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No surprise at top, Alabama everybody else

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Photographs by FR111446 AP

Alabama NCAA college football coach Nick Saban speaks during the Southeastern Conference's annual media gathering, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

It is that time of the year to look into the crystal ball, throw in some stats, trends and traditions and make a prediction of how the final regular-season poll will look in December.

  1. ALABAMA -- Who else? The Crimson Tide need a little help at linebacker and defensive end, but there never seems to be a shortage of those in Nick Saban's World.
  2. FLORIDA STATE -- The offensive line will be exposed a little in the opening game against the Tide, but this is a talented bunch and will run the table after the loss and get a shot at payback.
  3. USC -- The Trojans may be in La-La land, but they finally have rebuilt the foundation. Solid and stable.
  4. OHIO STATE -- The Buckeyes were embarrassed by Clemson in the playoffs and aren't quite as good this season. May be a year away from top spot.
  5. WASHINGTON -- Will give Trojans a run for their money in the Pac-12, but will have to score a lot of points. Losses in the secondary will hurt.
  6. CLEMSON -- Defense will be solid, but too many offensive losses, especially quarterback Deshaun Watson, to repeat. Tigers need a split in their two biggest tests -- Florida State and Louisville.
  7. PENN STATE -- Nittany Lions have 10 offensive starters back, which counterbalances some key defensive losses.
  8. OKLAHOMA STATE -- The Cowboys will be great on offense and may be just good enough on defense to hold opponents to 30 points or fewer.
  9. AUBURN -- Tigers face some offensive issues after a trying season on defense, but Gus Malzahn is great at making offenses score.
  10. LSU -- Ed Orgeron understands the need for speed and that he needs to keep his paws off the play calling. The Tigers are a little young but talented.
  11. FLORIDA -- Questions remain on defense and offense, but Jim McElwain has found answers for two years.
  12. WISCONSIN -- Talented and deep in trenches. Defense should be great, offense very good.
  13. TEXAS -- Almost as talented and deep in the trenches as Wisconsin. Tom Herman wins with Charlie Strong's players and the honeymoon begins.
  14. LOUISVILLE -- Offense is never a concern when Bobby Petrino is the head coach, and the secondary is strong. Cardinals could be special if the defensive line gets it together.
  15. MICHIGAN -- Jim Harbaugh will need to be a magician after losing 10 starters on defense and seven on offense.
  16. STANFORD -- Really stingy defensively with a chance to be good on offense. Will miss Christian McCaffrey early.
  17. OKLAHOMA -- Former Coach Bob Stoops kept the defense running; new head coach Lincoln Riley, the former offensive coordinator, has to worry about that.
  18. NOTRE DAME -- Brian Kelly's tenure rides on the development of a quarterback.
  19. OREGON -- New coach Willie Taggart understands you can't outscore everyone, that you have to play some defense.
  20. GEORGIA -- Most are picking the Bulldogs to win the SEC East. In this space Kirby Smart still has something to prove, and he could with all the returning talent.
  21. KANSAS STATE -- Head Coach Bill Snyder is fighting throat cancer, but the tough old goat won't give up and his teams always reflect his mental and physical toughness.
  22. MIAMI -- Mark Richt is safe again; he's got a strong defense coming back and most of his offensive line.
  23. VIRGINIA TECH -- The Hokies' linebackers and D-backs are tough, as Arkansas witnessed in the Belk Bowl, and they are back.
  24. WEST VIRGINIA -- Will Grier, 5-0 at Florida in 2015 before PED suspension, is set to quarterback a very potent offense.
  25. NORTH CAROLINA STATE -- The ACC is tough, but Wolfpack appear poised to make a statement.

Sports on 08/13/2017

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