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Playoff Championship Georgia Alabama Football

Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates after overtime of the championship game against Georgia Monday night in Atlanta. Alabama won 26-23.

ATLANTA — Alabama is the national champ again and the Crimson Tide won the championship with a bunch of freshmen coming off the bunch.

The Tide will keep rolling in 2018 after finishing the 2017 season by beating Georgia to win the College Football Playoff national title . Alabama was voted No. 1 in the final Associated Press college football poll, becoming the first team since Southern California in 2004 to be preseason No. 1 and national champ in the same season. And that's probably where Alabama will start next season, too.

The last Heat Check for the 2017 season looks at how the teams in the final poll's top 10 are set up for '18 and where they might start in the preseason rankings. There are plenty of players still deciding if they will be back for another season or jump to the NFL. Players likely to leave are noted with -x.

No. 1 Alabama (13-1)

Back: QB Jalen Hurts; OT Jonah Williams; DE Raekwon Davis.

Gone: WR Calvin Ridley-x; S Minkah Fitzpatrick-x; LB Rashaan Evans.

Alabama brings back a two-year starting quarterback that has played in two national title games and the backup (Tua Tagovailoa) might be better. The secondary will need a major rebuild.

First test of 2018: vs. Louisville in Orlando, Florida, week one.

Heat check for 2018: Probably preseason No. 1 again.

No. 2 Georgia (13-2)

Back: QB Jake Fromm; RB De'Andre Swift; OT Andrew Thomas.

Gone: RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel; OLB Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy.

The Bulldogs are likely to lose a bunch of juniors, like LB Roquan Smith, to the NFL, and could use a year to retrench before Kirby Smart's excellent recruiting classes develop.

First test of 2018: at South Carolina, week two.

Heat check for 2018: Could be closer to No. 10 than No. 1 depending on early departures.

No. 3 Oklahoma (12-2)

Back: LB Caleb Kelly; RB Rodney Anderson; OT Bobby Evans.

Gone: QB Baker Mayfield; OT Orlando Brown; TE Mark Andrews.

The Sooners' seasons will likely swing on how well Kyler Murray does as Mayfield's replacement, though the backfield should be loaded.

First test of 2018: vs FAU, week one.

Heat check for 2018: Back half of the top 10 because of QB uncertainty.

No. 4 Clemson (12-2)

Back: QB Kelly Bryant; RB Travis Etienne; DT Dexter Lawrence.

Gone: DT Christian Wilkins-x; DE Clelin Ferrell-x; DE Austin Bryant-x.

Three-fourths of that monster defensive line could jump to the NFL early, but 2017 showed Clemson is built to withstand high-level losses.

First test of 2018: at Texas A&M, week two.

Heat check for 2018: In contention for preseason No. 1

No. 5 Ohio State (12-2)

Back: DE Nick Bosa; RB J.K. Dobbins; DT Robert Landers.

Gone: QB J.T. Barrett; DE Sam Hubbard; CB Denzel Ward.

The Buckeyes will replace a lot on defense, but the 2017 recruiting class was loaded, and they should be fine at QB with Dwayne Haskins.

First test of 2018: vs. TCU, week three.

Heat check for 2018: Preseason top five, easily.

No. 6 UCF (13-0)

Back: QB McKenzie Milton; RB Adrian Killins; WR Otis Anderson.

Gone: OLB Shaquem Grffin; DE Jamiyus Pittman; LB Chequan Burkett.

Pressure will be on new coach Josh Heupel, who will have the entire offense back.

First test of 2018: at North Carolina, week three.

Heat check for 2018: If Scott Frost was back, the Knights would be preseason top 10. Now? Probably around 15.

No. 7 Wisconsin (13-1)

Back: RB Jonathan Taylor; QB Alex Hornibrook; LB T.J. Edwards.

Gone: TE Troy Fumagalli; CB Nick Nelson; OLB Garrett Dooley.

The Badgers bring back almost an entire offense.

First test of 2018: at Iowa, week four.

Heat check for 2018: Top five. Certainly not much lower than that.

No. 8 Penn State (11-2)

Back: QB Trace McSorley; WR Juwan Johnson; DE Shareef Miller.

Gone: RB Saquon Barkley; TE Mike Gesicki; S Marcus Allen.

The Nittany Lions have been recruiting well under James Franklin, and that will be tested in 2018 because they lose bunch of big-time upperclassmen.

First test of 2018: vs. Appalachian State, week one.

Heat check for 2018: Top 20 team, but maybe fourth best in the Big Ten East.

No. 9 TCU (11-3)

Back: WR KaVontae Turpin; DE Ben Banogu; LB Ty Summers.

Gone: LB Travin Howard; DE Matt Boesen; QB Kenny Hill.

Under coach Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs tend to do their best work when expectations are low. Might be tough next season.

First test of 2018: vs. Ohio State at Arlington, Texas, week three.

Heat check for 2018: Around No. 15 to start.

No. 10 Auburn (10-4)

Back: QB Jarrett Stidham; DT Dontavious Russell; DE Marlon Davidson.

Gone: RB Kerryon Johnson; OLB Jeff Holland; CB Carlton Davis.

The Tigers will be retooling around Stidham, but have some promising offensive linemen.

First test of 2018: vs. Washington in Atlanta, week one.

Heat check for 2018: Middle of the Top 25 to start.

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat.


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