The 2015 college football season hasn’t been over for a full day, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to next season.
Alabama may have finished the season on top, but will it be the top-ranked team heading into another title defense? According to some way-too-early top-25 polls, the defending champions won’t be the top team heading into the 2016 campaign.
The Crimson Tide will likely have to reload on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Jake Coker and maybe running back Derrick Henry. Alabama will also lose defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who took the head coaching job at Georgia.
Of course, Alabama wasn’t the only SEC team mentioned in the way-too-early rankings. Each of the rankings we polled listed at least five SEC teams in its top 25, with a couple of lists featuring six. ESPN expert Kirk Herbstreit also gave the SEC a ton of respect with three teams represented in his way-too-early top five.
My EARLY EARLY EARLY top 5 for '16. 1..Clemson 2..Bama 3..LSU 4..Stanford 5..Ole Miss https://t.co/kv7Gx7iFKw
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) January 12, 2016
Despite almost firing coach Les Miles, LSU could be in store for a special 2016 season. The Tigers could have as many as 18 returning starters on both sides of the ball, plus star tailback Leonard Fournette.
A potential sleeper in the SEC could be Tennessee. The Volunteers are loaded with talent, but struggled to close out games this season. Coach Butch Jones could have 17 starters back next season, including quarterback Josh Dobbs.
Ole Miss will lose three of its best players from this season in Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil and Robert Nkemdiche, but the Rebels will have quarterback Chad Kelly back and a strong recruiting class coming in. Coach Hugh Freeze will be tasked with reloading a program that has beaten Alabama and gotten to a New Year’s Six bowl in consecutive seasons.
Georgia was ranked in four of the five lists. The Bulldogs will have a new coach, but they have some questions offensively. Nick Chubb will return from a major injury and the quarterback situation will need to be resolved in spring ball.
Florida and Arkansas also were named in a couple of lists. The Gators will need to solve their quarterback quandary after Will Grier transferred. The Razorbacks will have to replace offensive stars Brandon Allen and Alex Collins.
Here’s a full roundup of the five rankings with all of the SEC teams and their rankings included:
- ESPN.com (Mark Schlabach): Alabama (2), LSU (7), Tennessee (11), Ole Miss (13), Georgia (23)
- Fox Sports (Stewart Mandel): Alabama (3), LSU (5), Ole Miss (8), Tennessee (11), Georgia (19)
- USA Today (Paul Myerberg): Alabama (2), LSU (10), Tennessee (12), Florida (16), Ole Miss (22)
- CBS Sports (Dennis Dodd): Alabama (2), LSU (4), Tennessee (11), Ole Miss (17), Arkansas (19), Georgia (22)
- Athlon (Steven Lassan): Alabama (1), Tennessee (8), LSU (9), Ole Miss (13), Georgia (20), Florida (25)