NCAA Football: Top 25 rankings (SEC, ACC, Big-12, AAC, And Sunbelt)

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, fans around the world feared if we would be able to have college football this fall. With the Big-10 and Pac-12 controversially deciding push back their season, we might not see college football and all of its glory this season, but football is football… LET THE GAMES…BEGIN! (*Insert the Joker “And here..we…go” GIF).

ESPN recently announced it’s AP top 25 rankings for the 2020-2021 football season, but still included the teams that have opted out. In this article, and throughout the season, I will conduct my personal top 25 of teams that are actually playing this fall, giving fans a much better representation of the rankings.

Before we hop into my rankings, I just wanted to let you guys know I’ll be making my rankings list every week. For starters, there isn’t heavy analytics going into my top 25 list. I’m solely basing my picks off of my personal opinions on a team and the talent they have on the roster. During the course of the season, I will take wins, losses, and my personal eye test to complete my rankings in future weeks. So, Without any further ado here is my top 25 rankings heading into the first week of the season!

25. Appalachian State: (13-1 last season)

App State went 13-1 last season, with key wins against North and South Carolina. Their lone loss came to Sunbelt foe, Georgia Southern. Even though they had a hiccup against Georgia Southern, App. State went on to win the Sun Belt championship and finished 19th in the AP poll. The Mountaineers are replacing former head coach, Eliah Drinkwitz, as he took over the Power 5 job at Missouri. New head coach Shawn Clark and his squad are the only Sun Belt team in my top 25 and has a chance to climb with an avenue to being undefeated being very realistic this season.

24. TCU: (5-7 last season)

TCU comes in at number 24 in my power rankings, and my 5th ranked Big-12 school heading into the season. Gary Patterson continues to find success with recruiting athletes who can play multiple roles and finding the right spot for them, turning young kids who may appear to be raw into really solid prospects. TCU is returning some good players on D, which graded out to be one of, if not the best in the Big-12 last season. The passing game will struggle, especially with the uncertainty of quarterback, Max Duggan’s health, as fans should expect him to never take a snap this season. BUT, the running game could be great, with five star running back commit (TCU’s first-ever) Zach Evans. Evans was the number 16 overall recruit in the class of 2020, and the number two overall running back recruit in his class, according to 24/7 sports, drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson. Expect TCU to lean on a potent running game, and a stout defense this year.

23. Florida State: (6-7 last season)

Out goes Wille Taggart, and in comes former Memphis head coach, Mike Norvell. Norvell and his assistants began installing his fast-paced style offense that’s been successful in his short head coaching career (38-15 coaching record), but for some Seminoles’ players, it will be their fourth offensive system in as many years, as that could become problematic for the ceiling of this team. That fast-paced pro-style offense put up 40 points per game last season for Memphis en route to an AAC conference championship. At Florida State, Norvell will be able to recruit higher-level recruits. Will this season be the beginning of the return for Florida State?

22. Memphis: (12-2 last season)

As mentioned above, Memphis was the AAC conference champions last season, but with new head coach Ryan Silverfield, whats the expectations for the upcoming season? Memphis should be firmly in the race to see who tops the AAC with UCF and Cincinnatti, led by a good core of players that led this offense last season in quarterback Brady White, receiver Damonte Coxie, and running back Kenneth Gainwell. Memphis has had standouts like Darrell Henderson Jr, Tony Pollard, and Antonio Gibson in the running back room, and you should expect Gainwell to be next. He rushed for 1,459 yards last season, which is the most of any freshman last season.

21. Mississippi State: (6-7 last season)

I’m so excited for this Mississippi State Bulldogs team. Along with Memphis and Florida State, the Bulldogs also brings in a new head coach in the air raid maestro himself, Mike Leach…I don’t think the SEC will be ready for his air raid attack, as he now will have SEC level athletes to run it with. Along with a new offense, brings in a new defensive scheme, as former San Diego State defensive coordinator brings his 3-3-5 defense that ranked in the top 15 nationally in rushing yards allowed per carry, rushing yards allowed per game, and total yards allowed per play. Although there is a lot of new, senior running back Kylin Hill is returning, and should easily be amongst the best in the SEC.

20. Virginia Tech: (8-5 last season)

After an upset defeat in their bowl game against Kentucky last season, Virginia Tech looks to redeem themselves this season. The key to their success? Quarterback Hendon Hooker. The team switched to him being the guy in week 5 of the season, and the team went 6-2 overall with him at the helm. They were 2-3 prior to him starting, as his rushing game really opened up the offense. After six and eight-win seasons in 18′ and 19′, Hokies fans are itching for the team to get over the hump and contend to being atop the ACC coastal division.

19. Kentucky: (8-5 last season)

The Wildcats, led by Mark stoops and do it all offensive weapon Lynn Bowden Jr. won five of their last six games last season, en route to a 37-30 Bowl game win against Virginia Tech. A lot of people look at the fact that Lynn Bowden and all-SEC guard Logan Stenberg is gone, and will write them off this season. Don’t. Former starting quarterback, Terry Wilson should continue that role after a season-ending injury in the second game last season. The offensive line still has three former US Army All Americans in Landon Young, Drake Jackson, and Darian Kinnard. Asim Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, and Chris Rodriguez Jr. combined for 1,975 yards last season and should have success again this season behind a stellar o-line. The defense should still be solid with not only the bulk of its 2019 roster returning but also the appearance of five-star defensive tackle, Justin Rogers. He was the number one recruit out of the state of Michigan. Stoops has led Kentucky to four consecutive bowl games. The question is..can Kentucky take yet another step up and compete with Georgia and Florida in the SEC East, or will they perennially be an 8 win, lower-level bowl team?

18. Louisville: (8-5 last season)

Louisville won eight games last season when many thought they’d win about half of that. That’s all due in large part by head coach Scott Satterfield, who won the ACC coach of the year award. With most of their starters returning from last seasons squad, they look to build off of the season, and finish behind Clemson again, atop the ACC Atlantic. Behemoth Mekhi Becton is gone from the O-Line, but this team still fully intends to be a run-heavy team this season. The defensive side of the ball is where things go wrong, as the Cardinals ranked 12th in the ACC in total defense, allowing a dead last 31 touchdown passes. What coach Satterfield has done so far has been great. Many don’t believe that the Cardinals will win more than 8 games this year but thought they’d win only four last year. What has me confident in this ranking is his coaching ability and the fact that this team won eight games last season with one of the worst defenses in the conference. I’m expecting another jump on both sides of the ball, and Louisville to be one of the best teams in the ACC.

17. Tennessee: (8-5 last season)

The Volunteers rebounded well last season after losing to Georgia State in their season opener. They had seven wins in their final eight games, including six games in a row, with momentum heading into the season. The strong suit of this team will be the offensive line, who has a chance at starting FOUR former 5-star recruits upfront. They should make the offense as a whole better, as they plan on improving their just 4.1 yards per carry last season, and should make whoever wins the starting quarterback job comfortable when they’re in the pocket. The defense was a big part of their turnaround season, as the Vols did not allow more than 22 points in any of their final 6 games they won last season, and they return most of their defense. They need to find a replacement in production from the recently drafted Darrell Taylor. There’s plenty of excitement for this Tennessee football team in 2020, but I think the real return of Tennessee’s relevance will be in a couple of years. The Vols currently have the 10th best-recruiting class in the nation.

16. UCF: (10-3 last season)

UCF lost just one game in the 2017-18 season, and three games last season, all of them combining for seven points. With 16 starters back and the AAC conference champions odds of reaching of the college football playoff higher now more than ever, expect the Golden Knights to make a big push at the conference title. On offense, they’re led by Dillon Gabriel who played well as a freshman replacing Mckenzie Milton. On defense, eight starters return off of a defense that held teams to just 23 points a game last year.

15. Miami: (6-7 last year)

If it wasn’t for Greg Rousseau (who was second in the nation in sacks last year) opting out, I probably would’ve had them much higher on my rankings. On the defensive side of the ball, they still have some talent, including Quincy Roche. He was the AAC defensive player of the year at Temple with 13 sacks on the season. Another key transfer for the team is quarterback D’eriq King, who is also coming to Miami from the AAC as he came from the University of Houston. King didn’t play many games at Houston last season, in order to be eligible to redshirt, as a transfer to a bigger school was obvious to start the season. Before he sat out the remainder of the season, he did manage however to break TIM TEBOW’S record of consecutive games with a passing AND rushing touchdown. Back in 2018, King threw for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also added in 674 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in 11 games. If you couldn’t tell already, this man is the real deal with both his arms and legs. Back in 2018, he led all of college football in points responsible per game with 27.5. Expect Miami led by what could easily be a Heisman finalist campaign by King to be a very solid team this year.

14. Iowa State: (7-6 last season)

Just like with the previously mentioned Miami, this team will lean heavily on star QB Brock Purdy, who already has 21 school records in just two years. He’s the most NFL ready QB in the Big-12 and led the league last season at 303.6 yards per game. After giving Sooners fans a heart attack last season, Iowa State is out to prove they can hang with the top dogs in the league led by Matt Campbell.

13. Cincinnati: (11-3 last season)

Luke Fickel has coached the Bearcats to back to back 11 win seasons, as the team plans to take another step forward and win the AAC this season led by their defense. They return 10 starters from a stout group that just allowed 20.6 points a game. In 2019, their offense was ranked 25th nationally in rushing. The Bearcats are replacing Michael Warren II, as he went to the NFL. They have backs Gerrid Oaks, and Alabama transfer Jerome Ford to try to fill that void. Desmond Riddler is a dual-threat Quarterback who should add to the rushing totals with his legs. His numbers were down last season due to health, but he was the 2018 AAC rookie of the year. Expect this team to be the AAC conference champions.

12: North Carolina: (7-6 last season)

Mack Brown’s return has been a smashing success, as he led the Tar Heels to their first bowl game since 2016. UNC went 3-6 last season in games decided by seven points or fewer. Led by the exciting Sam Howell at QB, who was the reigning ACC rookie of the year, throwing a school-record 38 touchdowns, finishing second in the league in passing yards, as the Tar Heels also ranked 2nd in the ACC in total yards as a team with 474 yards per game. Michael Carter and Javonte Williams combined for 1,936 rushing yards last season (1.003 for Carter) as both have a chance to be 1,000-yard rushers this season. Speaking of having two players from the same position with 1,000 yards, receivers Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown each had at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdown catches last season. I expect them to take another step up this season.

11. LSU: (15-0 last season)

LSU ended the year last season going undefeated and winning the national championship. They had the Heisman award-winning quarterback, the Biletnikoff award-winning wideout, the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, as they were voted the best unit in CFB. But now there’s no Joe Burrow, and the Tigers are replacing the FOURTEEN players that were drafted into the NFL, along with their offensive coordinator, Joe Brady who went to the NFL as well. Ja’Marr Chase opted out this season, along with cornerback Kary Vincent Jr, and defensive End Neil Farrell Jr. This roster and team will be a LOT different this season, but there’s still a lot of good talent on that roster, with a good coach.

10. Texas A&M: (8-5 last season)

A&M hasn’t performed up to standards since hiring Jimbo Fisher but could have more success this season thanks to the heroics of quarterback, Kellen Mond, who had 3,398 yards of total offense in 2019, ranking second in the SEC. I’m expecting a jump in offensive production overall as a team, thanks to what I believe will be improvements on Mond’s game, as well as Isaiah Spiller, who had 946 rushing yards and 10TD’s as a freshman last season. The defense is still very solid and might be better than last season’s top 30 ranked defense.

9. Texas: (8-5 last season)

The clock is ticking for Tom Herman. Texas had a 10 win season in 2018, to only take two steps back in 2019 and go 8-5. Texas has completely overhauled their staff and if things go south again, there’s only one way the finger can point now. The good thing about being Texas is that they are perennially bringing in the top 10 ranked recruiting classes, as they have done so the last three seasons. There’s talent on this roster, and with the quarterback play of Sam Ehlinger, Texas should be able to compete with anyone.

8. Notre Dame: (11-2 last season)

Notre Dame will step away from its independent status this upcoming season, and join ACC play, which might honestly be easier than their Independent schedule last year that included Georgia, USC, Michigan, and Navy. They beat their current ACC foes of Louisville, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Duke last season, as they’ll have to run the table, including tough wins over North Carolina and Clemson if they want to get to the college football playoff. Step one of getting there is the quarterback play of Ian Book. Step two is replacing their now NFL bound players of Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet, Khalid Kareem, and Julian Okwara. Luckily for Notre Dame, like Texas, getting talented recruits into town is easy.

7. Oklahoma State: (8-5 last season)

Oklahoma State has the best “Big 3” in college football. You read that right, IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL. We start off with Chubba Hubbard, who is the best running back in the nation, and could be a Heisman finalist this season. His 2,094 rushing yards last season was good for 16th best all-time in college football history. Then you have the best wideout playing college football this season (And you can make the case he’s better than Chase, who opted out) in Tylan Wallace. The 2018 Biletnikoff award finalist was leading college football in yards per game, and yards per catch before going down with an injury in week 9. Then to round things out, you have the dual-threat playmaking ability of the reigning Big-12 offensive freshman of the year, Spencer Sanders. Defensively, the Cowboys improved big time last season, as they ranked 37th nationally in defensive efficiency, up from the 80th spot they were at the year prior. With the play of the “Big-3” and an improving defense, the Cowboys could be a scary darkhorse college football playoff team this year.

6. Auburn: (9-4 last season)

Last season was the year of “What could’ve been” for Auburn. They had key victories against their rival Alabama and the Pac-12 champions of Oregon. They also played LSU closer than any other team last season, as they lost by just three points on the road, but young quarterback Bo Nix wasn’t able to help secure a late scoring drive to give the team the win. The Auburn defense was ELITE last season with Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. I don’t think this unit will be as good as last season, but will still be very solid. I’m expecting Bo Nix to offset that, as he had his struggles in a true freshman campaign, but should improve this season.

5. Florida: (11-2 last season)

Florida’s only two losses last season were to the national champion, LSU Tigers, and Georgia by just 6 points. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jake Fromm are all gone and Kyle Trask is the best returning passer in the whole conference, and Florida is in their best shape at QB since Tim Tebow. Florida, like Oklahoma State, are Darkhorse college football playoff contenders.

4. Georgia: (12-2 last season)

Besides the upset loss to South Carolina last season, their only other loss was against.. you guessed it LSU. This roster now completely is Kirby Smart’s, as there are no players left from the Mark Richt era. This defense is LOADED with talent, and although Wake Forest transfer, Jamie Newman has opted out of the season, but don’t fear Georgia fans, a former 5-star recruit, USC transfer, J.T. Daniels will step in and play well if cleared to play. If not, D’Wan Mathis, who fits more of Newman’s athletic profile, with what he can do with his legs, will step in.

3. Oklahoma: (12-2 last season)

Baker Mayfield? Heisman. Kyler Murray? Heisman. Jalen Hurts was the Heisman runner up last year, and now OU has former number one overall quarterback recruit in the nation, Spencer Rattler slinging the rock. Ceedee Lamb is a Dallas Cowboy, but the Sooners still have talent at the wideout position, starting with Charleston Rambo. The Sooners also will lean on Theo Wease, who was the 3rd ranked WR in the 2019 class. Although the Sooners is starting a redshirt freshman at QB, along with a new receiving core and running back room thanks to a Trey Sermon transfer and a Kennedy Brooks opt-out, the Sooners are returning most of their starters along the offensive line, including future NFL starting center, Creed Humphrey. Last season, with new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, this defense took a BIG step forward. They lost Kenneth Murray, who was a big loss Parnell Motley, and Neville Gallimore to the NFL, but this defense should only continue to improve this season. There’s a lot of question marks revolving around the offense, but you just have to trust Lincoln Riley to pull through, and this defense will be improved.

2. Alabama: (11-2 last season)

Alabama’s national title hopes came to a screeching halt when Tua went down with an injury last season. Alabama lost some talent to the NFL draft, including Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, Jedrick Wills, Trevon Diggs, Xavier McKinney, Raekwon Davis, Terrell Lewis, and Anfernee Jennings, but still has a loaded roster coming back that includes standouts like Dylan Moses, Najee Harris, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle. Replacing Tua at QB is former number one overall QB recruit, Bryce Young. Alabama is loaded still, and with health at the QB position, they could very easily be champions again this season.

1. Clemson: (14-1 last season)

Led by the best quarterback prospect I’ve seen since Andrew Luck, Trevor Lawrence, and Travis Etienne at running back, this Clemson team is expected to be back in the college football playoff for a sixth consecutive season, barring a loss to Notre Dame. Although Tee Higgins, AJ Terrell, and Isiah Simmons are gone, there is a ton of talent on this roster. Justyn Ross was ruled out for the year with a neck injury, but wideouts Joseph Ngata, Amari Rogers, and Frank Ladson will be more than enough for Lawrence to work with. On defense, the strength of this team will be the opposite of 2019, as the teams front four, led by Xavier Thomas and Tyler Davis will be key to their success.

What do you guys think? Stay Tuned for my rankings weekly as the season gets started.