1. Clemson (15-0, won National title)
QB Trevor Lawrence is back – for two more years! So is his #1 WR, Justyn Ross, the 6-foot-4 star who dominated Notre Dame (6-148-2) and Alabama (6-153-1). And so is 1,500-yard rusher Travis Etienne (22 TDs). Not to scare anyone, but receivers Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers are back, too. The defense will lose five of its front seven, but there are 5-star recruits waiting in the wings.
2. Alabama (14-1, lost National title)
Like Clemson, many of their stars are back, from QB Tua Tagovailoa to RB Najee Harris to WRs Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Devonta Smith. And like Clemson, they’ll lose at least five players from the front seven. Star safety Deionte Thompson is a 1st round pick.
3. Georgia (11-3)
Star QB Jake Fromm is back, and so is leading rusher D’Andre Swift. The defense should return eight starters. This is a Bulldogs team that outplayed Alabama for much of the SEC title game and gets its two most difficult regular season games – Notre Dame and Texas A&M – at home.
4. Texas (10-4)
The Longhorns beat the Sooners in the regular season, and lost a close game to them in the Big 12 title game. Well, Texas returns its QB (Sam Ehlinger) and he’s also getting back WR Collin Johnson. The defense will lose at least eight seniors,
5. Oklahoma (12-2)
Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray is set to end his college football career, but that won’t be a death knell for the Sooners. Austin Kendall is likely to replace him and all he’s yet another excellent quarterback prospect for head coach Lincoln Riley to mold.
The Sooners have won four straight Big 12 titles and should get a solid challenge from Texas again in 2018. The key to success for Oklahoma will be improving the nation’s 114th-ranked defense. To that end, Riley went out and hired defensive coordinator Alex Grinch from Ohio State.
If Grinch can shore up some of Oklahoma’s holes on defense, the Sooners will again be a national contender.