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The biggest storyline for each top 25 team this spring

College Football, Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida State Seminoles, Michigan Wolverines, Clemson Tigers, LSU Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Stanford Cardinal, Ohio State Buckeyes, USC Trojans, Georgia Bulldogs, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Washington Huskies, Boise State Broncos, Penn State Nittany Lions, Auburn Tigers, Wisconsin Badgers, Miami Hurricanes, Kansas State Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals, Colorado Buffaloes, South Florida Bulls, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Texas Longhorns, Virginia Tech Hokies

Mark Schlabach's 2017 Way-Too-Early Top 25 has Alabama and Florida State in the top two spots, but each faces some big questions to answer this spring.

Using those rankings, here are other questions that need answers for each of our top 25 teams.


1. Alabama Crimson Tide

What on earth is Alabama's offense going to look like? That's the ultimate question, right? Because Lane Kiffin is gone as offensive coordinator, and Steve Sarkisian lasted just one game as his replacement. Now it's former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll at the helm, tasked with managing a crowded backfield and a young quarterback whose freshman season was wildly successful overall yet ended on a sour note. -- Alex Scarborough


2. Florida State Seminoles

How does the offense come together? Deondre Francois is solidified at quarterback, but there will be changes around him. Last year it was about the supporting cast helping Francois. Now the redshirt sophomore will need to help elevate the play of his teammates. He'll likely have a few new offensive linemen and three new receivers, and both units struggled through parts of 2016. Oh, and no Dalvin Cook anymore, too.-- Jared Shanker


3. USC Trojans

What does Sam Darnold do for an encore? All eyes will be on the sophomore QB as he tries to build on a sensational debut season. The Trojans have a few notable gaps to fill -- both offensive tackle spots and nose tackle being the most pressing -- but they're set up well headed into 2017. -- Kyle Bonagura


4. Ohio State Buckeyes

Who'll step up in the secondary? The Buckeyes must replace cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and star safety Malik Hooker, all of whom left early for the NFL draft. It's actually quite a lot like last spring, when Ohio State also lost three starters from the defensive backfield to the draft, and, well, that worked out just fine. Newcomers like five-star recruit Jeffrey Okudah could make this another smooth transition. -- Brian Bennett


5. Penn State Nittany Lions

Where will the pressure come from? The Nittany Lions registered 40 sacks a year ago, ranking second in the Big Ten, but starting defensive ends Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels are both gone. James Franklin and his staff will be looking for guys like Shareef Miller, Torrence Brown and Shane Simmons to develop into the team's next reliable pass-rushers this spring. -- Brian Bennett


6. Clemson Tigers

Who will replace Deshaun Watson? You don't need a depth chart to figure out the No. 1 spring question for the defending national champions. There are three top contenders: junior Kelly Bryant, redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and early enrollee freshman Hunter Johnson. Coach Dabo Swinney hasn't ruled out playing multiple quarterbacks, but ideally one player emerges at the end of spring. -- Andrea Adelson


7. Washington Huskies

Which playmakers will emerge on defense? Not only do the Huskies need to replace the team's sack leader (Psalm Wooching) and the centerpiece of the defensive line up front (321-pound Elijah Qualls), but also three defensive back starters (Sidney Jones, Budda Baker and Kevin King). -- Chantel Jennings


8. Oklahoma Sooners

How will the Sooners react to a new defense? Oklahoma plans a defensive shift back to a four-man front, returning to the base scheme used most recently in 2012 after former coordinator Brent Venables left for Clemson. Expect OU to remain multiple with its looks after it allowed more than 400 yards in eight games last year. -- Mitch Sherman


9. LSU Tigers

Can the Tigers' offense change its stripes? Some key personnel are gone -- especially at linebacker and defensive back -- but LSU's biggest storyline will be how the offense changes under new coordinator Matt Canada. Running the ball is still the main objective, but Tigers fans want to see a modernized approach after the Les Miles era. -- David Ching


10. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Just how high is the Cowboys' ceiling on offense? The return of quarterback Mason Rudolph, running back Justice Hill and receiver James Washington bodes well in Stillwater, Oklahoma, after the trio helped OSU rank among the top 20 nationally last year in yards and points per game and yards per play. -- Mitch Sherman


11. Auburn Tigers

Will Jarrett Stidham live up to the hype? The former Baylor standout backup has been seen as the perfect fit for the Tigers' offense, and he needs to be if this pretty talented Auburn team is really going to compete with Alabama in the SEC West. We've seen this movie before, and Stidham has to make sure he's more than just a supporting actor. -- Edward Aschoff


12. Wisconsin Badgers

Who's next in line at running back? The Badgers must determine a pecking order in their backfield after the departures of Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale. Redshirt sophomore Bradrick Shaw could be the next great tailback to come through the program. Taiwan Deal won't participate in spring practice after undergoing offseason ankle surgery, which should give Pittsburgh transfer Chris James plenty of reps. -- Jesse Temple


13. Georgia Bulldogs

How will QB Jacob Eason develop? The Bulldogs return 10 starters on defense, a potential star at quarterback and possibly the SEC's top rushing duo in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Right now, making sure Eason takes that next step in his development is the key this spring. The good news is he is being immediately pushed by incoming freshman Jake Fromm. -- Edward Aschoff


14. Michigan Wolverines

How will Jim Harbaugh replace all that lost talent? They're going to need to hand out name tags during the first couple of days of spring practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines have to replace 17 starters from a year ago. While the talent has been flowing in, the coming months will be a chance to find out who steps into those vacancies and if they are ready to produce. Oh, and you'll probably hear about that trip to Rome, too. -- Dan Murphy


15. Stanford Cardinal

Who's going to play quarterback? Ryan Burns and K.J. Costello have been left to duke it out this spring with Keller Chryst on the sideline nursing a knee injury. Chryst unseated Burns midway through 2016, but can Burns gain back some ground in Chryst's absence? Can Costello move up in the pecking order? -- Chantel Jennings


16. Miami Hurricanes

What can Mark Richt do to replace Brad Kaaya? Richt first made his name developing quarterbacks at Florida State, and now he'll need to do it for Miami to get the Canes to their first ACC title game. Is redshirt freshman Jack Allison, No. 68 in the 2016 ESPN 300, ready to command the offense? -- Jared Shanker


17. Kansas State Wildcats

A tribute to Bill Snyder. This figures to be a year like no other for Snyder. The Wildcats' 77-year-old coach announced recently that he's receiving treatment for throat cancer. He plans to work his 26th season at K-State in 2017, and the spring is sure to feature showings of support from his many admirers. -- Mitch Sherman


18. Louisville Cardinals

How can the offensive line help Lamar Jackson get back on top? The Heisman Trophy winner saw his productivity fall off as his offensive line struggled in the final month of the season so the mission is twofold. Mike Summers takes over as offensive line coach to help improve a group that has allowed 129 sacks over the past three years. Jackson needs to work on his accuracy and decision-making, too. -- Andrea Adelson


19. Colorado Buffaloes

What will the defense look like? Not only will the Buffaloes be breaking in a new defensive coordinator (D.J. Eliot replaces Jim Leavitt), but they'll have to replace their entire defensive line, sack leader Jimmie Gilbert and three starters from the secondary. There's a lot of work to be done.-- Kyle Bonagura


20. USF Bulls

How does Charlie Strong make his presence felt? Not only do players have to get used to Strong and his staff, they have to get used to life without all-time leading rusher Marlon Mack, who left for the NFL draft after three straight 1,000-yard seasons. D'Ernest Johnson returns and so do Elijah Mack, Darius Tice and Trevon Sands, so the new coaches have some veterans as well as talented up-and-comers to work with during practice. -- Andrea Adelson


21. Washington State Cougars

Who will Luke Falk throw to? Falk is back for his fifth season on campus, but he'll move on without two key receivers: Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. Those two players played significant roles for the entirety of their careers, so it will interesting to see who develops into Falk's go-to options. -- Kyle Bonagura


22. West Virginia Mountaineers

How do Will Grier and Jake Spavital work together? Grier, a hyped transfer QB from Florida, appears ready to elevate the WVU offense, now run by Spavital, coach Dana Holgorsen's former sidekick at three schools -- including West Virginia in 2012 -- who returned from Cal to take over as offensive coordinator. -- Mitch Sherman


23. Texas Longhorns

It's your show, Tom Herman. Fresh off three consecutive losing seasons, the Longhorns handed the keys to a 41-year-old coach with two years of experience in charge of a program. How will Herman, the prodigious former student under Mack Brown, alter the culture in Austin, Texas, and handle a roster stocked with talent? -- Mitch Sherman


24. Boise State Broncos

Who emerges in the backfield? Jeremy McNichols' decision to enter the NFL draft leaves the Broncos with a huge vacancy in the backfield. That vacancy was made even greater this spring since Alex Mattison, the team's second-leading rusher last season, will be out this spring thanks to an offseason surgery.  -- Chantel Jennings


25. Virginia Tech Hokies

Can Justin Fuente keep working his magic with QBs? In his first year at Virginia Tech, Fuente got his hands on Jerod Evans and in one season turned him into a 10-win quarterback. Can the offensive whiz do it again with a quarterback even younger than Evans? Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson looks to be the favorite, but he won't have Isaiah Ford or Bucky Hodges to throw to anymore.-- Jared Shanker

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