On this week’s episode of Tar Takes, Ryan Lipton and David Matlock analyze UNC’s two wins over Iona and Washington and look forward to their matchup against the Auburn Tigers on Friday. They also look at Duke’s one-point victory over UCF and discuss the recent news involving Lonzo Ball severing ties with Big Baller Brand.
UNC struggles for a period against No. 16 Iona, beats No. 9 Washington easily. What are your thoughts on the Tar Heels after the first two games?
UNC v. Auburn: What are the keys to victory against Auburn?
Would we rather play Houston or Kentucky in the Elite 8 assuming UNC beats Auburn?
Duke v. UCF comes down to one point. Does the one-point win show a weakness in Duke or is it a catapult for Duke to make a run going forward?
Lonzo Ball breaks away from BBB brand after company founder in trouble for fraud
The 2017 season of college football is already promising to be a good one. With several teams poised to contend for the title and last year’s championship winner Clemson not yet in a position to defend its title, the top 25 looks like it could change at any moment.
With all this in mind, here is the JR Report’s way-too-early college football top 25.
1. Ohio State
Picking Ohio State over Alabama is a bold move, considering the Buckeyes’ last game where they lost 31-0 against Clemson.
With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and both returners and new starters to bolster the offense, OSU is looking better than it has looked in a long time.
The Buckeyes also return seven of their defensive starters, who looked great in spring games. Ohio State has a chance to keep Alabama from winning a title, but will the Buckeyes be the ones to win it?
Even after losing several of their key starters, the Crimson Tide look great. Jalen Hurts looked amazing in the spring games, and so did his potential backup Tua Tagovailoa.
It’s an almost sure thing that the Tide are No.1 in the AP Poll, but it won’t last if they can’t hold up in the season opener against FSU. Their offense needs significant improvement with a better receiving corps and a more consistent pass attack.
Jalen Hurts is more than up to the task, but Ohio State will likely overtake the Tide in the polls.
3. Florida State
The Seminoles are looking great for the preseason. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’re ranked worse, but No. 3 is a good place for them. They will have a lot to prove in their first game against a first or second-ranked Alabama, but they’re ready for a dog fight.
Five-star running back recruit Cam Akers is prepared to take up the job that Dalvin Cook left for him, and safety Derwin James is finally healthy enough to tear up the field.
Quarterback Deondre Francois seems to have improved on the field, and as he gets more and more comfortable in his role, opposing teams have more to worry about.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Trojans live up to all the off-season hype. True, Sam Darnold is a Heisman-caliber quarterback and it’s unlikely that he’ll have a bad season, but the strength of schedule is a recurring question for USC.
USC played the spring game with plenty of injuries, so we didn’t get a good picture of how the offense is shaping up for 2017. The Trojans are a favorite for the college football playoff, but it remains to be seen where they can ascend to despite their poor schedule.
If the Trojans can get over all the injuries and come into the season at 100 percent, No. 4 is the perfect ranking for them.
5. Penn State
There’s no doubt that Penn State and its fans are still unhappy about being edged out of the playoff despite winning the Big Ten title.
With the trio of quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and redshirt sophomore receiver Juwan Johnson, the Nittany Lions will once again be a contender for the Big Ten championship.
The Nittany Lions have a lot to prove if they want to show that they deserve a place in the college football playoff, but this year’s team makes it look possible.
Although the Tigers lost star quarterback Deshaun Watson, they have some good players fighting for the position. In addition, the Clemson defense is one of the best defenses in the team’s history and will contend with Alabama for the best defense in the nation.
Clemson’s early schedule will be the perfect testing ground for the young team with games at Auburn and Louisville—there, we will see if the Tigers’ offense is reloaded enough to be a serious threat to FSU in the ACC.
Washington had a couple hiccups in the offseason like quarterback Jake Browning’s shoulder surgery and losing wide receiver John Ross to the NFL, but they are back and ready to compete.
Although the Huskies face tough opponents like Colorado, Stanford, and Washington State, they won’t face serious challenges beyond these teams until they play in the Pac-12 title game. Until then, they’ll stay on top of their side of the Pac-12 and likely in the top 10 nationally.
8. Oklahoma State
The offseason was the perfect storm for Cowboys fans: their biggest rival Oklahoma lost both legendary coach Bob Stoops and outstanding running back Joe Mixon.
In addition, quarterback Mason Rudolph and his receiving corps are one of the best offenses in the nation. With returning receiver James Washington and LSU transfer wide receiver Tyron Johnson, the Cowboys are prepared to take on the Sooners’ offense better than they have in a good number of years.
If the Cowboys can bolster their mediocre defense and stay dominant offensively, this could be the year that they beat Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown.
Despite Oklahoma’s recent misfortune, they’re still Oklahoma. Legendary coach Bob Stoops announced his surprise retirement last week, and many are wondering what this means for the Sooners.
Although star quarterback Baker Mayfield returns with his entire offensive line, the Sooners lost a lot of other offensive depth, such as wide receiver Dede Westbrook, running back Joe Mixon, and running back Samaje Perine.
The offense should still be explosive headed by Mayfield and Oklahoma will still have a good chance of winning the Big 12—now, they just have to try a little harder.
Auburn fans are excited this season, and rightly so—some are saying this is the Auburn team that can beat Bama for the first time since 2013.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been performing well in practice and in the spring game. With running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson behind him, the Tigers offense is ready to go.
With a stellar recruiting class and a reloaded defense, the Tigers will be a big contender in the top 10, even if they lose the Iron Bowl.
With the arrival of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Tigers fans are cautiously optimistic about the 2017 season. A lot of this optimism stems from hopes about running back Derrius Guice. Guice is set up to be one of the best running backs in the nation next year.
The Tigers don’t have a running problem, and they definitely won’t have a defense problem after completely turning around the defense under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
The main problem for LSU going into next season is quarterback Danny Etling. If he can show improvement next season, the Tigers will be another thorn in Alabama’s side in the SEC.
Jim Harbaugh’s team will likely be good once again, but the important question is whether they have the talent to be a top-10 team. With the way things are looking now, the answer is not quite.
Michigan lost 18 starters, but Harbaugh excels in turning a team of rookies into a high-caliber team. The Wolverines boast one of the top recruiting classes in the nation which has convinced many that while Michigan will be a different team next year, they will still be great as long as Harbaugh is in charge.
Wisconsin is a solid pick to play well every year. The Badgers, under new defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, look to dominate the Big Ten West via defense.
The Badgers also have the duo of solid quarterback Alex Hornibrook and wide receiver Jazz Peavy, so there is still the potential to make a major impact offensively.
Wisconsin won’t have a particularly difficult schedule, either. They only face Michigan as far as powerful Big Ten teams go, which should go as a big advantage for them staying on top of their division and staying ranked all season.
The well-known running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return for the Bulldogs along with the passing attack from sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason.
The Dawgs’ defense is also nothing to joke around about. With 10 returning starters, the Georgia defense will be one of the best in the league. Along with Auburn and LSU, the Bulldogs are among the SEC teams with the capability of finally beating Alabama.
The only thing different between this year’s Miami team and last year’s will be the quarterback. With Brad Kaaya’s departure, the Canes are choosing between three potential replacements.
The Hurricanes have an impressive receiving and running game, as well as a stellar defense. If the quarterback choice meshes well with the rest of the offense, Miami will clinch the ACC Coastal division.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson returns to Louisville this season, and every season that he’s on the team is a season where the Cardinals will be good.
The biggest concern for the Cardinals is protecting Jackson. If they can improve their offensive line, Jackson won’t need to be worried about being sacked 46 times again this season.
Louisville may have a similarly disappointing season to last year’s 9-4 finish, but they will certainly start off strong.
With quarterback Keller Chryst injured and hoping to return before next season, the Cardinal have put some confidence in backup quarterback Ryan Burns. The Cardinal will have an uphill battle to remain relevant in 2017 with an early game against USC.
Stanford isn’t worried about things on the other side of the ball, and will tout one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.
USF is the AAC team receiving the most hype coming into the 2017 season led by dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and star quarterback Quinton Flowers.
Charlie Strong has made great strides as the incoming coach for the Bulls making the offense is stronger than it has ever been. More importantly, the defense is also looking strong.
With the way things are going and the rise of the AAC, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USF as a top-10 team by the end of the season.
19. West Virginia
Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier already seems to be finding more success at West Virginia than he ever did for the Gators. He performed well during spring games and the hype is building in Morgantown.
Grier will benefit from a solid running back and wide receiver corps, so the offense isn’t the main worry for the Mountaineers.
The main concern is the defense, and if WVU can find its defensive stride they will be a contender for the Big 12 championship.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks has made some waves in Gainesville after he won the quarterback battle.
The Gators hope to clinch the SEC East, but they will face stiff competition from Georgia and a surprisingly strong Tennessee team.
21. Kansas State
The Wildcats are shaping up well, and all three avenues of offensive playmaking are wide open. Dual-threat Jesse Ertz should be cleared after his shoulder surgery, and he’s got a deep corps of receivers and running back Alex Barnes as options.
Kansas State also returns a significant amount of defenders, and they will prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. They’re an outlier like West Virginia and TCU, but they have upset potential for opponents such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
2016 was a year of disappointment for the Ducks after they dipped below five wins for the first time since 1991 and had their first losing season since 2004. It was a wakeup call for Oregon, and with incoming coach Willie Taggart the Ducks are looking to climb their way back to the top again.
Oregon is an iffy choice for the top 25 at this point, but they have the tools they need to stage a comeback in 2017. With a surprisingly strong recruiting class, the Ducks will rack up at least seven wins and will remain hovering around the rankings all season.
23. Washington State
The Cougars look great coming into the 2017 season headed by quarterback Luke Falk. Falk has a great spread of receivers to pass to, as well as a strong running corps.
Washington State should field a good defensive line as well, and the Cougars are set up to be good competition for their in-state rivals, Washington.
Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady shined during the spring game, and Tennessee is looking good on both sides of the ball for 2017.
Tennessee faces stiff competition in the SEC East against Georgia and Florida. They have upset potential, however, and will be looking to try for the SEC East crown.
After a disappointing decline for the Longhorns’ football program, head coach Tom Herman is looking to turn it around with a complete program overhaul. Herman’s recruiting and redesigning has brought new life to Austin.
The Longhorns are looking to retake their place as one of the strongest college football programs, and although a change like that doesn’t happen overnight, they will be contenders to edge into the top 25 next season.
“26”. TCU, Virginia Tech, Boise State
These three teams are right on the edge of the top 25, and could very well see their names on the list when the first polls are published.
The Gators showed promise during last year’s season, finishing 9-4. The offense remains strong with a slew of returners, and a new quarterback ready to take the reins, Felipe Franks. He threw for 2,766 yards and 35 touchdowns in his senior year of high school and is rated No. 5 at his position. Franks should do well with a strong receiving and running corps.
The Volunteers come into this season after losing two key defensive players, DE Derek Barnett and CB Cameron Sutton. They also lose QB Joshua Dobbs, although they have two promising quarterbacks vying for the spot.
Four-star recruit Jarrett Guarantano will battle Quinten Dormady, a junior backup who has completed 24 of his 39 total passes. The Vols add five-star OT Trey Smith, as well as four-star RB Ty Chandler to bolster the offense.
4. South Carolina
USC returns 16 starters, including sophomore QB Jake Bentley, who impressed Gamecocks fans last season with 1,420 yards and a 65.8% completion rate.
South Carolina is picking up plenty of talent on both sides of the football, but the most important aspect of their recruiting is the offensive line.
The Gamecocks gave up 41 sacks last year, but they performed much better than in 2015, where their record was 3-9.
Muschamp was able to turn around the program to a bowl run in one year, so we’ll see how much he can turn them around after two seasons.
The most important thing for the Wildcats this season is improving their defense. They only racked up 21 sacks last season, and allowed 228.2 rushing yards a game.
However, Kentucky’s offense should be impressive, as they return both QB Stephen Johnson and RB Benny Snell, who ran for 1,091 yards last season.
The SEC is such a tough conference to compete in, and the Wildcats will struggle to hold their own against much better opponents.
The Commodores aren’t looking bad for the 2017 season. Despite losing linebacker Zach Cunningham to the NFL, Vandy returns RB Ralph Webb, who rushed for 1,283 yards last season, as well as most of the offense. If QB Kyle Shurmur performs with his considerable offensive depth, the Commodores will make it to a bowl game again.
Mizzouri isn’t looking great for the 2017 season. After a 4-8 2016 season, they lost almost all of its defensive starters, only returning three players, and this after last season when they gave up 31.5 points per game.
The offense returns 10 players headed by QB Drew Lock, who had 3,339 passing yards with 23 touchdowns last season.
This is a hard game to predict. Both teams are very strong programs with impact players and have been battle tested throughout the year.
Strengths for Auburn
The Tigers have a super strong defense, and have only allowed 30 points once this season (vs. Alabama). They have good pass rushers that could make it very difficult for Baker Mayfield.
Sean White’s offense is just as strong…when he’s healthy (see: weaknesses). If White’s shoulder is good to go, the Tigers will present a very impressive pass attack. He completes 65.2 percent of his passes and should be a thorn in the Sooners’ side if he is healthy and ready to go.
RB Kamryn Pettway is also healthy now, and he should prove to be a strong force for Auburn. He has had 1,123 yards in only 9 games this season.
Weaknesses for Auburn
If Sean White isn’t as healthy as he seems, or he hasn’t found his stride by halftime, the Tigers will have a really hard time moving the ball down the field.
Auburn took big losses from Georgia and Texas A&M which were pretty embarrassing and worrisome. Their only win since November 5 was against Alabama A&M, and they just lost to their rival Alabama. They’ll be looking to redeem themselves, but is it enough?
Strengths for Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield is an amazing QB. He has 3,669 yards this season, and so far has thrown 38 touchdowns. If he is able to heat up early, it’ll be a short day for the Tigers.
Oklahoma has two great running backs (again, see the weaknesses section) who will hopefully turn out to play well. Samaje Perine is a great back with a lot of talent (974 yards on 179 attempts and 11 touchdowns). This is decidedly less than his last two seasons, but everyone knows he is still extremely talented.
Joe Mixon is also an amazing back who can be used as a threat in the running game and the passing game with 1,183 rushing yards and 449 receiving yards this season.
Weaknesses for Oklahoma
There’s only one problem with Mixon: he reportedly physically assaulted a woman in 2014. The video was released, and the controversy is heating up again. He has been cleared to play, but I’m wondering if his head will be able to put the distractions to the side and focus on winning the game for the Sooners.
The Sooners have a hard time defending the run, and this should prove to be a problem with Pettway healthy.
I could easily see this game going either way. However, I will have to go with the Sooners. Their diverse offense, with a great quarterback and two great running backs, will prove difficult to contain.
Chaos factor (i.e., they muddle up the process of choosing playoff contenders completely)? Check.
Everything seems to point to the Buckeyes. Regardless, something deep down tells me that Michigan is going to win and cement themselves for the playoffs. Don’t ask me why. The game will be decided by less than five points and in the last five minutes, but I think it’ll be decided in favor of Michigan. I think Ohio State will have the first half advantage—and for a home game, this is huge—but desperation and a strong and balanced team will give Michigan the comeback power it needs to take the game.
#1 Alabama vs #15 Auburn — Winner: Alabama
Every year I want to choose Auburn to win this one. Alabama is hungry for its postseason, and they want to be on top when they inevitably enter the playoffs at the end of the year. Saban is 6-3 in the Iron Bowl, and the Crimson Tide enjoys their time at the top too much to lose to their bitter rival. Their defenses are pretty even, but I think Bama has the competitive edge when it comes to offense, and ultimately they’ll win a bitterly close matchup.
#10 Colorado vs #12 Utah — Winner: Colorado
Utah will be unable to stop the Buffaloes’ crazy win streak, especially after being humbled by a 3-7 Oregon team last week. Liufau is going to have a miraculous showing, and with no home field advantage for either team, even Utah’s strong special teams via Andy Phillips won’t be able to snag the win.
#6 Washington vs #22 Washington State — Winner: Washington State
This is my huge upset of the week, and I think I’ll be spot on about it. Washington showed its weakness when it lost to USC, and I think it’ll be caught off guard by Falk and his receivers. Falk will throw for well over 300 yards, and while it’ll of course be a close game, WSU will come out on top and Washington will lose its hopes of going to the playoffs.
#17 Florida State vs #23 Florida — Winner: FSU
This is gonna be a super close game. Last year, even Seminoles fans were disappointed at how badly the Seminoles beat UF, and now the Gators will be back with a vengeance. Despite that, the over 80,000 capacity venue at Doak Campbell in Tallahassee will be enough to rattle the Gators, and they won’t be able to slow down Dalvin Cook nearly enough.
#8 Penn State vs Michigan State — Winner: Penn State
Looking at records this seems like a no-brainer, but all I’m saying is that Michigan State and Dantonio are gonna keep this closer than anyone expects.
#16 LSU vs #25 Texas A&M — Winner: LSU
The Aggies will be too overconfident with their home field advantage, and LSU will show them why that’s a mistake. It won’t be close, but I can predict a high scoring game from both teams. LSU will get a strong showing from both Guice and Elting, and Knight just won’t be able to cut it for TAMU.