The 2018 college football season is still months a way, but there has been a shift at the top of some way-too-early rankings after the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft has passed.
As you would expect, a number of players from the top programs bolted for the pros, but a mass exodus from Alabama has led to the Crimson Tide losing out on the top spot to a College Football Playoff opponent the past three seasons, Clemson.
In ESPN.com’s latest 2018 rankings, Clemson leapfrogged Alabama thanks to a number of key players returning — which includes seven offense and eight defense.
Here is why ESPN gives Clemson the nod and it has to do a lot with their dominating defense:
Clemson’s chances received a major boost when a handful of underclassmen — defensive linemen Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins and linebacker Kendall Joseph — decided to return to school. Ferrell and Wilkins were considered probable first-round selections if they entered the NFL draft.
The Tigers had one of the most dominant defenses in the FBS this past season; they were tied for the FBS lead in sacks (46), sixth in tackles for loss (109) and eighth in yards allowed per rush (3.1). They also signed two of the top three defensive linemen prospects in the 2018 class in Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry.
The top 10 from ESPN’s updated way-too-early 2018 college football rankings can be seen below, with the full top 25 available by clicking here.
- Clemson Tigers
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Oklahoma Sooners
- Georgia Bulldogs
- Wisconsin Badgers
- Washington Huskies
- Miami Hurricanes
- Michigan State Spartans
- West Virginia Mountaineers
Sound off in the comments section with your thoughts on the college football landscape for next season.