Coach: Dabo Swinney, 9th year (75-27)
Last year: 14-1, 8-0 ACC, def. Oklahoma, 37-17, Orange Bowl semifinal (SF), lost to Alabama, 45-40, CFP championship
Outlook: QB Deshaun Watson leads best offense in country with RB Wayne Gallman (1,527 yards, 13 TDs), WRs Artavis Scott (93 catches, 901 yards, 6 TDs) and Hunter Renfrow, TE Jordan Leggett (40, 525, 8 TDs) plus return of injured Mike Williams (57, 1,030 in 2014). Fairly soft schedule has bye before Oct. 29 at Florida State.
Coach: Nick Saban, 10th year (105-18)
Last year: 14-1, 7-1 SEC, def. Michigan State, 38-0, Cotton Bowl SF, def. Clemson, 45-40, CFP championship
Outlook: Junior QB Cooper Bateman is projected starter, but true freshman Jalen Hurts and redshirt frosh Blake Barnett are in the picture. Soph RBs Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris replace Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt inherits most talented defense in country.
Coach: Jim Harbaugh, 2nd year (10-3)
Last year: 10-3, 6-2 Big Ten, def. Florida, 41-7, Citrus Bowl
Outlook: Houston transfer John O’Korn has experience edge in QB battle with Wilton Speight. Veteran WRs Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh and All-America TE candidate Jake Butt return. Soph LB Jabrill Peppers leads defense that allowed 16.4 ppg last season. Snag is road games at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State.
Coach: Gary Patterson, 16th year (143-47)
Last year: 11-2, 7-2 Big 12, def. Oregon, 47-41, 3 OT, Alamo Bowl.
Outlook: Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill takes over at QB and junior RB Kyle Hicks steps up, but offense is loaded with seven of top nine receivers returning, including KaVontae Turpin (45 for 649, 8TDs). Defense has eight returning starters led by DE Josh Carraway (9 sacks) and LB Travin Howard. Frogs get OU at home.
5. FLORIDA STATE
Coach: Jimbo Fisher, 7th year (68-14)
Last year: 10-3, 6-2 ACC, lost to Houston, 38-24, Peach Bowl
Outlook: Redshirt freshman QB Deondre Francois can rely on offense with 10 returning starters, including RB Dalvin Cook (1,691 yards, 19 TDs), who is a Heisman candidate. Defense features DE DeMarcus Walker (10.5 sacks) and SS Derwin James (91 tackles, 4.5 sacks). ’Noles get bye before Clemson at home.
6. OHIO STATE
Coach: Urban Meyer, 5th year (50-4)
Last year: 12-1, 7-1 Big Ten, def. Notre Dame, 44-28, Fiesta Bowl
Outlook: Buckeyes are 31-1 in conference under Meyer, but Michigan State loss knocked them out of CFP last year. Only 3 starters return on offense and defense, but QB J.T. Barrett gets full control after alternating last year. Schedule includes road games at OU, Wisconsin, Penn State and MSU, but Michigan is a home game.
Coach: Chris Peterson, 3rd year, 15-12
Last year: 7-6, 4-5 Pac-12, def. Southern Miss, 44-31, Heart of Dallas Bowl
Outlook: Huskies have 15 returning starters and are a hot preseason pick to make leap forward under Peterson, who was 107-24 at Boise State and can build a program. RB Myles Gaskin (1,302 yards, 14 TDs) and QB Jake Browning (2,955 yards, 16 TDs, 10 INT) lead potent offense, and defense is best in Pac-12.
Coach: Bob Stoops, 18th year (179-46)
Last year: 11-2, 8-1 Big 12, lost to Clemson, 37-17, Orange Bowl SF
Outlook: QB Baker Mayfield (3,700 yards, 36 TDs, 7 INT) leads dynamic offense that averaged 43.5 points and returns top RB Samaje Perine (1,349 yards, 16 TDs). DE Charles Walker (6 sacks), LB Jordan Evans, CB Jordan Thomas (5 interceptions) lead top Big 12 defense. Tough nonconference games at Houston and vs. Ohio State.
Coach: Les Miles, 12th year (112-32)
Last year: 9-3, 5-3 SEC, def. Texas Tech, 56-27 in Texas Bowl
Outlook: Preseason ankle injury to Heisman candidate RB Leonard Fournette (1,953 yards, 22 TDs) scared fans, but he’ll be ready for opener vs. Wisconsin at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. Tigers return 17 starters, including nine on defense under new coordinator Dave Aranda from Wisconsin. Bye precedes Alabama home game.
Coach: David Shaw, 6th year (54-14)
Last year: 12-2, 8-1 Pac-12, def. Iowa, 45-16, Rose Bowl
Outlook: Shaw breaking in soph QB Keller Chryst, whose main job is to get the ball to Heisman runner-up RB Christian McCaffrey, who set all-time NCAA all-purpose yards records last year with 3,864 (2,019 rushing, 645 receiving, 1,200 return). Cardinal faces tough road games at UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame and Oregon.
Coach: Tom Herman, 2nd year (13-1)
Last year: 13-1, 7-1 AAC, def. Florida State, 38-24, Peach Bowl
Outlook: Cougars averaged 40.4 points behind QB Greg Ward (1,108, 21 TDs rushing; 2,828, 17 TDs passing), could upset Oklahoma in opener, might jump to Big 12 soon.
12. NOTRE DAME
Coach: Brian Kelly, 7th year (55-23)
Last year: 10-3, Independent, lost to Ohio State, 44-28, Fiesta Bowl
Outlook: Kelly will use both QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire in opener at Texas. Irish get Michigan State, Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech at home.
Coach: Kirk Ferentz, 18th year (127-87)
Last year: 12-2, 8-0 Big Ten, lost to Stanford, 45-16, Rose Bowl
Outlook: QB C.J. Beathard led 12-0 run last season before ending with two postseason losses. Hawkeyes get Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska at home.
Coach: Bobby Petrino, 7th year (58-18)
Last year: 8-5, 5-3 AAC, def. Texas A&M, 27-21, Music City Bowl
Outlook: QB Lamar Jackson (960 rushing, 11 TDs; 1,840 passing, 12 TDs) leads offense returning 9 starters. LB Devonte Fields (10.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss) heads vet defense.
Coach: Butch Jones, 4th year (21-17)
Last year: 9-4, 5-3 SEC, def. Northwestern, 45-6, Outback Bowl
Outlook: QB Joshua Dobbs (2,962 yards. total offense, 26 TDs), RB Jalen Hurd (1,288 yards, 12 TDs) lead offense. Tough October at Georgia, at Texas A&M, vs. Alabama.
16. BOISE STATE
Coach: Bryan Harsin, 3rd year (21-6)
Last year: 9-4, 5-3 MW, def. Northern Illinois, 55-7, Poinsettia Bowl
Outlook: Broncos averaged 39.1 points with QB Brett Rypien (3,353 yards, 20 TDs, 8 INT), and RB Jeremy McNichols (1,337 yards, 20 TDs). Finish at Air Force is key.
17. TEXAS A&M
Coach: Kevin Sumlin, 5th year (36-16)
Last year: 8-5, 4-4 SEC, lost to Louisville 27-21, Music City Bowl
Outlook: Sumlin on hot seat after two 8-5 seasons, but Oklahoma transfers QB Trevor Knight and RB Keith Ford join WR Christian Kirk (80 catches, 1,009 yards, 7 TDs).
Coach: Mark Helfrich, 4th year (33-8)
Last year: 9-4, 7-2 Pac-12, lost to TCU, 47-41, 3 OT, Alamo Bowl
Outlook: Second straight FCS transfer QB Dakota Prukop takes charge of high-powered offense with RB Royce Freeman (1,836 yards, 17 TDs), great receivers.
Coach: Jim Grobe, 1st year (0-0)
Last year: 10-3, 6-3 Big 12, def. North Carolina, 49-38, Russell Athletic Bowl
Outlook: Art Briles was fired for lack of program control. QB Seth Russell (2,104 yards, 29 TDs), RB Shock Linwood (1,329 yards, 10 TDs) led 48.1 ppg attack.
Coach: Mark Richt, 1st year (0-0)
Last year: 8-5, 5-3 ACC, lost to Washington State, 20-14, Sun Bowl
Outlook: Richt leaves Georgia (145-51) for alma mater, has 15 returning starters, led by QB Brad Kaaya (3,238 yards, 16 TDs), RB Joseph Yearby (1,002 yards, 6 TDs).
21. MICHIGAN STATE
Coach: Mark Dantonio, 10th year (87-33)
Last year: 12-2, 7-1 Big Ten, lost to Alabama, 38-0, Cotton Bowl SF
Outlook: Limited offense led by untested senior Tyler O’Connor, but LB Riley Bullough leads strong defense. Spartans get Michigan and Ohio State at home.
Coach: Kirby Smart, 1st year (0-0)
Last year: 10-3, 5-3 SEC, def. Penn State, 24-17, Taxslayer.com Bowl
Outlook: Ex-Alabama defensive coordinator couldn’t ask for better first head-coaching job with 14 returning starters, including RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, no Bama or LSU.
23. WASHINGTON STATE
Coach: Mike Leach, 5th year (21-29)
Last year: 9-4, 6-3 Pac-12, def. Miami, 20-14, Sun Bowl
Outlook: Leach turned it around with QB Luke Falk (4,561 yards, 38 TDs, 8 INT), WR Gabe Marks (104, 1,192, 15 TDs), gets Oregon, UCLA, Washington at home.
24. OLE MISS
Coach: Hugh Freeze, 5th year (34-18)
Last year: 10-3, 6-2 SEC, def. Oklahoma State, 48-20, Sugar Bowl
Outlook: QB Chad Kelly (4,042 yards, 31 TDs, 13 INT) is SEC’s most prolific passer. Hard to repeat Bama upset. Get Tide at home 2 weeks after Florida State opener.
25. NORTH CAROLINA
Coach: Larry Fedora, 5th year (32-20)
Last year: 11-3, 8-0 ACC, lost to Baylor, 49-38, Russell Athletic Bowl
Outlook: RB Elijah Hood (1,463 yards, 17 TDs) returns with deep receiver corps, but QB Mitch Trubisky lacks experience, Heels visit Florida State and Miami.