Another Much Too Early College Football Top-25
There's nothing like college football, that's why almost as soon as the last piece of confetti hit the turf inside the Mercedez-Benz Superdome Monday night, there were sports writers working on a to-25 list for 2020.
Veteran sportswriter and newest Sports Illustrated college football columnist Pat Forde dropped his Early Top-25 today and there is really no surprises-including the Vanderbilt Commodores are not part of it- but in any such ranking, there is room for differing opinions.
So without plagiarizing Forde's work, here is the short version of his To Early Top-25.
Early Preseason Top-25
1. Clemson: The Tigers were humbled in the Superdome Monday night, but they will return Trevor Lawrence, Justyn Ross and other offensive weapons (how many others will depend on some early-entry NFL draft decisions). And the defense, which finished the season No. 6 in yards allowed and No. 3 in points allowed, was young. Throw in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class and there’s a reason why coach Dabo Swinney said late Monday in New Orleans, “We’re going to have a really, really good football team next year.”
OPINION: The Tigers return Lawrence which is a pretty good place to start and considering their recruiting of late and the incoming class, having them at the top seems legit. MY RANK (1)
2. Georgia: The top three teams in the SEC are all losing veteran quarterbacks, but the Bulldogs might have scored the coup of Transfer Season by landing Wake Forest evacuee Jamie Newman, who was second in the ACC in total offense at 287 yards per game. Combine that key transfer with the monster recruiting classes that Kirby Smart has stacked up, and Georgia could be next season’s LSU. (But the offensive line will have to be largely rebuilt.
OPINION: Jake Fromm has left the building if no the state for the NFL. The Dogs get transfer Newman who is a talented QB and athlete, but he will have to work hard to learn both the system and get on the same page as his teammates. We saw Joe Burrow struggle in his first season so this could be an issue in Athens. This might be a little high, though not a long reach. MY RANK (6)
3. Ohio State: Justin Fields is back after a Heisman Trophy-finalist season, but he’s going to need a lot of reinforcements at skill positions. The Buckeyes lose four of their top six receivers, and that includes leading rusher J.K. Dobbins. Defensively, end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah depart and will be likely top-five draft picks. Of course, the cupboard is never bare in Columbus, so Ohio State still looks like the class of the Big Ten.
OPINION: Fields should be the early favorite for the Heisman, though as Forde said, the Buckeyes have to replace a lot of skill, but have a lot of skill in the wings that now must step up and become starters and stars. Because of Fields, The Bucks will stay in contention MY RANK (2)
4. Alabama: The expectation is that running back Najee Harris will stay in school, a big boost as the Crimson Tide deals with its annual early-entry roster churn. Mac Jones showed that he can be a capable replacement for Tua Tagovailoa—if he can hold off incoming freshman Bryce Young. The harder work for Alabama will be restoring a defense that has slipped the past two seasons, but a lot of freshmen got valuable playing time in 2019 and should be ready to make bigger impacts in ’20.
OPINION: Mac Jones played well at the end of the season and at least gives them a solid option going into the season. Getting but Najee Harris and Devonta Smith back will help either Jones or freshman Bryce Young_whomever wins the starting spot- but their season hinges on rebuilding a defense. They will have a ton of experience returning because they played so many young guys last season. MY RANK (4)
5: Penn State: It’s hard to close the scarlet-and-gray gap in the Big Ten East, but the Nittany Lions have a shot at it in 2020. Aside from the not-insignificant departure of all-purpose threat K.J. Hamler, virtually every key skill-position performer from 2019 is back—including quarterback Sean Clifford, who should take another step forward next season. And on defense, monster linebacker Micah Parsons returns as well.
OPINION: The Lions have some off-field issues that arose recently for head coach James Franklin and the university, but if the team can put any possible off-field distractions away then this could be a really great season for the folks from Happy Valley. MY RANK (3)
6. Oregon: MY RANK (5)
7. Oklahoma: MY RANK 10
8. Florida: MY RANK (7)
9. Notre Dame: MY RANK (9)
10. LSU: MY RANK (13) NOTE: Losing Burrow will be tough to replace. Special players like that do not grow on trees and with the Tigers not having experience at the position, I think they will struggle somewhat in his absence, along with some key losses on defense.
11. Minnesota: MY RANK (10)
12. Cincinnati: MY RANK (14)
13. Wisconsin: MY RANK (11)
14. Auburn: MY RANK (12) Note: The Tigers could be a wildcard considering they return Bo Nix and some other skill players. IF he continues to improve and they replace the defensive losses, they could climb this list.
15. Oklahoma State: MY RANK (15)
16. USC; MY RANK (Unranked)
17. Memphis: MY RANK (16)
18. Arizona State MY RANK (21)
19. North Carolina MY RANK (17)
20. Michigan: MY RANK (18)
21. Texas: MY RANK (19)
22. Boise State: MY RANK (22)
23. Florida State: MY RANK (Unranked)
24. Purdue: MY RANK (23)
25. Texas A&M: MY RANK (20)
24. Tennessee: Like it or not, the Vols are on the rise and with a returning starting quarterback and a solid backup option along with a running game and what should be the strength of this team on their offensive line. They start the season here, but will they stay.
25. Washington: The Huskies must replace Jacob Eason and some other losses, but this seems like a potential bounce-back season for the boys from Seattle.