Some of the 2020 college football season has already kicked off, but most teams in the country start their seasons in the next coming week. Here we take a look at a few predictions of teams out there. The 54 FBS programs not playing this fall will not be included in these predictions.
Favorites to Win the National Championship:
Clemson was coming off a national championship back in 2018-19, then came up just a little bit short vs LSU this past year in an attempt to win back to back titles. They return Heisman front runner Trevor Lawrence for a 3rd season, and since he is projected to be drafted 1st overall in 2021, this will be his final opportunity to lead the Tigers.
Teaming up once again with RB Travis Etienne, the only question mark offensively will be their WR core who took a hit from multiple losses to the NFL. Their defense should return plenty as well as reload what they lost, so Clemson should be expected to cruise through the ACC once again right into another National Championship opportunity. Ohio State was expected to be their toughest competition standing in their way, so Clemson is benefitted by the Big 10’s decision not to participate this season.
Alabama Crimson Tide:
Year after year you can expect to find Alabama listed high on this list, but this year is slightly different. Last season we saw Tua Tagovailoa go down with an injury, and Alabama seemed to struggle offensively when forced to replace him with QB Mac Jones. This season, it is all Mac Jones’ team so it’ll be interesting to see if he can take that next step as a passer, especially after losing star WR’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. RB Najeh Harris decided to return for his final season so that was important to hold down this offense in case the passing game goes stagnant at times. Alabama continuously puts out a quality defense year after year so I think when all is said and done, Alabama will still compete for a title this year.
Teams that Need to take the Next Step:
The Gators finished last season in the top 10 with an Orange Bowl victory, and begin this year in the top 10. The problem with Florida is they have not been able to get over the hump and win the SEC East. No matter how good they have been the past few years, Florida has not been able to get past Georgia. Dan Mullen brought a lot of hype to this team when he took over back in 2018 but now is the time to take that next step and win the division at least.
Florida returns Kyle Trask at QB who exceeded expectations when he had to fill in for injured Feleipe Franks last year, so the offense will be in good hands. The defense should be solid as always as well. Tennessee and South Carolina are both showing signs of slow improvement in the SEC East so the window may be closing soon on the division being only a 2 team race between Florida and Georgia.
Texas has been in the midst of mediocrity ever since 2010. They have Heisman candidate Sam Ehlinger back at QB for one final season, so it is his final chance to show what he can do before heading off to the NFL next year. One of Texas’ biggest issues last year was defense, so they replaced their defensive coordinator Todd Orlando with Rutgers former head coach Chris Ash.
Texas has no problem putting up points, but it will be up to the defense in order for Texas to improve this year. The Big 12 may be at its weakest point in a while. Texas A&M is no longer there. Oklahoma is starting a freshman QB and has continuously been exposed in the playoffs the last couple years. TCU has had to suspend operations due to a Covid outbreak. If they want to make the next step to take control of the Big 12, this is the year to do it.
It might be somewhat surprising that the defending national championship makes this list, but when you consider LSU had 14 players drafted from last year’s team, there’s not really much to go off of when judging this year’s team since most of their starters had to be replaced. The main issue I see with LSU is dealing with their offensive expectations after what Joe Burrow was able to do last year. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady was brought in and completely revolutionized the Tigers’ offensive system, but he is now moved on to the Carolina Panthers, and Joe Burrow graduated who also needs to be replaced.
Both of their top receivers, Justin Jefferson who went to the NFL, and Ja’marr Chase recently opted out of the season, could create some issues with their offense this year. Last year LSU was only 31st in the country in defensive ranking, which was fine because their offense picked up their slack, but that won’t be the case this year. LSU should still be able to compete for the SEC West, but it won’t be easy especially with their preseason expectation of being ranked 6th in the country.
Oklahoma comes into this season ranked 5th so they do not have much room for error in order to live up to that expectation. Jalen Hurts is gone, as well as CeeDee Lamb who were the main pieces in the dominant Lincoln Riley offense. Jalen Hurts is replaced by freshman Spencer Rattler who is unproven for the most part, so I would expect their offense to take a step back from last year. The concerning thing about this team is the defense who ranked 38th in yards allowed and 64th in points allowed. A freshman leading the offense with a weak defense may not be a recipe for a top 5 team in the country. The fact that Oklahoma has been blown out twice in the playoffs the last 2 years is also worrisome that they can’t compete in big games, especially after the offensive pieces they lost.
Biggest Games to Look Forward to this Year:
Auburn @ Georgia Oct. 3rd
Texas vs Oklahoma Oct. 10th
Georgia @ Alabama Oct. 17th
LSU @ Florida Oct. 17th
LSU @ Auburn Oct. 31st
Florida vs Georgia Nov. 7th
Clemson @ Notre Dame Nov. 7th
Alabama @ LSU Nov. 14th
Auburn @ Alabama Nov. 28th