A game-winning touchdown with 1 second left on the clock? Scratch that…a championship-winning touchdown with 1 second left on the clock? That is exactly how Clemson won their first title since 1981. It was such a heart-stopping game, it’s impossible not to desperately look ahead to teams who might make the playoffs during the 2017-18 college football season. There is always something we don’t see coming. Although Clemson and Alabama were expected to make the playoffs, Washington was ranked 14th in the polls before the season started. Furthermore, before making the playoffs last year, Oklahoma was ranked 18th in the pre-season. There are always teams that surprise us and make these incredible runs and next year will be no different. Here are 5 candidates that should start outside the top 10 next year, which one can make a run?
Oh, but not before you see this:
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) January 10, 2017
With 9 starters expected back on defense, David Shaw might get Stanford back to playoff contention. The team will also only replace one offensive lineman. Despite injuries, Shaw was still able to get Stanford to 10 wins this past season. McCaffrey will have to be replaced, however, if the Sun Bowl is any indication, Bryce Love looks more than capable of handling the rock. If Stanford can fix their quarterback woes, the Cardinal can make a run next year with their typical tough-nose football style.
Injuries and inconsistencies plagued the Bulldogs this past season. The good news? Jacob Eason looks like he will be the real deal with some time to improve over the summer. It also helps that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel decided to come back to school for another year. The running game should be even better in Kirby Smart’s second year and that will help give time to Eason. Eason should have more chemistry and timing with his receivers next year. The defense returns two key linebackers, Carter and Bellamy, and will only lose one starter on defense. The young Bulldogs look destined to return to Atlanta for the SEC title and perhaps a playoff birth.
3. Kansas State
Kansas State was one of the younger teams this past year. Bill Snyder did it again and had a 5-0 record against Texas schools. Jesse Ertz is coming back at quarterback and so are four of his offensive lineman. The Wildcats will lose the Big-12 defensive player of the year Jordan Willis, however, they will have six other starters returning. Kansas State plays a lot of their tough games at home and will look to win the new Big 12 title game and it might be enough to get them a playoff spot.
2. Virginia Tech
One thing is clear, Justin Fuentes can coach. Fuentes brought back a swagger and energy to the Hokies that had been missing a little bit. Although their quarterback is leaving, the Hokies are excited about what they have at the position to replace him. The team is very high on freshman Josh Jackson. Jackson pushed to be the starter with his strong play during the offseason last year. Jackson will likely be throwing to Cam Phillips next year. Phillips won Belk Bowl MVP and nearly had 1,000 yards receiving this past year. He will be the go-to guy with the Hokies losing their all-time leading receiver. Most of the defense is coming back and Fuentes will look to keep the Hokies on top of the open Coastal division.
(Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
A lot of people will look at the Longhorns here and laugh, understandable. The Longhorns have not given anyone anything to brag about for a long time. There is one thing that is for sure, Charlie Strong rebuilt this roster and there is no lack of talent anymore. Tom Herman inherits a loaded roster and a pretty decent quarterback as well. Herman has proven to win faster than expected at every stop he has been. The defense returns 10 starters and the offense returns 8. People forget that the Longhorns lost running back Chris Warren to an injury early in the season. Warren may be even better than 2,000-yard rusher D’Onta Foreman. Collin Johnson is a budding star at receiver and the offensive line may finally have a lineman drafted to the NFL when their time comes. Texas is the type of name that can rise fast in playoff rankings if Tom Herman can take this program to the next level.