ATLANTA — The 2017 season closes with Alabama at?No. 1 and the 2018 season begins with the Crimson Tide on top as well.?
They’ll probably have to beat Georgia again if they want to repeat as national champions. The Tide are No. 1 in the Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2018; the Bulldogs check in at No. 5.
Nick Saban beat his former assistant coach, Kirby Smart, as Alabama overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to beat Georgia?26-23 in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T.
Clemson, Ohio State?and Oklahoma?finish out the top five, but don’t be surprised to see the likes of Wisconsin?and Miami?rise during the offseason.
We’ll update the rankings after National Signing Day in February. But as of now, here’s your Way-Too-Early top 25 for 2018:
(Returning starters numbers subject to change. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15.)
2017 record: 13-1, 7-1 SEC?
Returning starters:?Nine offense, six defense, zero special teams
Key losses:?C Bradley Bozeman, WR Robert Foster, DE? Da’Shawn Hand, LB Rashaan Evans, CB Levi Wallace, CB Anthony Averett, S Tony Brown, P JK Scott
Outlook: The 2017 version of the Alabama dynasty probably wasn’t as talented and might not have as many future NFL stars as the previous ones. But the Crimson Tide reached the CFP National Championship for the third straight season, and they’ll be equally good next season as Nick Saban’s “Process” continues.
The biggest question mark for the Tide heading into the offseason is who will start at quarterback.? Jalen Hurts?was benched at halftime and rising sophomore Tua Tagovailoa?should be the favorite after his second-half performance against Georgia. Whoever starts at quarterback might have to find new offensive weapons if leading rusher? Damien Harris and?leading receiver Calvin Ridley turn pro.
The Tide will lose some key players on defense, including Evans and the entire starting secondary if juniors? Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison?leave early, but there are capable replacements waiting in the wings. Look for players such as running back Najee Harris, receiver Jerry Jeudy and linebackers Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson to emerge as key contributors this spring.
The Crimson Tide will also have a new defensive coordinator after Jeremy Pruitt was named Tennessee’s new coach.
For more on how the Tide will look in 2018, check out Alabama’s recruiting profile and ESPN’s class rankings.