If you didn't get the impression this past season that I absolutely LOVE college football, you will this off-season. I'll be a regular on the boards updating you with information, stats, trends, team previews, etc.
I know the season is still 6.5 months away but here are my early 5 most Improved teams in the country.
1. Texas (5-7 in 2016)-New head coach Tom Herman inherits a great situation in Austin starting with the return of 18 starters. The Longhorns really underachieved under former head coach Charlie Strong including last year when they only managed 5 wins (were favored in 8). However, Strong did a solid job of recruiting and QB Shane Buechele should be much improved in his second season as a starter. The Horns do lose 2,000-yard rusher D'Onta Foreman and have road games at USC, Baylor, TCU and West Virginia and of course, also play Top 5 Oklahoma in Dallas. Still the Horns could be favored in as many as 9 games in 2017.
2. Oregon (4-8 in 2016)-Similar to Texas and Tom Herman, new head coach Willie Taggart inherits a solid situation in Eugene. It starts with QB Justin Herbert who had a great freshman season (19-4 TD-to-INT ratio). Taggart also made a great hire in bringing in former Colorado DC Jim Leavitt to shore up what's been a very poor defense the last couple of seasons. Last year Oregon was just 2-9-1 ATS but this year the Ducks could be favored in as many as 9 games!
3. Georgia (8-5 in 2016)-The Bulldogs return 17 starters from last year's team that after a slow start did win 4 of their last 5 games. Head coach Kirby Smart has signed two great recruiting classes in a row highlighted by this year's class that ranked No. 3 in my recruiting rankings. Sophomore QB Jacob Eason should be much improved in his second season as the starter and they have a great 1-2 punch at RB in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. If the Bulldogs manage a win at Notre Dame in Week 2, they could be on their way to a double-digit win season.
4. TCU (6-7 in 2016)-The Horned Frogs were one of the biggest underachievers in CFB last year as they got a lot of love from the popular preseason magazines. Despite starting the season in the Top 15, the Horned Frogs managed just 6 wins (were favored in 9) and were just 3-10 ATS. This year according to SB Nation's Bill Connelly, they return more production (85%) than any other Power 5 team in the country! Head coach Gary Patterson made a solid hire in bringing in former Cal head coach Sonny Dykes to the staff and the Horned Frogs could be favored in as many as 9 games.
5. Notre Dame (4-8 in 2016)-A case could be made that the Irish had their most underachieving season in school history in 2016 as they entered the season ranked in the Top 10, were favored in 9 of their 12 games and somehow finished just 4-8. However, 7 of those losses came by 8 points or less. While they lose QB DeShone Kizer, Brandon Wimbush could even be more talented and they also have two first round draft talents on the OL in Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson. One thing that does concern me is a very tough schedule that includes home games vs Top 5 USC, Darkhorse National Title contender Georgia and under the radar NC State. The Irish also have road games at Top 15 Stanford, Top 20 Miami, Fl, Michigan St and North Carolina.
Honorable Mention: Syracuse (4-8 in 2016), Marshall (3-9), Florida Atlantic (3-9) and UCLA (4-8)
Brad Powers – Former lead CFB writer for Northcoast’s Power Sweep | Homepage