The 2020-2021 College Football season will be one to remember for good and bad reasons. The Big 10 is back after having their season postponed, and Pac 12 will not resume football until the spring while the other conferences have found a safe way to play football amidst Covid-19. Despite the chaos college football is here, and with that, here are the way too early contenders to make the College Football Playoffs.
Welcome to the big-league boys. The AAC has a chance to put their first team into the College Football Playoffs since its inception in 2014. To no surprise, there are a few teams primed to make a postseason run. Memphis is good on paper, but it may take new head man Ryan Silverfield to find his footing. UCF and Cincinnati are tough and can make a run as well. UC will have a tough contest against Army and a loss to them could derail their chances in making a serious run.
The ACC comes down to Clemson and Notre Dame (sounds weird, huh).
Teams such as Boston College, Virginia, Wake Forest, and Miami will be much improved, but they will be no matchup for Clemson and Notre Dame. If Trevor Lawrence is under center they have a clear advantage against the rest of the conference and perhaps the rest of the country. We know what to expect out of Travis Etienne, who is the best running back in college football. The only question mark is their defense, but Brent Venables will have them well-prepared.
Notre Dame is officially in the ACC this season and Ian Book & Co. will make things interesting, but they will not have enough firepower to make a legit run against a hungry Clemson team that fell short in last year’s National Championship Game.
Kevin Warren is out of his bunker and the Big Ten will start their 8-game season on October 24th. With that news, it is no secret that Ohio State is a near-lock to make the CFP. Ohio State returns Justin Fields, who will be a Heisman Favorite and arguably the best interior lineman in the country in Wyatt Davis. With the return of Shaun Wade, the Buckeyes will look to promising players such as Josh Proctor, Sevyn Banks, and Zach Harrison to take the next step towards stardom. Outside of the Buckeyes, Penn State is next in line to make a push, but the loss of Micah Parson will be huge for the Nittany Lions.
The Big 12 embarrassingly started the season as Iowa State and Kansas State suffered big losses against the University of Louisiana Lafayette and Arkansas State, respectively. As a conference, the Big 12 has not won a National Championship since 2005 and that streak will continue this season. Despite that, they do have three strong contenders in Oklahoma State, Texas, and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State has 10 out of 11 starters coming back on defense and they have 4 starters returning on the offensive line. In addition to that, they have Chuba Hubbard, Tylan Wallace, and Spencer Sanders that round out the offense high-powered offense.
Texas has a lot of talent coming back with Sam Ehlinger under the center. The Longhorns also add former Michigan Wolverine wide receiver Tarik Black to an already potent offense. The pressure is on Tom Herman’s team to take the next step, and this year could be it.
Oklahoma and Lincoln Riley have been the class of the Big 12, but unlike previous years they are thin and inexperienced at their most valued positions. Lincoln Riley has worked magic with previous quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts, but this year will be his toughest task yet. Redshirt freshman Quarterback Spencer Rattler is still a complete unknown although he lit up against Arkansas State, only time will tell with him and his development. If he is what was expected out of him in high school, he will add to the list of Heisman-worthy quarterbacks under Riley.
As always, the college football playoff hopes fall on the Sooners defense. The defensive Coordinator has a tall task ahead of him, which is no surprise given that they have been one of the most abysmal units in the country over the last three years. If they make a slight jump and improvement it may increase their chances of making the CFP, but do not expect them to make any noise if they make it.
The Pac 12 has been close to silent thus far in their stance on having a football season. Maybe they are waiting for Urban Meyer to save the conference. Sorry Clay Helton. They are fighting state governments, mandates and restrictions, let alone school presidents and conference commissioners. As the clock ticks, the odds on favorite to win the conference and earn a play off birth in Oregon are left out in the cold while the rest of major college football cozies up next to the fire that is College Football.
The SEC is top-heavy with Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Teams such as Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Texas A&M will be improved, but not enough to be considered a threat. The defending champions LSU will take a huge step back after losing nearly their entire offense highlighted by Heisman Trophy Winner and No. 1 draft pick Joe Burrow.
The trio of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida will be interesting to keep an eye on. A lot of people are high on Florida given their success last season and Alabama and Georgia return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. There are questions marks for Georgia at quarterback with D’Wan Mathis under center. The Bulldogs are talented, and the third game of the season against Alabama will determine a lot going forward.
St. Nick will have the Crimson Tide ready to go and they are primed to make a run to the CFP. They have the best skill position players in the conference with Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle and they have a top-flight defense led by future All-American Patrick Surtain II. Quarterback Mac Jones will have to flourish in the A.J. McCarron role for Alabama to reach the CFP, which should not be a tough task given how talented and well-prepared they will be.
There is always hype around Florida, but could this year be the year that they take the next step. Kyle Trask is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference and Dan Mullen knows a thing or two on how to get the most from his QB’s. Florida has a solid foundation on the defensive side of the ball as well. The winner of the UF vs. UGA showdown will likely make it to the SEC Championship so there is a lot at stake on November 7th. I honestly think two SEC teams may sneak into the CFP just as we have seen before.