Unit watch, 2016: Ranking college football's best position groups

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is a key part of what might be the nation's best skill position bunch. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This story appears in ESPN College Football 2016, on newsstands June 7. Order online today!

When we asked ESPN experts to rank the nation's position groups, it came as no surprise that Alabama grabbed three mentions. But Iowa took home the best Big Ugly unit, and that front line might be the unsung piece that pushes the Hawkeyes to the next level in 2016.

Here are the top five units at five different spots, as ranked by ESPN talent.

Brock Huard's top skill groups

1. Clemson Tigers (QB Deshaun Watson, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Artavis Scott)

2. Oklahoma Sooners (QB Baker Mayfield, RB Samaje Perine, WR Dede Westbrook)

3. Houston Cougars (QB Greg Ward Jr., RB Duke Catalon, WR Steven Dunbar)

4. Ole Miss Rebels (QB Chad Kelly, RB Jordan Wilkins, TE Evan Engram)

The explosive arm of Kelly (87.0 QBR) will light up the Grove, and Damore'ea Stringfellow helps replace Laquon Treadwell at receiver. The Rebels put up north of 40 points per game, eighth in the FBS.

5. Washington State Cougars (QB Luke Falk, RB Gerard Wicks, WR Gabe Marks)

Ed Cunningham's top offensive lines

1. Iowa Hawkeyes: LG Boone Myers, RT Ike Boettger, C/RG Sean Welsh

Iowa will miss center Austin Blythe, but Myers, Boettger, Welsh and Cole Croston have combined for 51 career starts and weigh in at an average of 302 pounds, helping keep QB C.J. Beathard upright.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide: LT Cam Robinson (editor's note: these rankings were compiled before Robinson's arrest), C Ross Pierschbacher, RG Alphonse Taylor

3. Florida State Seminoles: LT Rod Johnson, C Alec Eberle, RG Wilson Bell

4. Clemson: LT Mitch Hyatt, C Jay Guillermo, RG Tyrone Crowder

5. Boise State Broncos: RG Steven Baggett, LG Travis Averill, RT Mario Yakoo

Booger McFarland's top front sevens

1. Florida Gators: DT Caleb Brantley, DE Cece Jefferson, LB Jarrad Davis

2. LSU Tigers: DT Davon Godchaux, LB/DE Arden Key, LB Kendell Beckwith

The Tigers switch to a 3-4 defense, allowing Key to stand up and rush off the edge at outside linebacker, and Godchaux will create havoc inside. Expect the sack total (34) to jump in a heavier attack scheme.

3. Alabama: DE Jonathan Allen, LB Reuben Foster, LB Tim Williams

4. Ohio State Buckeyes: DE Sam Hubbard, LB Raekwon McMillan, DT Tracy Sprinkle

5. Michigan State Spartans: DT Malik McDowell, LB Ed Davis, LB Riley Bullough

Rod Gilmore's top defensive backs

1. Michigan Wolverines: S/LB Jabrill Peppers, CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Jeremy Clark

2. Georgia Bulldogs: CB Aaron Davis, CB Malkom Parrish, S Dominick Sanders

3. Boston College Eagles: CB Isaac Yiadom, S John Johnson, S William Harris

4. Washington Huskies: S Budda Baker, CB Sidney Jones, CB Kevin King

5. Oklahoma: CB Jordan Thomas, S Steven Parker, S Ahmad Thomas

Edging LSU for the final spot, OU faced a heavy workload (437 attempts), made 20 picks and kept opponents to just 6.0 yards per attempt (13th in the FBS). Three starters return in the secondary.

Desmond Howard's special teams

1. Tennessee Volunteers: KR Evan Berry, PR Cameron Sutton, K Aaron Medley

2. Utah Utes: K Andy Phillips, KR Cory Butler-Byrd, PR Boobie Hobbs

Utah's crew comes in ranked fourth in efficiency. "Automatic" Andy has hit 84 percent on field goals (4-for-4 from 50-plus) over three years, and Butler-Byrd has wheels (27.9 yards per return).

3. Texas A&M Aggies: RS Christian Kirk, K Daniel LaCamera, P Shane Tripucka

4. Alabama: KR Damien Harris, K Adam Griffith, P JK Scott

5. Stanford Cardinal: RS Christian McCaffrey, K Conrad Ukropina, P Alex Robinson