It’s that time of year. Miami toppled UAB 31-14 Thursday night, bringing the first power-5 team into action in the 2020 college football season. And with most of the rest of the ACC getting into the action tomorrow, we’ve gotten together to vote on our first set of power rankings. Here’s the top 10 (and a few extra).
- Iowa State
#10 – Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys are an intriguing CFP pick due to competing in a watered-down Big 12. They are considered to be in a 3-team race to challenge Okahoma for the Big 12 title with Texas and Iowa State. Oklahoma State hosts both those teams, so picking up a couple wins is certainly a possibility. They also return 19 starters and one of the best running backs in the nation in Chuba Hubbard. This team could put forth a very good campaign.
#9 – Texas Longhorns
A couple of Big 12 teams kick off our power rankings, as Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns slot in at #9. Say what you want about Ehlinger, but he had a pretty solid statistical year last season and was often let down by other parts of the Texas team, including a porous defense. That defense is expected to be improved in 2020, and Ehlinger returns with a chip on his shoulder and eyeing the Big 12 title. They’re an obvious CFP darkhorse and could make headlines this fall.
#8 – LSU Tigers
The placement of the LSU Tigers was a source of controversy in our individual sets of rankings as high as #6 and as low as #9. To be quite frank, this is a huge year for LSU. They saw the beautiful results of an epic combination of generational talent last year, going 15-0 in a historically dominant season. This year, they lost their top two wide receivers, their quarterback, their running back, and both high end talent and depth up and down the roster. The draft and opt-outs have murdered the LSU roster, and if Ed Orgeron can keep this team in SEC title contention, he should receive Coach of the Year.
#7 – Auburn Tigers
Ranking the Tigers was another controversial part of our rankings, as some of our voters are very high on what Bo Nix can do in his sophomore season, listing Auburn as the preseason SEC favorites, while others excluded the Tigers from the Top 10. Auburn is ranked 11th in the preseason AP Poll, and they haven’t been ranked that high and at least matched their preseason ranking since 1994. Bo Nix is a good quarterback, but a sophomore slump could doom the Tigers’ hopes in 2020.
#6 – Florida Gators
A third consecutive SEC team in our Top 10, but this one comes from the SEC East. Florida is given the third-best odds to win the conference this year, as they likely just have Georgia standing in their way of a title game appearance. They have to navigate a tricky crossover schedule, hosting LSU and travelling to Texas A&M and a potential dangerous underdog in Ole Miss, but Florida returns a solid squad. Their defense should remain solid, and if they get production from playmakers around Kyle Trask, the top returning SEC quarterback in passing efficiency, the Gators could be tough to take down.
#5 – Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia would have very likely challenged from a top-3 ranking, but the recent opt-out of Jamie Newman definitely hurts their chances. J.T. Daniels is not a bad consolation prize but it’s been a while since we’ve seen him in action, and whether he can work with a Georgia offense that lost their top two running backs remains to be seen. Georgia sticks around in the top 5 due to the fact that their defense will likely be the best in the country, or at least one of the top units. They had the best defense in the SEC last season and return about 80% of their production, so expect an absolutely lethal defense in Athens.
#4 – Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame likely benefited from Georgia’s slip. They’ve been listed anywhere from 5-8 by most preseason rankings, but the Fighting Irish are definitely eyeing a CFP berth in 2020. With third-year starter Ian Book returning under center, an offensive line that returns all their starters, and an intriguing yet somewhat unproven group of skill position players, Notre Dame figures to have a strong offense to complement their traditionally solid defense. Their ACC schedule is filled with potential trap games and a looming showdown against Clemson, but this may be the best Notre Dame team in the Brian Kelly era if they play to their potential.
#3 – Oklahoma Sooners
Yes, Oklahoma has struggled to win on the big stage. But exactly who should go above them? They’ve got Spencer Rattler, who looks like a transcendent talent under center, and they have never had an issue reloading their dynamic offense. Their defense is at least good by Big 12 standards, and it took some big jumps last season. While they got smacked by LSU in the semifinals, it’s hard to attribute that defensive meltdown strictly to the Sooners without giving credit to LSU’s historic offense. This team is the clear favorite to reach the CFP once more, where they will finally try to land a playoff victory.
#2- Alabama Crimson Tide (1 first place vote)
Alabama got one first place vote, with all of our voters placing the Tide in the top 3. Nick Saban has gotten every single one of his recruits since 2008 a national championship ring, but that streak is in danger if he fails to claim a title for a third straight season. Coming off their first-ever CFP miss, the Tide are out for blood, and they’ve got the roster to win it all. Mac Jones is a solid quarterback, Najee Harris may be the best running back in the country, their receivers are deep and talented, and their defense figures to be stellar once more. They’ll have to survive a road trip to Death Valley and host Georgia, but if they can beat those tests, the Tide should be back in the Playoff.
#1 – Clemson Tigers (3 first place votes)
Even with the loss of Justyn Ross, this team remains the most loaded roster returning to college football, at least when it comes to proven talent. Travis Etienne is an absolute stud and likely a first round draft pick next year. Trevor Lawrence is possibly the #1 pick overall and has lost just one game at the collegiate level. Their defense reloads year-in and year-out, and Clemson enters this year with really only one game to think about – their road trip to South Bend in November. Not only that, but they should have two chances to beat the Irish, as even a regular season loss shouldn’t take Clemson out of ACC championship contention, and thus CFP consideration. Clemson vs. Alabama for the title for the fourth time in six years anyone? We’re not saying it’ll happen.
But we’re not saying it won’t either.