Bob Asmussen | Hook 'em Horns in 2024

Jan. 7—CHAMPAIGN — Sad news to report: After Monday night's title game between No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Washington in Houston, you won't get to watch college football again for 229 days.

The 2024 season starts on Aug. 24 with a handful of games, including Oregon-Hawaii and Florida State-Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland.

Wonder how war horse Renegade is going to handle the long trip overseas with the Seminoles?

Never too early to look ahead. So more than seven months before it starts, here is my way-too-early 2024 preseason Top 25. (By the way, I reserve the right to change this before submitting my first ballot for the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Just in case.)

1. Texas

The Longhorns could easily play for the national title. Steve Sarkisian led his team on a brilliant rally in the semifinal that came up just short. His quarterback, Quinn Ewers, returns, though Arch Manning could push him. The offensive line is solid and there is talent across the board. Oh, yeah, the team is now in the, gulp, SEC.

2. Alabama

A couple of things: first, the greatest college football coach of all time, Nick Saban, won't be pleased with how the season ended and will do everything in his power to win it all again. Second, quarterback Jalen Milroe is only getting better. Put him high on the list of preseason Heisman Trophy candidates.

3. Georgia

One loss in three years. Let me repeat, one loss in three years. And the team is coming off a 60-point win in a bowl. Kirby Smart has turned into Saban 2.0 and recruits with the best. Mark the Bulldogs down for a high playoff seed and a first-round bye.

4. Michigan

There are certainly plenty of questions in Ann Arbor, starting with the plans of coach Jim Harbaugh. Will he move on to the NFL as some expect? There is a ready-to-go replacement in offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore. Whoever is in charge hopes to have J.J. McCarthy back behind center if the quarterback doesn't decide to enter the NFL draft.

5. Missouri

Eli Drinkwitz wished the 12-team playoff had started a year earlier. No problem. The Tigers will not only make the field in 2024, but they have a chance for a first-round bye. Quarterback Brady Cook and wide receiver Luther Burden III are two of the best in the country at their positions.

6. Oregon

Welcome to the Big Ten, Ducks. Love the color scheme and high-flying offense. While rising-star coach Dan Lanning will miss quarterback Bo Nix, he brings in former Oklahoma starter Dillon Gabriel. Somewhere, Joey Harrington is smiling.

7. Mississippi

Lane Kiffin used to change jobs as often as most change the oil in their cars. Seems to have finally found a home in Oxford. He has a quarterback, cool-named Jaxson Dart, who just led his team to 11 wins and a Peach Bowl victory against Penn State.

8. Notre Dame

Marcus Freeman loses plenty of talent to the NFL. But the addition of Duke quarterback Riley Leonard will jump-start the offense and Freeman has been piling up star recruits since he took over the program. The schedule is reasonable, with only two teams from this Top 25.

9. Oklahoma

The Sooners have been hurt by the transfer portal and early departures. But coach Brent Venables welcomes back star safety Billy Bowman, who had six interceptions this season. The offense is in Jackson Arnold's hands.

10. Utah

Kyle Whittingham's team clearly missed quarterback Cam Rising, who is ready to return after an injury ruined his 2023 season. The Utes should be among favorites to win their new conference — the Big 12 — and earn a spot in the CFP. The defense will be stellar as always.

11. Florida State

All sorts of offseason motivation for Mike Norvell's team, which got snubbed by the College Football Playoff committee, then got blitzed by Georgia in the Orange Bowl. Former Clemson and Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei takes over behind center.

12. Tennessee

Watching the Vols in the Citrus Bowl, everyone got a glimpse of the future in quarterback Nico Iamaleava, who was dazzling against Iowa. Josh Heupel has shown an ability to get the most out of his quarterbacks and Iamaleava is the next star. My guess is Tennessee makes the CFP field.

13. Ohio State

The season ended with a major bummer for Ryan Day's team, which dropped consecutive games to Michigan and Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Day added a veteran quarterback in the transfer portal (Kansas State's Will Howard) and has years of highly-ranked recruiting classes to fill the other spots. Still, there could be some slippage.

14. Arizona

The Wildcats seem likely to become a Big 12 power. They just beat former member Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl with an impressive display of opportunistic defense. Coach Jedd Fisch has the folks in Tucson fired up about a sport other than basketball.

15. Washington

Not sure how you replace Michael Penix Jr. But Kalen DeBoer has been brilliant in his Seattle run and will figure it out. Just as significant, the expected departure of superstar receiver Rome Odunze.

16. LSU

Brian Kelly got a look at the future in the ReliaQuest Bowl with Garrett Nussmeier taking over for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels and playing well. He was named MVP. Kelly made a major change this week on his staff, dumping four coaches from the troubled defense. The moves should help.

17. Kansas

Lance Leipold's team is scheduled to visit Champaign-Urbana the second week of the season and should have a number next to its name, signifying the national rank. Big stuff for the Big 12 title contender, which will have Jalon Daniels at quarterback, star Devon Neal at tailback and corner Cobee Bryant in the secondary.

18. SMU

The Mustangs should have been in a New Year's Six Bowl. Their disappointment showed in a Fenway Bowl loss to home team Boston College. Rhett Lashlee's team would have been favored to win the American and earn a spot in the CFP. Moving to the tougher ACC makes that more of a chore. But doable.

19. Oklahoma State

The more I study the Big 12, the more I realize the conference is going to be fine without Oklahoma and Texas. The Cowboys are thrilled to have Doak Walker winner Ollie Gordon II back for another season. Mike Gundy figures to give the superstar running back about 30 carries per game.

20. Kansas State

After another solid season for coach Chris Klieman, the Wildcats should contend in the new-look Big 12. First job is finding a new offensive coordinator. The quarterback position is set with Avery Johnson, who led the team to win in the Pop-Tarts Bowl.

21. Clemson

I fully expect Dabo Swinney and the Tigers to rebound from a disappointing season. Clemson finished strong, beating Kentucky in the Gator Bowl. Quarterback Cade Klubnik is a talent.

22. West Virginia

Picked to finish last in the Big 12, the Mountaineers instead won nine games, including a bowl victory. Neal Brown again puts the ball in the hands of quarterback Garrett Greene and a solid set of running backs.

23. Penn State

The Peach Bowl loss to Ole Miss exposed some of the problems for James Franklin's team, which won every game during the regular season except against Michigan and Ohio State. Quarterback continues to be a concern and the line got hit by early departures.

24. Louisville

Former Illinois assistant coach Jeff Brohm was a monster hit in his return to his alma mater, leading the Cardinals to the ACC title game. Look out when he gets his own players in place. There are very few offensive minds in college football as good as Brohm.

25. Iowa

There is a caveat to this pick: Nobody named Ferentz is allowed to coach the offense. Not a cousin, daughter or wife. As long as that part is clear, the Hawkeyes will be golden thanks to the great work done by defensive guru Phil Parker. You know the special teams are always going to be rock solid. So fix the offense and Iowa will be cooking with gas.