Rankman's (Ridiculously-Too-Late?) Top-25 For 2020
There is nothing sillier, to me, than sportswriters putting out “Ridiculously-Too-Early!” top-25 projections for college football.
If it’s ridiculous why are you doing it?
Some of these educated guesses are published before, during and immediately after the previous year’s title game—I read one in New Orleans while the National Anthem was playing.
A few grizzled veterans (scribes weaned on Murrow and Cronkite) showed restraint and waited 24 hours to release their “way-too-early” forecasts.
That takes guts, though, as you risk getting scooped by an “I-can’t-believe-I’m-releasing-this-now!” scribe projecting North Carolina as his “Insanely-too-early!” No. 17.
Releasing a preseason 2020 poll one day after the championship game is a cheap, space-filling journalistic device usually assigned by a Northwestern-grad editor suggesting the Wildcats “anywhere from 19 to 23.”
No WAY you would ever catch me starting to compile a 2020 poll one day after the 2019 season.
I waited a week.
The seven-day holding period allowed me, for example, to learn that USC is going to have a defensive coordinator in 2020.
His name is Orlando and next year’s College Football Playoff title game is in Miami, not that you should draw any conclusions from that Sunshine-state-city coincidence.
1: Clemson. Trevor Lawrence AND Travis Etienne are coming back next year? This will be the most loaded team since Cheech & Chong. If Dabo doesn’t win the natty he should have to start going by his real first name (Bill).
2: Ohio State. Some pundits think the Buckeyes, not LSU, were the best team in 2019. If only that’s the way it worked. Ohio State, yeah, blew a 16-0 lead against Clemson in the national semis before the wheels came off the Colum-bus. No school, with Justin Fields returning at quarterback, will be more motivated to right that wreck.
3: Alabama. Attempting to rebound from the most yawn-provoking 11-win season by a major power since Notre Dame in 2019. Last year’s patty-cake schedule won’t be an issue in 2020 as Georgia comes back on the SEC schedule for the first time since 1876, while the Crimson Tide faces the University of Undertow (USC).
4: Oregon. You know Mario Cristobal is killing it in recruiting when two of the best coaches in the Pac 12 North, Chris Petersen and Mike Leach, threw up their hands and left. Remaining Pac 12 coaches have forwarded Mario’s photo for possible “watch list” posting in the NCAA infractions office.
5: Notre Dame. A blow-out loss at Michigan in the rain reduced Brian Kelly’s 11-win team into Group-of-5 Memphis …with a better fight song. Just try leaving the Irish out next year, though, if they beat Navy, Clemson, Wisconsin and USC.
6: Florida. The 2019 Gators will be remembered as one of the better teams in history that couldn’t win their division. Florida’s No. 6 final ranking in the AP poll is believed to be the highest ever for a team eliminated from title contention on Nov. 2. Five of the Gators’ first seven games next season are at home--not shocking for a team that hasn’t left the state for a non-con game since 1993.
7: Penn State. Program keeps piling up wins and unseemly lawsuits but that didn't stop coach James Franklin from leveraging all that baggage AND a Rose Bowl loss to Clay Helton against USC to get a contract extension in State College? That said, we know Penn State football will be there in the end not that Rankman has ever pre-recorded a Nittany Lion broadcast for fear of missing it.
8: Minnesota. Victory over Auburn (and the SEC) in a New Year’s Day bowl may have been the program’s most significant win since the Gophers’ last Rose Bowl appearance—a 1962 win over UCLA. Guess where one of two national semifinal games are being played next year?
9: Georgia. Landing QB Jamie Newman from Wake Forest could be college football’s biggest off-season pickup and keep the Bulldogs atop the SEC East. But we’re going wait-and-see on that. Three years ago, Georgia dodged Alabama until the national title game—not easy to do—but this year plays at Crimson Tide on Sept. 19.
10: LSU. This is why waiting only one week only one week can do wonders for a next-season forecast. Since winning the national title the Tigers have lost both coordinators and nine early-entrants to the NFL. Oh, LSU also loses 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns from quarterback Joe Burrow. Oh, LSU still plays in the SEC West.
11: Auburn. The Tigers have to replace a ton of talent with a ton of talent but possess one of the key components of any next-season forecast: returning quarterback. Second-year man Bo Nix gives Auburn a chance to complete while new faces are worked into the lineup. The schedule is a killer but you already knew that.
12: Texas. There isn’t a bigger next-year tease in college football than these five words "Sam Ehlinger returning at quarterback." Ehlinger, two years ago, after a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, claimed “We’re back.” No Texas wasn’t. This year’s big tease: beating Utah in a big bowl followed by Ehlinger announcing he will forgo the NFL draft and return to Austin.
13: Oklahoma. Next time the selection committee sees Oklahoma at the playoff porch it must do what Rankman does when he spies Jehovah’s Witness at the door. Lock it. The Sooners have allowed an average of 49.75 points in four national semi-final losses. Go away.
14: USC. Because of Clay Helton no one wants to give the Trojans any love for returning 17 players off an eight-win team that wasn’t eliminated from the Pac 12 race until the last Saturday night of the regular season. Wonder if opening against Alabama has anything to do with it?
15: North Carolina. Mack Brown left Chapel Hill for Texas in 1997 in part because he was convinced North Carolina would always be a basketball school. Lookie now? Football is fresh off a bowl-win-season while Tar Heel basketball lines bottom of ACC bird cage.
16: California. Classic case of east-coast bias sleeping on a talented west-coast sleeper. Bears getting very little top-25 forecast love despite 10 returning on offense and the only returning QB in the Pac North (Chase Garbers).
17: Wisconsin. Out-played Oregon in the Rose Bowl but lost because of four turnovers. Key losses: Running back Jonathan Taylor and WR Quintez Ciphus, the best player I saw on the field in Pasadena.
18: Arizona State. USC quarterback Slovis got most of the true-freshman kudos but Jayden Daniels was the first-year frosh who beat Oregon in the regular season and picked up a bowl win over Florida State.
19: Iowa. Loses quarterback Nate Stanley but returns coach Kirk Ferentz, which means the Hawkeyes will be rock solid and capable of re-kicking USC’s arse in a Holiday Bowl.
20: Oklahoma State. Returns top quarterback, receiver and 2,000-yard rusher tailback Chuba Hubbard. Other than head coach’s mullet, what’s not to like?
21: Boise State. According to RankmanSportsStats this is the 21st time Boise State has been ranked No. 21 in a “ridiculously-too-early” college football preseason poll.
22: Texas A&M. The thinking here is that one of these year’s Jimbo Fisher’s $75 million contract is going to pay off.
23: Cincinnati. City welcomes quarterback coming off greatest season in college football. Too bad Joe Burrow will be doing his pay-for-play with the Bengals.
24: Memphis. Chances of repeating as Group of 5 kingpins improved after QB Brady White announced on Twitter he was returning for redshirt senior season.
25: Indiana. Might have been ranked higher if not for gagging that huge lead to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Gator.