We are only 3 days removed from the National Championship game which featured Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide taking down the Ohio State Buckeyes with relative ease. Alabama is losing a lot of its firepower, as stars Mac Jones, Devonta Smith, Najee Harris, and Patrick Surtain will all be 1st round selections in this year’s NFL draft. Will Alabama be able to remain atop College Football? Or will a new champion be crowned?
Let’s take a look at the early bird top 25 for the 2021-2022 season:
Clemson disappointed in the College Football Playoff this year, getting massacred by Ohio State in Trevor Lawrence’s last career start at Clemson. Lawrence will be selected with the number 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft in April but he is not leaving Clemson shorthanded. Stepping into the QB1 role for Clemson is DJ Uiagalelei, who has already showcased his elite skill set in Lawrence’s COVID-19 absence.
DJ will not have any issues picking up where Clemson left off and with an excellent recruiting class coming in as well as the potential return of WR Justyn Ross, Clemson is my early favorite to be National Champions next season.
As mentioned earlier, Alabama is losing a lot of its superstars to the NFL. Luckily for Alabama, when superstars leave, they are replaced with other superstars. Stepping into the starting QB role is 5-star recruit Bryce Young, who will be entering his sophomore season. It took me about 30 minutes to figure out who would be the number one team on this list and honestly, Alabama might be a better all-around team than Clemson heading into next year.
That being said, DJ Uiagalelei already has big-game experience and what I have seen from him makes it almost impossible to pass on Clemson. Alabama will enter next season fully re-loaded and have an excellent chance at repeating as National Champions.
Oklahoma missed the College Football Playoff this year for the first time under Head Coach Lincoln Riley. There have been rumors that the Eagles have been trying to land an interview with Riley but I highly doubt those talks gain any traction. Oklahoma is returning one of its most talented rosters ever and with Spencer Rattler back at QB, the sky’s the limit for the Sooners.
In recent years, it’s been tough for the Oklahoma defense to keep up with those of Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State but things are starting to change on the defensive end for the Sooners, as they only allowed 21.7 PPG this past season. This should only improve with the defense returning the majority of their starters.
Seeing the Cincinnati Bearcats at number 4 on a preseason top 25 must seem like a typo but I can assure you, it is not. Cincy is coming off one of their best seasons in school history, in which they went undefeated in the regular season before dropping their bowl game to Georgia on a series of heartbreaking and jaw-dropping sequences.
Even with the loss, Cincy QB Desmond Ridder was unbelievable and showed ridiculous potential. Ridder is my pick to be the first quarterback off the board in next year’s draft. If he plays to his ability, Cincy can be the first non-power 5 school to break into the CFP.
5. Iowa State
Iowa State is a fun team to watch and a lot of that is because of Head Coach Matt Campbell. Campbell is one of the most respected young coaches in all of football and has built somewhat of a powerhouse at Iowa State.
The Cyclones return QB Brock Purdy, RB Breece Hall, and WR Xavier Hutchinson for the 2021-2022 season. Breece Hall will be among the best running backs in college football and Purdy is a dark-horse Heisman contender.
Georgia came out of its shell in the last four games of the 2020-2021 season. The defense was great for the entire year, the problem was the quarterback play. That problem was resolved when JT Daniels, who transferred from USC, stepped in as the signal-caller.
Daniels woke up the UGA offense, leading them to an average of 37.3 points per game over the team’s last four games. With Daniels returning next season, Georgia will look to pick up where they left off.
7. Ohio State
Ohio State Ohio State has tons of holes to fill, including QB Justin Fields. But just like Alabama and other powerhouses, when stars leave Ohio State, they are replaced with other stars. Ryan Day has continued Urban Meyer’s precedent of National Championship or bust and OSU got close this year.
With a question mark at QB, I’m not sure OSU will be able to return to the big stage next year but they will certainly be the top contender in the Big Ten.
8. Texas A&M
The Aggies come in at number 8 for the 2021-2022 season as Jimbo Fisher looks to lead Texas A&M to the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history. The Aggies came up just short this year, although I felt they deserved the nod over Notre Dame. A&M returns star RB Isaiah Spiller but loses their veteran QB in Kellen Mond.
If it weren’t for the question mark at QB, the Aggies would likely be a top-4 team headed into next season. If they can find a consistent and reliable QB, they have playoff potential.
9. North Carolina
UNC is one of the most exciting teams heading into next season. Sam Howell has emerged as a premier QB in college football and he’ll be entering next season as the potential #1 QB off the board.
The Tar Heels are losing their two dominant running backs, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, to the NFL Draft but they recently landed transfer RB Ty Chandler from Tennessee who should come in and produce right away. If North Carolina can get it together on the defensive side of the ball, this team can and will be very dangerous.
Oregon has tons of talent returning next season. The PAC-12 should also be much improved, with Oregon, USC, Arizona State, and Washington all projected to be in the top 25 to start the season.
The Oregon offense returns receivers Devon Williams and Mycah Pittman, along with running backs Travis Dye, CJ Verdell, and Sean Dollars. They also return QB Tyler Shough. Shough played well towards the end of last season but the quarterback job could be up for grabs with 4-star freshman Ty Thompson coming to Eugene in 2021.
You may not have heard too much about Iowa this past season as they fell out of the spotlight after losing their first two games. After starting the season 0-2, Iowa finished with six straight wins behind the elevated play of Quarterback Spencer Petras.
Petras and running back Tyler Goodson highlight a talented offense for the Hawkeyes. As long as Iowa can stay intact defensively they will be a very dangerous team.
USC played in a bunch of tight games this past season and they came away with wins in all but one, dropping the PAC-12 Championship game to Oregon.
The Trojans finished 6-1 on the season and should be much improved next year. Quarterback Keldon Slovis is extremely talented and if he puts it all together, can be a first-round draft pick soon. USC also adds the #1 recruit in the country, DL Korey Foreman.
Head Coach Tom Allen has built quite the squad down in Bloomington. Indiana returns three of his top receiving targets in Ty Fryfogle and Miles Marshall and Peyton Hendershot.
If QB Michael Penix returns from his ACL injury at full strength, Indiana can and will move higher on this list. In addition to returning their star signal-caller and his top targets, Indiana also returns all of its secondary, a secondary which led the NCAA in interceptions per game.
Florida has a lot of key playmakers to replace. This includes QB Kyle Trask, WR Kadarius Toney, and TE Kyle Pitts. Trask, Toney, and Pitts were superstars for the Gators this season and are all potential first-round selections in the upcoming NFL draft.
While they’ll be tough to replace, Florida has back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes coming to replace them. Emory Jones is the favorite to take over as the signal-caller for the Gators as Dan Mullen looks to get the Gators in the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history.
After a terrible season for Coach Orgeron and the Tigers, I expect a bounce back year in Baton Rouge in 2021. Despite the letdown year, LSU is still loaded with talent from top to bottom.
With the defensive coordinator position open, there is hope for change on that side of the football. It will be interesting to see who’s under center for the Tigers next season. Will it be Myles Brennan, TJ Finley, or incoming Freshman Garrett Nussmeier?
16. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State returns a very talented roster next season. Even with star RB Chuba Hubbard and Senior Wide-receiver Tylan Wallace off to the NFL, the Cowboys return QB Spencer Sanders along with 14 returning starters plus.
Running back Dezmon Jackson, who ran for 235 yards and three TDs against Texas Tech has Hubbard’s replacement will also be back with Oklahoma State. Mike Gundy hasn’t had a losing season in 14 straight years in Stillwater, Oklahoma and he’ll look to get that to 15 in the 2021-2022 season.
Miami’s ability to compete is largely reliant on star QB D’eriq King. After going 7-2 over the regular season, King announced he’d be playing in the teams’ bowl game and returning to Miami next season.
In the Cheez-It bowl against Oklahoma State, King suffered a torn ACL. Miami is optimistic that King will be back for the start of next season. If he is, Miami will pick up right where they left off.
Wisconsin really disappointed this season. After Graham Mertz was simply unstoppable in the Badgers’ opening game, he ended up struggling for the majority of the season. That being said, I expect Wisconsin to get back on track next year and be one of the top contenders to OSU in the Big Ten.
Sophomore running back Jalen Berger will be a big part of that resurgence as he looks to re-establish the run game Wisconsin has had for years behind Melvin Gordon, Jonathan Taylor, and more.
19. Arizona State
The Sun Devils return all 11 defensive starters next season as well as nine starters on offense, an offense that led the PAC-12 in yards per game. QB Jayden Daniels returns and with RB Rashaad White, who averaged 10 yards per carry last season (42 carries, 420 yards).
This is certainly the best team Herm Edwards has had in his tenure as the program’s coach making Arizona State a must-watch headed into next season.
20. Penn State
Penn State had the worst start to the season imaginable, going 0-5 in the team’s first 5 games before winning 4 straight to finish the season 4-5. Penn State improved vastly over that stretch and the roster is loaded with talent.
Sean Clifford returns as the team’s starting Quarterback. Clifford, like the rest of the team, struggled for most of the season but was able to turn it around in the team’s last four games. Clifford has proven he’s capable of winning games for PSU and he’ll get a chance to prove it next year.
With Tom Herman out at Texas, Steve Sarkisian takes over as the Longhorns head coach heading into next year. Sarkisian comes from Alabama where he led the Tide to one of the best offensive seasons ever. Will Sarkisian be able to replicate the offensive success he had at Alabama?
The Tide offense featured three of the five Heisman finalists, a luxury that no other school in the country has. With Sam Ehlinger leaving Texas, there is a question mark at quarterback. Sarkisian will likely have recruiting success on what is a big season for the Longhorns as they look to get Texas football back on the map.
Washington is coming off a great season in which they won the Pac-12 North, earning a trip to the Pac-12 Conference Championship. That is until the game was canceled due to COVID-19 related issues.
The Huskies return every offensive starter and only lost three starters on the defensive side of the football. With the Pac-12 improving next year, a conference championship appearance won’t be easy but Washington is positioned well to make a run at it.
23. Coastal Carolina
Coastal Carolina was the cinderella story of the college football season, finishing the regular season 11-0 including a win over Zach Wilson and #18 BYU.
Coastal loses some playmakers but Quarterback Grayson McCall returns and should be able to keep the Chanticleers at the top of the Sun-Belt.
24. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is one of the most fun teams to watch in the entire country. Lane Kiffin runs an air raid offense with gunslinger Matt Corral at the helm. The offense averaged 39.2 points per game last season as well as over 344 passing yards.
The problem was that the defense allowed an average of 38.3 points per game. The Rebels finished 5-5 but picked up a big win in their bowl game against #11 Indiana. If the defense makes any improvement next year, which I believe they will, Ole Miss will be dangerous.
25. North Carolina State
NC State finished the 2020 season 8–4. The Wolfpack return the large majority of the team’s starters, including quarterback Devin Leary. Leary only played four games due to a foot injury but after what he showcased, expectations are high for him coming into 2021.
NC State will have one of their best rosters in a while next season and could hang around in the top 25 for most if not all of the season.