All photos in article courtesy of Getty Images
College football has been one of the biggest question marks in the sports world during the COVID-19 pandemic, but as we get closer to the season, the situation only seems to get less clear. Regardless of whether we see a traditional season, or even a season starting in February or something as absurd as that, let’s act for a second like college football is approaching on schedule.
These power rankings provide an escape. Imagine one of the best regular seasons in all of sports occurring normally without phases, masks or that bad haircut you gave yourself. This list is crafted in the pursuit of that sense of normalcy and is treated as if nothing changed following LSU’s historic rise to the top. In that vein, take it with a grain of salt, but understand at the same time that it all would be 100 percent accurate. Enjoy.
If you haven’t heard of Clemson, let me catch you up. The Tigers are fresh off their fifth straight College Football Playoff and second straight National Championship Game. Entering 2020, Dabo Sweeney returns two bonafide Heisman contenders in QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne, along with a slew of young talent on the outside to keep the ACC on its heels.
However, with four starters on the offensive line and three in the secondary gone, the team will be young in both areas and possibly not as physical as in years past. Sweeney will need to be careful with a November trip to Notre Dame on the schedule, but with no other games against a ranked team on this list, a win in South Bend would book another trip to the annual Clemson fest (the Playoff).
Tua Tagovailoa got injured, Alabama lost to Auburn, and suddenly the world forgot about the Tide. That will all change when they take the field in September to take on the Trojans in Jerry World. If you’ve ever heard the old adage: “Never bet against Nick Saban," I would tattoo that across your forehead this season as the Hall of Fame coach returns a boat load of talent and does so with a chip on his shoulder, arguably the first time that has happened in the modern era.
Mac Jones returns at QB after going 3-1 down the stretch, throwing for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions in those four games. Jones will get the privilege of competing with the No. 1 rated dual-threat QB in the 2020 Class, Bryce Young. With starting RB Najee Harris and dominant WR DeVonta Smith also returning, the offense shouldn’t miss a beat in Tua’s absence. The Tide play Georgia, Texas A&M and Auburn all at home, giving them a good chance to end the brutally long one-year playoff drought in Tuscaloosa.
3. Ohio State
Ryan Day’s first year as head coach of Ohio State resulted in the first playoff appearance for the Buckeyes since 2015, but they still fell short of their potential with a narrow loss to Clemson in the semifinal. While most believe that there will be little to no drop-off in success with QB Justin Fields back at the helm in Columbus, there are some big holes to fill. The Buckeyes had both DE Chase Young and CB Jeff Okudah go in the top three picks of the NFL draft, with RB J.K. Dobbins also exiting town a day later in the second round.
With yet another strong recruiting class, replacing the production of those three is not impossible, but it will be incredibly difficult and I would expect the top-end potential of the Buckeyes to be slightly lower than it was this past season. Ohio State faces two tough road tests with Oregon in Week 2 and Penn State in Week 8, but losing only one