roster, the Huskies could be a sneaky contender. The defense proved to be one of the best in the division in 2015 under coach Chris Peterson, and it should only get better. Whether Washington contends will rest solely on the shoulders of QB Jake Browning.
Clemson: The Tigers are highly-regarded heading into next season. Head coach Dabo Swinney has been one of the best young coaches in the nation and brings back a roster filled with talent. QB Deshaun Watson put together a masterful season in 2015, posting 5,209 total yards and 47 total touchdowns. If the defense can find additional pieces to replace what it lost to the NFL, the Tigers could be back in the title chase.
Florida State: How good has Florida State been the last few seasons? Every single starter on the Seminoles’ 2013 national championship squad found their way onto an NFL roster this offseason. With a few more players gone to the league, all eyes shift to elite RB Dalvin Cook. As a sophomore, Cook ran for 1,691 yards.