Predicting the 2020-21 College Football Season
It's June! Although that doesn't feel significant, it does mean that we are now closer to the beginning of next year's college football season than the end of last season. Although everyone thinks it will be one of the usual suspects lifting the trophy at the end, I think there are a lot of teams to consider this year, as more and more top recruits are choosing different programs. This has started to close the gap between top and bottom tier teams in major conferences, and made regular season games harder to predict. But, I think I have the 2020-21 season correct, even if it's still a couple months out. Here's a breakdown of how I think every FBS conference will shake out next season. Note: These predictions were made assuming every team will play this Fall despite COVID-19.
A Note About Every Team: To start off, Clemson is going to be at least 11-1, if not 12-0 with possibly the best roster in college football. Trevor Lawrence is a Heisman candidate to watch, and receiver Justyn Ross will dominate defensive backs. Not to mention they have arguably the best running back in college football in Travis Etienne. In summary: Best team in the ACC. Next up, Louisville. They are a solid team who will beat up on the mostly weak Atlantic division of the ACC. I don't know how they would fair in another conference, but in the ACC they are a strong team. Wake Forest is one of those weak teams mentioned earlier. They were good last year, but have fallen off after losing talent, and are going to finish around .500. Boston College is a similar squad, but they have a strong offensive line and front seven. Unfortunately, they lack playmakers on offense and will rely on a run-heavy offense to survive. On a lighter note, I think Florida St. will have a rebound year after barely making a bowl game. However, I only think this rebound will be small, and they will finish with a solid 7-5 or 8-4 record. Syracuse will be the same as last year. A strong start that highly overrates them which will undoubtedly end with a loss to a bad non-conference team. NC St. will somehow sneak into a bowl game, but will do it while being under the radar like every year. They have a weak schedule this year that will play to their advantage and will help turn their program in the right direction. Virginia will fall off this year after losing their quarterback Bryce Perkins and probably fail to make a bowl game. However, there is still hope for a team that was in the ACC Championship game last year. Their rivals, Virginia Tech, will have a rise in the standings this year, and will have a chance to make a good bowl game. They will compete for the Coastal Division title, but will come up just short. Pitt will be competitive this year, and I hope it earns them a spot on the map. They are constantly overshadowed but have won quite a bit the past few years, and I think it will continue this year as Pitt finishes with a 8-4 record and a bowl game win. Next, UNC, my predicted division winners. They have a top five receiving core in the nation and a stellar QB in Sam Howell that will pummel opposing defenses and lead Mack Brown and his squad to a possible 10 win season. Now onto the most overrated university in the history of football, Miami. They will have a fine season this year, earning them a bowl game, but I only think they are going to win eight games because of a weak schedule that has most of the bottom tier of the ACC. Duke is not going to be good for quite a while, and it's not hard to see why. They weren't good last year, and failed to recruit talent to help them dig out of their hole. It's going to be a loooooong football season down in Durham. Lastly, Georgia Tech. They aren't bad but certainly not good, as they are not a bowl team next season. But, I think that they will improve from their 3-9 record last year.
MVP: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Bowl Eligible Teams: Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Florida St., NC St., Pitt
Division Winners: Atlantic- Clemson, Coastal- North Carolina
Conference Champions- Clemson Tigers
Playoff Teams: Clemson (1 Seed)
American Athletic Conference:
A Note About Every Team: Memphis will remain among the conference's best teams with star receiver Damonte Coxie leading the way. Expect another 10 win season for the Tigers. Navy will remain a bowl team, but will likely not repeat their 11 win season last year. However, their running and full backs show great promise and look like they will be successful in another run-heavy season. Most of the same can be said for SMU, who will likely not have another 10 win season after the loss of James Proche as well as others. But, Shane Buchele is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, and should lead the Mustangs to at least eight wins. Tulane will have to rely on their defense to succeed after losing the majority of their offensive playmakers. This will probably be a rebuilding season in New Orleans, but don't be shocked if they make a bowl game. Houston, on the other hand, is poised for a rebound season after finishing a measly 4-8 in 2019. The loss of D'Eriq King will hurt, but their team is set to rebound. Also, the defense gains a new talent in Alabama transfer Eyabi Anoma who will help defeat opposing run games. Unfortunately, Tulsa probably won't rebound into a bowl game this year. But, quarterback Zach Smith and passing game look really good and could lead the Hurricanes to a better season. Cincinnati looks to (and likely will) repeat their success of last season. Be on the watch for quarterback Desmond Ridder, who will be one of the conference's best talents. UCF will also repeat success from last year with McKenzie Milton leading the way. Despite some injury concerns on offense, I think UCF will be run up the scoreboard this year. A surprise success story from 2019, Temple looks to make another run this year. Although they lost key pieces on both sides of the ball, I am confident that Rod Carey can coach his team to at least seven wins. USF is somewhat of a mystery, as they have lots of talent, but lack the skill of winning day in and day out. I wouldn't expect the Bulls to do well, but you never know in college football! Lastly, East Carolina lacks talent in their program, and doesn't look good. Despite this, receiver C.J. Johnson looks like a true deep threat for the Pirates this year.
MVP: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Bowl Eligible Teams: Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF, Temple, Navy, Houston, SMU
Division Winners: West- Memphis, East- Cincinnati
Conference Champions: Cincinnati Bearcats
A Note About Every Team: As usual, it's Oklahoma's conference to lose. With incoming quarterback Spencer Rattler, there may be some awkward moments where he struggles to adjust to the offensive scheme, but overall Oklahoma is the best team in the conference, and one of the best in the nation. Baylor will experience a huge drop off after the loss of coach Matt Rhule. Additionally, a tough road schedule will make it nearly impossible for the Bears to repeat last season's successes. Kansas St. is in a similar boat after losing leading rusher James Gilbert and leading receiver Dalton Schoen to the NFL Draft. Although they will likely stay bowl eligible, don't expect another eight win season in Manhattan. Expect big things from Oklahoma St.. Heisman candidate Chuba Hubbard is going to steamroll opposing defenses this year. Not to mention that they somehow play nine of their twelve games at home, and have an easy road schedule (excluding Oklahoma). The Cowboys may be able to win the Bedlam this year in Norman! Ah Texas, they're so easy to predict. Let's see, they'll be massively overrated again in the pre-season, then proceed to get whooped in a non conference game (my guess is LSU). Next comes the winning streak against bad opponents, followed by losses at actual good opponents. Lastly, they'll finish with an 8-4 or 9-3 record and get destroyed in a New Year's Six game. On a more positive note, Iowa St. is destined for a great season this year. Watch out for quarterback Brock Purdy, who will likely break out this year and become one of the Big 12's most dynamic players. Next up is TCU, who will have some work to do if they want to make a bowl game. They lost their three best players to the draft, and will have to develop a young quarterback to succeed this year. But, as last year showed, the Horned Frogs can still beat the best of the best. West Virginia will not be the blue blood school that they normally are. A combination of a loss of talent and a relatively hard non conference schedule will make it hard for the Mountaineers to muster up six wins. Morgantown will probably have to wait another year to regain dominance in the Big 12. Texas Tech may make a bowl game, but they're a hard team to read. They have an easy schedule, and play most of their tough opponents at home, so maybe there is hope for the Red Raiders. Oh Kansas... I can't remember the last time you were good. You know it's bad when they schedule New Hampshire as a non-conference game. Good thing basketball season will be right around the corner.
MVP: Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma St.
Bowl Eligible Teams: Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St., Iowa St., TCU, Baylor, Kansas St.
Conference Champions (No Divisions): Oklahoma Sooners
Playoff Teams: Oklahoma (3 Seed)
A Note About Every Team: First off in the Big Ten is the likely conference winners, Ohio State. They have one of the best receiving cores in the country to pair up with a top quarterback in Justin Fields. Barring an unexpected loss, Ohio St. is an easy playoff, and conference champion pick. The only team that could conceivably beat them in the East division is Penn St., who still keeps their top quarterback and tight end despite losing many players to the draft. Penn St. has a real good chance of being in a New Year's Six game, and will probably only lose one or two games this year. I always hate on Michigan every year, but they still crank out eight or nine win seasons most years. However, I will continue to doubt that they can win the conference until they beat Penn St. or Ohio St. for once. Indiana is an enigma this year, and I still don't know where to put them on the scale. However, I am sure they will qualify for a bowl game, as their passing game is above average in the Big Ten. Michigan St. is one of the teams who I expect to have a large downfall. Their coaching situation is in some sort of turmoil, and I'm not feeling great about their defense. But, their offense will likely rebound from a sluggish 2019. Maryland has one of the largest ranges from ceiling to floor. At a ceiling, I could imagine a 7-5 finish for the Terps, but the floor is a repeat from last year's 3-9 season. This largely has to do with how coach Mike Locksley handles his quarterback situation and the development of five star receiver Rakim Jarrett. Rutgers is going to see the same thing as most years, and I don't see much changing. A lack of solid recruitment plus little talent to begin with means that Rutgers may not win a conference game this year, something that hasn't happened since 2017. Minnesota shocked everyone last year with a 10-2 finish, and they somehow managed to keep a majority of that team. If Tanner Morgan can continue developing into a star quarterback, with the rest of the team's support, there is no reason the Gophers can't win the Big Ten West. However, Wisconsin's squad is looking just as dangerous this year. Despite suffering lots of losses on the offense, Paul Chryst always refills his squad with loaded talent, like sophomore quarterback Jack Coan, who is slated to make a big jump this year. Next up is Iowa, who could also win this wild Big Ten West. They too lost a lot of talent to the draft, and their starting quarterback, Nate Stanley, is out of eligibility. However, if Iowa relies, and utilizes, their powerful run game, things will turn out just fine. Illinois, along with Purdue, are in an odd middle ground between the contenders and the non-bowl teams. However, the two teams could not be any more different. Starting off with Illinois, they are going to rely on their strong offensive line and running game to muscle their way past opponents. But Purdue will use Rondale Moore, one of the nation's best receivers, to have a dynamic, flashy offense. Nebraska is similar to Maryland in that they both have high ceilings and low floors. Although there is evidence to support the Cornhuskers, I refuse to ride on the Scott Frost bandwagon until I see massive improvements. Lastly, we get to Northwestern. They have fallen off in a major way after winning the Big Ten West just two years ago. Last year they fell to 3-9, and don't look to improve anytime soon.
MVP: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.
Bowl Eligible Teams: Ohio St., Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn St., Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, Purdue
Division Champions: East- Ohio St., West- Wisconsin
Conference Champions: Ohio St. Buckeyes
Playoff Teams: Ohio St. (2 Seed)
A Note About Every Team: FAU loses their best player in Harrison Bryant, but retains almost everyone else, including their top quarterback, and two best receivers. The defense is somewhat lacking, but they filled a large amount of their holes with recruits and capable underclassmen from last year. Western Kentucky could win the conference this year, but they will have to rely on new starter Steven Duncan, who spent three seasons on the bench for the Hilltoppers. His development will be the X-factor in the success of the team. Marshall will have a solid season this year, but will be reliant on new recruits to fill the holes left by some of their best defenders. This should still lead to a bowl appearance, but maybe not a 2nd place finish in the division like last year. Charlotte is another bowl team who may see a slight decrease this year, as the defense is not the same that it was. Although the replacements are fine, consisting of JUCO players and a decent recruiting class, it may be a year of growing pains for the 49ers. FIU fell off last year after a few years of success, but they still hold a strong defense. It seems that all mid-majors find a way to keep gaining new talent, and FIU used the transfer portal, gaining a couple larger names such as former Georgia receiver JJ Holloman. Hopefully, Holloman can give the Panthers the offensive boost they need to have yet another bowl season. Middle Tennessee had a down year in 2019, but picked up some big names in the transfer portal like Amir Rasul from Florida State. Rasul, along with another transfer in Martell Pettaway, will be a part of a smash mouth offense that will be used heavily in the gameplay. This team has a wide range of possibilities this season, but I think the Blue Raiders will have to wait a bit before becoming a great team again. Old Dominion is in full on rebuild mode. Finishing a measly 1-11 last season, the Monarchs will need a lot more than what they currently have to rack up some more wins. Louisiana Tech was dominant in the C-USA last year, finishing 10-3. Although they lose their starting quarterback, the team still has most of the talent from last season. They may not win the division again, but they will easily make a bowl game. A team that rose from the darkness, UAB is once again a top tier team in their conference. However, for a team that wants to continue on a path of victory, UAB has an atrocious offense. Averaging just 10.8 points per game last year, the Blazers must make some kind of development on the offensive side on the ball, as it is inconceivable to expect a defense to hold teams to so little every game. Southern Miss is an odd team to predict. They are just okay, just good enough to get by and make a bowl game. I just don't see them making a run at the division. Starting off with the disappointments of the C-USA, we have North Texas, the Mean Green who isn't quite mean after all. They lost a lot of their players from last year, and had a huge coaching turnover. It seems like it will take North Texas a while to figure out how they want to play, and until then I can't see them winning much of anything. UTSA has a few players who are capable of playing high quality football, but I fear after a season opener at LSU, they may not be able to recover in time to win enough games. Although they have not been good in the past, I believe Rice will experience a slight improvement this year, but it will not be good enough for a bowl game. Wide receivers like Brad Rozner must pick up the slack after the loss of their starting quarter and running back. Lastly, we arrive at UTEP. They finished 1-11 last year, and show no signs of any improvement. They picked up a few graduate transfers, but it won't be enough for the type of transformation that the program needs to thrive.
MVP: Jordan Smith, LB, UAB
Bowl Eligible Teams: FAU, Western Kentucky, Marshall, Charlotte, FIU, Louisiana Tech, UAB, Southern Miss
Division Champions: East- Florida Atlantic, West- UAB
Conference Champions: Florida Atlantic
A Note About Each Team: Notre Dame is still the powerhouse that we've seen over the past couple years, and it doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. However, they have a couple tough matches (Clemson, Wisconsin, Navy, etc.) that will make it hard for the Irish to make a New Year's Six game. Liberty will have plenty of chances to make a bowl game, so it will be critical that a team who is as close to the border as they are comes up clutch in big time matches. The Flames play three games against ACC teams, but they have plenty of games against low tier opponents. BYU easily has the hardest schedule out of any independent team, but I know they can handle it. Games at Utah, Minnesota, and Stanford will take a toll on them, but if they don't miss out on opportunities, then everything should be alright for the Cougars. Army seems like a team that will somehow squeak into a bowl game this year. But, if dual threat quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. can keep his teammates in check, Army has the potential to be a Top 25 team in the nation. Their easy schedule doesn't hurt either. New Mexico St. really should consider going to the FCS. Although that seems a bit overkill for a team who wasn't even the worst in their conference last year. But, expect their struggles to continue this year as they gained little talent to add to last year's horrendous squad. In a similar boat is UMass, who also shows little promise in making a bowl game anytime soon. There is hope however, as they will have the chances to pick up a few wins. UConn joins the independent "conference" after leaving the American last year. Coach Randy Edsall looks to turn around the program in his second coaching stint there. But, if Edsall's previous coaching records show any indication of the future, then UConn will have no chance of getting more than four wins anytime soon.
MVP: Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame
Bowl Eligible Teams: Notre Dame, BYU, Liberty, Army
A Note About Every Team: Miami (OH) is the reigning champions of the MAC, and keep most of their team from 2019. However, if you look at it, the Redhawks were never a dominant team, winning most of their games by one score and barely making ends meet. It's hard to say they can go back to back right now, but running back Jaylon Bester and their offensive line will have to step it up, along with sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert, in order for this to happen. Buffalo is emerging as a strong program, and coach Lance Leipold looks comfortable now in his sixth year. The rush-heavy offense has worked for the Bulls, and running back Jaret Patterson will be a player to watch in 2020. Kent St. had a miracle season last year, winning four straight on their way to winning the first bowl game in program history. However, a brutal schedule that includes Penn St., Kentucky, and Alabama will make it hard for the Golden Flashes to succeed. Wide receiver Isaiah McKoy and quarterback Dustin Crum will be crucial to the team's success, as their connection sparked the fire that caused 2019's Cinderella run. Ohio has been one of the most consistent programs of the 2010's, and they are coming off a solid 7-5 season. The same should be expected of them this year, as they have the best run game in the conference, with two studs in O'Shaan Allison and De'Montre Tuggle. Although they may not be conference championship contenders, they are a dark horse candidate who should be kept an eye on. Bowling Green, once a prized program who had Urban Meyer at the helm, is now in the bottom tier of a group of five conference. The main problem is that in a conference that is so geographically close (six of the twelve teams are in Ohio), there aren't many recruits and talent to go around. There is hope for a rebuild behind three star freshman quarterback Tucker Melton, who chose the Falcons over other MAC teams such as Akron and Toledo. If there was a team who I think should be relegated to the FCS, I would choose Akron. The Zips didn't win a game last year, and are on a 17 game losing streak. However, they will get their chance on opening weekend when Youngstown State, an FCS program, comes to town. Coach Tom Arth is hoping to improve in his second season at Akron, and it is certainly possible. However, large improvements from cornerbacks Jalen Hooks and A.J. Watts will be necessary to keep opponents from running the scoreboard up. Central Michigan had a huge turnaround last year, going from a measly 1-11 to 8-6. Second year coach Jim McElwain was a large part of this, winning the conference despite starting quarterback David Moore being suspended. However, now a big question mark sits in the quarterback position, as three underclassmen will have to fight it out for the job. My money is on George Pearson, who is the eldest of the three and has the most experience with the playbook. However, despite this mystery, the Chippewas boast the best receiving core and defensive unit in the conference, which should support the team while it searches for its future. Western Michigan is always at the top of the MAC, and this year should be no difference. Quarterback Kaleb Eleby is due for a huge step up in 2020, and if helps that he will be behind a senior-filled offensive line, and will have a capable receiving core headed by Skyy Moore. Despite regressing last season, I firmly believe the Broncos can take this conference by storm. Ball St. is an up and coming program in the MAC, who has a coach that is quite underrated (Mike Neu). The pieces are all there for the Cardinals, and all Neu has to do is execute. A breakout season from quarterback Drew Plitt will be crucial for the Cardinals to succeed in 2020. Northern Illinois has been the best program in the MAC during the 2010s. However, they ended the decade on a low note, and look likely to stay there for the moment. The Wolfpack have a solid offense, and should rely on a pass heavy playbook to get the job done. However, a defense that is mediocre at best will make it hard for the Wolfpack to make a bowl. Toledo struggled in conference play in 2019, and barely made a bowl game last season. However, they had a great 2019 recruiting class who are now experienced sophomores that should make a large impact this season. I would expect improvements from the Rockets in 2020 as build a better future and improve as a program. Eastern Michigan was in the same boat as Toledo last year, barely making a bowl game and finishing 6-7. Unfortunately, I don't see the Eagles improving in 2020, as they lost almost their entire offensive unit from last year. These replacements will take time and cause growing pains in coach Chris Creighton's system, but will be necessary to bring a MAC title to Ypsilanti.
MVP: Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo
Bowl Eligible Teams: Miami (OH), Buffalo, Ohio, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Ball St., Toledo
Division Champions: East- Buffalo, West- Western Michigan
Conference Champions: Western Michigan Broncos
A Note About Every Team: Boise St. is the perennial winner of the Mountain West, and I have a lot of confidence they will at least take care of their division this year. The key to this year's team's success is an evolution from sophomore quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who spent a lot of last year on the bench while injured. If Boise St. wasn't in the Mountain division, I would pick Air Force to win it. The Falcons boasted an 11-2 record last year, and are poised to have another great season this year. For a team that threw less than nine passes per game last year, Air Force will rely a lot on running back Kadin Remsberg to power the offense in 2020. I like Air Force's chances of making a bowl game, but I believe they will take a step back from 2019. Utah St. had a good 2019, winning seven games after giving coach Gary Andersen his job back after a hiatus. However, replacing Jordan Love will be no small feat for the Aggies. Additionally, they lost their top running back and receiver, along with a lot of depth on the defensive line. These losses won't be able to be made up for in one year, and I don't like Utah St.'s odds of making a bowl game. Wyoming is in a similar boat, having to replace Josh Allen last year. However, they moved on well and went 8-5 last year. Now that they're farther along in the rebuild, I think that they can make a bowl game and have similar success to last year, despite a difficult schedule that could spell trouble for them. Colorado St. is an interesting team this year. New coach Steve Addazio will have to regroup the offense, much of which returns from 2019, in order to succeed. The talent is all there for the Rams, but the chemistry and leadership are still lacking. New Mexico also has a new coach, but they unfortunately lack the talent of the Rams. The Lobos keep most of their players from their 2-10 2019 season, but there still isn't much to be proud of on that roster. Quarterback Tevaka Tuioti is the future for the Lobos, but it will still take a lot in order to return New Mexico to the superb form they were in the past few decades. Despite hiring a new coach, San Diego St. is in a desirable position and will easily make a bowl game. They return many of the defensive stars that made the Aztecs 15th in SP+ last season. Luckily, new coach Brady Hoke is already familiar with their schemes, having previously been a coach there. Although the offense may take a step back, which could harm the team, the Aztecs still currently sit in the driver's seat of the West division. The Aztecs' biggest competitor for the division title is Hawaii, who also hired a new coach (Todd Graham) for this season. Despite losing their quarterback, along with many wide receivers and DEs, they retain a lot of their strong offensive line, as well as their players in the secondary. The Rainbow Warriors will have to rely on underclassmen such as quarterback Chevan Cordeiro to power the team to victory. Nevada was a team who had many ups and downs last season, ultimately ending up with a seven win season. Injuries plagued the Wolfpack, and it will be interesting to see how sophomore quarterback Carson Strong rebounds after missing a portion of the season. Yet, Nevada's success may not be reliant on Strong, as last year proved that the Wolfpack are a resilient bunch. San Jose St., as usual, is a mediocre team with great offense and not so great defense. An explosive receiving core combined with good quarterback options should supply the Spartans with all the offense they need in 2020. However, the defense is just as lacking as ever, and in 2019 it seemed like they could barely get a stop. If this doesn't improve, it will be hard to see San Jose St. making a bowl game. A team that once made a name on the national level, Fresno St. is an interesting team. They also have a new coach (so many new MWC coaches...) in Kalen DeBoer, who has an impressive resume as a coordinator. Running back Ronnie Rivers leads an offense that has strong line protection. However, the quarterback position is weak for the Bulldogs, and needs to be improved if they are to make a bowl game. However, I have a hunch that DeBoer is a secret quarterback guru, and he will train his four (yes four) possible starters and make the most of his offense. UNLV is the Rutgers of the MWC at the moment, never winning more than four games. A quarterback battle should be the highlight of the year, but unfortunately I'd rather watch the mediocre NFL team in Vegas than the bad NCAA team.
MVP: Hank Bachmeier, QB, Boise St.
Bowl Eligible Teams: Boise St., Air Force, Wyoming, San Diego St., Hawaii, Nevada., Fresno St.
Division Champions: Mountain- Boise St., West- San Diego St.
Conference Champions: Boise St. Broncos
A Note About Every Team: Oregon is still one of the favorites to win the Pac-12. However, the loss of Heisman candidate Justin Herbert along with other key pieces concerns me, and I don't know if they can win the division again this year. This leads me to who I believe will win the North division, Cal. The Bears rebuilt their program over the last few years, and now look like a Top 25 team, and certainly a contender in the Pac-12. Expect to hear the name Chase Garbers more, as the sophomore quarterback will be throwing touchdowns left and right in Berkeley. Despite losing Jacob Eason, their quarterback last season, to the draft, Washington still sits in a similar position. They still have the talent of a bowl team, but are not good enough to be the national contender they were a few years ago. Oregon St. is also similar to last year, but that unfortunately leaves them on the wrong side of a bowl game. However, if the Beavers can take care of business at home, and steal a game from a contender, then a winning season is in sight. The same can not be said for Washington State. A contender just a few years ago, the program has fallen off considerably, as has the talent in the program. A lack of recruiting also contributes to the issues, and a new coaching system will take time to adjust to. 2020 certainly won't be the Cougars' year. Stanford is the feel good story of the Pac-12 this year. A classic football school that fell off in 2019, the Cardinal is looking strong again in 2020. Although they aren't in competitor shape yet, expect them to pull off some upsets this year. Keep an eye out for junior quarterback David Mills, who is poised to breakout this year as the captain of the offense. A surprise success story in 2019, Utah broke into the Top 10 nationally and looked dangerous. However, losses of superstars in Jaylon Johnson and Zack Moss to graduation or the NFL will have a negative effect on the Utes. But, coach Kyle Whittingham has been at the program for so long for a reason, and I have complete confidence that the Utes will go bowling this year. If there's one word to describe the USC team in 2020, it's "breakout". Not many people outside of USC fans could name a player on the roster right now, yet the chemistry and coaching by Clay Helton has allowed the Trojans to flourish. They will breakout this season, and become a force to reckon with in the Pac-12. A game to watch for would be when they play Alabama in non-conference play. Arizona St. is also expected to rise up this season. Coach Herm Edwards has done wonders for the program, whether it's attracting recruits from all over the country, hiring successful assistant coaches, or leading an average team to multiple bowl games in a row. I really like the Sun Devils this year, and I think they can compete for a division title this year. After these three teams, there is a huge drop-off in talent. UCLA is up next, an average team at best with an overrated coach. Chip Kelly failed to recruit the talent he needed, and it will show when the Bruins finish with a sub .500 record. There is hope for a bowl game, but it would take an upset or two. Colorado is an odd team. They always produce NFL talent, yet fail to make a bowl game most years. This year is similar, only add in the fact that their coach left them in a mess. Unless something truly magical happens in Boulder, the Buffaloes should focus on the 2021 season. Last up is Arizona, another fallen blue blood program who is showing no signs of life anywhere. They should improve a bit, as their roster ages but I can't see their season ending with more than four wins.
MVP: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Bowl Eligible Teams: Oregon, Washington, USC, Arizona St., Cal, Stanford, Utah
Division Champions: North- Cal, South- USC
Conference Champions: USC Trojans
A Note About Every Team: The reigning champs will have a hard time repeating this year, as it seems that almost everyone from their team last year is now on an NFL roster. However, the Tigers still have an insane team stocked with five and four star recruits, and Ed Orgeron knows how to coach a team just as good as any college coach there is. Alabama once again is the favorite to win the division, after falling to LSU last year. New quarterback Bryce Young will be a player to watch this year, and top running back Najee Harris will be tough for opposing defenses to stop. I like Alabama this year, and they could make the playoffs if all goes right. Auburn is in the same odd position they've been in for a while, where they're always making bowl games, but can't win the division, conference or make the playoffs. However, sophomore quarterback Bo Nix is poised for a huge increase in production this year, and if he reaches his full potential, there's no saying where Auburn will stop. The Iron Bowl is going to be really interesting this year. Texas A&M is on the rise this year, and has a legit shot at winning the division. But, coach Jimbo Fisher is going to have to get the maximum out of his squad in order for the Aggies to do so. I still predict a nine win season as an average. Mississippi St. is fine this year, but I wouldn't expect big things from new coach Mike Leach in his first year in Starkville. Running back Kylin Hill will be a highlight for the Bulldogs this year, but the defense is missing many key pieces after losing many players to the draft. Ole Miss has a similar situation to it's interstate counterpart. New coach, good offense, but holes to fill on defense. Coach Lane Kiffin will have a rough road ahead if he wants to lead the Rebels back to glory. Arkansas is, how can I say this delicately? A complete and total mess. New coach Sam Pittman will have to figure out how to snap a 19 game losing streak in the SEC. They did retain much of their offense, but it will be complicated to win even a few games. Georgia is my pick to win the West this year, and I am a believer in transfer quarterback Jamie Newman. The Bulldogs lost a lot of talent to the draft, but Kirby Smart recruited the right guys to fill the holes, and I think that Georgia can reach 10 wins this year. Florida will be their biggest challenge, as the Gators have quite the roster to prove it, despite losing quite a bit of their roster to the draft. A jump will be expected from quarterback Kyle Trask, and he's going to be the key for success for the Gators this year. Tennessee is the up and coming team this year. Jeremy Pruitt's squad has top recruiting classes for each of the next couple years, and returned most of their best players from last year. A matchup against Florida in Knoxville will be the most important game of the season for the Vols. Kentucky is an underrated team in the SEC, and they get overlooked due to an easy schedule. This year is no difference, but the Wildcats are certainly a bowl team this year. Missouri will be a border team this year, and it will rely on who they choose in a heated quarterback contest. The running backs are going to be the key to the offense however, so Larry Rountree will need to step up for the Tigers this season in order to reach a bowl game. South Carolina is also on the verge of a bowl appearance, but a quarterback battle could make or break this. It's odd that for a school that produces so much NFL talent, they lack wins over the last few years. Vanderbilt is pretty much the Arkansas of the SEC West, except they may be worse. A non conference game against Mercer may be the only chance for a win this year, so I'm rooting for them in that one. Unfortunately, it's safe to say that the Commodores have a long way to go before they can make a bowl game.
MVP: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Bowl Eligible Teams: LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky
Division Champions: East- Georgia, West- Alabama
Conference Champions: Georgia Bulldogs
Playoff Teams: Georgia (4 Seed)
A Note About Every Team: Appalachian St. really should try to join a Power 5 conference. They are much better than almost every team in their conference, and win the conference year after year. Quarterback Zac Thomas will be a senior next year, and I expect him to thrive with a weak schedule that only includes one real challenge in Wisconsin. Georgia Southern has a large ceiling and a low floor. On one hand, they didn't lose much talent from a 7-5 season last year. But, they have a tougher schedule that includes Boise St., Ole Miss, FAU, and App St., and there has been little growth from quarterback Shai Werts since he came to the program a few years ago. I don't know what the future holds for the Eagles, but I think we'll be able to tell before their matchup with Louisiana-Lafayette. Georgia St. is in a tough position also, although not for the same reasons. They lost their starting quarterback and running back from 2019, and will rely on freshman to carry that part of the offense. However, the Panthers are strong on both sides of the line, which should boost the team. I think they could make a bowl game, but a few crucial games down the stretch will decide their season. Troy is certainly not the conference powerhouse it once was, as they failed to make a bowl game in 2019. However, there is upside for the Trojans, as they return a lot of their playmakers on both sides of the ball, including Carlton Martial, who had a whopping 18.5 tackles for loss last year, which was the eighth highest in the country. I wouldn't say the Trojans are conference contenders, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a seven or eight win season. Coastal Carolina was one close game from a bowl last year, and were close to winning a lot of games. Additionally, they bring back their top rusher and a lot of their best receivers. However, the Chanticleers have one major problem. They don't have a quarterback. Even if they find a starter, I don't expect whoever it is to be able to fit right in with the offense as quickly as they would need him to. The future is bright for Coastal, but they need to develop their next quarterback. Louisiana-Lafayette gets under shadowed by App. State, but don't be fooled. The Ragin' Cajuns are a legit team. They finished 11-1 last year, and keep three of their best offensive players in quarterback Levi Lewis, running back Elijah Mitchell, and . receiver Jamal Bell. I love the team that Billy Napier is building down south, and I think that the Cajuns have a real shot of winning more than ten games in 2020. Arkansas St. is a great team, returning many All-Conference defensive players. Unfortunately, they play a tough non-conference schedule that includes Memphis and Michigan; this will give the Red Wolves a small margin for error as they will likely enter conference play a measly 1-2. But, I think that they can pull it off, and I have a lot of faith that quarterback Layne Hatcher can help his team go on a run. UL-M is in an odd situation. They don't really have any standouts on their team, and don't seem to have a future in recruits. I hope that they can find a way to improve their team and make a bowl game, but it's hard to see a team like this win six games. Texas St. is in a similar situation, where they lack the talent to succeed. However, it's odd, because they are in a location where they are within minutes of three, four, and five star recruits. If they seize their potential, then I see conference championship appearances in their future. But for now, they remain at the bottom of the conference. Down there with them is South Alabama, who finished last in the conference in 2019. There isn't much to love about this team, as they lack exceptional players across the board. However, the future is brighter in Mobile, as many of the impact players from last year were underclassmen. So although they may not make a bowl game in 2020, there is hope that they can make one in future years.
MVP: Zac Thomas, QB, Appalachian St.
Bowl Eligible Teams: Appalachian St., Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas St., Troy, Georgia Southern
Division Champions: East- Appalachian St., West- Louisiana-Lafayette
Conference Champions: Appalachian St. Mountaineers