Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson have won the last three College Football Playoff national championships, and all three could make another run at the title in 2017.
There are a few others that are set up for success as well. Through recruiting over the past three recruiting classes and the returning players on the roster, here is a look at some of the teams that could find themselves in the playoff discussion if all goes as planned.
Florida State Seminoles
The way that Florida State has recruited over the last three years combined with the returning starters are why the Noles should be in the playoff picture this season. Jimbo Fisher and his staff have averaged a class ranking of 2.333 over the last three recruiting classes and will have the majority of their defensive starters back for the 2017 season.
Even with the large number of defenders returning, Florida State signed six ESPN 300 defensive linemen in the past two classes, including five-stars Marvin Wilson and Joshua Kaindoh, freshman All-American Brian Burns and former five-star Josh Sweat. Despite losing DeMarcus Walker, the defensive line will be a strength and the Seminoles are adding a few more players who should be able to contribute early in the 2017 class.
On offense, quarterback Deondre Francois is returning, and while star running back Dalvin Cook is gone, the staff did an excellent job filling that hole in the 2016 and 2017 classes. Landing the No. 1 ranked running back, Cam Akers, and the No. 4 ranked back in Khalan Laborn to go along with Jacques Patrick, who is already on the roster, and the coaches have bulked up the depth and talent at the position. It will be tough to fill the void left by Cook, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well try to do it with two top-five ranked running backs.
In all, FSU has signed 50 ESPN 300 prospects over the last three classes. FSU has one of the tougher schedules, facing Alabama and Miami in the first three weeks and Clemson and Florida in the last three weeks. That will test that depth.
The reigning Big 12 champs have one big piece coming back -- QB Baker Mayfield.
OU is losing some big pieces on offense, but getting Mayfield back is a big part of getting over the hump and making it to the College Football Playoff in 2017.
Top receiver Dede Westbrook and running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon are gone to the NFL. The good news here is that Oklahoma is returning most of the starting offensive line, which should help whoever replaces Perine and Mixon.
Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson are already on the roster and Adams had some buzz around him last offseason. The staff also added ESPN 300 running back Trey Sermon, junior college back Marcelias Sutton and Texas back Kennedy Brooks. While the production will likely take a dip, the coaches do have some good options at the position going forward.
To replace Westbrook, the staff has landed four ESPN 300 receivers in the last two classes and Marquise Brown, the top junior college receiver. Not to mention, Mark Andrews and Jeffrey Mead are back, which will help keep some continuity at the position.
The Sooners averaged a 15.333 recruiting class ranking over the past three classes, but that is aided with the No. 8 class in 2017, their best class since 2010. There are some holes to fill, but this team should be in the playoff conversation once again at the end of the season.
The Trojans surged with Sam Darnold at quarterback, winning the final nine games of the season, including the Rose Bowl against Penn State. Darnold seemed to be the spark that team needed to get on the right track and potentially help save Clay Helton’s job.
Darnold is back for USC and is going to need to be even better to get the Trojans into the playoff. There are some big departures that the offense is going to have to overcome with receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, the two leading receivers in yardage, departing.
USC has averaged a class ranking of 6.333 over the past three classes, including No. 5 in 2017, and is one of only three programs along with Georgia and LSU to have a top-15 class each year from 2006 to 2016.
That infusion of talent should help fill some of the voids left by Schuster on offense and Adoree Jackson and Leon McQuay on defense.
At receiver, the staff landed five ESPN 300 receivers in the last two classes, including the No. 1 ranked 2017 receiver Joseph Lewis. The defensive side wasn’t ignored either, with seven ESPN 300 defensive backs signed, not including Isaiah Langley, a cornerback who should see more action.
It will be a challenge for USC to find replacements for some of the bigger stars from the past season, but the recruiting efforts by Helton and his staff should make that transition somewhat smooth.
Georgia had a disappointing 2016 season, but the Bulldogs return a ton of starters and gain some valuable experience in 2017.
Quarterback Jacob Eason has a year of experience to lean on and has his leading rusher, Nick Chubb, back for another season. Receiver Isaiah McKenzie is gone, but Terry Godwin returns, as does tight end Isaac Nauta, who had a promising first season.
Georgia has averaged a class ranking of 6 overall for the past three seasons, which is the fourth-best average of any program in that time period. The program has a ton of talent, but dealt with some youth and inexperience in 2016.
That isn’t the case for the 2017 season, though, and with all but one starting defensive player returning, this could be an excellent season for Georgia. A big part of where this team ends up could land on the shoulders of Eason and whether or not he can take a step up.