The college football season is just a couple of weeks away and rosters are taking shape. Here is the 2021 College Football Preseason Top 25.
25. NC State Wolfpack
NC State went 8-4 last year and they return 17 starters. They also will get back quarterback Devin Leary, who was injured last season. In 2020, they only had three losses in the regular season and won the games they were supposed to win. With Leary back and so much experience, the Wolfpack can probably win about eight to nine games in 2021.
24. Nevada Wolf Pack
In 2020, Nevada went 7-2 behind the arm of Carson Strong, who is a projected first round pick. Strong will have a talented team around him with 18 returning starters back on the team. His receiver Romeo Doubs can help make the offense explosive and their defense was actually better than their offense in 2020. In the nonconference they will have a chance to play two power conference teams in California and Kansas State to help prove their worth.
23. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
Louisiana had just one loss in 2020 and it came at the hands of Coastal Carolina. Most impressively though, they defeated Iowa State in their first game of 2020. From their team last season, 19 starters are set to return. Levi Lewis is back at quarterback after being a threat to run and throw last season. They open up the season at Texas, which will be a huge test for them.
22. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
With the COVID-19 rules in place giving players an extra year of eligibility, smaller schools are going to have an advantage. Coastal Carolina has 19 returning starters, with nine on offense and 10 on defense. From a team that finished the season with one loss, that is great news. They wont have a big out of conference game to help show their skill, but they could run the table this season.
21. Liberty Flames
It is odd that in other preseason polls, Liberty isn’t being ranked and Coastal Carolina is being ranked. The Flames ended the 2020 season with one loss (to NC State) and they defeated Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl. To go with that, they return 20 starters, including superstar quarterback Malik Willis. When power conference teams start falling, expect Liberty to enter and start rising up the rankings.
20. USC Trojans
The only loss for USC in 2020 came in the Pac-12 Championship Game to Oregon. USC has 16 starters back, which gives them enough talent to compete for the Pac-12 again. Kedon Slovis is back at quarterback and will have star receiver Drake London to throw to. On defense they have eight returning starters, who will be led by one of the best pass rushers in the country, Drake Jackson.
19. Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana proved last season that they can now play with the big boys. With 17 starters back and star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. returning from injury, Indiana could push Ohio State in the Big Ten East. While Penix Jr. is the star of the offense, their defense was particularly good last season, ranking in the top 20 in scoring and they now return nine starters from that unit.
18. Washington Huskies
While they were only able to play four games last season, Washington won three of them. They return their whole offensive line and three other starters from last year’s team on offense. The defense returns five starters. Both units were solid, but the Huskies didn’t play many good teams last season. They’ll need quarterback Dylan Morris, tight end Cade Otton and a good secondary to make plays for them to be successful.
17. LSU Tigers
The 2020 season was disappointing for the LSU Tigers. They struggled with injuries, opt outs and a mass exodus after their national championship season. LSU went just 5-5. There is some reason for optimism, as 16 starters return. Cornerback Derek Stingley will lead a defense that should be much improved, but their offense will need to step it up, especially after losing quarterback Myles Brennan to injury.
16. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin went 4-3 last season, but usually after a bad year they bounce back and play well the next season. They’ll have 15 starters back with eight of them coming on the defensive end of the ball. That is really good news considering they ranked in the top 10 in scoring, rushing and total defense. The offense will need to pick up the pace a little bit, but Wisconsin should have a much better season in 2021.
15. Iowa Hawkeyes
After a 6-2 season, Iowa brings back 13 starters. They won six straight to end the season after starting quarterback Spencer Petras settled into the quarterback position. They’ll also have elusive running back Tyler Goodson to help move the chains behind center Tyler Linderbaum. Pair their offense with the sixth-ranked scoring defense from last year that returns seven starters and the Hawkeyes are poised to fight for the Big Ten West crown.
14. Florida Gators
Florida had a fantastic season that saw them go 8-4 in 2020. The problem is that they have just nine returning starters. They will be relying on quarterback Emory Jones to take a huge step forward after playing sparingly behind Kyle Trask. With Dan Mullen’s offfense, they shouldn’t take too much of a step backwards, but they’ll also need the defense to step up after having an average year in 2020. Cornerback Kaiir Elam will have to help the defense force turnovers. There is enough talent to come in second in the SEC East, but it will be hard to beat out Georgia.
13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish made the College Football Playoff last season, but only return 11 starters. They will need a new quarterback to step up and four new offensive linemen will be starting, but running back Kyren Williams will have the offense run through him. The defense should be great after ranking 14th in scoring in 2020 and returning seven starters. Notre Dame will have one of the best defenders in the country in safety Kyle Hamilton, who can change the course of games with his ability to fly all around the field and make plays.
12. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State lost three games in 2020 and may be able to actually improve their win total this year. Spencer Sanders is back for his third year as the starting quarterback and has three returning offensive linemen. If he can take a step forward, the offense can be great, even after losing Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. The defense returns eight starters and ranked in the top 35 last season.
11. Miami Hurricanes
D’Eriq King looks like he’ll be ready to go for the start of the year which is huge news for the Hurricanes. He helped them rank 26th in scoring. Between Charleston Rambo and Will Mallory, he’ll have ample targets to throw to and he has four returning offensive linemen. Bubba Bolden is back to lead the defense, but they do need other players to make impacts as well to improve on their 51st-ranked scoring defense.
10. North Carolina Tar Heels
Mack Brown has brought life back to the North Carolina program. Sam Howell is back at quarterback with seven other starters, which includes a fully intact offensive line. The defense has seven starters back and will be led by linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel. They ranked 65th last season, but should improve this season.
9. Oregon Ducks
Oregon went 4-3 last season, but they were able to win the Pac-12 Championship. With nine starters back on the offensive side of the ball, which doesn’t include quarterback Anthony Brown, who got extensive reps in the Fiesta Bowl, they should be a top 25 offense. Their defense has seven starters back. Kayvon Thibodeaux can break up any game-plan from his defensive end position.
8. Texas A&M Aggies
With 15 returning starters back from a 9-1 team, the biggest question for the Aggies is their quarterback situation. Haynes King figures to start and will be aided by playmakers Isaiah Spiller, Ainias Smith and Jalen Wydermyer. They defense has impact players such as DeMarvin Leal back. After ranking 28th last season, they figure to improve with so much experience returning.
7. Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati isn’t the run of the mill group of five powerhouse. They went undefeated during the regular season and only lost to Georgia in the Peach Bowl last season. The Bearcats return lots of NFL-level talent in quarterback Desmond Ridder, tight end Josh Whyle, running back Jerome Ford, defensive end Myjai Sanders and cornerbacks Coby White and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. They were top 20 in offense and top 10 in defense. This season they have great nonconference games to prove they can play with the power conference teams: at Notre Dame and at Indiana.
6. Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones have risen to new heights under head coach Matt Campbell. In 2020, they only lost three games and ended up winning the Fiesta Bowl. They return 18 starters, with nine back on each side of the ball. The offensive trio of quarterback Brock Purdy, running back Breece Hall and tight end Charlie Kolar will be tough to match up with. Their defense ranked 25th in scoring last season and should rank higher in 2021.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia took a turn for the better once JT Daniels took over at quarterback last season. They won their last three regular season games and defeated Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. Daniels will have six other returning starters back on offense. They should be able to improve their numbers with Daniels under center. The defense was good last year, but will need new players to step up with only four returning starters on that side of the ball.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes may only return six starters on offense and five starters on defense, but their roster is loaded with talent. On offense, they’ll need a new quarterback, but whoever it ends up being will have Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, two projected early picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, to utilize at wide receiver. Three offensive linemen also return. The defense will have some experience on the line and in the secondary, but they had a mass exodus at linebacker that will need to be figured out. Even with that, the Buckeyes are the favorites to win the Big Ten.
3. Clemson Tigers
It is D.J. Uiagalelei time for Clemson. He filled in nicely for Trevor Lawrence last season and now will run the show full time. He will only have four returning starters to work with, but wide receiver Justyn Ross is returning from injury, which will help him out greatly. The defense will be a strength this year after ranking 18th in scoring last season and bringing back nine starters. They should once again get through the ACC without too much trouble this season.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide have just 10 returning starters, but their talent is apparent. Bryce Young, a talented dual-threat, is taking over at quarterback. He will have a star in John Metchie at wide receiver to help him get his feet wet and two returning starters on the offensive line. The defense returns seven starters and will likely be one of the best in the country with impact players on every level. Winning the SEC and getting back to the CFP is entirely possible despite their youth.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma ended the 2020 season on an eight-game winning streak. Spencer Rattler improved throughout the year at quarterback and he has seven starters back. On top of that, Tennessee-transfer Eric Gray can carry the load at running back. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch helped the defense rank 29th in his first year at the helm. This year he has nine returning starters to work with. If he can help the defense improve even more this year, the Sooners may be the top seed in the CFP.
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