1. Clemson Tigers
Projected Record: 11-0
The offense will be explosive again with Trevor Lawrence and a boatload of skill players (RB Travis Etienne, WR Joe Ngata, and WR Amari Rodgers). The weakness will be Clemson replacing four starters on the offensive line.
On defense, Clemson’s talented recruiting classes over the last few years all step in. The defensive line returns just about everybody plus instant impact freshman DT Bryan Breese. While the defensive line is a strength the secondary replaces everyone except CB Derion Kendrick. Hero of the Semi-Final game safety Nolan Turner will also step in at one of the safety spots. At linebacker, Clemson loses first round pick Isaiah Simmons and team leader Chad Smith. LB James Skalski returns, but they need another linebacker to step up.
Final Outlook: Clemson is one of the most talented teams in College Football and an all-ACC schedule will keep them free of real challengers until the playoff.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Projected Record: 10-1
Although Alabama does not have Tua returning, the offense should continue to be explosive. Wide receivers Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and John Metchie will be one of the most dangerous trios in the nation, Alabama returns the best offensive line in the nation and RB Najee Harris is a top five running back. The major question will be if Mac Jones holds onto the starting job over the top recruit in the country Bryce Young.
Last year Alabama’s defense was different… as in they weren’t dominant. However, expect a major improvement especially with LB Dylan Moses returning after missing last season with a torn ACL. The defensive line is deep and talented after the Crimson Tide was forced to play young players last year due to injuries. A key for the Tide is finding who will step up as the edge pass rushers following Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings heading to the NFL. Reports out of camp say true freshman Will Anderson is a “grown man and beast”. Learn the name now. In the secondary, safety Jordan Battle is a breakout candidate after a tremendous freshman season and CB Patrick Surtain Jr. is one of the best in the country.
Final Outlook: Alabama has the roster to be National Champions, but without an elite quarterback and a tough SEC schedule makes it a tough road. However, this team has the most talented roster in the country. Expect Alabama to be out on a 2020 revenge tour.
3. Georgia Bulldogs
Projected Record: 9-2
People are doubting Georgia since Jamie Newman opted out of the season… it is a mistake. JT Daniels may have beat out Newman and is a better fit for new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Outside of the quarterback position, Georgia has talent with RB Zamir White, RB James Cook, WR George Pickens, and Florida State graduate transfer TE Tre McKitty. Where I am concerned with the offense is replacing four starters including both tackles. Another major concern is will someone other than George Pickens step up at wide receiver?
The Bulldogs strength continues to be their defense as they are absolutely loaded and will most likely be a top three defense in the nation. Georgia returns almost all of their linebackers from last season including Monty Rice and Nakobe Dean. Additionally, they have a talented edge rushing tandem of Azeez Ojulari and Nolan Smith and a great defensive line that includes senior DE Malik Herring. The secondary is also filled with studs including Safety Richard LeCounte, CB Eric Stokes, and CB Tyson Campbell.
Final Outlook: Georgia might have the top defense in the nation, but the question remains can they improve offensively. The addition of JT Daniels helps, but JT Daniels missed last year with an injury. Anyways, Georgia is the top contender in the SEC East and has a realistic shot at the playoffs with only three major conferences playing.
4. Florida Gators
Projected Record: 8-2
Kyle Trask is the best starting quarterback the Gators have had since Tim Tebow (Will Grier is debatable). While Florida finally found a competent quarterback, the skill positions took a hit from losing three starting wide receivers and starting RB. The main questions about this group is can new starting RB Dameon Pierce handle taking over the full load? Will new talented WRs Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney be able to step in Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain’s shoes? What isn’t a question is their best receiving target is back in TE Kyle Pitts. The offensive line is also experienced returning four starters from last year. The offense should be above average again, but don’t expect them to be Steve Spurrier’s Gator offenses from the 1990s.
Just like the year prior, this team will be lead by their defense again. Defensive Ends Zachary Carter and Georgia transfer Brenton Cox are tasked to replace last year’s dangerous NFL duo of Jabari Zuniga/Jonathan Greenard. In the secondary, corners Marco Wilson and Kaiir Elam make for a strong duo. Although Florida lost their leading tackler from last season, Ventrell Miller has shown to be capable of taking over. Even with the losses of some key pieces to the 2019 Gator defense, this unit is still talented.
Final Outlook: Florida is Georgia’s biggest competition in the East as they are good on both sides of the ball, but you have to give the edge to Georgia right now.
5. LSU Tigers
Projected Record: 7-3
Coming off a dream season, the 2019 LSU Tigers were one of the best of all-time. But now they must replace an elite quarterback (Joe Burrow) with Myles Brennan. Not only the quarterback, but 16 players from that team went to the NFL Combine. On offense alone they must replace four starters on the offensive line, two starting tight ends, their starting running back and two wide receivers. Despite all these losses, LSU does return a few solid receivers and a capable running back in Chris Curry. Losing Jamarr Chase due to opting out will hurt.
The defense was also hit hard by departures to the linebacking group which saw Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips leave for the NFL Draft and Marcel Brooks hit the transfer portal. The replacements will include Damone Clark and North Dakota State transfer Jabril Cox (FCS All-American). The defensive line should be fine as they return Tyler Shelvin (UPDATE: Shelvin Opting out), Siaka Ika, and Glen Logan. Even with the loss of Kristian Fulton, Grant Delpit, and Kary Vincent Jr (opt out)… safety JaCoby Stevens and CB Derek Stingley are key pieces to the defense back to lead the secondary.
Final Outlook: LSU is still a talented team, but losing that many talented players to the NFL and opt outs will not be easy to overcome. Add in a quarterback who hasn’t seen much action and it is practical to expect LSU to take a step back.
6. Oklahoma Sooners
Projected Record: 9-1
Blue chip QB Spencer Rattler steps into the starting role along with highly rated WRs Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, Charleston Rambo, and 1,000 yard UCLA grad transfer Theo Howard. The established offensive line willl again lead the way for back-to-back 1,000 yard rusher Kennedy Brooks (Just kidding, he opted-out). Either way it’s Lincoln Riley… this offense will be explosive.
The question over the last few years continues to be the defense. Key DE Ronnie Perkins is suspended for the first five games, DT Jalen Redmond opeted out of the season, and all three nose guards Oklahoma used last year have moved on. That puts the pressure on top JUCO DT Perrion Winfrey to step in and boost the defensive line. The linebackers are experienced with DaShaun White, Nik Bonitto and Caleb Kelly. But the secondary led by safety Delarrin Turner-Yell must improve. The Sooners do have most of their corners returning including Tre Brown, Jaden Davis, and Tre Norwood, but the unit must improve if the Sooners want to land back in the playoffs.
Final Outlook: The Sooners have a pattern. Lose one easy game, win the Big 12, and then get their face kicked-in during the Playoffs. This is looking like one of those years with questions remaining on the defense and how quick new QB Spencer Rattler will be ready to roll. Oklahoma is the most talented team in the Big 12, but without an improvement to their defense I can’t see them as a National Title Contender.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Projected Record: 7-3
Oklahoma State is poised to be the breakout team in the Big 12 with an offense that is as explosive as any in the conference (including Oklahoma). The Cowboys return Biletnikoff finalist Tylan Wallace and Heisman-hopeful running back Chuba Hubbard. The key is QB Spencer Sanders being more consistent after a decent freshman campaign.
The defense returns just about everyone. The ultimate question is will their average defense become a good defense? Oklahoma State’s defense is led by their linebackers Amen Obongeminga and Malcolm Rodriguez. While Obongemeniga led the team with 5 sacks last year, they need to find someone else who can create pressure. The secondary needs a major improvement after finishing 102nd in the nation last year in pass defense. The Cowboys get a boost with talented safety Calvin Bundage returning after missing last year with an injury and also safety Kolby Harvel-Peel returning after his five interception season.
Final Outlook: Oklahoma State could be your surprise Big 12 champions if Spencer Sanders takes a step forward and the defense improves. If not… they will probably be an above average Big 12 team again. This is one of Mike Gundy’s most talented teams ever and the matchups against Oklahoma and Texas will have Big 12 championship game implications.
8. Texas A&M Aggies
Projected Record: 7-3
The Aggies return a ton of starters to an 8-5 team that beat everyone they were supposed to beat and lost to everyone they were supposed to lose to. Kellen Mond is back for his senior year and so is their leading rusher Isaiah Spiller, leading receiver Jhamon Ausbon, talented tight ends Jalen Wydermyer/Baylor Cupp, and a veteran offensive line. Depth at running back and wide receiver are a concern, but the Aggies offense will go as far as Kellen Mond takes them.
The Aggies return 8 starters to a pretty good defense from 2019. The defensive line is talented up front with Demarvin Leal and Bobby Brown III. The Aggies also return their top two tacklers LBs Anthony Hines and Buddy Johnson. The secondary was suspect at times last year, but returns most of the starters and has depth with 5-star cornerback Jaylon Jones and top JUCO cornerback Brian George.
Final Outlook: The question remains, is Kellen Mond ready to take a step forward? This should be the season A&M finally takes the step forward with their talent on defense, but consistency will be key with an all SEC schedule.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Projected Record: 8-3
The final year of QB Ian Book. The Fighting Irish quarterback has had his up and downs, but is largely an effective quarterback. Notre Dame also returns their entire offensive line. The main question is where are they going to find the skill players after RB Tony Jones, WR Chase Claypool, and TE Cole Kmet left for the NFL. A rushing and receiving option will have to step up for this Notre Dame offense to be as effective as last year.
Defensively Notre Dame returns a few key starters including sack leader OLB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and tackle leader LB Drew White. However, Notre Dame lost quite a bit of defensive talent to the NFL including CB Troy Pride, safeties Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott, and pass rushers Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara. Sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton led the team in interceptions last year with 4 interceptions and will look to have an expanded role this season. Notre Dame will also have the help of two grad transfers in the secondary with Nick McCloud (NC State) and Isaiah Pryor (Ohio State).
Final Outlook: Notre Dame will be solid with an experienced quarterback, strong offensive line, and a solid defense. Beating Clemson seems unlikely though as the offense doesn’t have enough firepower. Expect a good, not great season.
10. Texas Longhorns
Projected Record: 9-3 (7-2 Big 12)
The offense may have lost wide receivers Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, but Michigan grad transfer Tarik Black should provide a nice replacement along with Brennan Eagles. At running back Keontay Ingram and top recruit true freshman RB Bijan Robinson will lead the group. The offensive line should be solid returning three starters and one of the nations best in OT Samuel Cosmi. Finally last, and certainly not least, the Longhorn offense will go as far as QB Sam Ehlinger leads it. Ehlinger may have been a little overhyped going into last season, but after a rough year he might be underrated entering 2020.
New Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash enters Austin in an attempt to turn the defense around. The biggest issue last year was injuries in the secondary. While safety Caden Sterns is the star, cornerbacks Jalen Green and D’Shawn Jamison must play better in 2020. The best player up front is Joseph Ossai who returns after he had 13.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks last season. With nine returning starters, expect a much better unit.
Final Outlook: Last year I told everyone to pump the breaks with Texas being a National Title contender as they had to replace a lot of starters. This year’s Texas team will be better and challenge for a spot in the Big 12 Championship. With a lot of talent returning on defense and Sam Ehlinger leading the offense, Texas should have a solid season and is a playoff contender.
11. Virginia Tech Hokies
Projected Record: 9-4 (6-2 ACC)
QB Heldon Hooker comes back after taking the starting job last year and playing strong down the stretch. The skill positions are alright with Kansas Grad Transfer Khalil Herbert/Rutgers transfer Khalil Blackshear at running back and Tre Turner returning as the leading receiver. Virginia Tech returns a ton of talent on the offensive line and also adds transfer Brock Hoffman from Coastal Carolina.
Virginia Tech returns almost everybody to a defense that ranked 42nd nationally. CBs Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller would have formed one of the best cornerback duos in the ACC, but Farley opted out of the season. Instead, Devin Taylor who was a start cornerback for Illinois State steps in to try and replace Farley. LB Rayshard Ashby is the leader on the defense coming off a 120 tackle season. The defensive line returns everyone, but need better production.
Final Outlook: Virginia Tech has a nice offense and an even better defense. There will be tough competition to make it to the ACC Championship game, but the Hokies are a legitimate contender.
12. Tennessee Volunteers
Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2 SEC)
The main question is who will start at quarterback after both Jarrett Guarantano and Brian Maurer received playing time last year. Freshman Harrison Bailey was a wildcard to start, but with no spring practice it looks like he will have to wait his turn. The offensive unit is led by its experienced offensive line. With incoming Georgia transfer Cade Mays (if his waiver appeal is granted) and dominant guard Trey Smith, this unit is one of the best in the country. The Vols have to find a receiver to step up after losing Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway to graduation.
Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt has this defense heading in the right direction. LB Henry Too-To’o is one of the best in the conference and the defensive line is stout also with Darel Middleton, Aubrey Solomon, and Emmit Gooden. Add in a secondary who finished 16th in the nation in passing yards allowed led by CB Bryce Thompson and this defense should be looked at as a legitimate unit.
Final Outlook: A veteran defense and great offensive line makes the Vols a wildcard contender in the SEC East. However, it will probably be another year until we talk about them as true contenders in the SEC East.
13. North Carolina Tar Heels
Projected Record: 7-3
Mack Brown is coming off a great first season turning the program around with a surprising winning record. Now this team could take the next step and may actually make the ACC Championship. QB Sam Howell is a stud and will have his top receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome along with highly rated freshman Josh Downs. Not only that… everyone who caught a pass is back next year. The running game is also strong with 1,000 yard rusher Michael Carter and 900 yard rusher Javonte Williams. All of this firepower will be behind an experienced offensive line.
The defense is led by LB Chazz Surratt (former starting QB) who finished with 115 tackles in 2019. The North Carolina defense lost four starters, but has some instant impact freshman and young talent that will be able to step in right away. This includes one of the best names in football CB Storm Duck. The Tar Heels had a top 50 defense in 2019 which should improve with the new freshmen including reclassified 5-star CB Tony Grimes.
Final Outlook: The offense should finish top 20 nationally… if the defense makes a similar jump, North Carolina will be in the ACC Championship and a potential top ten team.
14. Auburn Tigers
Projected Record: 6-4
Can you trust Bo Nix? He had his moments, but completed just 57.5% of his passes as Auburn mostly won with the ground game. Now Auburn must replace the entire offensive line and has no clear starter at running back. The receiver room is one experienced unit with Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, and Eli Stove all returning. However, unless Bo Nix takes a step forward, this offense might be in trouble.
The defense also is replacing a lot from last year including four of five secondary starters, and two key defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. DE Big Kat Bryant, DT Tyrone Truesdell, LB KJ Britt and OLB Owen Pappoe are solid returning starters, but there isn’t much else. Auburn has work to do on this end of the ball.
Final Outlook: A questionable offense with major replacements needed on defense… Auburn will most likely not be competing for a SEC West title in 2020.
15. Kentucky Wildcats
Projected Record: 5-5
QB Terry Wilson is back after his season ending injury which forced Kentucky to use a receiver at quarterback last year. Kentucky has a stable of running backs returning led by Asim Rose and returns one of the best offensive lines in the conference. Nobody knows how good this receiving unit is because… well… they never threw the ball last year.
The defense returns most of their starters after finishing 21st in the nation last year. The unit is led by OLB Jamar Watson who returns after a 6.5 sack season.
Final Outlook: People will overlook Kentucky, but this is a legitimate team in the East. It may not be sexy, but they’ll win a lot of games by running the ball and playing good defense.
16. Florida State Seminoles
Projected Record: 6-4
At quarterback, James Blackman is back, but he has just been average during his time at Florida State. Freshman Chubba Purdy (brother of Brock Purdy at Iowa State) is talented and has a real chance to overtake the starting job. Jashaun Corbin (A&M transfer) will compete with Khalan Laborn for time in the backfield, while WR Tamarrion Terry is coming off an almost 1200 yard season They will need someone to step up as a second option at receiver. The main goal for the Seminoles this year is will be try to have an offensive line that isn’t an embarrassment. If they can improve, the offense may surprise some people.
On defense, they have talented defensive lineman with DT Marvin Wilson and DE Joshua Kaindoh. The defense also returns starters at linebacker and in the secondary with some solid players including corners Akeem Dent and Asante Samuel Jr. The secondary is also led by safety Hamsah Nasirildeen. The defense has talent, but will need to improve as a unit.
Final Outlook: Florida State’s talented defense and improved offense separates them from the rest of the ACC Atlantic (other than Clemson).
17. Iowa State Cyclones
Projected Record: 6-3
The Cyclones may have finished 7-6, but their five Big 12 losses were by just an average of a little over 4 points per game. Returning is one of the conference’s best quarterbacks in Brock Purdy and almost a 1,000 yard rusher in Breece Hall. Even with one of the top quarterbacks in the nation this offense will face its share of challenges. Particularly on the offensive line after losing four starters and at the skill position where options are limited.
On defense, Iowa State returns the bulk of their starters from last year that finished as one of the best in the Big 12 (not saying much). The unit is led by DE JaQuon Bailey, LB Mike Rose, and safety Greg Eisworth in 2020.
Final Outlook: Matt Campbell transforming Iowa State into a consistent winner in the Big 12 is impressive. The Cyclones have the opportunity to advance to be a true Big 12 championship contender, but replacing almost their entire offensive line will be tough.
Projected Record: 6-4
Coach Lashlee is the new Offensive Coordinator after leaving Baylor. He inherits QB D’Eriq King as the new leader of the offense after his transfer from Houston. King doesn’t have many proven options at receiver and will need Dee Wiggins and Will Mallory to prove reliable. King however will have one of the top tight ends in the country with Brevin Jordan. At running back Cam’Ron Harris will take over for Deejay Dallas. Miami needs to figure out how to develop the offensive line after an abysmal year.
Miami returns talent to a top twenty defense. DE Gregory Rousseau and Quincy Roche (Temple/AAC Defensive POY) lead the defensive line along with UCLA transfer Jaelen Phillips. All three give Miami plenty of options rushing the passer. CB Al Blades Jr. and S Bubba Bolden are back to lead the strong secondary unit While Miami lost linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney to the NFL, Zach McCloud should take over nicely.
Final Outlook: Miami was a strong defense with absolutely no offense last year. King gives them a spark on offense so they can actually compete for the ACC Coastal this year.
19. Pittsburgh Panthers
Projected Record: 6-4
On offense, Pittsburgh struggled to move the football last season. The Panthers need starting QB Kenny Picket to take a step forward after throwing 13 TDs and 9 INTs. Taysir Mack will be the best receiver returning and AJ Davis ran for 530 yards last year. Pittsburgh also returns four out of five starters on the offensive line.
Pitt’s front seven is one of the best in the ACC. Last year they were third in the nation in sacks and return defensive end Patrick Jones. Pittsburgh will also have four returning starters to a strong secondary from last season. Pitt’s defense ranked 15th in the nation last year and might be even better in 2020.
Final Outlook: The defense will carry this group as a tough opponent for anybody. A dominant defense and decent offense could make Pittsburgh a surprise contender in the ACC.
20. Virginia Cavaliers
Projected Record: 5-5
Virginia had a great year and competed with Florida in the Orange Bowl. The task now is replacing QB Bryce Perkins. The competition will most likely be between Keytaon Thompson (Mississippi State transfer) and Brennan Armstrong. Not only must they replace the quarterback, but also the top two wide receivers with Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed. Terrell Jana will be poised to become the number one option coming off a 886 yard receiving year. Virginia has a strong offensive line, but will also need to find a reliable running option since Bryce Perkins was the main rushing threat last season.
The defense will be a strength for Virginia who returns most of their starters to a top 50 defense. The strength is in the front seven with linebackers Noah Taylor, Charles Snowden and Zane Zandier. Safety Joey Blount returns to lead a decent secondary.
Final Outlook: The offense replaces too much after a cinderella season last year. Virginia could still possibly compete for the ACC Coastal, but I don’t think it will be likely.
21. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Projected Record: 4-5
The first season didn’t go quite as planned for Matt Wells. However, the 2020 Red Raiders are poised for a breakout. Alan Bowman is a talented passer who has unfortunately had his first two seasons cut short. RB SaRodorick Thompson is a workhorse and he will have help in the backfield with Alabama graduate transfer Chadarius Townsend. The Red Raider wide receivers is a deep unit with T.J Vasher along with Erik Ezukanama, Dalton Rigdon, McClane Mannix, and Seth Collins. The offensive line is solid on the interior, but Tech will have to replace both tackles. Expect this offense to be among the Big 12’s best.
As always with Tech, defense will be the issue. The Red Raiders are replacing first round pick Jordyn Brooks and NFL draft pick DT Broderick Washington. There are still some solid players left including DE Eli Howard back as the primary pass rusher and two solid linebackers with Riko Jeffers and JUCO transfer Krishon Merriweather. Defensive backs are a huge issue after finishing 128th last season. They return starters to the secondary, but will have to make an improvement if they want to contend in the Big 12.
Final Outlook: Expect a bounce back year for Texas Tech after a tough 4-8 season with many close loses. The offense will be great and the defense will be not as terrible as last year.
22. Louisville Cardinals
Projected Record: 5-5
Coach Satterfield’s offense put a little life into this team last year including promoting RB Javian Hawkins who finshed with over 1500 yards.. The offense is led by their receiving group of Tutu Atwell, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Marshon Ford. The issue will be the offensive line who last year (other than departed first-round pick Mekhi Becton) was not good. QB Malik Cunningham will also have to continue to improve.
While offensively Louisville improved, defense remains an issue after finishing 102nd in the nation. Louisville returns multiple starters including linebackers CJ Avery, Dorian Etheridge, and Rodjay Burns.
Final Outlook: Coach Satterfield has improved the offense, but the defense has a ways to go. Louisville should be a .500 team this fall.
23. Baylor Bears
Projected Record: 4-5
Former Coach Matt Rhule did a fantastic job bringing Baylor back to double digit wins for the first time since 2015. New coach Dave Aranda takes over now with major work to do after losing major talent off last year’s squad. QB Charlie Brewer is back as one of the best in the Big 12. However, the offensive line must improve and they need a replacement for dynamic WR Denzel Mims.
The defense is an even bigger issue as they return just two starters with LB Terrel Bernard and CB Raleigh Texada. The defense was absolutely gutted by graduates and early departures to the NFL. Arkansas State grad transfer DE William Bradley-King will ease some of the growing pains and make an immediate needed impact.
Final Outlook: This Baylor team is nothing like last year’s 11-3 team. While Charlie Brewer is a fine quarterback, the defensive exodus is too big to overlook. Baylor will compete in the middle of the Big 12.
24. Ole Miss Rebels
Projected Record: 3-7
What new Head Coach Lane Kiffin does with this offense will be interesting. Ole Miss finished as a top three SEC offense and top ten national rushing offense. Ole Miss returns both QBs John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral along with thalented sophomore rusher Jerrion Ealy. WR Elijah Moore is also solid finishing with 850 yards last season, but they will need another receiving option to step up. The offensive line should also be a decent unit for the Rebels.
On defense, Ole Miss was absolutely burned through the air finishing 120th nationally. The secondary and interior defensive line are the areas of concern. However, Ole Miss has a talented linebacker unit with Lakia Henry, Jacquez Jones, and MoMo Sanogo. The sack leader DE Sam Williams also returns. With the added experience, Ole Miss should make an improvement.
Final Outlook: Ole Miss is an extremely intriguing team going into 2020. Ole Miss is talented enough to surprise a few teams with their offense under Lane Kiffin.
25. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Projected Record: 3-7
Mike Leach had his biggest victory getting KJ Costello as a grad transfer quarterback from Stanford. Costello and returning RB Kylin Hill should be the best at their respective positions in the SEC. The questions remain how Mike Leach can install his air raid offense with Mississippi State’s lack of top end receivers and an adequate offensive line. Alabama grad transfer WR Tyrell Shavers should play right away alongside Osirus Mitchell.
The defense took a step back last year from a unit in 2018 that was one of the nations best. Mississippi State may make another regression after losing some key starters. The defensive line will be the strength with Nathan Pickering and Kobe Jones leading. LB Erroll Thompson is also extremely talented and the leader of the defense.
Final Outlook: Mississippi State has a talented quarterback and running back, but installing Leach’s offense in year one may be difficult. Add in an average defense and a .500 season seems likely.
26. TCU Horned Frogs
Projected Record: 4-5
QB Max Duggan was back after an up-and-down freshman year, but an undisclosed heart condition leaves TCU without a proven QB. The starting quarterback won’t have much help returning after losing four starting offensive linemen, first round pick WR Jalen Reagor, and their top two running backs. TCU did receive some great summer news that five-star RB Zachary Evans and Nebraska transfer WR JD Spielman would be joining the team. While he does have some issues off the field, Evans has the talent to start right away for the Horned Frogs. Spielman will also be WR1.
TCU will have to be led by their defense which was ranked the best in the Big 12. TCU has one of the most talented safety tandems in the nation with Ar’Darius Washington and Trevone Moehrig. Leading tackler LB Garrett Wallow (125 tackles) is also back to lead the defense. In order to increase their sack total from just 22 last year, TCU landed Oklahoma grad transfer DE Mark Jackson. TCU has enough returning talent to make up for the players lost to the NFL including DT Ross Blacklock, CB Jeff Gladney, and safety Vernon Scott.
Final Outlook: TCU missed out on a bowl last year and has its challenges replacing the talent they lost to the NFL. However, head coach Gary Patterson will have this defense ready. TCU is not a serious contender to compete for the Big 12 championship game, and without Max Duggan for a portion of the year should finish in the middle to bottom of the Big 12 standings.
27. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Projected Record: 4-6
Former starting QB Jamie Newman transferred and is replaced with QB Sam Hartman who saw some action last year. They only return three starters to the offense, however Sage Surrat is one of the best receivers in the country, but will need someone else to step up. The rest of the unit includes an offensive line that returns the interior and RB Kenneth Walker who averaged 5.7 yards per carry last year.
Defensively, Carlos Bashum is back after a 11 sack season and returns with three other defensive line starter. At linebacker Wake Forest brings back a nice duo of Jacquez Williams and Ryan Smenda. The challenge will be replacing the secondary.
Final Outlook: Wake Forest replaces a lot of starters, but never doubt Dave Clawson to put together a solid football team in a weak division.
28. Kansas State Wildcats
Projected Record: 3-6
Head Coach Chris Kleiman overachieved in his first season with the Wildcats finishing 8-5 and even upsetting Oklahoma. 2020 will be tougher. The offensive line is the issue as they replace everyone. Yes, the Wildcats have to replace the center, the two guards, and the two tackles. This is a team that relies on the offensive line. QB Skylar Thompson is a capable, but Kansas State only has one other returning starter. This offense may have a rough year.
On defense, Kansas State has DE Wyatt Hubert Jr. leading the unit following his 7-sack season. LB Justin Hughes also returns after missing the year due to a torn ACL. The secondary was solid finishing 33rd in the nation in pass defense and returns most of their starters. Overall the defense will lead this 2020 team.
Final Outlook: Chris Kleiman is a fantastic coach. But with how many starters the Wildcats lost on offense… 2020 might be a challenge to just finish in the middle of the Big 12.
29. Arkansas Razorbacks
Projected Record: 2-8
The offense and defense were abysmal in their 2-10 season last year. However, this 2020 Arkansas team could surprise some people with a great staff put together by head coach Sam Pittman which includes offensive coordinator Kendall Briles and defensive coordinator Barry Odom. The offense returns eight starters and adds Florida grad transfer QB Feleipe Franks. This is a decent enough offense, especially with 1100 yard rusher Rakeem Boyd, to take a step forward from last season.
The defense landed quite a few graduate transfers including Clemson DE Xavier Kelly, Oklahoma LB Levi Draper, and Arkansas State CB Jerry Jacobs. The group should help the six returning starters to the defensive unit. The defense is led by second leading tackler from last season LB Bumper Pool. The Razorbacks will improve from their 110th ranked defense last year.
Final Outlook: This team’s outlook looks much better than last year as there is some decent talent sprinkled throughout the roster. Arkansas is facing one of the hardest schedules as they play all top 7 teams in the SEC. Still, look for Arkansas to win their first SEC game since 2017.
30. Missouri Tigers
Projected Record: 3-7
It will be a major test for new Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz. The offense has a new starting quarterback with Shawn Robinson, transfer at TCU. While Robinson displayed a talented arm during his time at TCU, he was often inconsistent with his accuracy. Add in an inconsistent offensive line and this offense might struggle. At the skill positions Missouri has only a few legitimate options including RB Larry Roundtree and Virginia Tech graduate transfer Damon Hazelton (All-ACC recognition the past two years).
Missouri’s defense was actually good last year ranking in the top 20. Drinkwitz was impressed enough to keep the entire defensive coaching staff. The defense returns most of its starters including LB Nick Bolton, a potential first round pick and SEC leader in tackles. Safeties Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe are a strong safety combination and 310-pounder DT Kobie Whiteside (6.5 sacks) is a disrupter.
Final Outlook: This is where the bottom of the SEC East starts. While Missouri should have a solid defense, their offense is filled with questions. The questions are amplified as Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz didn’t have the opportunity to install his offense during spring practice. Don’t expect anything special from Missouri.
31. West Virginia Mountaineers
Projected Record: 2-7
Last year was an expected down year for West Virginia, but they were still competitive down the stretch. Austin Kendall and Jarret Doege will be the QB battle to watch going into the Fall. Kendall started most of the games last year, but the Mountaineers had more success in the three games Doege started. The Mountaineers additionally lost most of its offensive line. The receivers are actually pretty solid with Sophomore Sam James coming off a 69 catch season and established former Alabama receiver T.J. Simmons.
Defensively, the Mountaineers should make an improvement to an average defense last year getting most of their starters back. Another Alabama transfer Vandarius Cowan will look to impact the defense along with DL Darius Stills and safety Tykee Smith. The corner position is young and questionable after losing both starters from last year.
Final Outlook: I think Jarret Doege holds onto the starting quarterback role and the Mountaineers continue to be competitive in head coach Neal Brown’s second season. However, it is too challenging of a road to finish in the middle of the Big 12.
32. NC State Wolfpack
Projected Record: 3-7
Coming off a 4-8 season. There isn’t a lot to get excited for on offense with QB Devin Leary leading the group. Last year Leary completed only 48% of his passes for only 8 TDs and 5 INTs. Other than that they have a few good skill players including Zonovan (Bam) Knight coming off 745 yard season and WR Emeka Emezie. NC State also return all five starting offensive lineman which will help.
The defense didn’t play great last year and must replace most of their starters. There are a few young promising players, but this is going to be a project.
Final Outlook: NC State’s offense and defense might both struggle in 2020. It is hard to get excited for this team unless quarterback Devin Leary takes a huge step forward.
33. South Carolina Gamecocks
Projected Record: 2-8
The offense is filled with more questions than answers. It starts at quarterback where sophomore Ryan Hillinski must make an improvement after only completing 58.1% last year. There are rumors floating out of Columbia it will actually be Colorado State QB Collin Hill taking the starting snaps. Either way the quarterback will have to find help as the receivers are unproven and the offensive line is average. The lone bright spot was freshman MarShawn Lloyd, who was a top fifty recruit… but he was lost for the season. This offense is the definition of shaky.
A defense that was average last year loses a few key starters including first round pick Javon Kinlaw, DJ Wonnum, and TJ Brunson. The loss of these key Gamecocks leaves the defense with holes they may not be able to fill. However, South Carolina returns its sack leader from last year DE Aaron Sterling (6 sacks), the leading tackler Ernest Jones (97 tackles), and a talented cornerback duo of Jaycee Horn (son of Joe Horn) and Israel Mukuamu. There is also five-star true freshman DE Jordan Burch who should receive action right away.
Final Outlook: South Carolina will finish in the bottom half of the SEC East. With an offense full of questions, a defense who lost several key starters from last year, and an all-SEC schedule…getting over 3 wins will be a struggle.
34. Boston College Eagles
Projected Record: 3-7
Coming off a 6-7 season, Boston College hired new head coach Jeff Hafley (former Ohio State D-Coordinator). Quarterback Anthony Brown also transferred to Oregon and left the position wide open. The decision will most likely be between Dennis Grosel and Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovec. RB David Bailey steps into AJ Dillon’s role as an experienced runner rushing behind one of the best offensive lines in the ACC. They should keep to running the ball because Boston College lacks receiving threats other than Kobay White.
On defense Boston College returns a decent amount of starters… to a bad defense that finished 125th. LB Max Richardson and CB Brandon Sebastian are the few bright spots. With Coach Hafley, the defense will definitely finish better than 122nd in passing yards which is where it finished last year.
Final Outlook: Boston College is in a transition year. The goal for Coach Hafley is to run the ball and try to get back the tough nose Eagles teams from the past.
35. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Projected Record: 3-7
The Yellow Jackets continue their transition from running the option two years ago. The quarterback competition is wide open and could even result in freshman Jeff Sims beating out incumbant starter James Graham. RB Jordan Mason is a stud and true freshman Jahmyr Gibbs turned down powerhouse schools for the chance to play for the Yellow Jackets right away. At receiver, Georgia Tech returns everyone… but they will need the leader to have more than 396 yards like last year. The offensive line added two grad transfers and a good recruiting class which should help the continued transition.
The secondary leads the defense after finishing 36th in the nation last year. With most of the starters returning, including one of the best corners in the conference in Tre Swilling, they will be good again. Where the defense must improve is in the front seven.
Final Outlook: Georgia Tech is adding some serious talent in recruiting and should be a legitimate player in the ACC over the next few years. However, with too many young starters… expect just a slight improvement from last year.
36. Syracuse Orange
Projected Record: 2-8
QB Tommy Devitto is back, but the offense is tasked with replacing 1000 yard receiver Trishton Jackson and leading rusher Moe Neal. Look for RB Abdul Adams and WR Taj Harris to fill in.
Safety Andre Cisco is one of the best in the Nation as he leads the country in career interceptions. Other than him and the cornerback duo of Trill Williams and Ifeatu Melifonwu… there isn’t much to be optimistic about.
Final Outlook: Syracuse looks to just have an adequate offense and adequate defense. This is a program that has definitely lost steam since their 10-3 season in 2018.
37. Duke Blue Devils
Projected Record: 1-9
QB Chase Brice arrives from Clemson to take over the starting job. Brice won’t have many dynamic options at receiver like he did at Clemson. The best receiving option for the Blue Devils is senior TE Noah Gray. The offensive line is experienced with four starters returning. The running back Deon Jackson will try again to lead the offense coming off 641 yards and 6 TDs.
The defense is led by their DEs in Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph who combined for 15 sacks. In the secondary J’Marick Woods transfers from Michigan and should be an instant impact player. Safety Marquis Waters will be a key piece from last year and lead the secondary again. Duke has a chance to improve from last year where they ranked 57th, but continue to be an average defense.
Final Outlook: Duke has an average defense and a poor offense with not a lot of weapons. With the improvements to mid-tier ACC from last year, getting just a few wins will be an accomplishment.
38. Kansas Jayhawks
Projected Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big 12)
Les Miles needed all the magic to be 3-9 in 2019. The problem in 2020 is they don’t have a clear-cut starting QB. That is kind of important. What they do have is one of the best players in the Big 12 with RB Pooka Williams. The issue remains Pooka will be stuck behind a bad offensive line that also lost three starters.
The defense was terrible last year and after losing a ton of starters, they will most likely be terrible again. Young sophomore LB Gavin Potter is one of the few bright spots if you want to be impressed with something. But that is about all you can be impressed with… this defensive unit will finish close to last in the Big 12.
Final Outlook: Kansas is picking up their recruiting efforts, but it will take another year before they escape being the doormat of the Big 12. Bad offense… Bad Defense… The Mad Hatter has his work cut out for him.
39. Vanderbilt Commodores
Projected Record: 0-10
Vanderbilt doesn’t have a legitimate quarterback option as the competition is between freshman Ken Seals and JUCO transfer Jeremy Moussa. Vanderbilt also replaces a trio of key players on offense with RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Kalija Lipscomb, and TE Jared Pinkney. Not to mention the offensive line is also bad. All signs point to this being a historically terrible offense
Vanderbilt returns basically their entire defense… that finished 101st in the nation. Defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo is a legitimate player, but there aren’t many other bright spots on defense.
Final Outlook: Not only do I not think Vanderbilt will not win a SEC game, I don’t see them being competitive. The Vanderbilt offense could be historically bad and the defense is nothing to rely on. Vanderbilt is in for another rough season.