Bulldogs Beat

Morning musings: Which teams are early contenders for College Football Playoff?

ATHENS -- August has arrived, meaning just over a month remains before the college football season kicks off.

With that in mind, it's hard to begin thinking about the second-ever College Football Playoff. Last year, Ohio State surprised everyone late in the season by winning the first playoff with a third-string quarterback. Entering 2015, the Buckeyes appear the team to beat.

As it stands, here's an early look at which teams appear among the preseason contenders.

Front four

Ohio State -- The Buckeyes have three quarterbacks that could start anywhere in the nation in Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller. And Miller is athletic enough that he's starting the year out at receiver. Keep in mind, Miller was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate last preseason before missing the 2014 season with a right shoulder injury. Running back Ezekiel Elliott will look to build on his late-season success.

Alabama -- The Crimson Tide will be forced to ease in new contributors at quarterback and receiver but will be great defensively. Alabama's front seven will be among the nation's best, with A’Shawn Robinson leading the way. Reggie Ragland returns at linebacker, only making things difficult against opposing running games. The secondary will begin the year inexperienced but will be aided by the strength at defensive line and linebacker.

Michigan State -- The Spartans are no joke. Michigan State is the lone team that stands to knock off Ohio State in the Big Ten and have a third-year starter at quarterback in Connor Cook. Michigan State's offensive line could be the best in the conference and rival others across the nation. A stacked defensive line could put the Spartans back in the top 10 in total defense for the fifth consecutive year.

TCU -- Though the Horned Frogs lost some quality defensive contributors, head coach Gary Patterson has always fielded a team strong on that side of the ball. Davion Pierson will step up as a leader and Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry will be asked to take on a big role. On offense, TCU is just fine with Trevone Boykin at quarterback. Defense could see some growing pains early while the offense carries the Horned Frogs in the first half of the season.

Three behind

Baylor -- The Bears' defense should be improved, though a new quarterback in Seth Russell will step in. Russell should be fine as the entire offensive line and running back Shock Linwood return.

Auburn -- The Tigers return a lot on defense, which struggled quite a bit down the stretch in 2014. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson gives Auburn more options in the passing game.

Georgia -- With the quarterback position a major question mark, the Bulldogs haven't received much love around the country. However, Georgia offers plenty of depth with experience at most other positions. If Trenton Thompson is as good as advertised, the Bulldogs could enter Oct. 3 against Alabama unbeaten.

Back end

Notre Dame -- This won't be a popular preseason prediction but it's one based on returning starters and a fairly weak schedule. After opening against a still-rebuilding Texas squad, Notre Dame's toughest remaining games will be against Georgia Tech, Clemson and USC. All three are winnable.

LSU -- Some could argue Arkansas or Ole Miss in this spot and I wouldn't disagree. I like the Tigers because of Leonard Fournette while believing they get better QB play this year, whether it's from Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris.

USC -- Cody Kessler has positioned himself among the best quarterbacks in the country after completing 69.7 percent of his passes a year ago. USC's offense averaged 35.8 points per game and is loaded on that side of the ball. Losing Leonard Williams and Hayes Pullard on defense could be too tough to overcome.

Oregon -- This pick assumes Vernon Adams, as a fifth-year senior that tore up the FCS level with Eastern Washington, ends up on campus when it's all said and done. Adams reportedly did not graduate from Eastern Washington this past spring, meaning Jeff Lockie could be the guy replacing Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

Next up: Florida State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Stanford

Hitting the links

Isaac Nauta, the nation's No. 1 tight end recruit, told the AJC's Charles Kingsbury that he will announce his commitment on Jan. 9, 2016. Nauta recently de-committed from Florida State and Georgia is thought to be a major player in his recruitment.

Georgia could land commitment No. 15 Monday afternoon, writes the AJC's Kingsbury. Texas three-star receiver Davion Curtis is expected to announce his decision sometime between 2 and 3 p.m.

Bulldawg Illustrated's Bob Miller previews the quarterback position with preseason practice on the horizon.

The Athens Banner-Herald's Marc Weiszer gives his take on the quarterback position that will receive a ton of attention beginning Tuesday.

The Senator poses three SEC questions for his readers to answer as part of a roundtable.

Preseason practice week

On Tuesday, Georgia will hit the field for the first time in preparation for the 2015 season. A lot of questions will be addressed throughout the preseason, including question marks at quarterback, receiver and the secondary. It will also be a good opportunity to see how running back Keith Marshall looks after sitting almost all of 2014 out.

The coaches and the players are all looking forward to stepping back on the field with the same goal the other 13 SEC teams have -- win a conferenec championship.

“We’re excited, I’m excited to get back on the field to see the hard work we put in this spring and summer," defensive end Sterling Bailey said. "Just to be out there with my teammates, I just can’t wait for it.”

Song of the day

"What Can I Do?" by The Black Belles

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