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Post-spring Top 25 teams' biggest question marks heading into the fall

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Why Sarkisian is under more pressure to win than DeBoer (2:17)

Harry Douglas, Heather Dinich and Paul Finebaum debate the level of pressure Texas' Steve Sarkisian and Alabama's Kalen DeBoer are under to win this season. (2:17)

No team is perfect, even if the roster may look great on paper.

Teams face movement often between the transfer portal, NFL draft, injuries and more. This season, we'll see a starting quarterback play in his seventh year of eligibility, teams that are looking to rebuild at wide receiver and rosters that are looking for depth across the board.

So with college football back in full swing in just over a month, it's time for our reporters to identify each post-spring Top 25 team's weakness and break down places where they can still improve ahead of Week 1.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Question mark: Pass rush

Georgia lost only one game last season and led the SEC in scoring defense (15.6 points) and total defense (289.1 yards). But the Bulldogs struggled to consistently produce a pass rush, and coach Kirby Smart has emphasized finding ways to disrupt opposing quarterbacks during the offseason. Georgia had 30 sacks in 2023, which ranked ninth in the SEC.

Junior Mykel Williams is considered a potential first-round pick in the 2025 NFL draft after producing 7½ sacks in his first two seasons. He'll play more at outside linebacker in 2024, a move the coaching staff hopes will free him up to rush the passer more consistently. -- Mark Schlabach


2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Question mark: Quarterback

The Buckeyes might own the best overall roster in the country. The quarterback position, however, remains one of the only lingering questions going into the season. All signs point to Kansas State transfer Will Howard winning the job in the preseason. Howard posted a very solid 77.8 combined QBR over the past two years in Manhattan. If he matches or exceeds that level of play, the Buckeyes could prove to be the nation's team to beat come playoff time. -- Jake Trotter


3. Texas Longhorns

Question mark: Pass defense

The Longhorns ranked 116th in pass defense last season, giving up 254.4 yards per game, with Michael Penix Jr. completing 76% of his attempts for 430 yards against the Longhorns in the CFP semis at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The quarterbacks lit it up again in the spring game, which is both expected from Steve Sarkisian's offense, but also a concern for the pass defense. Terrance Brooks, a corner who made 19 starts and was an All-Big 12 honorable mention last year, left for Illinois shortly after that.

The Longhorns were thrilled to add coveted transfer safety Andrew Mukuba from Clemson to help, as should the pass rush additions up front with UTSA transfer Trey Moore (14 sacks last year) and five-star freshman edge rusher Colin Simmons to add oomph to a pass rush that finished 63rd in sack rate. -- Dave Wilson


4. Oregon Ducks

Question mark: Safeties

Oregon's safeties are not so much a weakness as much as they are a question mark. The Ducks lost Evan Williams, Steve Stephens IV and Bryan Addison at the position from last year but added Kobe Savage, who should slide into a starting spot, from Kansas State. After Savage, however, the depth is murky. Tysheem Johnson has shown potential but also of lackluster play, which could open up a window for a younger player to step up this season. -- Paolo Uggetti


5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Question mark: Wide receiver

There's room for optimism with this receivers corps, which includes the addition of transfers Beaux Collins (Clemson) and Kris Mitchell (FIU), along with holdovers Jordan Faison, Jaden Greathouse and Jayden Thomas. But last year's leading wideouts, Chris Tyree and Rico Flores Jr., both transferred, and it was a unit that struggled often even with them. No wide receiver caught more than 27 passes in 2022 or 2023. Notre Dame hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Chase Claypool in 2019.

With Riley Leonard's legs, a big O-line and a talented backfield (not to mention a burgeoning star in tight end Mitchell Evans), there's not a ton of pressure on the receivers to put up earth-shattering numbers, but genuine progress will be critical to an Irish offense that lost three games last season -- all scoring 23 points or less. In those three games, the wide receivers combined for just two touchdown grabs and none had more than four catches in any one game. -- David Hale


6. Ole Miss Rebels

Question mark: Roster depth

The best news for Lane Kiffin and the Rebels is that there aren't any obvious weaknesses, thanks primarily to Kiffin's ability to work the transfer portal and bring in players at key positions. But one of the questions is whether or not they have enough quality depth across the board to contend for an SEC championship. The Rebels are deeper than they've been in recent years, but it remains to be seen how they will hold up in spots such as the offensive line and cornerback, where new faces from the portal will be counted on heavily. -- Chris Low


7. Alabama Crimson Tide

Question mark: Returning receivers

While Alabama likes the potential of its receiving corps, there's very little returning production. Transfer Germie Bernard had 419 receiving yards last season at Washington and is a versatile playmaker. Touted true freshman Ryan Williams is oozing with talent, but didn't get on campus until after spring practice.

Kendrick Law has shown the ability to do a little of everything, and Jalen Hale's status is uncertain after suffering a knee injury. Kobe Prentice is the most proven of the receivers on last year's Alabama roster. He caught 18 passes, including two touchdowns, and averaged 17.4 yards per catch. Development will be key for the Tide's pass catchers. -- Low


8. Missouri Tigers

Question mark: Defense

Eliah Drinkwitz worked overtime this offseason to restock his defense through the transfer portal after several key losses to the NFL, including three starting defensive backs. As Corey Batoon takes over for Blake Baker as Missouri's defensive coordinator, Batoon's most pressing challenge will be seeing to it that the Tigers can hold up against the pass, especially when it comes to eliminating explosive plays. It's not just pass coverage that looms as a question mark. Missouri's best pass rusher, Darius Robinson, was taken in the first round of the NFL draft. -- Low


9. Utah Utes

Question mark: Quarterback and O-line

It's far too early to say this is a weakness for the Utes, but the combination of how Cam Rising returns after a year off due to an injury and an offensive line that lost two of its best players from last year, including its center, could be a question mark heading into the season. Despite some key departures, there's plenty of promise and talent in the Utes' line, including redshirt freshman Caleb Lomu and juniors Tanoa Togiai and Jaren Kump, so it will likely come down to how well the group jells as the season progresses. -- Uggetti


10. Michigan Wolverines

Question mark: Wide receiver

The Wolverines have a wide-open quarterback competition heading into the fall, but they also have big questions at receiver. All-American tight end Colston Loveland will ease the pressure on the receivers. Tyler Morris, who only had 13 catches last season, will need to have a big year as the headliner of a relatively unproven group that includes Semaj Morgan, Fredrick Moore, Kendrick Bell and Youngstown State transfer C.J. Charleston, among others. -- Trotter


11. Florida State Seminoles

Question mark: Depth at receiver and linebacker

The Seminoles lost key contributors at nearly every position, but the two areas where they will have to build up are not only starters but depth: receiver and linebacker. Florida State signed Alabama transfer Malik Benson and LSU transfer Jalen Brown to help replace the departed Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson.

There are numbers here, but players such as Hykeem Williams, Ja'Khi Douglas, Deuce Spann and Kentron Poitier will be relied on more to produce more consistently. At linebacker, Florida State must replace two highly productive players in Kalen DeLoach (the unsung hero on defense) and Tatum Bethune. There is young talent at the position as well who will be relied on to step up. -- Andrea Adelson


12. Penn State Nittany Lions

Question mark: Offensive tackle

The Nittany Lions have to replace their two starting offensive tackles from last season in first-round pick Olumuyiwa Fashanu and third-rounder Caedan Wallace. Penn State will be counting on Drew Shelton, who missed the spring with an injury, and Wisconsin transfer Nolan Rucci, an ESPN top-40 recruit in 2021, to shore up its bookend pass protection for quarterback Drew Allar. If Shelton and Rucci step up, offensive tackle could quickly become a strength again. -- Trotter


13. NC State Wolfpack

Question mark: Running back

Perhaps we're underestimating the impact transfers Jordan Waters (Duke) and Hollywood Smothers (Oklahoma) will have this season, but at NC State, the ground game has been a big concern for a few years. In 2023, the Wolfpack's leading rusher was the quarterback. Their second-leading rusher was a wide receiver. So yeah, there's a lot of work for Waters and Smothers to turn things around. Waters at least has the résumé to suggest it's possible. At Duke last season, he ran for 819 yards and 12 touchdowns. The last time NC State had a runner hit those marks in the same season? Reggie Gallaspy in 2018. -- Hale


14. LSU Tigers

Question mark: Pass defense

The Tigers ranked 118th in the FBS last year in pass defense, allowing 255.6 yards per game, causing coach Brian Kelly to overhaul his defensive coaching staff heading into his third season at LSU. Kelly poached defensive coordinator Blake Baker from Missouri and brought back highly respected secondary coach Corey Raymond.

Seeing receivers run open in the spring game had to be concerning, but the Tigers feel like progress was made during the spring. LSU hopes Major Burns will be more comfortable at the hybrid star position, which will put him closer to the line of scrimmage, and Sage Ryan played better after moving from cornerback back to strong safety. -- Schlabach


15. Tennessee Volunteers

Question mark: Defense

Tennessee's secondary made tremendous strides last season, improving from 127th in the FBS in pass defense (289.5) in 2022 to 64th (221.5) in 2023. But the Volunteers will have to replace each of their five starters and six top defensive backs heading into this season. Coach Josh Heupel picked up a couple of key cornerbacks from the transfer portal -- Oregon State's Jermod McCoy and Temple's Jalen McMurray -- to help reload the back end of the defense. After the spring, Middle Tennessee transfer Jakobe Thomas is in line to start at free safety after the spring, and freshman Boo Carter is the No. 1 strong safety. -- Schlabach


16. Clemson Tigers

Question mark: Quarterback

Here's a mind-boggling stat: From 2015 to 2020, Clemson had the ACC's best Total QBR against FBS opponents. From 2021 to 2023, the Tigers ranked dead last. Cade Klubnik isn't responsible for all of that, and there are certainly other factors at play (O-line, wide receiver), but if there's one big overarching issue that has kept Clemson from the playoff the past three years, it's the quarterback. Klubnik had his share of strong moments in 2023, but he also made some questionable decisions against Duke and Florida State that likely cost the Tigers wins.

Klubnik and backup Chris Vizzina struggled in the Tigers' spring game, adding more concern from an already nervous fan base. Of course, Klubnik was also a former five-star recruit, and Dabo Swinney has continued to sing his quarterback's praises. Could he take a big leap forward in his second full season as the starter? If he does, it could be Clemson's ticket back into national title contention. -- Hale


17. Kansas State Wildcats

Question mark: Depth at linebacker

The Wildcats have a relatively consistent build on both sides of the ball. If we're nitpicking (and it feels like it), you could look to the linebacker room and prefer more depth. There is certainly talent in the room with 2023 All-Big 12 second-teamer Austin Moore, 2023 All-Big 12 honorable mention Desmond Purnell and the addition of Jordan Riley from Ball State. But injuries forced this group to play more players than expected and might be a bigger problem this season if it faces those same challenges. -- Harry Lyles Jr.


18. Oklahoma Sooners

Question mark: Offensive line

The Sooners lost their entire starting offensive line, including first-round pick Tyler Guyton, and nine O-lineman in total. They added Spencer Brown from Michigan State, Geirean Hatchett from Washington, Febechi Nwaiwu from North Texas and Michael Tarquin from USC along with four incoming freshmen, then added a big piece in SMU center Branson Hickman after the spring portal.

Brent Venables said they will need contributions from all of them, but added that he has complete confidence in line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who has helped produce 13 NFL draft picks in the past 10 years. But with a grueling schedule in Year 1 in the SEC, it's not an ideal time for an offensive line rebuild. -- Wilson


19. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Question mark: Quarterback

Offensively, the weapons are there, the offensive line is experienced, and the defense returns nine starters in what should be an improved unit. It feels like the biggest weakness remains the quarterback position. Alan Bowman is entering his seventh college football season, which seems good from an experience perspective, but questions remain about his ability to cut down on turnovers. He threw 14 interceptions last season. He is set up for success in 2024 and will be the determining factor for how far this team will go. -- Lyles


20. Arizona Wildcats

Question mark: Defensive line

While Arizona's defensive line made a gigantic leap last season, the unit heads into the fall without a returning starter after Bill Norton transferred to Texas in the spring. New head coach Brent Brennan and defensive coordinator Duane Akina have added a few lineman via the portal while hoping some of their younger players such as sophomore Isaiah Johnson and redshirt freshman Julian Savaiinaea will step up. Akina, meanwhile, has told local reporters that this will require the Wildcats to add a few "twists" to how they approach the position group. -- Uggetti


21. Virginia Tech Hokies

Question mark: Middle linebacker

Once a position of strength on the stout Hokies defenses of years past, middle linebacker is an area that Virginia Tech knows must improve if the Hokies are going to live up to growing expectations. Virginia Tech went into the transfer portal to bring in Sam Brumfield from Middle Tennessee State, but Jaden Keller had a great spring and could be the answer at the position. Virginia Tech has experience across the board at linebacker; if it can shore up its play up the middle, that would certainly help make a formidable front seven considering the strength of the returning defensive line. -- Adelson


22. Kansas Jayhawks

Question mark: Backup quarterback depth

Not that this is a particular strength for most teams, but the lack of an experienced backup quarterback stands out with Kansas this year. After a couple of consecutive seasons with injuries to quarterback Jalon Daniels, not having Jason Bean this season behind the glass to break "in case of emergency" will be more concerning, especially as the Jayhawks work to reform their offensive line with just two returning starters and some new pieces, along with new line coach Daryl Agpalsa. -- Lyles


23. Iowa Hawkeyes

Question mark: Wide receiver

Kaleb Brown and Seth Anderson, Iowa's projected starting wide receivers, combined for only 33 catches and two touchdowns last season. The Hawkeyes need to get more out of this position after finishing last in the Big Ten in 2023 in yards per game (235.4), passing yards per game (118.6) and points (15.4). -- Trotter


24. Miami Hurricanes

Question mark: Roster depth

The Hurricanes have a revamped secondary heading into the season, having to replace multiple starters, including All-ACC safety Kam Kinchens. Though they feel good about the young talent they have across the board, including cornerback Damari Brown, the group is going to be asked to take a giant step forward this season. Adding Mishael Powell from the transfer portal is big, but there are depth concerns. -- Adelson


25. USC Trojans

Question mark: O-line and D-line

Much has been made about USC's continued efforts to evolve, improve and strengthen its line play on both sides of the ball under new defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn and offensive coordinator/O-line coach Josh Henson. But despite some strides made on the recruiting trail, the transfer portal and the weight room, both lines will enter the season with plenty of questions surrounding not just its depth, but its talent and capability to hang with Big Ten trenches. -- Uggetti