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  • Thomas Trimarco

Preseason College Football Rankings

The College Football season is less than two months away, August 28th to be exact, and teams are already shaping into form. A majority of the major league transfers have all found a home, so as of right now we can get a decent sense of what a lot of programs are going to look like. With that being said, College Football at its core is full of craziness, head scratching losses, and just plain bedlam, so these rankings are merely just my opinion on the top 25 teams to begin the season.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Last year's final ranking: 7 The Bulldogs started the year 4-2 with Stetson Bennett as their starting quarterback, it was only when they switched to JT Daniels that they ended the year on a 5-0 run that included a Peach Bowl win over a very good Cincinnati team. Georgia gained two huge transfers over the offseason in tight end Arik Gilbert and former Clemson starting Corner Derion Kendrick, which helps out a secondary that lost a lot of production in the Draft. The biggest question mark for this team is the health of future first round pick receiver George Pickens, who when healthy is an All American player. Georgia will be the team to beat in the SEC East with their newfound nightmare of an offense, and can absolutely run the table before the SEC Championship.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

Last year's final ranking: 1 I feel like we can all come to a consensus that Nick Saban is the greatest coach of all time, and one of the biggest reasons for that is how he reloads teams through recruiting after losing 10+ players a year to the NFL. Alabama loses most of the bulk of their receiver core, but retains John Metchie II and gains a pair of highly touted receiver recruits. Quarterback Bryce Young will take over the offense for the Tide, and I will be shocked if this team takes a step back with him at the helm this upcoming year.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

Last year's final rankings: 6 This Sooner team will go as far as their star quarterback Spencer Rattler will take them. In the beginning of the year last year Rattler was playing decent Football, but was throwing too many picks which led to early losses over Kansas State and Iowa State. It was only until Rattler began looking like a star for Oklahoma to look like a dominant team. I expect Rattler to come out swinging all year in an offensive conference such as the BIG-12. Oklahoma also added a huge O-Line transfer from Tennessee Wanya Morris, along with retaining All BIG-12 receiver Marvin Mims. Lincoln Riley's squad should be one to fear this upcoming year.

4. Clemson Tigers

Last year's final rankings: 3 Losing a guy like Trevor Lawrecne no doubt has its repercussions on an offense, but having a guy like DJ Uiagalelei to step up and be a starter is a rare commodity. Uiagalelei played fantastic in the regular season thriller vs Notre Dame when Lawrence had COVID, and if we see that version of him the entire year Clemson could be the best team in the country that's not in the SEC. A concern with this team is if receiver Justyn Ross will be 100% when he comes back, assuming he comes back at all from his scary spinal injury. With Ross, Clemson has a premier receiver in College Football, if not the best.

5. Iowa State Cyclones

Last year's final ranking: 9 It took me a long time to convince myself Iowa State should be over Ohio State, but I think they deserve it. The Cyclones return 18 starters, which includes All American running back Breece Hall and premier tight end Charlie Kolar. A huge obstacle this season for the Cyclones is the strength of the BIG-12. They will have to face off against Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas this season but I believe they are up to the test. Head Coach Matt Campell returns a stout defense along with a great quarterback in Brock

Purdy, so this will be BIG-12 title and Playoff berth or bust for the Cyclones this season.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

Last year's final ranking: 2 Ryan Day has done a fantastic job with the Buckeyes ever since Urban Meyer “retired,” but this will hands down be his most challenging year as he loses quarterback Justin Fields and the bulk of their Offensive Line. With the loss of Fields the Buckeyes have a huge hole at QB, and it is unclear right now who it will be filled by. Just like Alabama and Clemson, Ohio State will obviously reload with even more talent, but as of right now I think there are a handful of teams better than them.

7. Texas A&M Aggies

Last year's final ranking: 4 There was a decent argument last year to put the Aggies in the playoff, and rightfully so. With only losses to the National Champion Crimson Tide and a good Florida team, Texas A&M was definitely playoff caliber. WIth that being said the leader of this team, Kellen Mond, is now in the NFL and assumed starter Haynes King as big shoes to fill. Star running back Isaiah Spiller is going to have to run behind basically a brand new offensive line, but as he saw last year that shouldn't be too much for him to handle. Texas A&M will once again compete for an SEC title, and a large part of that will be their defense.

8. Oregon Ducks

Last year's final ranking: N/A What was an underwhelming season last year that included losses to Califrona and rival Oregon State, did end with a PAC-12 title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks return what could be a top 3 Defense in the entire country that includes Corner Mykeal Wright, Linebacker Mase Funa, Justin Flowe, Noah Sewell, and maybe the best defensive player in the nation Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. The likely starter at QB for Oregon is Anthony Brown, who looked more than solid whenever he came in for Tyler Shough this past season. With the Ducks also returning receivers such as Mycah Pittman and Jaylon Redd, this team is primed for a playoff run.

9. Cincinnati Bearcats

Last year's final ranking: 8 Barring a last second loss in the Peach Bowl to the JT Daniels lead Georgia Bulldogs, the Bearcats would have been undefeated last season. Cincinnati loses running back Micheal Warren II, but retains Gerrid Doaks who is more than capable of handing the backfield by himself. Pair this with Star quarterback Desmond Ridder and a quality defense, I don't see why Cincinnati cant run the table in the regular season again, which includes matchups at Indiana and Notre Dame.

10. USC Trojans

Last year's final ranking: 21 What could have been a great season for USC last year ended up in disappointment as their undefeated season came crashing down with a loss to Oregon in the PAC-12 championship, and then did not play in a bowl game. What good did come out of last season is the play of quarterback Kedon Slovis, but besides him this offense was nothing to fear last year. The Trojans return running back Vave Malepeai and get a haul of great recruits for Clay Helton per usual. Even though Helton is on the hot seat USC is in the running for best team in the PAC.

11. North Carolina Tar Heels

Last year's final ranking: 18 The Tar Heels lose one of the best running back tandems along with one of the best receiver tandems in the country coming into this season. With losses like that any team would be reeling on offense, but Mack Brown has done such a good job recruiting players to this program that I expect North Carolina to still look like a power offense. Mack Brown also has two of the most promising young Defensive ends in the country in Desmond Evans and Myles Murphy, and if they can take a step forward this season this

defense will be one to reckon with. Oh yeah, they also have a top 5 quarterback in the nation and perhaps number one overall pick in Sam Howell, so I think the Heels should be alright.

12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Last year's final ranking: 5 Ian Book is gone, and Notre Dame fans need to accept that. On the bright side, transfer Jack Coan looks like he will man the ship for the Irish this upcoming season. running back Chris Tyree shined for this team last year and I expect him to be even more of a factor this upcoming season. The Irish will return to being independent this season, so their path to the playoff will be rough, and even more rough when you consider they have to play Wisconsin, Cincinnati, USC, and North Carolina (all teams I have in the top 25).

13. Florida Gators

Last year's final rankings: 13 I was very hesitant to put Florida at this spot considering they have lost QB Kyle Trask, TE Kyle Pitts, and receivers Kadarius Toney and Tervon Grimes to the NFL Draft. They are in the same spot I feel as North Carolina is, but at least the Heels have an established QB. Emory Jones looks like the man for the Gators at quarterback, a guy the swamp faithful have been waiting patiently to see starting. Florida also retains a spectacular defense as Brenton Cox and Kaiir Elam all stay put. I'm confident Dan Mullen can keep this team competing for the top spot in the SEC East, but it will be tough with Georgia right there.

14. Wisconsin Badgers

Last year's final ranking: N/A For years and years Wisconsin fans have been talking about if only they had a QB, then they could really be contenders. Well this year Graham Mertz appears to be the best quarterback they've had in awhile, and the entire offense runs through him. The Badgers will have a solid O-line as usual, so if running back Jalen Berger can produce and Mertz can step up

as a prominent QB in the BIG-10, the Badgers can have a legitimate shot at the conference title.

15. Texas Longhorns

Last year's final ranking: 19 Is Texas back? Well not quite, but the first year under Steve Sarkisian will be a step in the right direction. QB Casey Thompson shined in the Alamo Bowl and will be the frontrunner for starter. Texas also adds a handful of solid transfers from the portal, but the main focus for this team will be running back Bijan Robinson. This might be a tad bit of an over ranking, but taking into account I picked Texas to make the playoffs last season, I'm not scared of being wrong with this team.

16. Indiana Hoosiers

Last year’s final ranking: 12 The most surprising team in College Football last year looks to continue their success this coming season. The Hoosiers were primed to make a run at the BIG-10 title, but an ACL injury to quarterback Micheal Penix derailed all of that. Penix returns this year along with star receiver Ty Fryfogle, and not to mention Transfer RB Stephen Carr from USC, as Tom Allens offense looks like one of the better ones in the conference.

17. Washington Huskies

Last year's final ranking: N/A In my rough draft of these rankings I had Washington as high as 13 at one point, but the more I went down the rankings the more I realized there's teams behind them that are just flat out better. The Huskies lost a lot of production from last year like DB Elijah Molden and Corner Keith Taylor. quarterback Dylan Morris had a rocky first year starting as now he is in a battle with Colorado State transfer Patrick O’Brien for the number one spot. The Huskies do gain highly touted DB Brenden Radley-Hiles from Oklahoma in the transfer portal, but it will be an uphill battle for them as the PAC-12 is only getting better.

18. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Last year’s final ranking: 14 The Chanticleers ended the 2020 season with an 11-1 record, going undefeated in the regular season with their only loss being in the Cure Bowl. Most of the starters return from last season, including quarterback Bryson McCall, who was first in the Sun Belt in touchdowns with 26 as well as player of the year in the conference. When looking at Coastal’s schedule no team jumps out as a sure fire loss for the Chanticleers, and the only team I think that may challenge them is Kansas who just got a brand new head coach this offseason. It would be no surprise to me if they repeat another undefeated season.

19. Miami Hurricanes

Last year's final ranking: 22 Miami lost a majority of their high powered defense last year that included two first round defensive ends, but the Canes do bring back Bubba Bolden at DB, a guy who can really be a disruptor and a potential All American on defense. quarterback D’Eriq King is said to be healthy for when Miami faces off with the National Champions week 1, and that will be the first Miami start for coveted transfer receiver from Oklahoma Charleston Rambo who will really give King true number one receiver. Add transfer Defensive Back Tyrique Stevenson from Georgia into the mix and the Canes can become a threat in the ACC Coastal once again.

20. LSU Tigers

Last year's final rankings: N/A After last year's disaster of a season for the Bayou Bengals, head coach Ed Orgeron looks to continue his rebuild after losing most of his team from the 2019 National Championship squad. The quarterback situation for this year is just as up in the air as it was last season, and they lose star receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. and five star tight end Arik Gilbert after transferring to Georgia. A huge reason why I have LSU at this rank is the recruiting ability of Orgeron, and the potential he has on the roster at the moment. receiver Kayshon Boutte showed flashes of being a possible All SEC player, and he'll have to have an even bigger role this upcoming season for the Tigers to look fluid on offense. Corner Derek Stingley remains possibly the best D-Back in the country, and if LSU can develop the tons of talent they have already they can surpass this original ranking by miles.

21. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

Last year's final ranking: 15 The Cajuns are in the same spot at Coastal Carolina in more ways than one. They bring back most of their starters from an impeccable season last year, as well as keeping their head coach who was being recruited by countless power 5 teams. The only difference between these two teams is that the Chanticleers are a better squad with a better quarterback. The Cajuns should not be discredited though, they are the second choice to win their conference behind Coastal and have a more than capable team to beat them. running back Chris Smith will have to step up after first team All Sun Belt player Elijah Mitchell went to the draft. Louisiana will have to play Texas in their first game, but for a team that beat Iowa State in Ames last season they should be ready for the test.

22. Iowa Hawkeyes

Last year's final ranking: 16 This might be my most difficult selection to make. I've seen countless preseason rankings have Iowa in the top 15, and I've even seen one having them at 12, but to me this team really doesn't jump off the page to me. I realize that's every year's Iowa team and head coach Kirk Ferentz builds his team to compete for a BIG-10 title, but that's one of the main reasons why I even have them here on the list. The Hawkeyes will replace a good amount of their team that includes a very good defensive line with two players on NFL rosters currently. It might be a bit of a hot take having them this low, but Ferentz will without a doubt show me up and take this team to Indianapolis after winning the BIG-10 West.

23. TCU Horned Frogs

Last year's final ranking: N/A

Gary Patterson is one of those coaches where you should never doubt his team, ever. The Frogs return quarterback Max Duggan for a third straight year, and their defense should not be a problem as it never is with Patterson at the helm. TCU also retains a great backfield that includes former five star Zach Evans who showed signs of being a great back last year. If Evans can be a breakout star for the Frogs and Duggan can be a solid starter for them, TCU might be a problem in the BIG-12.

24. Arizona State Sun Devils

Last year's final ranking: N/A It's no secret this team is in a bit of hot water with the NCAA right now, but for the time being let's turn our heads the other way. Herm Edwards brings back a decently experienced team from last year, even though the Sun Devils only played four games in 2020. Maybe the key player returning is Junior quarterback Jayden Daniels who is widely regarded as one of the best in the PAC-12. The only big time loss from last season is receiver Frank Darby, who is now showing off his talents for the Falcons. Daniels will gain a number of new weapons from recruiting and the Transfer portal this season as we should see a Sun Devil team that competes for a PAC-12 title.

25. Penn State Nittany Lions

Last year's final ranking: N/A Penn State is in the same boat as Iowa is in my mind. I really dont see alot about this team that screams 9-3 or 10-2 season, but Penn State has been recruiting great recently so I expect at least some of those recruits to show up. James Franklin is still one of the best coaches in the country and I don't expect him to let Penn State have two disappointing seasons in a row, so I expect him and Quarterback Sean Clifford to steer the ship in the right direction this 2021 season. Jahan Dotson is a receiver capable of getting All American honors, and he'll have to get close to that to help out this offense this season.

Honorable Mentions: Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Liberty, UCLA

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