Lindy’s 2017 Top 25: Teams 14-19 Staff

July 06, 2017 at 12:40 pm.

Oct 22, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight (3) passes in the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan Stadium. Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 22, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight (3) passes in the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan Stadium. Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


14. Michigan

Major rebuild, but if anybody can…

What can we say? Michigan was a heck of a team in 2016. For a while there, it looked like the Wolverines might be best-in-the-land good. They started 9-0 and rose to No. 2 in the polls, but it ended … imperfectly, let’s call it. Three losses by a total of five points (including at Ohio State in double-overtime) crushed spirits in Ann Arbor. So close, so far. But now?

THE GOOD NEWS: Let’s not wait to mention coach Jim Harbaugh, whose very presence makes the Wolverines formidable. He has recruited exceptionally well, and the culture in the program is robustly positive.  QB Wilton Speight is back, too, to keep the train on the rails.

THE BAD NEWS: No team in the country was gutted on the depth chart more than this one. It’s almost a restart for Harbaugh and the Wolverines, who might be a year away from serious contention in the Big Ten. At least the pressure is off, somewhat.

OUR CALL: Winning the Big Ten would be a shock. The neutral-site season opener against Florida might come too soon, and games at Penn State and Wisconsin will be huge tests. At least Michigan gets to build toward a regular-season finale at home against Ohio State.

15. LSU

It’s all Ed’s, but it won’t be easy

Nobody fills up a passion bucket faster than the fiery 54-year-old Ed Orgeron, who took over for fired Les Miles five games into last season. But it’s not about how far Orgeron can move the excitement needle, it’s about stuff like this: Can he recruit? Duh. Can he hire great offensive assistants and modernize the attack? All eyes are on OC Matt Canada from Pitt. Can he find an elite QB? Check back in a year or two.

THE GOOD NEWS: LSU fans crave more creativity from the offense, but there’s nothing wrong with handing the ball to Derrius Guice, who does a really nice impersonation of Leonard Fournette. A veteran front leads the way for a defense that’s always relentless and always among the nation’s best.

THE BAD NEWS: The upside of QB Danny Etling is limited. The annual exodus of defensive stars  — such as CB Tre’Davious White and S Jamal Adams  — took place right on schedule. You can assume Orgeron is a better head coach than he was at Ole Miss, but let’s call that one TBD.

OUR CALL: In four of the past five seasons, LSU finished 14, 14, 16, and 13 in the final AP poll, and was unranked the other season. Can Orgeron’s Tigers get back to the high-rent district? Not this fast.

16. Florida

Paucity of points is a problem

Considering what he inherited  — a team that had gone 11-13 in the previous two seasons under Will Muschamp  — there are no complaints with Jim McElwain winning back-to-back SEC East titles. But we need to talk about that offense. The Gators have failed to score more than 20 points in half of their 22 games against Power 5 conference schools under McElwain. That strikes us as an unsustainable model for success.

THE GOOD NEWS: Hey, the Gators might have a quarterback. It’s not a done deal heading into fall camp, but redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks just might be the spark UF needs to pair with WR Antonio Callaway and RB Jordan Scarlett. Florida faces only three true (and manageable) road games: Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina. Notre transfer Malik Zaire, an athletic dual-threat, will also boost Florida’s depth behind center.

THE BAD NEWS: Too many of the 2016 Gators will be playing defense in the NFL in 2017. If not Franks at QB, is Luke Del Rio, out this spring after shoulder surgery, dynamic enough? Can Zaire pick up the offense in time and win the job? A high bar in the non-con schedule includes Michigan (in Arlington, Texas) and Florida State, which has beaten them four times in a row.

OUR CALL: It’s inconceivable that McElwain won’t get the offense rolling at some point, able to pair that with a shut-down defense. This might not quite be that intersection.

17. USF

Seeking a Strong impact

When you go 11-2 and beat an SEC opponent (South Carolina) in a bowl game, you’ve got a lot to feel good about. USF’s breakthrough 2016 season cost it coach Willie Taggart (he left for Oregon), but could the Bulls have done any better than Charlie Strong as Taggart’s replacement?

THE GOOD NEWS: Let’s agree that Strong and Texas weren’t a good fit. Now Strong is back in a state where he has spent so many seasons during his fine career. And he has an explosive offense, led by quarterback Quinton Flowers (1,530 rushing yards, 2,812 passing yards).

THE BAD NEWS: That definitely wasn’t an 11-win kind of defense that the Bulls had in 2016, giving up 482.0 yards per game. This is where Strong has to make an instant impact, something he clearly wasn’t able to do in his most recent job.

OUR CALL: We’re not saying Strong has a better situation right now than he had in Texas. But we’re not NOT saying it, either. The Bulls have had a taste of winning big  — now they want more. Here’s your Group of Five top dog.

18. Stanford

So consistent we take ‘em for granted

Last season seemed like a down year. Stanford lost three of its first seven games, was never a threat in the Pac-12 North, and never quite got Christian McCaffrey onto his expected Heisman run (although he was still fabulous). Something of a disaster, right? And then the season is over, you look up, and the Cardinal has its usual double-digit 10 victories and finishes No. 12 in the AP poll. Pause here to appreciate the consistency of coach David Shaw.

THE GOOD NEWS: Stanford won its final six games of last season and found an answer at quarterback in Keller Chryst (more on him in the bad news). McCaffrey understudy, RB Bryce Love, averaged 7 yards a carry last season, powered by rocket fuel.

THE BAD NEWS: Chryst suffered a torn ACL in the Sun Bowl. Get well soon, because Stanford has early conference games at USC (Sept. 9) and vs. UCLA (Sept. 23). The departure of DT Solomon Thomas to NFL riches quiets the Cardinal’s pass rush.

OUR CALL: Stanford has spent only one season out of the last seven outside of the final 12 in the AP poll. So, this ranking is low. We understand. We underestimate the Cardinal at our own peril.

19. Miami

November rally raising Canes

The Hurricanes entered November in a bad way, having lost four consecutive games. But they tore off a 5-0 streak to end Mark Richt’s first season as coach, and that was big. Coming off a dominant performance against West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl, the program is pointed in the right direction. Richt signed the 13th-rated class in the country in February and was on his way to doing even better in the 2018 class.

THE GOOD NEWS: A highly disruptive defensive front seven should be the anchor of the team. Shaquille Quarterman, Kendrick Norton, Chad Thomas  — these are big-time guys. After improving dramatically during the aforementioned 5-0 streak, Miami’s offensive line charges into 2017 with major momentum.

THE BAD NEWS: How good would this team look if Brad Kaaya had returned to start at quarterback for a fourth and final year? Junior Malik Rosier and sophomore Evan Shirreffs still are duking it out with each other (and with true freshman N’Kosi Perry) for the starting job after an underwhelming spring.

OUR CALL: Soon, ‘Canes fan. Soon. But an ACC title this year? It’s just too far-fetched for our blood.

To read more about college football and your favorite teams, click HERE to purchase any of our football previews! Also be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @Lindyssportsmag