Preseason College Football Rankings 2016: Predictions for Initial AP NCAA Top 25

The 2016 college football season will begin Friday with a matchup between the California Golden Bears and Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, but the Associated Press will get a jump on things with the release of its preseason Top 25 on Sunday. 

The Amway Coaches Poll was released earlier in August with last year’s two title game teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers, in the top two spots.

The Oklahoma Sooners, Florida State Seminoles and Ohio State Buckeyes rounded out the Top Five. 

There has traditionally been a lot of crossover between the two polls. Both had the same teams in the preseason Top 10 last year, though the order was slightly different, so don’t expect to see any wild variations from the AP this year.

Before the full Top 25 is released, here are our predictions for what the AP’s list will look like:

                        

Overrated Top 10 Team: LSU Tigers

It’s easy to get swept up in the fancy lights LSU brings to the table, none brighter than running back Leonard Fournette.

The SEC quarterback situation heading into 2016 looks mediocre, at best, with LSU in the middle of that dilemma. The Tigers have been searching for an answer at the position since Zach Mettenberger left three years ago.

Brandon Harris is the incumbent starter heading after a pedestrian 2015. He completed just 53.8 percent of his attempts with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. 

Harris is not lacking the confidence to play quarterback at LSU, as he told Andrew Lopez of the Times-Picayune in June:

When you’ve had a year under your belt, you can watch film and you obviously know the offense well and understand things you need to do as a starting quarterback and what the expectations are. My expectations for myself are probably higher than anybody in this room. Anytime I touch the field, I expect to be the best. I think that I am the best.

It’s great to have self-confidence, but being able to execute in games is a different story. 

Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Staples summed up why the Tigers are going to be overrated heading into the season:

LSU is stacked at a lot of positions, but the Tigers probably have a larger gap between ceiling and floor than any team in the country. Basically, will the quarterback play be better? LSU players seem confident Brandon Harris has evolved as a passer and as an on-field decision maker. If they’re right, this team can win the national title. If the coaches still feel like Leonard Fournette has to carry the offense even against the best opponents on the schedule, this year could look an awful lot like last year.

Fournette is a rising tide that can lift the LSU ship high, but his brilliance last year wasn’t enough to help the Tigers avoid a three-game losing streak in November.

Being able to run the ball and play stout defense will get a team far, but there are always one or two games in which the quarterback has to step up. Harris will be under the microscope in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this year.

He wasn’t able to answer the call in 2015, which will put pressure on him to succeed this season. 

               

Sleeper Team: Iowa Hawkeyes

Even my prediction for Iowa isn’t overly optimistic, but this is a team that deserves more national credit than it has received in the last year.

After years of underachieving, Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz was finally able to put all the pieces together during a 12-0 start.

A tough 16-13 loss against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game ruined the Hawkeyes’ hopes of competing for the national title. Stanford blitzed them 45-16 in the Rose Bowl, giving all of the naysayers the ammunition they needed to bash the team for a perceived lack of competition during the season. 

Yet this is a veteran-laden team heading into 2016. The Hawkeyes are returning 13 starters, including eight on a defense that finished 20th in the nation in points allowed per game last season. 

Cameron DaSilva of Fox Sports highlighted Iowa’s returning stars at key positions on both sides of the ball:

The Hawkeyes burst onto the scene last season in the Big Ten despite being tabbed as an overrated squad. C.J. Beathard is one of the best signal callers in the conference and has a stellar defense to limit opponents when the offense doesn’t put up big numbers. Desmond King is a future first-round pick at cornerback and is a top cover guy in all of college football.

If C.J. Beathard were LSU’s quarterback, the Tigers would be sitting pretty in the SEC, because he doesn’t make mistakes. He’s not going to carry a team on his back, but if you give him a good defense and a strong running game, his ability to make plays downfield would open up dramatically. 

The strength of Iowa’s team is its defense. Desmond King was a breakout star last year, winning the Jim Thorpe Award as a consensus All-American. 

Iowa’s schedule also sets up nicely for an 8-0 start, with games against Northwestern on Oct. 1 and Minnesota on Oct. 8 being the biggest tests. November will be the key, with games on the road against Penn State and at home against Michigan likely to determine whether another appearance in the Big Ten title game is in the cards.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com


Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News

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