College Football Way-Too-Early Top 25
Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; A general view as Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes the ball against the LSU Tigers during the third quarter in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
There’s still quite a bit of time before the college football season is scheduled to begin, but why not try and predict how the top 25 will unfold?
1. Clemson Tigers (2019 Record: 14-1)
The news of Justyn Ross’ season-ending surgery last week shook the college football world, and will surely knock Clemson down a rung. However, the returning cast is too much to ignore, with Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne at the helm of what should again be one of the nation’s most high-powered attacks.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1)
Head coach Ryan Day had a Cinderella-like start to his career at Ohio State, and this year’s squad could be even better. Justin Fields returns to lead this Buckeye team, which returns 11 starters and is hungry following a 29-23 loss to Clemson in a College Football Playoff (CFP) Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl last season.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-2)
Alabama will definitely be on a ‘Revenge Tour’ as they head into this season. Yes, they won 11 games, but last season was the first that the Crimson Tide failed to make the CFP since its inception in 2014. The Tide lost star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to an injury, but rising junior Mac Jones finished the 2019 season strong, guiding the Tide to a 3-1 record down the stretch.
4. Georgia Bulldogs (12-2)
Kirby Smart has been very successful at the helm of the Georgia program, logging a 44-12 record in five years as the Bulldogs’ head coach. But most of that success came with Jake Fromm under center (Fromm was 35-7 as a starter). Now that Fromm is off to the NFL, there will be a quarterback competition in Athens, with transfers Jamie Newman (Wake Forest) and J.T. Daniels (USC) both ready to compete for the starting job. Six starters return from a strong defense that hopes to slow down opposing offenses while Newman and Daniels get used to the new system.
5. Oklahoma Sooners (12-2)
The Sooners lost quarterback Jalen Hurts, but this will be the first time in recent years that we will see Lincoln Riley with a signal-caller that he recruited out of high school. Spencer Rattler, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2019, is expected to take the reins of an offense that has the weapons to be one of the most powerful attacks in the nation.
6. Florida Gators (11-2)
The Gators return quarterback Kyle Trask and pass-catching weapons, Kyle Pitts and Trevon Grimes. They also have transfer and former five-star prospect, Lorenzo Lingard, to carry the ball out of the backfield. They look to ride that production to an SEC East title and a trip to Atlanta this season.
7. Penn State Nittany Lions (11-2)
Penn State has been consistently at the top of the Big Ten East in recent years but has not been able to get ahead of Ohio State. The defense has been strong and looks to be again, led by All-American linebacker, Micah Parsons. They also have a favorable schedule, avoiding both of the top teams in the B1G West (Minnesota and Wisconsin).
8. Oregon Ducks (12-2)
Oregon will have to replace quarterback Justin Herbert and four offensive linemen, but they have enough weapons returning and weaker conference as they look to capture another Pac-12 title.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-2)
Notre Dame has been strong over the past few years, with a 33-6 record since 2017, and potentially could be knocking on the door of the CFP with quarterback Ian Book and all five offensive linemen returning.
10. LSU Tigers (15-0)
The reigning national champions lost NINE underclassmen this offseason, as well as Heisman winner, Joe Burrow, but Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase returns for Myles Brennan to throw the ball to. The Tigers are young, but they have to potential to make another deep run in 2020
11. Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-5)
One name can sum up the reason for Oklahoma State’s rise to No. 11 in this poll: Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard had an outstanding junior year on a mediocre Big 12 team, but quarterback Spencer Sanders was strong before being sidelined with a thumb injury, and the Cowboys return 18 starters from 2019.
12. Auburn Tigers (9-4)
Bo Nix leads the Tigers into 2020, after facing one of the toughest schedules in the country last fall, and still managing to win nine games as a true freshman. They lose a lot of starters, but Auburn looks like they could contend for a spot at the top of the loaded SEC West.
13. Wisconsin Badgers (10-4)
Wisconsin is going to have a very tough time replacing Jonathan Taylor, and they lost a lot of playmakers on the offensive side, but they return nine starters from a strong defense in 2019.
14. Texas A&M Aggies (8-5)
Kellen Mond is back at quarterback, but Mond struggled in big games, especially on the road. It’s the third year for Jimbo Fisher as the head coach of the Aggies and this feels like a prove-it year for the former Florida State coach.
15. Michigan Wolverines (9-4)
The Wolverines have been hyped up as a potential CFP team every year since Jim Harbaugh took over as the head coach, but the Wolverines will have their work cut out for them this year, as they lost a ton of key players from last year’s team. The quarterback, whether it’s Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton, will have to really step up this year if the Wolverines want to live up to the hype.
16. Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-2)
‘Row the Boat!’ Head Coach P.J. Fleck has Minnesota on the rise in the weaker B1G West, and they primed for a strong season again this year. The Golden Gophers return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Tanner Morgan.
17. Boise State Broncos (12-2)
The Broncos were unbeaten in Mountain West play for the first time in 2019, and they are returning 1,000-yard rusher George Holani along with other weapons on the outside. They have a chance for a signature win when they host Florida State on Sept. 19.
18. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-6)
The Tar Heels benefit from being in the weaker ACC Coastal, and they also return Heisman dark horse candidate, Sam Howell. All six of the Tar Heels’ losses from last season were decided by less than seven points. Mack Brown and his squad look to flip the script on those close losses in 2020.
19. Iowa State Cyclones (7-6)
Quarterback Brock Purdy returns, as do a few of his top weapons in running back Breece Hall and receiver Tarigue Milton. Like Noth Carolina (see above) the Cyclones lost a multitude of close games in 2019. If they can flip the script this season, they have a shot to compete in the Big 12.
20. Iowa Hawkeyes (10-3)
Iowa will have to replace longtime signal-caller Nate Stanley, but they return their top seven pass-catchers and their top two rushers. Kirk Ferentz has the Hawkeyes in position to once again make a run in the B1G West.
21. Cincinnati Bearcats (11-3)
Luke Fickell is back after turning down an opportunity to replace Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, and the Bearcats return 15 starters from last year’s 11-win squad. If quarterback Desmond Ridder can stay healthy, Cincinnati should be the AAC favorites.
22. Texas Longhorns (8-5)
Texas has had high expectations in both of the last two seasons, with quarterback Sam Ehlinger leading the way, but they have yet to be able to live up to the hype and capture a Big 12 title. Both of Ehlinger’s top weapons (Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson) graduated, so the Longhorns will have to establish new receivers, but they return 16 starters from last year’s team.
23. USC Trojans (8-5)
The Trojans return 17 starters from an 8-win squad last season, and Clay Helton returns at the helm of the program, after many rumors that he would be fired in the offseason. J.T. Daniels is gone (transfer to Georgia), but Kedon Slovis returns as the starter after taking over for Daniels following his injury. The Trojans have all the talent to make a run, but will it come together?
24. Appalachian State Mountaineers (13-1)
The Mountaineers won 13 games last season, the most in Sun Belt history, and return 13 starters from that team, including quarterback Zac Thomas. Star tailback Darrynton Evans is off to the NFL and will be difficult to replace, but the overall talent of this team is more than enough for them to be the Sun Belt favorites enter the season
25. Memphis Tigers (12-2)
The Tigers were the highest-ranked ‘group of five’ team in the country last season, and they return quarterback Brady White. Barring major injuries, the Tigers should be able to compete with Cincinnati for the AAC title.
First Four Out