College Football Playoff
|Ohio State Buckeyes|
|Alabama Crimson Tide|
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|Penn State Nittany Lions|
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By Brian Edwards
Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State were easy choices in the top three of our Preseason Power Rankings. The order was difficult, though, as there is very little separation between the three. I think Alabama has the best overall roster, but I give Clemson the edge based on having the best QB. Yes, Justin Fields was nothing short of sensational last season, but the Buckeyes lost all four starters on their defensive line and a pair of outstanding offensive linemen. Therefore, I gave the Crimson Tide the slight edge on Ryan Day's squad.
Until somebody unseats Lincoln Riley's Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12, there's no reason to think that redshirt freshman QB and former five -star recruit Spencer Rattler won't duplicate the success we've seen from Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts in Norman. Indeed, I'm that big of a believer in Riley even though we've seen nothing out of Rattler at the collegiate level yet.
Then we have Florida and Georgia at No.'s 5 and 6, respectively. Unlike the previous three seasons when UGA has bested UF, I'm of the belief that the Gators will have the better QB this year. That's not a shot at Wake Forest grad transfer Jamie Newman, who is a talent dual-threat signal caller that'll take over for Jake Fromm. It's more of a hat tip to both Fromm and UF's Kyle Trask.
The other most dangerous threats to crash the College Football Playoff are Penn State, Oregon, LSU and Texas, who round out our Top 10 in that order. The Nittany Lions get Ohio State in Happy Valley, and they bring back a ton of talent from last season's 11-win team. With the demise of USC in recent years, Stanford's 2019 collapse (and a surge of players exiting the program this past spring) and Chris Petersen's stunning retirement at Washington, Mario Cristobal's Oregon program is clearly the team to beat in the Pac-12 until further notice.
However, the Ducks have to break in a new quarterback, so they weren't worthy of a top-five slot. LSU wasn't either, although the Tigers still have a talent galore on their roster. It remains to be seen how much of an impact the losses of Joe Brady and Dave Aranda will have on the coaching staff, and we just need to see QB Myles Brennan in action before having too much faith in the defending champs.
Finally, there's Texas, which is dealing with a heap of off-the-field issues in recent weeks. If Tom Herman can get his players on the same page by August, the Longhorns have a chance to be really good. Sam Ehlinger appears poised for a monster senior season.
One sleeper of note is No. 16 North Carolina. The Tar Heels only went 7-6 last year, but all six defeats were one-possession games. Three losses came by six combined points. As a true freshman in 2019, QB Sam Howell threw for 3,6141 yards with a 38/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. I think UNC will be favored in at least nine games and get a rematch with Clemson (which won 21-20 in Chapel Hill last year) at the ACC Championship Game.
I think Cincinnati (No. 18) will be the nation's top Power Five team in 2020. The Bearcats add several four-star recruits, in addition to transfers from Notre Dame and Alabama. They return eight starters from a defense that gave up only 20.1 points per game, and this unit gets All-American candidate James Wiggins back. The safety tore his ACL last August.
|VegasInsider.com Top 25 College Football Rankings|
The SEC (6), Big 10 (5) and Big 12 (4) have 15 of the Top 25 teams in the VegasInsider.com Top 25 Preseason Rankings. After the top trio, both the ACC and Pac-12 place three schools in the rankings. The American Athletic Conference boasts two schools in Cincinnati and Memphis, while Notre Dame and Boise State represent the Independent schools and Mountain West Conference respectively.
|VegasInsider.com Top 25 College Football Conference Rankings|
With Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne leading the way, Clemson will take out Florida, the winner of its first SEC Championship Game since 2008, in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff. The Tigers will then meet Ohio State in the finals. In a rematch of last year's semifinal win for Dabo Swinney's team, Clemson will once again get the best of the Buckeyes by a narrow margin in a 60-minute slugfest.
The Gators will make their first appearance in the CFP thanks to a stellar season from QB Kyle Trask and one of the nation's premier defenses. Justin Fields will once again produce Heisman-like numbers in leading Ohio State to a Big Ten title. Oklahoma will get back to the CFP because that's just what Lincoln Riley does year in and year out. However, the Sooners won't advance again, with Fields outplaying his counterpart Spencer Rattler.
The College Football Playoff Championship has watched favorites go 3-3 straight up (SU) in the first six installments but underdogs have managed to go 5-1 against the spread (ATS) for bettors taking the points. LSU was the first favorite to win and cover as it rolled Clemson 42-25 in the 2020 title game. Total bettors have watched the 'over' go 5-1 and we've seen an average combined score of 64.8 points per game.
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