College Football Preseason Top 25
Written By Eli Kleinmann
Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium. (Courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
As College Football starts it’s second century of the 2000's, there is a lot that is unknown as conference commissioners, school presidents and athletic directors decide when and how the 2020 season occurs. There is a possibility that some conferences play in the spring while others play in the fall. However if the season does go ahead as planned, here is the preseason top 25 and each teams key game and biggest question heading into the season.
Travis Etienne (left), Trevor Lawrence (center) in the 2018 ACC championship game against Pittsburgh. (Courtesy of Associated Press)
Clemson is the clear favorite for the 2020 season. The Tigers bring back their elite backfield in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne as well the Junior Wideout Justyn Ross. On the other side of the ball Clemson loses all-around playmaker Isaiah Simmons, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables does bring back Linebacker James Skalski and Defensive End Xavier Thomas. Clemson’s should be elite on both sides of the ball and have a clear path to the playoff. The Tigers might have a challenge in a trip to Notre Dame, but it would be a shock if Clemson did not make a sixth straight playoff appearance.
Key Game: 11/7 @Notre Dame
Biggest Question: Will Clemson lose a game in the ACC?
2. Ohio St.
Ohio St. Quarterback Justin Fields. (Courtesy of The SportsFan Journal)
The Buckeyes have a strong chance to go back to the playoff in 2020. Ohio St. loses key players in J.K. Dobbins and consensus All-American Chase Young, but Ryan Day brings back experience with Quarterback Justin Fields and Wideout Chris Olave on offense, and Cornerback Shaun Wade and Defensive End Zach Harrison on defense. The Buckeyes do have a tricky schedule with trips to Oregon and Penn St., but Ohio St. should be strong enough to pull out at least one win in those two games and a one loss Ohio St. team is definitely a team that is playoff bound.
Key Game: 10/24 @ Penn St.
Biggest Question: Can Justin Fields dominate without the presence of J.K. Dobbins?
Nick Saban leading Alabama out for the 2018 National Championship Game. (Courtesy of the Associated Press)
Alabama is the only team in the top five with a quarterback competition coming into the 2020 season. The Crimson Tide coming off the first year they missed the playoff, bring back Quarterback Mac Jones who played well late last season as he replaced the injured Tua Tagovailoa. The other option for the Tide is incoming Freshman Bryce Young who is the number one rated dual-threat quarterback in his class. Regardless of who Nick Saban picks, Alabama should have an explosive offense with Running Back Najee Harris returning as well as Wide Receivers Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith. If the Alabama defense led by Patrick Surtain and Dylan Moses can improve from the slight setback they had a year ago there is little doubt that they can make a return to the playoff.
Key Game: 9/19 Vs. Georgia
Biggest Question: Will Bryce Young get an opportunity to play?
Quarterback Kyle Trask (left) and Tight End Kyle Pitts (right). (Courtesy of the Associated Press)
After two straight wins in New Year's Six Bowl Games, Florida should be the favorite to win the SEC East. Dan Mullin brings back plenty of talent in his third year led by Quarterback Kyle Trask. While the losses of Jonathan Greenard, Jabari Zuniga and C.J. Henderson are significant, the Gators have solid replacements for their defense. While Florida has a solid roster another reason for their high ranking is the easy schedule they have in 2020. The biggest challenges for Florida are hosting LSU and then the rivalry against Georgia in Jacksonville. If the Gators can pull off a win in one of those games they likely will head to Atlanta with a chance to make the playoff.
Key Game: 10/31 Vs. Georgia
Biggest Question: Will Florida be able to replace it’s pass rush of Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga?
5. Penn St.
Micah Parsons (11) hoisting the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic MVP trophy. (Courtesy of centredaily.com)
Micah Parsons should make Penn St. an exciting team to watch in 2020. The Linebacker looks to be one of the best defenders in the nation and will lead Penn St. on defense. On offense Penn St. returns Quarterback Sean Clifford as well as probably the deepest running back room in the country. With the departure of K.J. Hamler, the only concern for the Nittany Lions is the lack of a star receiver, but Penn St. is confident that Jahan Dotson and Tight End Pat Freiermuth can fill the void left by Hamler. A huge advantage for Penn St. is that Ohio St. has to travel to Happy Valley in November and a win there for the Nittany Lions could put them in a position to make the playoff for the first time since its inception.
Key Game: 10/24 Vs. Ohio St.
Biggest Question: Who will step up to be the top wide receiver?
Quarterback Spencer Rattler. (Courtesy of Getty Images)
Oklahoma is looking to bounce back from the worst playoff loss in CFP history. That combined with the loss of Heisman runner-up Jalen Hurts, electric Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb and do-it-all Linebacker Kenneth Murray means Oklahoma will not start in the top four of this season's top 25. But even with all that, Oklahoma still has a great chance to win the Big 12. Lincoln Riley looks like he will hand the reins over to Spencer Rattler who under Riley has the chance to be one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the Country. That along with Running Back Kennedy Brooks and one of the best offensive lines will lead to success for the Sooners on offense. On defense, Oklahoma should take a step forward with Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch entering his second season. If Oklahoma can develop a stronger defense there is a good chance that they could be looking at a fourth trip to the playoff.
Key Game: 10/10 Vs. Texas
Biggest Question: Can the defense be competitive against other big time programs?
Wide Receiver George Pickens. (Courtesy of Brett Davis)
Georgia’s offense will determine how far the Bulldogs go in 2020. There is little doubt that Georgia brings back an excellent defense considering that they return most of their talent after only giving up 12.6 points per game last year. Georgia’s offense, conversely, is a big question mark. The Bulldogs offense struggled at times last year and they lost Quarterback Jake Fromm, Running Back D'Andre Swift and graduate transfer Receiver Lawrence Cager. But not all is lost because Georgia brings in Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman to go along with Receivers George Pickens and Demetrius Robertson. Georgia does have a tough schedule with Alabama looming large in the third week of the season, however, a trip to Atlanta is not out of the question if they are able to take down Florida in the World's Largest Cocktail party.
Key Game: 10/31 @ Florida
Biggest Question: Can the offense become consistent?
C.J. Verdell running in the Pac-12 Championship Game. (Courtesy of the University of Oregon Athletics)
Oregon’s biggest task will be to find a replacement to Eugene’s own Justin Herbert. The Quarterback competition looks to come down to Boston College Transfer Anthony Brown and sophomore Tyler Shough. Whoever wins the job will have talent around him with C.J. Verdell and Offensive Tackle Penei Sewell who is considered the best offensive lineman in the country. The Ducks also will need to transition to Joe Moorhead’s offense. On the other side, the defense is ready to become one of the best in college football with additions of Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell and the only significant loss for the defense being Linebacker Troy Dye. The Ducks should be the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 but they do have a tough non-conference schedule with Ohio St. and reigning FCS champions North Dakota St.
Key Game: 9/12 Vs. Ohio St.
Biggest Question: Who will replace Justin Herbert?
Star Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (Courtesy of LSU Athletics)
LSU, coming off an historic season, will have a lot of holes to fill as the Tigers lost a lot of talent to the NFL. The biggest loss is at Quarterback where Myles Brennan is set to take over for Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow who was selected with the first overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. The other major concern is the loss of Passing Game Coordinator Joe Brady, who left to take the offensive coordinator job for Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers. It will be a tall task for the Bayou bengals to return to the playoff, but there is plenty of talent remaining that could lead to yet another double digit win season for Ed Orgeron.
Key Game: 11/7 Vs. Alabama
Biggest Question: Can LSU win two in a row against Alabama?
10. Notre Dame
Quarterback Ian Book. (Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)
Notre Dame is looking to head back to the playoff after a trip to the Camping World Bowl in 2019. That will be no easy task for the Irish as they have to replace their top receiver, running back and tight end. The good news is that Ian Book returns to lead the offense that with solid replacements, could be one of the best next season. The defense also loses key pieces in the secondary and on the defensive line, but should be a solid group this season after giving up only 17.9 points per game a year ago. For Notre Dame to make the playoff they will likely need to beat Clemson in early November.
Key Game: 11/7 Vs. Clemson
Biggest Question: Can the Irish replace the talent around Ian Book?
11. Texas A&M
Key Game: 11/21 @ Alabama
Biggest Question: Can Texas A&M bounce back from a disappointing 2019 season?
12. Oklahoma St.
Key Game: 10/24 @ Oklahoma
Biggest Question: Can Oklahoma St. end Oklahoma’s five game Bedlam winning streak?
Key Game: 10/10 Vs. Minnesota
Biggest Question: How productive can the offense be without Jonathon Taylor?
Key Game: 11/28 @ Ohio St.
Biggest Question: Can Jim Harbaugh finally beat Ohio St?
Key Game: 11/7 @ Oregon
Biggest Question: Can Todd Orlando turn around the defense?
Key Game: 10/10 @ Wisconsin
Biggest Question: Can P.J. Fleck continue his success at Minnesota?
Key Game: 11/28 @ Alabama
Biggest Question: Can Bo Nix become the go to player in big games?
Key Game: 10/3 @ Oklahoma
Biggest Question: Can Dave Aranda keep Baylor in contention for the Big 12 title?
19. Iowa St.
Key Game: 10/17 Vs. Oklahoma
Biggest Question: Can Brock Purdy become one of the best quarterbacks in the nation?
Key Game: 10/17 Vs. Oregon
Biggest Question: Can Chase Garbers stay healthy?
Key Game: 10/10 @ Texas
Biggest Question: Can Sam Ehlinger have a bounce back season?
22. Arizona St.
Key Game: 9/26 @ USC
Biggest Question: What will year two look like for Jayden Daniels?
Key Game: 9/12 @ Clemson
Biggest Question: Can Louisville be the team that upsets Clemson?
Key Game: 11/21 @ UCF
Biggest Question: Can Cincinnati win the American Conference?
25. Boise St.
Key Game: 11/6 Vs. BYU
Biggest Question: Can Boise St. represent the group of five in the New Year's Six Bowl Game?