Latest posts by Joe Broback (see all)
- LSU Tigers dominate Clemson to win 2020 college football national championship - January 14, 2020
- Way Too Early Top 25 College Football rankings for 2020 - January 10, 2020
- Clemson Tigers most important matchups for the National Championship Game - January 8, 2020
How does college football always go by so fast? It seems like Week 0 shows up and the next thing we know, the season’s over. While we still have one more game to play between LSU and Clemson, the reality of no more college football until August sets in now. To cure that, it’s time to look ahead to the 2020 season. If you like debating, then a Way Too Early Top 25 rankings is the perfect thing for you.
Top 10 Locks
Key players: QB Trevor Lawrence, WR Justyn Ross, DE Xavier Thomas
Move over, Alabama. There’s a new king in college football. Regardless of what happens Monday night, Clemson returns as one of the top teams in the country. The Tigers are 79-4 over the past five seasons, and that level of success figures to continue next season. Trevor Lawrence comes back for another year, and will be one of the top potential Heisman candidates. Running back Travis Etienne and wide receiver Tee Higgins still might go pro after the national championship, but Lyn-J Dixon and Justyn Ross return to fill those potential voids.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Key players: CB Shaun Wade, QB Justin Fields, WR Chris Olave
Thirteen seniors must be replaced, but key pieces return to put Ohio State back in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten. Justin Fields leads that charge with Master Teague in the backfield, and Shaun Wade’s return to Columbus makes him a leader of the defense with linebackers Tuf Borland and Pete Werner. Throw in a little motivation in the form of the Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, and the Buckeyes become an even more dangerous team in 2020.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Key players: WR Jaylen Waddle, WR DeVonta Smith, CB Patrick Surtain
Losing Tua Tagovailoa hurt, but Mac Jones handled the pressure nicely. In the four games he started, he threw for 1,172 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. He’ll compete with Tua’s brother, Taulia, for the starting spot, and the winner gets to utilize receiver DeVonta Smith and explosive receiver/returner Jaylen Waddle. A two-loss season might be great for some programs, but it’s a disappointment in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban’s got some work to do, but the Tide should be the favorite again in the SEC West.
Key players: DB Kaiir Elam, CB Marco Wilson, QB Kyle Trask
Dan Mullen faces a big test of replacing a good amount of talent on both sides of the football. Luckily, he’s still got plenty on the roster. His secondary is loaded to put things lightly, and they’ll carry the defense while new starters emerge in the front seven. Quarterback Kyle Trask returns after throwing for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns, providing stability at the position with Feleipe Franks leaving the program. If the Gators are going to make a run at the SEC East divisional crown, 2020 appears to be the year.
Key players: QB Sam Ehlinger, RB Keoantay Ingram, LB Joseph Ossai
Once again, the Longhorns find themselves in a good position to win the Big 12. Now, they just have to produce. Sam Ehlinger announced his return to join six other offensive starters, and can mold himself into an NFL prospect if he continues to develop as a passer. The defense must find an identity under new leadership, and Texas must show they can not only beat Oklahoma, but win the conference. Until then, Tom Herman’s in hot water.
Key players: DE Kwity Paye, QB Dylan McCaffrey, WR Ronnie Bell
This is it for Jim Harbaugh. Michigan fans are tired of waiting for him to take the next step, so 2020 could be the final year for their coach. He must do it with a new quarterback and a handful of fresh faces at key positions. The defense gets a face lift, but returns ends Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson, who combined for 119 tackles, 22.5 for loss, and 10 sacks in 2019. The offense needs a new signal caller and for their experienced playmakers to step up.
Texas A&M Aggies
Key players: QB Kellen Mond, S Demani Richardson, OT Carson Green
Don’t look now, but the Aggies are set up nicely to become a contender in the SEC West. Kellen Mond returns for his fourth season as a starter on an offense that returns nearly every starter. The same can be said on defense. Linebacker Budy Johnson, cornerback Myles Jones, and safety Demani Richardson return to lead a defense with plenty of experience. Time to see Jimbo’s massive contract pay off.
Ole Miss Rebels
Key players: QB John Rhys Plumlee, WR Elijah Moore, RB Jerrion Ealy
To be clear, no one’s expecting the Rebels to be a contender, but hiring the coach they did comes with high expectations. Lane Kiffin inherits a team that’s looking for stability. John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral will battle for the starting quarterback job, and running back Jerrion Ealy and receiver Elijah Moore give Kiffin tools for an explosive offense.
Key players: OT Foster Sarell, OT Walker Little, DE Thomas Booker
What was the 2019 season? Is David Shaw’s squad headed for a rebuild? They’ll need a new quarterback with the transfer of K.J. Costello, and they’ll need to reestablish their identity on offense and defense. Tackles Foster Sarell and Walker Little should help with that. Four starters on defense are gone, including all three linebackers, but end Thomas Booker eases that transition.
Potentially elite Top 25 teams
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Key players: WR Rashod Bateman, DE Boye Mafe, QB Tanner Morgan
All Minnesota needs to do is win the Big Ten West, and this team appears ready for that next step. Wins against Penn State and Auburn prove they can win big games, and the youth lead the charge for next season. Rashod Bateman eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in his second season, and even garnered All-American honors from some media members. Quarterback Tanner Morgan provides the poise they need at the position, and the defense returns a handful of starters too. P.J. Fleck has the Gophers on their way to competing with the blue bloods, and 2020 could be the year they take that next step.
Key players: OT Penei Sewell, RB CJ Verdell, S Jevon Holland
Four starters on the offensive line and a quarterback must be replaced on offense, but the defense returns nine starters. If a College Football Playoff run is in the cards, the defense leads the charge. Only two starters leave the defense, and young players like defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux made an impact frequently this year. Justin Herbert’s replacement becomes a focal point, but only Penei Sewell (an All-American) returns on the line. Playmakers like CJ Verdell, Travis Dye, Jaylon Redd, and Johnny Johnson III should help ease the transition for the new starter.
Key players: QB Bo Nix, WR Seth Williams, LB K.J. Britt
Similar to Oregon, Auburn’s looking for starters on the offensive line at both guard and tackle positions. Quarterback Bo Nix needs protection, but he can manage escaping pressure while new players emerge. Receiver Seth Williams remains one of the most underrated players in the country, and Anthony Schwartz has track speed. The defense must replace NFL talent up front, but the back end has potential.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Key players: RB Journey Brown, S Tariq Castro-Fields, QB Sean Clifford
A Cotton Bowl win gave Nittany Lions fans something to get excited about for next season, and new stars showed what they could do. Running back Journey Brown (204 yards in the Cotton Bowl) might be the next great Big Ten running back, and he’ll join Sean Clifford in the backfield. Six defensive starters depart, including defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos.
Key players: QB Charlie Brewer, DT James Lynch, S Grayland Arnold
Baylor needs a new head coach after the departure of Matt Rhule, but the new leader inherits a plethora of talent. Charlie Brewer’s health remains a concern, but he’s one of the best quarterbacks in college football. All-American tackle James Lynch (19.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks) returns, and doesn’t get enough love for his play. Linebacker Terrel Bernard (112 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and safety Grayland Arnold (six interceptions) give the Bears a playmaker at the other two levels. With Oklahoma rebuilding and Texas figuring things out as well, the Bears are just as much a contender as anyone in the Big 12.
Dark Horse teams
Virginia Tech Hokies
Key players: LB Rayshard Ashby, QB Hendon Hooker, CB Caleb Farley
Justin Fuente leaned on his team’s inexperience at a critical time this year, and it paid off. Hendon Hooker (1,911 total yards, 18 total touchdowns) showed flashes of being Fuente’s next great quarterback, and a plethora of freshman and sophomores surround him. The defense features potential All-Americans in Rayshard Ashby (119 tackles, 17 TFL) and Caleb Farley (first team All-ACC).
North Carolina Tar Heels
Key players: LB Chazz Surratt, WR Dyami Brown, QB Sam Howell
They won’t surprise anyone in 2020, but they’re still an overlooked team. Mack Brown already made his mark on the Tar Heels (for the second time), and he’s ready for them to make another run. Sam Howell shined as a freshman, passing for over 3,600 yards and 38 touchdowns. Dyami Brown averaged over 20 yards per catch, and Dazz Newsome joined Brown in eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving.
Key players: OT Cade Mays, QB Jarrett Guarantano, RB Ty Chandler
Tennessee used to be the butt of most jokes, but suddenly they’re looking like a solid team. An 8-5 season and a bowl win boosts their confidence, and Jeremy Pruitt has this program headed in the right direction. The Volunteers are getting Georgia offensive lineman Cade Mays as a transfer to shore up the line, and Pruitt’s defense should be solid.
Key players: TE Peyton Hendershot, CB Tiawan Mullen, RB Stevie Scott
The Hoosiers have yet to prove they can win a big game, but they’ll be fun to watch next year. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey, running back Stevie Scott (1,056 total yards), receiver Whop Philyor (1,002 yards receiving), and tight end Peyton Hendershot return, and that’s just the beginning of the fun. Cornerback Tiawan Mullen (13 passes defended) is a potential star on defense.
Key players: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, QB Kedon Slovis, QB JT Daniels
Kedon Slovis, Tyler Vaughns, and Amon-Ra St. Brown make the Trojans a potential Pac-12 champion. Slovis will compete with JT Daniels for the starting quarterback spot when Daniels returns from injury, but both are capable options. Tackle Jay Tufele and end Drake Jackson give USC a solid front four, and the back end only loses one starter. Clay Helton needs a good season to get the doubters off his back, and he’s set his team up nicely for a Pac-12 title run.
Key players: S Darrick Forrest, RB Michael Warren II, QB Desmond Ridder
The Bearcats won’t get enough respect in the offseason, so they’ll have to prove their worth once again. Michael Warren II (14 rushing touchdowns) gives Cincinnati one of the best running backs in the country, and he’s joined by Desmond Ridder for his third year as a starter. The defense returns one of the best secondaries in the country, and the best in the AAC.
Key players: RB Kenneth Gainwell, WR Damonte Coxie, DE Joseph Dorceus
Once again, the Tigers reload for another run at the AAC title, this time as the defending champs. Brady White, Kenneth Gainwell, and Damonte Coxie all return to lead the offense, but the defense needs new leaders. Ryan Silverfield takes over for Mike Norvell (who left for Florida State), and expectations are as high as they’ve ever been in Memphis.
Boise State Broncos
Key players: QB Hank Bachmeier, RB George Holani, WR CT Thomas
Until further notice, doubting the Broncos isn’t a good idea. Boise State’s won double digit games 17 times since 1998, including last year’s 12-win season. The Broncos defensive line took a hit, but the back end features Kekaula Kaniho and Avery Williams. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier and George Holani are two potential stars after just one year of college football. Bachemeier just needs to stay healthy to give the Broncos consistency at quarterback.
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Key players: QB Zac Thomas, CB Shaun Jolly, DE Demetrius Taylor
Zac Thomas (3,158 yards, 35 touchdowns) returns to lead a 13-win team that returns a number of experienced upperclassmen. Only two starters on either side of the ball were underclassmen, and first team All-Sun Belt cornerback Shaun Jolly was one of them.
Miami (OH) Redhawks
Key players: QB Brett Gabbert, S Mike Brown, S Sterling Weatherford
An interesting year in the MAC produced a conference championship for the Redhawks, and they will be in the running again in 2020. Led by Brett Gabbert, brother of former Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine, Miami must only replace four starters from the championship team.
Key players: RB Jaret Patterson, RB Kevin Marks, S Tyrone Hill
If you haven’t watched Bulls running back Jaret Patterson (1,799 yards, 19 touchdowns), you’re missing out. The sophomore exploded towards the end of the season, and returns for another year. Head coach Lance Leipold knows how to build winners, and the 2020 Buffalo team could be his best.
Key players: QB D’Eriq King, CB Damarrion Williams, OT Jarrid Williams
Dana Holgorsen’s relying on transfers to improve his team right now, and plenty of them will see their first collegiate action this year. D’Eriq King (3,656 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2018), after sitting out after four games this year, returns to give the Cougars one of the best quarterbacks in college football. The talent level is there, but can it produce on the field?
Key players: WR Tre Nixon, S Richie Grant, RB Otis Anderson
UCF also fits the NY6 contender category. It wasn’t the year they wanted, but the Knights still won 10 games. With McKenzie Milton returning after a season ending injury, the quarterback competition is one to watch. Otis Anderson, Greg McCrae and Tre Nixon just scratch the surface of potential talent offensively, and the defense has all-conference talent everywhere.
My Top 25
- Ohio State
- Texas A&M
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
- Iowa State
- Oklahoma State
- Boise State
- Virginia Tech
- North Carolina