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College football's most entertaining teams in 2018

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Chase for Alabama's crown begins (0:40)

Teams around the country challenge try to unseat the Crimson Tide this fall. Nick Saban's teams have won 4 of the last 7 national championships. (0:40)

The 2018 season kicks off with a full slate of games this weekend, and it seems the College Football Playoff contenders are largely familiar names: Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Washington, among select others.

But those decisions and conference champions won't be made until early December, and college football is about so much more than the postseason. Every week brings different storylines and unexpected results, which is what makes the sport more unpredictable than most.

With that in mind, which teams are going to be most entertaining to watch and follow this coming season? Which teams are going to have you on the edge of your seat each Saturday and then talking about its following week's matchup for the next seven days?

The Watchability Rankings will answer that question and highlight the top 10 teams that are going to be most entertaining to watch in 2018. We ranked the teams on a scale of 1-10 in the following four categories:

1. Finebaum Factor: A rough estimate of where a team fits in the national discussion -- and we're not talking about only on Saturdays. Are Phyllis and Tammy talking about the team on The Paul Finebaum Show? Does it move the needle on Twitter? Good teams that are in championship contention from September through November measure high in this category.

Team that scored high in this category but didn't crack the top 10: Notre Dame

If things fall right for the Fighting Irish, I think they might be a College Football Playoff contender. No, seriously.

2. Cage Factor: Whether it's on the sideline or in the huddle, a team has to have a recognizable, exciting and capable leading man. Otherwise, it's as if you're watching yet another Nicolas Cage flick. Teams with All-Americans, likely first-round draft choices and colorful coaches get extra points here.

Team that scored high but didn't crack the top 10: Stanford

The Cardinal bring back Heisman Trophy favorite Bryce Love and are led by David Shaw, one of the game's best coaches, despite what some silly anonymous poll might say.

3. Spurrier Factor: Wide-open, fast-paced, no-huddle offenses are a lot more fun to watch than the plodding, conservative, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust teams. You know which teams I'm talking about -- the ones outside the SEC. But it has to be within reason; no one wants to watch a four-hour Big 12 game in which no defense is being played.

Team that scored high but didn't crack the top 10: Arizona

Former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin inherits a talented offense led by Heisman Trophy candidate Khalil Tate. Unfortunately, that side of the ball was never the problem when he coached the Aggies.

4. Corso Factor: This category encompasses everything that has to do with college football's pageantry, from the marching bands to the traditions to whether or not your favorite team has a cool mascot head for Lee Corso to wear on Saturday mornings. Tradition is what makes college football so special. Without it, we're watching the NFL.

Team that scored high but didn't crack the top 10: Iowa

The Hawkeyes will probably win seven or eight games again, but I'll never say another bad word about Kirk Ferentz. The Iowa Wave is already the best tradition in college football.

All ties are broken by personal preference or a coin toss. Here's the top 10:

10. Tennessee (20 points)

Tennessee fans got their man, or 13th choice, in former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who'll need a few extra sledgehammers to tear the UT program down brick by brick. He'll need a few years to rebuild the Volunteers into an SEC contender, but I'm guessing he'll improve upon their SEC victories from a year ago and maybe even beat Vanderbilt.

If you thought Pruitt sounded frustrated in the spring, wait until midseason, when the Volunteers play consecutive games against Florida (home), No. 3 Georgia (road), No. 9 Auburn (road), No. 1 Alabama (home) and South Carolina (road). He might be puking in Butch Jones' trashcan by then, but at least his postgame comments will be entertaining and unfiltered.

9. Florida (22 points)

The Gators are pretty much an X-factor in the SEC race this season. They're probably not talented enough to win the SEC East in coach Dan Mullen's first season, but they might be good enough to spoil Georgia's chances again. At least the Gators will have a puncher's chance under Mullen and won't be bringing frying pans to the fight anymore.

Mullen squeezed every ounce of talent out of his teams at Mississippi State, and I'm guessing he'll do the same at Florida. With Mullen coaching the quarterbacks and transfers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes joining the receiver corps, the Gators might even be able to complete a pass or two.

8. West Virginia (23 points)

Every time I envision the No. 17 Mountaineers winning the Big 12 and grabbing one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff, I remind myself that teams have to play defense to win games. Or at least that's a requirement in non-Big 12 games.

The Mountaineers, with quarterback Will Grier and receiver David Sills V, are going to be a lot of fun to watch, unless, of course, you're a Florida fan. The Mountaineers' fate will probably be decided in November, when they play No. 23 Texas (road), No. 16 TCU (home), Oklahoma State (road) and No. 7 Oklahoma (home).

7. Miami (24 points)

In only two seasons, Mark Richt has resurrected his coaching career and his alma mater, guiding the Hurricanes to 19 wins combined. Along with introducing us to the "Turnover Chain" last season, Miami also played a lot of closer-than-expected games, winning four contests by eight points or fewer. The Hurricanes won their first 10 games, ended a seven-game losing streak to rival FSU and blew out then-No. 3 Notre Dame by 33 points at home. Where are the T-shirts for that one?

Miami ended the 2017 season with a three-game losing streak, which it will try to end in the opener against LSU in Arlington, Texas. If the Hurricanes can beat FSU at home on Oct. 6, they'll have a great chance to earn a rematch against Clemson in the ACC championship game.

6. Florida Atlantic (26 points)

Owls coach Lane Kiffin wasn't kidding when he suggested he wanted FAU to become "Second Chance U." Kiffin is making the most of his second chance as a head coach, guiding the Owls to 10 straight victories to finish 11-3 in his first season at FAU in 2017. And now he has rebuilt his team's roster with a boatload of FBS castoffs. He has three former FBS quarterbacks -- De'Andre Johnson (FSU), Chris Robinson (Oklahoma) and Rafe Peavey (SMU) -- battling for the starting job. One of them will be throwing to West Virginia transfer Jovon Durante, who has emerged as FAU's best receiver.

Kiffin replaced departed offensive coordinator Kendal Briles with 25-year-old Charlie Weis Jr. The Owls open the season at Oklahoma and play at No. 21 UCF on Sept. 21. If FAU somehow wins both games, I'm guessing Kiffin won't wait until the end of the season to declare his team national champions.

5. Texas A&M (28 points)

The Aggies spent $485 million on renovations to Kyle Field, $75 million to lure Fisher away from FSU and $5.4 million to swipe defensive coordinator Mike Elko from Notre Dame. No wonder the Aggies allegedly had only a few hundred dollars left to entertain recruits on unofficial visits. I figured it was only a matter of time before Fisher's program was under the NCAA spotlight, I just thought he'd actually coach a game or two first.

While Aggies fans are already dreaming of a national championship, I'd like to see them finish higher than fourth in the SEC West more than once.

4. Florida State (29 points)

The Seminoles were expected to do big things last season but lost quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener and never recovered. It didn't help that coach Jimbo Fisher was halfway out the door in October.

Former USF and Oregon coach Willie Taggart's Gulf Coast offense will at least make No. 19 FSU exciting to watch again, and Francois or James Blackman should be more consistent under center. Sophomore running back Cam Akers is poised to become a star.

FSU will play a handful of marquee games, including the Labor Day night opener against No. 20 Virginia Tech and Oct. 27 home game against No. 2 Clemson.

3. Alabama (31 points)

Just when you thought the SEC field might be catching up with Nick Saban, he pulled out second-and-26 against Georgia in the College Football National Championship to win his fifth national title in nine seasons. The Crimson Tide bring back only 11 starters and have new coordinators on both sides of the ball, but let's stop kidding ourselves. Despite what Saban might say, Alabama has more port-a-johns than Coachella.

The quarterback competition between Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts is going to be intriguing to watch, and the Tide still have five-star running backs and receivers stacked like cordwood.

2. Michigan (32 points)

The start of Jim Harbaugh's tenure at his alma mater hasn't gone exactly as planned. His first three seasons have resembled Brady Hoke's first three at Michigan -- except one of Hoke's teams actually beat Ohio State. I'm guessing the Wolverines will be a lot better this season.

Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson might be the missing piece on offense. The team's defense was especially young last season, but it's very talented, and coordinator Don Brown is one of the best in the business.

With everything else that's happened in the Big Ten this offseason, the Wolverines might be poised to slide past Michigan State and Ohio State in 2018. We'll find out in October, when the Wolverines play consecutive games against No. 4 Wisconsin (home), No. 11 Michigan State (road) and No. 10 Penn State (home).

1. Clemson (34 points)

Remember when Dabo Swinney used to get blazing mad when people said, "Clemsoning?" Well, here's Clemsoning now: seven straight 10-win seasons, three consecutive appearances in the College Football Playoff, one national championship and a 40-4 record the previous three seasons combined. The Tigers have to replace seven starters on both sides of the ball, but they've got an NFL-caliber defensive line, led by ESPN preseason All-Americans Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins.

The offense should be explosive again, and freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence might be starting by October. The Tigers play one opponent ranked in the AP preseason top 25 -- at No. 19 Florida State. If they lose to anyone else, well, you know what people will say.