by Zack Lambert
September 15th, 2020
25 – West Virginia (1-0)
West Virginia got off to a blazing start in this fresh football season with a 56-10 thrashing of Eastern Kentucky. Cult name hero Jarret Doege connected on a Joe Burrow-esque number of his passes and found the end zone three times while the run game was devastating when running down the clock. It’s not necessarily a resume builder to put up over 620 yards on an FCS opponent, but you have to take care of business regardless.
24 – Louisiana (1-0)
The Ragin’ Cajuns took down a ranked opponent on the road for the first time in the history of their program in an underwhelming Iowa State and showed a defense that looks legit. Iowa State were held to just 303 total yards and a pair of turnovers without getting pressured too much in the backfield. The Louisiana offense is a different story as only one of their four touchdowns came from actual drives and only two came from the offense, but this is a starting block for what could be a big season in the Sun Belt.
23 – Army (2-0)
Army beat up on Louisiana’s little brother ULM for a 30 point victory and their second win of the season. Army used their classic triple option to devastating effect, running for 436 yards and all five of their touchdowns. The defense worked for a pair of sacks and a pair of turnovers, leaving a pair of forced fumbles for ULM to recover.
22 – Pitt (1-0)
The Pitt superweapon tested its facilities with an evisceration of the Austin Peay Governors, 55-0. Slaughters are rarely ethical, though this one was necessary to understand the capabilities of the team. The classic tactics of moving the ball in the air to punch it in at close range was a perfect approach for the Panthers as they amassed 306 passing yards with six rushing touchdowns, five of which were from within six yards while the fifth was from eleven. Three forced turnovers to zero allowed (despite fumbling three times) is a perfect formula for, say, an unsuspecting Week 7 Notre Dame or even a Rivalry Week Clemson game?
21 – Baylor (11-3 in 2019)
No more Matt Ruhle makes for a tough transition for 2019’s biggest surprise, but Baylor is returning some very talented players and Dave Aranda is a defensive coordinator from LSU, so it’s not likely that the culture will change much. The offense is returning almost all of its playmakers with just Denzel Mims and platoon back JaMycal Hasty gone, but the defense is a different story. Most of the top tacklers are gone and there’s a lot of turnover in the starting eleven. Aranda will have his work cut out for him there.
20 – BYU (1-0)
The first game of the unstable BYU season came against Navy, and while they may support our troops, they didn’t do much in the respecting category as they mopped the decks with the Midshipmen, 55-3. BYU picked up a fumble from one of the option passes but gave Navy a dose of their own medicine for the most part, putting up 301 rushing yards with five touchdowns. BYU did move the ball well in the air with 279 passing yards but once things got out of hand they just decided to pound the ball up the middle.
19 – Miami (1-0)
Pípo and the crew can get back out to La Carreta with their pots and pans because THE U IS BACK BABY! D’Eriq King is the best player at quarterback that the team has ever had, the pass rush is stellar and could produce two top ten picks, the run game is stellar, things are looking good for Miami, and in a season with a lot less candidates for bowls, Miami might be able to sneak one in somehow. The run game is going to be a serious weapon for the Canes this season but they’ll need to make a few more big plays on defense and in the passing game for anyone to take them very seriously.
18 – Memphis (1-0)
Memphis was one of the top candidates of the early season who really made me wonder if they were any good while I watched them. Sure, they beat up on a good Arkansas State team and looked good on offense doing so, but things just seemed off. The defense gave up 424 yards and 24 points to a team without Omar Bayless and the run game just didn’t look right without Kenneth Gainwell. Rodrigues Clark still looked really good and things were clicking, but this isn’t the same dominant Memphis team we saw in 2019.
17 – Louisville (1-0)
I’m not going to lie and say I liked what I saw out of Louisville, because I didn’t. No Mekhi Becton changes the offense and teams shift year to year, but this just didn’t seem like a program that was ranked to close the season in 2019. It was a two touchdown game but a pair of second half touchdowns to make it that close just won’t work against better programs than WKU. The offense actually looked nice and Malik Cunningham passed for over 340 yards, but I’d like to see the team rush for at least 150 against a program like the Hilltoppers.
16 – UCF (10-3 in 2019)
UCF lost their regular season win streak last season with a few losses to in-conference opponents, but that doesn’t take away anything from how good the team can be again this season. The Golden Knights are stacked again with rejects from bigger schools and Josh Heupel is ready to run things back. The offense and defense are returning a ton of players and we can really only assume they’re out for blood. They have studs up and down the roster and it wouldn’t surprise me if they go undefeated again.
15 – Kentucky (8-5 in 2019)
No more Lynn Bowden sure does make things tricky, but true quarterbacks running the offense instead of a converted wide receiver also makes things a lot easier. The Wildcats are returning a lot of good players from a team that did really well considering their circumstances last season and they seem ready to win a lot of football games. Mark Stoops is looking to extend his winning season streak and with an average season for this roster he should do it easily.
14 – Tennessee (8-5 in 2019)
The Vols could have easily been a 9-3 team last season if they didn’t puke down their own shirts to start the season, but they did and they finished with a record they deserved. This season Tennessee is returning most of its key players and look primed for a big season. I’m not sure they can be in the top five SEC teams, but with all the LSU players dropping out it’s certainly not impossible. We just need to see if this team took a step forward in the offseason or just stayed in their same position.
13 – UNC (1-0)
For three quarters I wasn’t sure if North Carolina would even be able to sustain the Syracuse Orangemen to hold out for a win, but reason did prevail and Mack Brown’s boys buckled up and took Syracuse on a three touchdown ride in the 4th. The passing game could move the ball and Sam Powell looked confident at times, but at other times, during his two interceptions for instance, he still looked like the sophomore that he is. The defense got into the backfield a lot and tuned up Tommy DeVito for six sacks and a pick.
12 – Texas A&M (8-5 in 2019)
Jimbo is under some pressure this season. It’s been two seasons and A&M hasn’t done anything that it hasn’t done before. Fisher is at the program to win championships, not mess around with the top 15 teams. He’s there for trophies. Kellen Mond is a good quarterback and if we don’t see some serious improvement over the course of the season then we shouldn’t be surprised if the board turns the heat up a bit. The defense still seems like it belongs in the Big 12 so getting the kinks ironed out sooner rather than later might be the best idea for the richest contract in college history.
11 – Cincinnati (11-3 in 2019)
The 2019 version of Cincinnati was excruciatingly close to being the best non-Power 5 team in the country but a pair of late losses to Memphis thwarted those plans. This season Luke Fickell is returning a healthy number of players on the offense and the defense is being touted as better than most Power 5 schools. If things turn out how they’re being portrayed, Cincy is in for a New Years 6 game.
10 – Oklahoma State (8-5 in 2019)
The questionable Mike Gundy and his Oklahoma State Cowboys have a real chance coming up here. He has one of the best teams he’s ever had, especially in the skill position department, and there’s a ton of teams missing from the college football season. Considering he’s not even going to get in the door of a ton of self-respecting households in the future, Gundy has to make this season count. He has an offense who can beat Oklahoma. The question comes on the defensive side of the ball.
9 – Texas (1-0)
If you think the Miami fans are hyped up about being back, just think of what’s going on in Texas. The Longhorns put on a display that Indiana basketball wishes it could replicate by putting down a beating on it’s satellite campus from El Paso. The UTEP two-step was not performed against Texas because the Longhorns were busy racking up 690 yards and seven passing touchdowns while holding their little brother to just 233 yards and a sad field goal. It was a pushover game but preliminary tests look promising.
8 – LSU (15-0 in 2019)
If you’re thinking that eight is a bit low for a team who just put on one of the most destructive college football campaigns ever witnessed, you’d be right and wrong. Sure, LSU nuked everyone they played last season and won the championship with flying colors, but they lost nearly everyone on their team, their defensive coordinator, their passing coordinator, and Joe freaking Burrow. LSU is still going be alright, probably, but their reign of terror is short lived.
7 – Auburn (9-4 in 2019)
Auburn was good last year, no doubt about it, and despite losing a lot of key players like Prince Tega Wanogho, Noah Igbinoghene, and Derrick Brown, the team is going to be better. The offense will be headed by an experienced Bo Nix with some really good pass catchers and blockers. The defense is going to be a big traditional Malzahn product. Despite losing those playmakers the team is fairly intact and should have a really nice season.
6 – Notre Dame (1-0)
The introduction to conference life must have felt pretty nice for the Fighting Irish as they were showered in praise and compliments despite struggling to dispatch Duke for a large portion of the game. The commitment of Ian Book to becoming a pocket passer who’s good as scrambling is still a work in progress, but things are falling into place elsewhere. The defense forced a couple of turnovers and shut down the run well as Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah confirmed what we all thought – he’s a stud.
5 – Georgia (12-2 in 2019)
At least Jake Fromm is gone! I was hyper critical of the Georgia quarterback for the entire season and I’ll probably continue to be for the rest of his career, not just because I thought he was the most overrated player I’ve ever seen, but also because he was chosen over Justin Fields and Jacob Eason. On to this season. Things were looking great for the Georgia offense, but Jamie Newman has decided to sit out for the season and that complicates things. The line is still going to be great and the defense will be full of impact players you don’t know the name of who will go on to be NFL impact players you don’t know the name of, but I don’t think this is one of those years for Georgia. They’re still going to be great, but I don’t see them making the SEC Championship this season.
4 – Florida (11-2 in 2019)
Speaking of the SEC Championship, welcome, 2020 version of Dan Mullen’s Florida! Kyle Trask was absolutely incredible after the unfortunate injury to Felipe Franks and he’s returning as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference and country. Trask is rumored to have the clubhouse unified to fight for a title this season and with a defense like this one it’s possible. The secondary is going to be great again with Marco Wilson as the star while most of the skill positions have returning starters. If there’s a year it’s going to happen…
3 – Oklahoma (1-0)
Lincoln Riley doesn’t have a real Heisman candidate at quarterback for the first time in who knows how long, so what’s the team going to look like now? Now CeeDee Lamb makes things tough and the losses to the defense are going to make life in the Big 12 that much harder, but who are we kidding? This is Oklahoma. Sure, Texas and State might be breathing down the Sooners’ necks, but there’s no reason that they can’t pull out another conference title, even without so many great starters.
2 – Clemson (1-0)
I know we’ve been through this routine before but Clemson actually looked a bit underwhelming in their first game. It was at Wake Forest and the final score was just 37-13 which most teams ought to be happy with, but for Trevor Lawrence, a returning Travis Etienne, and so many great receivers, 37 just feels flat. The defense was alright, holding the conference foes to just 330 yards and sacking the quarterback six times, but man, no turnovers? 293 passing yards allowed? I’m not as confident as I thought I might be.
1 – Alabama (11-2 in 2019)
It’s not that fair for Clemson to win their first game soundly and put them beneath a 2 loss Alabama team who hasn’t taken the field yet, but that’s how confident I am in the Tide. Mac Jones is a seriously good passer who was overlooked because he wasn’t Tua and the skill positions are just as good as last season. A bunch of returning players on offense and a defense led by Dylan Moses, DJ Dale, and a Saban secondary? Yes, please.