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Monday, 28 August 2017 14:10

SEC No.1 conference in preseason ranking

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With the 2017 college football season opening this past weekend, and a full slate of games scheduled for the Labor Day weekend, the usual debate over which conference is the best in the nation is again heating up. Gwinnett Sports Report can be added to the list of those with a ranking of the football conferences with the release of the GSR 2017 Preseason Top 5 Conferences.

The rankings are based on a variety of things, including the number of nationally ranked teams in the conference, the non-conference winning percentage of the league, and bowl appearances.

2017 CFA Top 5 Conferences

No. 5 - Big 12 Conference

Top Teams: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas 

Players to watch:

The Big 12 has a two-time Heisman finalist in senior quarterback Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), and a legitimate contender in QB Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State). James Washington (WR/Oklahoma State) is one of the biggest deep threats in the country. Texas QB Shane Buechele and linebacker Malik Jefferson should lead an improved Longhorn team.

 Depth:

As many as nine teams will be contending for bowl berths this season. Oklahoma, OSU, and Texas are locks while KSU, West Virginia and Texas Christian should see post season play. Iowa State, Kansas and Texas Tech will need some good bounces, but will be in the mix.

While Oklahoma and OSU will contend for the four-team playoff, the Big-12 doesn’t have a guaranteed national championship challenger, and that hurt the league when compared to other top conferences.

No. 4 - Pac-12 Conference

Top Teams: University of Southern California, Washington, Stanford, Washington State, Oregon

Players to watch:

USC QB Sam Darnold will be in the Heisman talk. Washington QB Jake Browning is coming off a season that saw him throw for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns with only nine interceptions. The Huskies also have a top tailback in Myles Gaskin (1,373 rushing yards and 10 TDs). Oregon TB Royce Freeman will be a big part of improving on the Ducks 4-8 mark of last season. Washington State QB Luke Falk will rack up big passing stats.

Depth:

Both USC and Washington will compete for the playoff, and it helps that they do not play each other this year, but the Trojans and the Huskies look like the only legit national title contenders from the Pac-12.

Look for Stanford, Washington State and Oregon to have winning seasons while Arizona, Arizona State and California will need some breaks to finish in the top half of the league.

No. 3 - Atlantic Coast Conference

Top Teams: Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech

Players to watch:

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson (QB) will lead the Louisville offensive attack while FSU is counting on sophomore QB Deondre Francois to improve on an outstanding freshman year that saw Francois throw for 3,350 yards on the way to a nearly 3-to-1 TD to INT ratio (20 TDs/7 INTs). Defending champion Clemson has one of the top defenses in the nation, led by Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence on the line. Another standout on the defensive side of the ball can be found at FSU where safety Derwin James, who missed most of last season due to a knee injury, will anchor the Seminole secondary.

Depth:

The ACC has had teams take the field in each of the three playoffs, with Clemson playing in the championship game in 2015 and 2016, defeating Alabama in one of the best games in title game history in January. While Clemson and FSU look to be the top of the league, Louisville, Miami and Virginia Tech are sure to receive bowl invitations.

While Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech will be in the bowl mix, North Carolina and North Carolina State are likely to finish in the bottom half of the conference just ahead of Virginia and Duke.

No. 2 - Big Ten Conference

Top Teams: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan

Players to watch:

OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett is one of the top dual-threat QBs in the country, and the Buckeyes have a pair of defensive lineman that spend much of their time in the opponent’s backfield in Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis. Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley, arguable the best back in the nation, looks ready to improve on the nearly 1,500 rushing yards, 18 TD season he posted last year. Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson are a solid 1-2 punch for the Northwestern offensive attack.       

Depth:

While the top tier of the conference (OSU, PSU, Wisconsin) can play with the best any other conference can field, what makes the league better than those ranked behind them is the number of teams that make up the second tier. Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota and Maryland are all good beats to finish their 2017 season in a bowl game.

Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers and Illinois are the third-tier teams, but look for the Spartans to make the biggest move toward the middle of the pack.

No. 1 – Southeastern Conference

Top Teams: Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, LSU

Players to watch:

Alabama sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts is one of the most exciting players in college, has experience far beyond his years and will be working with one of the more electrifying receivers in the college game in Calvin Ridley. Georgia has a pair of senior running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel that have differing styles, but both rack up rushing yards. UGA quarterback Jacob Eason is sure to improve on his freshman campaign. Jarrett Stidham, a Baylor transfer, will have the opportunity to put up some impressive passing numbers in the Auburn offense. Derrius Guice will again lead the LSU rushing attack after totaling 1,387 yards and scoring 15 TDs last season. The Tigers defense is sure to keep QBs on the move with one of the top pass rushers in defensive end Arden Key.  

Depth:

Alabama is again the class of the league (possibly the nation) and are joined by Georgia, Auburn, Florida and LSU in the top-tier of the SEC. The second-tier, which is deeper than any other conference, consists of teams that are so close in talent that any of them could find themselves in the top tier of the league with some breaks. Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M all have the ability make bowl trips.

The teams least likely to get bowl invites are Missouri and Vanderbilt, making them the third-tier teams.

If the SEC has another postseason like last season (6-7 in bowl games counting the national title game), the final conference rankings for 2017 will see a shakeup.

 

 

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