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Way too early 2016 Pacific Takes Top 25: Stanford number nine

Here is an ultra early look at what the 2016 preseason Top 25 could look like.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Oklahoma

4. Michigan

5. Ohio State

6. Florida State

7. LSU

8. Notre Dame

9. Stanford - The Cardinal return the Heisman frontrunner and nation's best overall playmaker in Christian McCaffrey, but they also have to break in a new quarterback, replace their two far and away best offensive linemen and two best receiving options on offense. On defense, they have to replace a wealth of starters from a defense that took a step back last year from the earlier Harbaugh/Shaw teams, but overall there is enough talent across the board and experience returning in spots to keep the Cardinal in the Top 10.

10. Iowa

11. Oklahoma State

12. North Carolina

13. Baylor

14. Georgia

15. Michigan State

16. Mississippi State

17. Tennessee

18. USC - I think the long, long strange trip of Trojan underachievement may continue in 2016, but they have enough experience and talent where that underachievement should still keep them in the Top 20. They have to replace Cody Kessler, but his replacement will have maybe the nation's best receiver in Juju Smith-Schuster, a supremely talented offensive line and a star ready to burst at running back in Ronald Jones. The defense loses a lot up front, but is stacked with talent across the board and potentially the nation's best cornerback in Adoree Jackson.

19. Florida

20. UCLA - The Bruins have lost beyond a wealth of talent to graduation, early draft entries and transfers the past six months, but Jim Mora still has the cupboards loaded with very talented players and Josh Rosen might be ready to take the next step to become a full on star at quarterback as a sophomore. He will have to have new stars step up on offense at the skill positions and have linemen develop, but the defense should be fine where a good amount of experienced all-conference-level players return.

21. Houston

22. Oregon - This actually might be a generous ranking for the Ducks considering I didn't have them finishing in the Top 25 this year with Vernon Adams and DeForest Buckner around, but this is still a talented program that has been as consistent as any other than Alabama for almost a decade now. The Ducks need someone to step up at quarterback, but either way, Royce Freeman will be running for nearly 2,000 yards and wearing out defenses. The defense needs a lot of work, but the Ducks have a track record of getting the most out of meager defenses outside of last year, so maybe it was just a one-year thing.

23. Washington - The Huskies won seven games in 2015 with maybe the nation's youngest power five roster and true freshmen at quarterback, running back and both tackles. They return almost every key player from a team that really improved as the season went on, had the Pac-12's best defense and a returning sophomore quarterback, running back duo in Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin that could be the nation's best.

24. Washington State - 2015's surprise Pac-12 team returns Mike Leach's system, stars at its most key positions in quarterback Luke Falk and receiver Gabe Marks and some other nice pieces. Falk and Marks are sure to put up huge numbers again, but the key for the Cougars getting into the Top 25 again probably depends on if they can get good performances from both of their lines again despite losing a lot of very key pieces.

25. TCU

Others to watch - Mississippi, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Utah, Northwestern