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2020 SEC Football Preview

SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia

SEC East

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Projected Record: 9-2

Wins: Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

Losses: Florida, Alabama (SEC Championship)

Georgia Logo

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.

2. Florida Gators

Projected Record: 8-2

Wins: Ole Miss, South Carolina, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas Vanderbilt, Kentucky

Losses: Texas A&M, Tennessee

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. 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.

3. Tennessee Volunteers

Projected Record: 6-4

Wins: South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Florida

Losses: Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn

Tennessee Vol logo

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.

4. Kentucky Wildcats

Projected Record: 5-5

Wins: Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt

Losses: Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina

Kentucky logo

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.

5. Missouri Tigers

Projected Record: 3-7

Wins: Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Arkansas

Losses: Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi State

Mizzou logo

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.

6. South Carolina Gamecocks

Projected Record: 2-8

Wins: Vanderbilt, Kentucky

Losses: Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Missouri, Georgia

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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.

7. Vanderbilt Commodores

Projected Record: 0-10

Wins: None

Losses: Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Missouri, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia

Vandy logo

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… well before a few players opted out. The defense also finished 101st in the nation last year. 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 with all the opt outs. Vanderbilt is in for another rough season where I don’t think they even hit 100 points on offense.

SEC West

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Projected Record: 10-1

Wins: Missouri, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi St., Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia (SEC Championship)

Losses: Georgia

Alabama logo

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.

2. LSU Tigers

Projected Record: 7-3

Wins: Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss

Losses: Florida, Auburn, Alabama

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.

3. Texas A&M Aggies

Projected Record: 7-3

Wins: Vanderbilt, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Auburn

Losses: Alabama, Mississippi State, LSU

Texas A&M Logo

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 (just kidding… he opted out), 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 (just kidding… he opted out too) 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.

4. Auburn Tigers

Projected Record: 6-4

Wins: Arkansas, South Carolina, Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee

Losses: Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M

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 the 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.

5. Ole Miss Rebels

Projected Record: 3-7

Wins: Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State

Losses: Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU

Ole Miss logo

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.

6. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Projected Record: 3-7

Wins: Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Missouri

Losses: LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss

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 with no spring practice may be difficult. Add in an average defense and only a few wins seems likely.

7. Arkansas Razorbacks

Projected Record: 2-8

Wins: Ole Miss, Mississippi State

Losses: Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Missouri, Alabama

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.

2020 Big 12 Football Preview

Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma over Oklahoma State

1. Oklahoma Sooners

Projected Record: 9-1

Wins: Kansas State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma (Big 12 Championship)

Losses: Iowa State

OU

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.

2. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Projected Record: 7-3

Wins: West Virginia, Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State, Texas Tech

Losses: Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma (Big 12 Championship)

OSU Logo

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.

3. Texas Longhorns

Projected Record: 7-2

Wins: Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State

Losses: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

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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.

4. Iowa State Cyclones

Projected Record: 6-3

Wins: TCU, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia

Losses: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas

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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.

5. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Projected Record: 4-5

Wins: West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, Kansas

Losses: Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

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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 three solid linebackers with Riko Jeffers, Arizona transfer Colin Schooler, and JUCO transfer Krishon Merriweather. Defensive backs are a huge issue after finishing 128th last season. They return starters to the secondary and have added some transfers, 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 not be as terrible as last year.

6. Baylor Bears

Projected Record: 4-5

Wins: Kansas, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State

Losses: Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma

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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.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

Projected Record: 4-5

Wins: Kansas State, West Virginia, Kansas, Oklahoma State

Losses: Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Tech

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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.

8. Kansas State Wildcats

Projected Record: 3-6

Wins: Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State

Losses: Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas

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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.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

Projected Record: 2-7

Wins: Kansas, Kansas State

Losses: Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State

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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.

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Projected Record: 0-9

Wins: None

Losses: Everyone

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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.

2020 College Football Pre-Season Rankings

Top 25

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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

2020 ACC Football Preview

ACC Championship: Clemson over Notre Dame

1. Clemson Tigers

Projected Record: 11-0

Wins: Wake Forest, Virginia, Miami, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College, Notre Dame, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame (ACC Championship)

Losses: None

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. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Projected Record: 8-3

Wins: Duke, Wake Forest, Florida State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Boston College, North Carolina, Syracuse

Losses: Pittsburgh, Clemson, Clemson (ACC Championship)

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.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies

Projected Record: 7-3

Wins: NC State, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, Wake Forest, Louisville

Losses: Miami, Pitt, Clemson

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.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels

Projected Record: 7-3

Wins: Syracuse, Boston College, Florida State, NC State, Virginia, Duke, Wake Forest

Losses: Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Miami

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.

5. Florida State Seminoles

Projected Record: 6-4

Wins: Georgia Tech, Miami, Pitt, NC State, Virginia, Duke

Losses: Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville, Clemson

At quarterback, James Blackman is back, but he has just been average during his time at Florida State. 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. The Seminoles will need someone to step up as a second option at receiver. The main goal for the Seminoles this year will be 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 to be one of the best in the ACC, but will need to improve as a unit.

Final Outlook: Florida State’s talented defense and improved offense separates makes them a top half of the ACC team.

6. Miami Hurricanes

Projected Record: 6-4

Wins: Louisville, Pitt, NC State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina

Losses: Florida State, Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech

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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 Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche (Temple/AAC Defensive POY) lead the defensive line and give Miami two legitimate pass rushers. 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 as a legitimate ACC contender this year.

7. Pittsburgh Panthers

Projected Record: 6-4

Wins: Syracuse, Louisville, NC State, Boston College, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech

Losses: Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson

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.

8. Louisville Cardinals

Projected Record: 5-5

Wins: Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia, Syracuse, Wake Forest

Losses: Miami, Pitt, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Boston College

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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.

9. Virginia Cavaliers

Projected Record: 5-5

Wins: NC State, Wake Forest, Miami, Duke, Boston College

Losses: Virginia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State

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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 pull some upsets, but I don’t think an ACC Championship birth will be likely.

10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Projected Record: 4-6

Wins: NC State, Syracuse, Duke, Louisville

Losses: Clemson, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Miami

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Former starting QB Jamie Newman transferred and is replaced with QB Sam Hartman who saw some action last year. They only return two starters to the offense and lost Sage Surrat, one of the best receivers in the country, due to opting out. What the offense does return is the interior of the offensive line 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.

11. NC State Wolfpack

Projected Record: 3-7

Wins: Wake Forest, Duke, Syracuse

Losses: Virginia Tech, Pitt, Virginia, North Carolina, Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech

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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.

12. Boston College Eagles

Projected Record: 3-7

Wins: Pitt, Georgia Tech, Louisville

Losses: Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia

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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.

13. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Projected Record: 3-7

Wins: Syracuse, Pitt, Duke

Losses: Florida State, Louisville, Clemson, Boston College, Notre Dame, Miami, NC State

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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.

14. Syracuse Orange

Projected Record: 2-8

Wins: Duke, Boston College

Losses: North Carolina, Pitt, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Louisville, NC State, Notre Dame

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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.

15. Duke Blue Devils

Projected Record: 1-9

Wins: Boston College

Losses: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida State

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.

2020 Big Ten Football Preview (WHAT COULD’VE BEEN)

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State over Wisconsin

Big Ten East

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Projected Record: 13-0 (9-0 Big Ten)

QB Jordan Fields is back, but the offense will need to replace RB J.K. Dobbins and a trio of WRs KJ Hill, Binjimen Victor, and Austin Mack. Even with the losses at these skill positions Ohio State still has great options including receivers Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and true freshman Julian Flemming. The offense also got a huge boost with Oklahoma transfer RB Trey Sermon, who should take over the starting role. The line will continue to be a strength with three returning starters led by potential first round guard Wyatt Davis.

The defensive line replaces a few key starters including elite All-American Chase Young. The Buckeyes have some veteran defensive line players ready to step in, but the unit won’t be as dominant as last year. Instead the Linebackers will lead the defense in 2020 as one of the best in the country with Baron Browning, Tuf Borland, and Pete Werner. The biggest question for Ohio State is replacing two first round NFL cornerbacks in Damon Arnette and Jeffrey Okudah, as well as All-Big Ten safety Jordan Fuller. Other than returning cornerback Shaun Wade, there’s many unknowns in the secondary. There is also a depth question after two senior defensive backs for Ohio State were kicked off the team in February following Felony kidnapping and rape charges.

Final Outlook: Ohio State is the clear number one Big Ten title contender with an easier conference schedule. However, the defense isn’t as strong as last year after key losses in the secondary and defensive line. The offense should carry this team to a Big Ten title, but I think this team is not as strong as last year’s team. I project a Playoff semi-finals loss for the Buckeyes.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions

Projected Record: 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten)

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This is a talented Penn State team that will go as far as returning QB Sean Clifford takes them. Clifford has his limitations, but if he makes a jump the Nittany Lions are a true contender in the Big Ten. At running back they are set with Journey Brown (202 yards in the Cotton Bowl) and high-upside Noah Cain. The biggest challenge for the Nittany Lions is a wide receiver stepping up to replace KJ Hamler. WR Jahan Dotson most likely takes over that role, but he isn’t as dynamic as Hamler. Their best receiving threat right now is TE Pat Freiermuth who is one of the best in the nation. The offensive line has experience returning four starters.

On defense LB Micah Parsons is one of the best in the nation and a certain first round pick. The other two linebacker spots will be filled by new starters including Ellis Brooks and former five-star Brandon Smith. On the defensive line they have to replace Yetur Gross-Matos, but returning DE Shaka Toney (6.5 sacks in 2019) should help with that. The biggest weakness is at defensive back where they started a young group last year. CB Lamont Wade is a rising star, but will need the rest of the group to pick it up.

Final Outlook: This is Head Coach James Franklin’s most talented team in seven seasons in Happy Valley. What could keep them from beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten East is the lack of offensive explosion with QB Sean Clifford. If Clifford takes a step forward, the playoffs are possible.

3. Michigan Wolverines

Projected Record: 8-4 (5-4 Big Ten)

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The new quarterback at Michigan will be either unproven Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton. The offense will be deep at running back with the return of Chris Evans, Zach Charbonnet, and Hassan Haskins. At receiver Michigan loses Donovan Peoples-Jones to the NFL and Tarik Black to Texas, but the return of Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell should keep the unit solid. They also have a talented tight end in Nick Eubanks. The offensive line will be the Wolverines biggest issue replacing four starters who all were drafted in the NFL.

On defense, Michigan returns a decent amount of starters back with the strength being at defensive end with Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson. Also, look for safety Dax Hill to have an All-Big Ten in his second season in Michigan.

Final Outlook: Michigan will be led by their defense as the offense has multiple uncertainties. Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines shouldn’t be surprised with another season where they lose at least three games.

4. Indiana Hoosiers

Projected Record: 8-4 (5-4 Big Ten)

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Indiana actually has a pretty good offense. After finishing in the Big Ten top five in points per game and the second leading passing offense, Indiana will look to have the same production. It is led by talented QB Michael Penix who returns his top receiving targets last year with receivers Whop Philyor, Ty Fryfogle, and TE Peyton Hendershot (I promise these aren’t NCAA 14 randomly generated names). RB Stevie Scott also returns after having 2000 yards in the past two seasons. The offensive line also returns most of their starters after an average performance last year.

The defense was not great last year, but returns most of their starters. The unit is led by leading tackler LB Micah McFadden. While the defensive tackles are strong with Jerome Johnson and Demarcus Elliott, Indiana will have to find an edge rusher capable of getting to the QB. The secondary needs improvement also.

Final Outlook: Indiana was a surprise last year finishing 8-5. Look for something similar as their offense will shock the average college football fan. If someone wants a potential sleeper top 25 team, Indiana is a great answer.

5. Michigan State Spartans

Projected Record: 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten)

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The offense has not been great over the past few years and now they have to replace quarterback Brian Lewerke with either Rocky Lombardi and Theo Day. What may save the offense is RB Elijah Collins, who is a talented runner and should have a 1,000 yard season. The offensive line was bad last year and will need an improvement from their returning starters. At wide receiver Jayden Reed will finally get to play after being a Freshman All-American at Western Michigan in 2018, but they’ll need someone else to step up to make this offense watchable.

The defense was solid last year, but the Spartans return just three starters to the defense. One of the lone brightspots is LB Antjuan Simmons, who is an absolute stud.

Final Outlook: Coach Mel Tucker will spend his first year with the Spartans behind following a late arrival to campus and spring practice getting cut. Add the questionable talent on the roster and this might be a tough year.

6. Maryland Terrapins

Projected Record: 4-8 (2-7 Big Ten)

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 Quarterback Josh Jackson was NOT GOOD as he finished the year completing below 50% of his passes. There remains a chance that redshirt freshman QB Lance LeGendre ends up taking over the starting roll. Whoever starts at QB will have a decent receiving core with Dontay Demus, Jeshaun Jones, and five-star freshman WR Rakim Jarrett. At running back Maryland loses their top two starters, but have talented true freshmen Peny Boone and Isaiah Jacobs (Brother of Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs) coming in. The offensive line returns three starters.

The defense also goes through a transition losing their two starting corners and safety Antoine Brooks. Maryland returns a few players to their front seven, but depth is a concern.

Final Outlook: The season was a disaster for the Terps. In the last seven games, the offense scored just 13.7 points per game. It won’t get any easier coming off their 3-9 season and 20 players in the transfer portal. Mike Locksley has increased the level of recruiting, but it may still take another year for Maryland to go bowling.

7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Projected Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten)

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The quarterback battle will be between Nebraska grad transfer Noah Vedral and returning QB Artur Sitkowski. This should be Vedral’s job to lose as Sitkowski’s 5 TDs and 20 INTs over the past two years doesn’t signal much confidence. RB Isaih Pacheco is the lone skill player bright spot on the offense.  The offensive line was horrendous last year and return only one starter. In year one under Schiano the line will involve a lot of JUCO transfers having to play right away… which means the offensive line will not be good again.

The defense returns a decent amount of starters, but there aren’t many Big Ten starting caliber players. This rebuild will take time.

Final Outlook: Greg Schiano returns with a massive rebuild job in front of him. The strategy so far has been to hit the transfer portal, but only Michigan DT Michael Dwumfour is immediately eligible. Rutgers will need a few years of Schiano’s recruiting to be competitive.

Big Ten West

1. Wisconsin Badgers

Projected Record: 10-3 (8-1 Big Ten)

Spring practice would’ve given redshirt freshman QB Graham Mertz a chance to provide at least some competition. But with no spring ball, senior QB Jack Coan will again lead the Badgers. The challenge for the Badgers is replacing 2,000 yard rusher Johnathan Taylor. RB Nakia Watson is the most likely candidate as the second leading rusher last year. The receivers are unproven as they have to replace senior Quintez Cephus. TE Jake Ferguson was actually the second leading receiver last year and returns to the Badgers. The key for Wisconsin and the biggest strength is four of their five starting offensive linemen are back.

The defense was one of the best in the Big Ten in 2019 and only lose two starters (although they were key starters in OLB Zack Baun and ILB Chris Orr). The Badgers have the experience to replace Baun and Orr on the linebacking group and should continue to thrive. Also, the strong defensive line returns everyone. In the secondary, Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks are experienced corners, and safety Eric Burrell leads the unit. The Badgers defense should be a top ten unit in the country.

Final Outlook: Wisconsin will be led by a strong defense and a decent offense. While they may not have the fire power to beat Ohio State, the Badgers should give them a fight.

2. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Projected Record: 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten)

Minnesota returns quality starting QB Tanner Morgan behind an offensive line that returns everyone. Add one of the best receivers in the Big Ten with Rashod Bateman, quality starting WR Chris Autman-Bell, and solid running back Mohamed Ibrahim… this looks like a pretty fun offense.

The questions for the Golden Gophers are around the defense. Nine of the top twelve tacklers are gone including four that were drafted in the NFL. This includes All-American Antoine Winfield Jr., who was an ultimate playmaker for the Golden Gophers. Minnesota returns one defensive lineman starter and is the weakness of the defense. The secondary will continue to be alright with CB Coney Durr and Safety Jordan Howden leading.

Final Outlook: Minnesota will have one of the best offenses in the Big Ten, but can Coach P.J. Fleck replace the key losses on the defensive side? Either way, Minnesota is Wisconsin’s biggest competition in the west.

3. Iowa Hawkeyes

Projected Record: 8-4 (6-3 Big Ten)

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QB Spencer Petras likely takes over the starting role left by Nate Stanley. The offense will be led by running backs Tyler Goodson, coming off a great freshman season, and Mekhi Sargent. The receiving core returns everyone including explosive WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Although they lost talented OT Tristan Wirfs, they still have left tackle Alaric Jackson, one of the best centers in the country and a group of other strong, experienced lineman.

The defense was stout last year, only giving up 14 points per game. DE Chauncey Golston will have to step-in for A.J. Epenesa. The linebackers will most likely be led by experienced LB Djimon Colbert and Nick Niemann. The secondary will have to replace stud CB Michael Ojemudia and safety Geno Stone. The probable replacements include safety Jack Koerner and experienced senior CB Matt Hankins.

Final Outlook: Iowa’s an interesting team that could surprise some this year. If Spencer Petras steps into Nate Stanley’s shoes alright, Iowa might be a surprise Big Ten West champion.

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Projected Record: 6-6 (4-5 Big Ten)

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Will Adrian Martinez actually make a step-up? That is the big question going into 2020. RB Dedrick Mills is back for his senior year after being a workhorse in 2019. WRs Omar Manning and Wan’Dale Robinson makes up a decent receiving core as Manning is a highly touted JUCO transfer and Robinson is an explosive, do-it-all player. Another bonus is the offensive line returns all of their starters.

The defense made a slight improvement in 2019, but also lose six starters in 2020. This includes three on the defensive line which will be a project. The defensive unit will most likely be led by their secondary including corners Cam Taylor-Britt and Dicaprio Bootle.

Final Outlook: The media hyped up Nebraska way too much last year, even projecting them to win the West. Nebraska should have a good team, but winning the division is out of the question.

5. Illinois Fighting Illini

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-6 Big Ten)

Lovie Smith took a step forward in 2019 making a bowl game, finishing 6-7, and even upsetting Wisconsin. Will Illinois actually have a winning record in 2020? Lovie Smith loves his transfers and will have stud WR Josh Imatorbhebhe back for another year. After sitting out, former Georgia TE Luke Ford is also eligible. They will join former Michigan QB Brandon Peters and four returning starting offensive lineman. The key for Illinois will be trying to find someone to run the ball.

The linebackers are a strength with Jake Hansen and Mileo Eifler returning. The secondary is also a strength with safety Sydney Brown and corners Tony Adams and Nate Hobbs. Young DB Marquez Beason is also looked at as a young playmaker who will make an impact this year. Where Illinois needs help is along the defensive line where it’ll be tough to replace Oluwole Betiku’s 9 sacks.

Final Outlook: Illinois is no longer looked at as a bottom dweller following last season, but Lovie Smith still has a ways to go before they’re a contender. Expect 2020 to look just like 2019.

6. Purdue Boilermakers

Projected Record: 6-6 (3-6 Big Ten)

Purdue was rough last year finishing 4-8. The biggest question is who will be the starting quarterback? The competition is between Jack Plummer, Aidan O’Connell, and UCLA grad transfer Austin Burton. Burton has looked good in limited action at UCLA, while Plummer and O’Connell received starting snaps with Purdue. The receiving threats are stacked with 1000 yard receiver David Bell and potential first round pick Rondale Moore. Purdue returns four starters to the offensive line but finished 126th in rushing yards per game last year.

Defensively Purdue was horrible, allowing over 430 yards per game. The defensive line actually has some depth and talent including freshman All-American DE George Karlaftis and DT Lorenzo Neal. However, the talent in the secondary and at the linebacker position are lacking.

Final Outlook: Purdue should have a better season than in 2019, but the defense will continue to be a weakness. With one of the best duos at receiver with Rondale Moore and David Bell, the offense will have to carry the team.

7. Northwestern Wildcats

Projected Record: 4-8 (1-8 Big Ten)

The Wildcats have taken a major fall since winning the Big Ten West in 2018. Their offense was terrible averaging a little over 16 points per game. The four quarterbacks that played last year combined for only six touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Based on their performance from last season, incoming Indiana grad transfer Peyton Ramsey should win the job with no problem. Northwestern have a stable of running backs returning, but will have to find some skill players at the wide receiver position other than Riley Lees. Left tackle Rashawn Slater is one of the best in the Big Ten and leads the offensive line.

Northwestern has one of the Big Ten’s best group of linebackers with seniors Blake Gallagher, Paddy Fisher, and Chris Bergin. The secondary also returns almost all of their starters from a strong group last year. The key will to find someone who can rush the passer on the defensive line.

Final Outlook: The offense will be slightly improved and the defense should be solid. However, finding wins in the Big Ten is tough, especially when you play Penn State from the Big Ten East. Expect a more competitive Northwestern team than last year.