College Football 2015 Season Preview: Complete Rankings, Predictions and Projections

If you believed all the talk you heard this offseason, you might wonder why they’re even playing the 2015 college football season, instead of just handing defending national champion Ohio State another title right now.

The Buckeyes enter the season as the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the nation and the clear-cut favorite to repeat. Considering how loaded Urban Meyer’s team is with talent, it’s hard to argue that the hype isn’t warranted.

Since many of the other top-ranked teams in the nation have questions at quarterback along with plenty of other significant holes to fill, there’s no doubt that Ohio State is the team most ready to compete for a championship in 2015. Still, there are other teams and other standout players outside of Columbus that are worthy of attention and praise as well.

Now that the waiting is over and the season has finally arrived, we’ll have the chance to see which teams and which players are ready to step out onto the national stage.

Included in the following preview are picks for the four-team playoff, national team rankings, conference power rankings, player positional rankings, bowl projections as well as the prediction for who will take home the sport’s most prestigious award: The Heisman Trophy.

With kickoff to the college football season now a mere few hours away, here’s a look at Gridiron Perspective’s complete 2015 College Football Season Preview.

Picking the Four Playoff Teams

1 – Ohio State Buckeyes

Urban Meyer

Ohio State seems to be in a special elite class of its own this season. The defending champs welcome back plenty of star power and an incredible amount of talent—the likes of which no other team in the country can match.

RB Ezekiel Elliott, DE Joey Bosa, LB Darron Lee, safety Vonn Bell, OT Taylor Decker, DT Adolphus Washington, WR Michael Thomas, TE Nick Vannett, OG Pat Elflein, H-Back Braxton Miller and quarterbacks JT Barrett and Cardale Jones are all All-American candidates as well as future NFL players.

The Buckeyes are undoubtedly the most talented team that we’ve seen in college football since the Alabama squad that won two titles in a row in 2011 and 2012. No one is going to dispute that Ohio State is the most loaded team in the country. The only uncertainty is whether the concerns about motivation, attitude and desire that affect every defending champion are warranted.

The reality is that as long as Urban Meyer—the coach who has gone 38-3 during his first three seasons since his return to the sport—is in charge, complacency isn’t an option in Columbus.

The Buckeyes looks like they’re ready to dominate all challengers in 2015. If they can remain hungry and regain the dominant form that we saw during the final stretch run of last season, this Ohio State squad has a great chance to be a historic all-time great team.

2 – Baylor Bears

Shock Linwood

Art Briles has won 40 games over the past four seasons—a feat which is absolutely remarkable considering that the Bears were once the perennial doormat of the Big 12 before Briles took over in Waco in 2008. The offensive guru’s unique spread system has been one of the sport’s most powerful and potent attacks in recent seasons. The unit looks as imposing as ever thanks to the return of RB Shock Linwood (1,342 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns in 2014), the dangerous receiving duo of Corey Coleman and KD Cannon (19 combined touchdown catches in 2014) and first-team All-Big 12 selections TE Tre’Von Armstead and OT Spencer Drango.

The question is: Can new starting QB Seth Russell follow in the footsteps of the program’s former highly productive passers such as Robert Griffin III, Bryce Petty and Nick Florence?

The good news is that the Bears won’t need the offense to replicate last year’s No. 1 national ranking in both total offense and scoring offense in order to compete for a national title. What they will need, though, is a more steady and consistent performance from a talented defense that returns standouts such as DE Shawn Oakman, DT Andrew Billings, LB Taylor Young and safety Orion Stewart from a group that underperformed in 2014.

This is the most talented and well-rounded team Briles has ever had. If he can figure out how to turn Russell into his latest passing prodigy, the Bears should materialize into quite an imposing force that could very well go through their entire 12-game slate unscathed.

3 – Auburn Tigers

Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp

It’s rare to see an offense improve after losing its starting quarterback and leading rusher from the previous season. However, Auburn’s offense has a great chance to do just that in 2015. Though the Tigers lost QB Nick Marshall, RB Cameron Artis-Payne as well as WR Sammie Coates, they should still have one of the most dynamic and explosive attacks in all of college football.

It starts with QB Jeremy Johnson, a 6’5’’, 240-pound former 4-star recruit who has the type of physical makeup to develop into a Cam Newton-esque dual-threat playmaker. Much is expected of the gifted signal-caller, but luckily for Johnson, he’ll have plenty of help. Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas should emerge as one of the best running back duos in the SEC, and WR D’haquille Williams is the definition of a go-to No. 1 receiving threat.

Johnson has the chance to be one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2015 season. But no matter how good he is, Auburn’s national title hopes will come down to just how well new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s new-look defense performs.

Muschamp—who will be coaching with a chip on his shoulder following a sour end to his head-coaching tenure at Florida—has plenty of talent to work with, including potential All-SEC performers such as DE Carl Lawson, DT Montravius Adams, linebackers Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy, CB Jonathan Jones and safety Johnathan Ford.

Gus Malzahn and Muschamp are two of the brightest coaching minds on their respective sides of the ball. They each have enough premier playmakers to mold two championship-caliber units. 

4 – TCU Horned Frogs

Trevone Boykin

TCU has had plenty of remarkable accomplishments during Gary Patterson’s 14 seasons in Fort Worth. Unfortunately, though, the Horned Frogs have yet to shed their doorstep-dweller status and earn a chance to compete for a national title. An 11-1 regular season record wasn’t good enough to get Patterson’s squad into the four-team playoff in 2014. What it did do, though, was help build plenty of momentum for a 2015 season that could end up being the best and most important campaign in the program’s history.

Senior QB Trevone Boykin is coming off a tremendous breakout performance, in which he threw for over 3,900 yards, ran for over 700 yards and accounted for 42 total touchdowns. Boykin will now enter his final year on the short list of Heisman favorites. RB Aaron Green, who ran for over 900 yards in 2014, and the formidable receiving duo of Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee will all be back to join him on an offense that could potentially best last year’s 46 points per game scoring average.

The Horned Frogs should have no trouble putting the ball in the end zone in 2015. The big question is: Can a defense that lost six of its top seven tacklers from a year ago keep opponents from doing the same?

If Patterson can work some of his usual defensive magic, the Horned Frogs have more than enough offensive firepower to finally break through and earn their long-awaited chance to compete for a national title.

So how will Ohio State, Baylor, Auburn and TCU become the four playoff teams?

We’re projecting Ohio State and Baylor to both run the table and finish the regular season undefeated, while Auburn is projected to have one loss in SEC competition and TCU will have their one loss to Baylor.

The rest of the teams in the power poll are all projected to have at least two losses, which means the fourth spot would come down to a one-loss TCU team and a two-loss Pac-12 champion Oregon team, a two-loss Alabama SEC runner-up and a two-loss ACC champion Florida State squad.

The Power 30 Poll: Preseason Edition


The Power 30 Poll is Gridiron Perspective’s weekly power rankings of the top 30 teams in the nation based on overall strength.

Here’s a look at the preseason edition.

The Top 10

1   Ohio State Buckeyes

2   Baylor Bears

3   Auburn Tigers

4   TCU Horned Frogs

5   Oregon Ducks

6 –    Alabama Crimson Tide

7 –    Florida State Seminoles

8 –    LSU Tigers

9 –    Georgia Bulldogs

10   Michigan State Spartans

The Rest

11. UCLA Bruins

12. Clemson Tigers

13. Ole Miss Rebels

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

15. Oklahoma Sooners

16. USC Trojans

17. Texas A&M Aggies

18. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

19. Arizona Wildcats

20. Wisconsin Badgers

21. Arizona State Sun Devils

22. Tennessee Volunteers

23. Michigan Wolverines

24. Arkansas Razorbacks

25. Stanford Cardinal

26. Boise State Broncos

27. West Virginia Mountaineers

28. Miami Hurricanes

29. Oklahoma State Cowboys

30. North Carolina Tar Heels

Honorable Mention

  • Cal Golden Bears
  • Cincinnati Bearcats
  • Duke Blue Devils
  • Kansas State Wildcats
  • Louisville Cardinals
  • Memphis Tigers
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers
  • Mississippi State Bulldogs
  • Missouri Tigers
  • NC State Wolfpack
  • Penn State Nittany Lions
  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Texas Longhorns
  • Virginia Tech Hokies
  • Washington Huskies

The Top 15 Players at Each Position

These rankings are designed to show the top 15 players at each major position: QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DT, DE, LB, CB and S. Players are judged mainly on the projected overall impact they are expected to have in the 2015 season.


1 – Trevone Boykin, TCU

  1. JT Barrett, Ohio State
  2. Connor Cook, Michigan State
  3. Cody Kessler, USC
  4. Cardale Jones, Ohio State
  5. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
  6. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  7. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
  8. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
  9. Jared Goff, California
  10. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
  11. Vernon Adams, Oregon
  12. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
  13. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
  14. Everett Golson, Florida State

Honorable Mention

  • Brad Kaaya, Miami
  • Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
  • Jacoby Brissett, NC State
  • Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
  • Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

Running Backs

1 – Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

  1. Nick Chubb, Georgia
  2. Derrick Henry, Alabama
  3. Leonard Fournette, LSU
  4. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
  5. James Conner, Pittsburgh
  6. Shock Linwood, Baylor
  7. Royce Freeman, Oregon
  8. Matt Breida, Georgia Southern
  9. Alex Collins, Arkansas
  10. Elijah McGuire, Louisiana
  11. Devontae Booker, Utah
  12. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
  13. Paul Perkins, UCLA
  14. Nick Wilson, Arizona

Honorable Mention

  • Brandon Radcliff, Louisville
  • Corey Clement, Wisconsin
  • DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech
  • Devon Johnson, Marshall
  • Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
  • Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

Wide Receivers

1 – Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

  1. Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
  2. Corey Coleman, Baylor
  3. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
  4. Josh Doctson, TCU
  5. D’haquille Williams, Auburn
  6. D.J. Foster, Arizona State
  7. Mike Williams, Clemson
  8. Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
  9. Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
  10. KD Cannon, Baylor
  11. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
  12. Michael Thomas, Ohio State
  13. Travin Dural, LSU
  14. Byron Marshall, Oregon

Honorable Mention

  • Brandon Sheperd, Oklahoma State
  • Braxton Miller, Ohio State
  • Corey Davis, Western Michigan
  • Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
  • Nelson Spruce, Colorado
  • William Fuller, Notre Dame

Tight Ends

1 – Evan Engram, Ole Miss

  1. O.J. Howard, Alabama
  2. Evan Baylis, Oregon
  3. Nick Vannett, Ohio State
  4. Austin Hooper, Stanford
  5. Jake McGee, Florida
  6. Kyle Carter, Penn State
  7. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
  8. Hunter Henry, Arkansas
  9. Pharaoh Brown, Oregon
  10. Josiah Price, Michigan State
  11. David Grinnage, NC State
  12. Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt
  13. Tre’Von Armstead, Baylor
  14. Jonnu Smith, FIU

Honorable Mention

  • Cam Serigne, Wake Forest
  • Darion Griswold, Arkansas State
  • Jake Duzey, Iowa
  • Joel Ruiz, Georgia State
  • Sean Price, South Florida
  • Tyler Higbee, Western Kentucky

Offensive Linemen

1 – Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

  1. Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
  2. Spencer Drango, Baylor
  3. Taylor Decker, Ohio State
  4. Vadal Alexander, LSU
  5. Jack Allen, Michigan State
  6. Greg Pyke, Georgia
  7. Max Tuerk, USC
  8. Jack Conklin, Michigan State
  9. Landon Turner, North Carolina
  10. Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
  11. Pat Elflein, Ohio State
  12. Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
  13. Jake Brendel, UCLA
  14. Jerald Hawkins, LSU

Honorable Mention

  • Avery Young, Auburn
  • Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State
  • John Theus, Georgia
  • Kyle Murphy, Stanford
  • Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
  • Tyler Marz, Wisconsin

Defensive Tackles

1 – Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

  1. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
  2. Chris Jones, Mississippi State
  3. Andrew Billings, Baylor
  4. Jonathan Bullard, Florida
  5. Adolphus Washington, Ohio State
  6. Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
  7. Kenny Clark, UCLA
  8. Anthony Zettel, Penn State
  9. Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech
  10. Harold Brantley, Missouri
  11. Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech
  12. Maliek Collins, Nebraska
  13. Antwaun Woods, USC
  14. Davion Pierson, TCU

Honorable Mention

  • Darius Hamilton, Rutgers
  • Melvin Lewis, Kentucky
  • Montravius Adams, Auburn
  • Nazair Jones, North Carolina
  • Nile Lawrence-Stample, Florida State
  • Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

Defensive Ends

1 – Joey Bosa, Ohio State

  1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  2. Shawn Oakman, Baylor
  3. Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
  4. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
  5. DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  6. Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
  7. Jarran Reed, Alabama
  8. Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech
  9. Jonathan Allen, Alabama
  10. Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  11. Carl Lawson, Auburn
  12. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
  13. Kamalei Correa, Boise State
  14. Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

Honorable Mention

  • Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
  • Ken Ekanem, Virginia Tech
  • Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
  • Reggie Gilbert, Arizona
  • Terrell Lathan, TCU
  • Thomas Niles, UCF


1 – Scooby Wright, Arizona

  1. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
  2. Su’a Cravens, USC
  3. Myles Jack, UCLA
  4. Darron Lee, Ohio State
  5. Eric Striker, Oklahoma
  6. Reggie Ragland, Alabama
  7. Terrance Smith, Florida State
  8. Leonard Floyd, Georgia
  9. Antonio Morrison, Florida
  10. Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
  11. Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
  12. Taylor Young, Baylor
  13. Devonte Fields, Louisville
  14. Tyler Matakevich, Temple

Honorable Mention

  • Bronson Kaufusi, BYU
  • Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn
  • Ed Davis, Michigan State
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee
  • Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
  • P.J. Davis, Georgia Tech


1 – Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

  1. Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  2. Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
  3. Adoree Jackson, USC
  4. Will Redmond, Mississippi State
  5. Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
  6. Tre’Davious White, LSU
  7. Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
  8. Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota
  9. Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
  10. Will Likely, Maryland
  11. Fabian Moreau, UCLA
  12. Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
  13. Maurice Canady, Virginia
  14. Desmond King, Iowa

Honorable Mention

  • Donte Deayon, Boise State
  • Duke Thomas, Texas
  • Eli Apple, Ohio State
  • Ranthony Texada, TCU
  • Richard Leonard, FIU
  • Wayne Lyons, Michigan


1 – Vonn Bell, Ohio State

  1. Jeremy Cash, Duke
  2. Eddie Jackson, Alabama
  3. Karl Joseph, West Virginia
  4. Tony Conner, Ole Miss
  5. Quin Blanding, Virginia
  6. DeVon Edwards, Duke
  7. Michael Caputo, Wisconsin
  8. Darian Thompson, Boise State
  9. Jalen Mills, LSU
  10. Dante Barnett, Kansas State
  11. Jamal Golden, Georgia Tech
  12. Kamari Cotton-Moya, Iowa State
  13. Quincy Mauger, Georgia
  14. Nate Gerry, Nebraska

Honorable Mention

  • Johnathan Ford, Auburn
  • Jordan Simone, Arizona State
  • Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee State
  • KJ Dillon, West Virginia
  • LaDarrell McNeil, Tennessee
  • Sean Davis, Maryland

Conference Power Rankings

Here’s a look at how the teams stack up in each conference. Teams are judged on projected overall strength and growth potential.

*Note: Teams in bold are ranked in Preseason Power 30 Poll. National rankings are included in parentheses.


Predicted Champion: Florida State Seminoles


1 – Florida State Seminoles (7)

2 – Clemson Tigers (12)

3 – Louisville Cardinals

4 – NC State Wolfpack

5 – Boston College Eagles

6 – Wake Forest Demon Deacons

7 – Syracuse Orange


1 – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (18)

2 – Miami Hurricanes (28)

3 – North Carolina Tar Heels (30)

4 – Virginia Tech Hokies

5 – Duke Blue Devils

6 – Pittsburgh Panthers

7- Virginia Cavaliers

Big 12

Predicted Champion: Baylor Bears

  1. Baylor Bears (2)
  2. TCU Horned Frogs (4)
  3. Oklahoma Sooners (15)
  4. West Virginia Mountaineers (27)
  5. Oklahoma State Cowboys (29)
  6. Texas Longhorns
  7. Kansas State Wildcats
  8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
  9. Iowa State Cyclones
  10. Kansas Jayhawks


Predicted Champion: Oregon Ducks


1 – Oregon Ducks (5)

  1. Stanford Cardinal (25)
  2. Cal Golden Bears
  3. Washington Huskies
  4. Washington State Cougars
  5. Oregon State Beavers


1 – UCLA Bruins (11)

  1. USC Trojans (16)
  2. Arizona Wildcats (19)
  3. Arizona State Sun Devils (21)
  4. Utah Utes
  5. Colorado Buffaloes

Big Ten

Predicted Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes


1 – Ohio State Buckeyes (1)

  1. Michigan State Spartans (10)
  2. Michigan Wolverines (23)
  3. Penn State Nittany Lions
  4. Indiana Hoosiers
  5. Maryland Terrapins
  6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights


1 – Wisconsin Badgers (20)

  1. Minnesota Golden Gophers
  2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes
  4. Northwestern Wildcats
  5. Purdue Boilermakers
  6. Illinois Fighting Illini


Predicted Champion: Auburn Tigers


1 – Georgia Bulldogs (9)

  1. Tennessee Volunteers (22)
  2. Missouri Tigers
  3. South Carolina Gamecocks
  4. Florida Gators
  5. Kentucky Wildcats
  6. Vanderbilt Commodores


1 – Auburn Tigers (3)

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (6)
  2. LSU Tigers (8)
  3. Ole Miss Rebels (13)
  4. Texas A&M Aggies (17)
  5. Arkansas Razorbacks (24)
  6. Mississippi State Bulldogs

American Athletic

Predicted Champion: Cincinnati Bearcats


1 – Cincinnati Bearcats

  1. UCF Knights
  2. East Carolina Pirates
  3. Temple Owls
  4. UConn Huskies
  5. South Florida Bulls


1 – Memphis Tigers

  1. Houston Cougars
  2. Navy Midshipmen
  3. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
  4. SMU Mustangs
  5. Tulane Green Wave

Conference USA

Predicted Champion: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs


1 – Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

  1. Marshall Thundering Herd
  2. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
  3. FIU Panthers
  4. Florida Atlantic Owls
  5. Old Dominion Monarchs
  6. Charlotte 49ers


1 – Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

  1. Rice Owls
  2. UTEP Miners
  3. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
  4. North Texas Mean Green
  5. UTSA RoadRunners


Predicted Champion: Northern Illinois Huskies


1 – Bowling Green Falcons

  1. Ohio Bobcats
  2. Akron Zips
  3. UMass Minutemen
  4. Buffalo Bulls
  5. Kent State Golden Flashes
  6. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks


1 – Northern Illinois Huskies

  1. Western Michigan Broncos
  2. Toledo Rockets
  3. Ball State Cardinals
  4. Central Michigan Chippewas
  5. Eastern Michigan Eagles

Mountain West

Predicted Champion: Boise State Broncos


1 – Boise State Broncos (26)

  1. Utah State Aggies
  2. Colorado State Rams
  3. Wyoming Cowboys
  4. Air Force Falcons
  5. New Mexico Aggies


1 – San Diego State Aztecs

  1. Nevada Wolf Pack
  2. Fresno State Bulldogs
  3. San Jose State Spartans
  4. UNLV Rebels
  5. Hawaii Warriors

Sun Belt

Predicted Champion: Georgia Southern Eagles

1 – Georgia Southern Eagles

  1. Appalachian State Mountaineers
  2. Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
  3. Arkansas State Red Wolves
  4. Texas State Bobcats
  5. South Alabama Jaguars
  6. Troy Trojans
  7. ULM Warhawks
  8. New Mexico State Aggies
  9. Idaho Vandals
  10. Georgia State Panthers

Heisman Predictions

Ezekiel Elliott

Predicted Winner: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

All the talk in Columbus this offseason has surrounded the quarterback battle between JT Barrett and Cardale Jones. However, no matter who ends up starting behind center for the Buckeyes, the offense’s real star and true MVP will once again be RB Ezekiel Elliott.

Last season, Elliott hit his stride when the offense needed him the most, as he proved he could be a difference-making workhorse back during the team’s run from the Big Ten Championship game and then into the playoffs against Alabama and Oregon.

The 6’0”, 225-pound junior rushed for 696 yards and eight touchdowns in the team’s final three games to cap off what ended up being a sensational breakout campaign. Elliott finished the 2014 season with over 2,200 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns. It was a performance that solidified his status as the top overall running back in college football.

Now, heading into the 2015 season, Elliott will have the spotlight shining on him. He’ll have the chance to prove that he is indeed college football’s best overall player and someone whose worthy of the sport’s highest individual honor.

Top 5 Heisman Finalists

1 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

3. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

4. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

5. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Projections For the Big Six Bowls

2016 CFP Championship logo.jpg

National Title Game: (1) Ohio State Beats (2) Baylor

Cotton Bowl: (1) Ohio State Beats (4) TCU

Orange Bowl: (2) Baylor Beats (3) Auburn

Rose Bowl: Oregon Beats Michigan State

Sugar Bowl: Alabama Beats Florida State

Peach Bowl: LSU Beats Clemson


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